Friday, April 5, 2013

R.I.P. Roger Ebert ~ Movie Lover and Progressive Hero

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There are really no words. Did you know that Roger Ebert was the FIRST film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize? I think many people forget that because he was a humble person and didn't blow his own horn too much.

I grew up watching Ebert and Siskel on our local PBS station. Back then we didn't have 500 reviews online for every movie. You either read an odd review now and then in the newspaper or you had to buy Newsweek or Time. So thanks to television and PBS, Ebert and Siskel because THE movie critics of America, the only ones who really mattered. I always stayed up after 11:30 to see their show on Sunday nights, even when my husband grumbled or if I had to be at work early on Monday morning. I enjoyed it most when they disagreed and got fired up about movies they cared about - that's what a real fan does, and above all, they were movie fans.

Gene Siskel was more of a macho guy who liked "The Deer Hunter," "Raging Bull" and "Saturday Night Fever", while Ebert was the nerdy, intellectual guy who loved nostalgia and Stephen King movies. I remember his review of "Star Wars" back in the seventies, talking about the "old universe" it portrayed, and the classic coming of age story - I couldn't wait to go see it after hearing his review.

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I remember when my kids were little how much I appreciated it that Ebert would seriously review movies like "Babe" and "Free Willy" and "Toy Story." Before there was an internet, he introduced his audience to the work of the Japanese master Miyasaki, showing clips of "My Neighbor Totoro," a movie I would never have chosen for my children at the video store without his review. My kids went on to become Japanese movie junkies, and they may not realize that it all goes back to Ebert.

I also remember when he praised "Dirty Dancing," saying it reminded him of being young and in love, and I used his review to help my husband understand why I liked that movie so much. I remember he usually loved musicals, unless Madonna was the star, LOL.

But Ebert was more than a movie critic. He was also a Kick-Ass Democrat who campaigned for President Obama tirelessly last year on Twitter, and who made time each day to push Progressive causes that mattered the most. That's his most lasting legacy, I think. Cancer had stolen his ability to speak on television, but Twitter gave him a new voice and a platform with millions of new readers and fans. And now we all mourn the loss of a a great writer, communicator and powerhouse Progressive. But above all he was a really, really nice guy, certainly someone you would love to see a movie with, and go for a hamburger afterward to analyze every scene.

And like the movie heroes he loved, he was brave - he stood up for what he believed, and he fought cancer like a boss. R.I.P., Dear Critic from Chicago - I wish we had hundreds more just like you.

Roger Ebert's Last Column: "A Leave of Presence"
Fans and Celebrities React to the Death of Roger Ebert 

LA Times Hero Complex: A Look Back at 5 Fan Favorite Reviews by Roger Ebert

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