That thumbs is a registered trademark, you know! (Copyright unknown)

That thumb is a registered trademark, you know! (Copyright unknown)

“I cannot begin to describe how much this loss will affect the not only the film business, but critical thinking of and in our world.
It’s not about whether you agreed with him, but that he could entertain you by arguing his point so well.
I wish I could have met him, though we did exchange some emails.
😦 Requiescat In Pace, Mr. Ebert. I hope you’re watching the perfect film up there.”

I posted this on Facebook, attached to a link to a news story about the death of Mr. Roger Ebert.

I’m still reeling.

The emotions I’m feeling are many. I know I said I would not get personal on this blog and I intend to keep to that promise for the most part. Forgive me in advance if what follows is scattered and unfocused in some places. I’m letting the thoughts and feelings well up and am looking at each the way I might look at a piece of art for the first time, simply letting it be what it is without judgement and very little analysis.

Roger Ebert was a film critic by job description, but in reality he was a critic of life and the world in which we all live. It just so happened that both life and the world were reflected in film and that was how he best loved to look at it. It just didn’t stop him from looking at the world straight on, either. In the age of social media, he was a titan of the Twitter-sphere, sharing links not just about movies and his reviews, but of interesting articles, comments on religion and politics, and sometimes just funny stories. The under-riding presence of a critique (his or someone else’s) was always there. One way or another they made you think or see the world a little differently.

I’m going to miss that.

In the days after September 11th, 2001, that terrifying, terrible day, there was a lot of emotion in the world. The August before, I’d gone to see the film “Final Fantasy” in the theatre and one of the trailers was for Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” film. It ended with bank robbers in a helicopter being caught in a giant spider web. The web was spun between the two World Trade Centres in New York City. It was a powerful image, made too powerful a month later when maniacs destroyed them (along with destroying countless lives). The ad was pulled from theatres and even now is unavailable on the DVD. The knee-jerk reaction of the time was to remove the iconic Twin Towers from current TV shows and films about to be released. The argument was that it was being done out of respect. “The Sopranos” cut their shot of the Towers in Tony’s rear view mirror that season and from all to follow. There was serious talk of older movies being edited to take them out, apparently because some believed it was too painful or disrespectful to show them anymore. It bothered me, but I couldn’t quite articulate why I thought such action was wrong. I wrote to Mr. Ebert and said I couldn’t understand this reaction, really. He wrote back, agreeing, and said, “When someone dies, you don’t destroy all their photos.”

I later submitted an entry to his Little Glossary Of Movie Terms:

Backlit Horizon Phenomenon
The ever-present white light whose source is always just beyond the horizon line where no practical light source would be. This phenomenon allows dramatic entrances to secluded locales, e.g., the appearance of the Ring Wraiths on the road in “The Fellowship of the Ring” and the appearance of the Nigerian soldiers in the jungle in “Tears of the Sun.”PATRICK LEMIEUX, TORONTO

I’m still really proud to have made it into his collection, even in a small way.

It bothers me that in his battle against cancer in his last years he lost his ability to speak. It didn’t stop him working and writing, but I felt bad for him, nonetheless. I can’t imagine what life must have been like. He never publicly complained or sought sympathy for what he was going through. I admire that.

I didn’t always agree with Ebert and sometimes I think he missed the point in a film he would slam, but every argument for his position was made clearly and understandably, so I could meet him halfway. It helped me learn the value of critical thinking and critical writing, to argue not with the goal of antagonizing, but with an eye on enlightening the opposing view as to where I’m coming from on a topic.

It’s sad that he won’t see the new Star Wars movies.

The current young generation will never quite understand just how much power the duo of Siskel & Ebert had back in the day. Getting “Two Thumbs Up” would make your box office and practically guarantee a hit film. And “Thumbs Down,” well, you knew you had a stinker on your hands. After Gene Siskel died, that magic combination was lost and Roger Ebert, still a great critic, continued to review and write and enlighten. He’d talk about his friend and colleague Siskel and we learned that even though the arguments on their show were genuine, the two never lost respect of friendship. I recall Ebert saying in an interview that he and Gene had a shorthand about movies, simple words and phrases they developed over the years, that could communicate so much so quickly and that Ebert really missed that.

I also recall Ebert saying several times that he had no fear of death. Why should he, he’d ask? He came from nothing and would go back to nothing. What was to fear? I admire that, too.

Lastly, I hope the world learned some things from him. I hope his legacy dissuades some bad movies from being made. I hope the world learned that “critic” is not a bad word. We needed Ebert’s intelligent analysis of the our world and we all need to pick up where he left off.

I plan to do my part.

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