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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Roger Ebert’s idea of “taking it easy” sounds exhausting

Roger Ebert

UPDATE Apr 4: The Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert’s paper, is now reporting that Ebert has died. I don’t know how to reconcile this with what Ebert wrote yesterday. Did he know he was that ill? Even given his recent health troubles on top of his ongoing health troubles, I’m stunned.

Ebert’s cancer is back. So he’s taking a “Leave of Presence”:

What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.

At the same time, I am re-launching the new and improved Rogerebert.com and taking ownership of the site under a separate entity, Ebert Digital, run by me, my beloved wife, Chaz, and our brilliant friend, Josh Golden of Table XI. Stepping away from the day-to-day grind will enable me to continue as a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and roll out other projects under the Ebert brand in the coming year.

Ebertfest, my annual film festival, celebrating its 15th year, will continue at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, my alma mater and home town, April 17-21. In response to your repeated requests to bring back the TV show “At the Movies,” I am launching a fundraising campaign via Kickstarter in the next couple of weeks. And gamers beware, I am even thinking about a movie version of a video game or mobile app. Once completed, you can engage me in debate on whether you think it is art.

And I continue to cooperate with the talented filmmaker Steve James on the bio-documentary he, Steve Zaillian and Martin Scorsese are making about my life. I am humbled that anyone would even think to do it, but I am also grateful.

Of course, there will be some changes. The immediate reason for my “leave of presence” is my health. The “painful fracture” that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer. It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to. I have been watching more of them on screener copies that the studios have been kind enough to send to me. My friend and colleague Richard Roeper and other critics have stepped up and kept the newspaper and website current with reviews of all the major releases. So we have and will continue to go on.

At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it’s like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.

I’ll also be able to review classics for my “Great Movies” collection, which has produced three books and could justify a fourth.

I didn’t quote the whole thing. There’s more. Cuz Roger Ebert is no slacker. Not even when he’s really sick.

I wish I could get as much done.

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