Happy birthday Roger Ebert!
I must say that although Ebert is probably the most famous film reviewer of the 20th and now 21st century, his fame is not without merit because he is one of the most insightful and inspiring writers around. Perhaps famous is not the best way of describing Mr. Ebert as it vastly cheapens his contributions to contemporary film writing, but his very public, accessible, and down-to-earth writings have made him celebrated by film lovers of all walks of life. Certainly he is one of the most respected critics. No other name in the business gets a response as well as Ebert's; if he says something is good and interesting, or gives it his patented "thumbs up," it is hard to disagree. Now I don't mean to say that I eat up everything he writes, but rather, for a man who has seen, read about, and written about as many films as he has over the last forty-odd years, I certainly appreciate what he says about films and more often than not, I find little to disagree with views. And despite his own critics, some calling him an elitist snob, I feel like he has earned the right to be as opinionated as he likes through his decades of criticism. He inspires me to think critically, but also to be a critic from both my head and from my heart. Films work on so many levels that sometimes there are things in film that you cannot explain but that you connect with on a very visceral level. Not all foreign art films are good, and not all Hollywood gross-out comedies or action films are bad, and that distinguishing the good for the good, and the bad for the bad is something I have learned from him. Not every film wants to be intellectual and thought-provoking and that is perfectly okay! As long as a film achieves what it wants to be and doesn't take its audience for granted there won't be problems from me.
Ebert's love of cinema is so complete and pure that his passion is so visible in his writings, which is perhaps why reading his work is so easy; it flows so naturally. He is one of those people who has been fortunate enough to find his passion and a way to channel it into a medium and share it with the world. Despite his recent health troubles, he has been more active than ever in the blogging world and is constantly posting and writing new things. To me, he is a true inspiration. Again, I highly recommended this article a few months ago that Esquire wrote about him last year. It is a fascinating glimpse into his life, and I found it to be really interesting. Check out his blog here.