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Opening Arguments

RIP, Roger Ebert

I didn't care much for Roger Ebert in his latter years, after he became just another mouthy liberal gasbag substituting fashional attitudes for real thought. I mean, jeez, he called first daughter Barbara Bush an "ignorant yob" and endlessly praised Michael Moore's despicable "Bowling for Columbine."

But I really enjoyed the reviews of Early Ebert, who seemed more than other critics to genuinely like the movie-going experience. More often than not, if he recommended a movie, I liked it, too. And I especially enjoyed his weekly PBS pairing with Gene Siskel. There wasn't anything like it before, and there hasn't bee since. They so enjoyed competing with each other, I think, that it made both of them better.

Here is Ebert from 21 years ago, on why "Casablanca" is The Movie:

Of course "Casablanca" is not about love anyway, but about nobility. Set at a time when it seemed possible that the Nazis would overrun civilization, it seriously argues that the problems of a few little people don't amount to a hill of beans. The great break between "Casablanca" and almost all Hollywood love stories--even wartime romances--is that it does not believe love can, or should, conquer all. As I analyze my own feelings about the small handful of movies that affect me emotionally, I find that I am hardly ever moved by love, but often moved by self-sacrifice.

Like everyone who deeply cares for movies, I identify with some characters more than I might want to admit. In "Casablanca," I identify with Rick, and what moves me is not his love for Ilsa but his ability to put a higher good above that love.