I feel a deep sense of sadness today with the passing of Roger Ebert.
Incase you don't appreciate the value of his work in reviewing movies, let me enlighten you a little.
Movies are a real gift. Do you know that? Sometimes they're the only chance we have to escape our daily lives and live out fantasies that we never even knew we had. Sometimes they remind us - force us - to dream big, or try something new. Sometimes they scare the crap out of us and remind us life isn't so bad. Sometimes they're the only way we'd know that we're not alone in some of life's most heartbreaking and devastating circumstances. Sometimes they're the only thing that can make us laugh when the rest of our life is pushing us endlessly to cry. And sometimes, if we're really lucky, they inspire us. And few things in life inspire us like a really great movie can. I can't say it enough: movies are a real gift.
Ebert's reviews were too.
I knew it even before he passed - that I treasured his words. I knew they came from a pure, passionate, deeply thoughtful place. His illness and physical challenges in recent years likely helped me realize he might not be around for too long, so perhaps that's why I had the presence of mind to appreciate every last word he wrote as I lapped them up each Saturday morning. That was our time together: Saturday mornings. Me, my ipad, and Ebert. After my coffee was poured, I'd sit on the sunniest couch in my living room and read his latest reviews. Then I'd watch trailers for the new movies that would be coming out soon, and wonder what he'd have to say about them too. I trusted him implicitly. He shed light on so many details that would have otherwise escaped my attention or understanding. He elevated the movie experience for me. And he was always - always - right. Even if you didn't agree with his ultimate "thumbs up" or "thumbs down", it was almost impossible to argue with his reasons. God, he was good.
Even when I became a mother, and my schedule prevented me from seeing all the movies I wanted to see anymore, I could at least read Ebert's review and feel like I knew what was going on. He helped me stay connected to the films that were important. And with my free time dwindling rapidly thanks to sleepless nights and the demands of family life, he also helped me avoid wasting time seeing the ones that just weren't worth it.
I read those reviews with anticipation on a weekly basis, yearning to hear his opinions on one of what I consider to be life's greatest creations: film. But more than that, I read his blog and his social commentary whenever things happened that required a calm, rational voice. A voice of reason. Especially when those "things" that happened involved mass violence like the Columbine Shootings (when the masses are quick to blame "the violence in movies" for such atrocities) or even Connecticut this past fall. He was pro-gun-control, yes, but more than that, he illuminated the absurdity of blaming movies for the actions of disturbed individuals, in a disturbed society, and reminded us that we all play a part in the reasons and ways that violent monsters are formed.
It was just yesterday I realized he was taking a 'leave of presence', as he called it, from reviewing movies because his cancer had returned late last year. I thought about him a lot yesterday. And not even a full day later, he was gone.
I don't know how I will fill my Saturday mornings now. I don't know how I'll decide which movies are really worth seeing. I don't know who I'll turn to when I need someone to shed light on current events.
But I do know that I am wiser, more educated, more illuminated because of his prolific words, and for that I am deeply thankful.
God speed Roger Ebert. Here's hoping you're living a heavenly version of La Dolce Vita now.