Jun 20 As a teenager I became even more aware. My Saturday nights usually ended up at the drive-in, and I needed to know which movies to see, right? Of course neither critic was infallible, but as a reasonably solid guidepost it has yet to be improved upon in television. The Great Movies, in particular, really gave me direction. Imagine me, a year old Midwestern girl who had never seen a foreign film in her life, reading through the list on a rainy afternoon and coming across Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, or The Bicycle Thief.
He gave reasons why I should see these movies. He loved these movies, and that came through in his writing.
As the years went on, I eagerly awaited the next entry in the Great Movies series. With this final entry Roger Ebert, himself 70, had found the perfect film to end the series on. Ebert was never an expert on the technical aspects of filmmaking like a David Bordwell, but he never claimed to be. Nor was he an expert on any particular country or genre like Donald Richie.
Instead, Ebert was a writer first and foremost. His criticism won him a Pulitzer Prize not for the strength of his analysis but for the wonderfully personal style of his writing.
He reviewed films completely without pretense. Roger Ebert loved to champion films he felt were worthy of a larger audience.
Scorsese and Ebert had sort of parallel careers, and the film critic reviewed every film that the director made, eventually writing enough on him to compile into a book. He was one of the only critics to heap praise on Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch at the time of their release, and both have since become classics, though in keeping with the personal nature of this piece I feel I should say neither is a particular favorite of mine.
Perhaps no director owes as much to him as Werner Herzog, who Roger loudly and repeatedly proclaimed a genius time and again. Herzog and Ebert became friends through their careers, and the filmmaker even dedicated his documentary Encounters at the End of the World to the then-ill critic. Perhaps it seems strange to say about a critic, that most adversarial of professions to the artist and the fan, but I can honestly say that I would not be the film fanatic that I am today if not for Roger Ebert.
I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing, but it inspired me to go back to some of my favorite reviews of his, like his somewhat-notorious three-star review of The Godfather Part 2, reading it makes me smile.
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