In Memoriam: Roger Ebert

For a self-professed life-long movie buff, my introduction to Roger Ebert (1942-2013) happened quite late; just about a year and half back. But once I started reading his reviews, there was no turning back. I was hooked. Considering the fact that he wrote more than 10,000 movie reviews in a career spanning 46 years at the Chicago Sun-Times, I believe I will remain hooked for many years to come.

Writing a eulogy for a person like Roger Ebert, is daunting. There is no facet of his life that I can throw light upon. His life was tremendously well-documented. Everyone knows that he was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize and to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He coined the term “Two thumbs up” for movies he loved and “Your movie sucks” for the movies he loved to hate. He battled cancer valiantly for more than a decade; a decade during which he lost half of his face, his voice, his sense of smell and taste. He even wrote a book about rice cookers, The Pot and How to Use It, despite the fact that he could no longer eat. What I can do is share my personal experiences of reading his reviews.

It requires tremendous craftsmanship to write words that influence human behavior. Every review of Mr. Ebert made me either want to watch the movie or stay far away from it. He was my trusted guide of the celluloid universe. The wit with which he started each review, the care with which he wrote so as not reveal any spoilers (or if there were any, they were always preceded by a warning), the way he used to craft philosophies into reviews and the efficiency with which he connected two movies from seemingly varied genres and age – everything about his reviews made me want to read more.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing”. Mr. Ebert, if there is Internet in heaven and you read this… Let me tell you… You did both. I will see you at the movies.

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