Aired April 7, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAn_bgyfJ7s
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of April 7th, 2013.
Hail and farewell to the respected, prolific and popular film critic, Roger Ebert. On Thursday April 4th, two days after saying he wanted to take things a little slower, he instead came to a complete halt, with cancer doing him in at age 70.
Anyone who loves movies is going to miss Roger Ebert, not just because he warned you what was a stinker before you laid down your six dollars. And then $10. And now $19, or 25 if you throw in popcorn. And not just because Roger could talk intelligently without being patronizing – something I haven’t mastered in 53 years. And not just because Roger’s love for good movies came through even when he pooped on bad ones. The biggest legacy of Roger Ebert – and Gene Siskel – was in remaking the idea of “what is a critic?” Admit it. Before those two, you probably thought of a movie or theater critic as this dreary, sepulchral, Ichabod Crane type, with a Bostonian accent, his nose in the air and his pen in someone’s back. He was better than you, and he sure let you know it. Or he talked so far over your head, sparrows would crash into his verbs on their way to Capistrano.
But not Roger and Gene. Of course they were smart, but they were next-door-neighbor smart, not nuclear physicist smart. And when they explained why Blake Edwards was a genius and dead teenager films are a scourge – even if you didn’t agree, you appreciated their conviction and knew they were treating you like a grownup. Roger may have won a Pulitzer, but he never came off like a pudknocker.
Oh sure, Ebert’s weight made him an easy target for many years. At one point, he was so out of shape, it seemed a miracle he could even lift his thumb. And then, he had to give up TV because of the Big C. The first time I saw a picture of him after all those operations, my jaw dropped. Well, not as low as his, but it was still a shock. And yet, he continued to write. A man who came of age in a time of typewriters and telexes kept himself relevant in our age of tweets and tablets. In fact, he posted more movie reviews last year than he did any year before that. If I had to give that many sermons in a year, my brain would turn to gefilte fish.
And if my cranium did become an amalgam of whitefish, pike, sawdust and carp, would I have the guts Roger Ebert had in being so visible? Of going on Oprah with his new voice or on the internet with his fake chin? If I get a pimple on my nose, I hide for three days.
Among the many quotable quotes of Roger Ebert, he once said that “your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” Well, I may not be able to follow another Charlie Kaufman movie, but I’m sad that we lost Roger Ebert. I think of Gene Siskel in heaven, waiting all these years for the day he could go, “Awright. No cameras. No censors. Rog, let’s really talk about `Cop and a Half’” Go at it guys; no one did it better.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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