Roger Ebert, film critic, dies at 70

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize winning film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, died today at age 70.

Here’s the obit from the AP:

Roger Ebert, the most famous and most popular film reviewer of his time who became the first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism and, on his long-running TV program, wielded the nation’s most influential thumb, died Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. He was 70.

Ebert had been a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. He had announced on his blog Wednesday that he was undergoing radiation treatment after a recurrence of cancer.

He had no grand theories or special agendas, but millions recognized the chatty, heavy-set man with wavy hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Above all, they followed the thumb — pointing up or down. It was the main logo of the televised shows Ebert co-hosted, first with the late Gene Siskel of the rival Chicago Tribune and — after Siskel’s death in 1999 — with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper. Although criticized as gimmicky and simplistic, a “two thumbs up” accolade was sure to find its way into the advertising for the movie in question.

It’s strange it happened so quickly, because he just posted this two days ago:

The immediate reason for my “leave of presence” is my health. The “painful fracture” that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer. It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to. I have been watching more of them on screener copies that the studios have been kind enough to send to me. My friend and colleague Richard Roeper and other critics have stepped up and kept the newspaper and website current with reviews of all the major releases. So we have and will continue to go on.

At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it’s like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.

Here’s a clip of Ebert and the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel on film criticism:

Two thumbs up.

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