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Friday, April 05, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert

I woke up to sad news of Roger Ebert's passing.

Growing up as a film lover was sometimes very lonely, because I found it difficult to have any long and in-depth discussions about cinema with those around me. Therefore, in order to cover up this void in my life, I decided to devour everything about films, reading film reviews, following news of the film industry, going through books about movie people, through this I could find the discussion of cinema that I so thoroughly craved.

Even as a child, Roger Ebert's writings had been a big part of my readings. Whether I have seen the film or not, I wanted to go through his film reviews to see what he thought about it, it was like hanging out with a wise uncle who knew a lot about films. I don't agree with all of his reviews, but I liked reading his writings, what he said, the glimpse of humanity that shone in his reviews, revealing more of himself than just the film that he was reviewing. He was, all in all, a film lover. (and oh, I enjoyed it so much whenever he ripped a film apart)

This is a video of him and his reviewing partner, the late Gene Siskel, on the nature of film criticism.

He was the first film critic that I really followed, and because of him, I started following other critics, those were the days before Rotten Tomatoes.

In recent years, despite cancer robbing his ability to speak, he was never silenced, in fact, to me, I felt that he became more prolific than before. His blog, which covered a wide range of topics beyond cinema, was a joy to read. He was active on Twitter and Facebook too, constantly sharing great essays and other useful links.

In 2011, he wrote a memoir called "LIFE ITSELF" which I, sadly, have yet to read. But he shared the opening pages of the book on his blog, and they were absolutely enthralling. The book was released on September 13, the birthday of my sister, and also someone else.

The opening paragraph:

"I was born inside the movie of my life. The visuals were before me, the audio surrounded me, the plot unfolded inevitably but not necessarily. I don't remember how I got into the movie, but it continues to entertain me. At first the frames flicker without connection, as they do in Bergman's Persona after the film breaks and begins again. I am flat on my stomach on the front sidewalk, my eyes an inch from a procession of ants. What these are I do not know. It is the only sidewalk in my life, in front of the only house. I have seen grasshoppers and ladybugs. My uncle Bob extends the business end of a fly swatter toward me, and I grasp it and try to walk toward him.

Hal Holmes has a red tricycle and I cry because I want it for my own. My parents curiously set tubes afire and blow smoke from their mouths. I don't want to eat, and my aunt Martha puts me on her lap and says she'll pinch me if I don't open my mouth. Gary Wikoff is sitting next to me in the kitchen. He asks me how old I am today, and I hold up three fingers. At Tot's Play School, I try to ride on the back of Mrs. Meadrow's dog, and it bites me on the cheek. I am taken to Mercy Hospital to be stitched up. Everyone there is shouting because the Panama Limited went off the rails north of town. People crowd around. Aunt Martha brings in Doctor Collins, her boss, who is a dentist. He tells my mother, Annabel, it's the same thing to put a few stitches on the outside of a cheek as on the inside. I start crying. Why is the thought of stitches outside my cheek more terrifying than stitches anywhere else?

The movie settles down. I live at 410 East Washington Street in Urbana, Illinois. My telephone number is 72611. I am never to forget those things. I run the length of the hallway from the living room to my bedroom, leaping into the air and landing on my bed. Daddy tells me to stop that or I'll break the bed boards. The basement smells like green onions. The light beside my bed is like a water pump, and the handle turns it on and off. I wear flannel shirts. My gloves are attached to a string through the sleeves because I am always losing them. My mother says today my father is going to teach me to tie my shoes for myself. "It can't be explained in words," he tells me. "Just follow my fingers." I still do. It cannot be explained in words.

I have a lot of lofty ambitions and fantasies as a filmmaker, and one of them, was actually to hope that one day, just one day, a film of mine that I painstakingly crafted, would be seen by Roger Ebert. Perhaps he would love it, perhaps he would hate it, either way would be fine. Yet now I know that this fantasy will remain mainly a fantasy.

Rest in peace.

I end this with another quote of his. (Ebert was full of great quotes)

“Life always has an unhappy ending, but you can have a lot of fun along the way, and everything doesn't have to be dripping in deep significance.”