True to his promise in his final blog post, the late Roger Ebert’s new website has launched at RogerEbert.com. It combines all his various (and previously separate) online enterprises — reviews, blog posts, Far Flung Correspondents — into a single, clean design. It’s a beautiful site, and very easy to use. My favorite part is the way scrolling over the headline options at the top opens a small drop down window to show you the latest post in each of the site’s subsections. With Ebert’s death, it’s still unclear just how much the site will be updated and by whom (although that same, now-famous “leave of presence” blog post also announced the formation of a new company, Ebert Digital, that would control its content). Still, if it only exists as a memorial to the man and an archive of his life’s work, it is a very impressive one.
We’re still updating our posts of tributes and obituaries for Ebert, but I also wanted to share a video that was sent to me by my friend and colleague P.L. Kerpius of the blog Scarlett Cinema. It’s a collection of excerpts from a unique experiment conducted on April 7, 1994, in which five United Artists movie theaters were linked via satellite for “the first live interactive broadcast to movie theaters beginning a new phase in movie theater use — live video-based programming.” Now events like these are done almost every month in movie theaters across the country and around the world featuring old “Star Trek” episodes, movie mockery from the former cast of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and performances from The Metropolitan Opera. Ebert was there for the very first, a discussion of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List:”
Many of the remembrances of Roger Ebert have pointed out his endless fascination with new technology and his status as an early adopter of the Internet and an early supporter of online film critics. Here, I think, you see that spirit of curiosity and excitement in action. In 1994, these satellite links were still very crude, but as Ebert points out at the end of the clip, he already sees its potential. Plus, you also get to see just how good and how relaxed an on-camera performer Ebert had become by this point in his career. When the (crazy-voiced) announcer introduces him as the writer of “Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill!” instead of “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” it doesn’t throw him in the slightest.