R.I.P. Roger Ebert
When I was a kid, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were like superheroes to me. I wanted to be a movie critic when I grew up, and I remember tuning in for the series premiere of PBS’ Sneak Previews in 1975 and being amazed to see film reviewers on TV who weren’t cartoonish like the Today show’s Gene Shalit or local D.C. TV personalities like Davey Marlin-Jones. These guys took the cinema—and themselves—seriously. Now they’re both gone, and there’s no one in the TV universe to replace them. (I did enjoy the final iteration of At the Movies, with A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips, but it was sadly cancelled.)
I watched Siskel and Ebert for decades, before and after I became a professional critic, and their dialogue always influenced me, whether I was debating my college roommate, Arnold Wayne Jones, in the pages of the University Journal at U.Va. or bantering with my good friend Bret Watson on our Two Cranky Guys blog. I liked it best when S&E disagreed—like this epic battle over 1987’s Date with an Angel.
I only ever crossed paths with Ebert once. I was ranking the top 10 baseball movies of all time for Major League Baseball and my editor asked me to email Ebert for his list. He responded right away—and, surprisingly, declined. He said something about how he didn’t consider baseball movies to be a genre unto itself, and that comparing them was moot. I was disappointed, but I respected his opinion, as always.
It was only over the last few years, as Ebert so bravely and publicly battled cancer, that I realized my first instincts about him were right: He was a superhero. And even though he has now succumbed to the disease, people will be reading—and watching—his reviews for years to come. Like film, Roger Ebert is forever.
What are your memories of Roger Ebert? Post a comment!