The Fat One

ebertThe fat one. That’s what I called him. Not an insult, far from it. It was a term of endearment, because I loved the fat one. More then the mean, bald one, that’s for sure. I couldn’t remember who was who so the guys on that movie show I liked were the fat one and the bald one. And that’s how; at age 10 or so, I came to know Siskel and Ebert and through them I came to know movies. How to watch em and how to talk about em. Which ones were good and which ones sucked. What made a Marty movie a Marty movie and a Carpenter picture a Carpenter picture. (It’s all in the lighting.) And Ohhhh the brilliant simplicity thumbs up or thumbs down. The binary rating that answered the most fundamental question all theatergoers must ask; is this film worth seeing? I’m a little late to the Ebert tribute party that’s been raging all over the web since his death (I was on the road for work) so I feel like I’m repeating what everyone has already said but say it again I must. My love of film, my discovery of the good stuff, and now, on this blog, the way I write about movies, all came from Mr. Ebert. I’m old enough and cynical enough to no longer get bent out of shape over celebrity deaths but this one hit me hard. (That said, when Bob Dylan final kicks it, don’t call or knock at my door for at least a week. I’ll be in seclusion in the east wing, listening to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” on repeat.) Why did I react so strongly to Ebert’s passing? He was sick forever, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. The wife hit it, I think, when she said for me, Ebert was a long distance mentor. It’s true. Not only do I read him constantly, I quote him just as much. I not only do I continue to learn about film from him, I continue to learn how to write from him. I identified with him on a deeply personal level. He, like I, grew up in the suburbs (he of Chicago, me of New York) and as a young boy Ebert knew in his bones that when he grew up he would live and work in the big city. I know this longing; I lived it and like Ebert, I found a way to live my dream. The pride Ebert had for Chicago and all he encounter there came though in everything he did. In his books and on his blog he wrote about walking down a neighborhood street, talking to a barfly at the corner pub, and going to see a film in the big, old movie houses as romantic experiences. This is what I feel for my town and I wish I could express it a tenth as well as Ebert did. Then there was his Gun 1marriage, a bond to be admired by anyone who shares their life with another. I only hope if anything happens to my wife that I could be as strong for her as Chaz was for Roger. But I think most of all, what saddens me is there will be no new work, and man o man did the man work, right up to the end. It’s all been said and the home page at Rogerebert.com says it best, “Roger Ebert loved movies. Except for those he hated.”

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