Some movie critics are like Holden's character before Billie Dawn replies "Then why didn't you say so?" They seem to be writing to impress other upscale critics. Not to relate to the masses. Ebert related to the masses. He seemed approachable, like a regular guy. Watch a David Edelstein film review segment on CBS Sunday Morning or listen to him on NPR's Fresh Air. Compared to Ebert on camera and in print, Edelstein is "The Yellowing Democratic Manifesto" from that scene in Born Yesterday.
Another thing: From my two decades in New York, I can tell you there are many critics of color. Many. I've seen them at movie screenings and on movie junkets. But you don't see them on TV. Many of the minority film critics that I've seen at screenings for what some would call "black films" are also at the screenings for a new Meryl Streep movie. But some white critics who attend the Meryl Streep screenings don't attend all the screenings for the "black films."
I do not mean to pick on him, but let me reference David Edelstein again. In his NPR review of 2005's Hustle & Flow, he called Terrence Howard a new actor who was "like a young Samuel L. Jackson." No he wasn't. He was like a middle-aged Terrence Howard. From 1992 to 2001, black viewers saw Terrence Howard play Jackie Jackson (of the Jackson Family), Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King associate and civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy in TV biopics. He had an important supporting role opposite Richard Dreyfuss in 1995's Mr. Holland's Opus. We saw him that same year in the social commentary film, Dead Presidents, directed by the Hughes Brothers. He had a major role in the summertime box office hit of 2000, Big Momma's House starring Martin Lawrence. Roger Ebert knew this and he knew it when the Chicago Film Critics Association hailed Howard for his 1999 performance in The Best Man with its predominantly black cast. Terrence Howard went on to be a Best Actor Oscar nominee for Hustle & Flow.
Ebert paid attention to black films, black filmmakers and black actors in big studio releases and in small independent features. He embraced diversity onscreen and, if you've ever seen the lovely Mrs. Ebert, in his personal life. When initial news broke that he was reviving his PBS association with Roger Ebert presents At The Movies, the original team was quite diverse. Two black film critics were in place -- dreadlocked Elvis Mitchell and San Francisco newspaper columnist Omar Moore.
....as you can see. The new team looked younger and more "suburban". Sadly, the revival was canceled.
But "Bravo" to Mr. Ebert for the willingness to show America that black film contributors do exist -- and that Elvis Mitchell isn't the only one. He might just be the only one TV producers think there is.
As a viewer, I was always frustrated to see only white folks on TV telling me why The Color Purple, Do The Right Thing and The Help were important films that I needed to see. The critics saw segregation in the storylines of the movies. How come they never noticed the lack of racial diversity in their own field of film critics on TV? Why were people of color not part of the discussion? Ebert noticed us and our films. He realized that Driving Miss Daisy winning the Oscar for Best Picture of 1989 while the critically acclaimed Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee didn't even get nominated that same year made a statement about race in Hollywood.
This film-lover will miss the writing and observations of Roger Ebert. True wit, knowledge and affection for film as art was such a joy over the unimaginative snarkiness that infects too much film writing on social media today. He wasn't just a great film critic. He was a great teacher. He deserved a special Oscar. He gave millions of us a better view of the movies for quite a long time.
Let's extend our condolences to Roger Ebert's wonderful wife, Chaz.
Siskel & Ebert began their TV union on WTTW, Chicago's PBS station. That was on Sneak Previews. Later, they went into syndication with Buena Vista for their At The Movies review show. In the 1980s, was contacted by WTTW to audition to be half of the new Sneak Previews team. To be contacted for that audition was an honor that still fills me with pride because of the standard Siskel & Ebert set.