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Roger Joseph Ebert ( ; born June 18, 1942) is an Americanmarker film critic and screenwriter.

He is known for his film review column (appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and later online) and for two television programs Sneak Previews and Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, which he co-hosted for a combined 23 years with Gene Siskel. After Siskel's death in 1999, Roger continued the show with Richard Roeper and the program was retitled Ebert & Roeper at the Movies in 2000. Although his name remained in the title, he did not appear on the show after mid-2006, when he suffered post-surgical complications related to thyroid cancer which left him unable to speak. Ebert ended his association with the show in July 2008, but in February 2009 he stated that he and Roeper would continue their work on a new show.

Ebert's movie reviews are syndicated to more than 200 newspapers in the United States and worldwide. He has written more than 15 books, including his annual movie yearbook which is predominately a collection of his reviews of that year. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His television programs have been widely syndicated and have been nominated for Emmy awards. In February 1995, a section of Chicagomarker's Erie Street near the CBS Studios was given the honorary name Siskel & Ebert Way. In June 2005, Ebert was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker. He was the first professional film critic to receive such an award. In late 2007, Forbes Magazine named Ebert "the most powerful pundit in America," edging out Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs and Geraldo Rivera. He has honorary degrees from the University of Coloradomarker, the AFI Conservatory, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicagomarker.

Since 1994, he has written a Great Movies series of individual reviews of what he deems to be the most important films of all time. This list and his associated reviews has now expanded to include over 300 movies. Since 1999, he has hosted the annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival in Champaign, Illinoismarker.

Early life and education

Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinoismarker, the son of Annabel (née Stumm) and Walter H. Ebert. His paternal grandparents were German immigrants. His interest in journalism began as a student at Urbana High School, where he was a sports writer for The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinoismarker; however, he began his writing career with letters of comment to the science fiction fanzines of the era. In his senior year he was co-editor of his high school newspaper, The Echo.

In 1958, Ebert won the Illinois High School Association state speech championship in Radio Speaking, an event that simulates radio newscasts.

As a teenager, Ebert was involved in science fiction fandom, writing articles for fanzines, including Richard A. Lupoff's Xero.

Ebert received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignmarker, where he was editor of The Daily Illini and member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. One of the first movie reviews he ever wrote was a review of La dolce vita, published in The Daily Illini in October 1961.

Ebert did his graduate study in English at the University of Cape Townmarker under a Rotary Internationalmarker Fellowship. He was a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Chicagomarker. He was a Sun-Times feature reporter when the film critic position was offered to him by the Sun-Times.

Career

Ebert began his professional critic career in 1967, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times. That same year, Ebert's first book, a history of the University of Illinois titled Illini Century: One Hundred Years of Campus Life was published by the University's press.

In 1969, his review of Night of the Living Dead was published in Reader's Digest.

Ebert co-wrote the screenplay for the 1970 cult film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, directed by Russ Meyer, and likes to joke about being responsible for the poorly received film. Ebert and Meyer also made Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Up!, and others, and were involved in the ill-fated Sex Pistols movie Who Killed Bambi?.

the 1970s, Ebert has worked for the University of Chicagomarker as a guest lecturer, teaching a night class on film. His fall 2005 class was on the works of the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

In 1975, Ebert and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune began co-hosting a weekly film review television show, Sneak Previews, which was locally produced by the Chicago public broadcasting station WTTWmarker. The show was picked up by PBS in 1978 for national distribution. In 1982, the critics moved to a syndicated commercial television show named At the Movies, and later, Siskel & Ebert at The Movies, where they were known for their "thumbs up/thumbs down" review summaries.When Siskel died in 1999, the producers retitled the show Roger Ebert at the Movies with rotating co-hosts. In September 2000, fellow Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper became the permanent co-host and the show was renamed At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper, which was now owned by Disney.

On 31 January 2009, Ebert was made an honorary life member of the Directors Guild of Americamarker during the group's annual awards ceremony.

Ebert ended his association with Disney in July 2008, after the studio indicated they wished to take At the Movies in a new direction. He and the widow of Gene Siskel still own the trademark phrase "Two Thumbs Up." On February 18, 2009, Ebert reported that he and Roeper would soon announce a new movie review program.

Style of critique and personal tastes

Ebert has described his critical approach to films as "relative, not absolute"; he reviews a film for what he feels will be its prospective audience, yet always with at least some consideration as to its value as a whole. He awards four stars to films of the highest quality, and generally a half star to those of the lowest unless he considers the film to be "artistically inept" and/or "morally repugnant", in which case it will receive no stars.

Ebert has emphasized that his star ratings have little meaning if not considered in the context of the review itself. Occasionally (as in his review of Basic Instinct 2), Ebert's star rating may seem at odds with his written opinion. Ebert has acknowledged such cases, stating "I cannot recommend the movie, but ... why the hell can't I? Just because it's godawful? What kind of reason is that for staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, that would be a reason." In his review of The Manson Family, he gave the film three stars for achieving what it set out to do, but admitted that didn't count as a recommendation per se. He similarly gave the Adam Sandler-starring remake of The Longest Yard a positive rating of three stars, but in his review, which he wrote soon after attending the Cannes Film Festivalmarker, he recommended readers not see the film because they had access to more satisfying cinematic experiences.

Ebert has occasionally accused some films of having an unwholesome political agenda, and the word "fascist" accompanied more than one of Ebert's reviews of the law-and-order films of the 1970s such as Dirty Harry. He is also suspicious of films that are passed off as art, but which he sees as merely lurid and sensational. Ebert has leveled this charge against such films as The Night Porter.

Ebert's reviews can clash with the overall reception of movies, as evidenced by his one-star review of the celebrated 1986 David Lynch film Blue Velvet ("marred by sophomoric satire and cheap shots... in a way, [director Lynch's] behavior is more sadistic than the Hopper character"). He was dismissive of the popular 1988 Bruce Willis action film Die Hard ("inappropriate and wrongheaded interruptions reveal the fragile nature of the plot"). Meanwhile, Ebert's positive review of 1997's Speed 2: Cruise Control ("Movies like this embrace goofiness with an almost sensual pleasure") is the only one accounting for that film's 2% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes critical website.

Ebert often makes heavy use of mocking sarcasm, especially when reviewing movies he considers bad. At other times he is direct, famously in his review of the 1994 Rob Reiner comedy North, which he concluded by writing that:

Ebert's reviews are also often characterized by dry wit. In January 2005, when Rob Schneider insulted Los Angeles Times movie critic Patrick Goldstein, who panned his movie Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, by commenting that the critic was unqualified because he had never won the Pulitzer Prize, Ebert intervened by stating that, as a Pulitzer winner, he was qualified to review the film, and bluntly told Schneider, "Your movie sucks." Ebert and Schneider would later mend fences regarding this. (See Personal Life below.)

Ebert has been known to comment on films using his own Roman Catholic upbringing as a point of reference, and has been critical of films he believes are grossly ignorant or insulting of Catholicism, such as Stigmata and Priest, though he has given favorable reviews of controversial films with themes or references to Jesus and Catholicism, including The Passion of the Christ, Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, and to Kevin Smith's religious satire Dogma. However, Ebert identifies himself today as anagnostic.

He often includes personal anecdotes in his reviews when he considers them relevant. He has occasionally written reviews in the forms of stories, poems, songs, scripts, open letters, or imagined conversations. He has written many essays and articles exploring the field of film criticism in depth.

Ebert has been accused by some horror movie fans of bourgeois elitism in his dismissal of what he calls "Dead Teenager Movies". Ebert has clarified that he does not disparage horror movies as a whole, but that he draws a distinction between films like Nosferatu and The Silence of the Lambs, which he regards as "masterpieces", and films which he feels consist of nothing more than groups of teenagers being killed off with the exception of one survivor to populate a sequel.

In August 2004 Stephen King, criticizing what he saw as a growing trend of leniency towards films by critics, included Ebert among a number of "formerly reliable critics who seem to have gone remarkably soft – not to say softhearted and sometimes softheaded – in their old age."

Ebert has indicated that his favorite film is Citizen Kane, although he has expressed ambivalence in naming this film in answer to this question, preferring to emphasize it as "the most important" film. His favorite actor is Robert Mitchum, and his favorite actress is Ingrid Bergman.Ebert has emphasized his general distaste for "top ten" lists, and all movie lists in general, but due to his participation in the 2002 Sight and Sound Directors' poll, he has revealed his top-ten films (alphabetically): Aguirre, Wrath of God; Apocalypse Now; Citizen Kane; Dekalog; La dolce vita; The General; Raging Bull; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Tokyo Story; and Vertigo.

Ebert has long been an admirer of director Werner Herzog, whom he supported through many years when Herzog's popularity had been eclipsed. He conducted an onstage public "conversation" with Herzog at the Telluride Film Festival in 2004, after a screening of Herzog's film Invincible at the Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. Herzog dedicated his 2008 film Encounters at the End of the World to Ebert, and Ebert responded with a heartfelt public letter of gratitude.

Views on the film industry

Ebert is an outspoken opponent of the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system. He has repeatedly criticized their decisions regarding which movies are "suitable for children." For example, Whale Rider and School of Rock were both rated PG-13 (not recommended for children under the age of 13), while he thought both were inoffensive enough for schoolchildren and contained positive messages for that age group. In his review of The Exorcist, Ebert said it was "stupefying" that the film received a rating of "R" from the MPAA instead of an "X" (suitable only for adults). He has frequently argued that the MPAA is more likely to give an "R" rating for mild sexual content than for highly violent content. In his review of The Passion of the Christ (to which he awarded a perfect four stars), he was quoted as saying:"I said the film is the most violent I have ever seen. The MPAA's R rating is definitive proof that the organization either will never give the NC-17 rating for violence alone, or was intimidated by the subject matter. If it had been anyone other than Jesus up on that cross, I have a feeling that NC-17 would have been automatic."

He also frequently laments that cinemas outside major cities are "booked by computer from Hollywood with no regard for local tastes", making high-quality independent and foreign films virtually unavailable to most American moviegoers.

Ebert is a strong advocate for Maxivision 48, in which the movie projector runs at 48 frames per second, as compared to the usual 24 frames per second. He is opposed to the practice whereby theatres lower the intensity of their projector bulbs in order to extend the life of the bulb, arguing that this has little effect other than to make the film harder to see. Ebert has been skeptical of the recent resurgence of 3D effects in film, which he has found unrealistic and distracting.

Film and TV appearances

Ebert has done DVD audio commentaries for several films, including Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Dark City, Floating Weeds, Crumb, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (for which Ebert also wrote the screenplay, based on a story that he co-wrote with Russ Meyer).

On the day of the Academy Awards, Ebert and Roeper typically appear on the live pre-awards show, An Evening at the Academy Awards: The Arrivals. This airs prior to the awards ceremony show, which also features red carpet interviews and fashion commentary. They also appear on the post-awards show entitled An Evening at the Academy Awards: The Winners. Both shows are produced and aired by the American Broadcasting Company-owned Los Angelesmarker station KABC-TVmarker. This show also airs on WLS-TVmarker as well as the network's other owned stations along with being syndicated to several ABC affiliates and other broadcasters outside the country. Ebert did not appear on the 2007 show for medical reasons.

In 1995, Ebert, along with colleague Gene Siskel, guest starred on an episode of the animated TV series The Critic. In the episode, Siskel and Ebert split and each wants Jay as his new partner. The episode is a parody of the film Sleepless in Seattle.

In 1996, Ebert appeared in "Pitch", a documentary by acclaimed Canadian film makers Spencer Rice and Kenny Hotz.

In 2003, Ebert had a cameo appearance in the film Abby Singer, in which he recited the white parasol monologue from Citizen Kane.

Roger Ebert founded his own film festival, Ebertfest, in his home town of Champaign, Illinoismarker and is also a regular fixture at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Personal life

Ebert is married to trial attorney Charlie "Chaz" Hammel-Smith. Chaz Ebert is now vice president of the Ebert Company and has emceed Ebertfest.

He has been friends with, and at one time dated, Oprah Winfrey, who credits him with encouraging her to go into syndication. He is also good friends with film historian and critic Leonard Maltin and considers the book Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide to be the standard of film guide books.

A supporter of the Democratic Party, Ebert publicly urged liberal filmmaker Michael Moore to give a politically-charged acceptance speech at the Academy Awards: "I'd like to see Michael Moore get up there and let 'em have it with both barrels and really let loose and give them a real rabble-rousing speech." During a 2004 visit to The Howard Stern Show, Ebert predicted that the then-junior Illinois senator Barack Obama would be very important to the future of the country.

He accepts the scientific status of natural selection, and is critical of the Intelligent Design movement, which influences his views of films on the subject. Regarding his belief system, he doesn't "want to provide a category for people to apply to me" because he "would not want my convictions reduced to a word" and states "I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist--which I am".

Ebert is a recovering alcoholic who quit drinking in 1979, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and has written some blog entries on that subject.

Battle with thyroid cancer

In early 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. In February of that year, surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital were able to successfully remove the cancer with clean margins. He later underwent surgery in 2003 for cancer in his salivary gland, and in December of that year, underwent a four-week follow-up course of radiation to his salivary glands, which altered his voice slightly. As he battled the illness, Ebert continued to be a dedicated critic of film, not missing a single opening while undergoing treatment.

He underwent further surgery on June 16, 2006, just two days before his 64th birthday, to remove cancer near his right jaw, which included removing a section of jaw bone.

On July 1, Ebert was hospitalized in serious condition after his carotid artery burst near the surgery site and he "came within a breath of death". He later learned that the burst was likely a side effect of his treatment, which involved neutron beam radiation. He was subsequently kept bedridden to prevent further damage to the scarred vessels in his neck while he slowly recovered from multiple surgeries and the rigorous treatment. At one point, his status was so precarious that Ebert had a tracheostomy done on his neck to reduce the effort of breathing while he recovered.

Ebert had pre-taped enough TV programs with his co-host Richard Roeper to keep him on the air for a few weeks; however, his extended convalescence necessitated a series of "guest critics" to co-host with Roeper: Jay Leno (a good friend to both Ebert and Roeper), Kevin Smith, John Ridley, Toni Senecal, Christy Lemire, Michael Phillips, Aisha Tyler, Fred Willard, Anne Thompson, A.O. Scott, Mario Van Peebles, George Pennacchio, Brad Silberling, and John Mellencamp. Michael Phillips later became Ebert's replacement for the remainder of Roeper's time on "At the Movies," until mid-2008, when Roeper did not extend his contract with ABC.

An update from Ebert on October 11, 2006 confirmed his bleeding problems had been resolved. He was undergoing rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago due to lost muscle mass, and later underwent further rehabilitation at the Pritikin Center in Florida."

On May 7, 2007, Roger Ebert reported on his website that he had received a bouquet of flowers from actor Rob Schneider, with a note signed, "Your Least Favorite Movie Star, Rob Schneider". Ebert took this as a kind gesture despite his negative review of Schneider's Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Ebert described the flowers as "a reminder, if I needed one, that although Rob Schneider might (in my opinion) have made a bad movie, he is not a bad man, and no doubt tried to make a wonderful movie, and hopes to again. I hope so, too."

After a three-month absence, the first movie he reviewed was The Queen. Ebert made his first public appearance since the summer of 2006 at Ebertfest on April 25, 2007. He was unable to speak but communicated through his wife, Chaz, through the use of written notes. His opening words to the crowd of devout fans at the festival were a quote from the film he co-wrote with Russ Meyer, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: "It's my happening and it freaks me out."

In an interview with WLS-TVmarker in Chicago, he said, "I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers — so what?" When asked by the Sun-Times in an April 23 article about his decision to return to the limelight, Ebert remarked, "We spend too much time hiding illness." Fans at his website have remarked his public appearances have been inspirational to cancer victims and survivors around the country.

Ebert will need reconstructive surgery on his jaw, a relatively dangerous procedure in light of the damage to the vessels already seen when his artery burst during earlier treatment.

On the road to recovery

Ebert returned to reviewing on May 18, 2007, when three of his reviews were published by the Chicago Sun-Times, and he returned to his website, a role that his editor had shouldered during the critic's illness. Thereafter, he slowly worked back to his previous output of 5-6 reviews a week plus a "Great Movies" review. He also resumed his "Answer Man" column.

In a July 21, 2007 commentary on a rebuttal to Clive Barker, he revealed that he had lost the ability to speak, but not to write. He posted reviews of the 2006 film Casino Royale and the 2007 films Zodiac and Ratatouille with a note that he was in the process of going back and reviewing some of the movies that were released during his absence. He attended the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, while awaiting surgery that was hoped to restore his voice.

Currently, he talks using a computerized voice system. He initially chose to use a voice with a British accent that he named "Lawrence", but now primarily uses a high quality voice with an American accent included with Mac OS X named "Alex."

Ebert underwent further surgery on January 24, 2008, this time in Houston, to address the complications from his previous surgeries. A statement from Ebert and his wife indicated that "the surgery went well, and the Eberts look forward to giving you more good news ..." but on April 1, his 41st anniversary as a film critic at the Sun-Times, Ebert announced that there had been further complications and his speech had not been restored. He wrote, "I am still cancer-free, and not ready to think about more surgery at this time. I should be content with the abundance I have." His columns resumed shortly after the April 23 opening of his annual film festival at the University of Illinois.

Hip injury

Prior to the festival, Ebert went to the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa for physical therapy. On April 18, 2008, it was announced that he had fractured his hip in a fall there and had undergone surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, back in Chicago, to repair the injury. After consulting his doctors he decided he could not attend the festival, instead writing occasional blogs on the festival films. Since its inception, his blog has gained significant readership and has received acclaim for the quality of its user comments.

Boulder Pledge

The Boulder Pledge is a personal promise, first coined by Roger Ebert in 1996, not to purchase anything offered through email spam. The pledge is worded by Ebert as follows:

Ebert coined the term during a panel at the University of Coloradomarker at Bouldermarker's Conference on World Affairs in 1996. He wrote the text which appears above and encouraged everyone to take the pledge. It was subsequently published in the December 1996 issue of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine in Ebert's column titled "Enough! A Modest Proposal to End the Junk Mail Plague."

Bibliography

Each year, Ebert publishes Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook, a book containing all his movie reviews from the last three years, as well as essays and other writings. He has also written the following books:
  • Scorsese by Ebert (ISBN 9780226182025). Read the introduction.
  • Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert (ISBN 0-226-18200-2) — a collection of essays from his 40 years as a film critic, featuring interviews, profiles, essays, his initial reviews upon a film's release, as well as critical exchanges between the film critics Richard Corliss and Andrew Sarris
  • Ebert's "Bigger" Little Movie Glossary (ISBN 0-8362-8289-2) — a book of movie clichés
  • The Great Movies (ISBN 0-7679-1038-9) and The Great Movies II (ISBN 0-7679-1950-5) — two books of essays about great films
  • I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie (ISBN 0-7407-0672-1) — a collection of reviews of films that received two stars or fewer.
  • Roger Ebert's Book of Film (ISBN 0-393-04000-3) — a Norton Anthology of a century of writing about the movies
  • Questions For The Movie Answer Man (ISBN 0-8362-2894-4) — his responses to questions sent from his readers
  • Behind the Phantom's Mask (ISBN 0-8362-8021-0) — his first attempt at fiction.
  • An Illini Century (ASIN B0006OW26K) — the history of the first 100 years of the University of Illinois
  • The Perfect London Walk (ISBN 0-8362-7929-8) — a tour of Ebert's favorite foreign city
  • Your Movie Sucks (ISBN 0-7407-6366-0) — a new collection of less-than-two-star reviews.
  • Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews 1967-2007 (ISBN 0-7407-7179-5)


References

External links




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