Most critics make their reputation by writing scathing and very amusing reviews. Not Roger Ebert. He made “thumbs up” his signature, and wrote his best pieces about films he liked or adored. It’s much easier to write a negative notice, but it takes real skill to write engrossingly about something you value. Roger made a career out of that. He definitely accentuated the positive. And brought a lot of people to good movies.
The truth is, Roger loved pictures; they really were his life, his passion. Despite the nightmarish bouts with cancer that he endured and triumphed over for a considerable time, he kept writing, and the quality of his work never diminished. He wrote about the latest releases and about the classics, book after book came out, it seemed like he couldn’t possibly have time to do anything else, nor was he so inclined. His love affair with film sustained him. That and his remarkable and beautiful wife, Chaz.
I remember him fondly at the end of the 90s on a Telluride Film Festival Cruise on the QE2, deconstructing Citizen Kane for a large group of passengers over a period of several days; running a sequence, then stopping to illuminate it for his crowd, going over details in the most dedicated manner. You don’t have that kind of patience unless there’s true love involved.
We shall all be the poorer for his absence. The movies have lost a dear and valuable friend. Luckily, his books remain to remind us of how much he has meant to kindred spirits, of which there were many, thanks to him.