Saturday, April 6, 2013

In Memoriam: Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Film Critic. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1974, the first ever for film. Co-hosted several movie review shows with fellow critic Gene Siskel in the 1970s, 80s, and '90s. After Siskel died in 1999, Richard Roeper took over co-hosting duties, but there just wasn't the same prickly chemistry between the two..

"Every great film should seem new every time you see it."

"I learned to be a movie critic by reading Mad magazine... Mad's parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin – of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same old dumb formulas. I did not read the magazine, I plundered it for clues to the universe. Pauline Kael lost it at the movies; I lost it at Mad magazine."

"When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then The United States of Leland clocks in at about two."
"My guess is that African Americans will be offended by the movie [B.A.P.S.], and whites will be embarrassed. The movie will bring us all together, I imagine, in paralyzing boredom."

“No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough."

"This movie [Freddie Got Fingered] doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."
“We had lots of big fights, ... We were people who came together one day a week to work together and the other six days of the week we were competitors on two daily newspapers and two different television stations. So there was a lot of competition and a lot of disagreement.” On longtime TV co-host and rival film critic Gene Siskel.

“I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film [The Human Centipede]. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.”

"I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization." Not a bad quality to have in a critic, either--KJ

Rocky--Both thumbs up, though Roger's thumb is up higher than Gene's.

E.T., the Extraterrestrial--Two thumbs up.

The Terminator--Thumbs up from Roger, thumbs down from Gene.

Blue Velvet--Thumbs up from Gene, thumbs down from Roger. If anyone cares, it gets a thumbs up from me, too, though I do find myself agreeing with some of Roger's criticism--KJ

Crimes and Misdemeanors--Two jaded thumbs up.

The Addams Family--Two thumbs down.

Contact--Two thumbs up.

Fargo--Yeah, two thumbs up.


Titanic--Two thumbs up.

And some outtakes:


Whenever I do one of these "In Memoriams", I usually don't go into the whys and hows of the person's demise. I focus on their career, their persona, and what they did in the public arena. In this instance, however, Ebert made the run up to his death very much part of his latter-day persona.

In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, which was successfully removed  in an operation a short time later. Unfortunately, the next year cancer was found in his salivary gland, which necessitated another operation, followed by radiation therapy. During all of this, Ebert continued his TV show, co-hosted by Richard Roeper since Siskel's death in 1999. Four years later, cancer was discovered in his right jaw, a section of which was then removed. Various other complications ensued, and Ebert lost the ability to speak, as well as eat or drink from anything other than a feeding tube. He quit his show.

Problems from the earlier surgeries led to even more surgeries. Attempts to reconstruct his jaw proved unsuccessful. Ebert eventually decided he had spent enough time under the knife, and refused any further surgeries, ignoring the pleas from doctors that they could get it right this time. He re-emerged in the public eye looking quite different from before:

Ebert wrote in his autobiography Just Life that due to his appearance and his inability to speak, people now tended to talk down to him, as if he was a child. He wasn't, and they shouldn't have. For years Ebert had eschewed computers in favor if an old Underwood typewriter. Now needing a new way to communicate, he decided to take advantage of the no-longer-all-that-new technology. He start a blog, and a twitter account. Some recent tweets:

Fake bishop in a cheap rented costume sneaks into the Conclave, is busted by alert Swiss Guards. Movie idea!

Seattle dive bar is the first to ban Google Glass. I am sooo behind.

 Scientists say "it's clear we have the Higgs Boson!" Whew. I was afraid the little SOB would slip away.

Preparing for the upgrade. My site's archives contain many forgotten memories, if such a thing be possible!

 "On the Road." Or, as Willie Nelson prefers it, "On the road again..." My new review.

G.I.JOE: RETALIATION. Maybe you should just play with your dolls instead. Richard Roeper's review on my site: http://

Only in death did Roger Ebert finally lose his voice.




  1. Didn't always agree with his reviews and sometimes I was glad I saw the movie before he disliked it.
    But when I did see the show with Siskel it was always entertaining. It came on at a weird time for me so I didn't always watch it.
    Another blogger mentioned his review of the travesty Battleship Earth which was a hoot so I must look that up if it is on any web site.

    Very nice post today.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Sorry I took so long replying to your comment, parsnip.

      I didn't always agree with Ebert's or Siskel's opinions either, but I enjoyed listening to them hash over movies, and that they were so informed and passionate about the subject.

  2. Oh Kirk, you really did Roger justice, especially with the Mad Magazine references. That inspired me also, but Mr. Ebert took it to a whole other level. What struck me about him was his dignity and his intelligence. We lost another great one. Thank you for this wonderful post. RIP Roger.

  3. As was the case with parsnip, sorry I took so long replying to your comment, Patricia.

    People as disparate as Roger Crumb and Stephan Colbert have claimed Mad as an influence, but at least they were both involved with either cartooning or comedy. But movie criticism? You're right, Patricia, that is a whole different level, though I suppose it could be argued that with its satires of what was ever popular at the box office, Mad dabbled in movie criticism itself. In fact, Mad once even satirized MAD MAGAZINE PRESENT'S UP THE ACADEMY, Warner Brothers (owned by the same media corporation tha towns Mad) misguided rip-off of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE.

    If you're interested in my views on Mad Magazine, Patricia, you might want to read this: