Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

My Tribute to Roger


I have loved movies ever since I can remember. I do not know where this love affair began. I suppose it was with Star Wars or E.T., but I cannot be certain. While I was growing up we only received four stations on our television. Our options were limited, but I remember a show coming on every Saturday that showed clips of the new movies that were coming out. This was long before the days of the internet. If you wanted to see a trailer for a film, then you either went to the movies or maybe they would show it as a TV commercial. I started watching this show hosted by two peculiar men who set in the balcony because I got to see movie clips, but I soon realized these men loved movies just as much as I did. That show was Siskel & Ebert and those two men not only shared my love of movies, but they taught me how to appreciate film. From that moment on a two thumbs up rating was a sign of approval for me. I knew any film that received two thumbs up was going to be worth my time.

As the years went by I kept paying attention to what films Siskel & Ebert approved of and what films they thought people should avoid. In high school I bought one of Roger Ebert’s massive volumes that collected all of his movie reviews from the Chicago Sun Times. The movies in this volume were not given a thumbs up or down, but were assigned a star rating. A four star rating was the best a film could get. I began reading all the four star reviews even though I had not seen the films. I knew these were the films I needed to see. I began collecting movies on VHS after receiving my first job. I spent my extra money on movies.

We lost Gene Siskel in 1999, my senior year in high school. His death was unexpected and it marked the end of Siskel & Ebert. Roger continued the TV show and the two thumbs up reviews with Richard Roeper, but it was not the same. No one could replace Siskel. After graduating high school I went off to college. I chose to major in journalism because I wanted to be the next Roger Ebert. Little did I know that Ebert was someone special and there was no one like him in the world.

I bought one of the first DVD players in 1999. My VHS collection quickly turned into a DVD collection. I took a film class in college and one of our assignments was to take a scene from a movie and break it down frame by frame. I chose Dark City because DVD’s included this new feature which offered a commentary track while you were watching the movie. The commentary track on Dark City was done by Roger Ebert. I only took one film class in college, mainly because this was all they offered. My teacher was Roger. I read his reviews, watched his TV show, and bought his books.

I ended up not becoming the next Roger Ebert, but I never lost my love for films. I went into ministry and dedicated my life to serving the Kingdom of God. A couple of years ago I began reviewing films for RELEVANT, a Christian magazine on life and culture. Each time I reviewed a movie I would write my review and then wait for Roger’s review to come out on Thursday morning. I hoped that we had the same opinion of the film. If we did, then I felt confident about my review. I rarely disagreed with Roger, probably because I learned how to critique film from him. I had one film class in college, but Roger taught me everything I know.

Why was Roger so special? You can classify many film critics into two categories. There are critics who are movie reviewers. These men and women review movies for the populace. They do not worry about higher criticism or the beauty of film. They are looking for a film to be entertaining and enjoyable. The other group of film critics are strict film critics. They love art films. They look down upon popular films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. They are only concerned with higher criticism. Roger understood both types of reviewers but could never be pigeonholed into either category. He loved popular films and he appreciated art films. He was never afraid to give a low budget popular film a good review, nor was he afraid to rip an art film that wasn’t any good. You could always trust Roger to give a good review no matter what the film was.

I learned last night that Roger’s last review was Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder. This is the next film I am scheduled to review for RELEVANT. I chose this film because Roger Ebert taught me to love Malick’s films. Malick makes art films that are not widely popular, but they are beautiful and moving. He listed Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life as one of his ten best films of all time. The Tree of Life is also one of my favorite films. It is one of the most moving films about God and spirituality I have seen. I do not know how I will review To the Wonder. All I know is that everything in my review will be because of Roger. He taught me to love film. He taught me how to appreciate the finer details of film, and he taught me that sometimes I just need to enjoy a movie because it is fun and entertaining. I will forever miss my friend.

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