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Friday, April 12, 2013

My Tribute to Roger Ebert





         As you all certainly know by now, Roger Ebert, the veritable giant of the film criticism industry (and the primary reason the industry exists in its current state), passed away on April 4 due to complications of his decade-long battle with cancer.  Coincidentally, his death occurred shortly after the death of a good friend of my family.  So, as you can imagine, the simultaneous loss of a great man I knew personally with a great man I admired and aspired after from a distance has led me to spend much of the past two weeks reflecting on the nature of life, death, and what makes our years on this Earth worth living. 

            My experience with Ebert’s work was not terribly extensive until last year, when I began to seriously delve into his reviews as part of my growing passion for cinema (I was too young and too uninterested in movies to appreciate any of the incarnations of At The Movies while it was on the air).  Since then, his reviews (along with those of Movie Bob, Doug Walker, and A.O. Scott) have become some of my primary reference points for clarifying my own thoughts about a literally uncountable number of films. 

            Ironically, though, out of all the work Ebert did in the field of film criticism (and the amount is truly staggering- this man reviewed several hundred films a year for over FORTY YEARS), if I were to be honest, I’d have to say that the one thing he wrote that touched me the most, on a very personal level, were two articles on his personal blog, Roger's Journal.  One of them, titled How I Am A Roman Catholic, was posted just one month before his death.  The other, How I Believe In God,was posted three years earlier.  In these articles, he compares his Catholic upbringing in small-town America with his more complex and nuanced views today.  By his death, he did not consider himself a practicing, orthodox Catholic, but the lessons he learned from the Sisters who taught him and how they shaped him are aspects of himself he never seeks to deny or reject.  Through a lifetime of searching, thinking, and introspection, he was able to appreciate the Catholic nature of much of his educated without feeling mentally, emotionally, or spiritually bound by a single, set doctrine. 

            These articles touched me at a very deep level, because I feel myself going through a similar internal debate now.  I, too, struggle to reconcile my Catholicism with both the sexual abuse scandal and with other assorted teachings of the Church that I simply cannot bring myself to accept (homosexuality and women in the priesthood, to name just two).  Why these two articles?  Why would these mean more to me than anything Roger ever said about any film he saw? 

            I think the main reason is this- because of how openly, and how frankly, Roger discussed his personal views, and by showing both myself and the world how much they have changed over the years, and how he was never one to sum up his entire being in a single word, he reminded me that I am not alone in my own search for a personal identity.  He taught me that having a voice, a genuine voice that is truly my own, takes a lifetime of unceasing effort, but that that effort never needs to be a bad, shameful, or painful thing.  Instead, it can be joyous, life-giving, happy, and, of course, fun. 

            And I think that is Roger’s greatest legacy to all of us.  He was- is- a shining example of how to truly lead your own life, to follow your passions without shame or regret, and to have a damn good time doing it.  Thank you Roger.  I hope to see you at the Great Movie Theater in the Sky someday.  Not just yet though.  My journey is just beginning.


Here are some of my favorites of the many tributes that have been posted online since Roger's death-

The tribute by the Nostalgia Critic: 

A Biop in the NY Times by A.O. Scott: 

The farewell by a dear friend of mine, and fellow blogger, the CineMaverick:

The farewell by another good friend and fellow movie blogger, Steve:

A collection of remembrances by the team at Pop-Break.com, including my good friend Jon Elliott:

An Esquire article from several years ago that opened my eyes to just how much Roger had struggled in the last years of his life (but how he triumphantly overcame them time and again):

And finally, a link to Roger's recently-revamped website, where his journal posts and film reviews can be read and enjoyed by all: 

And now, I think, it's time for me to watch a movie.  

-Noah Franc 







2 comments:

  1. It's so wonderful to see that Roger's influence has extended beyond simply "that famous movie critic guy," as shown by yours and other tributes I've read since Roger's passing. He was a great humanist who loved movies but loved life especially. I love the implications of his legacy you included at the end of this article.

    And of course, it's an honor to be referenced on your blog. Just as it's an honor to be considered a dear friend of yours. The feeling is mutual, my good sir.

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  2. Hahaha, aww, thanks man. ^_^

    I really do think that he deserves to be remembered as far more than just a great movie critic. He was a great man for a lot of reasons.

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