In terms of health he had no luck. Various forms of cancer had been gnawing away at his body for years and he had lost his jaw to a tumor. But as film critic, Roger Ebert, who passed away yesterday at 70, was an icon for a profession that’s often misunderstood, if not ignored. I often recoiled at discovering that a movie had been reduced to a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” but what’s there not to love about the charismatic Roger Ebert? He raised the game immensely, worked non-stop in getting filmmakers recognized through his writings and recently celebrated forty-six years of film criticism. Later, I understood the usefulness of Rotten Tomatoes and that Ebert’s “thumbs up thumbs-down” gimmick was a precursor to that.
Ebert distinguished himself in the only way possible when you’re a writer: he published books. There’s his “Great Movies” series, his “Four-star Reviews” and the book he wrote about Martin Scorsese. A long-time staff journalist to the Chicago Sun-Times he was the only film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Here’s signing off with a moving note written by Chaz, Roger Ebert’s wife, which was published on Ebert’s blog:
“I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger — my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.”