I used to read reviews in the Journal, but that was the paper not the reviewer. I used to read reviews on Usenet, but never one reviewer in particular.
Now I check Rotten Tomatoes and sample both good and bad reviews. But the only reviewer I purposefully go and read is Roger Ebert.
Or at least I did. Ebert passed away today. Now there is no one reviewer I follow.
I trusted Roger Ebert. It takes a while to build up trust in a reviewer. That doesn’t mean I agreed with him – I often didn’t. But I was aware of his biases, both good and bad, and how they compared with my own. Even if I didn’t agree with the number of stars or thumbs a film got y reading the review I had a good idea of whether or not it was something that would interest me.
I enjoyed reading the reviews. Ebert loved movies and that came through in every review. He was funny. Sometimes there was insight that went beyond a movie and into life.
Critics get a bad rap for only liking artsy movies. But Ebert liked action movies (although not special effect action movies or dumb ones). He had a soft spot for science fiction. A movie seemed to get an extra star by having a beautiful, but smart leading lady. Those are things I can get behind. (He also liked artsy movies, but, hey, he was a critic.)
He wrote a series of reviews called his ‘Great Movies’. Unlike lists, his Great Movies weren’t capped at the 10 best or the 100 greatest. He was always finding movies, both new and old, to add to the series. I hope the Sun Times leaves that archive up for a long time.
My first encounter with Ebert was through his and Siskel’s At the Movies. I think that would be the same for most of us. But it was through his writing that I truly came to love his reviews.
I read his blog. I followed his Twitter feed.
My condolences to his wife. To his friends and those closest to him. I’ll miss his public face and they will mourn the private one. 70 years is too young to be taken away.