04/04/2013 05:47 EDT | Updated 06/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Roger Ebert: Nobody Did it Better

FILE - In this photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic Roger Ebert works in his office at the WTTW-TV studios in Chicago. The Sundance Institute announced Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 that Ebert will be the recipient of the Vanguard Leadership Award in recognition of his advocacy of independent film. The award will be presented at the third annual "Celebrate Sundance Institute" benefit on June 5, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

RIP Roger Ebert. There was nobody better.

What more can you say about someone who's story was summed up so well by his own words?

His own prose. His own opinions. His own critical look at everything, even himself. His fairness. His love for movies, and for their viewers.

His own thumbs, whether they were up or down.

Roger Ebert was a taken-for-granted staple. At least, for most of my life he was. He was well-established before I was born, and his TV shows with Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper were a given to be there for me if I was sick from school, or faking sick from school (and, most of the time, it was the latter). Of course, I never made an intentional attempt to watch it. It was just on, like most of TV.

But, everybody knew Roger Ebert.

Something about him was more familiar and more popular than his co-hosts. Something about his opinion mattered to you. How great was it when he'd love an under-appreciated movie you also loved when nobody else did?

He was like that. Heat. Crash. Syriana. He thought they should have all won Best Picture, and only one of them did. (It's no surprise, then, that Crash is also perhaps the most hated Best Picture winner of all-time.)

He stood up for films like Somewhere, the Chateau Marmont passion piece from Sofia Coppola. While most folks with a few inches in a newspaper called the film a snooze fest, and they weren't alone, Ebert wrote, "Coppola is a fascinating director. She sees, and we see exactly what she sees."

He defended films he cared about and they often had taken an unnecessary beating from other critics.

Of course, he could be nasty, too. All film critics should, from time to time.

The important thing about Ebert, though, was that he didn't waste his praise on films that didn't deserve it and he didn't crop dust his disgust onto anything he felt was equally opposite.

When I was 21, I had to write a paper on a Czech film by a young Milos Forman for my Political Science class. The movie was called The Fireman's Ball. It's about an elderly community of Czech public servants who are celebrating the retirement of one of their peers. We were supposed to explain how Forman used this collection of clumsy elders to explain the political and social conventions of those who lived -- and were trapped -- behind the Iron Curtain.

We all pulled off decent marks, but we all read Ebert's now-old review first.

"I'm trying to write it like Roger Ebert's review," my buddy Nick said. "But it's too damn good."



Roger Ebert was an honest critic. He was there for the movies.

How many others can say the same? (Myself included.)

At the end, he became as big as the actors and directors he profiled. He was the Trailer before all the trailers. He was the Internet before the web. He was TV when it was still television.

So, I'll say it again, because I really mean it...RIP Roger Ebert. Nobody was better.

This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.