Yesterday, deep in the midst of exploring the production notes of Jurassic Park, I was interrupted. My editor said "Roger Ebert is dead." The rest was a blur.
It was a shock because we'd just reported on Ebert's latest update. His "A Leave of Presense" note was posted on the blog late Tuesday night. He wrote about the return of his cancer, but ever undefeatable, he promised new reviews, maybe another book, talked of his film festival, even of launching a new website to add to the Ebert empire. These were not the words of a man counting his final hours. But in the end they were his last words to us. He left us with a gracious thank you for joining him on the journey.
Roger Ebert was not a film snob, but a film lover. Yes, he would happily sing the praises of his all time favourite Citizen Kane. But he was also content to ease into the pulpy pleasures of the latest Bond film or commend Ang Lee's spirited spectacle Life of Pi. Ebert was man enough to defend David Cronenberg's Crash and was certainly vocal about what he hated. Burrow into his writing and you'll find someone who used films as a jumping-off point. He understood that movies are this magic place where we meet in the dark to dream together and he never lost sight of the human element.
You never felt stupid after reading an Ebert review, but you might come away inspired, poked or prodded into doing some exploring of your own. Although he would lay waste to films he despised (see his review for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), his death was met with an outpouring of affection. From presidents to movie stars, it's amazing this kid from Urbana, Illinois, touched the hearts of so many.Roger Ebert with CBC's Eli Glasner in 2010. (Eli Glasner)
My own interaction with Ebert was slight but memorable. I raced over to a "tweet-off" he hosted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. Cancer had robbed him off his voice, but his eyes sparkled with the intelligence that informed so many of his columns.
Ebert is gone now and he leaves a massive chasm in the lives of film fans. In a fitting curtain call his final review to be posted is reported to be for the movie To the Wonder — wonder was something he remained open to right to the end.
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