Art Can Also Entertain, RIP Roger Ebert
A truly remarkable person is one even their critics have trouble finding fault with.
Anyone with the word “critic” in the title of their occupation begins on a bad foot with most people. We tend to think of critics as stodgy — people who have their nose so far in the air they’ve lost sight of their feet. The word itself has negative connotations. If we are critical of something, we understand something is wrong we wish were fixed. “Love” is not a word we generally associate with critics.
Roger Ebert loved movies. I remember watching Roger and his critical foil, Gene Siskel, point their thumbs up or down at a handful of movies each week when I was in high school. However, my full appreciation of Mr. Ebert didn’t come until after I’d seen a silly, yet touching movie called Valley Girl. Many critics panned it and several of my friends thought it was terrible — they couldn’t get past all the valley-speak, which was all the rage at the time — but the story struck a chord in young me. Several months later, I happened to see Ebert’s review of the film.
Disgruntled and weary after slogging through the last dozen Sex-Mad Teenager Movies, I came upon “Valley Girl” with low expectations. What can you expect from a genre inspired by “Porky’s”? But this movie is a little treasure, a funny, sexy, appealing story of a Valley Girl’s heartbreaking decision: Should she stick with her boring jock boyfriend, or take a chance on a punk from Hollywood?
Here was someone willing to look past a rough exterior and view something purely for what it was: entertainment. “His approach to film was populist —and he said he reviewed a film for what he felt would be its prospective audience,” a eulogy on MSN Canada stated today. Roger Ebert understood why most people see movies: they want an escape for a couple of hours. And if a film delivered on that unspoken promise, more often than not, it received a “thumbs up”.
Even through his courageous battles with cancer, Roger’s love of movies never waned. He continued to write reviews even after he lost the ability to speak in 2007.
As a writer, my first and most important goal is to entertain. I have no pretensions that I am creating great works of art, or penning influential literature. My only hope is that if my books were movies, they would be ones that Mr. Ebert would have found fun. R.I.P. Roger Ebert.
Modern English with “I Melt With You” — one of my all-time favorites and featured during the credits of Valley Girl