We’re all film critics, right? Meaning no disrespect to that profession, but really, as long as we’re all seeing films, we’re all critiquing them.
That leads to the question, what makes one film critic better than another? It’s thoroughly subjective, of course, so I won’t try to plumb those depths here. I’ll just leave it at this:
Roger Ebert was no ordinary film critic.
He was the first critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, He was the first to be honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. He was a prolific writer, was uncompromising in his social consciousness, and was commonly acknowledged as a loving husband, a great friend, and a remarkable human being.
He was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer over a decade ago, and for several years suffered through a series of frighteningly invasive treatments. In 2006 he had a section of his lower jaw removed, which resulted in his loss of speech and in a singular facial appearance that he never tried to hide, and that we, his fans (to our credit, I think) quickly accepted then forgot about. Roger Ebert couldn’t talk, at least not without computerized assistance, but he could write and he could think, and we were always hungry to share those thoughts.
Just two days ago, Roger Ebert announced via his blog that his cancer had returned, that he was resuming treatment, and that he was taking a “leave of presence” (a wonderful Ebertian turn of phrase) to focus on his health.
That was not to be. Roger Ebert died today, aged 70, in his lifelong hometown of Chicago. He’s survived by his wife, Chaz, his step-daughter, and two step-grandchildren. And by all of us who respected him, admire him, and are mourning his passing.