The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that its longtime film critic Roger Ebert, whose long battle with cancer couldn't take him away from the words he loved so much, has passed away at the age of 70. Here's the first word from The Sun-Times:
It is with a heavy heart we report that legendary film critic Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) has passed away— Suntimes (@Suntimes) April 4, 2013
Ebert, an Illinois native known for his neverending enthusiasm for the movies as a fan first, quickly rose to prominence as a critic at the Sun-Times at the age of 24. His syndicated show with his friend, the late Gene Siskel, brought movie criticism inside American homes like never before, with thumbs. But Ebert was a film lover first, a personality by default, and a writer always. In 2002, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer but continued to work, and when surgery in 2006 led to a reconfiguration of his facial structure and a loss of the ability to speak, he worked even harder. Esquire's Chris Jones chronicled Ebert's embrace of a popular Twitter account and his Sun-Times blog, "Roger Ebert's Journal," to write voraciously — reviews, social commentary, and a kind of personal social-media diary of his life with cancer.
(Photo by Ethan Hill/Esquire)
Just Tuesday, Ebert had announced in a blog post that he was receiving another round of treatment for cancer, insisting he had to "slow down" his output but hoping to relaunch his site and continue to write reviews for the Sun-Times on a regular basis. Indeed, as the illness set in throughout 2012, the already voluminous Ebert wrote the most reviews he had ever written in a single year: 306. He loyally entered The New Yorker's caption contest every week, and dutifully met his deadline on reviews through last week.
Ebert is survived by his wife, Chaz.
Here is Ebert's TED talk, "Remaking My Voice," from 2011:
That same year, 60 Minutes examined Ebert's voice and his battle with cancer:
We'll be collecting some of his more classic reviews, along with more of the best writing by and about Ebert, to honor his legacy below. (Update, Friday: We've collected more remembrances from the Friday papers right here.)
Ebert on Ebert
"I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state ... I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting." (The AP quotes an Ebert passage from 2010)
"I go into the movie, I watch it, and I ask myself what happened to me." —Life Itself (memoir, 2011)
"The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and memories I miss. I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to start reciting poetry on a moment's notice. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that’s why writing has become so important to me." —Life Itself
Ebert on the Movies
"I am, beneath everything else, a fan. I was fixed in this mode as a young boy and am awed by people who take the risks of performance." (via The Hollywood Reporter)
On Battlefield Earth (Chicago Sun-Times):
Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way.
On the 1998 remake of Godzilla:
"Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica."
"Roger Ebert loved movies. Except for those he hated." —The Chicago Sun-Times
"[I]n his words and in his life he displayed the soul of a poet whose passions and interests extended far beyond the darkened theaters where he spent so much of his professional life."—The Chicago Tribune
"It would not be a stretch to say that Mr. Ebert was the best-known film reviewer of his generation, and one of the most trusted." —The New York Times
"[Ebert's] gladiatorial 'thumbs up, thumbs down' assessments turned film reviewing into a television sport and whose passion for independent film helped introduce a new generation of filmmakers to moviegoers..." —Los Angeles Times
Chicago on Ebert
twitpic.com/cgzdu9 Truly one of Chicago's Very Own. RIP, Mr. Ebert.— WGNTV (@WGNTV) April 4, 2013
Others on Ebert
"Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Roger Ebert. For a generation of Americans — and especially Chicagoans — Roger was the movies. When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient — continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won't be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family." —President Obama, Thursday
"But now everything he says must be written, either first on his laptop and funneled through speakers or, as he usually prefers, on some kind of paper. His new life is lived through Times New Roman and chicken scratch. So many words, so much writing—it’s like a kind of explosion is taking place on the second floor of his brownstone." —Chris Jones, Esquire, 2010
"Ebert's writing is gentle, calm and infectious. He trusts his readers not to be morons. He writes for who he imagines to be the ideal reader, which is actually the reader we all wish ourselves to be. Those who thought of him as the fat man with the thumb always missed the point. He became who he was because of his work. He did it the right way." —Will Leitch, Deadspin, 2010
Ebert on Gene Siskel (Chicago Sun-Times):
I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship.
Ebert on Others
On Lee Marvin: "Through the door you could hear the waves hitting the beach, crush, crush, and at this moment, while Marvin pretended to sleep, the morning resolved itself as a melancholy foggy Saturday." —Esquire, 1970
On Vincent Gallo: "I will one day be thin, but Vincent Gallo will always be the director of The Brown Bunny."
On Sarah Palin: "How many Presidents have needed a teleprompter less than Obama? How many ex-governors have needed one more than Palin?"