On Twitter: @JamesEppler
This blog would likely no exist without Roger Ebert. His influence on me as a film lover and writer can not be overstated.
I've been a disciple since I was very young. No matter what I was doing on Saturday afternoons I'd make sure I was in front of my TV to watch "Siskel & Ebert" on PBS. I was transfixed by the movies at an early age, and I relished hearing these two guys praise good work, tear bad movies apart, and often get into heated arguments. I'd record these shows on my VCR, and watch them back later numerous times. I loved the interaction, and I loved learning about movies. And I wondered if maybe some day I could do what they did.
Most often, I found myself siding with Roger over Gene.
With the arrival of the Internet I was able to finally read Roger's reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Some critics get a lot of self-satisfaction by bloviating about film - making vague references and using terminology way over the reader's head. Then there's the opposite problem with critics who write solely to make it onto the movie trailer or poster. We call these bottom-feeders "quote whores."
Roger was neither. He spoke very plainly about movies and was always very direct. His reviews were so good because they were also constructive and educational. It's one thing to complain about a piece of work - it's another to explain how it could be improved.
That said, his scathing reviews were often deliciously hilarious. One of my favorite books at home is "Your Movie Sucks,"
a collection of his favorite reviews of bad movies. But his collection of "The Great Movies"
books are also great resources for finding or rediscovering films.
You'll notice I keep referring to him by his first name. It's because even though I never met the man personally, I feel like I knew him. He was always engaged with his readers, but in the last five years or more he's made it a point to interact more with readers on social media, especially since he lost his ability to speak.
I really feel like I've lost a friend. I think a lot of filmmakers and movie lovers feel that way.
I think if you asked him, Roger would tell you the best way to honor his memory is to dive into a good movie. Experience it, think about it, talk about it with family or friends.
He helped teach me how to do that.