It’s a somber Sunday morning here in Los Angeles. Cloudy. Windy. Chilly. It feels like a gray Fall day instead of a Spring morning. And yet, the birds sing. The trees are bright green and young again. The roses bloom in our front yard.

Such optimism from the natural world is reassuring. It gives the spirit strength, and I need that strength today.

Why am I so gloomy? My health is good. My love is strong and my children are prospering in a myriad of ways.

And I didn’t know Roger Ebert in any semblance of a personal way. Yet, his passing this week has upset me rather deeply. I think I know why. No…I know I know why.ebert frame

I adore the movies, always have. My mother loved them, too. I have a brother and son who are actors. Another son who created LonelyGirl15, a YouTube hit series. I’ve written a number of screenplays myself. Nettie and I watch two or three or even four movies a week. New movies, old movies, foreign movies. Comedies, Dramas, Sci-Fi, Rom-Com, Adventure, Documentary…on and on they go.

In this way, Ebert was connected to the artistic emphasis at the core of my life.

I wasn’t a devotee of his. I didn’t buy his books or attend his lectures. But because of him and others in the business of critically interacting with the arts, my joy in the movies was enhanced. His knowledge of the movie industry, of the art form, was already mature when I was just beginning to think and study film with an emerging understanding. In a sense, he was an early guide to my own journey.

The Siskel and Ebert Show of long ago brought film criticism into the American home in a serious, diligent, and entertaining way.  Yet what I appreciated most about Ebert was his passion for the makers of the film. He was a man unabashed in his enthusiasm for the actors, directors, writers, producers, and all the other people who created the central art form of our age.

I came to literature and the English Department with a similar kind of enthusiasm; and it was because of teachers, critics, and fellow students in that field, like Ebert in the film world, that my interest evolved into (if I may be allowed this self reference) a sophisticated understanding and deeper joy of the arts themselves.

And that ‘s what worries me today. Time passing…the cycle of growth from child to man, from beginner to expert. And, unfortunately, the devolution of that expertise. I’m sure most of you reading this blog saw the horrific images over the years as Ebert’s disease attacked him ever more ferociously. Through him, it was impossible not to see the end coming into clearer and clearer view, like a camera lens bringing our common truth into focus.

Normally, we keep death at bay. That’s what the birds and the trees and the flowers help us do. But this week, this morning, the gloom settled in a bit surprisingly.

thumb upOf course, the redeeming thing is that the movies and the joy they bring will be here after his passing. Indeed, they will remain long after each of us reaches our own Final Cut.

Until then, I’m going to keep the popcorn popping, turn the lights way down low, and get ready with my thumb.




2 Responses to See Ya At The Movies…

  1. Frank Z says:

    Thanks, Mary. Very tender comment from you. Nicely done…

  2. Mary E. says:

    All so true Frank and very well written. I feel like you do- Roger’s death was a very sad ending to a passionate man. But certainly his remarkable struggle to carry on is one that I admired. It is an end of a time of ours that we now have to store in our memory. His wife said “he smiled just before he died” after all he went thru he never stopped participating in life.

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