Famed film critic Roger Ebert dies at 70
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert passed away on April 4, two days after revealing that his cancer had returned. Ebert achieved iconic status after hosting film review shows such as Siskel and Ebert at the Movies and becoming the only film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times were syndicated nationwide and attracted millions of readers.
One of the things that Ebert taught us was the possibility of living an unstoppable life. His battle with thyroid and salivary gland cancer caused him to lose his voice and most of his jaw, but he never lost his conviction or his passion for life. He always followed through with his purpose and love for writing; as he told Esquire magazine, “[W]hen I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was.”
For four decades, he garnered generations of loyal readers who grew up with him and his words. His honesty with himself allowed for his film criticism to be accessible to anyone who loved the movies while also being a unique form of artistic expression.
This year, however, was possibly his most prolific year of writing reviews. Shortly before his death, he declared a “leave of presence”: “Last year, I wrote the most of my career, including 306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles,” he wrote on his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times website. “I must slow down now, which is why I’m taking what I like to call ‘a leave of presence.’ ” Instead, Ebert was going to review films he was truly passionate about. Sadly, we never got the chance to read more of his words.
Through Ebert, people did not only learn about movies, but also about love, life, fear, and strength. His words and his passion widened the experience of life through movies. Ebert helped people understand the truths that turn movies into universes full of wonder and awe.
Because his criticism was accessible and open, readers could connect to what he had to say whether they agreed with him or not. He wasn’t a pretentious, highbrow critic who only loved European art films. He loved all kinds of film and was unfazed by mass opinion, following his gut and articulating his reviews in such a way that truly made him the most important film critic of his generation.
His explosive presence on Twitter also exhibited his voice not only on films, but about politics as well. His hilarious, politically incorrect tweets reflected a part of him that would never be slowed down or stopped by anyone or anything.
Ebert’s love for the movies helped readers understand them in a more passionate sense. Although he was never a filmmaker himself, the world of film will never be the same without him. He wasn’t merely a critic; he was a man whose love for life and imagination contributed to films in a way audience members never realized were possible.