Happy Birthday big guy! That’s what I would always email you on your birthday. Today! Has it really been more than a year since you’ve left us? I still find myself checking your Twitter and Facebook accounts to see if you’re really there. But you’re really gone. Such a huge hole you’ve left behind.
Friday was always THE day for me, waking up on the other side of the world, giddy for what you’d have to say for the movies of the week. You were the oracle that so many of us went to. And now, we’re left with fortune tellers. At least that’s what it feels like.
It’s not that your peers aren’t worth reading, because there are many other great film critics, many who I’ve come to know personally because of you, whose perspectives and insights rival and perhaps outstrip even yours. But film critics are creatures of trust. And that bond is borne out of a confluence of qualities that you were blessed to have, and might never befall any other again. Like A.O. Scott said, you were singular.
People love to talk about how great and passionate a writer you were. But I don’t think much credit has been given to your prolificacy. I could count on you to write about pretty much every film out there, rarely missing a beat week after week even with illness nipping at your heels. You were a human IMDB before that database even existed. You weren’t just a star of film criticism, you were a resource. God knows how comforting that was for those like me trying to understand why a movie was good or bad.
I wonder what it will be like for the next generation of movie lovers. Who will they be refering to when they try to sort out their cinematic values? Will it be the aggregate scores of IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic? Or will they actually read the reviews that are linked on those sites? Your name would always be at the top of IMDB’s “External Reviews.” That speaks for itself. But who will speak for the future? You weren’t always the last word, but for so many, you were the springboard.
It’s not just your reviews I miss. When you lost your voice, you discovered how many readers you had from outside the US, and chose your “Far-Flung Correspondents” for the way they touched you in their writing, and for their perspectives they provided from beyond America’s borders. You gave us an opportunity to enrich film conversation. Now that you are not around to unite us with your presence, the conversation is dwindling, perhaps dying.
That’s what I miss most about you: you were a uniter. The people you brought together would run through walls for you, because of how you genuinely cared for them and what they cared for. This was true whether it was on Twitter, Facebook, or in person, and everyone I have talked to about your unique quality all respond with the same seven words: “I don’t know how he did it.” However you did it Roger, you did it effortlessly.
Perhaps it is fitting that Father’s Day is close to your birthday. Because you were a movie dad to so many. Writing for you never felt like work. It felt like family. You are sorely missed big guy.