Roger Ebert passed away yesterday after a difficult and lengthy battle with cancer, one he fought in public with eloquence and bravery. He was a movie lover of the first rank; one of those critics many of us admired without reservation. (The worst some would have said of him was that he liked too many movies; hardly a resounding criticism.)
My essay on this sad passing ran today in Film Racket:
It goes without saying that Roger Ebert, who died yesterday from cancer at the age of 70, was America’s movie critic. It also goes without saying that there will never be another like him, especially not in these media-atomized times. No other critic was better known or (arguably) more listened to; at least as much as any critics are listened to about anything. His trademark thumbs-up/thumbs-down judgement was derided by some as being too simplistic, but really, isn’t that the first question people ask about a movie: Should I see it? Ebert understood that no matter what else he was writing about, whether it was Pasolini or Jaws: The Revenge, he was more than just a critic, he was a journalist for a large-circulation daily newspaper, and so had an obligation to boil it down…
Below, a couple of the better moments from Ebert’s old Sneak Previews show with Gene Siskel, which is where many of us who came up in the 1970s and ’80s first learned to look critically at the movies as a popular art form.
First, here’s Ebert’s take on Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, which he terms (correctly, I think) “too little, too late”:
And here’s Ebert’s heartfelt and thoughtful rave about GoodFellas: