Movies: you love them, you hate them. Some make you cry, some make you laugh, some make you want to burn down the theatre and demand your money back.
Some movies comment on world, and sometimes the world comments on them. There were few that commented on films as well as Roger Ebert did.
Roger Ebert, with his late partner Gene Siskel, film reviewers for The Chicago Sun Times and The Chicago Tribune respectively, rose to national fame and pop icon status with their TV show “At the Movies,” starting in the late 1980s, giving films the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” based on their reviews.
However, our generation grew up knowing Ebert through his Internet reviews, rather than through his television show.
For many, films are entertainment, a way to escape the drone of reality;for others, film is something that should be as carefully and lovingly criticized as any other great art. Unlike many film critics, Ebert didn’t just review art house indie films or films that no one had ever heard of, he reviewed summer blockbusters and mainstream films as well.
As a writer. he was highly prolific and accessible to the common audience. As a reviewer for a prominent newspaper, there were of course limitations as to what would be appropriate in terms of revealing plot points of a film, while still enticing the audience into either watching the film or keeping them away from it by any means necessary.
Ebert managed to create a balance of these elements by never giving the endings away and rating films using a star rating (four stars being the best, half a star being the worst) based on aspects of quality for which many people wouldn’t commonly look.
Ebert had a way of reviewing films that was, above all other things, fair. On many occasions, there would be films that Ebert thoroughly disliked, but there were always good things to be said about the films.
If the plot was bad, Ebert talked about the acting. If the acting was bad, Ebert talked about the cinematography. If the film wasn’t engaging or was predictable, the intent of the director was discussed.
In most cases, for every critique there was a pat on the back for some other aspect of the film. Ebert focused on how important films and visual media were to society.
He constantly emphasized the importance of the messages movies convey to the audience, rather than the form in which the messages were shown.
Roger Ebert and his contribution to the world of film will be remembered in several ways for many years to come.
His website will be continuously updated with reviews by writers that he picked, the Ebertfest film festival will continue, as well as an online content-stream called The Ebert Club.
Modern film reviewing would not be as it is without the strides Ebert made in making the writing style more accessible and public.
Two thumbs forever up for the wonder that was Roger Ebert.