I am devastated by the passing of Roger Ebert, one of my greatest influences. The world knows him best as a film critic, most notably for his contribution at the Chicago Sun-Times and for presenting At The Movies with Gene Siskel throughout 1990s. He was much more than a film critic though; he helped redefine the field.
A movie is essentially a story. To review a movie is not merely to point out the good and the bad. If anything, what is judged as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is entirely subjective. Attempting to approach it with the assumption that any form of absolute objectivity exists would be almost pointless. As with stories, what you take from a movie inevitably depends heavily on your own unique experiences.
Ebert embraced this. He told the world what he saw from his quintessentially Ebert-esque prism – a prism that was shaped by an overwhelming love for movies. He helped movies find their audiences, and he helped audiences find their movies. The world embraces him so dearly because, in essence, his reviews are really about life. A movie is rarely the sum of its parts; it is an illusion that attempts to resolve (or distract oneself from) life’s unsolvable mysteries. Ebert tapped into that attempt better than anyone else.
His continued resilience staring cancer right in the eye is an inspiration to many. Diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002, he had lost his ability to speak, eat and drink since 2006, but the final year of his life was his most prolific, having written 306 reviews.
Upon passing, it has become clearer that a writer leaves behind a legacy unlike any other. If more people adhere to his life credo, the world will be a much better place:
“’Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”
As he embarks on that celestial means of transportation towards the stars, I say to him: good night, Roger.