Legendary critic sees final curtain

Roger Ebert was a successful film critic, journalist and screenwriter. He passed away from cancer but left behind his love of showing movie goers that movies represented more.

by Sumner Strickland | staff writer

Roger Ebert was the man many people turned to, to make sure they saw something worth seeing at the movies. Ever since in 1967 when he picked the most controversial movie of the decade, Bonnie and Clyde, as his favorite film of the year; he has been talked about and has changed the way audiences and critics felt about films. He challenged our views of movie violence when he professed that Taxi Driver was one of the greatest films ever made. And he changed what people thought about The Wild Bunch, where some thought it was just violent for violence sake he saw the inner beauty of Sam Peckinpah’s vision.

At the beginning of his career with Gene Siskel on At the Movies with Roger Ebert, the two despised each other. But that’s what made the show the success it was, the will the two had to argue for what they liked. One story told in particular, which I’m not sure is true but I like to believe it is, on Johnny Carson one night, late into Gene’s brain tumor, he was having trouble speaking. In an effort to protect his friend, Roger covered for him the whole show to pass it off as a joke. A few months later, Gene died of the brain tumor. Roger Ebert as distraught as he was over the death of his long time friend and colleague continued and never stopped his film criticism.

The amount of films seen by Roger Ebert during a year was on average 300, no critic in the industry was that committed to the art form.  No other critic has had that much influence on film. He not only changed how critics felt about films, but audiences too. Roger Ebert had a long battle with cancer but wrote a final essay two days before his death. This essay discussed his absence for the past couple of months and his plans for the future, but more than anything his final lines summed up his whole career in six words. “I’ll see you at the movies.” Those six words were everything he lived for. Movies were his life, there wasn’t much else to it. That was the meaning to his life. He lived through his failures and successes through the cinema. Nothing else was more important. And that’s why he’ll be remembered, not all the stuff he did in between. It was his undying passion for cinema that made him the legend that defined film criticism forever.

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