First Take: Roger Ebert, forever at the movies
05:00 AM, Apr 04, 2013
In typical fashion, Roger Ebert took to the Internet Tuesday night to share the news with his loyal blog followers that the disease that had robbed him of his voice, but not his determination to share his love of cinema, had returned. He warned that he would have to cut back on his reviewing output for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he had happily toiled for 46 years.
He also insisted that he would not be taking a leave of absence, but a “leave of presence.”
While one of America’s pre-eminent film critics with a Pulitzer to prove it managed to not just survive but also thrive after his first bout with cancer he critiqued 306 films last year alone, his most ever this time, he could not defeat it. Ebert, 70, died Thursday, less than 48 hours after writing optimistically that his sickness actually would fulfill a long-held fantasy: “Reviewing only the movies I want to review.”
True, those movies will not be given the benefit of being judged with a “thumbs up” or ” thumbs down” Ebert’s trademark reaction introduced on Sneak Previews, the groundbreaking TV show with partner and Chicago Tribune rival Gene Siskel that began in 1975 and brought movie reviewing to the masses.
But the native of Urbana, Ill., who claimed to have learned how to critique by reading Mad magazine film parodies could still claim to be taking only a “leave of presence,” given the influence he exerted on generations of loyal readers, TV viewers and budding reviewers who saw him as their role model.
He leaves behind a legacy that includes countless book collections; a 2011 memoir, Life Itself, based on his blog essays that is being turned into a documentary with the help of Martin Scorsese; Ebertfest, a film festival in its 15th year that will take place at his alma mater, the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, April 17-21; and the relaunch of “Rogerebert.com the new Ebert Digital,” an entity run by his ever-present wife and tireless supporter of 20 years, Chaz, that will house an archive of 10,000 of his reviews.
It’s perhaps best to use Ebert’s own words to sum up his own signoff to those who loved and admired him: “Thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”