Two Thumbs Up

As we continue our week of celebrating cinema on the lead-up to the Oscars on Sunday, here’s a post on Roger Ebert.

Please save the aisle seat.

Roger Ebert is dying.  And much like his movie reviewing, he’s doing it with pure class.

Maybe you didn’t know he’s dying (he’s still reviewing flicks in papers across the country and on his invaluable web site, which I keep bookmarked in my ‘Industry’ tab), maybe you did (he’s been everywhere lately:  In a revealing and terrific piece in Esquire and on Oprah, who, in addition to handling the nation’s confessions and apologies now apparently administers last rites).  But here’s the thing:  He’s dying (after a lengthy battle with cancer), but he went to this year’s Sundance, he’s still screening movies and filing reviews.

In fact, the only film critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize  isn’t just continuing his job, he’s starting new ventures:  The Ebert Club, which is an absurdly cheap ($4.99 per year, give or take a penny–  you’ll see why) way to commune with the man and fellow movie lovers, including me, as well as an experiment in paid content; he’s tweeting and blogging and fielding  readers’ e-mails.

Sign up

I’ve always felt a connection with Roger Ebert; maybe because my hometown paper, The Bergen Record, still syndicates his reviews; maybe because as a movie-mad child I would look forward to him and the late Gene Siskel appearing on late-night TV shows this time of year; maybe because we all have those other jobs, those fantasy paths we can imagine ourselves having taken (food writer?  play-by-play announcer?) and certainly movie-reviewing is one of ’em.  Maybe because in the golden age of criticism (your George Bernard Shaw, your Kenneth Tynan) criticism was an integral part of the experience, the continuing dialogue of the arts–  and for brief moments Ebert makes you think those days still flourish.

Awake in the dark.

He’s not the most influential film critic of all time (that would be, of course, the former New Yorker critic Pauline Kael; I’m having trouble getting through some of her writings, but Wes Anderson’s charming story of screening the better-every-time Rushmore for her is here), nor is he my favorite (that would be the current co-New Yorker critic Anthony Lane; if you haven’t read this Brit’s book Nobody’s Perfect, do yourself a favor–  nobody takes a flick to the woodshed like him, and his take on The Saint is worth the price of admission).  But Roger Ebert (even if I was never a big fan of the thumb) took film reviewing into the mainstream, and if you’re a movie lover, you gotta admire that.

And Ebert’s still doing it, reviewing the whole slew of flicks that hit the multiplex and art houses tomorrow, as well as the ones nominated Sunday.  And he’s doing it cheerfully, enjoying every moment.  (Well, maybe not every moment of Cop Out, but you get the point.)

The most legendary critic of all.

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One Response to “Two Thumbs Up”

  1. Mouse Ears Optional « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] the March Hare, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp–  gee, who saw that coming?).  But as the great Roger Ebert pointed out, there’s no emotional climax at all, really, and as a movie it just doesn’t […]

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