By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
On April 4, it was announced to the public that Roger Ebert had died. There are not many words I can find to follow that exact statement. He was a living legend, he changed the way many of us looked at film, and he continued changing that perspective until that last hospital run.
As many of you know, Ebert suffered a great deal due to thyroid cancer in his last decade of life. Much of his jaw had to be removed, leaving him unable to eat, drink, or speak on his own. That loss of speech, in my quiet moments when I think of this to myself, that is what scares me the most. But Ebert, whether you kept up with him or not, did not let this loss of speech ever stop him from having a voice. Nothing could stop him—like anybody who has a passion for something, you can never really keep them quiet for long.
Ebert, along with his good friend Gene Siskel, started a little public broadcasting project called Sneak Previews back in 1975. Eventually, the chemistry the duo shared and everything they had to say caught the public’s attention, and from there, we got At The Movies, which ran in different formats from 1982 and even after Siskel died in 1999. At The Movies officially came to an end in 2008, but Ebert kept watching films and reviewing.
I’m not going to pretend like I knew everything about Ebert. I know and have met people who literally did hang on his every word—I’m going to regret every day now that I wasn’t one of them. I’m going to regret it because I love film. I love film in a way that people would have mocked me for, and that people like me still get mocked for, because, “They’re just movies.” Ebert turned this love and passion into something more. It became recognized that films aren’t just a go-in, get-out scenario.
I’m sick of hearing people say criticism is a waste of time. Could those same people look at Ebert, with only his wife at his side, keeping him alive, and a computer in his lap saying what he felt about the last movie he saw—and say that he was wasting his time?
There’s a lack of respect that I wish would just stop. Everyone has a voice, and everyone has a passion. Everyone has a view of a band, a game, a book, and these are things to be debated, because that is what keeps criticism interesting, but they are not to be simply pushed aside. I’m tired of people thinking that reviewing or criticizing something is easy. It’s not. Doing so properly is a difficult process. You’re going to see this week that I reviewed Evil Dead, and I loved it, but you’re not going to see me going into detail there, because no matter how simple or how freakishly messed up a film is, there is not much of an art to saying if you liked it, or, as Ebert and Siskel made popular, “Thumbs up, thumbs down.” There is an entire analyzing process that comes with every new work. If you want to know what I really think of the remake, I think it takes back the misogynistic routes of the original and literally hacks them away with a chainsaw—and I’ll stop there because there is so much I would rather say, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
I’m devastated Ebert is gone. I’m devastated the voice that inspired all the other voices out there is gone. But, as it goes, I’m going to keep reviewing films, and I’m going to keep working towards one day being at least a fraction of the talented, poignant man Ebert was, and I’m going to do so whether it’s during a sweet, silent film, or whether it’s a horrifying gore fest. I’ll leave you now with Ebert’s last public words, posted on his blog on April 2:
“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”