Roger Ebert, Dead At 70: An Eternal Thumbs Up To The Godfather Of Film Criticism

Roger Ebert was the one who showed me there was a world outside of just watching films. The discourse of talking about movies and the magical powers the cinema possesses was conveyed to me by the prolific film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times. While he and I agree that the manner in which to grade movies is absurd, be they letter grades or star ratings, he at least was smart enough to know that sometimes all you have to do is give the film a finger to let your opinion be known. I don’t mean an index or a middle – I mean your thumb.

Who knew that a thumbs up or a thumbs down judgment could be perceived as powerful as words on a page or computer screen.

Roger Ebert, one of the few writers to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to film criticism, had been a movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for nearly 50 years and was co-host of the landmark series Siskel & Ebert, with Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel. Siskel died in 1999 at the age of 53. While no one could ever replace the likes of Siskel, as the old saying goes, “the show must go one.” Following his death, the show continued with Ebert’s Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.

Now Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel will continue to trade barbs in the afterlife.

It was only a few days ago that Ebert wrote how he was taking a “leave a presence” from writing multiple film reviews each week. In the past year, he wrote more than 300 reviews and multiple blog entries each week. And in his blog entry about taking a leave of presence due to the recurrence of cancer, Ebert acknowledged that he wasn’t going away, that he’ll be able to do something he’s always wanted to do which is “reviewing only the movies I want to review.”

Later this month Ebert was to host the 15th annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival in his hometown of Champaign-Urbana. Sure to be a solemn occasion with his passing, it will no doubt be a celebratory remembrance for a man who will forever be linked to his contributions to film criticism. More than that, however, he was an amazing person I wish I could have met at least once in my lifetime to give him a thumbs up.


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