Skip to main content

Requiem In Silver and Screen


There I was, at the President's House of the University of Illinois, enjoying a work-related function. Odd though it may sound, it was a familiar environment. I'd been there before, several times, for the opening night gala for Ebertfest, Roger Ebert's annual film festival held in his hometown of Urbana-Champaign. Then I got a text from my partner that read "Ebert has died."

The surroundings remained familiar, but surreal. A few moments prior I'd been thinking how, in just a couple of weeks, I'd be back at the house again celebrating a new edition of Roger Ebert's Film Festival. It would be fun! Yes, Ebert had recently announced that his cancer had returned, but he'd sounded very future-forward in his outlook, and I sort of hoped that perhaps he'd be able to attend his wonderful, glorious event.

And now he's gone.

It is difficult to put into words the melancholy I feel. One can only imagine what his family and friends are going through during this time. While it's true that Ebert lived to 70 (almost 71) years of age, and that it's a nice age to get to if you can, it doesn't really make his loss any easier to take. He was so active, so present, despite his multitude of health problems in recent years.

A prolific man, Roger Ebert managed to fit a lot into his 70 year of life. There was his four-decade-long career as film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, his nearly-as-long stint on the air reviewing movies with the late Gene Siskel and others, his frequent tweets, blog posts, plethora of books (mostly about film, but also about rice cookers) and, of course, his annual film festival.

The 15th Annual Ebertfest is scheduled for April 17-21 at the newly-restored Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. Having begun in 1999, I did not attend the first two years, having no one to go with. Beginning in 2001, Ashley & I have gone to each festival, having seen most of the films. Some years have been better than others, but we've cherished each and every one. They've served as a gateway to wonderful new film experiences, and a shared love of cinema with fellow festival-goers.

Words really are inadequate to convey the gifts that Ebert provided over the years to his readers, his viewers and his festival attendees. An enrichment of the appreciation of cinema is a good way to start, but barely scratches the surface. Indeed, I feel as though we've lost a kindred spirit in film. From here on out, movie-going just won't be the same.

This evening, I took Ashley to the University of Illinois campus, to the building where I work so he could see my new workspace. As we were leaving, I heard music, and turned to see some students inside the university YMCA, having a party. I got wistful, realizing that, here, on the same campus where young Roger Ebert went to college, the young people of today were celebrating life in the shadow of his death.

This is the way things work, though, isn't it? The living enjoy being alive while others end their journey here. So it goes. Ebert understood this. He would want us to enjoy his film festival later this month. In fact, it may be the best requiem a film critic could ever ask for.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

3/4

Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....


1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night


It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

Unbound

"Step out from the mask you stand behind Fearful lost and blind Time to take the time The pressure’s on you Hide away, hide away No tomorrow, just today"
- Brilliant, Ultravox
Today was National Coming Out Day, so of course it gives some pause for reflection on my own coming out story. It was in April 1993, my junior year of high school (go Chargers!). In the six years of writing this blog, I have alluded to how I came out, but never really delved into the intricacies of how it came about. What better day to do so than today?
My first (small) indications of homosexuality manifested in grade school. While in first grade, I thought a fifth grader looked cute. In fifth grade, I would stare, longingly, at a boy in class, until he caught me looking at him. There were some infatuations with boys in middle school, and a first sexual experience during freshman year of high school. Everything up to that point had been, for the most part, based in the physical realm. I liked the way certain…