Roger Ebert has died. As you can probably guess, I didn’t see eye to eye with Ebert on politics. In fact, the first post I ever did for the old Moorewatch site was a rebuttal of many of the things Ebert said in his Sicko! review.
But as a film critic, I thought he was great. From my “Ebert is wrong post” (which has some language I’m not proud of, but won’t flush down the memory hole):
Roger Ebert is one of the great film critics (check out the insight of the last two paragraphs of today’s review). There are very few who can get a general audience excited about art films and Ebert is one of them. He’s never been a kaffeeklatsch critic who just wants to sit around with other critics and discuss Citizen Kane. He wants everyone to be excited about great film. He’s turned me on to a number of great films, notably Grave of the Fireflies.
Grave of the Fireflies, by the way, if you are ever feeling too happy and want to feel awful for a couple of days. It is a great film. And like many great films — United 93, for example — I can only watch it every few years.)
One of my favorite Ebert reviews was one I disagreed with. He wrote a long review of Return of the King justifying his three-star rating and explaining why he thought it was good but not what it could have been (I can’t link right now as the Sun Times server is flooded). I didn’t agree with him but I saw his argument and respected his opinion. I love articles that make me think and make me say, “I think you’re wrong, but you make a good argument.”
What was really fun was when Ebert would return to a movie and re-evaluate it. He liked The Big Lebowski, but later added it to his Great Movies list. The same with Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There are probably a dozen movies I would place an all-time great list that I wouldn’t have seen had Ebert not flogged them.
He wrote thousands of reviews, multiple books and a well-trafficked blog that touched on everything including politics. Roger Ebert loved movies and his love was infectious. He was a gifted writer, a gifted critic and a critical voice in understanding film over five decades. RIP.