A farewell to Roger Ebert

By Alexa Hoyle

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Roger Ebert passed away on Thursday at 70 years old and the world lost one of the greats. The tragic death comes on the heels of Ebert announcing a “leave of presence” from his career to focus on his health.

It’s impossible to not know who Ebert is, given that we’ve grown up in an age where his “two thumbs up” are a major plus for any films marketing campaign. But for those who aren’t familiar: Ebert is the man who revolutionized entertainment criticism. He dedicated most of his life to watching and reviewing movies and paving the way for today’s critics. And he never slowed down. Last year alone he reviewed 306 movies – the most in a year in his entire career. He was passionate and driven; a visionary in his field. And there will never be another critic like him.

Ebert has written for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and it was there that he built his career as the most respected critic in the industry. Even as an actor who was getting their performance slammed or a director being criticized for their direction, it was hard to hate Ebert. His reviews were among the most respected ever written, with movie fans trusting every word he wrote as genuine. He once said that he didn’t give studios any advances on his writing: the readers he wrote it for were always the people who saw it first. He was intelligent, funny, and witty beyond belief in his writing. For those that are familiar with much of his work its apparent that he was as genius a writer as a reviewer.

But above all he was a film lover. He once said,

“If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your Social Security number and where your car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, in one way or another, with the people on the screen.”

The way he felt about movies was unrivaled. It was more than two hours of his life sitting in an uncomfortable seat, with feet planted in sticky floors – it was an experience.

Most people aren’t going to tell you that he shaped their lives – but I am. Ebert was the man showed people that a love of the movies and a love of entertainment could be more than just a hobby – it could be a career. Some people view film and television differently, and I would count myself as one of those people. Ebert paved the way for people like me to have a voice. He once said,

“Because of the rush of human knowledge, because of the digital revolution, I have a voice, and I do not need to scream.”

The first time I read an Ebert review was for E.T. It may have very well been the first review I ever read and to this day I don’t remember how I found it. But I did. It was the movie I associated with Ebert for years. His writing struck me, he was so honest and poetic even – but he was talking about a movie. It was the first time I thought about there being more to movies than meets to eye. Ebert changed my perspective and I owe him every day for that.

You might know him for his reviews, or maybe for his collaborations with Gene Siskel, but there is no doubt that you know him. I’d be poised to say he’s made a more indelible mark on the entertainment world that half of the movies he’s reviewed. So I’ll leave with a quote from the last blog post he ever wrote:

“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.”

Alexa can be reached at [email protected]