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The world of film will never be the same. This Thursday afternoon it was announced that famed film critic Roger Ebert succumbed to cancer at the age of 70. For many, Ebert has always been the definitive film critic. Born and raised in Illinois, Ebert will be remembered most for his long-running television show “At The Movies” with his co-host and fellow journalist, Gene Siskel.
Ebert was one of those people that had journalism in his blood and was born to be a critic. In elementary school he published a neighborhood newspaper and went on to co-host Urbana High School’s Saturday morning radio program. During his career, which lasted almost five decades in both print and television, he wrote more books than any TV personality since Steve Allen.
It wasn’t until he attended college at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign that he began freelancing for theChicago Sun-Times.In 1966 he became the publication’s film critic after the previous critic died. Though it was never his intention to go into movies it was a role he took very seriously and crafted into his own.
As a fellow Chicagoan and film critic, I can honestly say that I looked up Ebert and saw him as a great influence on my work. I remember being giddy as a schoolgirl the first time I got to review a film in the same theater as Ebert. The film was a rather boring period piece called Goya’s Ghosts and, while the theater was small and mostly empty, everyone came to attention the moment he walked through the door. All of us owed something to him, whether it was as a colleague or a mentor, he had shaped all of our lives in some ways.
He meant a lot to Chicago as well. Los Angeles may be known as the hub of film but Chicago is where they all go for judgment. Every film that has come out in the past four or five decades has come under the watchful eye of Ebert and his co-hosts. As Ebert is laid to rest his spirit will live on through critics all over the world. As for his legacy, as Siskel and Ebert would say, we give it “Two thumbs up!”