Eulogizing Roger Ebert Apr05


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Eulogizing Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert passed away yesterday. He was 70.

If you read movie reviews regularly, you probably have a favorite critic. The wild-haired, bushy mustached Gene Shalit has his fans. I feel like Leonard Maltin owes Doug Benson an agent’s fee for introducing his podcast listeners to Maltin’s reviews. Others will identify themselves with the late Gene Siskel or Joel Siegel. I, like many, always preferred Roger Ebert.

I first encountered Roger Ebert when I was a young boy, turning the dial on my parents’s wood-pane-encased television on a weekend morning. Siskel and Ebert At the Movies was on. They were talking in a  movie theater, about a movie I was probably too young to watch and whose name is lost to time. But, I found them both fascinating, though to be truthful it would be years before I could remember which one was Siskel and which one was Ebert. Their thumbs up, thumbs down rating system quickly made its way into the US’s, and my own, lexicon.

I didn’t always agree with Ebert’s reviews (I still haven’t quite forgiven him for calling The Blair Witch Project a masterpiece), but I always respected him. Like any great review, his reviews were both well thought out and well written. I wish my reviews were written half as well as his. His reviews didn’t come from his ego, and he wasn’t trying to show you that he knew more than you did like those guys at the New York Times. His reviews came from a love for the movies. They were often a jumping off point for my cousin and I when we would talk movies.

It wasn’t until Esquire published his portrait in February, 2010 that I knew about the extent of his battle with cancer. Ebert’s perseverance while battling cancer was extraordinary. The disease took his jaw, but not his will. His final byline, a review of The Host, was published just days before his death.  It saddens me how many people, both celebrities and in our own lives, that we’ve lost to cancer. I hope a cure is discovered in our lifetime.

Ebert was the gold standard of movie reviewers. American cinema is lesser for Roger Ebert’s passing.