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RIP Roger Ebert

I was very saddened today to hear of the death of Roger Ebert.

Roger (somehow I think of him as 'Roger,' not 'Ebert,' though I never met him in the flesh, and spoke to him only once, by telephone, in the early 1970s when both of us were young and dinosaurs roamed the earth) has been my favorite film critic since forever. I did not always agree with him, but I always found him insightful and fun to read. He was not just a terrific critic, he was a terrific WRITER. His shows with Gene Siskel, SNEAK PREVIEWS and SISKEL AND EBERT AT THE MOVIES, were must-see TV for me. A hundred other teams have tried to recapture their magic, but none came close.

He was One of Us too. A fan, and an SF fan at that. In his youth, he wrote for fanzines, and he even published a few short SF stories in Ted White's AMAZING and FANTASTIC along about the same time I was publishing in those selfsame magazines. If he had not gone on to be the world's best film critic, he might well have been a successful SF writer.

A brilliant man, a good life. I give him two thumbs up.

Comments

Shiv Sundram
Apr. 6th, 2013 01:19 am (UTC)
An incredible, prolific man
Mr Ebert,

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a two hour film speaks 172,800,000. Few people have the ability to reduce such monstrosity into an elegant one page summary…even fewer have the gift to transmute the beauty of modern cinema into the written word. With that said, the world has just lost a treasure of the written, spoken, and visual arts.

Today, Roger Ebert passed away at the age of 70 after battling cancer since 2002. He was a film critic, known most famously as one of the hosts of “At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert.” Together, they popularized the term “two thumbs up,” and for the layman, that may be the only discernible feature of his legacy. But he was more than that…he always manged to remind us of why we loved movies in the first place. His discussions and writings were colloquial enough to be accessible, and yet eloquent enough to be considered art. I would read his reviews avidly, and even when we completely disagreed on a film’s quality, his words were still thoughtful enough to earn my respect.

And in 2002 he was diagnosed with a cancer that eventually robbed him of his face and voice. Nevertheless, he continued to watch, write, and review movies until he was recently hospitalized. And most importantly, he never lost his perspective and zest for life. On his impending death, he said

“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter.

Mr Ebert, your writing was visceral, your passion was tenacious, and above all, your courage was inspiring. My favorite review of all time is yours on Citizen Kane. It begins with:

“`I don't think any word can explain a man's life,'' says one of the searchers through the warehouse of treasures left behind by Charles Foster Kane. Then we get the famous series of shots leading to the closeup of the word ``Rosebud''”.

To me, Rosebud represents more than just Kane’s longing for the innocence of childhood…it is a symbol of the difficulty of reducing something larger than life into mere words. Every day, Roger Ebert would take on this task with humility, honesty, and his classic touch of humor, whether he was writing about films, society, or his own fight with cancer. And now here I sit, at my own keyboard, unable to do for Roger Ebert what he did so effortlessly for the rest of the world. How does one describe a man like him? It would be fruitless to say that I, or anybody, could do so successfully. So Mr. Ebert. I leave you with one last word:

ROSEBUD

Rest in peace,

One of your biggest fans,
Shiv Sundram

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