Writ­ten by Paul Stathakis | April 5, 2013

The crit­ic we loved

In remem­brance of the great Chica­go Sun-Times film crit­ic Roger Ebert, who passed away on April 4, 2013 at the age of 70 after a long bat­tle with can­cer, we begin with a few of his most mem­o­rable quotes:

If a movie is real­ly work­ing, you for­get for two hours your Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber and where your car is parked. You are hav­ing a vic­ar­i­ous expe­ri­ence. You are iden­ti­fy­ing, in one way or anoth­er, with the peo­ple on the screen.”

Every great film should seem new every time you see it.”

When I am writ­ing, my prob­lems become invis­i­ble, and I am the same per­son I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.”

We live in a box of space and time. Movies are win­dows in its walls. They allow us to enter oth­er minds — not sim­ply by iden­ti­fy­ing with the char­ac­ters, although that is an impor­tant part of it — but by see­ing the world as anoth­er per­son sees it.… Of all the arts, movies are the most pow­er­ful aid to empa­thy, and good ones make us into bet­ter people.”

Roger Ebert will for­ev­er be remem­bered as one of the great voic­es in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. His writ­ings led him to win the cov­et­ed Pulitzer prize for film crit­i­cism in 1975 and in an impres­sive 46-year career with the Chica­go Sun-Times, he reviewed more than 10,000 films.  His reviews were syn­di­cat­ed in more than 200 news­pa­pers nationally.

Ebert also served as co-host of the tele­vi­sion pro­gram “Siskel & Ebert and the Movies” for 13 years (from 1986 to 1999) with the late Chica­go Tri­bune film crit­ic Gene Siskel. They were the best of friends and that was evi­dent because of their won­der­ful chem­istry. Their pas­sion­ate crit­i­cism was what made them stand out. Known for being bru­tal­ly hon­est, their opin­ions could per­suade movie­go­ers to see or skip a movie. Their sig­na­ture “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” was pow­er­ful enough deter­mine a film’s suc­cess at the box office. At one time, they were two of the most feared men in Amer­i­ca. At least, in Hol­ly­wood. Fol­low­ing Siskel’s death in 1999, Ebert con­tin­ued to appear on tele­vi­sion with oth­er crit­ics in rota­tion. In 2000, crit­ic Richard Roeper became his per­ma­nent co-host until 2008 when the show came to an end.

On April 3, 2013, a day before his pass­ing, Ebert wrote an arti­cle enti­tled “A leave of pres­ence” in which he offered these final words: “So on this day of reflec­tion I say again, thank you for going on this jour­ney with me. I’ll see you at the movies.” For a man who loved movies dear­ly, enough to cov­er them for us with such enthu­si­asm for many years, the word “movies” is a tru­ly per­fect last writ­ten word. Movies meant every­thing to Roger and going to them with­out him will nev­er be the same again.

Thank you for years of insight­ful and pas­sion­ate crit­i­cism. Thank you for chang­ing the way we watch movies. And most of all, thank you for inspir­ing us to write about them.

We’ll always only have Thumbs Up for you, Roger.


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