Today is a tremendously sad day for film criticism. Roger Ebert, the man whom quite literally changed the face of film criticism, has passed away from cancer complications at the age of 70.
I have been reading his online reviews on his blog for just over a decade now and, even ten years ago, I knew that this man would have some sort of influence on me. Aspiring to be a film critic and a decent writer, he really was the man to look up to in my strong opinion. I doubt I would have started publishing my own film reviews if it was not for him. He was dedicated to the cause, churning out endless reviews with just as much panache, wit and style as the last.
Boy, this guy could write in depth film reviews; incredibly informative but also with a slight chaser of arrogance and belief. I think his belief in what he said or wrote was what always had me from the word go. How many of his reviews did you read and then walk away from thinking “why did I not think of that?” His ability to create an atmosphere when he wrote rather than simply produce a list of facts made his reviews that extra worthwhile to read.
If Roger Ebert said it, then I would, for the majority, damn well believe it. Even if I did not agree with his review I was reading (which was a rarity) I would still leave his Chicago Sun-Times blog thinking maybe he was right. I sometimes even doubted my own opinions due to his influential ability to make an intelligent point.
One should never doubt their own opinions within a field that is all about opinion in the first place. As Ebert once declared in an interview “A film critic should be subjective in their review of a film not just factual.” Where’s the identity in being a factual film critic? He was right.
How he would project those opinions is where he was respectfully recognised and admired. His winning of the Pulitzer Prize award, the first for a journalist in the sphere of film criticism, proved that he was first and foremost, above all else, a tremendously gifted writer.
I would take regular trips to his journal, reading his posts that spanned across politics and his life as well as film. I remember reading a post about how much he missed his film partner in crime Gene Siskel whom with him forged a strong cultural partnership with their TV show Siskel & Ebert: At The Movies. Their two thumbs up or down legendary motif was still used by Ebert on his site up until today, to indicate how good or bad a film was. That was his trademark and you could tell he was proud of it.
It became evident to me over the last ten years that Ebert was also proud of his partnership with Gene Siskel. From reading his material, he never seemed to recover from Gene’s death in 1999 – as if he was haunted daily by the simple fact he would never be able to conduct a single review or TV performance with him again. A deep friendship cut by the inevitable passage of time and illness.
So very sad and moving to both read and think about. It became clear over the last two months or so something was not right with Ebert’s review blog. He had many guest contributors writing reviews on his site instead of them being written by him. We know he had cancer and battled it hard but never up until recently have I seen his blog dominated with words by other guest writers more than the words of the man himself. Something was not right and if you were an avid reader of his material, alarm bells were probably ringing.
Therefore his death is not exactly a shock. He went out with style issuing a “Leave of Presence” blog post that ended with the fitting sentence: “I’ll see you at the movies.” Whether you liked him or not, film criticism has undeniably lost its godfather and I doubt we will see a writer with his level of presence, intellect and talent in film criticism for a long time to come – or ever again. RIP Roger Ebert (1942-2013).
“If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours about your social security number or where your car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, one way or another, with the people on the big screen.”
“No good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short.”
“Two thumbs up!”
★★★★★ "Argo" (15)
- " An immeasurably tense picture that deals with real life heroes rather than the more common superheroes that seem to be dominating the big screen at the moment."
Directed by Ben Affleck.
Starring Ben Affleck, John Goodman.
Running time: 120 minutes.
"Argo" is a refreshing reminder that while there are now numerous superheroes out there in the world of film; it's the real life heroes out there that make the difference. Ones that make sacrifices for those whom need it desperately. Ben Affleck's film deals with such a main character, assisting characters and a scenario - telling the "Declassified" events and true story of the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979 - a scenario which saw six U.S. diplomats flee their embassy in Tehran, during a political revolution among the natives.
The plot is simple. CIA extractor Tony Mendez (Affleck) has an idea of how to get them out of the country by constructing a fake sci-fi film with the help of producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman). The two bring a surprising amount of comedy to it all, which works so well in alleviating the “Argo” experience from being overkill with too much intensity. Together they draw up storyboards and costumes and play around with a screenplay with serious financial backing and advertising. Their film is called "Argo" and it's the "best bad idea" they have of getting them out of the country. It's tautly handled by Affleck with a nice mix of comedy that never distracts from the seriousness of the plot at hand. For me, "Argo" is a serious contender for an Oscar for Best Picture and is by far the most tensely well handled film I have seen this year.
Best Film = Argo
Best Actress = Jennifer Lawrence
Best Actor = Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Director = Steven Spielberg
Best Supporting Actor = Christoph Waltz
Best supporting actress = Anne Hathaway
Best foreign film = Amour
Best animated film = Wreck-It Ralph
Best Documentary = Searching For Sugarman
Music (original song) = Skyfall
Music (original score) = Argo (Alexandre Desplat)
Adapted screenplay = Silver Linings Playbook
Original screenplay = Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino
Cinematography = Roger Deakins - Django Unchained
Costume Design = Anna Karenina - Jacqueline Durran
Best documentary short subject = N/A
Editing= Argo - William Goldenberg
Make-up and Hairstyling = The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Production Design= The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Short film (animated) = Paperman
Sound editing = Django Unchained - Wylie Stateman
Sound mixing= Skyfall - Scott Millan, Greg P Russell and Stuart Wilson
Visual effects= Prometheus - Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Result: 12/23 correct