I lost one of my heroes and distant mentors earlier this month when Roger Ebert died at the age of 70. For more than 45 years, he churned out movie reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times, but he was much more than that.
He teamed with the late Gene Siskel, the critic for the Chicago Tribune, and became a TV star talking about movies. Many thought Roger Ebert was too much of a movie fan and not enough of a critic, but he was in fact highly critical in ways that were quite important.
He was very connected to Canada, especially the Toronto Film Festival where I had the pleasure of meeting him and interviewing him a couple of times. Roger once said that the central figure in a Canadian feature film was all too often a “dead teenager”. He used that zinger in the late 1970’s and early 80’s when some truly dreadful movies were made in this country because of tax shelters.
He hated ‘exploitation’ and he had precious little time for mindless violence, but he didn’t get up on a soapbox about it. Now that TV has become more the home of serious drama for adults than the big screen, I wonder what he might have thought of shows like The Following and Hannibal ?
Seven years ago Roger came very close to death, and he lost much of his identity when his face was destroyed and he could no longer speak because of cancer. That would be enough to finish many of us off, but Ebert soldiered on.
He kept on writing reviews, and he embraced social media with determination and passion. He had legions of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
His reviews and articles were always entertaining and informative. Somewhere he’s probably holding an aisle seat with his thumb pointed up, or down. I shall miss him.
I’m Roger Currie