Ten years ago Tuesday, Roger Ebert, one of the best-known and most influential movie critics in America, died after a nearly seven-year cancer battle. He was 70. This week, the film review website RogerEbert.com will honor its namesake by embracing his formative belief that movies are machines that generate empathy. It will feature more than a dozen of Roger’s most celebrated reviews over his four decades as chief critic at the Chicago Sun-Times. Editors and contributors offer insights on Roger’s writing about Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, the Wachowskis’ Cloud Atlas, Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, Hal Ashby’s Coming Home and many more films.
Roger was an award-winning journalist, author and screenwriter. In 1975 he became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Chaz Ebert, Roger’s wife and partner of 24 years, shares a moving tribute on her blog at RogerEbert.com to the man she has described as her best friend. Here’s an excerpt:
“I laugh at the trick the universe played on him by allowing him to be known as a critic, someone who criticizes the works of others. And as a film critic, he was a fine one, one with a reputation that traveled the globe. One that perhaps masked the depths of his goodness.”
While he published highly entertaining collections of reviews of films he hated, Roger was especially proud of championing the films he loved, especially those audiences might otherwise miss. RogerEbert.com is keeping Roger’s torch lit by continuing to cover those independent and foreign films alongside the biggest studio ones just as he did.
Roger died shortly after RogerEbert.com was relaunched as a stand-alone site from the Chicago Sun-Times. As president and CEO of Ebert Digital, Chaz has maintained her husband’s legacy by supporting diverse up and coming writers and filmmakers and the annual Ebertfest film festival in Roger’s hometown of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Co-founded by Roger and Chaz in 1999, Ebertfest is a film lover’s festival that gives films and their makers a well-deserved second look. This year, Ebertfest will be held April 19-22. In honor of Roger, the theme is “Empathy At The Movies.”