I have to admit I never particularly liked Roger Ebert. Growing up, I was always a Siskel man. And while there was lots of well-deserved gushing last night at the Gotham Awards–even Martin Scorsese thanked the man for helping turn around his career–I had always thought Ebert was a little too in love with movies to clearly judge them. During my short tenure at Time Out Chicago, I wrote this rather snide article “Thumbstruck,” in which I called out Ebert for his promiscuous use of three-star ratings for mediocre movies. After doing some research on his website, I found that he gives three stars to almost a third of the movies he reviews. “Is it really true that one out of every three movies is worth seeing?” I asked.
Sometimes, I admit that I get carried away with my own vitriol or point of view, losing sight of the human targets I have focused on. In this age of blogospheric attacks–it’s always so much easier to write something nasty than to say it to someone’s face–we really need to step back and take a moment before we put computer key to blog or article.
And seeing Ebert crippled last night really made me take a step back. Here is a guy whose voice has been synonymous with movies who can no longer speak. It’s a cruel human tragedy that’s sad and touching. Fortunately, he still has a voice in his writing: though his tracheotomy has paralyzed his speaking voice, he still writes reviews and I have to say that I’m glad for it. Even if it’s simply to disagree with this mainstream bellwether of movie reviewing, I’d be sorry to see him go.