It might be a stretch to say that I wouldn't be where I am now without Roger Ebert, but not much of one.
No, I've never met him. However, unlike most celebrities, who I wouldn't care if I met or not, I think I might genuinely get a bit tongue-tied around Ebert. Which is why I loved reading this profile about him. Be warned, it is long. But it's also one of the better articles I've read about him.
I think the first time I saw Ebert, and Gene Siskel, was around 1982 when I was 12 years old. It's not like I was a fanatic about movies at the time, but I liked them well enough. And there was something entertaining about watching a fat guy argue with a bald guy. And they were arguing passionately about movies. And it was mean sometimes. If you ever watched their shows in the 80s, they really went at each other. The article reports they sometimes had to do another take because of the level of venom between the two.
And I thought it was cool enough that, for awhile, the idea of being a movie reviewer when I got older sounded pretty cool. You get paid to watch movies, write about them and maybe argue about them. It should come as no surprise that those part of my teen years were a particular dry patch when it came to getting dates.
Judging by the number of reviewers out there these days, I suspect I wasn't the only one. I think Siskel and Ebert inspired a whole generation of people to want to review movies. Or at least take them more seriously. Not such a bad thing, really.
And I did end up reviewing movies, although I never made as much as they did (read the article...the made a lot), I still got to do it. The whole reason I joined The Muse initially was to write movie reviews. It was only later they conned me into writing news. About 10 years after I left The Muse, I got to do reviews again, this time with The Express.
So the whole journalism racket? At least partially due to Ebert, who I always liked better than Siskel, although I would be hard pressed to figure out why. I suppose I should send him a thank you card, although there were days as a journalist I would have prefered to have sent him poison or something.
I still like Ebert's reviews, although I do agree with the article's author - he has gotten softer in the past few years. There are a lot more three star reviews (although Ebert famously hates the star rating and the thumbs up/down thing). I still have a pretty good feel, from what he writes, whether or not I will like a movie. And really, that's the best you can ask for in a reviewer - is his/her opinions in sync so you know whether or not you will like a movie?
However, I did come out of the article hating Ebert over one thing. And it wasn't the astronomical amounts of money he makes. It's not the awards or that he's generally loved and respected by large numbers of people. Nope. It's that the bastard prints his first goddamn draft. Everything you see at his website is apparently a first draft. And he can bang them out quickly.
I can't write that well if I had five drafts, an army of editors and a month to do it. He does so quickly and on the first try.
Then again, maybe it isn't too late for the poison.
Last 5 on iPod
1. Don't let the sun go down on me - Elton John and Billy Joel (Face to Face: Live)
2. Sunday bloody Sunday - U2 (Under a Blood Red Sky)
3. Looking for the next best thing - Warren Zevon (A Quiet Normal Life)
4. Milk - Garbage (Garbage)
5. Cry on demand - Ryan Adams (Demolition)