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Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

rogerebertRoger Ebert died today at 70 after a long, arduous battle with cancer; He will be remembered and revered as perhaps the most influential film critic ever. His influence came not from creating a theory or representing a New York Times or New Yorker, but from being more of a people’s critic, on TV (mostly with the late Gene Siskel and later with Richard Roeper), in the Chicago Sun-Times, and online. He was among the first critics to review movies relative to the kind of genre they occupied and whether they achieved what they set out to do, measuring, say, horror movies against other horror movies and not against Shakespeare. The gimmicks — the “thumbs up” and the arguing with Siskel — could have consigned him to the same fate as the kind of critics whose rave blurbs always show up in ads for lesser movies, but he remained among the definitive critics all the way into the Internet and Rotten Tomatoes/Metacritic era. I know people who wouldn’t think of seeing a movie without first consulting Ebert’s review, even people whose tastes were more aligned with Siskel back in the day.

The video above, from the “At the Movies” era of the Siskel and Ebert show, is a 1983 review and analysis of Return of the Jedi. There’s a videodisc commercial in there that’s worth some nostalgia, but so is the entire show, and it’s a reminder of when everybody watched “the fat one and the skinny one” debate the week’s releases. I didn’t always agree with Roger Ebert, but I always checked to see what he thought. Can’t say that about too many other critics in any medium.

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6 comments

  • Dang, the passing of Roger Ebert is actually hitting me pretty hard. I usually am blasé about most celebrity deaths, but not this one. I think it is because Roger was more than a celebrity; he was a critic. I always respected the honesty that he wrote with and the passion he held for intelligent discourse. Film criticism would not be the same today without the contributions that Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert made to culture. I also love that Roger was kid from down-state Illinois who, through education and sheer love of the topic, became one of the most respected film critics in the world.

    How fitting that the last line of his last blog post from April 2, 2013 was “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.”

  • .
    I was reflecting on Roger Ebert with some buds this morning. Being born and raised in Chicago, i grew up watching him and Siskel review movies. In a pre internet world it was one of the only places a young movie lover could find discussion and information about movies. In a way that show helped foster and grow my passion around movies. Regardless of agreeing or disagreeing with his reviews, i always have apprectiated his thoughts on and love of movies. He will be missed and has left an indelible mark on movies forever.

    Peace & Thumbs Up for Roger

    3ToF