Friday, April 05, 2013

So Long, Roger

(Ebert's greatest creation.)

Roger Ebert: always a great writer, and frequently a perceptive film critic. Alas. And let's not forget that he co-wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (see above), one of the funniest movies ever made. For that alone he should be celebrated.

I do have a Roger Ebert story, but it is an indirect one. When I attended UC San Diego in the 80s, my favorite professor, and a mentor of sorts to me in those years, was film critic and painter Manny Farber, a notoriously cranky and demanding formalist. Manny taught a difficult film class called "Hard Look at Movies", and was known to baffle students by never talking about actors, writing, or plot, which is what most people expect film critics to talk about.

There were always a few students who tried desperately to suck up to Manny. I remember one of them attempted to do so by disparaging Roger Ebert (this was at the height of Siskel and Ebert's popularity), but Manny wouldn't have it. He defended Ebert, saying, "For a certain kind of movie, he's one of the best critics out there, and he gives his audience what they need from a mainstream movie critic." He then, as an aside, talked about Ebert's affable nature, and said that he had shared a hotel room with his colleague on a number of occasions during film events. Manny said that Ebert was one of his favorite hotel-mates, because he would always know where the best food in any given location was, and would drag him out to great restaurants. Manny contrasted this with the horror of sharing a room with Rex Reed, who "would sit propped up in bed all day, whining." LOL.

I will definitely miss Roger Ebert.


dianegsocialist said...

In his way, Rex Reed is valuable as a critic -- if he hates something I am almost certain to like it. I'd rather have Roger Ebert around, though, because even when we disagreed, I understood his reasons. I learned so much from that man. I'm really going to miss him.

Michael Strickland said...

Wow, Manny Farber, Roger Ebert and Rex Reed all in one short post. And thanks for the Beyond The Valley of the Dolls shoutout. Ebert was publicly reviled for years for writing that "disgusting" screenplay, but there were a few of us who realized it was genius from the get-go.

Fran said...

That Rex Reed bit is priceless... Roger will be missed.

samael7 said...

I had a feeling you'd mention Ebert's passing, as I know of your love for Dolls. Great anechdote, too.

I think Roger Ebert's writing got even better over time, and the candidness with which he faced his illness and decline, but also how he wrote about his love for Chaz, made for some gripping reading. I'll miss him too.