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Opinion: Roger Ebert, a genuine fan’s fan

Weekly Columnist

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

In October 2012, Roger Ebert wrote his review of Ben Affleck’s film. “Argo”: “The craft in this film is rare. It is so easy to manufacture a thriller from chases and gunfire, and so very hard to fine-tune it out of exquisite timing and a plot that’s so clear to us we wonder why it isn’t obvious to the Iranians. After all, who in their right mind would believe a space opera was being filmed in Iran during the hostage crisis? Just about everyone, it turns out. Hooray for Hollywood.” This is a masterful analysis from of a film, which would later go on to win Best Picture of the year.

As anyone who is familiar with me or my column knows, I have a soft spot for fans, particularly when it comes to film and television. I believe that the love between a fan and the project is one of the most underrated forms of affection in our society. After all, where else can someone’s unapologetic – and often over-the-top – love for something be contingent solely upon the talent of the people who produce it? That’s why I write about entertainment. For the people who care, there is precious little that matters more to them than the well-being of their favorite characters, writers, directors, producers and stories. I find the work to be rewarding and noble.

In that spirit, I would like to use my column this week to honor one of the greatest fans and ally to fans ever – Roger Ebert, who passed away after several years of battling cancer on April 4.

For those who don’t know, or just need a refresher, Ebert was a journalist and film critic for the Chicago Sun Times. His film reviews number in the hundreds since he got the job in April of 1967 and are syndicated to more than 200 other sources. He has published several books and made TV criticism popular alongside fellow Chicago Sun Times reporter Gene Siskel. Together the two debated movies every week on a PBS show called “Sneak Preview,” where they argued over the minutia of film and storytelling.

For the first time, it became acceptable and popular to not watch a movie passively. To hold the filmmakers accountable when they produced garbage and to reward those who mastered the craft. When Siskel and Ebert both agreed that a movie was good, they used the famous phrase, “Two thumbs up.” After Siskel passed away in 2009, Ebert continued what had become an American film tradition with Richard Roeper.

By 2005, Roger Ebert had made such a name for himself in the film industry that he became the first film critic to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. Movies are a precious thing. They can fill two hours of someone’s time, change the minds of a generation, make us cry or simply tell people that it’s okay to laugh after tragedy.

Roger Ebert, above all else, loved movies. He was a fan. He understood the power of film to carry a great story, and he understood just what a great story could do for the world. He was a devout fan in the truest of terms. He wanted to show people what was worthy of the love that fans can produce and what was all smoke and mirrors from people trying to abuse the responsibility that comes with that level of love and devotion.

Although he has passed away, Ebert’s legacy is more than remembered. He taught the world that anyone can watch a movie passively and that, oftentimes, that’s just what they want you to do. Today, films are put under every microscope imaginable from websites like EW.com, rottentomatoes.com, Rolling Stone and countless others. The average person demands more from a film than not being bored while watching it, and America has Roger Ebert to thank for that. So, on behalf of all current and potential critics as well as movie fans in general, I’d like to thank Mr. Ebert for his 46 years of service to fans and to promise him that we’ll do our best to keep it going – for him and for the movies. 

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