September 29, 2016

Thinking Out Loud: Remembering Roger Ebert

Roger EbertFor this week’s Thinking Out Loud missive, I wanted to just talk about Roger Ebert, who passed away one year ago yesterday. Anyone in my age group who’s published a review of a film owes some level of a debt to Ebert, who very much paved the way for us all and really was the last of a certain kind of critic. Now, plenty of my betters in the industry have already touched on Ebert’s passing this week, from my friend Matt Singer over at The Dissolve to Roger’s own wife Chaz at the site that bears his name. Still, I felt like it couldn’t hurt to add my own two cents. You really never can praise a man like this enough.

Roger Ebert was the film critic we all wanted to be. A movie encyclopedia, but also full of joy about the medium. He got to argue his opinion on television and was paid well for it. Moreover, he received the Pulitzer for his writing. I don’t think we’ll ever see another critic receive such a distinction again. Hell, there’s a documentary coming out about him later on this year called Life Itself, and that’s another honor that very few, if any, of those who now come after him will ever get.

To me, he was the epitome of the best that our profession has to offer. You could read a review of his and enjoy it regardless of if you’d even seen the film in question, not to mention if you liked/disliked it. That’s a real skill. Roger Ebert always seemed like the smartest man in the room, and it was a credit to him that it wasn’t due to a smug personality, but simply due to the confidence with which he spoke his opinions on film. You always wanted to hear or read more, no matter if you agreed or disagreed with him. In that way, each review he put out in print or on television was like the start of a conversation with a good friend.

Before he got sick. Roger Ebert was a juggernaut in this business. After he got sick though, instead of slowing down or fading away, he became this even stronger presence, using the internet in a way that people a third of his age weren’t always able to do. He continued on, even seeing more movies than ever before. It’s stunning to look at the output during the last years of his life. For my money, he also did some of his finest writing during that period as well. I loved watching him debate Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper on his television review show, but looking up and soaking in his reviews were always the thing I loved most. I can safely say that he left a profound impact on me, much like he did to countless others.

In the end, Roger Ebert was, is, and always will be a legend. He’s been gone a year and it feels like both a lifetime and a split second has passed. He will be eternally missed…

Stay tuned for next weekend’s edition of Thinking Out Loud!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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