I remember going to the public library when I was a kid and checking out Roger Ebert’s annual Movie Yearbooks, those huge tomes with hundreds of thin pages packed full with Roger’s brief and potent reviews of movie after movie. A bit later I read the first volume of the Great Movies series, with his graceful longform considerations of the classics in question. There are certain lines of some of those Great Movies reviews that I can still recall nearly word for word, ever though I first read them when I about half as old as I am now.
I have spent many, many happy hours in darkened movie theaters - especially since I moved to Chicago - and I hope to spend many more such hours that way, and I have no doubt that my reading Roger Ebert’s writing is behind a lot of that. There is probably no more pertinent evidence of this than the fact that when I heard about Roger Ebert’s death, I was sitting on a train heading to the Gene Siskel Film Center to see, for the first time, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which Roger reviewed for the Great Movies series in 1998.
I continued to read his writing quite literally up until the very end, and I sit in awe of him not just as a critic and observer, but as a human being. I think all of us could stand to be as open and unprejudiced as he was about seemingly everything. He absolutely deserves a lot more eloquence than I can summon up right now. Rest in peace, man. The cultural conversation of this country is so greatly diminished without your voice.