Roger Ebert, long the chief film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, and the man who did more to define the popular dialogue about movies than any other person, has died at the age of 70.
The Sun-Times reports his passing. Ebert had battled cancer for many years; the disease infected his jaw and cost him his ability to speak in 2006. Earlier this week he announced a “leave of presence” from his position at the paper, citing a cancerous relapse.
Throughout the past decade, illness did not deter Ebert, who became an even more voluminous writer after losing his power of speech. He used Twitter to create a constant dialogue with his audience and the world at large, evolving from a film critic to cultural commentator. Ebert’s opinions, particularly those on video games, were not always popular. No matter the subject, however, Ebert wrote honestly, with an openness that avoided cheap shots and welcomed dialogue with readers. For a man whose voice and words carried so much weight, he’ll be remembered as someone who listened.
How many people become more vital, and more engaged with the world, in their sixth decade of life? I’ve watched and read Ebert since the late ’70s, beginning with his early sparring sessions with Gene Siskel on Sneak Previews, but over thirty years later the man was more of a cultural force than ever.
Roger Ebert taught me to do what you love, to do it with passion and honesty, and to face difficulties with dignity. He was the cinematic mentor for multiple generations. Ebert inspired countless readers to follow their own voice, but none will ever be quite what he was.