“I put on Dave Brubeck music in the room and had everyone settle down. I was sitting next too him on his bed holding his left hand. Other people held my hand and formed a circle around and held hands. Until the doctor said he was going to call it. 1:40pm was the time of death.” – Chaz Ebert (Roger Ebert’s wife)
I was always fascintaed by Roger Ebert. Like Roger, I find myself drawn to movies. He said “I have probably seen 10,000 films and reviewed 6,000 of them. I hope I have forgotten most of them.” His point was that movies are an escape, good ones are rare and great ones are nearly an illusion.
I love films. I go to the movies by myself and watch some of my favorites over and over.
Jurassic Park is a movie I could watch every day. Roger, however could not. In 1993 he lamented that Jurassic Park was too quick to the punch, “if Spielberg had made ‘Close Encounters’ today, we would have seen the aliens in the first 10 minutes, and by the halfway mark they’d be attacking Manhattan with death rays.” But we were in different parts of our life. Roger had just married his wife, Chaz, whom would become his primary caretaker only 14 years after they wed. He wanted romance from Spielberg.
I, however, was 14. I loved dinosaurs and technology and computer animation and THIS was going to be the movie that delivered on all fronts. In fact, Jurassic Park became the highest grossing film of all time (up to that point). It has the reputation of giving Hollywood the go-ahead to use CGI in almost every major action film since. Before Jurassic Park, CGI was used to make explosions look bigger and present backdrops. Now, an entire flock of dinosaurs could leap off the screen and seem real.
I had just graduated my eighth grade year at St. Philips. Going on to high school was a scary adventure I was not sure how to prepare for. Jurassic Park was about a theme park of real dinosaurs in some place called Isla Nublar (Dark Island). The idea of a part of the world so different from myself – of a place where miracles happen and high adventures abound – captivated me. In fact, I think I will go see it tonight for $2.
Roger Ebert’s perspective was important and his legacy on film and television and newspapers is matchless. For me, his greatest quote about movies was this:
“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”
As a 14 year-old with a limited understanding of the breadth of life experiences, I knew that Steven Spielberg had made that movie for me. In this movie, I learned about failure and the price of audacity in the face of great risk. I also learned about the triumph of the human spirit and altruism. AND, I got to see some pretty kick-ass dinosaurs with my dad and brothers. The whole time my father whispering into my ear “Do you know how they do that?” and “He wanted them to look like birds” and “I read about this scene – all CGI.” I love that.