“I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier … that is about the best we can do.”
I’ve discussed, sometimes at length, on this blog about my childhood and the importance film has played in my life. As a young girl growing up in the soggy Pacific Northwest during the 80’s, my family struggled to make ends meet.
My father was a retired USAF Vietnam-era veteran who had decided, at the tender age of 44, to return to school for his Associate of Arts degree. While he went to school at nights, he spent his days working for Washington State as a civil servant. My mother taught early childhood development at the local high school. Money was tight – there was no room for a cable television bill.
It didn’t matter, not to me. There seemed to be a never ending supply of things to do with my free time including drawing, making puppets with Popsicle sticks, and reading. In addition, when my brother wasn’t hogging the small black and white television set in the family room, I had channel 13. Every weekend I could watch commercial-ridden old movies and Siskel and Ebert At the Movies.
Because my parents had both come from poor beginnings (my father’s childhood home had a dirt floor, my mother shared a room with numerous brothers and sisters), they knew the importance of teaching my brother and I about money. In exchange for various chores, I made a small allowance and often blew it all at the movies.
When challenged by my brother for television time, I joked that I needed to watch Siskel and Ebert so I could know how to spend my hard earned cash.
The truth was, watching the show made me begin to look at film (and by extension life in general) in a different way – true, film is meant to entertain, but it can also educate and elevate. Film was art – not just junk food to momentarily distract me and fill my time, but something that could feed my brain. Siskel and Ebert taught me it was okay to hold things – even art – to high(er) standards.
As a tween, this was a truly revolutionary concept; a gift, if you will … even if my mother quickly tired of my thumbs-down-to-vegetables dinner table antics.
I, like many of you, followed Ebert’s column, blog, and other television shows even after the untimely passing of Gene Siskel in 1999. When I heard today that Ebert had passed away, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. My longtime partner, hearing my unreasonably depressed sniffles while I worked quietly in my office, sent me this article to remind me that Ebert didn’t fear death.
I invite you to read it and share it with your friends, or anyone who will recall with fondness Ebert’s signature thumbs up/thumbs down approach to life.
Roger Ebert, you will be missed.
Do you have a favorite Roger Ebert criticism/moment? Share it with me – drop me a line!
Roger Ebert on His Life as a Film Critic (1997):
Danny Boyle Remembers Roger Ebert (4 April 2013, Huff Post Live):