Eulogies for Roger
I found out yesterday after lunch. I'd known, vaguely, about his “leave of presence” from The Chicago Sun-Times, because I'd heard, via his Facebook page, about the return of the cancer, the new radiation treatments, the hospitalization. We get this sometimes. It's like a harbinger that takes the edge off the worse news. Someone shot at Reagan and missed? OK. Wait, they hit him? Oh. Kurt Cobain OD'ed in Italy but he's OK? OK. Wait, he killed himself? Oh.
This harbinger didn't take the edge off yesterday. Roger was a voice in my life since 1978. He'd actually gotten louder in more recent years thanks to all this. He felt closer.
For a generation of Americans - and especially Chicagoans - Roger was the movies. When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive ...
-- Pres. Barack Obama
We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.
-- Chaz Ebert, “Roger Ebert Dead at 70 After Battle with Cancer,” Chicago Sun-Times
It would not be a stretch to say that Mr. Ebert was the best-known film reviewer of his generation, and one of the most trusted. The force and grace of his opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture. Not only did he advise moviegoers about what to see, but also how to think about what they saw.
-- Douglas Martin, “A Critic for the Common Man,” New York Times
He saw, and felt, and described the movies more effectively, more cinematically, and more warmly than just about anyone writing about anything. Even his pans had a warmth to them. Even when you disagreed with Roger you found yourself imagining the movie he saw, and loved (or hated) more than you did. ... I came late to film criticism in Chicago, after writing about the theater. Roger loved the theater. His was a theatrical personality: a raconteur, a spinner of dinner-table stories, a man who was not shy about his accomplishments. But he made room in that theatrical, improbable, outsized life for others.
-- Michael Phillips, “Farewell to a Generous Colleague and Friend,” Chicago Tribune
If not for them, I don't know what would have happened to me. I often tell Roger, “No Gene Siskel, no Roger Ebert, no film career.”
--Errol Morris, “Errol Morris on Ebert and Siskel,” on YouTube
But Roger made everything feel personal, didn't he? That's why we're seeing such grief upon the news of his death. We all felt as if we knew him. He turned the discussion of films that might've seemed too artsy or intimidatingly intellectual into comfortable conversations. At the same time, he remained capable of walking into a movie – any movie, in any genre – with an open mind after decades as a towering force in this business. He always wanted to be dazzled, just as he did when he was a kid.
--Christy Lemire, “AP Critic Remembers Colleague, Friend, Roger Ebert.”
Ebert argues that writing criticism is about expressing your values, so why not be honest about where you stand on the issues of the day? I didn't tell Ebert, 67, how I admired his productivity in the face of his serious health issues. He has already shrugged off comments like that in print, saying that the energy that once went into speech now is channeled into writing. He has written that he's not dying any faster than you or I, so why should he get special attention for doing what he loves?
-- Colin Covert, “My Afternoon with Ebert,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune
In a wonderful mutual interview Ebert and Siskel did for the Chicago Tribune in 1998, Ebert responds to Siskel’s criticism that he tends to go too easy on “cheap exploitative schlock” like The Players Club with this telling reply: “I also have the greatest respect for you, Gene, but if you have a flaw, it is that you are parsimonious with your enjoyment, parceling it out as if you are afraid you will prematurely expend your lifetime share.” Joy—in movies, in conversation, in language, in life—was not something that Roger Ebert meted out parsimoniously. He had more than enough to last a lifetime ...
--Dana Stevens, “Roger Ebert,” on Slate
Roger was always supportive, he was always right there for me when I needed it most, when it really counted — at the very beginning, when every word of encouragement was precious; and then again, when I was at the lowest ebb of my career, there he was, just as encouraging, just as warmly supportive. ... Really, Roger was my friend. It's that simple. Few people I've known in my life loved or cared as much about movies. "We all knew that this moment was coming, but that doesn't make the loss any less wrenching.
--Martin Scorsese, in a statement reprinted in USA Today
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