Tag Archive: roger ebert


 

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I’m not a man of regrets as most of you know, but I do wish I moved a little faster and had a film or a performance that was reviewed by Roger Ebert.  Along with Gene Siskel, he was America’s (hell, the world’s) film critic, and the new documentary Life Itself captures his personal and professional life tremendously well.

Chicago born and bred, the film uses Ebert’s autobiography as the backdrop of how this small town chubby kid from Southern Illinois became an American icon.  His perfect use of constructive criticism (which I certainly try to emulate) earned him generations of followers, both among the film geeks who would tune in weekly to his show, the studios who would come to have a mostly love (though it started as hate) relationship with him, and even a bond with many of the filmmakers who would become his peers (among them Martin Scorsese and Ava DuVernay, who both appear in this film). His most high profile relationship, with Gene Siskel, gets the appropriate coverage here (there was definitely some alpha dog fights between the two of them), along with the show they created that was Pardon the Interruption for movies wayyyyy before we had it for sports.

Life Itself also goes really in-depth to Ebert’s marriage to his wife Chaz.  How they met and how each’s family felt about interracial marriage; I’ll let you watch the doc itself to hear those stories.  A lot of the ‘present day’ scenes in the film are in the hospital, where we see what he (and she) dealt with on a daily basis when his body started to betray him.  I could do a whole separate post on marriages that work and what ‘for better or worse’ really means.  Those two clearly had it, and it’s really beautiful and inspiring and sad at times to see.

So as a film geek of course I’m absurdly biased on this one, but I think if you’re a Roger Ebert fan, you have to see this one.  In theatres now and streaming on iTunes and On Demand.

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Timing is everything huh?

So here’s the superficial reason for tonight’s post: you can watch me put another notch on my ‘That Guy’ belt Sunday night when I’m a guest star on Nick at Nite’s ‘See Dad Run’.  The episode, ‘See Dad Play Hard to Get’ was written by my friend, the lovely Lisa Parsons, and I was happy to be involved.  So yeah, career wise I’ve hit ‘Randy Watson’ status.

Really though, I have to end the week paying tribute to two people who had a tremendous influence on me pursuing my passion.  First the name you all know…

We all knew Roger Ebert has been having health problems for awhile, but still when the news came through today that he passed, it felt terrible.  I’ve seen enough comments from the rest of you to know you didn’t have to be a film geek to appreciate what Roger Ebert mean to American cinema.  I’m only going to speak for myself here, but every film review you see on this site is a direct ripoff of his style, because it’s a style I grew up admiring.  Don’t judge a movie by what you want it to be, look at what it’s trying to be and then critique if it’s pulling that off.  (And yes, there’s a bigger, obvious ‘real world’ metaphor you can pull out of that.)  Our National Film Geek Emeritus has passed, and much like his syndicated show, a lot of us film lovers will throw in our two cents but none of us will ever be him (or Gene Siskel.)

On a personal note, the woman who brought me to Los Angeles, Kathy Fogg, passed late last week.  The Mother of the Peter Stark Program.  If you passed through that program, that’s all you need to say.  Kathy saw my craft and ambition and gave me my first (and by far most important) break.  All of us have some version of this story, but Kathy was the one who took the most interest in us personally.  I was 21 when we met so I wasn’t remotely there yet (shut up Aaron), but I give Kathy and the women of my class alot of credit for at least planting the ‘Inception’ seed in my head of what I wanted my life to be like away from ‘Hollywood’.  Kathy always had a nice compliment about whatever project I was doing, but I think she’d really get a kick out of hearing me talk about family and marriage and love and all that good stuff.  Alas.

Anywho…my episode of See Dad Run airs this Sunday at 8 PM Eastern on Nick at Nite.  Check local listings.

A History of Violence

 

Now that the NBA season is over, I’ve been catching up on movies and TV shows that have slipped through the cracks.  A few quick opinions

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: halfway through the last season, started kind of slow but picking up steam fast. 
  • Requiem for a Dream: the visual storytelling and acting still hold up.  Some of the methods have been copied but I see why it was so big at the time.
  • A History of Violence: really enjoyed this film.  Have no idea how I didn’t hear more about the various twists but I won’t talk about it if you haven’t seen it.

I like to read the reviews of some of the critics after I’ve seen the film.  Here’s how Roger Ebert opened his review of A History of Violence:

David Cronenberg says his title “A History of Violence” has three levels: It refers (1) to a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) to the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) to the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope. “I am a complete Darwinian,” says Cronenberg, whose new film is in many ways about the survival of the fittest — at all costs.

Those definitions made me think of violence in my own life; not violence as in physical violence mind you, but violence as it’s referenced in the third defintion.  I will never live it down, but those who knew me in my younger days still kid me about my ‘Michael Corleone’ phase: every decision, every move based around the singular purpose of getting what I wanted (LA or NYC).  Just an ice cold mentality (pun intended) where there was nothing and no one who couldn’t be replaced.  I remember watching the end of Godfather II and thought that was the coolest shit ever.  “I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out Tom, just my enemies.”  And Michael won.  He was alone and didn’t trust anybody at the end, but he won.  That played to my own ‘bottom line’ mentality.

Of course, I um, matured, and wanted other things in life.  The other half of that film of course is Vito at the same age, and his rise to power.  He comes home to his young wife and Santino, content to a point.  Then the local Don (who Vito sees is not much of a tough guy) costs Vito his job and the chain reaction begins.  The day he officially becomes Don Vito Corleone, he comes home, holds his youngest son in his arms and tells him, “Michael, your father loves you very much.”  The power is the result of his ambition, intelligence, and actions, but the ‘why’ is to protect and provide for his family.

I’d like to believe I have many more years left on this rock, but as a good friend reminds me from time to time, “We’re only going to ‘go to work’ for so long.  You live life well and ‘what you did’ is part of your backstory, but not THE story.”  I blew that advice off the first time he said it to me many years ago, but he kept saying it, and now I finally understand it.  Thankfully not too late.

I guess I’ve adapted.