The study of the work and ethics of Roger Ebert is, essentially, the study of film.
Few voices have ever spoken so loudly, and been heard by so many, as his. Throughout his career, in his broad writings, of which I have barely skimmed the surface of, it would be an understatement to call Ebert’s knowledge of cinema encyclopaedic, but it is in his understanding of what movies mean to the individual and to society that signify the intelligence behind his influence. As a budding filmmaker and journalist myself, Ebert became – and remains – a sort of avuncular figure in my studies; a plethora of wisdom that alleviates the great fear of betraying one’s own voice or, worse, not having a personal touch at all.
It was as if he possessed an anxiety of ever becoming terse, or not having something to say. I followed his last works closely, but it is his enormous back catalogue I find myself referring to again and again. It’s practically second nature to me now to check if my new favourite film is in his ‘Great Movies’ or ‘Your Movie Sucks’ list. Outside cinema, too, Ebert always spoke with impassioned honesty, such as in this sublime essay entitled I do not fear death from Life Itself: A Memoir.
Here is one of many excellent videos available featuring Ebert & Siskel, here they discuss the very purpose of film criticism and the dangers of abiding to social etiquette: