Roger Ebert died this past week and even though I never met him, he made my life better. I remember being sad about the passing of certain musicians who meant a lot to me like Miles Davis or Ella Fitzgerald. Or performers like Gene Kelly who brought a lot of joy into my life through his dance and his screen persona and the way he wore a hat. I become sad at the fact that no new work from them is coming and I will have to be content with their remaining legacy. When an artist shares their work with the world, and therefore me, the relationship consists of them creating and me appreciating. The work can be extraordinarily important to me, inspiring great happiness or tears, which can sometimes be the same thing. But with Roger Ebert, I not only will miss having new work of his to enjoy, I feel like a real relationship has ended.
I loved watching Siskel & Ebert every week and kept a log of what movies they reviewed, what they recommended, and what I'd seen. When the internet came into our home, I read Roger's columns for the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1996, Roger started a biweekly series of Great Movies. This wasn't a top-100 list but a selection of movies that met this definition: a movie you can't bear the thought of not being able to see again. This invaluable series led me to filmmakers like Buster Keaton, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, and Yasujiro Ozu. It introduced me to some of my now favourite films like The Lady Eve, The Last Picture Show, The Night of the Hunter, and The Hustler. Roger illuminated elements I hadn't noticed in Citizen Kane and the films of Hitchcock, not with the dry explanation of a film theory textbook, but with the enthusiasm of a guy who truly loved movies.