On April 4th, 2013, the world of critical review and pop culture lost the legend and icon that was Roger Ebert. As a budding film critic myself, both here on this site and in my college paper, reading the news of Ebert’s passing came as a great shock. My heart dropped and I was crushed. A man I looked up to and admired for his passion of cinema was gone.
My first exposure to Ebert was through the legendary quote him and his lifelong friend Gene Siskel gave to movies they considered good or even great. The immortal words of ‘Two Thumbs Up!’ always sprang to mind movie recommendations and got my young mind amped to see a movie gave the Godlike rating to. Some were hits and some were misses in my eyes, but as a young kid, I took their word for it. I watched ‘Siskel & Ebert at the Movies’ throughout my childhood and was hooked on their words of love for cinema. Sure, they had their moments of bickering, but through that, they respected one another’s opinion and built a bond not only between themselves, but the home audience watching these two on the classic syndicated program.Sadly in 1999, Gene Siskel passed due to complications of a second surgery to remove the cancer he had been fighting for so long. It was one of the major deaths alongside Princess Diana of my childhood I could never forget and a shock.
Roger Ebert kept on going, continuing the show with a bevy of co-hosts before settling on Richard Roeper to take Siskel’s seat right next to him. In 2006, Roger Ebert contracted thyroid cancer and left the show to focus on his illness yet never stopped writing. In his second sugery, Roger lost his voice and his jaw and was on put on feedin tubes. Luckily, doctors reconstructed his jaw in 2008 after a third surgery and Roger was back in businesss by continuing to write and meet his fans, still running his Ebertfest Film Festival and making a rebooted version of At the Movies with new critics.
Roger never gave up. The man lost his voice, a colleague and still kept on going. The man was smart, sophisticated and even controversial with his stance on slasher films being the equivalent of porn and video games not being art or in the same league of cinema. I personally disagreed with his statements, but even then, I did not lose admiration for him. He inspired me to review and to write both in the fiction and non-fiction realms. Ebert once said that if you gave him something fresh and new, he will be delighted or something along those lines. Ebert loved film and treated every genre and form of storytellin in the same league. Ebert was one of the few critics back then to hail animation in the same league of award winning features (i.e. his review of Beauty and the Beast).
Ebert passed away a day after his cancer returned and promised he would continue in a ‘leave of prescence’. He would be out of the spotligt, but still write on occassion and work on new social media ventures, even on including gamers to review. I am heartbroken as many of us are at the sudden loss of a true legend in the written world and someone who taught many of us to appreciate the good and the bad of cinema, to take a risk on the new and grow a great love for the classics.
For now, the balcony is closed.
Rest in peace, Roger. I give you two thumbs up.
I and the world are going to miss you.