I was really sad to hear that Roger Ebert died. Ebert was a great man, and certainly my favorite critic, regardless of the critics’ field. He was a fair and generous viewer, open to any experience a film had to offer him. He went along for the ride and wasn’t afraid to like everything. No artist could ask for a better audience, in my opinion. For that reason, as a patron, I’ve always turned to Ebert’s opinion first and last; he had more fun at the movies than any other critic, and I almost never disagreed with his tastes (which probably says a lot about me as well).
More than being a great critic, Ebert was a personal inspiration. When I was younger, I wanted to be a critic, an ambition I held even up until a few years ago and might hope to occasionally dabble in. (Link to book reviews) Ebert’s reviews were perhaps my sole inspiration in this regard. Sure, there have always been other critics, many of which are equally good at what they do. But, perhaps because his taste synergized so well with my own, Ebert’s reviews weren’t just my baseline for evaluating other critics—they were more like the unit of measure itself, the platonic ideal. I still feel this way, even now that we live in a post-Rotten Tomatoes world.
Finally, and this is perhaps how Ebert would want to be remembered, I am still enamored of Ebert’s reviews because he is an extremely gifted and sensitive wordsmith. His reviews are full of memorable and elegant phrasings. But his wording is rarely ostentatious or aggressive, always notable for its grace and panache. Ebert was the Cary Grant of the reviewing world. And that, even if I don’t become an critic, is a epithet worth aspiring to.