Thursday, April 4, 2013

THE BALCONY IS CLOSED:  The Chicago Sun-Times just reported that Roger Ebert has passed way. Cancer fucking sucks.

I don't quite know where to begin -- he and Pauline Kael were both absolutely formative for me in becoming a film buff, in learning how to appreciate both the entertainments I already enjoyed but to seek out and find new stuff -- it was Siskel and Ebert's hosannas that made me sure to see Hoop Dreams on the last day it played at the Ritz in Philadelphia. When he ranked House of Games as his favorite film of 1987, I knew I had to see it. His enthusiasm was real; it was not doled out promiscuously. And it mattered. I've got a pile of books compiling his reviews at home, a relic of the days before online -- the Great Movies, the yearbooks, the Hated Hated Hated compilations, all of it.

And then there's how he lived his life, with candor and clarity about the alcoholism which once gripped him, and the horrible diseases which took away his physical voice and then, ultimately, his life today. They didn't stop him. He just found other outlets, and used them with great enthusiasm.

He once wrote that "No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough." Well, no good life is too long, either, and it's a goddamn shame he didn't get to enjoy more of it.  What a loss.


  1. Chuck4:15 PM

    Well said, Adam.

  2. Jason Carlin4:31 PM

    Excellent post, Adam. Looks like that Chris Jones Esquire profile of Roger Ebert is available in its entirety right now. It's worth a read or two. Beautiful piece on a remarkable man.

  3. When I heard the news, my first thought was "Oh, poor Adam."

  4. The Pathetic Earthling4:52 PM

    I always like Roger Ebert because he understood that while great film could indeed be high art, he appreciated what film could do as the medium. It didn't need to be moody, or try to address existential angst or be in French to be considered worthy of our time. There was no shame, Ebert understood, in liking a movie because it was fun. Raiders of the Lost Ark was "a swashbuckling adventure epic in the tradition of "Star Wars," "Superman -- The Movie," the James Bond pictures, and all the other multimillion-dollar special-effects extravaganzas. It wants only to entertain. It succeeds."

    And, I think, that's all Ebert wanted to do -- entertain and, perhaps, inform -- he succeeded at that, too.

  5. Adam B.5:08 PM

    Poor me? Eh. Poor Chaz.

  6. Really sad news. He was a treasure.

  7. Beautifully written, Adam. The word "enthusiasm" captures my feelings about him perfectly. He always just seemed so enthusiastic about the movies, even if he didn't like a particular movie. I began watching him on Siskel and Ebert, and I've followed him every since, right through to becoming a fan of his blog and twitter posts in the last year. I was surprised by how sad I was when I heard this news, but now that I think about it... he's been a part of my life for a long time, and had a lot to do with forming my own love of movies.

  8. isaac_spaceman7:02 PM

    Agreed that this is very well said. Just wanted to register one minor disagreement with the line that it's a shame that Ebert didn't get to enjoy more of his life. I don't know as much about him as do many of you (or as do many of the people on my Twitter feed), but my sense is that he actually enjoyed his life quite a bit, doing what he liked (writing first, watching movies second) superlatively (and being well-rewarded for it without ever seeming to have done it for the reward). Also the Russ Meyer stuff. And it feels to me like he handled his life after the previous medical catastrophe with equally superlative grace and reflection. I guess we can never know for sure, but it seems to me that, all told, we'd all be lucky to enjoy life to the extent and in the manner that Ebert did.

  9. We're all going to miss him here in Chicago. Even though he was from Urbana, he was...ours, somehow.

  10. Adam B.7:29 PM

    I just meant that I wish he had enjoyed a longer one; he seemed to enjoy the hell out of the life he got, including his wife's amazing love and support.

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  12. Tonight I am going to watch Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in tribute.

  13. Watts9:00 PM

    I'm the owner of the Cold Black Heart who doesn't cry at celebrity deaths. But this one got me. So as not to hog space here, you can read it here:

    (To save you time - the stuff about Ebert mostly echoes what Adam said. The stuff about me and crying, well, obviously doesn't.)

    And I'm glad you paired Ebert with Kael - to me you have to. They were both so profoundly committed to an egalitarian approach to film, even the often-derided genre pics that other critics seem to automatically sneer at. And yet, even with that omnivorous approach to film they never ever let a film off the hook for being less than it could be.

    Since Kael's death, I often see movies and wonder what she'd have to say about them. And now I will wonder about Ebert's non-review as well.

  14. lisased10:55 PM

    I knew it was coming, eventually, but I still gasped out loud. He and Kael made me love film. I fought with my brother over the right to watch "At the Movies." I read every compilation he wrote. I once won a one of his "Guess the Oscars" contests; I still have my prize, a "Titanic" coffee table book. Thanks Adam. You got it just right.

  15. Carol7:15 AM

    I didn't think, "Poor Adam," but I did think to come here because I knew he was loved here. And I think it was from this site that I grew to appreciate him more. He lived an amazing life.

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