He was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize. For more than 40 years he worked at one newspaper, The Chicago Sun-Times. He was hailed as the best-known film reviewer of his generation, and one of the most trusted.
So it is no wonder that when Roger Ebert died yesterday at the ago of 70, even President Barack Obama was moved to say that for a generation of Americans ... “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.”
Read the New York Times tribute to Roger Ebert here.
- ADDITIONAL READING: Cancer surgery cost him his lower jaw and his ability to speak — but not his ability to write. To know more, read this magnificent profile of Roger Ebert in Esquire magazine.
- EXTERNAL READING: Jai Arjun Singh, a New Delhi-based freelance writer and journalist whose writing I admire, has published a post about his brief encounter with Roger Ebert. Read it on his blog, Jabberwock, here.
- EXTERNAL READING: Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Ebert connection: "Remembering Roger Ebert". (Thanks for the tip-off, Noyon Jyoti Parasara.)
- EXTERNAL READING: Read Roger Ebert's 20 best reviews here.
Here's some more on Roger Ebert — a series of three articles he wrote while in India in 1999, including a delightful account of his first experience of watching a Hindi potboiler [Taal] in a cinema hall.
I was introduced to Ebert by [Cinema Studies professor at Commits] Tummala Sir about 11-12 years ago. Since then every time a new movie arrived in theatres, or I heard of another oh-but-you-must-see-this-classic, I would Google Ebert and the movie's name. And he never lied to me. That was the beauty of his craft. Not only the brutal honesty that he succinctly put in a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on his TV show, but also the poignancy and sincerity that he brought to his writing in print.
Ebert didn't have the trappings that knowledge often brings, which is why his write-up on movie viewing in India is so exquisite. He is childlike in his approach to new experiences, which is why he compares in all seriousness and sincerity the snacks available at a Hyderabad single screen theatre with that in a cinema hall in Michigan.
And in this sincerity and zest he and Tummala Sir lived a very similar life — both refused to accept what life had meted out to them; both decided instead to take life by the horns, turn it around, and make every moment a celebration and a gift. It's surprising how similar their approach to life was. Is that the power of the spirit? Is it the power of cinema? I'm not sure. But I am glad I had them both in my life for some time. And of course, the gift of movies that they brought for me.
I hope you and your students will enjoy reading these articles:
UPDATE (April 14, 2013): Maria Popova, my favourite blogger, pays tribute to Roger Ebert (there's also a link to the late film critic's "unforgettable TED talk"): "RIP, Roger Ebert: The Beloved Critic on Writing, Life, and Mortality".
UPDATE (April 19, 2013): Roy Peter Clark, a guru of journalism whose writing I admire deeply, has also paid tribute to Roger Ebert. Read his post here: "Why Roger Ebert was a good writer".