Roger Ebert, 1942 – 2013

Roger Ebert, screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, died on 4 April 2013, two days after announcing that the cancer he’d been battling since 2002 had returned. The worlds of journalism and film lost one of its greatest champions, and film lovers around the world lost a friend and mentor. As the announcement of his death swept the Internet, I watched as social media exploded in a simultaneous outpouring of grief, loss, and respect.

As a fellow film fanatic, Roger Ebert was someone I always referenced.  In my childhood, I loved watching him spar with his fellow critic, Gene Siskel from the Chicago Tribune, on their weekly television program. As a teen, I read his column religiously, and Siskel & Ebert At the Movies was appointment TV. As an adult, I anticipated reading his latest reviews every week on his website. In my early college days, my English professor was quite the film aficionado, and our writing assignments often took the form of film review. Without fail, it was Roger Ebert’s style I sought to emulate, and many of my reviews were in the form of Ebert review rebuttals. It was to him that I deferred when deciding whether or not to see the latest releases, or whether to see them on opening night or wait a week. Our tastes often jibed, so when he enthused over a film it almost always ended up on my Must See list.

“He was my best argument for getting friends to see a film they wouldn’t normally choose, and when someone suggested seeing a movie that I wasn’t keen on, a thumbs down from Roger Ebert was my trump card for getting out of it: “Oh, I don’t know – Ebert gave it a terrible review!”

His loss isn’t just felt by writers, filmmakers, and movie buffs. Roger Ebert was a great voice for liberal causes, and his many blog posts concerning the latest political news of the day were deeply moving. In his final years, he would often write about his battle with cancer, his wife, and his family, and this I feel, is when he did his best writing. The love and pride he felt for them poured from the page, and it was as gripping as any review or screenplay he wrote.

Roger Ebert was an incredible writer, but more than that, he was an incredible human being. The enormity of his talent was second only to the enormity of his heart. I’ll miss his enthusiasm and his guidance. I know that, in the years to come, when I’m looking at the cinema marquee trying to decide which film to see, I’ll be asking myself “Which movie would Roger have liked?” And then will come the realization that simply being there, at the movies, is what Roger would’ve liked most of all.

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