Remembering Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013)

I’ve been very sick for the last week, so I’m way behind on a few things I want to cover on this blog. Yet it would be remiss for me not to put in a few words about the recent passing of legendary movie critic Roger Ebert. While this blog is not exclusively devoted to movie reviews, I see Ebert’s influence in my writing and my approach to horror and sci-fi pop culture, much of which is driven by cinema.

It’s been said that through his books, TV shows, and other efforts, Ebert brought the practice of movie criticism into a more personal, less formalized perspective. It is likewise impressive that he did this at a time when the production and distribution of movies have changed so drastically, from something that could only be experienced in the movie theater to something that can be accessed almost anywhere at any time and on demand. I discovered Ebert the same way many people did: during the mid-80s on his syndicated TV show At the Movies with fellow film critic Gene Siskel. The VHS rental industry was coming into its own at that time, and I noticed how even that show soon made some changes to make room for new releases on VHS. (It should also be said that last week saw the passing of Eurotrash master Jesus “Jess” Franco. Even though there are many more popular and accomplished film directors in Europe, Franco developed an American fan base through distribution into VHS rental shops across America. Click here for more thoughts about that.)

If Ebert did anything, he showed how the critical analysis of movies has the potential to enhance one’s enjoyment of movies--that actually thinking about what you watch makes you appreciate it more than if you did not. I’m certain that many people still don’t understand this concept, since many (including quite a few professional film critics) appear to equate criticism with open hostility and snide insults. Yet because of his approach to criticism, Ebert didn’t just review films; he championed them. He provided commentary tracks for DVD and Blu-ray releases of movies (including a track for one of my personal favorites, Dark City) and would draw attention to limited-released movies that would otherwise be forgotten.

While I’m not even close to the kind of film buff that Ebert was, I’d like to think that my blog adheres to the standard of film criticism that Ebert himself endorsed. If anything I’ve written here has encouraged readers to think a little more about the films they are watching or choose to see an obscure movie instead of a hyper-promoted blockbuster, then I think Ebert would be proud.


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