Representation is, in fact, important.
And so it was that young, prepubescent, bespectacled, asthmatic, schlubby me was somewhat adrift in a childhood free of identifiable role models. No one on television looked like me, or did anything within my sphere to emulate.
Davey Marlin-Jones (who was just as bespectacled and a hell of a lot weirder than I) was on television reviewing films for Eyewitness News. Which started to unlock something in my head...
...until viewings of Sneak Previews not just unlocked that door, but blew it wide open. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert weren't just relatable, they were smart. The way some kids looked at athletes with tangible dreams of growing up to be one, so did I see these guys as my own heroes. I was always a movie-loving kid, but these guys honed my nascent cinephilia. Siskel & Ebert had me looking at movies outside my comfort zone at an early age, enabling a number of cinematic epiphanies possible. Sure, my family took me to STAR WARS like any other child of my generation, but THE SHOOTING PARTY was the movie that truly sent me and showed me what movies could address. Sneak Previews didn't point me at that film, but it made my experience of it possible.
With Siskel and other partners, into soloville as Thee Recognizable Face and Voice of The Movies, Ebert continued to serve admirably as both reviewer AND critic (remember, they aren't the same thing). You could trust his opinions, whether you agreed with them or not. The disagreements were a challenge to articulate your own position. And the agreements would open new doors to beloved, familiar works. And he was refreshingly capable of human error (as when he picked up a certain rumor about a local movie palace a year and a half ago, but why dredge up those details?).
I had something much larger in mind for my 200th post here (which, indeed, this is), but that piece has been floundering under the weight of what I wanted it to become. It's necessary for me, for everyone touched by Roger's example, to articulate what that example meant to them. I can't imagine what my life would be like without that early formative influence. I'm sad to say goodbye to him, but the fire he stoked in me burns still. And in everything before these 200 posts, through them, and everything after.
Thanks, Roger. G'night.