Roger Ebert, the world's most legendary movie critic with a career longevity that no illness has seemed to conquer, announced in a blog post last night that he's receiving treatment for another bout of cancer and "must slow down" his voracious output. And, well, on the surface, that's enough to ruin your morning. It's a setback, certainly, for a man who has fought through so much, and taught us so much about the joy of film — and life. But when you move beyond the initial worry, it's actually not surprising that he's scaling things back a bit — this is also man who has worked harder than ever as a sick man, whose exhaustive output of movie reviews and tweets and social commentary on his blog has only expanded since he was diagnosed with cancermore than a decade ago. As Ebert himself points out, he wrote the most reviews he's ever written in a calendar year (306) in 2012, so he'll keep writing this year, but it's time to scale back. There is a silver lining, for Ebert at least: "What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review," he writes. In other words: no more Deuce Bigalow.
Ebert also plans to keep up his blog, his annual movie festival, and countless other wonderful things. He's launching a new website next week that will archive all of the reviews he's written for the Chicago Sun-Times. He's also debating writing a new book. Oh, and he's going to try and revive At the Movies via Kickstarter.
Ebert's been suffering from health complications since he was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. Doctors found cancerous growths in his glands the following year. In 2006, complications from surgery forced doctors to remove part of his jaw and, as a result, his ability to speak or eat solid foods. His struggles and his renewed devotion to writing were all captured beautifully in a 2010 Esquire profile by Chris Jones that also featured the first startling close-up of the Pulitzer prize winner's new face. Ebert wrote last night that as his treatment continues, and having picked up the first person so much this last decade and in his 2012 memoir Lifet Itself he may also continue to write about the experience of the treatments:
At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.
So Roger Ebert may be going away, technically, to deal with his health, but he won't be any less busy. The 70-year-old critic has the work ethic of a healthy 20-year-old, and bless his heart, if he wants to write about his battle with cancer, then we'll be there to read it.