Saturday, March 20, 2010

Roger Ebert, National Treasure


Before the dawn of the internet, when a movie review was a few clicks away on Rotten Tomatoes, there was Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.  The syndicated television show sometimes devolved into the film equivalent of ESPN’s Around the Horn (otherwise known as “Sports Shouting”) but the undeniable chemistry of its two hosts and the program’s thoughtful discussion on film was an irresistible combination, especially on a Saturday afternoon for a kid who didn’t have anything better to do or friends to play with.

In 1999, Gene Siskel would succumb to brain cancer and three years later, his chubby counterpart, Roger Ebert, would undergo the first of numerous surgeries to treat thyroid cancer.  By mid-2006, most of Ebert’s lower jaw had been removed and with it, his ability to speak or eat.

In the following years and continuing through today and hopefully days to come, Roger Ebert resorted to the skill that brought him fame on TV in the first place. 

He wrote. 

Not just about movies, Ebert dove head first into a wide range of subjects: food, politics, his weaknesses, his fondest memories, his personal reflections, he wrote about the things that made him human, a remarkable human being at that.  His Twitter account and his blog have been something to marvel at in the last several years.

I didn’t always agree with his movies reviews, but I appreciated his thoughtful input on why he felt a certain away about a film.  I cringed sometimes at the hootin and hollerin’ that would take place on his TV show, but I appreciated the passion that Ebert and his friend, Siskel, had for cinema.

It wasn’t until a brush with death that Roger Ebert took his writing to another level, in my opinion, by delving into topics beyond the subject with which he was most associated with.  Those familiar with his work before he became a TV star would argue that this is what he had been doing all along, but for those who only knew him as a television personality like me, it was something of a revelation.

If it took a courageous battle with cancer to get him where he is at now, then I am happy that he made it through that journey and that he has been able to share with us the kind of work that he has published online in the last couple years.

I hope that it won’t take a life-threatening illness for me to reach out to others or to touch the lives of people who I don’t even know.  We had a relatively small readership on this blog but it reached further than I ever expected it to.  The coolest kids in the room have all found better spots to  hang out at lately, but for the time being, this remains where I’ll want to publish writing that I’d like others to read. 

As much as I love Ebert and enjoy his writing, he isn’t perfect in my mind and neither am I.  I’m thankful to you guys who posted while I didn’t do shit for this blog and I’m thankful to those of you continuously pleaded for more posts.

What I know is this: if I couldn’t eat, if I couldn’t talk, I’d be here.  I’d be writing.  I’ll either continue to look stupid, or if I’m lucky enough, I’ll be able to put up the kind of work that Ebert and so many other talented writers have published over the years.

[Ebert's Twitter]
[Ebert's blog]

[The Esquire article that intimately portrayed him better than I ever could]


  1. I spent more time looking at those links than I anticipated. Good stuff.

  2. now if only adonis could post something.....