Film Critic Roger Ebert, Movies, and Significance of Celebrity

With the recent passing of American Film Critic/Icon Roger Ebert, it got me thinking about how the world works.

What Ebert was most known for was his very viewer-intuitive film grading gimmick of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. Together with his film critic partner-in-crime Gene Siskel, a film that received “Two Thumbs Up” from the duo meant that it was a good film and worth seeing. They had taken the technique from the Ancient emperors of Rome that would give a thumb up or thumb down as a way of ruling disputes, ie., granting life or an execution. Check out the technique in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, used by the evil Emperor Commodus.

Ebert and Siskel dominated the Pop Culture scene as the leaders of film critics for nearly 40 years. That is a lot of time making or breaking cinema. In essence, in those 40 years, these two critics helped shape the world into what it is today because of the films they helped advocate and promote. The other half, of course, is dependent on the filmmakers that produced the product. Anyway, 40-some years of validating which cinema best reflects our existence as human ants on this planet really sets a foundation for where are were, where we currently are, and where we’ll be going.

And hopefully, there wasn’t any grand agenda with his film choices. That is the ideal with any commercial film critic. I assume you can bring a lot of your personal biases into your reviews and picks, but ultimately it is to help sell your sponsors’ products. You can’t talk shit about a film that’s paying your bills. We’d like to think we could be that honest, but if we had the magic skill for words and could truly criticize anything without backlash and make money from it, then we’d all be critics of something. Thus, there are kabillions of bloggers, freely expressing their views on all subject matter, professional critics in their own minds.

I’m sure Ebert loved some movies, but he couldn’t express his personal views in a public way. He is known in private to be a very “dirty” talking man. And even as a young kid, I noticed he heavily favored any film with some good female nudity in it (if not all of them). And for those in the know, he penned a very funny (imo) sex comedy “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens” under the pseudonym of R. Hyde, along with a more mainstream one “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”. The man was a very good writer.

However, it’s not like the “people” chose him to be their go-to guy for entertainment. It’s just merely coincidence. I’m assuming that how most of life works. People are sheep and always looking for a shepard. It just so happen people like Ebert manage to get a career doing what they really love, and people want to share in that passion, even if it means agreeing with every review of his blindly. But that’s not to say he didn’t have opposition. Of course, there’s always going to be disagreement. Movie reviews are nothing but subjective opinions. It’s just that Ebert had a talent of making his reviews seem objective.

So the next person in line who might be set to be lifted onto the shoulders of others in selling American propaganda, there might just be a few things you want to master:

1. Love the movies, love cinema for what it is: entertainment; I don’t think Ebert ever tried to make his reviews seem more political or about propaganda. He reviewed it for what it was, and made any kind of commentary outside of it.

2. Love the business, love the viewers – I’m sure Ebert had reached a position where he knew his words could make or break films, and eventually realized that it was a symbiotic relationship with Hollywood. If no one watched the movies, he would be out of a job. Sometimes, he helped “sell” a movie simply because people would “like” it. Or at times of tragedy, people “needed” it. That’s some heavy-handed decision making.

3. Know your audience – If you gotta have your ego stroked, then you need a legion of followers. You need to know what they like before you start messing with their tastes. And soon, once you’ve earned it, they will be singing your praises, too.

Moral of this post: you have to want to be where you are, and people will want you there when you really deserve to belong there. Be a good whatever you are, especially if you’re just a guy who watches movies and have an opinion about it, and think that people might like to watch it, too.

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