Ebert rose to fame thanks to his work with the Chicago Sun-Times. However, for many it was the television show “Siskel & Ebert” that made him a pop culture icon. Following Gene Siskel’s death in 1999, the show would be renamed “Ebert & Roeper” in 2000, when Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper accepted the role as Siskel’s successor.
It was around that time when I really became aware of Ebert. I am sure I had seen a few episodes of “Siskel & Ebert,” but it was not until Roeper joined the show that I really began to understand what exactly it meant to be a film critic.
In his tribute column on Mr. Ebert, Roeper wrote about the immense talent of his good friend.
“It was like witnessing a musical genius on a Steinway,” Roeper wrote. “His fingers could barely keep up with the narrative flow he was creating on the spot.”
Roeper wrote that through the years, he never once saw Ebert encounter writer’s block — the ultimate fear of any writer.
“He was the most prolific, the most gifted, the most dependable newspaperman I’ve ever known,” he said.
Personally, Ebert has been a tremendous inspiration to me as an aspiring film critic and I am sure he will continue to be. He had an unmatchable passion for movies and he was not afraid to praise or skewer a film because of it.
Ebert never let popular opinion sway what he felt. He gave the ever-popular “Die Hard” a two-star rating (out of four), while giving the silly “Speed” sequel, “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” a three-star rating. That was just the kind of reviewer he was, he knew what he felt and stuck by it, regardless of public opinion.
As I posted on Twitter the day he passed, I hope to one day be half as great as he was. To me, Ebert had such a level of talent, that even half of that would equal immense talent and skill.
I am certainly not alone in this.
There is an army of critics out there, who only chose their field because of the work they saw from Ebert.
YouTube movie reviewer Kristian Harloff once referred to Ebert as the Yoda of film criticism.
“If Yoda says he’s a Jedi, then he’s a Jedi,” he said.
Now, Yoda is gone, and there has been a great disturbance in the force of film criticism.
On Tuesday, a mere two days before his passing, Ebert announced that he would be taking what he called “a leave of presence.” After 46 years of reviews films for the Sun-Times, he announced that he would be cutting back on the amount of reviews he wrote to focus on his health.
He had grand plans for a new and improved version of his website, his annual film festival — Ebertfest, as well as starting a Kickstarter to bring back his “At the Movies” television show. It is a shame he could not see all of these things come to fruition.
At the end of his article, Ebert thanked his fans for their constant support.
“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me,” he wrote. “I’ll see you at the movies.”
Mr. Ebert was a tremendous talent, who will be greatly missed. The world of film has suffered a huge loss.