When I was 11, I decided that I was going to become a reviewer. My grandfather (The Colonel, whose comments have been a staple on The Rock since we launched last year) has reviewed books for over 30 years and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. The books that I was interested in reading did not match up with the demographic that reads online reviews, so I turned to film.
That was where I was first exposed to Roger Ebert. Ebert was on TV with Richard Roeper, who replaced Gene Siskel following his death in 1999, and was captivated by his enthusiasm and objective views on film criticism. It also helped that I despised Leonard Maltin since I had to fast forward through his lengthy interviews of George Lucas at the beginning of my Star Wars VHS tapes (I’ve since forgiven Maltin, though he will always be known as “that stupid man”). I read many film critics, but Ebert always came first.
Film critics have a beautiful relationship with their longtime readers. I didn’t always agree with Ebert, but his opinion was always one that I could trust. I never go to a movie without checking to see what Ebert and Rotten Tomatoes had to say.
My favorite Roger Ebert review was of The Devil’s Rejects back in 2005. While many bashed the Rob Zombie horror movie, Ebert praised its artistic merit and originality. A few years ago, I set out to refine my taste in popular culture to reflect quality rather than genre or medium. I owe Ebert a debt of thanks for that, not necessarily for the inspiration but rather for the blueprint that I followed to achieve the rather lofty goal. Without reviewers like Ebert, I would not be where I am today.
Roger Ebert was a master of his craft. If that were the only thing that’s said about him, it’d be enough. Every pop culture writer owes something to Ebert. The man made film criticism a legitimate art form and the rest of us have merely followed in his footsteps.