Enter 2004. The Savannah Film Fest in downtown Savannah, Georgia on the 1st of November. Twelve-thirty in the dry afternoon at the Trustees Theatre, I was lucky enough to attend Citizen Kane, A Shot in Time – Hosted by Roger Ebert. Naturally a sold out venue, Roger invites all to take a journey literally alongside with him in a shot by shot, frame by frame analysis of Citizen Kane. As Roger regards it as a film that keeps revealing itself to the audience, as he has claimed, “Every great film should seem new every time you see it.” With that, he turns his podium into a chair and gives the audience the spotlight. In this case, it’s the cloak of darkness that permits any anonymous outburst to point out the seams of the film. Its characters, the editing, set production, symbolism and cinematography details aren’t safe if they aren’t hidden, as all two hours of the film are analyzed and dissected like a med school open forum.
The whole experience gave an excited unity to the theatre, learning and participating as a group while having some laughs along the way. Having Roger admit his own realizations about the film made my experience (as well as everyone else’s) that much richer and I honestly felt the same as I would at a thrilling concert – that joyful feeling of, ‘This won’t happen anywhere else and there’s no other place I’d rather be.’
“Every great film should seem new every time you see it.”
I think the same goes for Roger and his dedication towards reviewing films. He has led a life witnessing so many stories, so many character identities and their flaws, comedic story arcs and dramatic conclusions, that the wonder never dies. For a man who may not have traveled the world in all its exotic locations, he’s been immersed within all types of cinematic storytelling and journeys, good or bad, carrying a good sense of humor along the way. To be the only film critic to get a Pulitzer Prize, he continued to the very end, reviewing 285 films a year despite his physical condition. If you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life.
His name now stands as a true testament towards the appreciation for film as well as a reminder that we should not only enjoy but share the wonder and escape of going to the movies. Rest in Peace Roger.
Now in true fashion of being in a critics seat, I have to show you a clip which (I guess) would be part of Siskel and Ebert’s ‘greatest hits’ compilation. Click on the photo above where you see them defend ‘Star Wars’ from film critic John Simon, who pretty much looks like a ship captain from the Republic side. It’s a fun little throwback debate however my focus is between the 3:00-5:00 minute marks that I think you’ll find wild to hear.
One last thing I have to share. While coming out of one of the SCAD Film Fest after-after-parties, walking down a now quiet and dimly lit Broughton Street, my friends and I encounter Roger Ebert and Jason Patric carrying a very joyful, very wasted Peter O’Toole to the next party. How this came to be was God’s doing.. and probably what Peter mentioned as a “piss-load of brandy.” The result was as hilarious and awesome as you’d expect it to be.