Thank You, Mr. Ebert, For Introducing Me To One Of The Loves of My Life

April 5, 2013


When I was a teenager, there was the massive tome Roger Ebert’s Movie Home Companion.  It made me want to see Taxi Driver, and Casablanca, and The Godfather, and It Happened One Night; not because it seemed like you had to if you wanted to claim to like “great” movies, but because he made them sound like gifts, terrific and powerful.  He wrote about movies in the way that he had a singular gift for – he made you want to see them because they were just so good, and knew how to express it in a way that wasn’t ever elitist, but was never pandering.

1975_cb_roger_ebert_ll_130403_sshEbert could talk to everyone, yes, but he wasn’t dumbing himself down, he just knew how to articulate his views so beautifully and honestly.  And so I combed through Movie Home Companion.  And I found more movies, and more, and more.  I, and so very many like me, would comb through the stranger sounding films, trying to figure out where to find them; wanting in on the fun, on the conversation.  And this only continued with his later collections.

I certainly didn’t always agree with him – I don’t think most people did all the time – but you could never deny what he said, really.  That was the beauty of how he wrote about movies: he didn’t claim to offer the final word.  He loved them, and he told you what he saw, and what he felt.  It was sincere, elegant and infused with life.

He was certainly not afraid to dislike a movie; his terrific collections Your Movie Sucks, and I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie make that abundantly clear.  But he loved movies, and God damn if that didn’t come through in every single review the man wrote in all those years, including the negative ones.

It is staggering to think that he never burned out.  Staggering.  To see that many films, to see that many bad films and still convey the sense that if you saw him and wanted to talk about a movie with him that he’d be happy to. Listen to his commentary track on Citizen Kane or Casablanca, and it’s an education, a conversation, and a celebration.

He watched movies for what they attempted to do.  A noble failure was always better than a tepid, safe success.  When I wrote film reviews for my college paper (and don’t get me wrong, most of those reviews are best forgotten), I tried to adapt the same philosophy; I tried to do what he does and saw how hard it was, but it continued to shape how I saw, and evaluated, movies.

I love movies, and Ebert did for me what he did for so many people – he guided me to them with joy and wit and modesty.  He is, of course, hardly the only critic I look at, but I feel like I owe him so much.  His passing saddens me deeply.  And I will remember what he gave me every time – every single time – I want to know what someone I trust thought of a film, or want to find something new.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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23 Comments on “Thank You, Mr. Ebert, For Introducing Me To One Of The Loves of My Life”

  1. The World Is My Cuttlefish Says:

    I want to rush and get his books just to understand movies better.


  2. Tori Nelson Says:

    “it’s an education, a conversation, and a celebration”. Awesome tribute to an awesome man.


  3. Life With The Top Down Says:

    I remember watching his show on PBS in suspense. Would it be a “thumbs-up” a “thumbs-down” or the ever common, one of each. I admired that he was so honest in his opinion, but never in a mean spirited manner like we are so over exposed to today. He was certainly a gem in his field, who will be missed by many.


  4. 1pointperspective Says:

    My wife and I used to watch Siskel and Ebert back in the day. It was so entertaining and educational to see two articulate critics disagree.


  5. Elyse Says:

    Great tribute, B-Man. He was wonderful, and I’m sad he’s gone too.


  6. Go Jules Go Says:

    I remember that tome. This was a really wonderful tribute; I’ve always loved hearing him talk about movies, too, but doubt I could have expressed why as well as you just did.


  7. casmiraharrison Says:

    Beautifully stated, B.


  8. Jackie Cangro Says:

    What I loved about Roger Ebert, and what you said so eloquently, was that he was the embodiment of what a great critic (film, book, sculpture or otherwise) should be. Being an excellent critic is an art form in itself (although with the internet everyone fancies himself a reviewer). I liked how he seemed to infuse some of himself into his reviews.

    I was reading one obituary yesterday that said he produced a few films himself, but when the Sun-Times said he had to choose because it was a conflict of interest, of course he chose to stick with reviewing.


  9. thefoodandwinehedonist Says:

    I grew up in Chicago when At The Movies started up before it really hit big on PBS. I was still a kid, but it was my first exposure to reviews of any kind. It made me strt looking at thngs i took fir granted in different ways. Whenever he and Siskel would “disagree” – and that was often a very mild understatement- it was a terrific lesson on discourse and how its perfectly fine to disagree.


  10. Says:

    What a beautiful tribute. I, too, love movies and like, thefoodandwinehedonist above, grew up in Chicago before At The Moves hit it big. To this day I would still love to have his job.


  11. pegoleg Says:

    I watched Siskel & Ebert faithfully. As you said, I didn’t always agree with them, but I appreciated the passion. RIP, Roger.


  12. Becki Duckworth Says:

    RIP, grew up in Chicago and ran into him at Walter Payton’s restaurant. He was a warm jolly man.


  13. silkpurseproductions Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I was just going through my copy of “Roger Ebert’s Book of Film” and thinking many of the same thoughts. There was a time I was to meet him in New York City but it was when he first took ill and had his initial surgery. He had to cancel and it was to never be. I still have the complimentary promotional paddles we were all given with the thumbs up and thumbs down.


  14. Sandy Sue Says:

    “At the Movies” was my favorite show for years. I usually agreed more with Siskel, but loved Ebert’s energy, the way he would literally bounced up and down in his seat. And their infamous verbal sparring! Ebert almost always got in the last jab. I was amazed to find out he was really a nice guy in real life, and that he and Gene were really friends.


  15. Jim Says:

    For the record, your movie reviews in college were top-notch.


  16. earthriderjudyberman Says:

    This is a wonderful tribute. I was privileged to have a college instructor who was a film critic. Like Roger Ebert, Doug Brode gave me insight into movies that I had never appreciated before. Ebert’s reviews were spot on, wonderfully done. He will be missed.


  17. reocochran Says:

    I loved the show, I loved the thumbs up and thumbs down and I already knew I loved drama and movies… Now, if only someone would make an over fifties movie using some of my crazy dating adventures. An American version of “Bridget Jones!” Hahaha!


  18. talesfromthemotherland Says:

    Loved and respected Roger Ebert, for all the reasons you’ve touched upon. Wonderful tribute!


  19. hollybernabe Says:

    R.I.P. Mr. Ebert. I liked him, too.



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