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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Roger Ebert the Writer

Roger Ebert is best known as half of the pair of film critics who brought movie reviews to television.  Time Magazine has an interesting article about Ebert's departure from the show that made him a celebrity.   As Ebert's announcement explains, Disney "has decided to take the program named 'Siskel & Ebert' and then 'Ebert & Roeper' in a new direction. I will no longer be associated with it."  Ebert's co-host Richard Roeper is also leaving.  So the program's name seems to need a change -- as does its use of "thumbs up or down."  The "thumbs" trademark belongs to Ebert and Gene Siskel's wife, and Ebert will take the trademark with him out the door.

One benefit of Ebert's departure is that he will have more time to write.  I have long thought that Ebert is one of our great national writers.  He was one of the first national reviewers to put his archive up on the web, and his reviews are terrific examples of writing.  N.Y. Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote a great tribute to Ebert's writing in April.  Referring to Ebert's extensive body of work, he wrote: "It is this print corpus that will sustain Mr. Ebert’s reputation as one of the few authentic giants in a field in which self-importance frequently overshadows accomplishment."  A horrific series of operations for cancer and then complications from the treatment robbed Ebert of his voice and threatened to silence his pen.  But he has returned to reviewing at his previous pace, and his reviews are (if anything) more introspective and enlightening than before.

Now Ebert has started a blog called, simply, "Roger Ebert's Journal".  He has recents posts on Werner Herzog and his arguable "madness," as well as Studs Terkel and "Triumph of the Will".  Perhaps most notable are his recent posts that touch on his illness: "In search of redemption" and "When a movie hurts too much".  For those who have been moved by William Stuntz's posts on his struggle with cancer, these entries offer similar illumination.

I haven't seen Ebert on television for many years now, but I tend to read him regularly.  Here's a wish that his writing will continue on for many years to come -- regardless of his TV presence.

Posted by Matt Bodie on July 22, 2008 at 04:20 PM in Culture | Permalink


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Ebert is clearly a great writer, having penned, with Russ Meyer, the immortal words, "This is my happening, and it freaks me out!" (from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls).

Posted by: Michael Steven Green | Jul 24, 2008 10:49:37 AM

Roger Ebert is from Champaign and every year he hosts Ebertfest, a week-long film festival here. Last year, I think he missed it for the first time because of health issues, but he should be back this year. You should drive over!

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Jul 23, 2008 12:32:21 PM

The famous movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper will no longer be reviewing movies on TV, Roeper was the first to announce he’s leaving the show and Ebert followed the next day after. Ebert is moving on for his obvious health problems, Roeper is just moving on in his life. Look like he no longer wants to get paid to see movies, if he wants to see movies he’ll have to pay himself in the theater.

Posted by: Edwin | Jul 23, 2008 1:28:02 AM

I'm eagerly awaiting this book because Scorsese is my favorite director, and I have been watching Ebert since I was a kid:


Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 22, 2008 11:59:17 PM

You know, that's one of his oeuvres that I have not taken in. The title is a little intimidating. Thanks for the suggestion -- I'll have to add it to my Netflix list.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Jul 22, 2008 10:54:33 PM

He also has a great eye for kitsch as a writer, or at least did many moons ago when he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065466/

Posted by: Heidi Kitrosser | Jul 22, 2008 4:38:33 PM

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