In the more than 10 years since he was diagnosed with cancer, Roger Ebert refused to give up as much as an inch to the disease that had ravaged his body but left his mind more nimble and ready to rumble. Last year, despite his continuing problems, Roger reviewed 306 films - the most of his career. I first got to know Roger when I started going, as he did, to the film festivals at Sundance and Cannes. Roger puckishly claimed I had changed his life for the better when I introduced him to the Timex Indiglo watch, which lights up in the dark and tells you how much time is left in particularly worrisome films. Roger promptly called it a critic's friend and often pulled his out when he saw me to prove that he was still keeping the faith. On a more public level, Roger was the best-known film critic in America. The more I got to know Roger, the more I thought that his TV work did a real disservice to his deep critical gifts. Roger was not a thumbs-up, thumbs-down kind of guy, but a dedicated scholar of film who could talk for hours about the camera work in "Citizen Kane" or the newest wrinkles in emerging Romanian cinema. Roger's father had been an electrician and general handyman at the University of Illinois. He could fix anything and everything, but he steadfastly refused to teach Roger any of his skills. He'd come home at night, Roger said, after spending the day in the offices of these professors and he'd say to me, almost in awe, Roger, they just sit there and think. That's the life he wanted for me. He didn't want me fixing things like he did. Roger Ebert's dad got what he wanted and we all have been the richer for it.The whole idea of his immensely talented father not wanting him to follow in his footsteps is very fascinating. Sometimes, I have a hard time deciding who I find more interesting, the practical genius, or the abstract genius. It sounds like Roger Ebert could very well have been either one.
Friday, April 5, 2013
The Life of Roger Ebert
I feel kind of bad, because my sister passed on a number of Roger Ebert links to me, and yet I never really read him consistently. There were an interesting bunch of quotes from his autobiography at The Atlantic that are worth reading, and I also found this tribute from NPR and LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan to be interesting: