He was the first movie critic most of us ever heard of, the Critic Next Door/Everyman with Everyman’s Tastes who shared a TV set with the seemingly snobbier Gene Siskel in the Golden Age of Film Reviewing. Roger Ebert turned his Chicago Sun-Times platform into a bully pulpit, arguing for better movies, better subtitling, better Oscar shows, and later in life, a better America and more civil debate.
Ebert, longtime Sun Times critic and one-time “At the Movies/Sneak Previews/Siskel & Ebert”co-host has died. The cancer that took away his voice and some of his face and throat some years ago returned. He was 70. Here’s his Chicago Sun-Times obituary.
There are about 120-150 people who review movies for a living here in the US, and I dare say 90% of them got into this because of how fun he made this job seem.
I think I have a letter I got from him from more than 20 years ago that I’ve kept in every briefcase I ever had in this business. I’d reviewed one of his collections, and found a bunch of errors. (Newspapers, we make boo boos. Who knew?) And he wanted page numbers so that he could correct them for the next edition. Which I sent and which he used. A very lovable guy in a profession that doesn’t produce or reward lovable guys.
I didn’t agree with him much in recent years. He seemed happy to be alive (here’s a piece he wrote about his impending death), and saw the good in a lot of films I thought were crap. But we all gave him a pass for that. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he’d earned it. I fondly remember his review of a Ben Kingsley/Glenda Jackson comedy, “Turtle Diary” from decades ago because of the imagery, the way he found to connect his own experience to the one portrayed in this gentle comedy about English apartment dwellers scheming to release a captive sea turtle.
RIP Mr. Ebert. We’re still saving you the aisle seat.