Monday, April 8, 2013

Mixed feelings about Ebert

You’d almost think Roger Ebert was the patron saint of movies for all the adulation the guy has been getting since his (untimely) death last week. Many would say he is. But that’s going a little too far. Sure, he was a credible mainstream critic but let’s keep the word mainstream in perspective. He actually walked a fine line between pop culture and serious criticism and won a lot of respect from people on both sides of the fence. Of course his tragic illness with cancer generated an incredible amount of sympathy, which adds to the effusive outpouring of the past few days. There was never this kind of sympathetic response when Ebert’s one time co-host on Siskel & Ebert, Gene Siskel, died, also from cancer, in 1999. Like most other people I liked Roger Ebert for his reviews. My personal story about him is waiting in line at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1989 for the screening of, of all things, Michael Moore’s Roger & Me (a different Roger of course, ha ha). My friend nudged me and whispered, “Check out who’s standing in front of us.” The guy was wearing a sports jacket and jeans, and carrying a small leather satchel over his shoulder. It was none other than Roger Ebert, standing all by his lonesome. One of my thoughts was, “Oh, so famous TV movie critics also wear jeans – when they’re not on camera!” In any case, I soured somewhat on Evert in his later years. His film criticism was obviously still okay. But – and I’m sure the vast majority of people don’t know this – he was a rather strident and even vicious attacker of all things conservative as per his numerous almost daily tweets on contemporary U.S. politics. It was an eye opener for me, and I never quite felt the same about the guy. 

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