It was just yesterday that I read Roger Ebert's "Leave Of Presence," an announcement that he'd be stepping away from the day-to-day grind and only review those movies he truly loved. Most likely, he loved them all. Even the bad ones. Maybe especially the bad ones if it inspired a great column or classic spat with his also departed sparring partner, Gene Siskel.
Anyone who writes about visual media owes something to Roger. Anyone who needs to wade through the good, the bad, the ugly and consider it all on their own individual terms could learn something from his career. And the fact he finally stepped away mere days before he passed — even after battling cancer for years, losing his jaw and the ability to eat and speak — is a testament to what it took to pull him from his calling.
There's not really a music video angle here, except of course, there is...
Roger Ebert didn't discuss music videos very much. Movies and music videos are two very different entities: A typical movie in the theater asks for $10 and two hours of your undivided attention. A music video barely asks for four minutes and hopefully some of your attention. Bad movies are to be flagged and avoided. A bad music video? In the internet age you can make up your mind in a few seconds and move onto the next one. Smaller stakes, as they say.
He did coin the phrase Semi-OMV (Semi-Obligatory Music Video) in his Movie Glossary, describing an approximately three minute movie sequence in which "a song is played at top volume while movie characters experience spasms of hyperkinetic behavior and stick their faces into the camera lens." So, clearly, he saw his fair share of bad videos.
A better and more telling example has to do with Grand Rapids, MI; a city that was named by Newsweek to a list of Top 10 Dying Cities. The fine folks of Grand Rapids decided to show some life and filmed a massive, one-take lip-dub video: 5,000 people taking over the city for a lipdub of Don McLean's "American Pie."
That cover video — made by proud Mid-Westerners who weren't about to be told by some NYC magazine people that they occupied a dead city — was the one that Roget Ebert publicly declared "The Greatest Music Video Ever Made." Not "Thriller." Not some artsy, high-concept video. A lipdub — possibly the lowest form of music video, but done here on an epic scale by regular people with something to prove — was the greatest music video ever made.
And that's a beautiful fucking thing.
R.I.P. Roger Ebert.