The arts world, as well as the larger movie-going world, lost a treasure yesterday. At age seventy, film critic and writer Roger Ebert died. It’s not unlike the feeling I got when the world lost Steve Jobs. It’s a loss that clutches at your emotions, your heart, losing this stranger but not. This genius of the trade. This person who has given the world so much. Roger Ebert was not only a peerless film critic and writer, but someone who imbued tremendous reserves of life and personality and thoughtfulness into his work. He was the only film critic I trusted wholly. He was the only film critic whose opinion mattered every time. Going to the movies, in itself, has always been so sacred to me. Just like classical music and attending the symphony, it has been my escape, my sanctuary. Those lights dim and the grand screen before me lights up, and away flit the chattering thoughts that dog me every other waking moment of the day. For decades now, Roger Ebert has been my ambassador, my liaison, to that world. If Roger said, “Don’t bother going,” I didn’t. If Roger said, “You CAN’T miss this one,” I didn’t.
A day before Ebert died, he posted the following blog to his many, many followers and fans. After forty six years, he was bowing out of his work as film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. He called it not a “leave of absence,” but a “leave of presence.” It says so much about the man, his strength and determination.
Following are some bloggers and journalists who eulogize him and his life infinitely better than I ever could.
Douglas Martin of the New York Times says, “The force and grace of his opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture. Not only did he advise moviegoers about what to see, but also how to think about what they saw.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/movies/roger-ebert-film-critic-dies.html?_r=0
A few final words, Ebert’s own, remained in my mind from the above article. “When I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was,” [Ebert] told Esquire magazine in 2010. “All is well. I am as I should be.”
That warms the writer in me. That warms the longtime Ebert fan in me. And it reminds me how fortunate we are, to have had such a prolific, intelligent and wonderful film critic in our midst for so many years, who will forever live on through his writing.