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Remembering Roger Ebert

April 4, 2013

By John C.

Roger EbertI was truly shocked and saddened this afternoon when I heard that Roger Ebert had lost his ongoing battle with cancer, news that I am still trying to fully comprehend.  He will be missed, may he rest in peace.

He was seventy years old, but it’s safe to say that he left us far too soon.  It’s only fitting that I got the news when I logged on to my computer to work on a review for tomorrow, because he was writing right up until the end.

Since 1967, when he started writing for the Chicago Sun Times at the age of fifteen, Roger Ebert has been one of the most influential voices that the world of film criticism has ever known.  The mark that he has left on my life and many others is immeasurable, and something that won’t soon be forgotten or under appreciated.  You see, I grew up watching his reviews on At The Movies on TV and followed the show throughout its many incarnations over the years, after his longtime television partner Gene Siskel tragically passed away in 1999.

When I was a kid, I used to tell people what movies they should or shouldn’t see because of what Roger Ebert thought, and every Thursday morning for as long as I can remember, I would log on to his website to read his reviews.  Without the influence of his work as a film critic, then I don’t think I would have ever started writing or doing what I do.  My family and everyone around me have always been supportive over the years, but they used his work to help foster my love of movies.  Roger Ebert was the one who made me strive to be better and do better in my own writing.

He had a way of reviewing movies that displayed his clear love of the craft, while also acknowledging that film criticism almost always comes down to personal opinion.  I didn’t always agree with him, but I always respected his opinions, because they were his and he was one of the few people who was able to fearlessly admit that sometimes he was wrong about a certain movie.  He encouraged discussions about films, and sometimes the best ones were the times when those around him disagreed.  The thing that he understood better than anybody is that sometimes all it really comes down to is a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, two universal symbols that were made iconic through his show.

Even throughout his later years when he wasn’t able to keep up with all of the new releases, he became a prolific blogger with deeply philosophical articles that tapped into his own suffering in an incredibly humble way.  His last post came yesterday when he announced a “leave of presence,” with the plan to have much of his work continued by other writers, while he lived out his now uncompleted fantasy of only reviewing movies that he actually wanted to see.  It was a touching post that showed he was dreaming about the future right up until the end, closing with the immortal line “I’ll see you at the movies.”

“Thank you for going on this journey with me,” he wrote in what ended up being his final article.  Right now, I wold like to take the time to say thank you to Roger Ebert.  You didn’t know me, but wherever you are right now, I would like to say thank you for everything that you did over the years.  The inspiration you gave me is immeasurable, and I would sincerely like to say thank you for giving me a reason to follow my dreams.  Without you, none of this would have been possible, and I know that you will always live on through your work.

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