Whenever I watch a film -- especially if its for the first time -- I always drop by the movie's IMDb page to read a little bit about it. I'm always happy when there's Some words from Roger Ebert among the external reviews.
Roger did the most important thing a film critic can do. No I'm not talking about recommending or steering people away from a film. I refer to his ability to shed light on it and enhance one's appreciation. If I loved a movie and he did too then I loved it more because he helped me understand where that love came from.
The man was great because he loved movies. Passionately. He reviewed them for over 40 years. His reviews betrayed none of the arrogance or ego that come through in so many other critic's reviews. There was a blunt honesty. A truth telling. A witnessing. And it was articulate.
The fact that he was a recovering alcoholic is not coincident to his ability -- his need -- to share with readers his experience strength and hope about films.
I think I've read his review of every movie that we've both enjoyed and some we both hated. When his reaction to a film was different than mine I ignored his review. Why should friends share differences over a damn movie anyway? Friends? We never met of course. But Roger was around for so long that I felt as if I knew the man. Personally. (I feel the same about a few other famous people such as Dick Cavett and David Letterman. In all cases I have a lot in common with my famous "friend." Letterman Ebert and I have all given up alcohol after having previously over indulged.)
Roger loved films because he understood them. He was a thoughtful watcher who understood the art and craft of film making and story telling. He also loved to write and wrote well. He knew movies so well and writing so well that he was quite naturally the ideal film critic. Never has anyone combined two passions so successfully.
The internet has been a positive boon to cinephiles. It has allowed us access to reviews from all over the world and in the case of critics like Roger we've gained access to the full archive of a reviewers work. Roger also blogged and not just about films. When it came to politics I might have even agreed with him more than I did about movies. When I took to twitter Roger was one of the first people I followed. He proved well capable of being articulate in 140 characters or less. Plus he linked all manner of interesting pieces by others.
For years I've been aware that because of his cancer Roger's time with us was going to run out sooner than we would hope and I better get used to the day when we would have to make do without his words. That day has come and I'm not prepared for it despite my preparations.
When my father died it was easy enough to turn from mourning his passing to appreciating that he had spent so much time with his and had lived a full and mostly happy life. So too with Roger's passing we can be thankful that there are 40 years worth of reviews and countless blog posts and articles and op ads that will live forever.