“Gene Siskel, who was a wise man, gave me the best investment advice I’ve ever received. ‘You can never outsmart the market, if that’s what you’re trying to do,’ he said. ‘Find something you love, for reasons you understand, that not everyone agrees with you about, and put your money in it.’ The stocks I thought of were Apple, Google and Steak ‘n Shake. I bought some shares. That was a long time ago. Reader, if I had invested every penny I had on Gene’s advice, today I would be a Master of the Universe.”
“Yeah, it was, wasn’t it? It was also well written, I thought. When I turned to it in the magazine, I got a jolt from the full-page photograph of my jaw drooping. Not a lovely sight. But then I am not a lovely sight, and in a moment I thought, well, what the hell. It’s just as well it’s out there. That’s how I look, after all.”
Ebert on Esquire on Ebert
(finally read the piece last night and it’s awesome. so…personal and fascinating.)
“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
Our eyes would meet, the voice reads from Ebert’s journal, unspoken words were between us, but we never spoke openly about his problems or his prognosis. That’s how he wanted it, and that was his right.
Gene Siskel taped his last show, and within a week or two he was dead. Ebert had lost half his identity.
He scrolls down to the entry’s final paragraph.
We once spoke with Disney and CBS about a sitcom to be titled “Best Enemies.” It would be about two movie critics joined in a love/hate relationship. It never went anywhere, but we both believed it was a good idea. Maybe the problem was that no one else could possibly understand how meaningless was the hate, how deep was the love.
Ebert keeps scrolling down. Below his journal he had embedded video of his first show alone, the balcony seat empty across the aisle. It was a tribute, in three parts. He wants to watch them now, because he wants to remember, but at the bottom of the page there are only three big black squares. In the middle of the squares, white type reads: “Content deleted. This video is no longer available because it has been deleted.” Ebert leans into the screen, trying to figure out what’s happened. He looks across at Chaz. The top half of his face turns red, and his eyes well up again, but this time, it’s not sadness surfacing. He’s shaking. It’s anger.
Chaz looks over his shoulder at the screen. “Those fu—” she says, catching herself.
They think it’s Disney again — that they’ve taken down the videos. Terms-of-use violation.
This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn’t press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they’re just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he’s still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he’s shouting now. He’s standing outside on the street corner and he’s arching his back and he’s shouting at the top of his lungs.
Ugh. The retooled Ebert & Roeper show premiering September 6th will be co-hosted by Ben & Ben — a Generation Why duo who only got the gig due to nepotism. Ben Lyons is the nobody son of Jeffrey Lyons, the film critic world’s biggest hack and quote whore with zero credibility, while Ben Mankiewicz is the slacker host on Turner Classic Movies, whose only claim to fame is that he’s a watered-down member of the famous film family. Now, there’s a working definition of the death of film criticism for you.
“If nuclear war breaks out, the average citizen of a Western democracy will be better informed about Britney Spears than the causes of their death.”
“I said some years ago that the genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was to have discovered a niche market in American broadcasting — half the American people. The reason Fox News has thrived and grown is because it offers a vibrant and honest alternative to those who could not abide yet another day of the news delivered to them beneath layer after layer of often undisguised liberalism. What Fox did is not just create a venue for alternative opinion. It created an alternate reality.”
“The Darth Vader of Commentary,” I once read, but I’ve come to think of him as Ebert’s favorite conservative columnist.