See you at the movies, Ebert
Last Friday was one of the most surprising days of 2013 so far for me: I woke up to the news that the most prominent film critic in the world, Roger Ebert, is no more.
It was just last Wednesday when I read Roger Ebert’s post on his blog that he was taking some time off of his blog to deal with his reoccurring cancer and how he wrote that he will still be reviewing movies and working on his project titled Ebert Digital, and how there will be probably a fourth book in his Great Movies series. Two days later, poof, he passed away from his years-long battle with thyroid cancer. Now I’m not the kind of guy who will weep over some notable person’s death like some did when Steve Jobs passed away even though he did not singlehandedly designed the whole line of Apple products, but hearing that Roger Ebert has passed away made that morning a very sad one. Perhaps because he liked film. Perhaps because he spent forty-six years of his life working for Chicago Sun-Times and wrote about movies passionately. Perhaps because he is a basically a writer. Perhaps because I love movies and I like to write and I also have faith in good movies. But of course, to become the single most recognized film critic in the world, you would have to be more than a mere newspaper critic and TV host. His death broke many hearts because he brought his passion of movies to countless people all over the world and he did so with a very big heart.
Some people, most notably Americans, might be growing up watching Siskel & Ebert & The Movies in the mid-80s and the 90s, and found their way into the wonderful world of movies by watching the pair debating various movies and brought the fact that movies are something more than mere entertainment. I have never watched the show. I was an Indonesian kid who wasn’t even ten years old in the 90s, so how far removed I am from the possibility of ever watching the show in my childhood! But even then, when I was well into teenage years and even before I took movies more seriously, I had known the name Roger Ebert and the famous thumbs up for his approval of movies. In fact, up until a few years ago I probably couldn’t remember the name of any other film critic other than Ebert. High school was the first time I really looked into good movies, and since the one critic I knew was Ebert, I always checked what he’d got to say about movies I wanted to watch.
His reviews are glowing. He was a great writer and a critic that could articulate his points well. He didn’t fall into structures and instead brought people right into the mood and the situation of the movies, something many others has tried to emulate ever since. One thing I really like about his writings is how he managed to talk not just about the quality of the film he is reviewing, but how the story corresponds the world we currently live in and often more importantly, with humanity. In his review of The Double Life of Veronique (which is one of his Great Movies), he related the experience of Weronika feeling she has been in two places at once all his life with how we imagine sitting in a cafe in Venice while being at home at the same time — because he noted that it is a movie about feelings, and feelings are pointless if we don’t manifest them ourselves. He reminded people that movies are more than meets the eye, and through his TV show and reviews, that everyone can delve deeper into the movies themselves to see what he said. The result is a whole generation of film critics who wrote posts about how they owed him for introducing them to look deeper into movies. It is safe to say that there are no film critic these days in their respective websites and blogs that has not been influenced by Roger Ebert in some ways.
But Ebert was more than just a critic. He married only after his mother died in his 50s. He thought video games don’t deserve to be called art. He does not believe in the afterlife, but respects others with a religion. How do I know about this? He wrote about his life over and over again. Ebert’s writings reminded me that, more than products or buildings, your writings will get your voice to the world and make those who read it feel as they’ve known you all their life. Here is a man who died halfway around the world and I feel like I know him personally better than I know my own president. (Granted, I haven’t read much about SBY.) He is a man who embraced the world with his positive attitude towards everything and held his passion up high so others can see it and learn to love it with him. This man will most likely be remembered as the last most prominent film critic in the world, as the chance to shine as bright as him is now virtually nonexistent thanks to the internet. He serves as a great inspiration for me to live for what you love and I will always remember his last written words in his last post, A Leave of Presence:
So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.