Though he had struggled with cancer with a decade, Roger Ebert’s death came quickly, his wife Chaz explained in a statement late Thursday. “We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.” (Married nearly 21 years, she wrote, “we had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie.”)
In a posting on his blog two days earlier, the film critic was still focused on plans for the future. While announcing he would scale back his criticism workload during cancer treatment, he also touted a rollout for a new Web site and a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to bring “At the Movies” back to TV.
In the Post’s Roger Ebert obituary, the Post’s Emma Brown noted that while “cancer disfigured Mr. Ebert’s face several years ago, robbing him of his ability to speak and eat. . . he developed and maintained an outsized public presence online, writing prolifically about everything from film to politics to living with illness. It was a second act that won him a reputation for resilience and grace.”
Two lovely tributes to the critic by our colleagues. Dan Zak recalls meeting Ebert and telling him how much he meant to him. “A critic’s noblest and most generous act is to inspire passion in others. Roger Ebert taught me to love the movies.”. . . And Alexandra Petri distills what Ebert’s absence will mean to us as we head to the movies in the future. “One of the hardest parts of losing a great critic [is that] you desperately want his or her opinion on things.
One of the nicest tributes to Ebert came while he was still alive, in Stephen Hunter’s 2005 review of Ebert’s book “The Great Movies II.” Let’s hope he had a chance to read it:
Ebert was different. He saw that the movies were changing and that they were full of ideas, and he wrote brilliantly but never condescendingly. He wasn’t a mandarin, a New York esthete slumming in the double features and issuing on-high epiphanies and bons mots with a snigger of aristocratic disdain, and he wasn’t the unofficial hack publicist. No, he was a really smart guy who got that movies were hard-wired into the baby-boom generation cerebral cortex, that they were in some sense that generation’s secret language, and that they bustled and seethed with anger, impatience, self-confidence and sometime insolence. He was there not merely to issue gratuitous opinion but to argue.
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