roger ebert, 1942-2013

Who would have thought a movie critic could be so loved, and so missed?

Of course, Roger Ebert was so much more than a critic. He was a model for the potential of criticism as an important contribution to art and entertainment. He helped audiences discover art and helped artists connect with audiences. He reviewed each film on its own terms, seemingly enjoying all genres and understanding the potential in each of them.

Like many of you, if you are old enough, I used to love to watch "At The Movies," with "the fat guy and the other one," as the joke went. In the 1980s and 90s, during the burgeoning of independent film, Ebert turned the world on to so many films that otherwise might have gotten lost in a mountain of quirkiness. I particularly remember Ebert championing "Say Anything," and later, "Show Me Love," two great teenage love stories. Of course, this was long before a famous scene from one of those movies was reduced to a meme. That scene was tender and almost eerily moving, and Ebert urged us to see this low-budget sleeper.

Later Ebert became a model for transcending disability, or for that matter, anything life throws at us. To me he exemplified the best of how people respond to tragedy: acknowledging pain and loss, remembering what is still good, valuing the experience, being alive to possibility, and moving on into a new world. As he said himself, he was always open to joy and wonder.

I wish I had found Ebert's blog sooner. I don't know how we missed it, since we're always looking for good movies, but somehow it flew under our radar until a few years ago. Since then, it has supplied the backbone of our movie list. I don't like as many types of movies as Ebert did, but when he recommended a film, I knew it was worth seeing.

In case you haven't seen them, some Roger Ebert reading:

In Salon: I Do Not Fear Death, in his own words.

From Ebert's blog: A statement from Ebert's partner, Chaz Ebert, and "A Leave of Presence", Ebert's final post.

Obituary from The New York Times

Also, two years ago, Ebert's struggle inspired me to write this post: thoughts on roger ebert and transcending circumstance.


James Redekop said...

Some great tributes:

- Slacktivist
- Harry Knowles
- Bent Objects

Lorne said...

I too was shocked by his passing. So large a role did Ebert play in our culture that I suspect he will be missed for a very long time. If you haven't already read it, I strongly recommend his memoir, Life Itself. It is a testament to a life well-lived on its own terms, and one of amazing race and fortitude as he reflected on his illness that robbed him of his ability to speak but in many ways, I believe, deepened his writing.

Hard to imagine a world without Roger in it.

laura k said...

Thank you for reminding me about his memoir. And I agree, losing his physical voice seemed to deepen Ebert's writing. Perhaps that was the result of his great need to communicate, with one channel cut off.

Amy said...

Thanks for writing this. This was one of those deaths that caused me to say out loud, "Oh no," when I read about it. So sad. I had no idea he had a blog. I wish I'd known sooner. I always enjoyed his arguments with Gene Siskel. He, too, died way too soon.

laura k said...

Thanks, Amy. If you go back to my older post about Ebert (linked above), in that post, there is a link to a great article about him, his struggle with his illness, losing the ability to talk and to eat, yet leading such a full and fulfilling life, giving so much.

Also, his final blog post is just bubbling over with all his plans. Although it's sad that many of those will not come to pass, to think he had such plans and such hopes when he was so ill is really wonderful. And he died peacefully with the love of his life by his side.

Good for him... sad for us.

laura k said...

Oh, I meant to say, in that older article about Ebert, he talks about losing Gene Siskel, how hard it was to recover from the loss. They were incredibly close friends and colleagues. I hadn't known that before.

Amy said...

I did read about his last Twitter post. At first I saw only a portion of it on the news, and it sounded like a farewell, but then when I realized it was not a farewell at all, I realized how he must have, at the very end, gone very quickly. In some ways that must have been a shock to his family, but his wife said it was very peaceful and painless so I suppose maybe that was for the best.

Amy said...

Yes, they played the role of rivals and "foes" very well on television, but you could always tell that there was a great deal of mutual respect and that they were having a lot of fun.

I will read the other post you wrote. Just hope it doesn't make me cry! (In reference to a comment I made the other day---these are the kinds of things that do bring tears to my eyes. It feels personal, even though I never met the man.)

Amy said...

Thanks, Laura, for directing me to the other post and the other related links. Not sure how I missed that earlier post about his blog, and I am sorry I did. Yeah, definitely a little teary, thinking about him writing that last post with so many dreams and hopes that he never saw to fruition, but comforted also by his own views on death and his healthy attitude about it.

laura k said...

I also thought his final post was a goodbye, until I read it.

I never imagined Siskel and Ebert were actually foes, but the way Ebert talked about mourning his friend, I realized there was a deep, abiding love.

I'm not sure what comment you're referring to?

I shed tears reading Ebert's last post, and Chaz's tribute. But everything makes me cry, so that is no measure of anything!

Amy said...

I don't recall which post, but in the one where you commented that you were always happy when someone reports that they learned something new from the blog and then said that even better was when someone reported that it made them cry. I then responded by saying that I rarely cry over things I read, unless they are about people I know or animals.

Amy said...

It was the baseball one about Dickey and Buehrle!

Amy said...

OK, no wonder you didn't remember it (since you seem to have an amazing memory)---it never went through! Either I never "published" it or it got lost somewhere in cyberspace, but that was the essence.

laura k said...

I never saw that comment! No wonder it didn't sound familiar. Good thing you mentioned it!

Of course I don't imagine readers are weeping. But when someone tells me they have tears in their eyes after reading something of mine, I think, bingo. Sounds awful, doesn't it?!

laura k said...

Now I know why I never saw that comment. It doesn't exist. :) Maybe you thought it but didn't type it, or maybe Blogger ate it.