I don’t make movies, but I did grow up watching them and watching people review them–Roger Ebert among them. As I have become a writer, the process of critiquing a story, even a cinematic one, has become more interesting. Few people do it well; few people do it for long. Ebert was the rare person who did both. I would read his movie reviews for movies I had no interest in seeing, just to see how he understood the story and what the filmmakers were trying to do. I would read his reviews of movies I loved to see what he loved about them, and often came away with a better understanding of the movies. I have spent hours just reading his reviews for the sheer pleasure of reading them.
His battles with cancer are well-chronicled, but what I find more remarkable is how he refused to retreat into private life, a move nobody would have faulted him for. He continued to see movies and write his thoughts long after cancer had taken speech from him; he penned long, thoughtful blog posts on any variety of topics.
What I admired most about him was his ability to judge a movie based on what it was trying to do, not on some universal standard that ranks Important movies above comedies, period dramas above musicals. He recognized that we need stories that make us think, stories that make us laugh, stories that make us cry–stories for every aspect of the human experience.
There’s nobody like him. He will be sorely missed.