There are few celebrity deaths that I am genuinely shocked and saddened by, and even I am often unaware as to exactly why. Michael Jackson, George Carlin, Brittany Murphy, Ryan Dunn, Patrick Swayze, Amy Winehouse. People who, every once and while I will remember that they are no longer with us and will become incredibly sad at the thought.
Roger Ebert’s death, though not incredibly surprising considering his illness, came as such a shock to me I had to stop what I was doing and remember to start breathing again. However ill someone is, it’s still disappointing when they lose their battle with whatever disease they were fighting. An over-used term, ‘fighting a battle’…but with Mr. Ebert it was beyond the truth. His will and determination after his cancer took his face and his voice did nothing to waver his strength in continuing to work. His found another way to get his voice out there; by way of social media and the internet, Mr. Ebert rebranded himself and took a dismal situation and did what he could with it.
“When I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.”
His love for film and writing was what drew me to become interested in Ebert, as well as growing up and constantly hearing the names Siskel & Ebert, and later Ebert & Roeper. They were such a huge part of my life in such a subliminal way. Little did I know as a child watching two grumpy old men in sweaters squabble and disagree with one another over films, that one of these men would someday be my inspiration for rekindling my love of journalism and seriously considering pursuing a career in film critic.
I remember quite clearly when Siskel passed away; I was 9 years old and though I didn’t understand why, I was very sad to know I could no longer see or hear the two of them speak about film and cinema as I had for my entire life beforehand. It wasn’t until Mr. Ebert suffered the loss of most of his lower face and the tabloids plastered him over every television station and rag-mag I came across, did I begin paying attention, once again, to the surviving critic.
I began following Mr. Ebert on Facebook and Twitter and found, unlike most other celebrity pages run by someone other than the celebrity themselves, that his writing was interesting, entertaining, and his opinions on film and even current events were thought provoking and solidly grounded. Years of criticizing others, being criticized himself, and staring into the face of death had made Mr. Ebert the exact person I wanted to be. Strong convictions, soft hearted underneath his tough exterior, and ruthless in his field of work whilst remaining uncynical and joyous in life. He shared the same absolute and genuine love for cinema that I did, which showed through with every word he wrote. He spoke of viewing a film the way I felt about it, and at times it seemed only he understood my solace in film.
It was a few months ago when he took a turn for the worse, and his beloved wife took over his blog saying he had broken his hip and his illness was becoming too much for him. He would continue to review films but not at the speed or volume at which he once had. I didn’t realize what a staple his posts on my Facebook newsfeed had been until they disappeared completely, and only remained a slow trickle afterwards. I knew he was sick, but he had such a positive outlook on life and his own mortality and health that he convinced everyone thoroughly that he would keep fighting and keep winning.
It saddens me deeply to know I will never see his scathing, sharp-witted prose every week ever again. My heart goes out to his loving and devoted wife, who stuck with him and cared for him after his sickness turned their lives upside-down, and of whom he spoked with the utmost respect, love, and tenderness. I hope he knows that he was not just a household name, he was not a faceless monster as the media has disgracefully portrayed him after his surgery; I hope he knows how much he meant to many people, many movie lovers and budding journalists like myself. I always joked that I love my job now but the only career I’d quit mine for would be Roger Eberts. To get to sit in a darkened room and watch films all day, then write about them? It was and is truly a dream of mine. Perhaps in this sad time, I will find one last dose of inspiration from you, Mr. Ebert. I will find a way to someday be able to give something a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
Goodbye, Mr. Ebert. Thank you for everything you’ve given me. And,
see you at the movies!