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R.I.P. Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

The most widely recognized film critic in the world has passed away at the age of 70.

Roger with his beloved wife, Chaz.

Roger Ebert has passed away at the age of 70. Shortly after announcing he would be scaling back his writing output while undergoing radiation therapy, Ebert succumbed to what has been a long on and off battle with cancer—one that he fought bravely and strongly while actually evolving as a writer, adapting to the Internet as a prolific blogger. Indeed, it could be said that some of Ebert's best work as a writer came in the last few years, not as a movie reviewer, but as a memoirist with what has become his final book, Life Itself, and his insightful and often moving daily musings, be they on movies, politics, food, or life. Just two days ago, in his announcement of his "leave of presence," he had vowed that "on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness, on good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness." A statement that testifies to his indomitable spirit—though knowing these invaluable pieces will never be written now renders his hopeful tone bittersweet, but nevertheless inspiring.

As for countless others, Ebert was my entry way into the world of criticism, the ultimate gateway drug forever infecting me with his undying enthusiasm for movies. As I grew as both a viewer and writer, I lost touch with his criticism, but he lay an essential foundation for me that without it I would probably not be doing what I'm doing. I always thought I would one day shake Roger's hand, and I regret losing that chance, but like many I still feel close to him, now as ever. Ironically, among his final published words are: "What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away." I'll hold you to that, Roger. See you at the movies.

I am so grateful I got the chance to see Ebert at the Conference of World Affairs in Boulder, CO for two consecutive years. First with Chop Shop director Ramin Bahrani, and then with Aguirre, The Wrath of God director Werner Herzog. Mr. Ebert was obviously weakened physically but his wit and observation were not.
I spent my formative high school years in the late 80’s and cannot think of a more formative or edifying influence in the media at the time than Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel and Tom Hatten (KCLA). Where the latter taught me to enjoy movies, “Siskel & Ebert & the Movies” taught me to THINK about them, analyse them and to pick them apart (for better or worse). School at the time failed me, what critical thinking skills I have now (albeit, not a lot) I owe in large part to these gentlemen being on the air and talking about movies. I am certain that I am not alone in this. To agree or disagree with his reviews of any given film for many of us is a conversation and thought that may not have occurred in the first place apart from Mr. Ebert efforts initiate the conversation – in this he was a much more personal friend to more of us than may even recognize it. Enjoy that thin bod now Roger and enjoy knowing you never directed… Thank you Roger, and thank you Adam for your post here.

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