Monday, April 30, 2007

The Return of Roger Ebert!

After reading the latest over at Observations on film art and Film Art, I am compelled to reflect, albeit briefly, on Roger Ebert's return to the public sphere over the weekend.

Like so many young film lovers, I first discovered my love of film criticism through Roger's engaging and intelligent movie reviews. His work showed me that film criticism is important, that it can be the source of great feeling and knowledge of cinema, and that criticism is essential to the advancement of cinema as an art form. It is a necesary companion to the experience of watching films for those who care deeply about films. When I heard of complications with his salivary cancer and his several surgeries, I was (like many) disheartened and knew that his absence in the film criticism circuit would affect it greatly, not to mention my own experience in it. For years, Roger's reviews (published weekly on fridays) were a staple in my film education and a reflection of my own cinematic pleasures. I sometimes agree with him, sometimes disagree with him. There have been times when I have felt like just Roger and I were the only two people who understood the deeply-felt emotions of movies pegged bad by many critics and viewers. Other times, I have wondered if we even saw the same movie. But over the years, my visits to his website to read his reviews - both new and old - has been as constant and enriching as my experience with cinema itself.

While I continued to visit over the past year, on Fridays and all other days, it hasn't been the same without him. Nevertheless, I continued to read his archived reviews and his great movies column, which is an endless resource for film scholars and lovers alike. But I have always wondered if and when we would see the return of Roger Ebert. Over the past week, Jim Emerson has posted a few pictures of Roger (who unmistakably looks to be in high spirits) at the festival with his wife, Chaz. It's wonderful to see him active again and attending his film festival. After reading the various reports by Jim, David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, and others, I have vowed to one day attend this festival. It seems like a wonderful event at which serious film lovers and scholars can congregate, discuss, and share the experience of watching a true variety of films. Its intimate atmosphere of film scholars and lovers who are deeply informed about cinema, yet receptive toward it as an art form gives it a different quality than most other festivals I read about. In short, it is a reflection of Roger Ebert's unique status and position in film criticism. And I am more than happy to see that position filled again, if not through his reviews, but through the pictures and reports of the festival. It has given me great hope as I continue perusing his archives of reviews, awaiting the Friday (hopefully) someday soon when I see the words "By Roger Ebert" on the front page of


Damian said...

Excellent post, Ted. Roger Ebert is indeed a great film critic, arguably the greatest there ever was. I have nothing more to add because I agree 100% with everything you've written here. Good job!

Ted Pigeon said...

Ebert is certainly among the best at what he does, that being journalistic criticism. He definitely has his place up there with Eisenstein, Bazin, Metz, Bordwell, Sarris, and others. His work is evidence that journalistic criticism does have an important place within the larger practice of film criticism. Many see his "thumbs up" as a commodification of film criticism, turning journalistic criticism into a "see it or don't see it" practice, which is definitely a valid point. But those who have read his reviews are aware that there is much more to Ebert than thumbs up/thumbs down.

Ringwood said...

It's as if that entire post could have been written by me, Ted, except you said all that needs to be said much more eloquently. It was, funnily enough, Cinemania '96 that introduced me to Roger (and little did i know at the time, to Jim Emerson as well), and those two critics remain in my Top 5.

Thanks for this.

Damian said...

It's as if that entire post could have been written by me, Ted, except you said all that needs to be said much more eloquently.

I find that I typically have that response to Ted's writing, ringwood. :)