Just a day after he penned a "leave of presence" post in his journal, Roger Ebert - possibly the most famous film critic in the world - is dead.
"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."
Sadly, that entry would serve as his final review.
And while he did not get to do what he had always fantasized about doing, he did make his mark doing something he loved: watching and reviewing movies.
I didn't always agree with his reviews, but I made a point of reading Ebert's column as soon as I watched a film, to see where our viewpoints matched, or diverged. More often than not, he would have a few insights that escaped me, which only amplified my own post-viewing experience.
Ebert had been battling thyroid cancer for the past 12 years, and lost his voice to it in 2006. But his written voice remained strong, and until the cancer recently returned, Ebert provided an elegant, thoughtful, and humorous post-mortem to movies of all sorts. From pop dreck like Freddy Got Fingered to cinematic wonders like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ebert's was the voice that steered and guided millions along the vast expanses of what the talkies had to offer.
Ebert was interviewed often about his thoughts on mortality, given his medical condition. One of his most poignant, yet comforting, reviews on the matter comes from one of his journal entries - cleverly titled, Ebert-esque, Go Gently Into That Good Night :
"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe
there is nothing on the other side of death to fear.
I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path.
I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state.
What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter.
You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip.
I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir
of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris."
I had just started skimming his journal a couple of months ago. It was a belated discovery, for I normally just went to his site for his legendary, occasionally harsh but never dull reviews. But now I shall relish reading his entries, and his takes not only on films, but on life in general.
And it's only poetic to end this entry with the final sentences in Ebert's last written piece:
"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me.
I'll see you at the movies."