Roger Ebert, who did more than almost anyone to turn Film Criticism into a viable medium/career-path unto itself, has died. Terrible news, especially considering how hard he’d continued working and innovating in spite of his long-running health issues – would you keep doing your day job if you were A.) already rich/famous and B.) no longer had the bottom of your face?
Ebert was the vanguard of new American film-critics who swept into the business alongside New Hollywood in the 70s, a guy who’d grown up a movie-obsessed youth and started out as a screenwriter for T&A maven Russ Meyer. He was said to have grown annoyed with the reductive simplicity of the Thumb-Up/Down gimmick from “Siskle & Ebert,” but that bit and he and Gene’s natural chemistry made them the first real Superstar Critics – more or less the reason that anyone in my profession has a career or public-profile outside of “guy assigning star-ratings in the local paper. It also cannot be overstated how important it was to the Online Critic community that Ebert was one of the first to take the medium and it’s early stars with any degree of seriousness – when Hollywood and the rest of the critical community was still looking down it’s nose at us, Roger Ebert was inviting the likes of Harry Knowles to guest on his show.
He is survived by his wife, Chaz, and multiple children and grandchildren. He is irreplacable, and will be sorely missed.