Eberts Thumb BanRoger Ebert wasn’t the reason I wanted to become a film critic, but he certainly fanned the flames of passion that I still have for the movie industry.

The spirited debates Ebert and fellow critic Gene Siskel (who died in 1999) would have each week — first on the public television version of their film critic show, “Sneak Previews,” and then later when it was syndicated as “Siskel and Ebert: At the Movies” — made me look at,  and appreciate more, a broader selection of films. I always seemed to side more with Ebert, who, of the pair, seemed the closest to having the same blue collar perspective I still try to bring to the job.

Ebert was the guy who wrote the screenplay for “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” when he was younger; Siskel was the Yale graduate.

I didn’t always agree with Ebert, but the way he could clearly make an argument for a movie influenced me heavily. A person can be the master of words, but the most important thing in a review is to explain quickly whether you do or don’t like the film. Ebert always made it very clear.

Ebert’s known for his reviews, but he was just as gifted with his celebrity interviews. His stories always made you feel like you were in the seat next to him talking with the stars.

The only time I got to meet Ebert was at a publicity event at Epcot Center in Orlando. He was one of the invited guests and spent most of the evening talking more about himself than about movies.

I greeted him, saying “Thank you for your time Mr. Ebert.” To which he replied, “Thank you for not calling me Mr. Siskel.” I never could tell if he was joking about being mixed up with his TV partner or if it really made him mad. Of course, that’s what made their on-screen banter so much fun to watch.

Ebert and Siskel were unique. That’s obvious by how all of the other attempts to mimic their show have failed. Everything afterwards seemed like a pale imitation.

Viewers might not have been able to tell them apart in the beginning, but that changed as both grew to the have the same kind of star power that many actors have. You know you are well known when you are more associated with a thumbs up or thumbs down gesture than the ancient Romans.

The way Ebert so clearly passed on his passion for movies is a gift millions have all been able to enjoy from print to television. For that, I would like to give him one huge thumbs up.

Rick Bentley

Rick Bentley

Rick Bentley is a Star Wars fan, a movie critic and part-time ninja. He's met more famous people than most famous people.
Rick Bentley
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4 thoughts on “Roger Ebert fueled passion for films

  • April 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I remember watching Ebert on TV when I was a kid. I loved watching the banter between him and Siskel. I think this is where my love of movies started. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed following him on Twitter and seeing how he lived and loved life. He will be missed.

  • April 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Obviously, I watched Ebert growing up. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered his writing (via Twitter). The guy was a major talent in his ability (like Rick said) to quickly and concisely articulate a point (and not just about movies either). I have been thinking about writers whose work I missed in its prime (Hunter Thompson, Christopher Hitchens) and since rediscovered. Ebert will surely be added to this list.

  • April 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I loved it when he and Siskel got into it over a movie on the show. This is such sad news. I followed him in recent years on Facebook and always loved reading his posts.

  • April 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I second Rick’s comment about Ebert’s talent for getting to the point, stat. Not just because his reviews were easy to summarize in the movie pages. I recall Ebert writing once that he’d rather not review the movies he loathed, but he had to do it anyway. Even the (deserved) pans were good reviews.
    –Joe Wirt, an old Bakersfield Californian features wrangler


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