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Ed Driscoll

RIP, Roger Ebert

April 4th, 2013 - 3:07 pm

“Roger Ebert dies at 70 after battle with cancer,” reports the Chicago Sun-Times, the paper where he made his home for three decades:

For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative, or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.

“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. “No point in denying it,” he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.

Always technically savvy — he was an early investor in Google — Ebert let the Internet be his voice. His rogerebert.com had millions of fans, and he received a special achievement award as the 2010 “Person of the Year” from the Webby Awards, which noted that “his online journal has raised the bar for the level of poignancy, thoughtfulness and critique one can achieve on the Web.” His Twitter feeds had 827,000 followers.

Unfortunately, Twitter revealed the intense far left biases and raging misanthropy inside Ebert, which did much to tarnish the family-friendly middlebrow tone of his previous movie criticism. Ebert’s embrace of the unfiltered medium erased much of the good will he developed through his years of co-hosting his weekly TV series At the Movies with Gene Siskel, his fellow Chicago-based critic, who himself had passed away in 1999.

Ironically, both men warned of the dangers of political correctness in the early 1990s:

GENE SISKEL: You have to summon up the courage to say what you honestly feel. And it’s not easy. There’s a whole new world called political correctness that’s going on, and that is death to a critic to participate in that.

EBERT: Political correctness is the fascism of the ‘90s. It’s kind of this rigid feeling that you have to keep your ideas and your ways of looking at things within very narrow boundaries, or you’ll offend someone. Certainly one of the purposes of journalism is to challenge just that kind of thinking. And certainly one of the purposes of criticism is to break boundaries; it’s also one of the purposes of art. So that if a young journalist, 18, 19, 20, 21, an undergraduate tries to write politically correctly, what they’re really doing is ventriloquism.

I suspect that will be the Ebert that will be remembered by posterity, ironically, before he allowed his opinions to be consumed by what he correctly dubbed “the fascism of the 1990s” — and beyond.

(Clicking on the Drudge Report, where I first saw news of Ebert’s death, I also hope the horrific photo of Ebert after his cancer, with much of his jaw removed will somehow be removed from circulation. But alas, our less-than-middlebrow culture won’t allow that to happen unfortunately.)

Update: At the Breitbart.com Conversation, John Sexton quotes this beautiful passage from Ebert, recorded for the commentary on the DVD of Dark City (the thinking man’s Matrix) before PC consumed Ebert’s journalism:

Before Ebert’s middlebrow movie critic phase, and final days as an archliberal polemicist, he was a screenwriter for Russ Meyer’s late ’60s and early ’70s sexploitation movies, including Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. For that film’s screenplay, Ebert wrote the camp classic line, “This is my happening and it freaks me out!”, which would be spoofed by Mike Myers in his first Austin Powers movie — and which Ebert himself mentioned in his review.

Kathy Shaidle has that phase of Ebert’s career covered, in a post with quotes and videos. Plus a great catch, finding a remarkably unthoughtful gaffe by the Chicago Sun-Times in Ebert’s obit.

More: Given how Twitter allowed Ebert to drop the mask, and how badly the medium would tarnish his reputation, Steve Green’s 140-encomium is remarkably moving in its brevity:

(Bumped to top of page.)

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Sorry he's dead. Ah hell, who am I kidding, no I'm not. He was a knee jerk liberal with a totally undeserved superior attitude. As Burton points out below, he was a follower. When Siskell was alive he had the thoughtful insights and valid criticism. Ebert just echoed what Siskell said. After Siskell was gone Ebert just looked for another crutch and decided that leftist propaganda was a good one. As long as he preached the gospel of the left, they would love and support him. He was a complete waste of skin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ebert wasn't a leader in terms of either film or politics, but a follower. What I would expect of someone who is a visionary who understands art is someone who does not give into and and recycle the most hopelessly puerile stereotypes completely divorced from principles.

Ebert never understood film art - if he did he'd have been capable of understanding the intersection between Kristallnacht, mainstreaming hate speech, which is what modern liberalism does, and the modern Kritallnachts wherein blacks target and attack white folks and their businesses. That is a thing Ebert supported and enabled without being the least aware of it.

Ebert's understanding of PC was limited to the idea it was a monstrous form of politeness, which is true enough, but it's greatest danger was in shifting morality from principle onto identity, a thing seemingly invisible to Ebert.

He didn't have the intellectual acumen to see that or call it what it is, nor to understand his own place in that intersection. A true visionary is brave and does not give into such childish perceptual traps based on the most trendy and faddist view of politics.

So he liked "Dark City," so what? Those of us who like and champion SF film were all over that one before some redneck selling refrigerators told us, and we were the ones going to art house theaters to watch "Inframan," and we sure as hell didn't get that idea from watching mainstream TV, which is a mutually exclusive concept.

The truth is that a film critic who can't see Rachel Maddow is a different version of Leni Riefenstahl isn't someone I need to listen to but in fact a man too stupid for words and too dazzled by surface reflections to ever tell me a goddam thing about film or art. Ebert was popular because he and Siskel stumbled across a good cop bad cop style of reviewing film in syndication. He became an institution that institution, like Bill Moyers before him, went from fighting FOR perception to seeing racists as the wise and just. Ebert would not have fled Nazi Germany but would've been a mouthpiece for it, because, under no pressure whatsoever compared to that situation, he did it anyway.

No true artist could possibly be a modern Daily Kos-reading progressive liberal. Such people are only capable of pre-chewed propaganda in a country where, thank God, Louis Farrakhan doesn't have an army. If he did, we'd be up sh-t creek because Ebert voted for a man who sat for 20 years in the pews of a church that gave Hitler-without-an-army its highest award. How dumb is that?

Needless to say, Ebert could've used his position more responsibly and positively than he did. He'll be forgotten sooner than people think. I couldn't see him in the first place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And then Ebert found that PC and fascism pays. THE END.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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Excerpt of Roger Ebert's last review
to the wonder
"A more conventional film would have assigned a plot to these characters and made their motivations more clear. Malick, who is surely one of the most romantic and spiritual of filmmakers, appears almost naked here before his audience, a man not able to conceal the depth of his vision.

"Well," I asked myself, "why not?" Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren't many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren't many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn't that almost worse than never having had them in the first place?

There will be many who find "To the Wonder" elusive and too effervescent. They'll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need."

(nice review of the movie at first things and who know now Roger get little peak of how the depths of the empty cup priest but the coming of overflowing waters of life with this great revelation I share with priests of the 13 heavens once I get past all these rif raf temptations)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
,I( think that Ebert was wrong on his advocacy of the letterbox format for movies. for the very few movies a year that had the Indians coming in from one side and the calvary from the other side, which would be missed in the standard format, It was much harder to see facial expression, which are the heart of acting, with the letter box format in all movies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let me be clear about what I am saying. Liberals are mainstreaming hate speech at a dangerous rate - making it seem not only reasonable, but logical. Today's white, privileged male is only a short hop, skip and jump from the idea of the privileged and greedy Jew.

We have a President who, since college, is wearing the same type of ring with Koranic inscriptions as self-identified jihadists and mujahideen did during the Delhi uprising in 1857. His mentor loves and admires the most famous and ardent Jew-hater in America, Louis Farrakhan.

People better start waking up and realizing that this so-called "culture war" is one of identity vs. principle. Look at any list of liberal teachers who claim anti-racism and there is not a single one on the side of Israel.

"Never again" and "first they came for me..." are very real things to start thinking about, and it is time to start attacking and dismantling progressive liberalism for the naked bigotry it is. It is not Thomas Jefferson that is the political ancestor of the Daily Kos or HuffPo, but the KKK.

One need only look at the HuffPo's sections of Latino voices and black voices and women's voices and my buttocks voices to see this is true. They are racial and gender bigots. Go to any YWCA website or the site of a diversity or white privilege conference and you'll see who the enemy is and where immorality is presumed to reside. YWCA: "Eliminating racism, empowering women." Who the hell do you think the enemy is there - GLAAD? Melissa Harris-Perry?

That enemy is white, male and straight. And standing squarely behind that as the next target is a Jew. They're not using that word now, because it's still too loaded. Instead they use "Zionism" and "apartheid." But just wait, it is coming just as fast as liberals can import Jeffersonian Muslims from the middle east. And liberals here are waiting with open arms, like Madame Defarge, to increase by one the number of identities to pulverize.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry he's dead. Ah hell, who am I kidding, no I'm not. He was a knee jerk liberal with a totally undeserved superior attitude. As Burton points out below, he was a follower. When Siskell was alive he had the thoughtful insights and valid criticism. Ebert just echoed what Siskell said. After Siskell was gone Ebert just looked for another crutch and decided that leftist propaganda was a good one. As long as he preached the gospel of the left, they would love and support him. He was a complete waste of skin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I could not hav said it better myself. Two thumbs up!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Reminds me of what Bette Davis allegedly said upon receiving news that Joan Crawford had died: "I've been told that one should say only good things about the dead. Joan Crawford is dead - good."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ebert dies. One thumb up, one thumb down.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ebert wasn't a leader in terms of either film or politics, but a follower. What I would expect of someone who is a visionary who understands art is someone who does not give into and and recycle the most hopelessly puerile stereotypes completely divorced from principles.

Ebert never understood film art - if he did he'd have been capable of understanding the intersection between Kristallnacht, mainstreaming hate speech, which is what modern liberalism does, and the modern Kritallnachts wherein blacks target and attack white folks and their businesses. That is a thing Ebert supported and enabled without being the least aware of it.

Ebert's understanding of PC was limited to the idea it was a monstrous form of politeness, which is true enough, but it's greatest danger was in shifting morality from principle onto identity, a thing seemingly invisible to Ebert.

He didn't have the intellectual acumen to see that or call it what it is, nor to understand his own place in that intersection. A true visionary is brave and does not give into such childish perceptual traps based on the most trendy and faddist view of politics.

So he liked "Dark City," so what? Those of us who like and champion SF film were all over that one before some redneck selling refrigerators told us, and we were the ones going to art house theaters to watch "Inframan," and we sure as hell didn't get that idea from watching mainstream TV, which is a mutually exclusive concept.

The truth is that a film critic who can't see Rachel Maddow is a different version of Leni Riefenstahl isn't someone I need to listen to but in fact a man too stupid for words and too dazzled by surface reflections to ever tell me a goddam thing about film or art. Ebert was popular because he and Siskel stumbled across a good cop bad cop style of reviewing film in syndication. He became an institution that institution, like Bill Moyers before him, went from fighting FOR perception to seeing racists as the wise and just. Ebert would not have fled Nazi Germany but would've been a mouthpiece for it, because, under no pressure whatsoever compared to that situation, he did it anyway.

No true artist could possibly be a modern Daily Kos-reading progressive liberal. Such people are only capable of pre-chewed propaganda in a country where, thank God, Louis Farrakhan doesn't have an army. If he did, we'd be up sh-t creek because Ebert voted for a man who sat for 20 years in the pews of a church that gave Hitler-without-an-army its highest award. How dumb is that?

Needless to say, Ebert could've used his position more responsibly and positively than he did. He'll be forgotten sooner than people think. I couldn't see him in the first place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
God bless him, he was a clueless liberal, but I liked him. Siskell & Ebert. Rest in peace. God I feel old.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The main thing I'll take from the Golden Era of Gene and Roger's show was their ability to skewer Hollywood's problems without taking a vindictive meat ax to the effort, as some of the more high profile or highbrow critics in New York like Rex Reed or John Simon did back in the 1970s and 80s. Siskel and Ebert defined the problem with many movies as being the "idiot plot", in that in order for the story line to work, one or more of the characters has to turn into an idiot during the course of the movie and do something a rational person would never attempt.

Sadly, while I don't want film criticism to go back to 40 years ago and the dominance of the critics who disdained anything that a middlebrow audience would find attractive, Ebert and other critics over the past 15 years have pretty much given up pointing out film's logical fallacies in their storylines, if those plot devices are in use to serve an ideological cause. Ebert stopped writing for general audiences and started writing for people you might encounter on Journolist or in a HuffPo chatroom, which meant that where I once used to trust his reviews as much as any critic, in his final days I had to add or subtract degree of difficulty points, depending on whether or not the political Roger Ebert was in synch with the movie's message.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Roger Ebert was a classic. I didn't always see eye to eye with him on what was enjoyable, but he was a thoughtful source for new and interesting films ideas; films that I might never have tried if it weren't for him. For that I'm grateful.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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