A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine* asked me who my role models are, and I had to think long and hard. After 20 or so minutes**, I replied that, while I likely have hundreds of people whom I consider influential to my life and whom I look up to, the only name I could come up with was KRS ONE*** (he's my generation's Muhammed Ali, as far as braggadocio goes).
Later, mulling over the question, I realized I had failed to mention the man who has most influenced my writing: Roger Ebert. More than any other writer -- including Sommerset Maugham, Stephen King, and Zerna Sharp -- Ebert is the one who made me WANT to write for a living (still working on it). Our styles are night and day: his oft dry wit in stark contrast to my usually crude, expletive-ridden**** wool gathering; but Ebert is versatile, able to, from review to review, wear a different hat, whether in-depth and thoughtful, anecdotal, or straight up insulting. That's what I admire most about him, and it's how I decided to develop my own style. Much like KRS, Ebert is often accused of being contradictory; and while both, perhaps, sometimes are, they're geniuses at proving that's never the case.
Furthermore, like Ali and KRS, Roger Ebert is the greatest ever in his field, and in his case it's not even close. To extend the analogy, Ebert's movie analyses are similar to Tiger Woods's golf domination: he has no worthy competitors. While he's been out of commision I've found myself reading other reviewers and thinking "Ebert coulda freaked it better." It's like when Jordan retired. Yes, he gave Speed 2 a positive review; yes, he gave A Clockwork Orange a negative one; But we all have our off days, right? I'm convinced, given the opportunity, Rog might make me believe Speed 2 is a good film, A Clockwork Orange a terrible one. He's persuasive as hell, and, after all, isn't that every film critic's role?
It has been a difficult year for Roger. Last June his cancer resurfaced, and since then, due to surgery complications, he's had it very rough. But there's no crying in basketball and film critique, and the man forged on the best he could. Admirable, considering he was hospitalized and bed-ridden for almost a year, yet managed to, at every opportunity, do what he loves, do his job. He didn't have to, nor was he expected to. He wanted to. The big C hurt him in many ways, but it could never harm his passion.
He recently returned to the public eye (reminds me of someone) to attend his 9th-annual Overlooked Film Festival*****. Testicles like boulders, this man has. And while he still can't talk, his presence alone spoke for itself, Eye of the fucking Tiger style.
So here's to Roger Ebert, a true role model. I hope he gets his speech back soon; I hope he gets his prolificness back sooner. 'Cause, while Richard Roeper is cute and all, Roger Ebert is sexy.
You still got it, Rog.
*The old guy who collects plastic bottles outside my apartment, if it matters.
** Patience is a virtue, old man.
*** Him, and the guy who first ventured to mix tuna and mayo.
***** Rog, you gotta include BTinLC next year. Either that or Stallone in Lock Up.