Remembering Roger Ebert

By Lorraine Viade, Psy.D.

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were two popular film critics who were major influences in my life.  I looked forward to watching their movie review show, At the Movies, each week.  The show aired from 1986 to 2010.  I made sure to record it if I was out. 

My sister and I watched them devotedly.  And although Siskel and Ebert did not give me my love of movies, they did give me the inspiration to write about them. I mostly agreed with Roger Ebert and I really enjoyed his style, his spirit and the true affection that was evident between him and Gene.  Thumbs up meant I went.  Long before I ever wrote my first review for a student-run radio station during my undergraduate years or submitted my weekly column for the graduate school newsletter, Psychobabble, Siskel and Ebert were there sharing their opinions about something that has always been so important to me.  Roger Ebert died of cancer on April 4, 2013.  He was 70 years old. 

His beloved friend, Gene Siskel died first on February 20, 1999, and it was tough.  Roger went through quite a few “guests” until Richard Roper came along, but it just was never the same marriage of dry and wry that Siskel and Ebert brought to the screening room.  Some matches are made in heaven and certainly they are there now watching only what they want to watch. They had something special and shared it with all of us who love the darkness and the magic, and who can just let go of reality long enough to get caught up in cinema.

Roger Ebert was also a man of great courage who faced personal tragedy, battling the cancer that robbed him of half of his jaw and took away his ability to speak but never silenced his voice. He handled his fate with dignity and grace. His life serves to us all as an example of someone who overcame so much and who has not left us alone in that darkness. His work and his words will live on and all of those who come after will learn from his legacy. He truly loved movies and it showed. Perhaps he found in the theater chair the same salvation, distraction and therapy from reality that I do.

I know that somewhere in heaven is a giant room made just for us movie lovers.  Each seat has an unobstructed view, no one says a word, the popcorn is always fresh, the soda sweet and the licorice red.  I know that there, no one kicks the back of your chair, you can see anything you want, anytime you want and even get previews of films yet to be made. The chairs in that room are plush and you can sink into them with ease. The enormous screen is perfect and the sound effects are without equal. You can think of any snack and it will appear ready in your lap. I believe that it is there that Siskel and Ebert are waiting for all of us who know what heaven on earth has been. And someday, I’ll see you both again at the movies.

Photo: You were always two thumbs up in my book, friend.