Very sad news.
The shrinking fraternity of film critics has lost one of its most influential — maybe its most influential and certainly its most resilient — members. Roger Ebert has died of cancer at age 70.
Once a regular on television alongside the late Gene Siskel, he lost his actual voice to cancer and surgery but found it again through his blog and his continued flow of reviews in print and online.
He had just announced that he was stepping back slightly due to a recurrence of cancer but there was no indication he was so gravely ill.
Generations of critics and readers looked to his reviews for authority, a sense of movie history and well-reasoned critiques. I was secretly thrilled to see that he, too, had picked “Argo” as his No. 1 movie of 2012. (This was before the Academy Awards, of course.)
I remember seeing Siskel pose on a Los Angeles sidewalk with his famous thumb in the air and spotted Ebert in the pressroom of the Academy Awards several times. At the Oscars, he was like the rest of us, on deadline, trying to watch the show, listen to the winners back stage and write all at the same time.
He also attended the Toronto film festival with the rest of the working press. I recall at the “Precious” press conference in Toronto, he had an assistant stand up to ask a good question, a variation of which I wanted to pose.
In these days of bloggers and Twitter and instant feedback, he had kept himself relevant. He talked just this week about expanding his volumes about great movies, a couple of which sit on my desk. A documentary about his life is being made by some heavy hitters who will, no doubt, do justice to him.
No one can tell his story better than his newspaper. Here is a link:
May he rest in peace.
This statement just arrived from the Toronto International Film Festival:
“We are terribly saddened by the news of the passing of our friend Roger Ebert. More than a friend, Roger was family. He knew us from our humble beginnings, stuck by us, and helped us grow, as only family can do.
“It is no exaggeration to say that Roger, through his championing, had a large hand in making us who we are today on the world stage. He was a pioneer, a true lover of film. His passing is a huge loss for cinema. He inspired us and will continue to inspire generations. We are taking this opportunity to remember and celebrate our beloved friend, Roger Ebert.
“Our hearts go out to Chaz and to their family and friends.”