Recently, the film world suffered a tremendous loss with the death of film critic Roger Ebert.
I was a fan of his writing. Even when I didn't agree with one of his movie reviews, blog posts or Tweets, I still enjoyed what he had to say because he made me think about why I liked what I liked and why I held the opinions I held. This article will talk about some of my favorite things about him.
One of those things was that, unlike most critics, he actually had experience in the field he wrote. I'm sure you've heard the saying "Those who cannot do, review". Roger Ebert was one who could and did do. He was the man behind several screenplays directed by Russ Meyer. The most notable of these 3 scripts was "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls".
I can recall watching this on IFC one time with my Mom. It wasn't really the type of movie to watch with a parent due to its' content, but it was interesting to watch, and the words written by Ebert were what made it that way. If you saw "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and remember the line "This is my happening, baby, and it freaks me out", it came from this movie.
This is camp on a very high level...A lot of fun to watch, and Ebert was the man responsible for the dialogue. It's frequently featured in books about bad movies, but I think it was intended to be a spoof. After all, there's a murder scene near the end set to the logo music for 20th Century Fox (the company that distributed the movie). They couldn't have been that serious.
I haven't seen "Up!" or "Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens", which were also written by Ebert, but I should, especially since Kitten Natividad, the subject of my final e-mail interview, was in them.
To wrap up this part of the article, Ebert actually had experience making movies, so that's why I would listen to what he had to say about a movie, even if I didn't agree with it...Having spent time in the Hollywood trenches, he knew what he was talking about. That leads into my next part.
I need to talk once more about a bit of my own history. In my 2006 article "Don't Call Me A Poser!", I wrote about doing reviews for the 80s Movies Rewind. I wrote about 80s movies I loved, but I also gave bad reviews to a few films from the decade. I can recall doing a review of "The Apple" that earned a comment from the man who wrote the play that served as the basis for that movie. Reading his comment, I realized how hurtful my words were. I also realized that while there are movies I like and don't like, I really didn't have the right to issue verdicts on films, mainly because my own film pursuits were limited to a video I shot with an old friend in the 90s and a few videos I was a part of in my 12th grade video class. Very amateur stuff...I trust those who have experience in the fields more than those who don't. That means that I wouldn't trust those old reviews I wrote. My experiences were very limited...Ebert, on the other hand, knew what he was talking about.
Of course, no article about Roger Ebert would be complete without a discussion of his partnership with Gene Siskel.
The two were not only movie reviewers, but also one of the greatest comedy duos of the latter part of the 20th century. Watching them play off each other whether they agreed or disagreed about a movie was always fun. One of the best examples of that was their review of "Cop And A Half". Ebert gave it a thumbs-up...Siskel gave it a thumbs-down. Their debating is a lot of fun:
(Broken YouTube Link Removed)
Although I've seen the movie, I'm rather indifferent to it, so it's fun to listen to opposing viewpoints.
The duo had a great dynamic when they made occasional appearance in fiction. Much has been written about their appearance on "The Critic", but I prefer when they returned to PBS in 1990. They got their start there on "Sneak Previews" before leaving for "At The Movies" in the early 80s, but in 1990, they appeared on "Sesame Street" in a "Sneak Peek Previews" sketch. They talked to Oscar and Telly about the "thumbs-up"/"thumbs-down" way of reviewing movies, and then Oscar gets them to debate about the idea of "thumbs sideways". It seems like Siskel and Ebert are improvising at the end...You can judge for yourself, though:
When Siskel died in 1999, Ebert collaborated with several other critics, eventually teaming with Richard Roeper. It wasn't the same, though.
Eventually, Roger Ebert lost the ability to speak due to the cancer that would eventually claim his life. Despite that, though, he plunged into social media and became a man who had even more to say than before. Even though from 2006 onwards he lost the ability to speak, I could still read his writing and imagine him speaking. He had a very unique voice. The last time it was heard was in 2010, when he appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and, with the assistance of some technology, gave his picks for the 82nd Academy Awards as if he hadn't lost his voice.
In 2013, Roger Ebert died at the age of 70. They say that if you lost a body part, it'll be waiting for you in heaven when you die. I think Roger Ebert got his jaw back, and now he and Gene Siskel have relaunched their program in Heaven.
R.I.P Roger Ebert...
With that, the floor is open for discussions: What do you recall the most about Roger Ebert? What was your favorite review by him? What was his best line from a review?