April 4, 2013 is a day that a lot of folks like me still remember as one of the grimmest in our film community. That was the day that Roger Ebert decided to sign off for good, after 50 years of writing for the Chicago Sun-Times. I felt like a little bit of me had died on the inside that day when the news broke of Roger’s passing. And I wasn’t alone, as thousands of tributes poured in from all over the world once news of his death broke. I even remember President Obama addressing Ebert’s passing around this time last year. It was a sad time, as if it weren’t for Roger Ebert, I don’t believe I’d be writing to you right now. A lot of folks got interested in movies and writing about movies because of Roger Ebert’s influence, and I’d say he’s without a doubt the prime reason why I began writing movie reviews 5 years ago. And it’s been a year since his passing, and the last thing Ebert has done is fade into obscurity.
When Roger died, he left in his will that his wife, Chaz, receive the passwords for his Twitter and Facebook pages to continue Roger’s message by spreading the power of cinema all over the world. Chaz has done more than just that, as she was a key factor in getting Steve James’ documentary on Roger, Life Itself, finished. The film premiered at Sundance, and I still beat myself up over not seeing it, but I will be first in line to see the film when it’s released to the world. Roger was also honored by several organizations, with the opening night film of the Toronto International Film Festival having a lengthy but worthy tribute to Roger. Even last month’s telecast of the Academy Awards honored Roger in their “In Memoriam” tribute, which is very rare for a film critic to be honored in. Several film critics have kept RogerEbert.com alive and well by contributing week after week with film reviews and other stories on the state of film. In fact, just recently, it was announced by the University of Illinois that it had just commissioned donations for the future site of The Roger Ebert Film Center on campus.
If you look at the big picture, all of this is just for a guy who week after week would write if a film stunk or not. But obviously, that’s not it, Roger was much more than just that. He went into incredible detail on films, and for years he would even revisit several films that he loved or didn’t, and prove that the power of film is unlike anything ever harvested, and none of these films can fade away into the abyss, and the only memories we would have is just of nostalgia. Film continues to live on, no matter how old or new, how good or bad, and so on. God bless Chaz Ebert for keeping Roger’s message and cause as powerful as it’s ever been, and thank you to the folks who have continued to be invested in Roger’s life and work. And yes, this isn’t the most proper tribute of the man out there, and as much as I loved the man I don’t facilitate the powers to give him that perfect tribute, but all I can do is continue to watch movies. Movies are a powerful way to tell stories of all kinds, and it’s an object that can never go away, and we can’t allow it to go away. Wherever Roger is right now, be it Heaven or a higher power of sorts, he’s smiling. We miss you day by day Roger, and I will do everything in my power to keep your message alive. Thank you.