By now it’s been a few days since Roger Ebert’s death, and everyone has written everything there is to write about him, but I still have to talk a bit about how genuinely sad I was when I heard he had died.
I’m not a person who’s usually affected by the deaths of famous people, but Ebert has influenced me as a writer, a film reviewer/lover and just in general as a human being. As a kid I sometimes watched Siskel and Ebert at the Movies; later, I regularly watched Ebert and Roeper at the Movies. But it was after Ebert lost his ability to speak due to cancer that I really started paying attention to what he was saying. I checked his film reviews online every week, because I cared about his opinion more than any other reviewer. I didn’t always agree with him, but even when Ebert hated a movie, he discussed it as objectively as possible, weighing its pros and cons carefully, and considering the intended audience before determining whether a film was a failure or a success. That’s something I at least try to do in my own reviews (although obviously I’m not even within the same stratosphere of talent as Roger Ebert).
The man’s passion for film came through in every review, no matter how small and forgettable, or how grand and influential. And reading Ebert’s words on Twitter or on his blog, it was clear he had a passion for life, too. Despite his deteriorating health, Ebert continued to think and write positively, using the internet as a form of expression, and sharing his opinions with thousands of people. He often wrote about his personal struggles – the changes to his own appearance, his loss of speech – were always so honest, sad and compelling.
I always liked and admired him, but it was when he championed my favourite film ever, Synecdoche, New York, that I really felt a sense of kinship with Ebert. Most people haven’t seen it, and most people who I know who did see it didn’t like it, so when I find someone who likes it as much as I do, it feels special. He was special, and just last week, when I read his blog post about taking a leave of presence, I felt genuinely concerned. I was saddened, and felt a genuine sense of loss a couple of days later when I learned he had died at the age of 70.
The outpouring that has occurred since he died demonstrates just how much Ebert meant to so many people. I know I’m going to miss reading his reviews every week, seeing his tweets and even just checking out links he recommended. He was a great reviewer and a great man, and I’m unlikely to encounter another film reviewer I respect and admire quite so much.