(5) Movies I'd never have seen without Roger Ebert

EbertFest is going on RIGHT NOW, and ChicagoNow bloggers are celebrating Roger through memories and sharing their love of movies. For me, Roger Ebert was ubiquitous; he was, throughout the entirety of my life, the very model of journalistic excellence, real analysis and insight, and absolute integrity. The man had his beliefs, they were informed, and he didn't waver from constantly seeking accuracy and justice.

In this day and age of 4Chan, RottenTomatoes, and Twitter, many people who identify themselves as journalists and critics automatically default to absolutes. Everything is either the best or the worst, everything is a chocolate covered orgasm, or a Conradian depth of horror. Roger never, to my memory, stooped to that. His reviews, his columns, his books, always dove deep, asked questions, probed for meaning -- everything he wrote came from passion, was emotive, and drove to a grander point than even his own two thumbs up or two thumbs down or 3-out-of-four stars.

Without Roger, it's fair to say I wouldn't be a writer, or at best I'd be a far less inspired writer, contributing to the vast and vapid world of online culture vulturing. Having experienced his writing, his presence, guided me toward my own voice and drive to be true and unwavering in pursuit of real statements that venture far beyond catchy jibes that are Google-friendly.

My best tribute to Roger? A list of five movies, exquisite creations I never would have experienced without his reviews, in the hopes of sharing directly with my readers some of the joy and wonder Roger shared with me.

My 5 Top Movies discovered through Roger Ebert:

1) Once

 This movie is so ordinary that it overwhelms. The characters are real, they struggle, they hurt, and they dream. Just like you and me, they chase their dreams while fearing them, and they believe in potential while being trapped in circumstance. It has the benefit of having an amazing, academy-award winning sound track, with songs that destroy your brain and rebuild your heart.

2) Waking Life

Richard Linklater directed and edited this film without any studio support, on a paper-thin budget. It was proof that people could innovate and create their own art using modern and easily-accessible technology, successfully and independent of the entertainment industry. Waking Life broke codified rules of the studio system and even distribution, and perhaps roused the DIY crowd that's taken abundant advantage of new, free media venues such as YouTube. It was also the first film to feature motion-capture rotoscoping.

3) Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo Del Toro melted my brain with this film. He has a cinematic vision that's truly unique, and has invented nightmare creatures beyond the contemplation of the sane. Add to it an amazing, emotive performance by Ivana Baquero and a chilling turn by Sergi Lopez for one of the most intriguing films ever made.

4) Dirty Pretty Things

Another foreign import, Dirty Pretty Things tells the tale of desperate times and desperate measures immigrants in London endure at the hands of punitive government agents, perfidious employers, and organized crime. Powerful in ways both unexpected and unpredictable, this film is equal parts thriller and thought-provoking drama. It features Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautau, each of whom have gone on to fame, fortune, and amazing successes.

5) A History of Violence

David Cronenberg tells a story about a small-town diner owner living the American Dream of owning a home and a business and raising a family in peaceful Indiana. Mysterious drifters wander through and attempt to rob his diner. He saves the day, but implications arise and mysterious details of a seedy former life emerge, raising questions for his family. The interplay between father and son, husband and wife, and ultimately brother and brother is electric.


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  • Rotoscoping?

  • It's an animation technique that involves creating animation by tracing illustration over individual frames of film. It was also prominently featured in A Scanner Darkly.

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