I grew up in the era of "At the Movies." I loved that show. I loved those two guys fighting over what they thought about each movie. I loved that they looked like regular guys. I loved that they loved the movies they were talking about with such passion. In a time before everything was decided by a tomato, a thumb up or thumb down meant something important.
What you always felt with Roger Ebert was passion. He loved movies. He loved them so much that he made other people love them. He gave movie writing a sense of legitimacy for entire generations of would be writers. Over the last day you can see the influence this man has had on movie lovers everywhere. Who cannot take a moment's pause reading Ebert's letter to a young Dana Stevens, a girl who had discovered that she wanted to write about movies. He gave her amazing advice. Take English classes, take writing classes, go to all the movies you can and write, write, write for anything and everything.
I think in this day and age when people blog about whatever they want, we sometimes for forget the work and skill that goes into the writing work of someone like Roger Ebert. You look at his writings, reviews, memoirs, anything and you know he had a gift. His writing was beautiful, so beautiful that it won him a Pulitzer.
Roger Ebert lost his voice to cancer some years ago, but he was one of the most present film people in my life through twitter. He loved twitter. He gave "good tweet" and it meant something. He was a man who had earned a certain level of gravitas for showing us through his writing what it meant to keep fighting against cancer.
I saw him once at the Toronto Film Festival about 2 years ago. He came into a screening with Chaz and everyone was in awe. It was like royalty had entered the room. There are not too many people whose job it is to say they like or dislike something for a living that earn the respect of everyone in the room, even people he had given bad reviews to.
Roger Ebert was one of those people. There will be no one like him ever again. To say that his voice will be missed is a profound understatement.
A Critic for the Common Man (NY Times)
Go to All the Movies You Can (Slate)
Women are Better Than Men (Roger Ebert)