Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Memoriam

Roger Ebert died today. This is kind of a big deal for me, since he's my single biggest inspiration as a writer. It hasn't really sunk in and likely won't until I manage to remove his page from my RSS reader. I'm not ready for that just yet. I never met the man and have no cute personal anectodes about meeting him in the flesh. But I have one thing to say right now as the news is fresh in my mind. I'm still pissed at him about video games.

Isn't that kind of petty? That that's my reaction to the passing of the man I've read weekly for almost 20 years of my life? But he could be a right bastard about video games and the people who played them. He regularly asserted that video games weren't art, even (especially) when nobody asked him. Every now and then he'd stop a review dead in his tracks and snipe at video game players for being small-minded or foolish.

At his peak he wrote an article mocking video game players complete with a picture of a six year old with a ridiculous look on his face gritting his teeth with a controller. I have never forgotten that picture. If you were a gamer, it didn't matter what your opinions were as a cinephile, or how smart you were, that seemed to be his view of you. I got so tired of hearing it that I stopped reading him. I made a point of it. But within a few months I came back. I had to. He's just too good of a writer.

I didn't parrot his opinions as gospel. If he panned a movie that looked great I'd still see it. But I loved reading everything he wrote. The man really got across in a few hundred words the experience of the viewer in a way that no other writer could. I might disagree about how good a movie was, but I'd know what I was in for. His "Great Movies" list is indispensable. Ebert was amazing. And he almost never stopped writing.

Eventually he made peace with video game players, admitting that as someone with no interest in ever playing video games, he shouldn't have stuck his nose into the argument in the first place and would leave it be. That was incredibly classy, and I never thought twice about forgiving it.  Sure enough, two days ago in his blog post announcing a semi-retirement he had to throw in a snipe at gamers, just because he could. Jerk. I knew I'd get over it, but two days later he's dead. I don't know what else to say. I'll miss him. You only have so many childhood heroes. They don't grow back.

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