Roger Would Have Loved It

I forgot Roger Ebert died,” Lisa said Saturday night. “I think I’m going to cry.”

We had just gotten back from seeing Gravity at the IMAX 3D theater up in Indy, and we were beginning our traditional pass at reading reviews–something we always do after seeing a film. It’s been quite a while since our last movie, so I assume Lisa was just on auto-pilot.

I completely agree with her feelings. I suddenly felt bad about Ebert’s passing when she mentioned him. Yes, it would have been great to read Ebert’s commentary on Gravity. But that’s not why I missed Roger Ebert that evening. In fact, to say I missed him is not quite right. I felt something totally different about Roger Ebert and Gravity. What I felt the most–what made me the most bittersweet–was the idea that Ebert didn’t get the chance to see this film, which I’m absolutely positive he would have adored.

Everyone is buzzing about the cinematography and the 3D, and they should. I’m 100% certain an Ebert review would have included glowing praise for it–it’s the first time I’ve ever seen 3D used where it wasn’t intrusive (admittedly I see only the occasional 3D film … I must say, though, that the 3D previews were laughably funny to me–especially those for the Hobbit as they all reminded me of those old viewfinders that we had as kids back in the late 60s and early 70s).

So, anyway, the look of the film is remarkable. But for me that’s the fringe.

Gravity, you see, is an absolutely amazing film that proves to me all the things I think about movies and storytelling are true. These are things like they are best when they are short (90 minutes), and it’s okay to be a little schmaltzy if you’ve earned the right to do so first. Things like they are best when they are smart, and they are best when the villain doesn’t give an inch and in fact (in this case when the villain is the vacuum of space and a rogue mass of debris) is just doing her business. They are best when the have a purpose, a message, and preferably a message about how we might best view the human condition.

There are reviewers who I’ve seen call this movie a piece of science fiction, but Ebert would have seen through that. It’s not science fiction, he would have said. It’s a contemporary story set in the real environment of space, perhaps the first of its kind (I say that now given only my background, but Ebert would know for sure, and if it wasn’t the first of its kind he would refer me to a few others–the guy knew his films). As I noted in the bit I linked, Ebert was a Skiffy guy, a geek, a follower of old-time monster movies and science fiction double features. He would see this for what it is–a victory for the world of science fiction, and story that feels like science fiction but really is not much different than any other action feature set on the Earth. It’s only speculative bits are the stretching of a few pieces of logic needed to kinda make the thing work.

Yes, I missed Roger Ebert at that moment, too. I missed reading his review. But mostly, I’m left with only one piece of sadness about the whole thing, and that’s the feeling that I really wish Roger Ebert had gotten to see Gravity because I am certain he would have loved it.

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