Legendary film critic and Chicagoean Roger Ebert dies

CHICAGO, April 4, 2013 — After 45 years of giving movies thumbs up and down, Roger Ebert, journalist, film critic, author, and screenwriter, has died of cancer. Ebert was 70 years old. 

Ebert was one of those writers that could be called groundbreaking. He started as a editor in grammar school, publishing a neighborhood paper, followed by co-editing his high school paper. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he majored in journalism, Ebert was the editor of the campus paper, The Daily Illini. Prior to his long career at the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert wrote for science fiction magazines and the Champaign Illinois News Gazette.  

Ebert is well-known for his print movie reviews in the Sun-Times and his show with co-host Gene Siskel, of the Chicago Tribune. For 23 years, Siskel and Ebert brought their reviews to television viewers in “Sneak Previews,” “At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert” and “Siskel and Ebert At The Movies.”

With Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert taught us to not only go and enjoy the movies but to talk about movies. To discuss, dissect and have an opinion on the movies, the stories and the people, directors to stars, that make them. 

For his fans and detractors, the interest was not so much in the “review” of a movie you may or may not see, but in the artful, lively journalism he brought to the review. Ebert is the first film critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize, receiving the honor in 1975 for his body of “distinguished criticism,” an annual award presented to a newspaper writer.  

Ebert was the first of  five film critics to win this Pulitzer honor to date. Forbes Magazine described Siskel as “the most powerful pundit in America” in 2007 and he is the first movie reviewer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.   

Always honest, Ebert wrote reviews that were believed by his audience in print and on television for their integrity. A thumbs down, or a negative review, would stop audiences in their tracks. Roger Ebert was known for his honesty, wit, sarcasm, and the ability to say, “I hated it…” as he did in his 1994 review of Rob Reiner’s comedy “North.” 

Ebert proved to journalists around the world that no story is unimportant in its reach.

Movies may have been Technicolor productions, but for Ebert it was the story behind the film that intrigued him. Ebert’s reviews helped us to see that story, the questions it asked, and the answers it offered.

Ebert believed movies and the stories behind them mattered. If he liked a movie, he said so. If it, in his words, “sucked,” he said so as well, as when he told Rob Schneider that “Deuce Begelow: European Gigolo,” “Your move sucks.”

“If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class,” he said. “It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that to me is the most noble thing that good movies can do — and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early 2002, Ebert was left unable to speak, though he continued to watch and review movies. He found a voice on the social network Twitter and on his Sun-Times blog. 

In his 2011 memoir, “Life Itself,” Ebert wrote contributing joy to the world and that he was happy to have lived long enough to find that out. Ebert contributed much joy to his friends, family and legions of fans. 

Roger Ebert was born June 18, 1942 (d. April 4, 2013). He is survived by his wife Chaz Hammelsmith.

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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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