Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

Roger Ebert, from his piece in Salon, “I do not fear death.”

I always liked Roger Ebert. I don’t think he was a genius film critic, but he was a good film critic and an excellent popularizer: someone who gave a damn about movies, who cared about both serious art films and fluffy Hollywood entertainment, and wanted all of it to be the best it could be. Maybe more importantly — to me, anyway — he was a really good writer, with qualities I particularly admire in a writer: he was clear, down-to-earth, thoughtful, passionate, light-hearted, and funny. He was unafraid to deliver unrestrained smackdowns: his “I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie” and “Your Movie Sucks” are among my favorite works of film criticism ever. But he was equally unafraid — a more rare quality, unfortunately — to deliver praise, exuberantly and unabashedly.

And he faced his illness and impending death with wisdom, calm courage — and no reliance on religious faith or a belief in an afterlife.

I’m getting weirdly teary-eyed now. Read the whole piece. I suspect it will become a classic in humanist writing about death. Thanks, Mr. Ebert.

Roger Ebert, 1942-2013
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6 thoughts on “Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

  1. 1

    I always liked the fact that he disliked pretension in movies, and never insisted at all movies be “films” and “significant” and “nuanced”. He liked the fluffy stuff and the shoot ’em ups too, if they were well made.

    I didn’t always agree with his assessment of a movie, but I always took what he had to say seriously.

    We’ll miss you, Roger.

  2. 2

    I’ll miss Roger Ebert and I’m surprised at how moved I am at his death. I had the good fortune of having met him a few times through a book club that he occasionally attended, and through some shared advocacy on behalf of an immigrant some years back. He was fluid and comfortable and social, even after he lost his voice and ability to talk. He was a thoroughly decent and kind man, someone who had his priorities in order. Another quote:

    “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime…”

    He described himself as a Catholic that couldn’t find it in himself to believe in God. I think I know what he means – he was one of the few people I’ve ever met that managed to glean the good from that tradition, and filter out the bad. I enjoyed his writing, his unapologetic liberalism, his sense of wonder, his eloquent defense of natural selection, and his kindness and support for a certain refugee caught in a kafkaesque legal nightmare. He was a good man and he lived an eventful, full life.

  3. im

    That’s too sad…

    Yet I still grieve that he accepted it, even in this modern age of hope.

    Victory — at any cost!

  4. 5

    I have bookmarked somewhere an Esquire piece from a few years ago called
    ‘The Last Words of Roger Ebert’. I was afraid at that time that it was a death notice, but the
    title referred to the fact that he had been deprived of his voice. The joke was Mr. Ebert’s: he
    couldn’t even remember the last words he spoke before going into the operating room.
    I was sad to hear that the end had finally come. I don’t even like movies very much,
    but I always enjoyed his reviews.

  5. 6

    One of my favorite lines of Eberts: When asked in his Movie Answer Man column how his wife felt about his calling a certain actress the most beautiful woman in the world, Ebert replied he was talking about women not goddesses.

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