Before I decided to start a blog to review everything, I just reviewed movies. Actually, when I was younger and a bit more naïve, my dream job was to be a film critic. For a few years I had seen it as my vocation, my higher calling. It felt like the thing I was meant to do. But it’s a dying profession. The odds are astronomical that you could become one of the few people who make a living off their movie opinions. So it goes.
Instead I got a new dream, and now I’m an aspiring stand-up comedian. That’s a little more attainable. And, unlike with film criticism, there’s immediate feedback and gratification. But I guess I tried to merge those two passions – criticism and comedy – when I decided to do this blog. That’s not to say “Cade reviews …” is supposed to be comedic. In fact, I think some of the reviews on here are kind of sad. But it’s nice to have an outlet to flex my creative writing muscles, and it’s also a nice supplement to stand-up that lets me say, “Hey, look, I do this, too!”
But the only reason I review anything is because of Roger Ebert. Sophomore year of college I wrote my first film review and became a critic for the school newspaper. The review was of Peter Weir’s 1981 film “Gallipoli”. I taught myself by reading Roger. A seminal moment was when I read his introduction to his book, “Awake In the Dark”, which functions both as a autobiography of his life in film and as an outline of his film-watching philosophy. I also spent hours and hours on the archive of his reviews on rogerebert.com. If I wanted to learn how to write a four-star review I just searched for all his four star reviews from, say, 1992, and poured through them. By the way, that advanced search feature is no longer available on his site. They really need to fix that.
He changed the way I thought about movies. I enjoy movies more now because of him. I remember reading his Great Movies essay on “McCabe & Mrs. Miller.” I had seen it and I didn’t especially like it. But after reading what Ebert had to say it became one of my favorite films. It’s a powerful feeling to have your mind so thoroughly changed. When I watch the movie now, I’m also watching Ebert’s words. It’s just as possible to be moved by what someone else has to say about a film as it is to be moved by the film itself. Or maybe they’re one and the same?
I learned a lot from him. Ebert wanted every movie to be good. It’s a beautiful feeling that pervades his reviews. And when a movie was bad, he had the opposite feeling: betrayal. Critics have been caricatured as elitist curmudgeons, but it seemed like Roger always approached each film with raw, earnest consideration. And with respect.