A Life in the Movies: Remembering Roger Ebert


There is not much I can say in terms of how it must feel to many lovers of film and of writing, but to those who love writing about film, I feel your pain. Roger Ebert was the pinnacle of film criticism and the critic everyone now writing about film was likely either inspired by or continued to look towards throughout their career. I have only been running this site for three years and even in that time I only now feel like I am gaining some kind of footing in the world of film criticism. Ebert wrote for the Chicago-Sun Times for 46 years reviewing films. I can only imagine the wealth of knowledge and perspective it must have lent him to sit and write not just his thoughts on film, but on life almost every day for that amount of time. I was actually just getting ready to read his latest work, a memoir by the name of "Life Itself", now it seems that experience will be all the more poignant as Roger Ebert, renowned film critic, has passed away at the age of 70.

I can remember not understanding the purpose of a film critic and when my state of mind was simply that they were too high and mighty for their own good and couldn't recognize fun when they saw it, but instead had to over analyze everything. Still, I wanted to hear their opinion and it was Ebert, in those last few seasons with long time partner Gene Siskel, that made me understand the justification behind a critics low letter grade, the limited number of stars, or in their case, the thumbs up or thumbs down. Looking back I don't know how they were so decisive, but I remember simply enjoying hearing the views of others on movies and what it might be like to have a serious discussion about the medium with others. My family didn't go to the movies, they hardly watch movies at all, but lucky for me I had a few aunts that loved to take me to the local theater. When it came down to talking about the movies our conversation was fairly limited to whether we liked it or not, so my real conversation came in when I'd sit down and watch the two famous critics hash it out and verbalize aspects I may have seen or felt during the film, but not always recognized.

This was always an insightful experience and that is what I liked about it, that is what made me want to learn about film, about stories, and eventually craft my own. Now, the internet has provided a gateway for anyone who loves films and loves to write about them a platform to express that opinion which I am thankful for, but find it hard to imagine any one of these people, such as me, feeling motivated to do what we do without the influence of Roger Ebert. I have been a fan since the first time I can remember seeing his show and even when I didn't agree with him or understand his opinion he was always the most reliable source to turn to because, after so many years, I knew where he was coming from and I knew what kind of movie I'd be getting into if I'd read his review beforehand.

There is a difference in simply writing ones opinion out and penning a criticism that is just as much a piece of art as the subject it's discussing. Ebert seemed to strive for that latter quality in every piece. Just yesterday he posted on his blog that he would be going on a leave of presence and scaling back his film reviews. That was to be his last post. Ebert once said,“Life always has an unhappy ending, but you can have a lot of fun along the way, and everything doesn't have to be dripping in deep significance.”   This may ring true, even in his case as Ebert battled cancer for many years, but at least he seemed to have a good amount of fun along the way and we will always have his words to attest to that.