Roger Joseph Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years, and on television with late partner Gene Siskel for 31 years, passed away today in Chicago after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Whether you’re a “professional” writer or not, if you’ve ever expressed your admiration or disdain (disdain being the more popular and colorful option) for a movie in writing, then you have Roger Ebert to thank for almost single-handedly creating a media environment in which people want to hear a stranger’s opinion on cinema. In 1967, when he became film critic for the Sun-Times, film criticism was a joke: The softest of “soft journalism”. Back then, most movie reviews consisted of little more than a plot summary, and a listing of the stars. But cinema was about to enter a renaissance of artistic creativity and boldness: It was the beginning of the “modern” age of film, the ground was being prepared for the eventual blossoming of epics and blockbusters. This was the period in which folks like Spielberg, Lucas, Scorcese, Coppola, Brian de Palma, Ridley Scott, and others were all waiting to take Hollywood by storm…
Ebert‘s style of film criticism understood this change in the cinematic landscape, and followed suit. Over the years he became one of America’s most recognizable and beloved critics, both in writing, and soon on television with Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel. Here’s Ebert‘s own assessment of the duo’s popularity:
Tall and thin, short and fat. Laurel and Hardy. We were parodied on ‘SNL’ and by Bob Hope and Danny Thomas and, the ultimate honor, in the pages of Mad magazine.
Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, and his name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005. After losing part of his jaw, as well as the abilty to speak or eat, to cancer in 2006, Ebert refused to retire or hide from the public eye. He continued to write–not just reviews, but a chronicle of his own condition and struggles on his popular blog. This Tuesday, on the 46th anniversary of his work for the Sun-Times, he announced that his cancer had returned following a hip fracture last December, and that he would be taking a “leave of presence”:
I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers hand-picked and greatly admired by me.
He is survived by his wife Chaz, a step-daughter, and two step-grandchildren.
I leave you with Ebert at his most awesome: A Nightline piece from 1983 about Return of The Jedi. Here, Siskel and Ebert take a break from their usual squabbling to tear joy-hating film critic John Simon a new asshole.
Were they successful?
It’s 2013: Stop a person on the street and ask them who Roger Ebert is….Then ask who John Simon is….
Source: Chicago Sun-Times