Two Thumbs Up For A Life Fully Lived

roger ebertSad News today. Roger Ebert died. He and Gene Siskel elevated movie reviews and cinema in general with “Sneak Previews,” then later “At the Movies.”

It all started locally in Chicago, then moved nationwide on PBS.

Back in their heyday Siskel and Ebert were invited to a convention of broadcast promotion directors. Among others, they reviewed a promo from Channel 8 featuring me. Two thumbs up.

Years later I separately thanked both of them. They both claimed to remember the spot.

You’re going to read a lot about Roger Ebert’s history over the next few days. I’d like to talk a little about his recent past.

Roger was first diagnosed with cancer in 2002 and underwent treatment. There were various stories, but in retrospect it’s obvious the cancer never went away. It slowly ate at the physical Roger Ebert.

In 2006, surgery on his jaw left him disfigured, without a voice or the ability to eat or drink.

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris. – Roger Ebert in Esquire Magazine 2010.

There was a chance more surgery might have lengthened his life, but based on earlier surgery that backfired, he decided to do without.

Suffering a condition that would have stopped most of us, Roger Ebert continued his life and said fuck you&#185 to his cancer.

He remained a prolific film reviewer, mentioning a few days ago how he’d reviewed more films in 2012 than ever before.

He was even more prolific as a social commentator. Following his feed on Twitter was a gift. The same goes for his longer online musings. He always wrote, because he always had something to say.

The online world was perfect for Ebert. He embraced the freedom and reach it afforded him.

There is a Frank Sinatra song I remember from childhood. It came to mind as I began to write this.

I’m gonna live till I die! I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry,
I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down,
I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.
They’re gonna say “What a guy!” I’m gonna play for the sky.
Ain’t gonna miss a thing, I’m gonna have my fling,
I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.

– I’m Gonna Live Till I Die by Hoffman, Kent and Curtis

Roger Ebert was 70.

The balcony is closed.

&#185 – That is a phrase I have never used on this blog, but I feel it is appropriate here to best describe Ebert’s attitude. I apologize to those offended. That is not my intention.

Christmas At The Movies: It’s Complicated

Trust me, the Chinese restaurant might as well have hung a sign on the door saying “Se Habla Yiddish.”

its_complicated_poster.jpgThe Fox Family is living an ethnic stereotype, right? It’s Christmas so we went to the movies then ate Chinese food before I went off to work. Trust me, the Chinese restaurant might as well have hung a sign on the door saying “Se Habla Yiddish.”

I wanted to see the George Clooney movie. Stef and Helaine wanted Meryl Streep’s “It’s Complicated.” Two against one. Outvoted again.

They made a great choice.

This was not a complex story in spite of the movie’s name.

Meryl Streep is divorced from Alec Baldwin, but with three children, a college graduation and wedding-to-be it’s tough for him to be out of her life. Baldwin’s character realizes he wants to get back with Meryl just as she meets Steve Martin–the architect supervising an addition to her home.

Hit pause a second. We’ve got to talk.

I haven’t seen this much effortless affluence in a movie since Doris Day swooned over Rock Hudson. Streep lives on a multi-acre estate overlooking the Pacific in Santa Barbara. Her sole source of income seems to be an upscale bakery/coffee shop. Unless she’s baking up twenties there’s no way this could happen!

I know, it’s a movie. Buy the premise, buy the bit. Fine. We move on.

The story is sweet, clever and mainly well acted. It was edited with a meat cleaver.

Who gets the blame: cinematographer or editor? There were cutaway shots behind a person speaking… but his jaw isn’t moving (the shot’s from behind so you don’t see his lips). Maybe I’m too critical, but that injures a movie and reduces my enjoyment.

Good grief Meryl Streep is good. She is incredibly comfortable in her own skin. That serve her well. It just doesn’t seem like she’s acting! That’s how it’s supposed to be.

“She makes the people she works with better,” added Helaine as we did a postmortem on the way out of the theater.

Alec Baldwin, as the ex-husband, is a guy who seldom looks past his own needs. It’s not like he’s trying to hide that. To meet him is to know the only way he can be is needy.

I was a little disappointed by Steve Martin in a role in which he seemed self restrained. He is a favorite of mine, so this is not idle criticism. I’ve just seen him bring a lot more to a role.

There were no surprises, no out-of-the-blue plot twists, no unexpected drama. That’s part of the reason this movie works so well. It is clever without being gimmicky.

The three of us really enjoyed it.

The Chinese food? Well that goes without saying. The movie may change from year-to-year, but the restaurant is always Dynasty in North Haven. As always it was delicious.