Pic-A-Flic Video: A Letter to Roger Ebert

Yesterday, legendary movie critic and Pulitzer Prize Winner Roger Ebert passed away. He will be greatly missed. I shared my thoughts on his passing in a blog, but I also came across another’s words on what Ebert meant to him.

Pic-A-Flic is an iconic video store and long-time fixture in the Cook St. Village area of Victoria, B.C. I always enjoyed going into this quirky business because they pride themselves on the obscure and different, beyond the mainstream. For example, they don’t have a “foreign” section…they have Russian and French sections along with many others. They aren’t just a video store, they’re a cross-cultural kaleidoscope of cinema (I just made that up but it’s almost aliteration). It’s co-owner Rob Nesbitt, tends to be the voice of the company, posting blogs and engaging on their Facebook page. Which is where I found this “letter to Roger”. With his permission, I thought I’d share it again here.

This is Rob.
I can’t begin to convey how saddened I am at the passing or Sun Times critic, Roger Ebert.
I started watching “Sneak Previews” on KCTS, the public broadcasting station in Seattle, in about 1979 when I moved to Tacoma, Washington.
I was 11 years old.
I was into movies for sure–most of my playtime involved either Star Wars or dressing up like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man so obviously a lot of what I was influenced by culturally came from the movies.
Seeing two grown ups (Ebert and the late Gene Siskel) talk seriously about movies changed me. Listening to what they had to say and how they spoke about film gave it a weight that wasn’t there before I came into contact with what they were: Film Critics.
I tended to agree with Roger more than Gene and used to get angry at Gene for his dismissal of movies I loved. Roger both seemed more forgiving of marginal, b-grade movies yet in possession of impeccable taste.
I couldn’t get enough. They inspired me to watch more movies and expand my viewing horizons. Their “Buried Treasures” episode gave me my first glimpse of A Clockwork Orange–the slow-mo scene of the droogs walking by the canals just before Alex metes out the punishment to the rest of the gang for conspiring to remove him from his leadership status. That scene scarred and terrified me but I was determined to see the movie.

Their review of Apocalypse Now similarly scared me and aroused my curiosity. These two MEN were unnerved by this movie–what did it contain?!? What secrets about mankind did it hold?
I saw that movie about 10 times at the age of 12 and it is still my favorite film of all time.

A few years back, on my lunch break at Pic A Flic, I read the article in a men’s magazine (it may have been “Details”, I’m not sure) about Roger Ebert’s cancer, his jaw removal and the subsequent complications during his recovery. The descriptions of his courage and his honesty about all of it was remarkable. I was so moved by the piece that I sat and cried–sobbing–in the back room for 10 minutes beyond my allotted time while I tried to compose myself.
I was so shaken by this man’s brush with death. I don’t know him but I feel I do since I grew up watching and reading him. I realized his influence on me and my relationship to movies is as great as any other single thing in the history of film.

His contribution to film criticism as a form can’t be underestimated.
His influence on the generations who came to almost need his opinion on a certain movie they were interested in can’t be measured and a value can’t be put on that relationship.

I never met him but I loved him.
For real.

As the staff of Pic-A-Flic say, “they love movies and they have lots of them.” And apparently Roger Ebert had a hand in fostering that love. Thanks to Rob for allowing me to share his feelings and thoughts.

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  1. Very touching letter Rob and thabks for sharing Russel. Roger Ebert helped me to understand my passion formovies at a young age and taught me so much about the artistic craft as well as the cultural impact of great filmmaking.

    I’ll miss him with each new release.

    Two giant thumbs up Roger. Thank you and Rest in Peace.
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  2. Thanks for the comment Scott. I think many of our generation had their eyes opened by Roger to the art and process and intention of movies, rather than just the “they exist to please me” understanding. I never turned the channel when I came upon At the Movies and it only continued to foster my love of film. I knew I loved them, Roger showed me why.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

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