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.
5 thoughts on “Losing Roger Ebert”
Terez, thanks for the memory. I actually wasn’t aware that he had passed until I was reading your site here. I remember much about Mr. Ebert and his “never too gentle” movie criticisms. Loved that he never pulled any punches about what he saw on the screen. I’m thankful that you received some “warmth” from his words to your writer’s heart.
Thanks for your comments, Donna. My son and I were discussing going to a movie that very day, and I hesitated, wanting to see what Roger Ebert had to say about it before I made any decision. We were both sad about his death, the next day, when I brought it up. Worse, we went to go see Jurassic Park in 3D, instead of the other movie (I never checked what Roger said about it). Surely Roger gave Jurassic Park a mostly thumbs’ down, as I did. First half, fine. Second half, all screams, hide and seek, chomping dinos, zero plot development. You go to watch the dinos chomp and the kids cower in terror. Yawn. But it was a gift to the son for his B-day, so I was happy to do it for him. But I sure did think of Roger Ebert; I’m gonna miss the guy and his great essays.
Oh My goodness, I stand humbled. Apparently he LOVED Jurassic Park and the 3-D remake. He reviewed it – sob! – the day before he died. Or that’s when it was published.
Very much worth a peek: http://www.rogerebert.com
Okay, I am standing humbled for a second time. (Actually, now I’m down to my knees.) Some folks at the above site/review informed me that the review I’d referred to had been written by Neil Minow. So, okay, not Roger Ebert. And here is the link to Roger Ebert’s review of the movie, back in 1993: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jurassic-park-1993. Thank you to the two posters at RogerEbert.com who clarified that for me!
… And is it disingenuous of me to say now, “Yes, the Roger Ebert review really SOUNDS like Roger”? Just a little more skeptical of some of the elements of the story, the acting, etc. More Roger Ebert’s intelligent snark, if you will. But I’m grateful I trusted what Neil Minow said, enough to think he sounded like Roger Ebert (albeit a more enthusiastic, praising one). I need a Roger Ebert replacement now, after all.
If anyone else knows of a good, trustworthy film reviewer to fill the great man’s shoes, please drop his name here in “comments”!