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The Book That Never Was

Be wary of people who like to say they don't care what anyone thinks about them, for those are often the people who care the most about others' opinions. There's nothing wrong with that. As human beings, we do not live in a vacuum, devoid of social interaction and all that comes with it. The need to impress and gain approval is fairly ingrained in us, and to deny it is silly at best, folly at worst. Thus we land on a topic that's been foremost on my mind this past week.

Another Ebertfest has come and gone and, with it, a reminder of the book that I never wrote, and likely never will. It was to be a collection of film reviews, and some of the work had already been done. For a few years during the early aughts, I wrote reviews on Amazon, many of them for movies I'd seen. Some of them needed a bit of polish, but for the most part, they were a good spring board for a nice collection. The plan was to edit those film reviews, and write perhaps twenty or thirty more, privately, to help create the compendium.

I was inspired to put together a collection of film reviews by the late, great Roger Ebert. He'd published a three volume collection of his own "Great Movies" reviews, and I thought I'd do the same. Part of it was to emulate, part of it was to impress. For over a decade I'd witnessed several writers/film buffs from around the world become recognized by the esteemed film critic, with him giving both a figurative and a literal thumbs-up to them, and I wanted the same. I didn't want a job, or anything like that, just a bit of recognition from someone I greatly admired.

Every year, during the 51-week interim between the Roger Ebert Film Festival, I would contemplate which movies to review, which reviews from Amazon would make the cut (Cabin Fever would not be appearing in the book), and how best to provide the tome to Ebert, like Ralphie presenting his What I Want For Christmas thesis to Miss Shields. Once the reviews were completed and edited, I would have them bound at the Lincoln Bookbindery, and then present the finished masterpiece to Ebert, a wink and a nod being the only hint at the wonder he was about to experience.

Seriously, though, I so wanted to do that. I wanted to finish the reviews to the best of my ability, bind them together beautifully and, somehow, present them to the film critic I'd so admired over the years, in print, on television, online and in-person. And, truthfully, I wanted him to like the reviews. Really, really like them. A simple e-mail of approval from him would have sufficed. Of course, that may not have been the case. He could have never got around to reading them, or, perhaps, read a few and thought they were mediocre, at best.

Roger Ebert is, of course, no more. He passed away three years ago and that grand moment of giving him a piece of my heart and soul never came to pass. Perhaps it's for the best? When we seek approval, there is always the possibility that it will never materialize, or that we might very well experience the opposite. And so Matt's "Great Movies" book, if it ever does materialize, will have to exist without the ultimate review. I'm okay with that. Perhaps the important thing isn't Ebert's approval, but that he inspired me to write something in the first place?


  1. Well stated, Matt and I enjoyed the Cabin Fever reference ;) As an aside, I think you should proceed with your plan. I'm sure RE would agree.


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