In this new media age, there are fewer signposts than there used to be that you’ve made it.
But one day, Roger Ebert retweeted a tweet I’d sent him and linked to an interview I’d done with Randall Wallace. Some other critic had accused Wallace of making his movie Secretariat right-wing religious propaganda. Ebert, never afraid of calling out the right wing, still thought that unfair and my interview about the movie was evidence of balance.
I felt as proud as when I first saw my byline in USA Today or The Washington Post.
Ebert had gone to my site, inspected it, and found it relevant.
He was never above engaging with a lowly Twitter follower or a commenter on his blog. He never tired of calling out people he thought were full of themselves. He never shied away from a fight, whether it be with a fellow critic, someone on the opposite side of the political aisle, or the cancer that dogged him.
I disagreed with him politically and thought his Baby Boomer liberalism biased his views at times.
But he was a fantastic writer and an amazingly insightful critic when he was on. I have learned so much from him.
Roger Ebert was intended by his mother to become a Catholic priest, but he lost his faith: “It didn’t make sense to me any longer. There was no crisis of conscience. It simply all fell away.”
I like to think he found his transcendence in the flicker of a movie projector, his truth in the human condition portrayed through good writing and good acting, his liturgy in the first act leading to the second leading to the third.
Roger Ebert died today at the age of 70 from a long, bravely public battle with cancer.
Rest in peace, Roger. I hope you’re now watching the greatest story possible, munching on heavenly popcorn, and giving your life a thumbs up.