On April 4, 2013, a legend passed away. Roger Ebert, the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, died peacefully at age 70 after an 11-year battle with cancer. Some people may only know him as a high-profile film critic, the host of “Siskel & Ebert & The Movies” and “At The Movies With Ebert & Roeper.” They know him as one of THE film critics, a man whose opinion on the latest films was always highly valued and respected.
He won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his work, and trademarked the now classic “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” ratings system for films. But for many people in the industry, and for many admirers including myself, Roger Ebert was so much more than just a film critic.
Ebert was a man who passionately and unconditionally loved movies. They were his life, and he always sought to give every film he saw fair criticism based on its own merits. If he knew what a film wanted to do, he would rate it on how well it accomplished that goal. He wouldn’t rate an action or comedy film the same way he would review an art house film, because he knew that different movies entertain in different ways. Thanks to his amazing reviews, this one man made film criticism into a legitimate form of journalism.
The entire entertainment industry respected him, and so did everyone else. Twenty years ago, Ebert’s approval was almost necessary if you were deciding on seeing a film. Even if you didn’t know him, your parents probably watched his show and took you to the movies based on what he said about them.
No one had more respect for the world of cinema than Ebert. He was a man who always stood by his opinion and always had a reason for thinking what he thought. His criticisms were always fair and logical. Even if you didn’t always agree with him, you at least respected what he had to say. Without a doubt, Ebert was the main authority when it came to the quality of films. Not even cancer and the loss of his voice stopped him from doing what he loved.
To aspiring film critics, he was an inspiration. When I heard about his death I was devastated. Being a film critic myself, I always made it a point to look to Ebert for guidance. His reviews were always extremely well done and fun to read, and while I never thought of trying to reach his level, I always tried to better my film reviews based on his example. Ebert’s love of movies helped me justify my own love of film, and made the movie theater into a magical place for all those who read and watched him.
In his last blog post, Roger Ebert ended with “I thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.” But Ebert is more than just the man who saw us at the movies. He was the movies, and his passion for film will be sorely missed.