"One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested."
~ E. M. Forster
A man of great passion died this week. Roger Ebert, journalist, author, film critic, died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. You may not know who he was, or vaguely recognize his name. For, even though he won a Pulitzer Prize and earned a modicum of recognition for having dated Oprah in their youth in Chicago, Ebert was an unassuming personality. Spending his entire career in Chicago, never employed by the movie industry to promote their movies, Ebert, nonetheless, was the quintessential movie critic. With Gene Siskel, his partner, he coined the phrase "two thumbs up" to signify the movies they, rarely, agreed upon as worthy of seeing. It was the early team of Siskel and Ebert that introduced me, and I'm sure an entire generation of movie goers, to the concept of movie critics.
Truthfully, I rarely agreed with Ebert, my tastes most often in alignment with Siskel and the other critics who joined him. So, why did I continue to follow him? Why has his passing touched me so? Why do I feel such a sense of loss for someone I didn't know?
Maybe, just maybe, because
- he LOVED what he did, loved movies, exuded that love even when he could no longer speak.
- he respected the audiences to whom, for whom he spoke.
- he appeared to be a humble man, no arrogance, no grandstanding.
- he was a man of integrity, who never took money from the studios, who was willing to say he didn't like a movie that others lauded.
- he epitomized PASSION, continued to review movies even after unable to speak, disfigured by operations, needing other voices to help him give voice to his opinions.
- he was successful because of his passion, his skills, his perseverance, his unique voice - in a society and an age that values image and connections, ego and technology, he, nonetheless, contributed and endured.