Thursday, April 4, 2013

Remembering Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

I remember it was my freshman year in high school, and I was sitting in my friend's basement where a DVD rental of "Kill Bill Vol. 1" was presented to us by a mutual friend. As young teen boys would, he was elating to us about the level of blood, gore and violence in the movie, how we had to watch it, how it was so cool. I was excited to watch Quentin Tarantino's first movie in years for a different reason. Because just days previously I had come across Roger Ebert's four-star review of it, and I remember vividly a line that stuck with me:

"The movie is not about anything at all except the skill and humor of its making. It's kind of brilliant."

I thought it was so clever and interesting, a new way of consuming a movie, a way of watching and observing, looking for something more. Critical viewing. Film critiquing.

And with that line in mind, I sat with my friends and watched (sometimes through parted fingers covering my eyes) the gory onslaught of "Kill Bill Vol. 1" unfold. Reactions to follow: "Awesome! Cool!" But taking in the rolling credits, I knew I had seen it through a different lens. I was on a different plane, and it was because of Ebert's review I had a hugely different reaction than my friends. It was an unexpected emotional response. I wasn't reacting in adolescent glee to the limb-cutting and blood-spurting. I was reacting to it as art, and it was all thanks to Ebert's wonderful words, the critic of our lifetime, a man of great genius.

Since that day, I had labeled "Kill Bill Vol. 1" as the movie to really get me into movies the way I am today. But now as I sit going through words of praise and remembrance all over the internet for our dearly departed Roger, I realize it wasn't the movie that got me into movies; it was his words on the movie that made me see there was something more.

Ebert was the critic to put movie criticism in the public eye. He was the one who made it relevant, intriguing and, most of all, important. His two thumbs up or down turned a sophisticated analysis of movies and made it commercial. Beyond that, he made a sincere love for not only movies but the act of moviegoing mainstream and popular: "See you at the movies," he'd say.

And for me personally, he was the one who motivated me to get to where I am today in terms of my love and passion for everything movies and entertainment. He's my personal hero, and though I had always envisioned a life goal of meeting him one day, maybe it's better this way. He represents something greater not only for me but for anyone who appreciates movies.

He was a poet of a film critic, wise with his words and biting with his wit. He will be deeply missed but never, ever forgotten. Rest in peace, Roger.

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