Friday, February 19, 2010

Ebert's Words

"How would Ebert say it?"

For the many years I've engaged in film criticism, that's the question that's always prodded me ahead when I came down with an insurmountable case of writer's block.  His ability to convey effortlessly what others try desperately just to sort out in their heads made me aware of how wide the vistas of film analysis could stretch.  If not for that, I wouldn't have gone to film school.  If not for that, I wouldn't be teaching film.  If not for that, this blog probably wouldn't exist.

Roger Ebert made me love loving film. 

The past few years have been difficult ones for Ebert, whose weekly "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" patter with the late Gene Siskel brought movie criticism into the mainstream, and who was the first critic to win a Pulitzer.  In 2006, what was supposed to be a mere sabbatical from his TV perch turned into something far more permanent when a battle against throat cancer forced him into the kind of struggle I wouldn't wish on anyone.

I hadn't realized just how scarred that battle had left him until fairly recently, when I saw a piece on ABC's Chicago affiliate about Ebert's inability to eat, drink, or even speak without assistance.  Yet, despite it all, his greatest gift remains in full flower, both in his reviews and his online journal. Though he can't utter a word, his voice can still be heard loud and clear.

Earlier this week, Esquire published a lengthy and quite-involved profile of Ebert by writer Chris Jones, which goes into often-excrutiating detail about the writer's day-to-day struggles. Then yesterday the man himself posted a sequel of sorts on his own journal.  Both are as uplifting as they are heartbreaking, not only in terms of how much he has had taken from him, but how indominably he continues on.

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