Every critic has a critic, especially famed film critic Roger Ebert who knew exactly how to critique a movie in a thoroughly poignant and completely honest way.
“I would rather eat a golf ball than see this movie again” Ebert said about the film ‘On Seven days in Utopia.’
Ebert also expressed his distaste for a 2003 independent art film called “The Brown Bunny.” He compared it to a colonoscopy. The director of the film, Vincent Gallo, was far from pleased and called Ebert “fat.”
“It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and [Gallo] will still be the director of ‘The Brown Bunny,'” said Ebert in response.
Ebert shared his bold views on movies knowing he had the power to make or break them with a simple “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down,” phrases he popularized.
“I really liked Ebert’s reviews;” said communication professor Sanjukta Ghosh. “He made thumbs-up and thumbs-down this kind of two-digit review. They were a precursor to Twitter, they did it in two digits, much less than 140.”
Ebert began writing sport columns for the News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. when he was still in high school. During this time Ebert grew fond of writing, but it was MAD magazine that attracted him to critiquing movies.
“I learned to be a movie critic by reading MAD magazine,” wrote Ebert in 1998. “MAD’s parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin – of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same old dumb formulas. I did not read the magazine; I plundered it for clues to the universe.”
In 1967 Ebert was hired as a film critic at the Chicago-Sun Times. During this time, he also wrote a book, taught at the University of Chicago and co-wrote “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” which became a cult classic. It should be noted that the film was not well received by film critics, a circumstance Ebert found hilarious.
Ebert began his television career by co-hosting a locally produced Chicago show called Sneak Previews with fellow critic Gene Siskel. The show would later move to PBS and be renamed At the movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
It was this show that made the reviews of Ebert and, of course, Siskel, so essential to the world of movies.
“They’re analysis of films, not reviews,” said Ghosh. “They tell you ‘a painting of Matisse is referenced here.’ These historical references make reviews so much richer.”
In Ebert’s last decade, he battled cancer and surgeries related to the disease. He never stopped reviewing movies, even after a partial jaw removal surgery left him unable to speak.
On April 3, 2013 Ebert announced a leave of absence from the Chicago-Sun Times, due to a resurgence of cancer. He also announced that his website (rogerebert.com) would be evolving to include reviews of a wider range of films by a new generation of movie critics, and that he his and his wife Chaz would be taking control of the site.
Ebert died on April 4, just days after he reviewed “The Host,” which would be his last movie review.
Following the announcement of his death, hundreds of celebrities and prominent members of the film industry shared how much of an influence Ebert was to them on various social media sites.
“Roger Ebert will be missed,” wrote Seth Macfarlane on Twitter. “He’s one of the few critics who had actually written films. His opinion always mattered to me. He was the greatest.”
“Thank you for going on this journey with me,” wrote Ebert in his final tweet. “I’ll see you at the movies.”