#TBT (Throw Back Thursday): Special edition – Roger Ebert

As I sort through odds and ends of previous writings, I’m trying to see if there’s anything of interest that I’ve written that could be shared on the site – odds and ends that might be worth a read. It was slightly depressing to realize that many of the items I used to blog about were self-indulgent stupidity, but I think I’ve shared a few interesting items since this writing blog got started.

In rooting around the old files, I found this… diary entry, I guess, that I wrote to myself on the event of film critic Roger Ebert’s death. Something I do for my Facebook writing page is #TBT (Throwback Thursday). I thought, why not have a special edition, featuring some of my reactions at the time? I loved his online writing, and his Great Movies series was a major influence on how I wrote from a nonfiction standpoint and how I saw film.

Hope it’s a good read.


Ebert’s dead, part 2: Reax

Friday, April 05, 2013

1:05 AM

Roger Ebert was a warrior poet, a newspaper man and writer first who loved film and was happy to make that his life’s work. Most of his writings were about life and how humans behaved toward each other, even when they were about film.

He was a Chicago boy who only wanted to be a newspaper man growing up, and he got that and a lot more. Ebert wanted to be Royko, but he became Ebert instead and hung out with Royko.

I never met him in person, but I met him through his words, first spoken through the television, and then through the words on the electronic screen. I grew up listening to this man speak of movies and I came to respect him. As a man I started to write what he wrote about movies and I began to truly hear his voice and get a feeling for his soul.

I got to know that things like foreign films and indies existed. Ebert’s the reason I started watching Werner Herzog movies. He’s the reason I think critically about movies.

I still think Ebert and Siskel’s idea that the critics should judge the Oscars on account of the fact that they actually watch the movies makes total sense. I agreed with most of the reviews he did, and I still think Hoop Dreams not only got robbed for Best Documentary but Best Picture as well.

I loved how he could turn a movie review into a philosophical exploration, or have big dumb fun with a big dumb movie.

His fight against cancer, though – that was the badass side of him. When cancer was finished kicking his ass in 2006, he’d lost half his face, in addition to the ability to eat, drink, and talk. Most fuckheads would have packed it in; pulled an hero at the most, and at least faded away from being anywhere around people. When he went out, though, you could tell that you could fill the Universe with the lack of fucks he had about the situation.

Most people would have given up writing, then. He did a lot of the best writing of his life after that, and just kept going. He wrote a cookbook when he couldn’t even eat – I mean, what the hell. I’m buying his memoir, which he wrote just two years ago. Two days before he kicked it, cancer raging back, broken hip and everything, he wrote that he was going to kick back a little, maybe semi-retire when he was dealing with a near-terminal disease. He treated extra time as if it was the first minute of the match. Shit.

There was a dude from Chicago a few years back by the name of Chris Farley who had a talent for making people laugh by being the fat guy. He could do more than that, but deep down he didn’t have the guts. He wanted to make his dad happy so he stayed fat for him. He wanted to be funny and crazy like his idol, John Belushi, also a Chicago boy. He lived high, drunk, and fat like Belushi, hated himself, and OD’d like Belushi when he was 33.

I was born a Chicagoland boy. My idol’s Ebert. I don’t drink like Ebert did at the start of his life, and I never got into smoking. He died at 70; I’m 40 now. So, maybe 35, 40 years if I’m lucky, maybe? Maybe I get some extra time, too.

The point is, I want to live and write like Ebert did. Maybe I’ll never become as famous or well-known as him, but I can live and write like him. If I do that, I’ll be more than OK with my life than I ever thought possible.

He had a good life, and a good death. I want to be like that. That’s my new promise to myself.

So, goodbye Roger. I might not ever see you, but maybe we’ll meet somewhere out there in a while. From one writer, one journalist, to another.


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