Friday, April 5, 2013

My Friend, Roger Ebert

This one is difficult--I've never had to write an obituary before. 

(Takes deep breath) Okay. . .

Pulitzer Prize winning film writer Roger Ebert has died as of yesterday, April 4th 2013. At 70 years old. One day after his 46th anniversary of writing for film at the Chicago Sun-times was celebrated. He is survived by his wife, Chaz, and his extended body of work through film literature. On the 2nd, he posted on his personal blog, he was "taking a leave of presence" due to his hip fracture that was revealed as cancerous. Two days later, yesterday, on the 4th of April, he was getting ready to leave the hospital for Hospice care. According to his Wife Chaz, he looked to her, smiled warmly, and then passed. His final written words to world were on his website, his blog:
"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."
Did he know what was in store for him, did he feel it inside his bones, his veins, his heart? Was he singing a knowing swan song to us? 

One of my favorites right here. 
Oprah, Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg  the entire city of Chicago and even President Obama have come out in support for the legacy he has created. He was appreciated by the industry as a champion of film loving. Film loving, not criticism. Actors, directors, writers, he can be seen in many photographs with them as they seem genuinely happy to shake his hand and say hello again.

They all understand the way he put this craft on the map, even taking it to TV and thumbs and into people's hearts. And giving me as well the gift of light towards path he has shown me. 

I was never attracted to film criticism. And I'm still not. I call myself a Film Analyst. Aficionado, if you will.  To criticize, slander, lambaste, textually chastise, to slain a film. It's a disgusting trait so many (even influential and renown) critics indulge in. It's not okay. Even their title, Film Critic, is unfortunate.
But I won't  hypocricize myself (not a word, but it's my blog so fuck you)Ebert was maybe even the master of shitting on films and movies he hates. I tell people, that some of the secretly funniest stuff in Hollywood is when I film gets shit on by Roger Ebert. Free comedy. 

Hell, take this one from Rob Reiner's North:
"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."
 Of course, he then went on to say this in the very next paragraph:
"I hold it as an item of faith that Rob Reiner is a gifted filmmaker; among his credits are "This is Spinal Tap," "The Sure Thing," "The Princess Bride," "Stand by Me," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Misery." I list those titles as an incantation against this one."

So as we have it, he can still be fair, respectful (uh. . .) and give filmmakers their due and credit. 

So, as I grew into my own as an actor, writer and film aficionado, I decided that writing about the films I saw, would help my understand of film, and ultimately, my craft as an actor as well. Why did I agree with that director's choice for that scene? Why didn't I like what that performer did in the third act of the film? That line delivery, that camera swing, the music cue. It's a notion I responded to well with a growing passion. 

It wasn't until later, after my first couple, that I discovered Ebert's reviews, were eerily similar in reflection to my own. We agree with each other a lot. And if you're a reader of this site, then you'd know that by now. More then half the time, we had the same outlook and whether or not we that particular film or movie agreed with us or not, some times down to the stars (or, in my case, Bananas). 

So what's with that? I'm not here to say, and some times I'd check his site after publishing a review and find that I'm completely at odds with his words. There were even times where (I dare say) he either missed the point completely, or, simply did not care and went against the film for personal reasons. There were times where I'd even get a little upset with how old-manish and "those young kids out there can't see this) blah blah blah. 

But nonetheless, I've never read a critic who gave more love to this world, and did their best to understand what the film maker was trying to do, and to then grade and critique on those rules alone. 

I once read (and for the life of me I can't find the review he said this in, so I'll paraphrase with my best remembrance) "I rate a film on what I believe it intends to do, not on what it has done." He regarded his outlook on film reviews as relative, and not absolute. 

I have learned to do what I do on this site, from my long years in the audience, my studying of my craft, my natural instincts crafted from an early age of focus and immense joy from this world, and of course from him. 

And I mean that. I've never read a reviewer more than him. Never seen some one so open to all the world of film, and even some television. Always so excited to see how he'd react to a recent screening of something, and sometimes surprising me with his words. And then in turn, educating me as well. exposing me to a knew set of ideas, and causing my mind to expand.

Letting me know years ago, he instructed Roper (the luckiest working film writer today) that ratings and thumbs mean nothing if your mind is not deeply set into the film. Here he shows us that. 

As I wrote He said earlier, he recently wrote that he was taking a "leave of presence." How wrong he is.

His presence is ubiquitous.


His presence will never leave. In the world of film, he is all around us, apart of us, surrounding us giving us peace, and strength and knowledge. Using his insightful knowledge, almost, Yoda-like understanding of the spirit of film, he inspired us all, and gave me a reason to laugh, and love, to live and read in wonder and awe, opening my eyes to the intricate nature of film analysis, and so much more. Instructing me, molding me. 

He is my teacher. He is my mentor. And forever I am thankful for him and his spirit. 

Long live him. His words are here for us all. And with them, life breathes back into the world. 

He wrote last year that he is not afraid of death, and went on to say:
" In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles."
I know a park that holds inside it the perfect spot to find him. Maybe I'll go there soon to visit my friend. 

And now I present him with my highest honor in regards to a life lived in servitude from '67 to '13 in this industry. Survived in this world we as writers immerse ourselves in know and love (and some times hate). Longer than anyone else writing about film today to my knowledge. To a shining beacon, a white knight of film analysis, the most famous one of them all. 

To Roger Ebert, I give four Bananas. See you at the movies Rog, I'll save a seat for ya. 

Munki out. 

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