His Greatness Stemmed From His Passion: Roger Ebert 1942-2013
I struggled all weekend with the idea of writing about Roger Ebert’s death. For one thing, I disdain obituaries. Reading several textbook, pre-written Ebert obits from countless media outlets was truly depressing. Then I came across rogerebert.com Editor Jim Emerson’s piece. Emerson, having known Ebert for nearly 20 years, managed to be personal without being sentimental. It’s a truly poignant and beautiful piece (and not overlong). How could I write anything better? I might as well just provide the link to his piece on my blog (right here) and leave it at that.
But something was nagging at me. Emerson knew Ebert, he was a friend to him. I of course did not, yet I felt like he was an integral part of my life and my journey as a filmmaker. Ebert’s reviews meant so much to my 15-year-old self, who would devour his reviews, then head down to the local video store and grab the beat up VHS copy of The Maltese Falcon & Bonnie & Clyde.
It wasn’t just his writing ability (which was phenomenal) but his passion and genuine love for film as a medium that truly made his words as powerful as they were. There are reviews that he has written that I enjoy as much as the films themselves. That is the passion Ebert brought to his work.
After several days of struggling for the right words, someone better wrote them for me. This morning I stumbled upon James Berardinelli’s piece on Ebert, and this specific segment spoke directly to the heart of what I wanted to say:
“Famous people die every day. Most of the time, we pause for a moment to acknowledge their achievements then move on. We don’t know them. We know what they did. With actors, we might recognize their faces and voices, but our memories of them are of the characters they played. With someone like Ebert, however, it’s different. Everything he wrote - reviews, columns, blogs, interviews, tweets, etc. - was personal. He didn’t hide behind an alter ego. So the sense that readers “knew” him wasn’t misplaced. And that’s why his death is felt so keenly by so many - not because he is “greater” or “more famous” than anyone else but because he let us get close. Even to those who never met him, he was a friend and companion.”
I never met Roger Ebert. But to me, he was a friend, and I will miss him.
Sight & Sound 2012: Quick Thoughts
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo topped the critics list for the greatest film of all time
For those of you who have yet seen it, Sight & Sound released their annual list (which they do once a decade) of the “greatest films of all time”. Being that they are the most respected film magazine in the world, the list carries weight for many people as being "The List". Here is how 2012 panned out (with my personal thoughts below):
Critics Picks: Director’s Picks:
1. “Vertigo” 1. “Tokyo Story”
2. “Citizen Kane” 2. “2001: A Space Odyssey”
3. “Tokyo Story” 2. “Citizen Kane”
4. “The Rules of the Game” 4. “8 1/2”
5. “Sunrise” 5. “Taxi Driver”
6. “2001: A Space Odyssey” 6. “Apocalypse Now”
7. “The Searchers” 7. “The Godfather”
8. “Man With a Movie Camera” 7. “Vertigo”
9. “The Passion of Joan of Arc” 9. “The Mirror”
10. “8 1/2” 10. “Bicycle Thieves”
- In regards to the critics, I think Vertigo unseating Citizen Kane feels like what it is, a critics pick. Hitchcock is commonly referred to by critics as cinema’s greatest director (so much hyperbole in this post). I can’t argue with the selection or support it. I can say I personally think the inclusion of Man with a Movie Camera over such films as The Godfather or Battleship Potemkin feels hollow. Additionally, City Lights didn’t make either top 10, and that saddens me on emotional level.
- Strangely, I think the directors made the most egregious error on either list with their exclusion of F.W. Murnau’s timeless Sunrise. I’m personally of the opinion that there are 5 films that redefined what cinema was. They destroyed our concept of what the movies were capable of and rebuilt it again. Leaving out Birth of a Nation due to its controversial content, that leaves four films. Those four films, for me, are Sunrise, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Godfather. These films transcended not genres, but the entire idea of the medium as a whole. We could argue each titles “order” or “individual significance” until we are blue in the face, but they belong on any top 10 list. So the lack of Sunrise from the world’s greatest living director’s worries me greatly.
A Bittersweet Farewell
A still from my Undergrad Thesis film: ”Losing Track” (2006)
Ten years ago I entered New York City as a wide-eyed 19-year-old, very green and wondering what my future held. New York was a very different place at that time. The shadow of 9-11 still hung heavy, you could smoke cigarettes in bars, the East Village became my comfort zone, and being a film director was the only thing that occupied my mind.
In those ten years, I have not had many constants. I’ve held half a dozen jobs, worked on more film sets then I can count, gone through a few significant others, and had basically every other aspect of my life evolve and change. But the School of Visual Arts was always a constant. That is, until today. Today I gave my notice of resignation as the Systems Administrator of the Final Cut Pro lab.