Remembering Roger Ebert

The famed Chicago film journalist represented the comfortable cohabitation of the Geek with the Intellectual

David Bates
5 min readJun 5, 2021

I’ve been thinking about Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times who passed away in 2013. Settling into my still-early fifties inspires reflection on influences, and his go back to the late 1970s, when U.S. cinema was turning the corner from the occasionally thoughtful and subversive to basically the genesis of what we have now: spectacle and artifice.

Ebert and my love and appreciation for film are so inextricably bound up that I cannot think about one without the other. When great actor passes away — a Robert Mitchum or a Paul Newman — we remember them and their movies. When we recall Ebert, we think of the movies.

As a kid, I watched Ebert (and Siskel) before they were famous, back when WTTW’s Sneak Previews was picked up by PBS. More often than not, they reviewed films I was too young to see (even I Spit On Your Grave, which they annihilated) but I was still enthralled by the discussions. What I came away with from those arguments was a perspective that remains part of who I am today: Cinema as not simply a pleasant diversion, but an art form worthy of serious consideration, one we should think and talk about, even if the talking…