Roger Ebert: the pundit passes away!, Roger Ebert


“Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you. And that's why we're all interested in movies- those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it's actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.” Noted director Tim Burton said that about movies and why certain movies affect you emotionally.

While that’s true about movies, the decision to watch a movie that moves you cannot be made much simpler without the presence of movie critics. Thanks to the information overload of today, there is an explosion of them in every single conceivable form. Other than mainstream internet media and its gazillion of critics, FB and Twitter serve as a platform for any viewer to voice his / her opinion about the movie and that gets further circulated to create a word-of-mouth effect for new releases.

Although the worth of a reviewer’s word has just trickled down to a few minutes on the release day and their opinions are still considered subjective to their reviews, one man held court in the world of critiquing with his undaunted reviews and opinions about movies. Roger Ebert, who gave up his battle with cancer on April 4, 2013, was even loved by Hollywood despite his unapologetically scathing reviews that it inducted him in the Hall of Fame. The world’s foremost movie critic, he became the first film critic to be awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1975.

In a career spanning more than 4 decades panning and praising movies, Roger Ebert was considered to be one of the foremost and influential movie critics of America. A sort of Opera for movies, though there is little evidence to suggest that Ebert’s reviews ruined the prospects of a movie or vice versa unlike Opera’s book clubs, Ebert was nevertheless a relentless critic of movies big and small. He watched about 500 movies in a year and reviewed petty movies like Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo in the same breath as he reviewed landmark ones like Casablanca.

If you are curious what he said about European Gigolo, here’s what. "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo makes a living cleaning fish tanks and occasionally prostituting himself. How much he charges I'm not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie." That’s some honest review and no doubt he was hated for saying that (probably most by the actor Rob Schneider who co-wrote the movie).

While Ebert is unwavering in his criticism about bad movies he doesn’t quite get it right with some movies. For instance, he gave positive reviews to movies like Speed 2: Cruise Control (that is incidentally the only positive review of the movie on Rotten Tomatoes) while he hated blockbuster successes like Die Hard. Interestingly enough, while he liked the 1972 movie The Last House on the left, he was less accepting of its 2009 remake. When questioned about that, he said, “I am not the same person. I am uninterested in being "consistent."

Roger is also the pioneer of movie reviewing in television. He derived the ‘two thumbs up’, ‘two thumbs down’ style along with his co-hosts Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper.

Other than his reviews, Ebert is also known for his best of year lists since the year 1960 of movies that he liked each year. This list provides a glimpse into his preferences and they are often populist in nature. While he rated the emotionally moving A Separation as the top movie of 2011, his choice of the best movie of 2012 went to the hostage drama Argo that is often criticized for over-dramatizing the series of events in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

Roger has been battling with cancer since 2002 when he was first diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. Subsequent surgeries led him lose part of his right jaw to remove cancerous tissue and made him lose his speaking, eating and drinking abilities. Roger, however, was relentless in reviewing and was consistent in appearing for movie openings despite his medical condition. Roger’s last review was for the alien drama The Host, directed by Andrew Niccol and co-written by Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame and the movie received an average rating from him.

Though Roger had an advantage of having started early in movie critiquing, it’s an unquestionable fact that his reviews were brimming with passionate knowledge of cinema and insightful opinions about the subject. Two days before his death, he wrote on his blog; "so on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me." In hindsight, that seems like a fitting goodbye note, only that it is not. Ebert’s legacy will always be remembered for both the body of work he created in film criticism as well as for pioneering the art.

Respond to
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.




This page hosts the views of the authors of the column. The views are generally about films, movie reviews, movie news, songs, music, film actors and actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors, and all others that contribute for the success or failure of a film. People looking for movies online, movie reviews, movie analysis, public response for a movie, will find this page useful.