Roger Ebert

I miss Roger already.  Whenever I go to IMDB and want to find reviews of a film, his name appears first, if it appears at all, every time.  And I usually don’t go further.  His reviews invariably gave me what I sought: a clear sense of the film’s quality and virtues, some sensitive exploration of the issues it might raise, and an appreciation of its place in the larger picture of things. Be it a trashy B movie or a prestigous Oscar candidate, a difficulty foreign film or a topical documentary, Roger had something insightful to say.  His prose flowed easily, without affect, without the incendiary quality of Pauline Kael but also without the snide, my wit is more interesting than the film I’m reviewing snideness of Anthony Lane. His passion for the cinema stood out.  His clarity of vision and consistency of voice were remarkable.  He is clearly missed by many and the obituaries that have turned up everywhere, from the White House to the trade papers, are a tribute to his success in making movie reviewing an art of real use value to so many.

I met him at the Hawaii Film Festival years ago when he gave a more or less shot by shot analysis of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe and I thought to myself, I’ve been doing shot analysis in classes for a decade or more but I’ve not turned into a story telling form the way Roger has.  He led the audience through the film with a sense of drama and suspense, as we anticipated what the next insight would be as another shot appeared on screen.  he didn’t disappoint; he invited us to enjoy and even revel in the art of discovering and appreciating what makes a great film great.  That was his gift; if only more had it, film reviewing might be in much better shape than it is today.

 

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