Sometimes things no matter how small, become more significant to a person than to the rest of the world. For me, the passing of Roger Ebert was just as significant as any other major event. When a person passes, I can never really put it into the right words. I never knew him personally, but I loved his work. It may be months too late, but this is an attempt to express how I felt about the man.
Criticism has always been a necessary evil to improve the quality of the things you love. As someone that usually goes through life criticizing a lot of things (as a personality trait), the concept wasn’t fully realized for me until I caught an episode of Siskel & Ebert.
For me, and probably a handful of others, their debates over movies of all kinds was inspiring. They offered a perspective to the review process that you couldn’t find anywhere else: Personality.
The approach made it feel relatable, and it was that format that defined a new generation to expand upon the concept. A concept that far surpassed reviews and became the sole identity to how we deliver information in general.
With the passing of Siskel, I wondered what would happen to Ebert’s side of things. Their friendship was part of that element that made it wonderful to watch. An element now lost, that could suddenly be a nail in the coffin.
But he kept it going.
Ebert had a passion for his profession. He applauded and supported filmmakers that were onto something, and called the bullshit of others. Yet his words were never demeaning. When he disliked something he played with the idea of why it was terrible. (Though I’m sure there were films in his lifetime, in which he really dug deep to shame as if they should have never been made.)
Even in his final years with health problems catching up to him, he continued to do what he loved. whether you’d agree or disagree, his opinion held weight and you were willing to listen.
Unless of course, we’re talking about video games.
One of the funnier aspects for his later years is his apparent ambassador duty of whether or not games were art. When he offered a reason why they weren’t, the community felt compelled to argue with him until his opinion was swayed.
But it never was. He had a firm belief in why ‘games as art’ will never be. Much to the dismay of that opinion, an entire community got angry at the idea, like the way a child reacts when you tell them that they’re not allowed to do something.
For a younger generation of people, that’s all they’ll ever see Ebert as. An old man that’s just out of touch with the way things are. Yet there are those that make games, that took that idea and tried and make something out if it. They never made a counter argument, or a statement, or even out of direct reaction to his words. They just made a game that could be, and put it out there. Never to rub it in his face, but just to do it as if it were a challenge.
And that’s how criticism should work.
He really cared about the words he was saying. Wether you agreed or not, the fact that you’d be willing to listen is what made him such an impact… At least for me.
Ebert died on April 4th of this year after a long battle with cancer. His final words can be read here.