By Ian Tingen
Notable among the typical political and entertainment bombshells in the last few days’ news cycle was the passing of film critic Roger Ebert. Whether you knew him from Siskel & Ebert, Ebert & Roper, or just as himself, you knew his name. The man had an unparalleled acuity with words, was quotable as hell, and was not afraid to say exactly he thought. His memoir contains some of the most comforting words on death and dying that I’ve read. He was a titan, and the numerous tributes out there speak to this.
Ebert’s death (or if I’m being honest: having my memory and sense of nostalgia jogged by my newsfeed), gave me ample reason to reflect. I am not a particularly religious person, but I do believe that I am part of something much bigger than myself: humanity. Ebert often critiqued movies based on their ability to illuminate some obscured part of the human condition. I’d like to think that social science can do the same – but often we don’t have the same fearlessness or platform that Ebert did. Even so, we should not let such get in our way. We can do great things, if only we step up to the plate. To that end, I leave you with a quote of Mr. Ebert’s that I hope brings my readers a moment of reflection:
“I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, “If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don’t, you won’t be able to understand your own explanation.” That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel.“”
See you at the movies, Roger.