Posts Tagged 'Death'

Roger Ebert Writes for Me!

Here is the 2nd post about Mr. Ebert and in no way the final one. You’ll hear about him again in a month or so when I make my list of Top 10 movies from 2008. It will be shared with all, even though it will be written mostly for me. 

Back to Ebert. He has a bi-weekly column called “Great Movies,” in which he… reviews a Great Movie. It can be popular, obscure, old, new, black & white, color, silent, talkie, or any mixture of them. It is a great way to learn about movies. And it is not an absolute science. For instance, he recently reviewed 2002’s “Adaptation,” which was not his #1 movie of that year, “Minority Report” was, but “Adaptation” has been bumped up to Great status first. This is neither here nor there.

It is not unkind or untrue to say that Ebert is getting older. He has health problems. He has been unable to speak for at least 18 months, and worse, he was unable to write for a long, empty spell. It seems to me like he is choosing movies as his way to say good-bye. He is making amends with some movies, like “The Godfather, Part II.” He is choosing movies about God – recently “Through a Glass Darkly” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” – and now “Magnolia,” (my favorite film) which is also quite a lot about death, as are “Adaptation” and “A Prairie Home Companion,” which was the final film of one of Ebert’s favorite filmmakers, Robert Altman. As it happens, Paul Thomas Anderson, who wrote and directed “Magnolia” helped out on that film, since Altman was sick. He acted as insurance for the film’s completion. If “Magnolia” is interested with the interconnectivity of life, then its appearance at this very moment in Ebert’s cannot be overlooked.

Ebert discusses the film’s obsession with coincidences, or rather, how coincidence may not be coincidence at all, it just seems that way from down here. So what does it mean that the review was posted on Thanksgiving? And what does it mean that I was in Ebert’s home city of Chicago this Thanksgiving, on the VERY DAY he published this review? Did he write this review for me and neither of us knew it? 

I have not talked about “Magnolia” yet, really, and I’m not going to. Too early in the blog’s life to go on and on about it… and I will. For now, be contented that Ebert is the world’s best film critic, and even though “Magnolia” is not his favorite movie of all time, I betcha he writes about it better than I will. Read it.


Sad Sad Sad

Writer David Foster Wallace was found dead in his home late last week. He hanged himself. He was 46. And today’s blog is brought to you by the letter, why?

There is no answer. Even if there WAS an answer, it wouldn’t be an answer, how could it be? A question wrapped in an incomplete explanation is what it would be. So, a better question might be, now that he has left us, what has he left us with? He was not exactly prolific, there are only 2 novels, and a handful of short story and essay collections. Perhaps you may stumble across an old article of his at some point. So, what does he leave? Most notably, he leaves behind the Biblically-lengthy novel Infinite Jest, a 979-page behemoth of a book, with an additional 96 pages of teeny-tiny foot-notes. What is the novel about, though? And here we are, back to the questions again.

With all suicides, there is that tendency to say either, “We had no idea, he seemed so normal,” or “If only we’d stepped in sooner.” Both are well-meaning, and I’ve thought both recently. To me, reading his work, he seemed incredibly intellectual, and, by his writing, put-together. Then, because he will not leave my mind, I went online and looked some stuff up. Watched about a 30 minute interview with Charlie Rose from 1997. And I was startled by how manic he was. Manic in the saddest, scariest sense of the word. He seemed constantly embarrassed, unsure of himself, apologetic for his answers. Near the end of the interview, Rose mentioned some thoughts of suicide, and DFW said he hated that people talked about that, because it felt so ordinary a thing to feel. Watching it felt eerie. But, honestly, if I’d seen it while he was still alive, I would’ve had a completely different reaction. Would’ve assumed he’d exorcised some demons. Would’ve assumed that was his eccentricity shining through, not a legitimate part of himself.

Fairly, or not, artists are summarized by their work. It is, after all, why they are known to us at all, so there is a posthumous fluency to this categorization. About his life, what really do we know? What is known is what is known publicly. His family and friends are allowed to feel the loss on a deeper, more personal level, but the only effect he can have on us, or at least me, is what his work did personally to me. And in that way, I guess, he lives on, and he does not. For his work will live on, for those who read 979 page novels and essay collections. And the lines like “He seemed to be a writer who…” will amass and disperse into the air.

So, what is there to say about him?

I could list for you all of his accomplishments, the Genius Grants, the Fellowships, the accolades, since many of you reading this likely do not know such trivia. But I didn’t know it either, while he was alive, so what point could possibly be served by it now that it has ceased to matter? I don’t know most of it now, still. I would have to look it up, just to write it down. It would seem much more impressive than it is. A rallying cry to remember a man who I forgot to learn about in the first place, you know, while he was alive…? Remembrance is for those who have a history, a relationship. I read two of his books, both of which have parts that stick out and a stylistic flair, and both of which left me equally as annoyed as elated. Not much of a history. So perhaps this note is much less memorial and much more apology.

At least now I might actually read Infinite Jest.


It Has Come to This

February 2019
« Sep