Film critic Roger Ebert has died at the age of 70. After undergoing surgeries to combat cancer Ebert had lost portions of his jaw and his ability to speak. This however didn’t stop him from reviewing movies. He was frequent presence on social media connecting with fans and getting his opinions out about Hollywood’s latest offerings.
Just yesterday I was reading his announcement of taking a ‘leave of presence’. Ebert was going to undergo radiation treatment for the recurrence of cancer and would cut back on his cinematic viewing. He had planned to continue to review movies in a limited capacity. As he said he was going to indulge in a critics fantasy reviewing “only the movies I want to review”.
Roger’s final review was for Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder about a week ago, which he gave a thumbs up to.
Unfortunately, the death of Ebert was not a surprise. As I’ve written before I was always a big Siskel and Ebert fan and would be a regular viewer of their show. Their show was a blessing for any movie fan. They provided a program that discussed the artistic merits of the movies and the opinions from our two hosts.
At the time the so-called ‘entertainment shows’ that filled the airwaves would consist of Hollywood gossip and tabloid reports with all superficial news. Finally Siskel and Ebert provided a small little show that actually focused on the films these actors were starring in!
Now thanks to the internet there’s no shortage of finding movie news, reviews and discussions by critics and fans on actual films, but at the time Siskel and Ebert were the oasis in a sea of Hollywood gossip reporting.
Of course they got their own flak. A ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ was pretty simplistic don’t you think? But it was a shorthand device of giving viewers the most basic opinion on a movie. Plus, it gave them a moniker to mark their final verdict on a movie, which would be proudly displayed on movie posters to entice movie audiences to buy a ticket.
I’m not going to go too much further with my affection for Gene and Roger. I’ve written about them and their show previously when At the Movies ended three years ago.
In short, I always liked Roger. I have a few of his books. I was always amused by his I Hated This Movie book. There is something entertaining about a critic who gets so passionate about his personal hatred of a film. Ebert was very good at articulating that.
I listened to several of his dvd commentaries on films that he was a fan of and it was clear that he really loved his job watching movies. He would have to be to continue reviewing movies with his health issues in recent years. Although I didn’t read his reviews regularly and disagreed with his opinion on a lot of films, I’m sorry to hear of his passing.
Not too long ago I was re-listening to an old tape I had of the Howard Stern show where Siskel and Ebert were guests. It just reminded me of how much fun the two of them were together, not only were both passionate about the movies, but each of them had a pretty good sense of humor.