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Grace and Dignity…Roger Ebert is the Man

Roger Ebert has always been one of my professional heroes. He is now one of my personal heroes as well.

I love Roger Ebert. I always have. As a very small child, I remem­ber watch­ing — and lov­ing — Siskel & Ebert’s At the Movies. It was always one of those week­end tra­di­tions — track down the syn­di­cat­ed “At the Movies” broad­cast and find out about upcom­ing films. Even after my fam­i­ly got Inter­net access in 1996 or so, I still loved watch­ing Siskel & Ebert. It’s so nice that the archives from 1986 onward have been pre­served online.

In 2006, Roger under­went surgery to remove can­cer near his jaw. There end­ed up being some pret­ty seri­ous com­pli­ca­tions and Ebert is no longer able to speak. He’s also unable to eat or drink. But he can write.

Can he ever write.

In my opin­ion, Roger Ebert is one of the best film crit­ics in his­to­ry — from both an aca­d­e­m­ic and pop­ulist per­spec­tive. His reviews and com­men­tary eas­i­ly best the most revered film jour­nals (and as some­one who spent way too many years in col­lege study­ing film, I hon­est­ly have to say, aca­d­e­m­ic film writ­ing can be real­ly, real­ly irri­tat­ing), yet his coined thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach can bring the film for­ward for the non-aca­d­e­m­ic film fol­low­er.

I have always admired Ebert’s writ­ing and his approach to film crit­i­cism. Despite los­ing the abil­i­ty to phys­i­cal­ly speak, Ebert’s voice hasn’t dis­ap­peared. If any­thing, his writ­ing — already a cut above — has become even bet­ter. Maybe it’s one of those sens­es things. Like how your sense of smell and hear­ing can be ele­vat­ed if you lose your sight?

I don’t know, the man is incred­i­ble. I wasn’t plan­ning on my first Project 52 entry, I had anoth­er draft planned. I’ll just pub­lish that tomor­row or Sat­ur­day. I read this blog entry of Ebert’s (thanks @highsign) and just had to link to it — but I want­ed to also try to say some­thing more.

I dreamed. I was read­ing Cor­mac McCarthy’s Sut­tree, and there’s a pas­sage where the hero, laz­ing on his riv­er boat on a hot sum­mer day, pulls up a string from the water with a bot­tle of orange soda attached to it and drinks. I tast­ed that pop so clear­ly I can taste it today. Lat­er he’s served a beer in a frost­ed mug. I don’t drink beer, but the frost­ed mug evoked for me a long-buried mem­o­ry of my father and I dri­ving in his old Ply­mouth to the A&W Root Beer stand (grav­el dri­ve­ways, carhop ser­vice, win­dow trays) and his voice say­ing “…and a five-cent beer for the boy.” The smoke from his Lucky Strike in the car. The heavy sum­mer heat.

But real­ly, read this. What more can you say. What an amaz­ing per­son (with an amaz­ing fam­i­ly and sup­port sys­tem), what an amaz­ing writer.

Read this. The man can’t phys­i­cal­ly speak (not that com­put­ers aren’t great), yet he has said more than some indi­vid­u­als — no mat­ter how loqua­cious — could in a life­time. Roger Ebert, you are my hero.

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