Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 103. Roger Ebert's 'Leave of Presence'

When I was growing up, there were two t.v. celebrities who held such a huge presence in my life that they felt like family.  The first was Julia Child.  I watched her constantly on PBS at my grandparents' house.  At 10-years-old, I had no greater idol than Julia.  I imitated her voice and style of speech.  My grandma and mom baked and cooked a lot, so from the age of 8, I did as well.  However, soon it wasn't me who was forming the culinary creations, but the Julia Child who lived within me.  I was Julia. Ha! I watched her move from black and white to color t.v.  I followed her from the orange kitchen, to the blue kitchen, to baking with others ("Baking with Julia") to cooking with Jacques P├ępin.  When Julia died in 2004, I felt devastated. 

I find myself feeling that same sense of loss this past week when Roger Ebert died on Thursday.  In the middle of some art workshops, I came back to the room, and my husband said, "Roger Ebert died."  He knew.  I let the news slowly sink in.  I remembered watching Roger on PBS, along with Gene Siskel, on their show, "Sneak Previews" (later titled, "At the Movies").  My mom and I never missed a weekly episode, and about 99% of the time, I found myself agreeing with Ebert.  I also felt an affinity to him since he attended my alma mater, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; also, he reported for the college newspaper, "The Daily Illini," as did I as a freshman.

Really, those last details mean nothing.  It was his commentary, his succinctness at cutting through the bullshit along with his eloquent writing, that kept me entangled with him throughout my life.  If you follow this blog, you know how much I love music and movies and books.  All of these art forms offer feelings of something new. Movies, however, through their kaleidoscopic window of music, imagery, action, thought, most quickly take you to adventures previously unknown.  I would catch a great movie on Sundance Channel or IFC, think it was great, and wonder, what does Roger think of this movie?  Off I'd go to his website.  If he had a review of the movie online, I almost felt as if I were sitting with a friend at a cafe, discussing the intricate details of what had made this film so great.  Additionally, his blog posts were increasingly, beautifully wrought.  I like thinking.  I like thought-provoking intelligence.  He provided it without fail.




Here is one of my favorite posts of his from 12/27/10.  I hope you will take the time to look at it.  Would I have ever known about this film, "Man in Blizzard" or Jamie Stuart without Roger Ebert?  Most probably, the answer is no.  That's the importance of Roger Ebert.  Like the movies, his insights and words brought new worlds and experiences to me that I may never have found.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/movies-1/man-in-a-blizzard-by-jamie-stu.html


In my opinion, here is the best tribute to Roger that I have seen over the last 4 days.  Leave it to CBS Sunday Morning and David Edelstein to give a bull's-eye account of the contribution of this incredible man's life.  Please watch--it's only 2:38.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50144352n

When the movie, "Julie and Julia" came out, I smuggled in an artisan, dark chocolate candy bar and a tiny mini bottle of merlot (think airplane size) and toasted Julia as I watched.  Meryl Streep captured her so perfectly that it was like Julia, my grandma, my childhood were all alive again.  I cried at the heartwarming end of the film when they showed her in her kitchen, receiving her copy of her book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." 

Here is a link to Roger's last blog post, 2 days before his death.  Ebert loved Martin Scorsese and wrote a book on his directoral importance.  In his final post, he writes that Scorsese will be making a movie of his life.  Roger, when it comes out, I'll be toasting you--just as I did Julia--in an aisle seat, crying in the dark.  Thank you for all the words, spoken and unspoken.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/04/a_leave_of_presense.html

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Below is a little something I put into my 2011 Sketchbook Project, "Coffee and Cigarettes" for the Brooklyn Art Library.  Roger's blog sometimes would list on the left-side column, little excerpts from a movie glossary of cliched director's techniques in films.  Here's "The Cigarette Flip."





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