Film critic Roger Ebert passed away yesterday at the age of 70.
Owner of one of the world’s two most renowned thumbs, Ebert will probably be the last person who is famous for saying what he thinks about movies.
Besides being the first person to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism, Ebert should also be remembered as the screenwriter for three Russ Meyer movies: the camp hit Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), Up! (1976), and the slightly insane boob festival Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979).
Although he was known for his scathing putdowns (he authored a book of all negative reviews entitled “I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie” and said of the now-forgotten 1996 comedy Mad Dog Time, “It should be cut up to provide free ukulele picks for the poor”), he was every bit as brashly eloquent when he loved a film. My favorite Roger Ebert quote came from his four-star review of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1979): “…you may be asking, how can I defend this depraved trash? I do not defend it. I praise it.”
Ebert had two overwhelming strengths as a critic. First, he could write intelligently about film without ever being the slightest bit academic or obscure. Second, he clearly delineated the reasons why he liked or disliked a movie so that, agree or disagree with his ultimate judgement, you had the information necessary to decide for yourself.
Two thumbs down for death. Two thumbs up for Roger Ebert.