What can I say about a man I never met, but who had been part of my life for decades? I, seemingly like a whole generation of film fans, watched Siskel and Ebert back in the 1980s, and then graduated to reading his reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times during my college years. Every Friday morning, I made my sojourn to the Annenberg School of Communications library and collected the Sun-Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Village Voice, and Variety so that I could prepare for the weekend’s new releases. I didn’t always go to the movies, but I wanted to know what the critics thought, which meant I wanted to know, first and foremost, what Ebert thought. I didn’t always agree with him – many times, in fact, I was flummoxed by his wrongheadedness – but reading his take was a necessary and very personal prequel to the filmgoing experience.
I’ve been a working critic now for almost 13 years, and for the last seven I’ve also taught film review and feature writing classes at the University of Cincinnati. I never imagined I would be working in the same field as Ebert, even while I was taking undergraduate level class that examined film as text. I simply loved movies. Always have and always will. I know that last part will be the case thanks to Ebert. His love of the movies evolved as the form and critical analysis experienced their own growing pains. He made us all critics, by opening up an exchange that now, thanks to the Internet, has a global forum. What has been most inspiring about his work and approach over the last decade is his willingness to embrace technology as a means of broadcasting that very singular voice of his, overflowing with knowledge, but also immediately accessible. His sense of the need for accessibility is the greatest and most lasting impact he will have on criticism. It is what can and should continue to guide the would-be critics to come – the next generation of bloggers, tweeters, and those adherents to whatever is to come.
More established critics and writers have stories about meeting Ebert, spending time in his presence, what have you. My remembrance of the man is different. I’m one of those Johnny-come-lately types who “knew” him from afar. I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival for the last four or five years, and I recall, my first Ebert-sighting, about three year back. He and his wife were ahead of me on the escalator at the downtown multiplex space that serves as the main screening hub. They were engaged with others, talking very likely about the upcoming screening or maybe he was thinking about the Twitter event he was scheduled to host. Whatever was the case, there he was, despite all those years of globetrotting and a dizzying collection of screenings, still so full of life and joy for the festival experience. I didn’t need to speak with him or even be near him. Just to know he was there, doing his thing, seeing movies, helping us to engage with them by any means necessary, was more than enough. I looked for him each year after that and was always glad when I spotted him. I’ll likely do the same thing this year and I won’t be surprised if my mind plays a little trick on me and I convince myself that I’ve seen him again, roaming about Toronto somewhere.
This story was originally published on tt stern-enzi's blog, here.
As if rising with the temperature, the second quarter of the movie season is shaping up pretty nicely.
After months of stagnation, the Esquire and Mariemont theaters have finally mixed up their bookings in recent weeks, bringing in such worthwhile (if often little-seen) fare as Anvil! The Story of Anvil, The Class, Examined Life, Is Anybody There?, Paris 36, Sin Nombre, Sunshine Cleaning, Sugar, 12 and Tyson.
While we here at CityBeat World Headquarters are putting the final touches on our annual Year in Film in Music issue, I thought I’d check in to let you know that IndieWIRE’s annual Critic’s Poll has now been posted to the interwebs.
No surprise here: David Fincher’s The Social Network was the dominating winner, adding yet another piece of critical hardware to its already robust trophy case. The question now becomes: Can anything stop the Facebook origin story from stomping the competition come Oscar time?
I said almost because there are still a few weeks left (the season traditionally runs Memorial Day to Labor Day) and, more importantly, there are still a handful of movies I've yet to catch — from high-profile studio stuff (like Cars 2, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the latest Harry Potter) to smaller indie offerings (like Buck and Project Nim, not to mention a host of titles that have yet to open here — most notably Miranda July's The Future, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, Azazel Jacobs' Terri and Raúl Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon).
The Cincinnati Art Museum has announced its fall film series, the first under its own aegis since ending its relationship with Cincinnati World Cinema earlier this year.
Just a heads up that Cincinnati World Cinema tonight continues its screenings of The British Arrow Awards, a collection of British television commercials (or, as they're called across the pond, adverts) that put their American counterparts to shame.
In fact, as I wrote the other day, there is often more creative energy in one of these 90-second British adverts than in a two-hour Hollywood effort.
With the rollout of fall's higher-profile “prestige” pictures still a week away (including Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar Hoover biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio as the notorious FBI director), a pair of lesser-known films open here this week that are worthy of your attention.
Ever wonder what happened to the kid who played Chunk in The Goonies?
Wonder no more.