Thursday, April 04, 2013

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

I've just now read that Roger Ebert died today at the age of 70. He had a long, tough battle with cancer, and just yesterday announced in a journal entry that the cancer was back in force. His entry seemed to be planning for the future, but it also seemed to be saying goodbye. And now here we are, saying goodbye.

I can remember watching Sneak Previews and At the Movies at a pretty early age. I loved the show, particularly Ebert, and I loved movies. Ebert's criticism is what taught me to think critically about movies and to have subjective opinions about them and state them boldly, even if I still get people on the internet who get upset with me for it. His show and his reviews fostered both my love of movies and my love of writing. He's one of my personal writing heroes. He also expanded the way I thought; he was the first one to show me how pop culture could be an indicator of society and politics rather than "just mindless entertainment."

It's been sad watching him decline the last several years, both in health and in his written output. The selfish part of me has really missed his criticism; the empathetic part of me hated seeing a man who inspired me so much, an icon and a fellow Midwesterner, deteriorate in health. If there's any consolation, it's that he can't suffer anymore.

Though there are other film critics I like or think are okay, Roger Ebert was the only one I ever sought out, and the only one whose opinion I really took seriously. We didn't always agree, of course, but more often than not I could see the validity of his opinion. His passing is a real loss to film journalism, and even the critics I think are decent at their job aren't really ever going to reach me on the level he did.

That final journal entry began with Ebert, unfailingly gracious to the last, simply saying "Thank you. Forty-six years ago on April 3, 1967, I became the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Some of you have read my reviews and columns and even written to me since that time. Others were introduced to my film criticism through the television show, my books, the website, the film festival, or the Ebert Club and newsletter.  However you came to know me, I'm glad you did and thank you for being the best readers any film critic could ask for."

Thank you, sir.


Carl said...

Very well said

Lockwood said...

I agree with Carl. Someone Tweeted earlier, in effect, "I don't think I've ever been as saddened by the loss of a person I never met," and that's just too true for me. Just six months ago, Salon posted a profound and moving excerpt from his autobiography, on his views of death. It's a comfort to read, but a sad reminder of who we've lost. "I do not fear death. I will pass away sooner than most people who read this, but that doesn't shake my sense of wonder and joy."