Thursday, April 4, 2013

Saying good bye to Roger Ebert

By now the Interwebs are full of tributes to the late, great Roger Ebert, who died earlier today at 70. Yet another one of us taken by cancer.

Earlier, I posted on our Facebook pages that there would be no Basement if it wasn't for Ebert and, to a big extent, his former partner in movie criticism, Gene Siskel. Indeed, our little corner of the Internet isn't alone in this either. Siskel and Ebert set the bar and formula for being a film critic. They made being a critic cool and popular.

There were no other film-review shows on TV when Sneak Previews appeared on PBS. I recall seeing it in the late 70s or early 80s. Siskel and Ebert actually began their collaboration in 1975. Ebert had already won a Pulitzer Prize by then. He was the first film critic to do so.

I won't bore you with an obit of the man's life. Other, more mainstream journalists, have done that already. But Ebert and Siskel, who died in 1999, introduced me to a new way of looking at movies -- critically. Until then, I took them in and, as long as I was entertained, I was happy.

That changed after a steady diet of watching Sneak Previews and their follow-up show, Siskel and Ebert: At the Movies. I didn't agree with Ebert a lot of the time. He hated most of the Cannon Films and slasher movies that I enjoyed. But he did have a soft spot for B-movies and drive-in cinema, and he backed up his opinions with more than an emotional response.

I also learned to approach movie reviews with a sense of humour. He could slam a movie, but he was often light hearted about it. His book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie is as funny as it is insightful. Making fun of movies we hate is a big part of our show. Hell, we make fun of everything and everybody.

It would be easy to go on. But I've never met Ebert, as JoBlo has. Nor did I interact with him on Twitter, although I followed his tweets religiously. Hell, I stopped watching At the Movies after he bowed out.

But I learned more about movies and thinking about movies from him than anyone else, even my film-school profs. And even though I disagreed with Ebert a lot of the time, I never stopped respecting him. And I will miss him and his reviews very much.

Rest in peace, Rog.
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