Thursday, April 04, 2013

Remembering Roger Ebert

I was a sophomore in college when I got my first email address at NYU. My friend (at the time) Nick introduced me to the computer lab and showed me a really primitive form of a visual web browser, and this site called "Ain't It Cool News" where you could read spy reports of the long-in-development SPIDER-MAN movie (to be directed by James Cameron!) and other reports about George Lucas developing STAR WARS *prequels*. This was the mid-90s and the internet was all usenet groups and mailing people blank cassette tapes in exchange for bootlegs of concerts. And we loved every bit of it.

Roger Ebert had a presence on the internet early on. He was an early adopter of the technology. He even responded to a few emails I sent him back in the day.

I grew up watching Siskel & Ebert.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was no internet. There weren't a thousand niche channels catering to everything you could possibly imagine. If you were interested in the movies, there were movie magazines, Entertainment Tonight and Siskel & Ebert. With Siskel & Ebert, you could watch two critics -- who loved the movies -- nearly come to fisticuffs over the merits of all the latest films. They spoke intelligently, were passionate in defense of their opinions, and it helped shape my appreciation of film from an early age.

I've a fond memory of going back to the dorm right before the spring semester of my freshman year. Few students were back from their winter breaks, including my roommate at the time who was scarcely there. Nick may have been there, for some reason. Empty dorm, dead of winter, Nick and I watched a new episode of Siskel & Ebert. There was just something comforting about watching them discuss movies. Family friends you'd grown up with.

And... now they're both dead.

I think kids today -- many adults today -- might have some difficulty understanding how you could have a genuine affection for a couple of movie critics. For me, they were the first people I knew who treated films seriously. Who treated films with respect. Who had a reverence for the art form which could inform their anger when a movie failed. I probably disagreed with both of them as often as I agreed with them, but there was no denying they took their commitment to film criticism seriously. I had a book with collected Ebert reviews that I remember using to discover movies at the video store growing up. I used to fantasize, with some dread, the day that one of my movies would be reviewed on Siskel & Ebert.

This is the way the world works.

[See also, Remembering Gene Siskel.]


Anonymous fedup890 said...

That's the perfect way to describe their show, comforting.

4/05/2013 09:31:00 AM  

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