R.I.P. Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

News
by Kevin Jagernauth
April 4, 2013 4:04 PM
17 Comments
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This afternoon brings some heartbreaking, sad news, for anyone even remotely a fan of the movies or cinema in general. Legendary, groundbreaking and influential film critic, writer and author Roger Ebert has passed away at the age of 70.

There are pages upon pages to be written about Ebert, his film criticism and career, and there are probably way more qualified people to do that (including the man himself, who recently published an autobiography "Life Itself"). But for many of a certain age, it was "Siskel and Ebert and The Movies" that defined their lives and introduced the movies as something so much more than just two hours of entertainment. 

Among many of us at The Playlist, Ebert (along with Gene Siskel, who passed away in 1999, ending a partnership of two lifelong friends, who fought just as two people who love each other would) was the portal and guide into movies and the makers. The weekly show was a ritual but also, was wholly accessible in a way that film criticism up until that time never really was. Ebert and Siskel broke criticism from its more academic trappings and made it fun and irreverant, but they also deeply cared about the movies they loved and hated, because it was the form itself they were so enraptured with.

A champion of good movies -- not matter if they were indies, foreign or Hollywood productions that weren't getting their due -- Ebert wrote from a well of deep passion, but also knowledge, and his writing was thoughtful, personal, insightful and a pleasure to read, a rare feat that few now can accomplish (but that we forever strive for). But moreover, Ebert was forever hopeful and optimistic about the movies. While fellow critics have continually shouted out that the form was "dead," Ebert could always be counted on to forever be looking forward, eager to see what each new reel would bring to the screen. It's a quality that marks his best work.

With the rise of the internet, Ebert embraced the online world, with his archives of reviews going digital, and he started a blog that gave him even more room to talk about the movies, and in turn, allowed him to converse directly with his fans and followers, wherever they may be. He started Ebertfest, another avenue he used to share movies he held dear, allowing them to find an audience all over again. And even as his health turned for the worse over the last decade, he adapted, and found a way to keep writing with whatever free moment he had, even if it was from a hospital bed.

Earlier this week, Ebert wrote that he was taking a "leave of presence" to deal with ongoing issues regarding his health, including a recurrence of cancer. And even as death knocked, Ebert remained fearless, even turning the topic into a reflective essay. We never thought we'd have to say goodbye to him so soon. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Ebert will not only be remembered for his writing which will continue to inspire, but for his generosity in spirit, praise and time (particularly with students) and an enthusiasm that never abated. Simply put, he's an American treasure who even until the very end, had the perfect words at the ready.

“On this day of reflection,” he wrote this week, “I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

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17 Comments

  • Den | April 5, 2013 2:18 PMReply

    Great film lover, we will be missing you!

  • MAL | April 5, 2013 9:06 AMReply

    I am not one for idolatry, but I looked up to Roger Ebert as no other. His writing, his passion for film, his outlook on life -- his own and for others -- were always things to which I strived myself and admired greatly in him. I grew up watching his show from the earliest PBS incarnation in 1978 and he opened my eyes to the power of film as art, as political statement and social educator, and as entertainment. And after he lost his voice and gained an even stronger one, he opened my eyes to a greater humanism that is possible in the face of personal and universal adversity.

    I had the honour of meeting Mr. Ebert on two occasions and he was gracious, kind, and welcoming. I truly feel I have lost a kindly uncle; one that you didn't see often but has had an impact on your young life and influenced your development from a distance. There will never be another like him and he will be sorely missed.

  • yod | April 4, 2013 10:27 PMReply

    A legend

  • DG | April 4, 2013 5:10 PMReply

    Whoa his last published words were 'See you at the movies' ? That's pretty damn epic

  • Javier | April 4, 2013 5:07 PMReply

    Always read his reviews regardless of whether I even watched the movie, his writing was that great. Loved when I would have similar opinions and also when he maddeningly seemed to dislike films for what I thought were inconsistent, odd reasons. He could destroy a film effortlessly with his prose and that's one of the best reasons why I read his reviews, they were entertaining but never distasteful. His writing and passion for cinema drew me in and even lead me here to the Playlist. I respect the writing here, but Ebert still leaves it pretty damn high.

  • michael | April 4, 2013 4:55 PMReply

    Nicely written. RIP.

  • Ian Peterson | April 4, 2013 4:33 PMReply

    The name of their show was "Siskel and Ebert AT the Movies" not "AND the movies"

  • Christopher Bell | April 4, 2013 4:41 PM

    Nice, dude.

  • Triny | April 4, 2013 4:26 PMReply

    Great piece.

  • Jordan | April 4, 2013 4:23 PMReply

    Wow. Great piece. Farewell Mr. Ebert.

  • Steven Flores | April 4, 2013 4:23 PMReply

    If there's anyone who should eulogize him, it should be Werner Herzog. Ebert championed the man and Herzog even dedicated a film to him.

  • Matt N. | April 4, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    Kevin-
    Thank you for this very touching and heartfelt piece. I don't think his influence and importance can be overstated.

  • jimmy | April 4, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    wonder what the last film he ever watched was

  • d | April 5, 2013 6:47 AM

    Some say that his last review is To The Wonder, but it hasn't yet been published

  • Marko | April 4, 2013 8:25 PM

    The last review he wrote was for The Host, so I hope he saw something after that.

  • Tom | April 4, 2013 5:36 PM

    It would be perfect if it were La Dolce Vita. One can only imagine, though.

  • Eponymous | April 4, 2013 4:46 PM

    I was wondering the same thing. Whatever it was, I hope it was a great one. #RIP #thumbswaydown

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