Most people who are into the show biz world have by now read the moving and exceptional piece on Roger Ebert that was written by Chris Jones for Esquire. There's also a very nice piece written by Will Leitch that tells a personal story of how kind the man can be to young talent.
And now he appears on Oprah today to reveal how old clips of his voice have allowed researchers to create a program that takes what he types and gives his words speech, in his own voice. His happiness and that of his wife is so palpable in the clip below:
It's fair to say that Roger Ebert, along with his partner Gene Siskel, introduced the concept of film criticism to people of my generation. It was a venerable field before them, peopled with the names and words of classic writers like James Agee, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris and Bosley Crowther. Siskel and Ebert were often derided for cheapening their craft, reducing it to soundbites, quick quotes and "two thumbs up". But, it must also be pointed out that they popularized film criticism and made the analysis of film something that could be enjoyed by everyone, not just a few intellectuals reading Cahiers du Cinema.
And, as the articles point out, since losing his voice to thyroid cancer, Ebert's writing has gotten even better than it was at his peak in the 1970s and 80s. It is more emotional, more close to truth than it was. As it's now his only form of communication with the outside world, it has become vulnerable and beautiful and much more skillful. I hope we don't lose that, but regaining speech after all this time is surely a worthy gift to give to the man that has given film lovers so much.
Go to Ebert's journal, and give yourself a treat. His writing is fantastic.