Legendary Film Critic Roger Ebert Has Sadly Passed Away at Age 70
by Ethan Anderton
April 4, 2013
Just yesterday, legendary film critic Roger Ebert announced that he was going to be taking a break from work again after a recurrence of cancer surfaced. At the time, the critic called the break a "leave of presence" to slow down his work. He explained, "It means I am not going away." But today, shocking news came from The Chicago Sun-Times, where Ebert's movie reviews and musings have had a home for decades, that the film critic had passed away at age 70. The obituary online from the newspaper begins, "Roger Ebert loved movies. Except for those he hated."In a way, that's all we really need to know, but Ebert was much more than a film critic. He was a film fan, an intensely passionate cinephile, and a man of substance. Read on.
Despite the timing of his death, Ebert didn't seem like he was ready to let go. His last update online talked about taking ownership of his site under a separate entity and the upcoming 15th anniversary of his Chicago film festival Ebertfest, which will now be a bittersweet celebration from April 17th through the 21st. Just in case you didn't know how wide Ebert's work spreads, he wrote, "Typically, I write over 200 reviews a year for the Sun-Times that are carried by Universal Press Syndicate in some 200 newspapers." Last year he wrote 306 movie reviews, not to mention keeping up on his blog and other articles.
But in addition to his writing, Ebert is responsible for the most famous form of film criticism, thanks to his longstanding work with the late Gene Siskel. The idea of giving a movie a thumbs-up was their trademark, and not even a 5-star review is was much of an honor as getting two thumbs up from a duo that was almost like a real life Statler and Waldorf from time to time. Here's one of Siskel and Ebert's reviews:
Ebert has been one of the loudest voices in film criticism, even after his fight with cancer literally took his voice, until amazing technology was able to bring it back in some form. Several of his books sit on my shelf including Life Itself: A Memoir and his collection of work Awake in the Dark, and without the legacy of Roger Ebert, the job that I have right now wouldn't be possible. The way Ebert described movies, whether he loved them or hated them, intensified my love for movies. This is how you can talk about things that entertain you? You can write about the movies you love? I was sold.
Unfortuntely, I never got a chance to share a conversation with Ebert, but we did have an encounter that I will remember forever. At a mostly empty press screening of Real Steel in Chicago, I sat in the same row where Ebert was sitting with his wife near the aisle. As I passed, I smiled and nodded, and while he wasn't able to smile back, his nod back at me was all I needed. It seems fitting that the last bit of writing Ebert posted online was so grateful to readers and those inspired by his work like me. Ebert wrote:
Thank you. Forty-six years ago on April 3, 1967, I became the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Some of you have read my reviews and columns and even written to me since that time. Others were introduced to my film criticism through the television show, my books, the website, the film festival, or the Ebert Club and newsletter. However you came to know me, I'm glad you did and thank you for being the best readers any film critic could ask for.
No, Mr. Ebert, thank you. My love for movies was only fueled by your passion for cinema, and no matter how many times I disagreed, sometimes vehemently with your opinions, it was always with respect. There's no doubt that myself and many of my colleagues owe you more than a debt of gratitude.
Even more appropriately, Ebert ends his last entry succinctly and sweetly with, "Thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies." The balcony is closed. Rest in peace.