Ebert’s Death Gets Two Thumbs Down

As you’re all certainly aware if you’ve seen the news at all recently: Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert has died of cancer, at the age of 70.  I’ve always been a fan of his witty movie reviews and valued his opinions, especially since he was one of those critics who would look at an action film devoid of any original storyline or fancy videography and say, “Two thumbs up, because it gives you exactly what you expect for a story-devoid action flick!”

He wasn’t a ‘hipster’ critic who would give a movie low ratings because it didn’t have a moral message or didn’t have fancy screen transitions or crap like that.  He would watch a movie and say he liked it and tell us all “if you like this stuff, you’ll like it, too”.

As a gamer, however, I have been on the supportive side of a lot of vitriol against the man.  This is because in 2005 he took a ‘greater than thou’ stance against video games.  Not because of violence, or overt sexism, or even over-sexualization…but because he believed that video games are not and will not ever (he later modified to ‘not in this lifetime’) be art.

I think his opinion is incredibly faulty when you consider this…

abstract_art Weeping Woman 1937 by Pablo Picasso 1881-1973 warhols_campbell_soup_image_flickr-15112330_std

…to be art.  But not this…

FF 20100207_heavy_rain LC

And we’re just talking visually, let’s look at sound.  Movies have iconic music such as the Godfather, the Terminator, Lord of the Rings, Titanic, Indiana Jones, James Bond, etc.

But what about video games?  Listen to the Halo opening, FTL’s Milkyway theme (which I’ve been playing a bit of recently, BTW), Final Fantasy 8’s theme song for the Landing at Dollet, Assassin’s Creed III’s title theme.  And that’s not even including the classic games like Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, Mega Man, and Castlevania!

Especially considering Ebert felt that movies were art.  The same thing that in the early 1900’s was laughed at as a passing fad and writers and literary critics said that movies would never be considered art.

But that was just the start, calling games not a medium of art.  He went further when he defended his position and was asked whether or not he had ever even played a game to see their artistic significance.  His response?  “I’ve never found a game worthy of my time.”

He did later soften his stance and admit that he didn’t have enough experience with the medium to really consider any opposing views because he just had no interest in games to even research them.

Naturally even normally non-vocal gamers rose up in arms against Ebert, some going so far as to call for boycotts of his show, articles, and even appearances.  People wanted to see him fall!

But now?  Now he is dead…and gamers are sad.  We admit our differences of opinion and we lament the passing of a legendary movie critic.  We admit that ‘our’ boycott failed miserably because we valued his opinion on movies too much to ignore him.

This is, ironically enough, exactly why we were so mad about his flippant opinion.  Because it made our ‘art’ sound like some childish fascination, when really we are high-thinking individuals whose opinions and experienced should be valued and regarded just as equally and just as highly as a movie watcher.

That being said, it’s a sad loss for good criticism.  Not perfect criticism, because there’s no such thing.  But when it comes to movies…I know I’m probably going to be forced to watch a lot crappier movies without his advice to guide me in the right direction.

~RCS

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