Editor’s Notes: Life Itself is currently out in limited release. Read Mel’s glowing review (95/100) right here.
I don’t remember when I was first introduced to Roger Ebert. Perhaps in passing I read a movie review or his or happened to turn on the TV when “At the Movies” was playing. The strange thing I feel like I have known him my entire life. Roger Ebert has and continues to teach me so much not only about movies but about life. Ebert has and continues to teach me and influence the way I see movies. Here are just five of the ways he changed my life.
Of the many film books that rest on my shelves (and lie stacked in my closet when I ran out of room), perhaps none has been as well-read as Ebert on Scorsees. It’s no secret that Martin Scorsese is easily my favorite director of all time. Last December, I dedicated an entire piece to just how much he influenced my life. However, I can guarantee that had I not read one of Ebert’s many glowing praises of the director I wouldn’t have sought out his films as eagerly. Even today, I read Ebert’s reviews and essays on Scorsese’s work. Just as Scorsese’s movies continue to astound me, Ebert’s writings on them continue to teach me.
2. Enjoy Different Types of Movies
As a young cinephile, I thought it was incredibly important to watch all the “big” movies – the big milestones, ones that people always quoted, the big-budget blockbusters. Thanks to Roger Ebert, my tastes in movies were vastly broadened. The thing that made Roger Ebert so great was that he would champion a movie for being a good movie. Be it was 4-star review of a small independent foreign film or a glowing review of the latest summer Hollywood blockbuster, he praised them. A good movie is a good movie. Enjoy them no matter the size.
3. Don’t limit yourself to just movies.
Particularly in his later years, Ebert’s writings turned to things other than movies. The same man who wrote a review of the latest Transformers movie would also write his recollections of his childhood or his opinion on gun control. While I’m not suggesting that all writers should branch out like this, I feel that it is very important as fans of cinema and human beings in general to be aware of the world around us and engage in it in precisely the way Roger Ebert did.
4. “A movie is not what it’s about it’s how it’s about it.”
Of all the Ebertisms (and there are many great ones) this one is by far my favorite. A movie is more about it’s subject, setting, and characters. It’s HOW it tells it’s story. The way in which a movie tells it’s story makes all the difference.
Roger Ebert had one of the biggest hearts in all of journalism. His passion for the human experience really shines through in Life Itself. He is someone that truly made the world a better place. His passion for movies, his wife, his family, and everything else is something that has always stuck with me. I can only hope that I can emulate that spirit.