The only good thing about the death of Roger Ebert is that it has provoked an outpouring of Internet content residing far from a realm the critic never stood for: “snark.” It’s been one heartfelt, spectacular, memorable article after another, a tribute trail that includes a wonderful April 4 essay by Studio City-Sherman Oaks Patch editor Mike Szymanski.
Szymanski was lucky enough to forge a relationship with Ebert that went much further than most such Fourth Estate brushes. It started on the red carpet of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in 1986 and blossomed into a fantastic same-time-next-year tradition north of the border:
We got to know each other by covering many, many film festivals together, and later found out we had a close mutual friend, [the late] Canadian-Italian journalist Angela Baldassarre, and for more than a dozen years always scheduled a dinner or lunch together no matter how busy we were during the crazy Toronto Interational Film Festival.
Roger would lament how the Internet was hurting film criticism, because anyone could be a critic. And, he pointed out that, anyone can become come a critic, but he thought that people should know film history. “There are kids who are writing about movies who have never seen Gone With the Wind on the big screen,” he said. “Well, and some haven’t seen it at all!”
Szymanski also reminds hilariously of a hazard of the grinding film festival coverage game. He writes that more than once at TIFF, he, Ebert and Baldassare all fell asleep… at the same screening! There’s also another much less frivolous bit of personal history connecting these three.
Read the full Patch piece here. And if you want to know more about Baldassarre, a good place to start is a brief 2007 obit penned for Toronto’s NOW magazine by future TIFF full-time programmer Cameron Bailey. RIP Angela, RIP Roger.