Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert: R.I.P.

What a sad day. We knew that Roger Ebert was ill again, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Roger Ebert on his own passing

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Roger Ebert, the ardent, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who put his indelible thumbprint on the history of film criticism forged from spending a lifetime at the movies, has died, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. He was 70. 

In early December, the most famous movie critic of all time described his latest ailment, “a slight and nearly invisible hairline fracture involving my left femur” that immobilized him. “I didn’t fall. I didn’t break it. It just sort of ... happened to itself,” he said. In April, he revealed that the fracture was cancer and that he was undergoing radiation treatment and cutting back on his work.
Since 1967, Ebert served as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times (his final review, in which he described Stephenie Meyer’s The Host as having a one-note structure that “robs it of possibilities for dramatic tension,” ran online March 27.) 
He gained nationwide fame when he and Gene Siskel -- the film critic for the Sun-Times’ crosstown rival Chicago Tribune -- were paired on the Tribune Entertainment syndicated show At the Movies, which debuted in 1982. (The two had created and starred on a similar show, Sneak Previews, for the Chicago PBS station in 1975.) In 1986, they left to create Siskel & Ebert & the Movies for Disney’s Buena Vista Entertainment.

The show, airing on Saturday nights around dinnertime in most major markets, demystified and popularized film criticism as the two chatted and traded opinions after clips of movies were shown. For the Buena Vista edition, Siskel and Ebert came up with their signature "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" appraisals; two thumbs-up (and later two big thumbs-up) was as good as a movie could get.
“Two thumbs-up would appear in a lot of movie ads, so Gene and I trademarked that phrase -- we didn’t trademark our thumbs; I’ve read that a lot,” Ebert recalled in a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Television. “If you go through all sorts of databases, you find that the concept of ‘two thumbs-up’ did not exist until we did it. Before that, things got a thumbs-up, but they didn’t get two thumbs-up.”
As a tandem, Siskel and Ebert were readily identifiable in a Laurel and Hardy kind of way. Ebert was short, plump, mop-headed and wore glasses; Siskel was tall, thin and balding. They often disagreed in their opinions, and their verbal jousts could be funny. On camera, they often got under each other’s skin. The two, though, always professed to be pals off the set.
After Siskel died of a brain tumor in 1999, Ebert teamed on TV with fellow Sun-Times writer Richard Roeper until 2006, when Ebert lost part of his jaw to thyroid cancer, rendering him unable to speak. He would be fitted with a prosthetic chin to make him look more like his former self. Without an ounce of self-pity, Ebert said he looked like “the thing that jumps out of that guy’s intestines in Alien.”
Ebert had undergone surgery in February 2002 for thyroid cancer and had another operation 12 months later after cancer was found in his salivary gland.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Roger Ebert was a teenaged science fiction fan in the early 1960s, and Pat and I were sophisticated twenty-something fanzine publishers. Roger became our fanzine's resident poet. He also visited our home in New York and we showed him around the big city. In 2003 Roger and I wound up in the hospital at the same time with very serious illnesses. We buoyed each other through tough times via e-mail. A few years later when Tachyon Publications brought out The Best of Xero (our old fanzine) Roger wrote an introduction in which he reminisced about that New York visit. His loss is heartfelt and we will always treasure his memory and his wondrous bright spirit! -- Dick Lupoff