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The Impact of Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

My reflections on the passing of a writer I once idolized.

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

April 4, 2013 - 2:30 pm
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All Comments   (18)
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Apologies to the commenter who was critiquing my penmanship. I was attempting to delete a spam comment above our exchange and our back and forth got deleted too. Just please don't think I'm deleting comments critical of me. Constructive criticism is very much encouraged.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I came to hate Ebert's politics too. But I also thought Ebert had guts in the way he handled his cancer. And I admired his writing as such. Beautiful, flowing, a breeze to read.

I also liked his review of "127 Hours." The true story of a man who cut off his own arm in order to save his life. At the end of his review, he suggested anyone would have done the same. Or at least tried. At first, I was skeptical. Anyone? Me? Ebert? Then I remembered. I was reading a man who had lost his jaw, his voice box, and could no longer eat. Yet he continued. And kept working.

What's more, I checked out his review of "50/50," a cancer movie.

" '50/50' isn't completely true to life, but the more you know about cancer, the less you want it to be... That's one of the things movies are good for."

If only he had kept politics out of it.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm still trying to figure out what Crash was all about. If anyone can tell me what it's about (other than the fact that the characters loved to get their jollies after having high-speed crashes) I'd greatly appreciate it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The high brow, pretentious explanation is that it's an extreme, satirical examination of how technology dislocates man from nature. The consequences are that people get deeply obsessed and self-destructive.

This explanation is largely nonsense used to justify what's really just a gross-out exploitation movie based on a trash sci fi novel.

Ebert did that a lot. He often championed stuff that he shouldn't have. But as stated, this is not a personal attack on the man. Just an acknowledgement that while there's a lot to learn from him, we should not wholly adopt his critical approach.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would suggest that technology does in fact dislocate people from nature and standard, or 'old-fashioned' human interactions in favor of virtual realities (like this one). It is not all bad, but it certainly tends to lock people up in front of their computer screens. How is this nonsense?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is certainly legitimate intellectual territory to explore about technology and people. But Ballard and Cronenberg don't really have anything meaningful to say about it. The film and the book are just adolescent nihilism and Siskel called it out well for it while Ebert sought to intellectually justify what's really just arthouse porn.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think the second sentence probably summed it up for me, though I don't know where any of the sci-fi was in the film. I guess the same explanation can be applied to Naked Lunch as well.

Recommendation: Don't do as I did and watch both Crash and Naked Lunch back-to-back.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The sci fi is more apparent in the novel that it's based on. And the author J.G. Ballard was generally a sci fi author.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What is the intersection between mainstream - influential - and reality?

Pop culture and institutions are not wisdom or even art - they are pop culture and institutions. The world did not go from flat to round but has always been round.

Good writing is where it is, not where it is the most easy to access or where it is expected. On the day I start parsing artistic instinct through an idiot box that sets itself the lowest common denominators while selling two minute detergent, that's the day I'll know I've died intellectually.

Fine art is supposed to be a refuge from the dull mainstream, not a worship of it. Seek and ye shall find does not indicate channel surfing to me but the idea that good stuff is where you find it accompanied by the desire to seek and the ability to discriminate when a find has in fact occurred.

Ebert couldn't even understand a monster movie like "Alien," either when it came out or when he revisited it in 2003. He wrote: "At its most fundamental level, 'Alien' is a movie about things that can jump out of the dark and kill you."

That is not at all true. "Alien" is designed from the ground up as a perceptual trap about where intellect resides and where we think it resides. It is about how we have been trained to see and not see things. As a clue to this, one doesn't hire Giger because he makes eerie or "neat" art, but to be a cog in a plan to sandbag the cognoscenti in much the same way John Ford used to do. The underlevel of "Alien" is completely invisible to Ebert.

I am only inspired by Ebert's film writing in the sense of what to ignore. Or, if I wished to make money, a completely different consideration. On that level, Ebert was a champ.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, did you like "Alien" or not?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1. If you have nothing good to say about someone, don't say anything.
2. Never speak ill of the dead.
With these two principles in mind, let me say that I really liked and miss Gene Siskel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Couldnt have said it better myself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I know this isn't the exact quote, but "Let the good he did live on in our memories, and let the rest lie buried with him". I always liked Gene better. Many times the bloviating BS got to me, but the horror of his last years should give at least a pause and perhaps a moment of reflection before attacking a man who can no longer defend himself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't think Swindle was attacking him - he was just pointing out how Ebert's approach to writing changed over the years. I happen to agree with him.

Say what you will about his politics or his writing, you must agree that the way he dealt with his illness was extremely brave. He never let it stop him doing what he loved. I'm not sure I could have handled a painful, disfiguring, and ultimately terminal condition the way he did. Evidently, the man had guts.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My impression over the past five to ten years is that Ebert's wife, Chazz, was doing everything possible to keep him alive. While that might have been due to wifely devotion, she also seemed to enjoy the access his fame gave her to events like Cannes and the Oscars, as well as being an on-screen entity at his last failed attempt at a TV criticism show. As for Ebert himself, I feel that he is an excellent example of one's inner ugliness coming through in an outward manner, a la Dorian Grey. I sort of think he won't make it to heaven, but will be sentenced to another ride on the reincarnation carousel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Okay so let's postulate the KKK fight cancer well and have kids and cute dogs and also mainstream hate speech. What's the point here? The KKK evidently love what they do and never stop as well.

I'll save my die well speech for a man who can see racist black kids smashing white store fronts and not thinking of them as race-neutral mischievous teens while implying Mitt Romney didn't like Sally Ride cuz she was gay while his Twitter followers add "female" or a black person in space without hint of objection from Ebert. One calls Ebert a "hero." In my world such "heroes" wear hoods. I could predict what Ebert would think about any politics far in advance of him saying anything. Simply take an identity, posit it as always right - ya got yer politics.

Keep in mind this is a guy who thought Letterman would make a good Presidential debate moderator. Ebert hated the "Innocence of Muslims" film while saying nothing about "Life of Brian." Either they're equally valid or neither is.

In short, Ebert was not only an idiot but the worst sort of identity bigot.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Um...what?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am not attacking the man.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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