I know this is one of those deaths where you could definitely see it coming, as Roger Ebert seemed to have been battling one physical ailment after another ever since being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. But still, it’s hard not to be affected whenever we lose one of the all-time greats in any particular medium, and Roger Ebert was certainly one of those for film criticism. I can’t speak for everybody here at Mildly Pleased, but I’m sure Mr. Ebert’s work has had more than a considerable impact on this forum for amateur film & media criticism.
Sure, the late great At The Movies, starring Ebert and his long time friend and sparring-partner Gene Skiskel was a bit before my time. And yet, when the entire archives from that show were released on to the show’s website in 2007, it had a pretty profound impact on the way I thought about film. I was just then getting serious about the possibilities of film as an art form, and here were two guys that embodied that love of movies as a medium capable of high art as well as thrilling entertainment. And I’m certain that the whole At The Movies format also managed to leave somewhat of an impact on the way we do things over on our T3 podcast. Because along with the unending intelligence of the conversations that took place on At The Movies, you always felt that these guys were very close friends, and were just as eager to make each other laugh as they were to jump in to a heated argument.
As for Ebert as a writer, the man’s pedigree pretty much speaks for itself. He’s of course the only journalist to ever win a Pulitzer for film criticism, and his work for the Chicago Sun-Times has been syndicated in countless different places. And despite his fame as one of the few household names in the world of film criticism, you always got the sense that writing was his first love. Take for instance when Ebert was rendered unable to speak after a series of cancer treatments in the late ’00s. Yet despite his physical shortcomings, he started producing about as many reviews and as much content as any film critic out there. And of course, every review was delivered in that very personalized and conversational tone of wit and reverence that had become Ebert’s trademark over the years.
I think it’s always hard to say what impact film critics truly have on the world of filmmaking as a whole, but I think you can undoubtedly say that for four decades, Mr. Ebert was a force for good in a Hollywood landscape that often needed someone like him to demand more of it. In my book, that’s more than worthy of one final thumbs up.