[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he movie world has lost one of its brightest sparks and best-loved critics with the passing of Roger Ebert, who died last week, aged 70, after a brave fight against cancer.
If you’re reading this now, it’s a safe bet that you’re an enthusiastic film-goer. You know the actors, the directors, but how many of the critics can you actually name? Roger Ebert was one of the very few that sprang to people’s minds, as the tributes that have poured in can testify.
One that stands out and encapsulates the essence of the man, in just a few words, came from President Barack Obama, who started off by simply saying: “Roger was the movies.” Much of this respect stems from the fact that Ebert was one of a very rare breed: a critic who had also written films. For this reason, his opinion always carried that little bit more weight, to the point where directors would be disappointed, rather than bitter, with an unfavourable response. His trademark ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ verdict became legendary.
Multiple accolades came along, of course. His infamous Pulitzer Prize win in 1975, the first film critic to manage the feat, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are obvious highlights. Yet one unique honour, which was bestowed upon him and his At the Movies co-host Gene Siskel, was having a street named after him – Siskel and Ebert Way is located near the CBS Studios in Chicago where the pair worked together.
In death, perhaps the biggest tribute will be paid in the form of the 15th annual Ebertfest. Still to be held on April 17th-21st in Champaign, Illinois, in spite of recent events, it promises to be a memorable few days, with this year’s special guests including Jack Black and Tilda Swinton.
But for those of you who can’t wait that long for your next dose of Roger Ebert, the great man’s final review is to be published shortly by the Chicago Sun-Times. It is believed to be on Terrence Mallick’s To the Wonder, which Ebert is rumoured to have actually liked!