In Memory of Roger Ebert: His Review of Kwik Stop (2001)

Roger Ebert died 11 years ago today.

One of the early series the writers participated in was something called “My Favorite Roger.” Each writer wrote an essay discussing their favorite review written by Roger. I chose his review of Kwik Stop, a little-seen never-even-distributed indie movie, directed by Michael Gilio (who also wrote it, and starred in it). Here is Roger’s 3-1/2 star review of Kwik Stop.

The reason this matters is not just that Kwik Stop is a wonderful movie people should see (it is rent-able: SEEK IT OUT.) – but that Michael and I have been friends for forever, basically. And our lives both intersected with Roger’s, independently, on separate tracks.

Michael was writing the script for Kwik Stop, or at least talking about it, the autumn we dated. We were a couple of kids, basically. A couple of years later, long after we split up (I moved to New York, I think he was in Los Angeles): boom, somehow the pre-social-media grapevine provided the information that Michael’s film was completed. He did it!

But then came Roger Ebert’s high profile review. This was at a time when you could not even SEE the film, even if you wanted to. Chicago friends reported back on the screening at Facets, with QA moderated by Roger (you see how much Roger involved himself in getting the word out. He meant business.) And THIS is why I picked Roger’s review of Kwik Stop as “My Favorite Roger.” If you are in a powerful position, like Roger was, it’s meaningful when you use your power for good, when you point your vast audience towards something small, off-the-beaten path, not-mainstream, under the radar. (Steve James has said repeatedly that Roger Ebert basically MADE Hoop Dreams. Roger reviewed it in print, he reviewed it on television, he included the film in his Best-of-the-Year roundups. He beat the drum for Hoop Dreams for a YEAR. THAT’S using your power.) This is what Roger did for Michael’s film.

And here’s where it gets cosmic: It all just seems too weird to be a coincidence. Way back in 2001, Roger reached his hand out to Michael to acknowledge Michael’s work … and then over a decade later, in 2013 – two months before he died – Roger did the same thing to me, reaching out to me via email, asking me if I would start writing reviews for him.

He had no idea I was connected with Michael. How would he?

And THEN … to bring it even FURTHER … that I would eventually be in a position to write a tribute to both Roger AND Michael, on Roger’s site for the “My Favorite Roger” series … I’m not a New Age woo-woo, but this whole thing gives even me pause. Something cosmic MUST be at work here.

But there’s still more: In 2002, Roger screened Kwik Stop at Ebertfest (which was then known as the Overlooked Film Festival. Kwik Stop played in the 2nd year of its existence). 15 years later, in 2017, MY short film, July and Half of August played at Ebertfest. I have the Golden Thumb to prove it.

What are the odds of all of these coincidences intersecting three separate people being coincidental?

Here is what I wrote about Roger Ebert’s review of Kwik Stop, my favorite Roger because he wanted people to KNOW about this beautiful film that was being unfairly ignored.

My Favorite Roger: Kwik Stop

Here are some screen-grabs from Kwik Stop. Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to check out the film.










UPDATE: Michael wrote Dungeons and Dragons, just released a couple days ago. So proud of this guy!

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

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8 Responses to In Memory of Roger Ebert: His Review of Kwik Stop (2001)

  1. sheila says:

    This one is also a fave.

    I had seen it before I read anything about it – and unlike most horror movies, remember thinking immediately after it was over: “I think I’m going to have nightmares tonight.”

    He’s so good at summing up an actor’s “thing” in one or two paragraphs. (The majority of critics are HORRIBLE when it comes to describing acting, and – worse – they think the direction is be-all end-all and give all credit to the director.) Ebert gives actors their due.

    I love the brief paragraph on Huppert, one of my favorite actresses:

    “Huppert, the busiest major actress of her generation, wears so well in so many different roles because she only reluctantly reveals a character’s feelings. She leaves it up to us to figure them out; there may be some play-acting involved, but we sense that most is hidden. Above all she’s ideal for characters with an enormous stubborn determination that she holds very much inside.”

    • rob says:

      These are so great. That essay on Do the Right Thing is the best thing I’ve ever read about that movie…and that movie has been written about ALOT. He just had so much humanity. I’d been reading this blog for several years when I learned he’d connected with you because he admired your writing. I was like…YES! Of course Ebert admires O’Malley! I felt like I was part of the club. He wrote beautifully about acting. After I read his essay on Streetcar, I went back and watched Brando pick that piece of lint off Stella’s sweater. Roger Ebert always lent me the keys to the locks. He still does.

      • sheila says:

        Oh yeah, the lint! I noticed that moment before I had even read Ebert’s review – I saw that movie really young – so it was cool that he pulled it out. It’s very striking. It’s the key to why Brando was so good in the role. He excluded nothing, all impulses were included.

        // I was like…YES! Of course Ebert admires O’Malley! I felt like I was part of the club. //

        Ha! That’s so nice. Thanks.

  2. Melissa Sutherland says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE when you link to old stuff of yours. I’ve been reading you for a long time, but not as far back as 2009. So to just go back like that, it’s heaven. I also love that movie and realized somewhere along the line that you were “connected” to it, but didn’t realize how. Such a wonderful circular experience. Wonderful!

    • sheila says:

      Melissa – I’m so glad you saw it! It’s the kind of movie where if it had gotten distribution, it might have picked up some momentum and visibility – I feel like it was a potential hit, you know what I mean? I’m not surprised at all that Roger grooved to it, and recognized Michael as a force to be reckoned with (director/writer/actor).

      and yeah. Boy, I used to write so much about the boyfriends! And the men in question loved it, man. I like men with healthy (huge?) egos. :) “wow, look at her paying tribute to me and me having sex and being all awesome” hahahaha I mean, not really. But yeah, kind of. But eventually I stopped – I think around 2008, 2009 – maybe because I had too many sad stories, and no desire to write about those.

      Michael’s a 100% happy memory, though, and I don’t have many of those. He’s super special!

      Thanks for reading, as always!

  3. I’ve just :A href=””>re-shared my post on Mr. Ebert’s passing. I miss his voice dearly.

  4. I loved Roger. Maybe my favorite Roger ever. As I wrote in my review of his autobiography, Life Itself. “I decided that, if I were ever to write my own autobiography – not that I necessarily would – it should be modeled on this book. Organized thematically, with an overarching, but not strict, chronology, using short chapters (55 in 420 pages).” BTW, I linked to Kelly’s review of that book at the time.

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