I’ve always enjoyed his film criticism, and particularly his desire to find a way to use film criticism to elevate both film making and film watching. He’s a passionate advocate for the joy and awe of movies, and I’ve learned so much from him that even in disagreement I feel like I’ve learned something. I long enjoyed his occasional forays into essays on other subjects, and in recent years he’s written more and more about his life, his career in newspapers, and lately even creationism and his own Catholic upbringing. And sometimes in his essays, aided by his years of experience honing his writing, he manages these moments in his writing that make me shake my head in admiration.
And sometimes, he just totally cracks me up. Here’s him writing about Vincent, a Chicago guy who is the subject of a documentary, but in discussing it Ebert’s able to… well, here’s a long clip:
One person in the doc speculates that Vincent has spent a lot of his life being stigmatized and isolated, and the suits are a way of breaking down barriers. I confess that the first time I saw him, I saw a man with unfocused squinting eyes and a weird suit, and leaped to conclusions. But by the time I saw this documentary, things had changed in my life. Anyone seeing me walk down the street would notice an unsteady gait, a bandage around my neck, and my mouth sometimes gaping open. If they didn’t know me, they might assume I was the Village Idiot. You can easily imagine Vincent becoming an isolated agoraphobe, locked onto a computer screen. But he spends hours every day in the fresh air and sunshine, picking up that tan and getting lots of exercise.
That’s why I respond to Vincent, and applaud him. If people take one look at me and don’t approve of what they see, my position is: Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. So here is a man who likes to wear pimp suits and wave them at tour boats. So why not? What are the people on the boats so busy doing that they don’t have time for that? I suspect something like 99 percent of them are more entertained by Vincent than by the information that Mies van der Rohe designed the IBM Building, which stands across the street as an affront to the tinny new Trump Tower. As least they can smile and wave and tell the folks at home about that wacky guy they saw on the bridge.
Yeah. I love Ebert.