Roger Ebert: Legacy of a Film Legend

Friday, April 05, 2013

Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz Hammel-Smith give the thumbs-ups to Nancy Kwan at the Hawaii International Film Festival on October 20, 2010. (Chuck Boller, Hawaii International FIlm Festival/Wikipedia Commons)

For 45 years, Roger Ebert was a critical tour de force. As film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, as half of the review dreamteam, Siskel and Ebert and the Movies, and, in his later life, as a prolific blogger, Ebert reached generations of film-goers even after he lost the ability to speak.

Ebert died yesterday at the age of seventy, a significant loss for anyone who loves the movies, and especially for Jim Palmer, director of the Conference on World Affairs and senior professor of film studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Palmer and Ebert were friends for 18 years.


Jim Palmer

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer and Jillian Weinberger

Comments [2]

John F. Burton from John Burton, staff writer, The Two River Times, Red Bank, NJ

Often times critics tend to be dismissed as just frustrated writers/actors/directors--whatever. Anthony Newley compared them to the eunuchs guarding the harem, explaining: "They know why it's done. They know how it's done, and with whom it should be done. But they just can't seem to do it themselves." Hemingway, in his own straightforward style called critics the "lice on the body of literature." But good critics, like Frank Rich (before he changed hats at the NY Times), and the great James Agee, who had written pure poetry for TIME and elsewhere in the 1940s (read his review/essay on Bugs Bunny; brilliant), among others, offered so much more than just whether a work was worth the price of a ticket; they educated, informed and often showed us what the artists were striving for and how well he or she achieved it and, especially more recently, from whom they were stealing. And they also did it with real poetry. The real lesson is that well written criticism its own reward, offering innumerable pleasures. And don't forget many of those "eunuchs" had gone on to do so much more than daily/weekly journalism. Peter Bogdanovich went from writing film reviews and appreciations to becoming one of the 1970's cinema wunderkinds. Jean-Luc Godard, followed up his film criticism with being a cinematic visionary establishing a whole film movement--French New Wave in the 1950s. And Agee turned his typewriter to fiction, screenplays and reportage, penning the novel "A Death in the Family"; the remarkable "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" with those indelible Walker Evans photos; and working with John Huston on the screenplay for "The African Queen," before he died much to young from a heart attack.
Roger Ebert belongs in their ranks. He was witty, incredibly knowledgeable about the craft of filmmaking and actually liked movies-exploring it as art, pop culture and a business. But first and foremost he was a writer, so good, he won a Pulitzer for it. And so good at it, it makes you forgive him for writing the screenplay for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" for schlockmeister softcore porn merchant Russ Meyer. Well, almost, anyway.
R.I.P. Roger Ebert, from a fan and fellow movie lover (and admittedly one time film and theater critic--guilty as charged), and forever devotee of the well turned phrase.

Apr. 05 2013 10:05 AM
Matthew from Nashville, Tennessee

Calling Pauline Kael an impenetrable intellectual is ridiculous. Kael’s work was sharp and eminently readable. She had high and interesting standards.

Roger Ebert, r.i.p., was merely an intelligent movie buff. He treated movies, on his t.v. show, in too cartoony a fashion, thinking that something as complex as a movie could be summed up by an image of one’s thumb, as if we were ranking potato chips.

Apr. 05 2013 09:35 AM

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