My high school yearbook quote: “…my dream is to be the next Roger Ebert, a movie critic known worldwide.”
What’s weird is that, just mere hours before the world found out he passed, the legendary film critic was a topic of conversation amongst friends as we prepared for our weekly radio show, where we discuss movies.
I am not exaggerating when I say Mr. Ebert is the reason I started on a journalism track when I was 14.
Naturally, I was a bit crestfallen when I learned of his passing, which happened via a text message from my brother shortly after I returned home from the aforementioned radio show. It would be the first of a few text messages I received offering condolences in light of Mr. Ebert’s death.
I have so many memories of religiously watching his television programs and putting his books at the top of my wish lists, then voraciously reading them cover-to-cover.
I never met him, but taking a concentrated amount of time to watch him discuss films and read his writings on them was without a doubt my first foray into journalism.
He was my first journalism teacher (I’ve had many amazing ones over the last 13 years), and for that, I will be eternally grateful to this now-gone stranger.
While I don’t have the same aspirations my 14- or 17-year-old self had, I still do appreciate the film critic, the writer, the man.
More so, I appreciate the eras of journalism and cinema he represents.
These days, the film and journalism industries are changing at such a dramatic pace. I have friends and acquaintances in both fields, and for the most part, they seem to have an appreciation for the history of their chosen professions, which gives me some hope.
What worries me is those who have very little knowledge of or regard for the past, charging through without taking the briefest amount of time to do their homework.
Something is lacking in just 140 characters of text or two-minute online videos. I much prefer 1,000-word articles and 120-minute cinematic visions, modern world be damned.
Getting back to the topic at hand, I suppose Mr. Ebert’s passing seems to be yet another symbol that those eras I so love are coming to a close.
Change is good, it keeps us fresh; my only hope is that a little of the past can sneak in from those of us who have taken the time to study, live and absorb it.
I think Mr. Ebert is a prime example of this; while unable to speak for himself during his final years due to complications from cancer, he took to the internet, developing a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account with very strong followings.
He seemed to find the correct balance between indulging in the brevity of the modern age while still taking the time to fully form his thoughts.
To quote Mr. Ebert (from the 2008 blog post “Jay the Rat”), “Newspapers are not dead…because there are still readers who want the whole story, not a sound bite. … We believe in our profession, and in the future.”
For those who don’t know, Mr. Ebert is the only film critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is the only person to receive a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism.
He was named an honorary life member of the Directors’ Guild of America, won the Screenwriters’ Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and has honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
He became the first film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967 and is well-known for his At the Movies television program, which he co-hosted first with Gene Siskel and later, Richard Roeper. The infamous “two thumbs up” became the registered trademark of the show and its critics.
Roger Joseph Ebert, 70, passed away on April 4 in Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Chaz; stepchildren, Sonia and Jay; and grandchildren, Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph.