In Memory Of…Roger Ebert

Posted: April 4, 2013 in Movies
Tags: ,

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

I can’t remember the first time I saw Roger Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel on television.  By the time I was exposed to their movie review show, they may have already segued from Sneak Previews to the now classic At The Movies.  I do remember that I immediately loved what I saw.  The dynamic between the two men, who worked at rival Chicago newspapers, was fascinating.  Their’s was a contentious relationship fueled by friendship, mutual respect and a love for cinema.  More often than not they were talking about movies I’d never heard of or had no chance or interest in seeing.

As I grew older I became more interested in movies that weren’t Star Wars or directed by Steven Spielberg.  I started sneaking into R-rated movies and paying closer attention to my local newspaper’s movie reviews.  Every Friday I would open the Life & Arts section of the Corpus Christi Caller Times and pore over the ads for the new releases at Cinema 4, Cine 6, The Mann’s and The Movies.  My eyes would skip over the blurbs from Gene Shalit and Joel Siegel.  I was looking for three simple words.  ‘Two Thumbs Up.’  Sometimes, there were ‘Two Very Enthusiastic Thumbs Up!’  These movies went to the top of my list.  I have to admit I felt pride when a movie I liked got the famous seal of approval.  And I felt a bit chastened when a movie I enjoyed received a review pointing in a downward direction.

After I graduated high school and moved on to college, I became a little less dependent on those famous opposable digits.  Of course, I still watched the show to see what was playing and what they were liking.  I was a fan but I understood that my enjoyment of a film was not predicated on the critics’ approval.  Later still, I had stopped watching altogether.  It came as quite a shock to me when it was reported that Siskel had died.  I hadn’t even known he was sick.  I was sad.  I recall thinking at the time that I would be just as sad, if not more so, when Ebert passed.  To his credit, Roger soldiered on through his best friend’s death.  He kept the show going with a rotating cast of guest reviewers before eventually teaming on a full-time basis with Richard Roeper.  Their collaboration lasted until Roger himself fell ill to cancer and inevitably the show died.

Ebert was a warrior though.  He suffered through thyroid cancer and his jaw was eventually removed.  He lost the use of his voice.  He emerged from his illness proudly and unafraid despite the drastic change to his appearance.  He kept reviewing movies.  He emerged as a presence online gathering a huge following on Twitter and on his blog.  He revived At the Movies serving as a featured critic. He was as respected and as esteemed as he had ever been.  And so it appeared he’d just keep going.  But a couple of days prior to his death, he announced that he would be stepping back from his reviewing duties.  What was thought to be a fractured hip was revealed to be a recurrence of the cancer.  He would fight it because that was his nature.  Besides, he still had plans which he detailed on his blog.  He was excited.

And then he was gone.  Gone but never forgotten.  His legacy will live on in the writing of every film critic, professional blogger, and would be hack like me.  It will live through his website where thousands of movie reviews are waiting to be discovered.  It will live in his series of books, The Great Movies.  It will live whenever two or more are gathered together and start talking about their favorite movies.  Yes, the man is gone but his passion for the medium will fuel generations to come.  For now though, I’m kind of heartbroken.

If I could say only one other thing to any one who reads this and to Roger himself, it would echo the last thing he said to his fans:

‘So on this day of reflection…thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.’

  1. Anne Faithful says:

    God bless Roger Ebert and two thumbs up to you, Hershal for touching post.

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