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For Roger Ebert, it was always about the movies

  13.04.04 4:14pm


When he could still talk, Roger loved to teach film students in his Chicago domain and elsewhere. He was also fond of analyzing classic films like Citizen Kane on a shot-by-shot basis, a popular feature he brought to his frequent visits to the Floating Film Festival, a biennial movie cruise started by his late friend Dusty Cohl, the co-founder of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Ebert’s high profile during TIFF’s early days of the late 1970s helped give the fledgling festival the credibility it needed to survive. He was a devoted attendee right up until recent years, also a regular of the Cannes and Sundance festivals, until his illness made it too difficult to travel.

Roger often sounded the alarm about changes to movies and moviegoing, things that other critics and movie buffs were also concerned about.

He fretted about the changeover from celluloid to digital projection, worrying that it might alter our perception of film. He expressed alarm about newspapers dropping local critics in favour of syndicated ones, even though that meant the paper often ran his column instead.

He didn’t like 3D, and often said so. He also disliked the U.S. film rating system, which often gives a family-friendly rating to movies filled with violence.

He championed new acting talent and directors. Infuriated by the Academy’s failure to give Spike Lee an Oscar nomination for Lee’s racially direct 1989 film Do the Right Thing, Ebert and Siskel countered by devoting an episode of their TV show to the film.

Roger wasn’t afraid of change. He was an early supporter and user of the Internet and of young writers on websites and blogs. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Ebert wrote a monthly column on movies and the Net for a computer magazine.

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