Roger Joseph Ebert (; June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013) was an American film critic
, film historian, journalist, screenwriter, and author. He was a film critic for the ''Chicago Sun-Times
'' from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism
. Neil Steinberg
of the ''Chicago Sun-Times'' said Ebert "was without question the nation's most prominent and influential film critic,"
Tom Van Riper of ''Forbes
'' described him as "the most powerful pundit in America," and Kenneth Turan
of the ''Los Angeles Times
'' called him "the best-known film critic in America."
Ebert was known for his intimate, Midwestern
writing voice and critical views informed by values of populism
. Writing in a prose style intended to be entertaining and direct, he made sophisticated cinematic and analytical ideas more accessible to nonspecialist audiences. Ebert frequently endorsed foreign and independent films he believed would be appreciated by mainstream viewers, which often resulted in such films receiving greater exposure.
Ebert and ''Chicago Tribune
'' critic Gene Siskel
helped popularize nationally televised film reviewing when they co-hosted the PBS
show ''Sneak Previews
'', followed by several variously named ''At the Movies
'' programs. The two verbally sparred and traded humorous barbs while discussing films. They created and trademarked the phrase "two thumbs up," used when both gave the same film a positive review. After Siskel died in 1999, Ebert continued hosting the show with various co-hosts and then, starting in 2000, with Richard Roeper
Ebert was diagnosed with cancer
of the thyroid
and salivary glands
in 2002. In the year 2006, he required treatment that included removal of his lower jaw, leaving him severely disfigured and unable to speak or eat normally. However, his ability to write remained unimpaired and he continued to publish frequently online and in print until his death on April 4, 2013.
Roger Joseph Ebert
[. May 20, 2008. Retrieved June 7, 2012.]
was born in Urbana, Illinois
, the only child of Annabel (née Stumm,
1911–1987), a bookkeeper,
and Walter Harry Ebert (1901–1960), an electrician.
He was raised Roman Catholic
, attending St. Mary's elementary school and serving as an altar boy
His paternal grandparents were German immigrants and his maternal ancestry was Irish and Dutch.
Ebert's interest in journalism began when he was a student at Urbana High School
, where he was a sportswriter for ''The News-Gazette
'' in Champaign, Illinois
; however, he began his writing career with letters of comment to the science-fiction fanzine
s of the era.
In his senior year, he was class president and co-editor of his high school newspaper
, ''The Echo''.
In 1958, he won the Illinois High School Association
championship in "radio speaking," an event that simulates radio newscasts.
Regarding his early influences in film criticism, Ebert wrote in the 1998 parody collection ''Mad About the Movies'':
Ebert began taking classes at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
as an early-entrance student, completing his high school courses while also taking his first university class. After graduating from Urbana High School in 1960, Ebert then attended and received his undergraduate degree in 1964. While at the University of Illinois, Ebert worked as a reporter for ''The Daily Illini
'' and then served as its editor during his senior year while also continuing to work as a reporter for the ''News-Gazette'' of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. (He had begun at the ''News-Gazette'' at age 15 covering Urbana High School sports.) As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta
fraternity and president of the U.S. Student Press Association. One of the first movie reviews he ever wrote was a review of ''La Dolce Vita
'', published in ''The Daily Illini'' in October 1961.
Ebert spent a semester as a master's student in the department of English there before attending the University of Cape Town
on a Rotary fellowship for a year. He returned from Cape Town to his graduate studies at Illinois for two more semesters and then, after being accepted as a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago
, he prepared to move to Chicago. He needed a job to support himself while he worked on his doctorate and so applied to the ''Chicago Daily News
'', hoping that, as he had already sold freelance pieces to the ''Daily News'', including an article on the death of writer Brendan Behan
, he would be hired by editor Herman Kogan
. Instead Kogan referred Ebert to the city editor at the ''Chicago Sun-Times,'' Jim Hoge
, who hired Ebert as a reporter and feature writer at the ''Sun-Times'' in 1966. He attended doctoral classes at the University of Chicago while working as a general reporter at the ''Sun-Times'' for a year. After movie critic Eleanor Keane left the ''Sun-Times'' in April 1967, editor Robert Zonka gave the job to Ebert. The load of graduate school and being a film critic proved too much, so Ebert left the University of Chicago to focus his energies on film criticism.
Ebert began his career as a film critic in 1967, writing for the ''Chicago Sun-Times''.
That same year, he met film critic Pauline Kael
for the first time at the New York Film Festival. After he sent her some of his columns, she told him they were "the best film criticism being done in American newspapers today."
That same year, Ebert's first book, a history of the University of Illinois
titled ''Illini Century: One Hundred Years of Campus Life'', was published by the University's press. In 1969, his review of ''Night of the Living Dead
'' was published in ''Reader's Digest
''. In addition to film, Ebert would occasionally write about other topics for the ''Sun-Times'', such as music; In 1970, Ebert wrote the first published concert review of singer-songwriter John Prine
, who at the time was working as a mailman and performing at Chicago folk clubs.
Ebert co-wrote the screenplay for the Russ Meyer
film ''Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
'' (1970) and sometimes joked about being responsible for the film, which was poorly received on its release yet has become a cult film
. Ebert and Meyer also made ''Up!
'' (1976), ''Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens
'' (1979), and other films, and were involved in the ill-fated Sex Pistols
movie ''Who Killed Bambi?
'' (In April 2010, Ebert posted his screenplay of ''Who Killed Bambi?'', aka ''Anarchy in the UK'', on his blog.)
Beginning in 1968, Ebert worked for the University of Chicago
as an adjunct lecturer, teaching a night class on film at the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies
In 1975, Ebert received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism
In October 1986, while continuing to work for the ''Sun-Times'' and still being based in Chicago, Ebert replaced Rex Reed
as the ''New York Post
'' chief film reviewer.
As of 2007, his reviews were syndicated
to more than 200 newspapers in the United States and abroad.
Ebert also published more than 20 books and dozens of collected reviews.
Even as he used TV (and later the internet) to share his reviews, Ebert continued to write for the ''Chicago Sun-Times'' until he died in 2013.
Also in 1975, Ebert and Gene Siskel
began co-hosting a weekly film-review television show, ''Sneak Previews'', which was locally produced by the Chicago public broadcasting
. The series was later picked up for national syndication on PBS
. The duo became well known for their "thumbs up/thumbs down" review summaries. Siskel and Ebert trademarked the phrase "Two Thumbs Up."
In 1982, they moved from PBS to launch a similar syndicated
commercial television show named ''At the Movies With Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert
''. In 1986, they again moved the show to new ownership, creating ''Siskel & Ebert & the Movies
'' through Buena Vista Television
, part of the Walt Disney Company
After Siskel died in 1999, the producers retitled the show ''Roger Ebert & the Movies'' and used rotating co-hosts including Martin Scorsese
, A.O. Scott
, and Janet Maslin
In September 2000, ''Chicago Sun-Times'' columnist Richard Roeper
became the permanent co-host and the show was renamed ''At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper
'' and later ''At the Movies''.
In 2000, Ebert interviewed President Bill Clinton
at The White House
. Clinton spoke about his love for the movies, his favorite films of 1999, and of all time which include ''Casablanca
'' (1942), ''High Noon
'' (1952) and ''The Ten Commandments
'' (1956). President Clinton also mentioned his favorite actors being Meryl Streep
, Robert De Niro
, and Tom Hanks
In 2005, Ebert became the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Ebert ended his association with the Disney-owned ''At The Movies'' in July 2008,
after the studio indicated it wished to take the program in a new direction. On February 18, 2009, Ebert reported that he and Roeper would soon announce a new movie-review program,
and reiterated this plan after Disney announced that the program's last episode would air in August 2010.
On January 31, 2009, Ebert was made an honorary life member of the Directors Guild of America
. His final television series, ''Ebert Presents: At the Movies
'', premiered on January 21, 2011, with Ebert contributing a review voiced by Bill Kurtis
in a brief segment called "Roger's Office," as well as featuring more traditional film reviews in the "At the Movies" format presented by Christy Lemire
and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
The last review Ebert wrote was for the film ''To the Wonder
'', which he gave 3.5 out of 4 stars in a review for the ''Chicago Sun-Times''. It was published on April 6, 2013. In July 2013, a previously unpublished review of the film ''Computer Chess
'' appeared on Ebert's website. The review had been written in March but had remained unpublished until the film's wide-release date.
Matt Zoller Seitz, the editor for Ebert's website, confirmed that there were other unpublished reviews that would be eventually uploaded to the website.
A second posthumously published review, for ''The Spectacular Now
'', was published in August 2013.
Film and TV appearances
In 1995, Ebert, along with colleague Gene Siskel, guest-starred on an episode of the animated TV series ''The Critic
''. In the episode, Siskel and Ebert split and each wants Jay as his new partner. The episode is a parody of the film ''Sleepless in Seattle
''. The following year, Ebert appeared in ''Pitch'', a documentary by Canadian film makers Spencer Rice
and Kenny Hotz
. He made an appearance as himself in a 1997 episode of the television series ''Early Edition
'', which took place in Chicago. In the episode, Ebert consoles a young boy who is depressed after he sees a character called Bosco the Bunny die in a movie.
In 1999, Roger Ebert founded his own film festival, Ebertfest
, in his home town of Champaign, Illinois. He was also a regular fixture at the Hawaii International Film Festival
In 2003, Ebert made a cameo appearance in the film ''Abby Singer
''. On May 4, 2010, Ebert was announced by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences as the Webby Person of the Year, having taken to the internet following his battle with cancer. On October 22, 2010, Ebert appeared on camera with Robert Osborne
on the Turner Classic Movies
network during the network's "The Essentials" series. Ebert chose the films ''Sweet Smell of Success
'' and ''The Lady Eve
'' to be shown.
For many years, on the day of the Academy Awards
ceremony, Ebert appeared with Roeper on the live pre-awards show, ''An Evening at the Academy Awards: The Arrivals''. This aired for over a decade, usually prior to the awards ceremony show, which also featured red carpet
interviews and fashion commentary. They also used to appear on the post-awards show entitled ''An Evening at the Academy Awards: The Winners'', produced and aired by the ABC
in Los Angeles.
Ebert was one of the principal critics featured in Gerald Peary
's 2009 documentary film ''For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism
''. He is shown discussing the dynamics of appearing with Gene Siskel on the 1970s show ''Coming to a Theatre Near You'', which was the predecessor of ''Sneak Previews'' on Chicago PBS station WTTW. He also expressed his approval of the proliferation of young people writing film reviews today on the internet.
Ebert provided DVD audio commentaries
for several films, including ''Citizen Kane
'', ''Dark City
'', ''Floating Weeds
'', and ''Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
'' (for which Ebert also wrote the screenplay, based on a story that he co-wrote with Russ Meyer
). Ebert was also interviewed by Central Park Media
for an extra feature on the DVD release of the anime
film ''Grave of the Fireflies
''. Ebert appeared as a guest star multiple times on ''Sesame Street
''. A bio-documentary about Ebert, called ''Life Itself
'', was released in 2014 to universal acclaim.
Though not making a personal appearance, an honorary effigy of Ebert co-starred in the 1998 reimagined version of
'', played by actor Michael Lerner
as New York City Mayor Ebert.
Ebert described his critical approach to films as "relative, not absolute"; he reviewed a film for what he thought it would be to its prospective audience, yet always with at least some consideration as to its value as a whole. He awarded four stars to films of the highest quality, and generally a half star to those of the lowest, unless he considered the film to be "artistically inept and morally repugnant," in which case it received no stars.
later noted that Ebert tended to give more lenient ratings than most critics. His average film rating was 71%, if translated into a percentage, compared to 59% for the site as a whole. Of his reviews, 75% were positive and 75% of his ratings were better than his colleagues. Ebert had acknowledged in 2008 that he gave higher ratings on average than other critics, though he said this was in part because he considered a rating of 3 out of 4 stars to be the general threshold for a film to get a "thumbs up." Although Ebert rarely wrote outright-scathing reviews, he had a reputation for writing memorable ones for the films he really disliked, such as ''North
Ebert emphasized that his star ratings had little meaning if not considered in the context of the review itself. Occasionally, Ebert's star rating may have seemed at odds with his written opinion. Ebert acknowledged one such case in his review of ''Basic Instinct 2
'', which he gave 1.5 stars, and about which he wrote "I cannot recommend the movie, but ... why the hell can't I? Just because it's godawful? What kind of reason is that of staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, ''that'' would be a reason." In his review of ''The Manson Family
'', Ebert gave the film three stars for achieving what it set out to do, but admitted that did not count as a recommendation ''per se''. He similarly gave the Adam Sandler–starring remake
of ''The Longest Yard
'' a positive rating of three stars, but in his review, which he wrote soon after attending the Cannes Film Festival
, he recommended readers not to see the film because they had access to more satisfying cinematic experiences. He declined to give a star rating to ''The Human Centipede
'', arguing that the rating system was "unsuited" to such a film: "Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine."
Ebert's reviews were also characterized by what has been called "dry wit."
In August 2005, after Rob Schneider
insulted ''Los Angeles Times
'' movie critic Patrick Goldstein
(who had criticized Schneider's film ''Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
'') by commenting that Goldstein was unqualified because he had never won the Pulitzer Prize
, Ebert intervened by stating that, as a Pulitzer winner, he ''was'' qualified to review the film, and bluntly told Schneider, "Your movie sucks." Ebert and Schneider would later reconcile regarding this matter.
Ebert often included personal anecdotes in his reviews when he considered them relevant. He occasionally wrote reviews in the forms of stories, poems, songs, scripts, open letters, or imagined conversations. He wrote many essays and articles exploring in depth the field of film criticism (see Bibliography in this article). Will Sloan argued that the reason for Ebert's popularity was that he struck a balance between being respected among film scholars and appealing to a wide audience. For example, he noted how Ebert and Siskel may have given "thumbs up/thumbs down" verdicts on their show, but they also used the show to promote foreign and independent cinema.
In his appearances on ''The Howard Stern Show
'', he was frequently challenged to defend his ratings. Ebert stood by his opinions with one notable exception: when Stern pointed out that Ebert had given ''The Godfather Part II
'' a three-star rating in 1974, but had subsequently given ''The Godfather Part III
'' three and a half stars. Ebert later added ''The Godfather Part II'' to his "Great Movies" list in October 2008 stating that his original review has often been cited as proof of his "worthlessness" but he still had not changed his mind and would not change a word of his original review.
When reviewing the 2009 remake of ''The Last House on the Left''
, Ebert noted how he had given the controversial 1972 original
three and a half stars and declined to make a comparison between the two versions: "I wrote that original 'Last House' review 37 years ago. I am not the same person. I am uninterested in being 'consistent'."
Ebert indicated that his favorite film was ''Citizen Kane
'', joking, "That's the official answer," although he preferred to emphasize it as "the most important" film. He insinuated that his real favorite film was ''La Dolce Vita
His favorite actor was Robert Mitchum
, and his favorite actress was Ingrid Bergman
. He also considered Buster Keaton
, Robert Altman
, Werner Herzog
, and Martin Scorsese
to be his favorite directors. He expressed his general distaste for "top-10" lists, and all movie lists in general,
but contributed a top-10 list to the 2012 Sight and Sound Critics' poll. Listed alphabetically, those films were ''2001: A Space Odyssey
''; ''Aguirre, the Wrath of God
''; ''Apocalypse Now
''; ''Citizen Kane
''; ''La Dolce Vita
''; ''The General
''; ''Raging Bull
''; ''Tokyo Story
''; ''The Tree of Life
''; and ''Vertigo
''. His favorite Bond film
'' (1964), and he later added it to his "Great Movies" list.
Best films of the year
Ebert compiled "best of the year" movie lists beginning in 1967 until 2012, thereby helping provide an overview of his critical preferences. His top choices were:
* 1967: ''Bonnie and Clyde
* 1968: ''The Battle of Algiers
* 1969: ''Z
* 1970: ''Five Easy Pieces
* 1971: ''The Last Picture Show
* 1972: ''The Godfather
* 1973: ''Cries and Whispers
* 1974: ''Scenes from a Marriage
* 1975: ''Nashville
* 1976: ''Small Change
* 1977: ''3 Women
* 1978: ''An Unmarried Woman
* 1979: ''Apocalypse Now
* 1980: ''The Black Stallion
* 1981: ''My Dinner with Andre
* 1982: ''Sophie's Choice
* 1983: ''The Right Stuff
* 1984: ''Amadeus
* 1985: ''The Color Purple
* 1986: ''Platoon
* 1987: ''House of Games
* 1988: ''Mississippi Burning
* 1989: ''Do the Right Thing
* 1990: ''Goodfellas
* 1991: ''JFK
* 1992: ''Malcolm X
* 1993: ''Schindler's List
* 1994: ''Hoop Dreams
* 1995: ''Leaving Las Vegas
* 1996: ''Fargo
* 1997: ''Eve's Bayou
* 1998: ''Dark City
* 1999: ''Being John Malkovich
* 2000: ''Almost Famous
* 2001: ''Monster's Ball
* 2002: ''Minority Report
* 2003: ''Monster
* 2004: ''Million Dollar Baby
* 2005: ''Crash
* 2006: ''Pan's Labyrinth
* 2007: ''Juno
* 2008: ''Synecdoche, New York
* 2009: ''The Hurt Locker
* 2010: ''The Social Network
* 2011: ''A Separation
* 2012: ''Argo
Ebert revisited and sometimes revised his opinions. After ranking ''E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
'' third on his 1982 list, it was the only movie from that year to appear on his later "Best Films of the 1980s" list (where it also ranked third).
He made similar reevaluations of ''Raiders of the Lost Ark
'' (1981) and ''Ran
[ ''Three Colours trilogy'' (''Blue'' (1993), ''White'' (1994), and ''Red'' (also 1994)), and ''Pulp Fiction'' (1994) originally ranked second and third on Ebert's 1994 list; both were included on his "Best Films of the 1990s" list, but their order had reversed.
In 2006, Ebert noted his own "tendency to place what I now consider the year's best film in second place, perhaps because I was trying to make some kind of point with my top pick," adding, "In 1968, I should have ranked ''2001'' above ''The Battle of Algiers''. In 1971, ''McCabe & Mrs. Miller'' was better than ''The Last Picture Show''. In 1974, ''Chinatown'' was probably better, in a different way, than ''Scenes from a Marriage''. In 1976, how could I rank ''Small Change'' above ''Taxi Driver''? In 1978, I would put ''Days of Heaven'' above ''An Unmarried Woman''. And in 1980, of course, ''Raging Bull'' was a better film than ''The Black Stallion'' ... although I later chose ''Raging Bull'' as the best film of the entire decade of the 1980s, it was only the second-best film of 1980 ... am I the same person I was in 1968, 1971, or 1980? I hope not."
Since Ebert died, his website has continued the practice, with the site's primary contributors each offering individual top-10 lists, with their rankings combined into a communal top-10 list.
Genres and content
Ebert was often critical of the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system (MPAA). His main arguments were that they were too strict on sex and profanity, too lenient on violence, secretive with their guidelines, inconsistent in applying them and not willing to consider the wider context and meaning of the film.
He advocated replacing the NC-17 rating with separate ratings for pornographic and nonpornographic adult films.
Ebert also frequently lamented that cinemas outside major cities are "booked by computer from Hollywood with no regard for local tastes," making high-quality independent and foreign films virtually unavailable to most American moviegoers.
Some horror movie fans accused Ebert of elitism and prejudice against the horror genre, especially because of his dismissive comments about "Dead Teenager Movies." In 2007, Ebert responded to a question from a horror movie reviewer by saying that he did not disparage horror movies as a whole. He wrote that he drew a distinction between films like ''Nosferatu'' and ''The Silence of the Lambs'', which he regarded as "masterpieces," and those that had no content other than teenagers being killed.
Ebert occasionally accused some films of having an unwholesome political agenda, such as his assertion that the film ''Dirty Harry'' (1971) had a fascist moral position. He was wary of films passed off as art, which he saw as lurid and sensational. He leveled this charge against such films as ''The Night Porter'' (1974).
Ebert commented on films using his Catholic upbringing as a point of reference, [Felsenthal, Carol (December 2005)] and was critical of films he believed were grossly ignorant of or insulting to Catholicism, such as ''Stigmata'' (1999) and ''Priest'' (1994). He also gave favorable reviews of controversial films with themes or references to Jesus and Catholicism, including ''The Passion of the Christ'' (2004), ''The Last Temptation of Christ'' (1988), and to Kevin Smith's religious satire ''Dogma'' (1999). Ebert was described as an agnostic in 2005,
'A Life In The Movies'
''Chicago Magazine''. Kael quote, p. 1; agnosticism, p. 2; Catholic upbringing and wife's name, p. 3. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
but preferred not being "pigeon-holed."
Writing in an online magazine ''Hazlitt'' about Ebert's reviews, Will Sloan argued that "ere were inevitably movies where he veered from consensus, but he was not provocative or idiosyncratic by nature."
One example of Ebert dissenting with other critics was his one-star review of the celebrated 1986 David Lynch film ''Blue Velvet'' ("marred by sophomoric satire and cheap shots ... in a way, irector Lynch'sbehavior is more sadistic than the Hopper character"). He also gave a one-star review to the critically acclaimed Abbas Kiarostami film ''Taste of Cherry'', which won the ''Palme d'Or'' at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Ebert later went on to add the film to a list of his most-hated movies of all time. He was dismissive of the popular 1988 Bruce Willis action film ''Die Hard'' ("inappropriate and wrongheaded interruptions reveal the fragile nature of the plot"), while his positive 3 out of 4 stars review of 1997's ''Speed 2: Cruise Control'' ("Movies like this embrace goofiness with an almost sensual pleasure") is one of only three positive reviews accounting for that film's 4% approval rating on the reviewer aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes (one of the two others having been written by his ''At the Movies'' co-star Gene Siskel).
Ebert was an admirer of director Werner Herzog, whom he supported through many years when Herzog's popularity had declined. He conducted an onstage public "conversation" with Herzog at the Telluride Film Festival in 2004, after a screening of Herzog's film ''Invincible'' at Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. Herzog dedicated his film ''Encounters at the End of the World'' (2008) to Ebert, and Ebert responded with a heartfelt public letter of gratitude. Herzog said he once exhorted Ebert to watch the television reality sitcom ''The Anna Nicole Show'', featuring the former ''Playboy'' Playmate, so he could gain a better understanding of the decline in American culture. Ebert did watch it.
Ebert was also an advocate and supporter of Asian-American cinema, famously coming to the defense of the cast and crew of Justin Lin's ''Better Luck Tomorrow'' (2002) during a Sundance Film Festival screening when a white member of the audience asked how Asians could be portrayed in such a negative light and how a film so empty and amoral could be made for Asian-Americans and Americans. Ebert responded that "nobody would say such a thing to a bunch of white filmmakers: How could you do this to 'your people'? ... Asian-American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be. They do not have to represent 'their people'!" He was a supporter of the film after the incident at Sundance, and also supported a number of Asian-American films, having them also screen at his film festival (such as Eric Byler's ''Charlotte Sometimes'').
Views on technology
Ebert was a strong advocate for Maxivision 48, in which the movie projector runs at 48 frames per second, as compared to the usual 24 frames per second. He was opposed to the practice whereby theaters lower the intensity of their projector bulbs in order to extend the life of the bulb, arguing that this has little effect other than to make the film harder to see. Ebert was skeptical of the resurgence of 3D effects in film, which he found unrealistic and distracting.
In 2005, Ebert opined that video games are not art, and are inferior to media created through authorial control, such as film and literature, stating, "video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful," but "the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art." This resulted in negative reaction from video game enthusiasts, such as writer Clive Barker, who defended video games as an art form. Ebert wrote a further piece in response to Barker. Ebert maintained his position in 2010, but conceded that he should not have expressed this skepticism without being more familiar with the actual experience of playing them. He admitted that he barely played video games: "I have played ''Cosmology of Kyoto'' which I enormously enjoyed, and ''Myst'' for which I lacked the patience."
At age 50, Ebert married trial attorney Charlie "Chaz" Hammelsmith (formerly Chaz Hammel-Smith) in 1992.
[ He explained in his memoir, ''Life Itself'', that he "would never marry before ismother died," as he was afraid of displeasing her. In a July 2012 blog entry titled "Roger loves Chaz," Ebert wrote, "She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading."] Chaz Ebert became vice president of the Ebert Company and has emceed Ebertfest.
Ebert was a recovering alcoholic, having quit drinking in 1979. He was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and had written some blog entries on the subject. Ebert dated Oprah Winfrey and was a longtime friend of hers. Winfrey credited him with persuading her to syndicate ''The Oprah Winfrey Show'', which became the highest-rated talk show in American television history. He was also friends with film historian and critic Leonard Maltin, and considered the book ''Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide'' (final update in 2014) to be the standard of film guide books.
A supporter of the Democratic Party, Ebert publicly urged liberal filmmaker Michael Moore to give a politically charged acceptance speech at the Academy Awards: "I'd like to see Michael Moore get up there and let 'em have it with both barrels and really let loose and give them a real rabble-rousing speech." During a 1996 panel at the University of Colorado Boulder's Conference on World Affairs, Ebert coined the Boulder Pledge, by which he vowed never to purchase anything offered through the result of an unsolicited email message, or to forward chain emails or mass emails to others. Ebert endorsed Barack Obama for re-election as president in 2012.
Ebert was critical of intelligent design, and stated that people who believe in either creationism or New Age beliefs such as crystal healing or astrology are not qualified to be president. Ebert also expressed disbelief in pseudoscientific or supernatural claims in general, calling them "woo-woo," though he has argued that reincarnation is possible from a "scientific, rationalist point of view."
Discussing his beliefs, in 2009, Ebert wrote that he did not "want to provide a category for people to apply to im because he "would not want isconvictions reduced to a word," and stated, "I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist – which I am." In the same blog entry, he also said "I am not a believer, not an atheist, not an agnostic. I am still awake at night, asking ''how''? I am more content with the question than I would be with an answer." In March 2013, he wrote: "I support freedom of choice. My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born." He also stated: "I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock, and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God. I refuse to call myself an atheist, however, because that indicates too great a certainty about the unknowable". He had previously identified as Catholic in his reviews of movies about Jesus, most notably in his review of Gibson's ''The Passion''.
On April 25, 2011, he achieved one of his long-time goals: winning one of the weekly cartoon-caption contests in ''The New Yorker'' after more than 100 attempts.
In early 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer which was successfully removed in February. In 2003, he underwent surgery for cancer in his salivary gland, which was followed up by radiation therapy. He was again afflicted with cancer in 2006. In June of that year, he had surgery to remove cancerous tissue near his right jaw.
A week later he had a life-threatening complication when his carotid artery burst near the surgery site. He was confined to bed rest and was unable to speak, eat, or drink for a time, necessitating the use of a feeding tube.
The complications kept Ebert off the air for an extended period. Ebert made his first public appearance since mid-2006 at Ebertfest on April 25, 2007. He was unable to speak, instead communicating through his wife. He returned to reviewing on May 18, 2007, when three of his reviews were published in print. In July 2007, he revealed that he was still unable to speak. Ebert adopted a computerized voice system to communicate, eventually using a copy of his own voice created from his recordings by CereProc. In March 2010, his health trials and new computerized voice were featured on ''The Oprah Winfrey Show''. Ebert later proposed a test to determine the realism of a synthesized voice.
Ebert underwent further surgery in January 2008 to try and restore his voice and address the complications from his previous surgeries. On April 1, Ebert announced his speech had not been restored. A further surgery was performed in April 2008 after Ebert fractured his hip in a fall. By 2011, Ebert was using a prosthetic chin to hide some of the damage done by his many chin, mouth, and throat surgeries.
In December 2012, Ebert was hospitalized due to the fractured hip, which was subsequently determined to be the result of cancer.
Three years before his death, Ebert wrote:
On April 4, 2013, Ebert died at age 70 at a hospital in Chicago, shortly before he was set to return to his home and enter hospice care.
Reaction came from celebrities both in and out of the entertainment industry. Then-President Barack Obama wrote, "Roger was the movies ... e could capturethe unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. ... The movies won't be the same without Roger." Steven Spielberg stated that Ebert's "reviews went far deeper than simply thumbs up or thumbs down. He wrote with passion through a real knowledge of film and film history, and in doing so, helped many movies find their audiences. ... eput television criticism on the map." Martin Scorsese released a statement saying, "The death of Roger Ebert is an incalculable loss for movie culture and for film criticism. And it's a loss for me personally ... there was a professional distance between us, but then I could talk to him much more freely than I could to other critics. Really, Roger was my friend. It's that simple." Robert Redford called Ebert "one of the great champions of freedom of artistic expression" and said, "His personal passion for cinema was boundless, and that is sure to be his legacy for generations to come." Christopher Nolan said of Ebert, "He never became jaded… even while bringing a very thoughtful critical eye."
Hundreds of people attended the funeral Mass held at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral on April 8, 2013, where Ebert was celebrated as a film critic, newspaperman, advocate for social justice, and husband. Father Michael Pfleger concluded the service with "the balconies of heaven are filled with angels singing 'Thumbs Up' ".
Memorials and legacy
A 2hr 45min public tribute, entitled ''Roger Ebert: A Celebration of Life'', was held on April 11, 2013, at the Chicago Theatre. It featured in-person remembrances, video testimonials, video and film clips, and gospel choirs, and was, according to the ''Chicago Tribune'' Mark Caro, "a laughter- and sorrow-filled send-off from the entertainment and media worlds."
In September 2013, organizers in Champaign, Illinois, announced plans to raise $125,000 to build a life-size bronze statue of Ebert in the town, which was unveiled in front of the Virginia Theatre at Ebertfest on April 24, 2014. The composition was selected by his widow, Chaz Ebert, and depicts Ebert sitting in the middle of three theater seats giving a "thumbs up."
The 2013 Toronto International Film Festival opened with a video tribute of Ebert at Roy Thomson Hall during the world premiere of the WikiLeaks-based film ''The Fifth Estate''. Ebert had been an avid supporter of the festival since its inception in the 1970s. Chaz was in attendance to accept a plaque on Roger's behalf.
At the 86th Academy Awards ceremony, Ebert was included in the ''In Memoriam'' montage, a rare honor for a film critic.
In 2014, the documentary ''Life Itself'' was released. Director Steve James, whose films had been widely advocated by Ebert, started making it while the critic was still alive. Martin Scorsese served as an executive producer. The film studies Ebert's life and career, while also filming Ebert during his final months, and includes interviews with his family and friends. It was universally praised by critics. It has a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Ebert was inducted as a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. In 2001, he was awarded the highest honor in Illinois, the Order of Lincoln, by the governor of Illinois in the area of performing arts. In 2016, Ebert was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
The website RogerEbert.com contains an archive of every review Ebert wrote, as well as many essays and opinion pieces. The site, now operated by Ebert Digital (a partnership between Chaz and friend Josh Golden), continues to publish new material written by a group of critics who were selected by Ebert before his death.
Awards and honors
Ebert received many awards during his long and distinguished career as a film critic and television host. In 2003, Ebert was honored by the American Society of Cinematographers winning a Special Achievement Award. In 2005, Ebert received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work on television. His star is located at 6834 Hollywood Blvd. In 2009, Ebert received the Directors Guild of America Award's for Honorary Life Member Award. In 2010, Ebert received the Webby Award for Person of the Year.
In 2007, Ebert was honored by the Gotham Awards receiving a tribute and award for his lifetime contributions to independent film.
On May 15, 2009, Ebert was honored by the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival by the renaming of its conference room, "The Roger Ebert Conference Center." Martin Scorsese joined Ebert, and his wife Chaz at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
*1995 - Publicists Guild of America Press Award
*2003 - American Society of Cinematographers's Special Achievement Award
*2004 - Savannah Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award
*2007 - Gotham Award's Lifetime Achievement Award
*2009 - Directors Guild of America Award' Honorary Life Member Award
*2010 - Webby Award for Person of the Year
Each year from 1986 to 1998, Ebert published ''Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion'' (retitled ''Roger Ebert's Video Companion'' for its last five installments), which collected all of his movie reviews to that point. From 1999 to 2013 (except in 2008), Ebert instead published ''Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook'', a collection of all of his movie reviews from the previous two and a half years (for example, the 2011 edition, , covers January 2008 – July 2010.) Both series also included yearly essays, interviews, and other writings. He also wrote the following books:
* ''An Illini Century: One Hundred Years of Campus Life'' (1967) – a history of the first 100 years of the University of Illinois. (no ISBN)
* ''A Kiss Is Still a Kiss'' (1984) ()
* ''The Perfect London Walk'' (1986), with Daniel Curley – a tour of London, Ebert's favorite foreign city. ()
* ''Two Weeks In Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook'' (1987) - coverage of the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, which was also the 40th anniversary of the festival, plus comments about the previous 12 festivals Ebert had attended. Interviews with John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey, and Isabella Rossellini. ()
* ''The Future of The Movies'' (1991), with Gene Siskel - collected interviews with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas about the future of motion pictures and film preservation. Notable as the only book co-authored by Siskel and Ebert. ()
* ''Behind the Phantom's Mask'' (1993) - Ebert's only work of fiction, which is about an on-stage murder and the resulting attention put on a previously unknown actor. ()
* ''Ebert's Little Movie Glossary'' (1994) – a book of movie clichés. ()
* ''Roger Ebert's Book of Film'' (1996) – a ''Norton Anthology'' of a century of writing about the movies. ()
* ''Questions for the Movie Answer Man'' (1997) – his responses to questions sent from his readers. ()
* ''Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary'' (1999) – a "greatly expanded" book of movie clichés. ()
* ''I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie'' (2000) – a collection of reviews of films that received two stars or fewer, dating to the beginning of his ''Sun-Times'' career. (The title comes from his zero-star review of the 1994 film ''North''.) ( )
* ''The Great Movies'' (2002), ''The Great Movies II'' (2005), ''The Great Movies III'' (2010) and The Great Movies IV (2016) – four books of essays about great films. (, , ), and
* ''Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert'' (2006) – a collection of essays from his 40 years as a film critic, featuring interviews, profiles, essays, his initial reviews upon a film's release, as well as critical exchanges between the film critics Richard Corliss and Andrew Sarris.
* ''Your Movie Sucks'' (2007) – a collection of fewer-than-two-star reviews, for movies released between 2000 and 2006. (The title comes from his zero-star review of the 2005 film ''Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo''.) ()
* ''Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews 1967–2007'' (2007) ()
* ''Scorsese by Ebert'' (2008) – covers works by director Martin Scorsese from 1967 to 2008, plus 11 interviews with the director over that period. ()
* ''The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice cooker'' (2010) ()
* ''Life Itself: A Memoir''. (2011) New York: Grand Central Publishing. ()
* ''A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length'' (2012) – a third book of fewer-than-two-star reviews, for movies released in 2006 and onward. (The title comes from his one-star review of the 2009 film ''Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen''.) ()
* Ebert test
* Bruce J. Evensen. "Ebert, Roger (18 June 1942–04 April 2013)" ''American National Biography'' (2015) ww.anb.org/viewbydoi/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1603924 online
s critic page at Rotten Tomatoes
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