Roger Ebert 001Yesterday, the entertainment world was rocked by the startling news that legendary film critic Roger Ebert had passed away. Ebert succumbed to thyroid cancer, which he had been diagnosed with in 2002, and took his ability to speak in 2006, after a surgical complication. Since his death, thousands of reactions have poured in online, from Variety, to Ain’t It Cool News, and many publications in-between. Ebert, to many of us, was an icon. He was more than a film critic, more than just a floating name quoted for TV commercials. He was an insightful, thoughtful figure who always seemed to know how to talk about a film to the point that, even if one didn’t agree with his opinion, he could respect it.

In the writing and, hell, even the blogging world, Ebert was an icon. He was someone that we could aspire to reach in our endeavors, and someone who always had a clear vision of his domain. He had a knack for cutting to the very essence of a film, and a dry sense of humor that could make his criticisms of the most mundane titles as fun to read as his brutal tear-downs. And, through sickness and health, Ebert was a man who didn’t know the word “quit.” Nearly every day, his work would appear in the Chicago Sun-Times, eager to find an audience. Even until just three days ago, when Ebert took his leave of absence, he was providing reviews of titles good and bad. With his passing, the figure many rallied around as the final word in film is gone. And with it, comes a landscape that is ripe for change, be it for better or for worse.

Roger Ebert was someone I’ve always regarded as a role model. I grew up watching on At The Movies, as he and Gene Siskel rated films with their signature “thumbs up” and “thumbs down”, and graduated to reading his reviews on the Sun-Times blog. It was he who inspired me to get into writing. And, even though anime and geek culture are far from his domain, I’ve always aspired to reach his heights. His passing has had the impact of a brick as it hurtles into a glass window, and many of us are trying to pick up the pieces that he’s left behind.

For now, though, the balcony truly is closed… its final rightful keeper passed on, even as the chattering of the projector continues to resonate, and the silver glow continues to bathe the screen ahead. Now, more than ever, we need to look forward, to the future that awaits. There will always be another film to review, another article to write, and another day to look forward to. And, while we won’t have Roger Ebert giving his thoughts on everything coming down the pipeline, his presence will always remain with us. He will always be remembered as the man, the critic, and the pioneer that’s driven so many of us out in the world, and given us hope that, with a pen, a good eye, and passion, we can achieve even the most insurmountable goals.

More than anything, though, I just want to say thank you, Mr. Ebert, for everything… and see you at the movies.