Roger Ebert has died :'(

  • MrDigital 4 Apr 2013 21:49:32 1,885 posts
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    Film critic Roger Ebert dies at 70 of cancer

    Renowned American film critic Roger Ebert has died at 70 after a long battle with cancer, his newspaper the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

    Ebert, known for his thumbs-up or down reviews on a series of television shows on films, first became a film critic for the Sun-Times in 1967.

    He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002, losing his jaw and his ability to speak in a subsequent surgery.
    Edited by MrDigital at 21:49:44 04-04-2013
  • Dolly 4 Apr 2013 21:52:25 3,500 posts
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  • Deleted user 4 April 2013 21:54:02
    How can you lose a jaw?
  • Deleted user 4 April 2013 21:56:23
    lukejones wrote:
    How can you lose a jaw?
    Cancer surgery?
  • danathjo 4 Apr 2013 21:56:29 8,094 posts
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    thumbs down :(
  • Mola_Ram 4 Apr 2013 21:56:50 17,579 posts
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    Fuck. I read his last blog post just yesterday. He said the cancer had come back, but I didn't think he would go that quickly.

    RIP, you inspirational man.
  • neilka 4 Apr 2013 22:02:01 21,205 posts
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    To lose one jaw may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness.
  • webespresso 4 Apr 2013 23:35:34 89 posts
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    My stock answer to all these threads is....

    Middle/Old aged celebrity dies...stop the World!
  • Lukus 4 Apr 2013 23:39:19 21,198 posts
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    I bet that will never get tiresome.
  • Progguitarist 4 Apr 2013 23:41:22 10,780 posts
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  • Khanivor 4 Apr 2013 23:46:36 43,676 posts
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    I met him once. At my uncle's wake, ironically enough. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask his opinion on the artistic merit of Command and Conquer.
  • RobTheBuilder 4 Apr 2013 23:59:13 6,976 posts
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    @neilka a brilliant reference, if not quite appropriate!

    Rip. a legend of critique
  • Mola_Ram 5 Apr 2013 00:57:39 17,579 posts
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    webespresso wrote:
    My stock answer to all these threads is....

    Middle/Old aged celebrity dies...stop the World!
    Why even post an answer then?
  • Dirtbox 5 Apr 2013 01:58:53 90,212 posts
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    Post deleted
  • Deleted user 5 April 2013 02:30:27
    Dirtbox wrote:
    His opinion about games not being art will probably what most here will remember him for
    Depressing that on other places (namely facebook comments) I've seen things like "GOOD, HE DIDN'T LIKE VIDEOGAMES". Stuff like that is in itself why videogames probably won't be considered art. But yes. Sad day for the film industry. A great writer and really really knew his stuff. A far cry from the no-name just-out-of-a-BA-in-film-studies mongs who fill the pages of Empire and Total Film nowadays.
  • Deleted user 5 April 2013 02:33:46
    A good top ten of his dislikes
  • JinTypeNoir 5 Apr 2013 03:05:19 4,392 posts
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    Many years ago, when my family took a trip to the US, right before we were going to Disneyland, we chanced upon this library that was getting rid of books for free; hundreds of books were piled onto cheap tables and anyone was free to them. As my dad and I are bibliophiles, we couldn't pass up the chance. I remember getting a book of scary science fiction short stories, a Lovecraft novel and some fantasy tripe with no cover that was so bad it was also creatively so. The ones I chose were mostly a collection of tiny books so they could fit in my suitcase.

    One, however, was huge. It was like the size of those American phone books you see in the old movies. It has a plastic purple soft cover and Roger Ebert's face was on the front. It was a collection of his reviews up until 1998 or so. I remember my mom making a snarky remark when she saw I had picked up such a huge book. "You're going to lug that around all day?" Yup.

    I had heard of Roger Ebert and had a passing knowledge of his reviews, but I had never seen the Ebert and Siskel At the Movies show, and only read his reviews when they were quoted in other articles. It was a time when my English was at a point that any English book I read took months to decipher. I guess it seemed like both a bargain and too good a chance to pass up, and I got only more and more stubborn as the day passed on. (No storage lockers allowed by my sadistic parents.) When I finally got back to the hotel, I was so relieved to chuck that thing away.

    The other books were easy to carry in a pocket or fit into a backpack, so I worked on teasing out the riddle of words contained therein in long car trips. When it came time to return to Japan, I had forgotten about the Big Purple Ebert Book. No matter how hard I tried to reshuffle things around, it would not fit in my suitcase or backpack. We had to go to be on time at the airport and "for-all-that-is-good-and-holy-would-you-just-forget-about-that-book". But with the curious obstinate refusal to give up over inconsequential things that only a child could have, I decided to carry it my hands the entire way, 17-hour flight included, back to Japan. I still have no idea why I was so stubborn about it.

    In any case, the book made its way into our home and collected dust in the cramped shadows in the most forgotten part of my bookshelf for 2 or 3 years. One Sunday, my reading comprehension for English being much better, I decided I would spend the day reading an English book. Obviously, this is the part where I say I remembered the book and opened it up and a world of movie literacy I had never known unfolded before me. Such was not the case.

    I read a couple of reviews. I remember being completely confused by how different Ebert's opinion of some of my favorite movies. I remember leafing through to see if he had reviewed any Japanese movies. I remember searching for my favorite movies and reading his reviews of them. I found a humor in them that I had not seen before. It was this kind of dry stubbornness to let go of integrity that resulted in a light and pleasant grumpiness. (Years later, when I read his review of The Mummy Returns where he mathematically calculates just what it would involve to outrun the rising of the sun would always remain the most vivid reminder of how creative he was with this shtick.) It was slightly addictive, because, I suppose it felt like grandpa was letting you in on secrets of the world, even though he was sure it would be lost on his grandson's young mind. But that grandpa wasn't bitter or curmudgeonly, but accepting of the way of things, receptive to positive developments, resigned, but never complacent to the negative. So I always came way with the idea that there was a lot of love that was put into those reviews.

    I kept reading intermittently throughout the years, more so when it became easy to understand English without putting a lot of effort into it. One reference in a review would lead me to another and another, and soon, I found myself developing a knowledge of film history without even really looking for it. I always liked movies of course - I appreciated them with all the enthusiasm one can muster from sitting in a dark cinema and being bewitched by the power they contain. But there was a difference with movies. I had been taught in school that it is important to evaluate good music, literature and visual art, and to understand the basics of creating these things. Video games and movies, it goes without saying, had no such teachings. I knew, as fundamentally as anyone who pays attention to modern education, what makes music, literature or visual art tick, but I appreciated movies and video games only as they directly spoke to my tastes and experiences in viewing or playing them.

    As I grew up, I began to become uncomfortable with this for movies. With video games, I was part of a second generation who already had people who had forged out a language of criticism for them. I learned very quickly that it was the back and forth of users that brought you to a core appreciation of what works and what doesn't in game design. So as I talked with others about games, my understanding of them as works of design, well, it grew as I did. But with movies, there came to be a gap. I'm not sure what made it happen, but sooner or later I couldn't understand what people were saying when they said things like, "That acting was pure garbage." or "So-and-so is not a good actor." This extended to comments like "not well-made," which puzzled me further, because, well, while I may have agreed it wasn't a good movie, it looked well-made to me. It was so different from my perception that I thought there must be something I'm missing.

    However, movies are so passively enjoyed, I never really made an active journey to discover what that was. I continued to read The Big Purple Ebert Book though. As it bothered me more and more there was a great deal of knowledge missing for me to make a more mature evaluation of movies, I read more reviews from other critics, but I remember thinking many times that the person behind the review came off as kind of an ass. So many of them wrote in a way that personally turned me off. I don't know whether you could call it elitism on the part of the critics, or reverse elitism
    on the part of the readers, but a lot of people seemed to accuse movie critics of being snobs. I'm sure someone smarter and more well-versed in film circles than I has made a theory about the visual and emotional punch of movies creating a strong reaction, which then leads to an emotional rejection of other people's evaluation of it.

    This never really happened with Ebert. I always felt like he kept his reviews in good humor. He never crossed a line into perceived dickishness that I found in so many other reviews. Moreover, as I continued reading through that book, I developed a sense of the stuff of movies. I started reading about titles I had no interest in, at first just because Ebert's prose was so delightful and entertaining, then because I could feel the seeds of a deeper understanding blossoming as I read more. Gradually, I began to chance onto movies that were considered Great Movies that I had never even heard of. I was introduced to all sorts of kinds of movies I had no idea existed. I didn't go to see the great majority of those movies, but that wasn't the point.

    Eventually, when I read and re-read almost all of the reviews in that massive book, I had a thirst for more and chanced on Ebert's website. It became a permanent fixture in my web browsing habits. On the weekend I would come home, and sometimes get a little bored puttering around, and remember, "Oh, its past Friday in America, I bet Ebert has more reviews to read." And it was off to the website, with reviews that were consistently amusing and insightful.

    I have seen maybe 5% of the movies I have read about in Ebert's columns and reviews, but I gained such a knowledge of film history, of time periods and places and situations and people, of trends and fads and styles and passing slang. And it all felt like being given candy by grandpa when he comes to visit. Unconsciously, innocuously Ebert made me aware of things like framing, movie language, cinematic tropes, acting approaches and countless other details of movie making.

    I never sought out this knowledge or directly learned it, until about a year or 2 ago when I started watching stuff like Nostalgia Chick by Lindsay Ellis, Brows Held High by Oancitizen or Cinemassacre videos by James Rolfe. Though the vast majority of these people's videos had a negative tone and critical of cinema, they were so good-natured about it, that I found a similar trustworthiness to them as I did Ebert. They used direct language to introduce many film concepts that wouldn't be appropriate for Ebert to go into in his review format. But I felt taken aback whenever they would introduce something, because it seemed like I had cultivated an understanding of it from Ebert's reviews and they had simply given me the direct teaching and names of the things I came to learn intuitively from him. I not only became film literate, but critic literate. Ebert review's encouraged me not to waste my time with destructive critics, but critics, who no matter how negative they can be, are ultimately constructive. And they did so in the way that all the best writing does, not pushing and shoving in forcefully, but through the power of well-considered words, thoughts and sentences.

    I feel like a part of Ebert's lasting legacy is this. Because he always held himself to a high standard whenever he wrote, and no matter how times changed, stuck to his demands for integrity, that the high quality of his criticism had such widespread effects. He could, by chance alone, enrich the thinking ability and understanding of things in a Japanese brat who picked up a thrown-away book and read it only casually over the years. Maybe I am fundamentally misunderstanding Roger Ebert, but I think he had an optimism and enthusiasm for intellectual honesty that encouraged people around the world.

    To me, he is one of the great people of the 20th century and with his passing, I feel like yet another great journalist goes away, leaving us to the wolf pack who neither can see, nor appreciate the importance of stubbornly maintaining high standards and the importance of making an effort to communicate at a level anyone can understand. But it is because of people like Ebert who never gave up, that there is a younger generation who will carry on these values.
  • Mola_Ram 5 Apr 2013 03:17:32 17,579 posts
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    Spot on, jtn. I learned so much about film from reading his reviews. Even if I never saw most of the films he talked about, I still read the reviews, and could just feel the infectious passion radiating from them.

    I might add that his dvd commentaries are also excellent. I hunted down a USA-region dvd of Dark City, just for his commentary track. It was sensational.
  • Dirtbox 5 Apr 2013 05:19:08 90,212 posts
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  • beastmaster 5 Apr 2013 06:07:04 18,094 posts
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    meme wrote:
    Dirtbox wrote:
    His opinion about games not being art will probably what most here will remember him for
    Sad day for the film industry. A great writer and really really knew his stuff. A far cry from the no-name just-out-of-a-BA-in-film-studies mongs who fill the pages of Empire and Total Film nowadays.
    This. It really is a sad day as I always though his reviews were superb. One of the most influential critics ever and someone who's opinion I always trusted. "2 Thumbs Up" was always the most sought after opinion that filmmakers wanted. Someone with a truly genuine passion for cinema who's opinion could make or break a films chances at the box office. He was also the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize.

    As for no-name film critics for Empire and Total Film, one of the reasons I still get Empire is because Kim Newman still writes for them. But these magazines now seem to be hype machines.
  • Tonka 5 Apr 2013 07:17:27 27,684 posts
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    I quite recently discovered him (being a non native english speaker and all) and he quickly became the reviewer I would track down when choosing between two films.

    It feels as if I just read that he was stepping down to tend to his health. And now this.
  • Mola_Ram 5 Apr 2013 08:38:53 17,579 posts
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    I reckon he might have known what was going to happen, but couldn't bring himself to say so. That, or it was the result of something unexpected.
  • Mola_Ram 5 Apr 2013 08:50:21 17,579 posts
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    Oh fuck off, I'm drunk. This is an acceptable excuse :-P
  • Deleted user 5 April 2013 09:00:53
    Fucking hell Jin. Can't tell what is worse, you writing all that or someone actually reading it.
  • Mola_Ram 5 Apr 2013 09:03:21 17,579 posts
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    It's a great post though. And I agree 100%, even if it is long.
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