Today I was sitting alone in my car in a parking lot crying.
Crying, because I saw that Roger Ebert had died after a protracted and painful few years dealing with a couple of different cancers and their treatments. I felt a relief for him because it must have been difficult and frsutrating for him these last years, but I also felt a deep and overwhelming sadness because the world does not have many minds like Roger Ebert and so the world will not be the same without him.
I didn't see a lot of movies when I was young, but every week I watched Siskel and Ebert like it was my job. I loved to hear them analyzing and arguing about the films. It was as fun as watching a movie. I remember watching the tribute episode that Ebert put together after Gene's Siskels death from complications after brain surgery. I was as bereaved that afternoon as I am today.
I watched At the Movies on and off in the ensuing years, but of course it was never quite the same. I didn't start to appreciate Roger Ebert's intelligence and humor again until I read his 2010 blog post about how much he missed eating and connecting with people over meals. After that I read his journal avidly. It was always heartfelt and thought-provoking and often it was incredibly moving. Even after watching him on TV for more than two decades, Roger Ebert's greatest legacy in my mind will probably be the incredibly beautiful tribute to his wife that he penned last year.
Roger Ebert shaped and changed the way I looked at film. You could dissect the different layers and pieces of a movie like you do in film class, and that was good. You could react to a movie emotionally and spontaneously, and that was good too. But you could also think about what a movie says about life, whether it be your own small existence or the big world waiting for us out there. Doing that might change your opinion of the film (or the book, album, dance, etc. - it applies to all arts) and doing that might alter how you see everything. That's what I learned at the movies.