Thursday, April 4, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert: 1942-2013

Posted By on 04.04.13 at 03:57 PM

Roger Ebert
  • John McHugh
  • Roger Ebert
The Sun-Times reported that writer/film critic/television personality/mensch Roger Ebert died earlier today after battling cancer for over a decade. He was 70 years old.

Over the next couple weeks, numerous people will write about the influence Ebert had on their lives (and expect some from the Reader as well). We've done our fair share of writing about Ebert, whether through the prism of Jonathan Rosenbaum's film reviews or otherwise, such as a 2011 column by media critic Michael Miner that looked at the memoir Life Itself. Miner:

No one in Chicago better embodies grace at twilight than Roger Ebert, who has written openly and frankly about the physical disasters that cost him his lower face, his voice, and his ability to swallow food. That they spared his writing gifts, sharpened his memories, and deepened his character is reason for rejoicing. Ebert's new memoir, Life Itself, rollicks where you want it to rollick, but its most compelling quality is its comfort with the nearness of death.

We were at the Sun-Times together for several years in the 70s, but I was at the front of the large newsroom and he was in the back and we had nothing to do with each other. My friend Gary Houston knew him better. Houston was a feature writer who moonlighted in local theater, and his desk and Ebert's were a few feet apart.

Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg, in today's obit, wrote:

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation's most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. "No point in denying it," he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.

In memoriam, I'll try to watch Aguirre, the Wrath of God tonight. Here's my own personal favorite Ebert essay, his gutsy review of Synecdoche, New York.

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