Selected Obituaries For Roger Ebert

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by Forrest Cardamenis
April 5, 2013 11:49 AM
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It feels like every film critic on the planet has something to say about Roger Ebert today. We're trying to collect them all as best we can, but it's no easy task.

Following his passing, many took to Twitter to praise the influence of the late critic on their own writing -- and to their own blogs and websites to publish obituaries ranging from professional to personal. Yesterday, Criticwire's Matt Singer published his own thank you and obituary. Today, this page will compile the words of critics, writers, and filmmakers, who wrote their own longer statements about Ebert, and will be updated throughout the day.

LAST UPDATE: April 7th, 1:45 PM -- with contributions from Richard Corliss, Matt Zoller Seitz, Kristopher Tapley, Drew McWeeny, Alan Sepinwall, and Aaron Aradillas.

Selected Obituaries For Roger Ebert:

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times:

"To this day, I shake my head in wonder when I look back at all the time I spent with such a great and wonderful presence. The world lost a great voice today."

Jim Emerson, Chicago Sun-Times:

"He was oblivious to the concept of weekends, holidays or any limitations on working hours. He really liked to write. But, if you read him, you know that."

"We remember Roger. We will always remember Roger. He normalized cinephilia. He made finding the art in life and the life in art seem unremarkable yet deeply satisfying activities, things that everyone could and should do. We didn’t so much absorb his insights as walk through them, like a door in a dream that opens to reveal a previously unnoticed room."

"When he lost the ability to eat and speak, he became more acutely aware of the pleasures he no longer had access to, and his personal writing on such subjects from this period is as essential, if not more so, than any of his writing on film. That was what defined Ebert more than anything: he wasn't just a movie expert--he was a life expert. We should all be so lucky."

"Shortly after the news of Ebert's passing, a funny thing happened. Friends and loved ones started contacting me to see if I was doing okay. You would think that there had been a death in my family. Considering how long he's been a part of my life, I suppose there had been."

"That seems to be the memory of so many people today: That someone who had reached the top of his profession, instead of becoming a standoffish jerk, was instead kind and inviting."

"There is now a huge hole left in the world of film criticism--and heck, the world in general, if the outpouring of fond remembrances when the news broke yesterday is any indication--as a result of Roger Ebert's passing."

"Joy--in movies, in conversation, in language, in life--was not something that Roger Ebert meted out parsimoniously. He had more than enough to last a lifetime, and now that he's gone, he’s left so much behind."

"Whether he knew it or not, Roger Ebert was there for me at several key moments in my life. He inspired me by living the life he led and by facing illness and mortality with dignity and grace."

"Roger Ebert and his on-screen foil Gene Siskel showed up on my local PBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., when I was a preteen on a show called 'Sneak Previews,' and pretty much from the minute I saw it, I knew what I wanted to do for a living." -- "Capone" Steve Prokopy

"Roger Ebert was a guide through this incredible journey and I will miss him for the rest of my life." -- "Nordling" Alan Cerny

"The point is, Roger's openness and youthful enthusiasm is what inspired me to write about films at all, something I soon continued to do on a regular basis when, on my first day at college, I became film critic for The Stanford Daily."

"Ebert's style embodied intelligence, sharp wit, sensitivity and knowledge. But it rolled off the page with ease, and will be remembered for rejecting any arbitrary dividing line between the voice of an average guy and the voice of a sensitive, lyrical expert."

"Mind you, his extemporaneousness was more apparent than real: His reviews are rich with insights that come only after careful consideration, and his entertaining style is clearly fueled by nimble intelligence and a strong sense of film history. He was, in short, a great writer who wrote best about what he loved most. (Remember: He was the first -- and for several years the only -- film critic to claim a Pulitzer Prize.)"

"I often wrestle with self-doubt, wondering if I will ever distinguish myself as a writer, whether to even bother to keep going when so many of my peers have a way with analysis and language that seems so far beyond my grasp. At those times I think of the fire and joy in Ebert's eyes, the dedication to life and work not for money or prestige or Pulitzers, but for the simple, affirming act of experiencing movies and talking about them, of continuing and sometimes even beginning conversation of film that could approach it intellectually without sacrificing the ineffable awe of moviegoing."

"Looking at the outpouring of memories and favorite quotes on social media, I think his greatest achievement may have been to remind us that critics matter, not just as opinion-makers but as human beings."

"'Life is a gift,' says one of the characters to her inquisitive young nephew, who is asking her the Big Questions about life, death, and faith. Roger probably experienced the meaning of this line this more intimately than most people. For many years, he had been close to death, bravely refusing silence even when having a voice could no longer be literally true. A lesser man might have succumbed to grief and depression, but Roger developed a resounding 'virtual' voice online, continuing to celebrate the films worthy of attention."

"Everyone who was inspired by him (which is pretty much everyone who's ever written a movie review) is shaken to the core today but encouraged by the lasting lessons he taught us all. The movie theater is a little darker tonight."

"He could write as eloquently about a bar he used to frequent as he could about a climactic moment in an Alfred Hitchcock classic. In his later years, Roger Ebert knew no limits, and this freedom gave birth to some of the richest, most vulnerable work of his whole career."

In addition to critics, many filmmakers and others have poured out their love for Ebert. Slate has compiled the words from various filmmakers in one article, from Tweets to longer platforms. Some excerpts:

"Words fail me. Is it unusual to talk about loving a film critic? In this case, no. I truly loved Roger. And can't believe he is gone." -- Errol Morris

"The importance of Siskel/Ebert to independent filmmakers like myself cannot be overstated." -- Albert Brooks

"A profound loss for anyone who has ever loved going to the movies. My heart goes out to Chaz and the city of Chicago. Just heartbroken." -- Jason Reitman

And here's the Werner Herzog audio translated to text.

From Kartemquin Films, whose credits include the Ebert-championed "Hoop Dreams" and the upcoming adaptation of Ebert's memoir "Life Itself."

In a moment of unashamed tastefulness, from The Onion:

"'While not without its flaws, life, from birth to death, is a masterwork, and an uplifting journey that both touches the heart and challenges the mind,' said Ebert, adding that while the totality of all humankind is sometimes 'a mess in places,' it strives to be a magnum opus and, according to Ebert, largely succeeds at this goal."

"Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient - continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world.  The movies won't be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family."

"That is what Roger Ebert taught me.  A good film is a living thing with a point of view and I should stop expecting it to be what I demand and let it be whatever the hell it wants to be.  A film may succeed or it may fail, but at least it was given every chance.  And in an age when everybody seems to simply be waiting for their turn to talk, it's worth noting that there was one man that spent his life encouraging us to walk into a movie theater, sit down, and listen."

Eugene Hernandez, Film Society of Lincoln Center:

"I was always honored to receive Roger's endorsement. At festivals around the world, Roger and his wife Chaz were continually quick with a word of support and a nod of encouragement. Public and private seals of approval validated the work that we were doing even from the earliest days of Indiewire. The last time I saw Roger he offered me a trademark thumbs up."

Scott Meslow, The Week:

"In a characteristic display of generosity, Roger Ebert began what turned out to be his final blog post with the words 'thank you,' and spent much of it describing his excitement about adding new writers and voices to his blog. I have no doubt that even with the immeasurable loss of Ebert himself, the critics he taught and inspired will carry on his legacy for generations of film lovers to come."

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, MUBI:

"The thing that I've tried to stress in all of [the interviews] -- aside from your generosity -- is that good criticism always comes from a place of love. A critic's credibility depends on their honesty, and their love for a medium and its possibilities. You had both."

Scott Foundas, Variety:

"It would be all too easy to position Roger's passing as some sort of literal manifestation of the much-discussed 'death' of film criticism, but no one would object to that idea more than Roger himself, who believed passionately in criticism and was, even in his final days, taking measures to ensure the future of his RogerEbert.com and its army of regular contributors and 'far-flung correspondents.' As long as there are movies, and people who feel passionate enough to write about them, and places for them to do so, then Roger's spirit will continue to flourish. The balcony remains open."

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York:

"Far from being all-encompassing, his film love was a conduit to a greater engagement with the world. I had no better role model."

Kyle Smith, New York Post:

"The proudest endorsement any movie ad could boast of was the legendary 'Two Thumbs Up! -- Siskel and Ebert.'"

David J. Fowlie, Keeping It Real:

"It didn't matter that I agreed with him (it never should), since his arguments and perspectives were always well-written and confidently stated. I understood and appreciated his opinion, even when I thought he was wrong. Like you, I can rattle off a list of films that he introduced me too and for that alone, we owe him gratitude."

Sean Gallagher, Cinnaminson Patch:

"Roger got me excited about movies in a way I never had before. Sure, I was entertained by movies, like many kids are. Roger showed me that movies could be something more than just entertainment, they can be an art form."

Kan Cancelosi also made a video essay capturing Siskel and Ebert's chemistry for Press Play.



Jonathan Lack, We Got This Covered:

"For without ever literally conversing with him, Roger Ebert was a major, essential influence to me, a hero and a mentor for whom I had nearly limitless respect and admiration, someone I not only looked up to, but whose spirit I have tried to emulate throughout my critical career."

Ben Kenigsburg, Time Out Chicago:

"At a time when most critics had their past judgments safely hidden away in libraries, it was unprecedented to be able to browse Ebert's site and uncover his skepticism on 'Blue Velvet' or 'The Untouchables'...But it’s his warm embrace -- with his influential championing of such films as 'Hoop Dreams' and 'Dark City' -- for which he'll be best remembered. No critic was better at cutting to the quick, at clearly and succinctly summarizing why a movie was good."

Emmanuel Levy, emmanuellevy.com:

"He was not just an influential and popular film critic, but also an extremely kind and generous man -- a humanist of the highest order."

Ryan McNeil, The Matinee:

"You were the teacher who never knew I was taking his classes without paying tuition. You were the teacher who may not have even realized how many pupils he had...I never turned in my homework, and I didn't always do the reading, but you never kicked me out of class, and never stopped trying to help me understand the greater picture."

Matt Zoller SeitzVulture:

"Siskel and Ebert had as much to do with stoking my interest in films and film criticism as anyone I knew personally. Maybe more."

Nick Usen, Gazing At Film:

"'What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away.' These words are even more poignet now that he has left us, because he  really hasn't gone away. My words, and the words of every person in my Twitter feed and across the entire web are a testament to the fact that he hasn't truly left us."

Justin Chang, Variety:

"I may have started us off on the wrong foot, but Roger redeemed our encounter with his characteristic good nature and genuine delight in engaging with his readers -- the very qualities that made him, for so many of us, an ideal companion at the movies."

Richard Corliss, Time:

"So Roger has taken a permanent 'leave of presence' -- as if his work as a critic could ever be absent from the film lover’s mind, or his heroic battle with the cancer beast can be far from our hearts. The movies won’t be the same, the President said. And neither, for Roger Ebert’s world of friends and fans, will life itself."

Kristopher Tapley, In Contenton:

"Ebert's legend will live on all the more because he -- not reinvented, but reinvigorated himself in the wake of the cancer scare that took his actual voice away. He found new life online, blogging ferociously, amassing a following via social media that reached a whole new generation, a generation that has surely been touched by the man's passion in new yet similar ways as people of mine were."

Drew McWeeny, HitFix:

"There are no words that could adequately describe to you how much Roger and his kindness meant to me."

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix:

"In an appreciation of Siskel and Siskel's favorite movie, 'Saturday Night Fever,' Ebert wrote that his partner liked to say, 'Devote your life to something you love -- not like, but love.' Roger Ebert got to spend his life doing exactly that — and thanks in part to him, so have I."

Jason Gorber, Twitch:

"For those of us of a particular age, Ebert was the quintessential film critic."

Aaron Aradillas, Press Play:

"Ebert was a writer, a newspaper man, before he was a critic. His voice as a writer is what will be remembered."


Criticwire would also like to extend condolences to Roger Ebert's wife Chaz, who survives him, and released
a statement through her husband's website. Ebert always had loving words for Chaz, and our thoughts are with her in this time of mourning.
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