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Film Critic Roger Ebert Dead at 70 Of Cancer 198

Posted by timothy
from the tough-guy-brave-guy-hero dept.
New submitter AndyKrish links to the BBC's report that just two days after penning a "leave of presence" in which he says "I am not going away," Roger Ebert — "arguably the world's most famous film critic" — has died of cancer. Ebert was a long-time film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as (most famously along with Gene Siskel) for a string of television shows. In the course of dealing with persistent cancer that affected his thyroid and jaw, and which took away his voice, Ebert became a prolific blogger on movies as well as other topics, and drew on cutting edge technology to regain the power of speech.
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Film Critic Roger Ebert Dead at 70 Of Cancer

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  • Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @05:52PM (#43363151) Journal

    I didn't agree with every review, but all in all he was damned good critic, and a significant part of his Great Movies list is a must-see for me.

    • Re:Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @05:54PM (#43363187) Homepage

      I think a huge part of what made him a great critic was that even when you disagreed with his opinion, you could usually sympathize with him anyway. It takes an unusually talented critic to pull that off.

      • Re:Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:01PM (#43363271) Homepage Journal

        I think a huge part of what made him a great critic was that even when you disagreed with his opinion, you could usually sympathize with him anyway. It takes an unusually talented critic to pull that off.

        I generally felt that way more about Gene Siskel, he always seemed to be down on movies I enjoyed, but he did articulate well why he didn't like something, rather than be a complete a** like Rex Reed.

        Sneak Previews was one of the few television shows I'd free up some time each week to watch. It was a great show and taught that you don't have to agree with all or any one film critic(s). More often I'd agree with Roger, he seemed like he enjoyed basically fun films, where Gene was looking more at the quality of the production. As I grew older I'd appreciate both points of view and not just throw my money away just because Disney, Lucas or anyone else rolled out yet-another movie.

        • Re:Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:09PM (#43363355) Journal

          There is one thing that Ebert said about movies that stands above everything else:

          “It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.”

          • Form and content (Score:4, Insightful)

            by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @07:31PM (#43364195)
            re "It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it."

            That's a great point. Form is separate from content. The point of a movie is not just its content, but also in the stylistic presentation form it uses to deliver that content. I've seen movies that had a nice "story" behind it but with poor execution of the plot by the actors or timing and editing of the scenes. I've also seen movies produced and directed by music video directors and by Michael Baye that are beautifully styled and paced and so well lit and with gorgeous sweeping camera movements that actually go with the underlying scene and with good music that punctuates and emphasizes the action but the content of the plot and the storyline is crap.
            .
            When both form and content deliver something beautiful, it's a wonderful movie. I like Ebert's side commentaries and I also like that he was part of some schlocky movie writing in the 1960s.
            .
            Ebert wrote the scripts for Who Killed Bambi? [wikipedia.org], a 1978 movie about the Sex Pistols that ultimately was not made because the financiers did not like what was in the script. Ebert's screenplay [suntimes.com] for the movie is on his blog. Bizarre.
            .
            He also wrote the for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," [wikipedia.org] a movie for which he wrote the screenplay in 1969.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ultranova (717540)

          rather than be a complete a**

          Say "ass". You know you want to. We're all adults here, we can take a vulgar reference every now and then.

          Seriously, either curse or don't; this *bleeb* business is simply pathethic.

      • Re:Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Friday April 05, 2013 @04:27AM (#43366561)

        I only read a few of his reviews because I found most of them to be rather thoughtless and lame. Take his review on "Team America" for example. He gave it a bad review mainly because it joked about those waging the war on terror. The content of the movie, even its purpose, was just completely lost on him. I later found out that he gave Fahrenheit 9/11 a good review for exactly the same reason, only that movie wasn't even entertaining unless you like watching the blooper reel of political messages. I know its purpose wasn't intended to entertain, but it wasn't useful for anything else unless you like watching political propaganda.

        I really don't see any sense in respecting the opinion of such a person. My opinion of him isn't just based on that though - rather that is one of the most egregious examples of where I can think of him giving a movie an unfair review because it offended him. (And that's part of the message of the movie - they intended to offend everybody who watched it in at least some way.)

      • Re:Sad Day (Score:4, Interesting)

        by dywolf (2673597) on Friday April 05, 2013 @08:33AM (#43367369)

        Truth. Also, a good, consistent reviewer makes a great weather vane, even when you disagree with em. Ebert was a truly talented writer who always gave more than enough information for you to get a sense of your own (future) opinion, even if it was a movie you were likely to disagree with him on.

        Plus he had that most essential quality: he genuinely loved movies and simply wanted to share that and them with everyone.
        contrary to a lot of critics who simply want to flame everyone and everything, and dictate the opinion of the masses.

    • Re:Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tedgyz (515156) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:17PM (#43363453) Homepage

      I generally agreed with his reviews much more than his partner Siskel. Roger recognized that not all movies have to have a greater purpose. Sometimes it is ok to just have fun.

      • Re:Sad Day (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @07:18PM (#43364077)
        But both of them were capable more than most of saying "I didn't like 28 Days Later, but for a zombie movie, it was so much better than most, I'll give it a thumbs up" (28 Days just being something I could see them saying, I can't recall a specific incident at the moment). They didn't rate every movie like it was for the Best Picture Oscar, but managed some context. Sort of like Skyfall. If you like Bond, you'll like Skyfall. If you think Bond movies have become too slow, and the action scenes all try too hard to out do the previous movie's scenes, then you'll hate it. So how do you rate it? It depends on what you want to see. They were better at articulating that distinction within their reviews than most, who would just give it a star rating and move on.
        • by jader3rd (2222716)
          I like Bond, I've read most of the books, but I did not like SkyFall. The whole "the old ways are better" meme was overkilled and the villian had worked out/predicted the movements of MI6 personel to accurate to even be entertaining.
        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          I actually rather enjoyed Skyfall. It seemed back to the more "superhuman gentleman" of old Bond movies, which I prefer. Much better than the couple of "actionhero" movies that came before it; felt like they were just trying to follow Mission Impossible (which were horribly bland and boring IMHO).
          Bond movies can have all the plot-holes and 1-dimensional story they want, I just expect them to be over-the-top and he'd damn well better get all the girls at the end.

      • by bfandreas (603438)
        Even if you disagreed with him you did better damn well listen to what he said.
        His opinions were well founded and he will be sorely missed.

        He would propably appreciate the irony that the biggest wreath of them all will come from Rob Schneider.
      • by BlueCoder (223005)

        Thanks odd. I remember the disagreement between the two about a Bengie movie. Ebert hated it while Siskel liked it as a fun movie for what it was. It was a hilarious disagreement because both were so passionate. They even went on Oprah later and got into it a bit.

        • by BlueCoder (223005)

          Pardon I was completely wrong. The positions were indeed reversed. Ebert was light hearted about the movie. But I still got a kick out of watching that segment again. I think it's interested they were more passionate about that film than about Full Metal Jacket.

    • Re:Sad Day (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeff321 (695543) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:27PM (#43363557)

      Dark City! He did a commentary track for the blu-ray even.

    • Re:Sad Day (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WinstonWolfIT (1550079) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @08:16PM (#43364575)

      Siskel commented that Ebert may have been the better writer but that he was the better reviewer, to which I agree. Nevertheless I'm a big fan of his writing and appreciate his takes on Herzog and Scorcese, among others. It's rare I care at all about the
      passing of a personality but for me this is a sad day.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @05:57PM (#43363233) Homepage Journal

    These really opened up a lot more films to me, beyond the Hollywood pap. Miss them both. Massive, massive props to them both.

    Never dreamed I'd ever converse with either of them, but did tweet a bit with Roger. Great guy.

    RIP, Roger

    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:19PM (#43363469) Journal

      Siskel & Ebert was from a different time when you could turn on the TV and see two educated people have a lively and respectful disagreement about matters of quality. I don't expect I'll live to see such a thing again.

      • I remember we used to make a point of watching Siskel & Ebert every weekend - real "appointment TV". Even though sometimes we were laughing at them - even the best film critics can be rather pretentious at times - I thoroughly enjoyed their banter and was disappointed when I would miss a show.

        It was a very sad day when Gene Siskel died fairly young, and now we've lost Roger Ebert as well. It's just movies, I realize - but it's also another part of my youth that's gone away.

        Now please - show some respect

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:47PM (#43363781)

          It was a very sad day when Gene Siskel died fairly young, and now we've lost Roger Ebert as well. It's just movies, I realize

          It isn't "just" movies - movies are a major part of modern culture. Once a society gets above the level of mere subsistence, culture is pretty much the entire point of human existence.

          • It was a very sad day when Gene Siskel died fairly young, and now we've lost Roger Ebert as well. It's just movies, I realize

            It isn't "just" movies - movies are a major part of modern culture. Once a society gets above the level of mere subsistence, culture is pretty much the entire point of human existence.

            If you don't mind, I will steal and share that quote. With attribution, of course.

      • by tool462 (677306) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:47PM (#43363777)

        Siskel & Ebert was from a different time when you could turn on the TV and see two educated people have a lively and respectful disagreement about matters of quality. I don't expect I'll live to see such a thing again.

        There's always the internet...

      • by SlashdotOgre (739181) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:06PM (#43364877) Journal

        While it probably won't appeal to many Slashdot readers, the ESPN show, "Pardon the Interruption," is of similar style and caliber. The hosts, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, were both veteran staff writers for the Washington Post (and were still active for the first several seasons), and their opinions are consistently well developed and expressed. Even my wife, who only watches the occasional big game, enjoys watching the show.

        • by drcagn (715012)

          I have to respectfully disagree with you there. While some good points can be brought up on PTI, at most times the show seems so scripted that I cannot possibly accept that Wilbon and Kornheiser believe what's coming out of their mouths. It's like they are purposely given point and counterpoint by writers.

    • by antdude (79039)

      What did you guys say to each other? Are they still up?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:03PM (#43363289)

    On a regular basis his reviews lept from discussion of the movie to discussion of life and the questions and problems that we face. His clarity of writing was combined with a clear and solid morality. He illuminated whatever corner of life he looked in to. He will be greatly missed.

  • Absolutely my favourite film critic, he will be missed heavily. I didn't always agree with his reviews but there were almost always more well thought out and articulated than any other critic I can think of. I trusted his evaluation of movies and I think the world is lessened with his loss.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:06PM (#43363323) Journal

    There are maybe 5 or 6 modern writers whose ability to think and penetrate issues I am in awe of, since Mark Twain, and he is one of them.

    Winston Churchill, George Will, and former radio talk host David Newman from WJR in Detroit.

    I guess that's just 4. :(

    All other reviewers are, to borrow one of Ebert's phrases, like little kids banging pots and pans on the floor of the kitchen.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:09PM (#43363353)

    Two Thumbs Up for Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

  • Don't mess. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:14PM (#43363413) Journal

    Speaking of Winston Churchill, Ebert is author of the biggest burn since Churchill. Rob Schneider took out an ad about a generic critic ragging on his Deuce Bigalow, or maybe that animal man movie, saying, "Who does his guy think he is, some Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic?"

    Ebert then writes, "Well, speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

  • It seems that http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/ [suntimes.com] is melting under the pressure of people trying to read one last Roger Ebert review. I spent over a decade at university in Urbana-Champaign, and the Roger Ebert film festival was a yearly pleasure. I have especially fond memories of Ebert interviewing Werner Herzog on stage after a showing of Invincible.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:33PM (#43363629)

    Something of a lost art in every genre, from restaurants to sports radio. The critics have become hyperbolic bomb-throwers because vitriol sells more papers and attracts more eyeballs. Second, he was a film connoisseur and enjoyed the art AND the craft of film making. I remember one review where he slammed the director for being lazy with fake snow and just dropping it in front of the lens!

    I worked my way through the AFI greatest list a few years back and I've gained a whole new appreciation for film and Ebert was one of the exemplars of how to watch and enjoy film. I believe this was his quote (paraphrased). You judge a movie by what it's trying to do and not against some universal standard.

    • You judge a movie by what it's trying to do and not against some universal standard.

      This is why I liked him. Plus his writing was entertaining.

  • Later in life he looked like Finbarr Saunders..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/aug/19/wankh-awards-rude-titles [guardian.co.uk]

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:39PM (#43363695)

    Ebert had a plain common-man love for the movies, but he was, at the same time, a sophisticated critic.

    I'll miss him.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @06:53PM (#43363833)
    How many good journalists do we have to lose to cancer before we stop asking people to watch Hollywood carcinogens?
  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @07:34PM (#43364229)

    When I first saw this I wondered what sort of demented hack could write such trash. Then I learned roger Ebert wrote it. So I decided that it was a work of genius.

  • I'm a little surprised to see the outpouring for Roger Ebert, frankly. I never wished the man ill, and I really enjoyed his work as a critic. Let's remember that this is the same guy who said that video games could never be art, which is fine as it's his opinion, but it's just a little more myopic than I'd expect to see Slashdotters ignore. Still, a matter of opinion. However, when he immediately made cracks about the death of Ryan Dunn following his death, he fell to a level of tastelessness and cruelty th

    • So you're against how he attacked somebody immediately following their death. I see. Tell me more about his -- in your words -- "tastelessness and cruelty" he demonstrated by doing so...

      • by cbhacking (979169)

        It's a shame that reading comprehension is so poor on this site that you, JabberWokky, are currently rated higher than Loosifur.

        Loosifur's post was that it was tasteless and cruel to make cracks about a person immediately after his death, and he therefore, despite admiring Ebert's skill as a critic, feels less sympathy than he should. That's a well-reasoned argument, goes out of its way to point out that he was familiar with the person in question, and was certainly not in any way intended as humorous nor w

    • He lost me when he, like many celebrities these days, used his position to air his infantile political views instead of movie reviews. In particular, his over the top cheering of that despicable tub of lard Michael Moore, and even worse, cruelly mocking kids who were suspended from school for wearing an American flag on Cinco de Mayo. His reviews were all right, a bit on the lowbrow side. RIP, whatever.

    • by epine (68316) on Friday April 05, 2013 @12:55AM (#43365935)

      Pennsylvania investigators concluded that Dunn was driving up to 140 miles per hour when he crashed. His blood alcohol content was .196, which is far higher than the legal limit of .08.

      This behaviour displays a wanton disregard for the life and safety of those around him. Would you bite your tongue in respectful silence when Patient Zero [radiolab.org] is freshly planted?

      From Snopes:

      Dugas appeared to move between denial that whatever he had could be transmitted sexually ("Of course I'm going to have sex. Nobody's proven to me that you can spread cancer"), depraved indifference to his partners' wellbeing ("It's their duty to protect themselves. They know what's going on out there. They've heard about this disease"), and a desire to take others with him ("I've got gay cancer. I'm going to die and so are you").

      In what way was Dunn's behaviour any better than Dugas? Was is the first time he ever drove over the speed limit? The first time he drove bombed out of his mind? The first time he combined being twice the legal limit and driving at twice the speed limit? Somehow I doubt it.

      Ebert's tweet was really aimed at the jackasses who knew about and enabled Dunn's behaviour and decided to tolerate it, not caring enough about public safety to have him arrested and jailed (which he certainly deserved), and not caring enough about Dunn himself to prevent his foreseeable death. As a former alcoholic himself, Ebert had some strong personal opinions about the behaviours of his fellow alcoholics and those around them, the same way a sex offender might be harsh in condemning another sex offender. In-group vitriol is 200 proof.

      What has it achieved this respectful biting of lips? Self-centered assholes like Dunn still put the public at risk after forty years of public awareness efforts. I would have been much happier with the outcome if Dunn had redeemed himself to "former asshole" by seeking treatment rather than killing himself.

      Somehow the polite grieving process and the social institution of denial has become joined at the hip. Ebert decided to fire a cap into this unholy union before the glue dried. As a result, every time someone criticizes Ebert for his tweet intended as true, the message behind his tweet is reopened for examination. We might even be saving lives here if the message finally sinks into the public consciousness that people behaving like Dunn aren't much better than people behaving like Dugas. Or is there a subtle hierarchy on acceptable ways to expose people to mortal danger without their consent? Not for me, there isn't.

      And who are we protecting by our polite silence? The people who either meekly or gutlessly enabled Dunn to continue his reckless behaviours? Well, guess what? Gutless sucks. And meek sucks, too. The respectful silence just serves to confirm in people's minds that they did the best they could, without forcing them to confront the public sentiment that it damn well wasn't good enough. The true enablers in this story? The phony friends who hung around and encouraged his outlandish behaviour because they found Dunn to be funny or entertaining, but didn't give a damn about his well being or the well being of the babies and children and parents and sisters and brother who shared the same highways with the drunken, hard-driving Jackass.

      If I had a family member who was a hard-living alcoholic and he hung out with a bunch of enabling carousers and high-functioning deadbeats who let him (or her) walk out of a pub shit-faced to hit the highway with death-wish testosterone or toxic depression, and someone of Ebert's status tweeted about it that "friends don't let friends drink and drive" my own reaction would have been an angry "Damn straight!"

      Or maybe I'm wrong about myself, and in my grief over my dead family member I'd be grateful for the social courtesy of respectful

  • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @07:54PM (#43364419) Homepage

    Not only did Mr. Ebert love movies, but he could WRITE. His reviews were not just excellent and insightful movie reviews, but generally good, to very good prose. This made reading his often lengthy reviews a delight, not a chore.

    Did you know Mr. Ebert was also a great fan of written SF? I did not until he recently wrote a guest column for Asimov's Science fiction. It was a warm, charming essay that showed off his writing skills in a whole new light for me who had only ever read his movie reviews.

    • by binarstu (720435) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @08:10PM (#43364533)

      Not only did Mr. Ebert love movies, but he could WRITE. His reviews were not just excellent and insightful movie reviews, but generally good, to very good prose. This made reading his often lengthy reviews a delight, not a chore.

      Exactly. When I'm curious about a film I've not yet watched, I almost always look for Ebert's review first. I also like reading his reviews after I've seen a movie -- even if I disagree with his conclusions, I feel like I learn something from his insightful and interesting commentary. It's really sad that he's no longer with us.

  • This guy was a pompous idiot. Claiming books and movies were art, but videogames were not, and could never be. Dude had his head so far up his own ass that he couldnt accept any other form of media he didnt enjoy as artful. In what world does someone live that you can say that something like L.A Noire can never achieve the level of scary movie 4. Maybe im a cold hateful bastard, but i have no love with ignorant idiots so entrenched in their own ideals and times that they cannot accept new forms of media and
    • by JBMcB (73720)

      Maybe im a cold hateful bastard, but i have no love with ignorant idiots so entrenched in their own ideals and times that they cannot accept new forms of media and entertainment.

      Yes you are. Some people don't like the same things you do. Some people have different opinions than you. That's OK. It doesn't mean they hate you and it doesn't mean you have to hate them. Just relax and like what you like.

      I didn't agree with him on video games, either, and didn't agree with several of his movie reviews, but the man was a brilliant movie reviewer nonetheless.

      • Oh i dont hate him. I just think he was an idiot. Having no love for someone and hating them are totally different.
        • So, because of maybe three or four articles out of the thousands that he wrote, you've decided he was an idiot?

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      apparently you never actually read why he made that statement or held that opinion.

      it wasnt about how entertaining something is. that's not what or how he defined "art".

      if you actually listened to ebert he also considered very many books and movies to also "not be art". you must remember that he did view art in the old school way. people today think art is anything created. thus "entertainment" is a valid purpose for art. he didnt hold that view. he held a more traditional view that art should do more than

  • If we make a video game about him, is it art?

    (Disclaimer: I like the guy, I just have a sense of black humor. And he's had numerous long-winded arguments why video games aren't art -- I don't concur.)

  • RIP, Ebert. You and Siskel were the one place I could go for honesty.

  • two favorite movies for me.

    I hadn't heard of either The Right Stuff or The Dark City, but I stumbled upon their review somewhere. Both Siskel and Ebert thought The Right Stuff was by far the best movie of 1983 and should've won the Best Picture Oscar. So I watched it, and I agreed... it became my favorite.

    Then I saw the Dark City (much later), which Ebert thought was fantastic and his pick for the best picture of 1998. Siskel thought Ebert was out of his mind, he couldn't see what was so good about Dark Cit

  • I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone.

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst

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