Thursday, April 4, 2013

Farewell Roger Ebert

The Balcony is Now Closed.

Rober Ebert (1942 - 2013) has passed on from cancer.  Every major news outlet has an obituary dedicated to his career that began in 1966 and ended yesterday.  Here's the one from Fox News.

It's difficult to describe to any younger generation how much someone like Roger Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel can mean to you.  This, of course, won't stop me from trying.

Roger begain as a part-time film critic with the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 and became a full-time film critc the following year (after he graduated from college).  I entered first grade in 1969.  To the best of my knowledge, Roger was - and still is - the only man in history to obtain a PhD in Film Criticism.  His intelectual discipline showed through in his critiques.

He wrote several books.  My college roommate, Steve Vaught, had one of his earliest works, an encyclopedia of almost every film ever made; including Plan Nine from Outer Space.

He began Siskel & Ebert: At the Movies in 1986 with Gene Siskel, a film Critic from the Chicago Tribune.  When Gene died of brain cancer in 1999, he continued the show with fellow Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper.  The show finally ended in 2010.

At the Movies was more than just film criticism.  Siskel & Ebert dedicated entire shows to certain themes.  I learned a great deal from these particular episodes.  They regarded Humphrey Bogart and Jack Nicholson to be the two greatest Actors in American history.  They detailed the technical differences between "Black & White" films and "Color" films and why colorizing a black & white film can never work.  And they spent an entire episode on silent films and how some directors made their silent films unforgetable.

I was unaware Roger had surgery in 2006.  Enough of his jaw was removed that he could no longer speak, eat, or drink after that.  But you can see in his pictures that Roger was still happy.  And had a full head of hair.  How did he do that?

When Roger Ebert's career bagan in 1966, newspaper ariticles were still written with typewriters - computers would not be readily available for 15 years.  But he progressed through television, the computer revolution, and into social media seemlessly.

There are a few good film critics working today.  But there will never be another Siskel and Ebert.  That's why the balcony is closed for good.  The doors are boarded-up and I don't believe the building can be renovated.

Please leave any fond memories in the comments section.

Adieu, Roger Ebert.

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