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Thank you, Roger Ebert!! - by JoBlo

Apr. 4, 2013by: JoBlo

Its hard for me to know where to start with this, so Ill start from the beginning.

As a teenager, I loved movies. Loved going to the movies, loved watching movies at home, love talking about movies with friends. And yes, if there was one TV show that I would not miss out during those years, it was At the Movies, better known around my house as Siskel & Ebert. Back then, there was no such thing as the internet, and since my local Montreal newspaper film critics were pretty pretentious (for a teenager like me), I always enjoyed watching Siskel & Ebert because I got some cool insight into films that hadnt come out yet or were just being released. Now despite both men not being in my demographic, they were always able to articulate the good points and bad points about any film, without talking down to their audience. Granted, their best shows were probably the ones in which theyd debate a film heavilybut that was also a part of the greatness of their show (I should also mention that their many appearances on "The Tonight Show" were also very fun to watch). It must say something that their show lasted for over 25 years, yet no other film critic show has ever even gotten close!

By 1996, I followed one my of my business teachers advice and tried to do what I love and started writing film reviews for my M.B.A. newspaper, just for fun. When my fellow students appreciated those reviews, and this thing called the internet popped up around that time, I decided to open a website of my own (just for fun, of course), call it JoBlo.com (a Joe Blow your everyday guy point of view), just until I found a real job in the real world.

In 1999, Roger Eberts partner on the show, Gene Siskel, passed away and by then, I had actually conversed with Roger a couple of times via email, just shooting the breeze. Anyone who has ever met him will tell you that Roger was just that sort of fella. He loved talking about movies and was always very approachable and real. He was always very encouraging to me and when I semi-jokingly told him that it would be cool if I were his guest co-host one week (at the time, they were going through a variety of different co-hosts), surprised was I that not only did he write me back with a positive response, but he also included his producers name and address, and told me to send in a tape and that Id be considered (!!). Blown away was I.

WTF?!? Here I was, some shmuck from Montreal Canada, just a plain ol movie fan (in his 20s!) and the great Pulitzer-prize winning Roger Ebert thought that I might be considered for his show?! Unbelievable. I was giddy with excitement and seeing as one of my favorite films of all-time had come out around that time (FIGHT CLUB), I decided to focus my audition tape on that film, especially since Ebert himself had semi-dismissed the film in his own review. Im going to link to my audition tape in this article because maybe it will serve others on how not to audition for a TV show (hehehe), but needless to say, I was just excited to be considered and still have their rejection letter in my office.

BTW, a couple of years ago I sent Roger the link to that video and he asked me if he could Twitter" it out of his account, because it might get our site some extra hits. Thats just the kind of man he was. Classy. He also said ...I give you thumbs up on your lighting there. Must've been those cheesy Halloween pumpkin lights in the background. Doh! Always loved his humor.

By 2004, I was attending the Cannes Film Festival for the first time, all by myself. I knew nothing about film festivals or France, although I did speak French. Knowing that Roger was going to be there, I thought it might be a good way to finally meet him face-to-face, and conduct an interview with him at the same time, since I knew that plenty of folks on our site were also big fans of his. I never expected him to even have the time to read/respond to my email, since I'd heard that he was one of those critics who would see about 3-5 movies/day over there, but as per his usual style, he responded asap and we spend the next few days going back and forth, arranging our meeting.

When we did finally meet at the American Pavillion, Roger showed up with his wife Chaz, who Id never met before, and was completely laid back, despite my uber-anxiety around him. I could see that he could sense my nervousness and he quickly calmed me down with some nice words about my site and my reviews. That would have been enough for me, of course, but he spent the next 60+ minutes with me, chatting me up about the Festival and answering all of my goofy questions. Thankfully we still have that interview on the site, and you can read it in its entirety RIGHT HERE.

Whats funny is that his wife was sitting next to us the whole time, just listening and waiting attentively, but I could sense that after around half an hour, she was getting a little bored, but instead of asking Roger to leave or something along those lines, she simply excused herself which left Roger and I alone for another little while. I was embarrassed but Roger just wanted to talk movies and give this newbie some lifelong advice.

Later on during the Festival, I was invited to some star-studded shindig all by my lonesome. I may have even showed up with my back-packoy-vey. I remember simply hanging back, just hoping nobody would see me or ask me to leave, until I saw Roger and his wife walking around the party as well. At some point, we walked by each other and despite him engaging others in a conversation, he noticed me from the side of his eye, gave me that Hey look at you at this fancy party! look, smiled and after that, a sense of calm and acceptance reigned over me during the rest of the festival. If Roger f*ckin Ebert thinks I belong at this place, then gosh darnit, so should I! My confidence started to grow.

To this day, I consider our Cannes meeting as one of the coolest things to happen to me via this website.

This picture was Roger's idea. He thought it would look better if we took the pic that looked like "dueling critics". He was right.

By the mid-2000s, Roger had started his fight against cancer and I too started running into health issues of my own. Mine were not as dire as Rogers, but they were debilitating to the point that I could no longer go to watch movies in movie theaters. By 2006, I was forced to hire someone to replace myself on the site (took me forever to make that decision, as I felt like I was letting everyone down, including myself), despite the fact that I had been the only theatrical reviewer on JoBlo.com from 1998-2006.

DDuring this period, Roger somehow kept in touch with me and would encourage me to keep hanging in there. I repeatthe man who was fighting for his own lifewas encouraging me!! How can you not love this great man and spirit? Over those years, I was always inspired to hear those words from him, especially during many of my own hospital trips during which I spend a lot of time by myself in my hospital room, with my laptop beside me. I continually reminded Roger about how influential and important his own fight was to me and many others, but he would never pat himself on the back or anything of the sort. He just kept fighting his own fight privately, encouraging me and keeping his eye on returning to what he loved doing most: watching movies and writing about them.

When his cancer went into remission a few years ago, it was around the same time as my own ailments went into remission, so we communicated about that, and I remember him emailing me cool stories from time to time, and always asking me How I was doing. The fact that he actually considered me a peer was already a highlight of my life, but here we were, two fellow film critics, going through real life issues and connecting on that level.

Im not really sure if any of these stories or words will mean anything to anyone else but me, but I felt like I had to write this up today, especially as his passing has affected me a lot more than I would have imagined. Recently, his life story was bought and announced to be made into a film of its own, but as per usual, when I emailed Roger to offer my congratulations back in September of 2012, he downplayed the whole thing by saying that the film was not his idea, but that you cant say no to Steve James!. Always humble.

But you know what the best part is about all these nice things I have to say about Roger? Im not alone.

Our current theatrical reviewer, Chris Bumbray, met him at TIFF a few years ago and said that he was a really nice guy, humble and down-to-earth and hundreds, thousands of others have said the same. Anyone living in Chicago can tell you that he was always seen walking around on the streets and folks would approach him readily all the time, and he was always accepting. We even asked him to film a goofy skit with us a few years ago when we were producing the "JoBlo Movie Show" and he was totally into it -- unfortunately, he was going through treatments at the time, so we werent able to make it work.

All that to say, I believe that its important to mourn and cherish the memory of our loved ones after they pass, but even more importantly, to celebrate the lives and the goodness of those worthy of it, whenever possible, because folks like this dont come around every day. In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky and blessed to have met Roger Ebert, both on the professional front, as he was always very encouraging and helpful in regards to my career, but even moreso on a personal front, because he provided me with more strength and faith to plow through my own health issues, even as he was fighting his own ailments.

Thank you for everything, Roger.

The movie world already misses your words, but we are lucky enough to still have them with us in our world, which generations on end can continue to read and utilize for their own cinematic educations. Hope youre sitting around up there, surrounded by Hitchcock, Kubrick and Kurosawa, talking shop and we will absolutely always see, and remember you...at the movies.

Source: JoBlo.com

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7:03PM on 06/26/2013

Thumbs Down?

I'm sorry, but I was just going through some of my older posts becuse I'm a real narcissist, and I noticed that all of these posts have negative thumbs. Seems interesting that multiple people will give a thumbs down to a thoughtful comment about someone that passed away. "I disagree with you giving your condolences." Thaaaaat's people!
I'm sorry, but I was just going through some of my older posts becuse I'm a real narcissist, and I noticed that all of these posts have negative thumbs. Seems interesting that multiple people will give a thumbs down to a thoughtful comment about someone that passed away. "I disagree with you giving your condolences." Thaaaaat's people!
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6:34PM on 04/06/2013
wait a minute??? what? Roger died? when did this happen? :( Great story though!
wait a minute??? what? Roger died? when did this happen? :( Great story though!
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5:21AM on 04/06/2013
Thank you for this Joblo. He was the source of my movie critiquing growth, and I stuck by him ever since. I was fan of his opinions, whether or not I agreed or disagreed. RIP.
Thank you for this Joblo. He was the source of my movie critiquing growth, and I stuck by him ever since. I was fan of his opinions, whether or not I agreed or disagreed. RIP.
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-8
12:32AM on 04/06/2013
As a reader of this site since 2001-ish, I had to read your tribute first Berge. I remember reading your interview with Roger back then, your words were so true, and humble. I felt like I met him too.

From one Joe to another, cheers from Chicago.
As a reader of this site since 2001-ish, I had to read your tribute first Berge. I remember reading your interview with Roger back then, your words were so true, and humble. I felt like I met him too.

From one Joe to another, cheers from Chicago.
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-8
8:08PM on 04/05/2013

Two swains men

Two awsome men, thank you Ebert for cool Saturday mornings watching your show. Thank you joblo foe being the best part of my day every day reading your site
Two awsome men, thank you Ebert for cool Saturday mornings watching your show. Thank you joblo foe being the best part of my day every day reading your site
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7:38PM on 04/05/2013
Lovely tribute.
Lovely tribute.
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3:01PM on 04/05/2013
Wow, great stories and strong words, JoBlo. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Such a loss, RIP.
Wow, great stories and strong words, JoBlo. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Such a loss, RIP.
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-12
2:33PM on 04/05/2013
I remember reading the Ebert interview when it was first put on the site. Seemed like a really cool guy.

RIP
I remember reading the Ebert interview when it was first put on the site. Seemed like a really cool guy.

RIP
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-9
1:35PM on 04/05/2013

Two Thumbs Up JoBlo

A touching and empathetic tribute to a brave and inspiring man.
A touching and empathetic tribute to a brave and inspiring man.
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1:16PM on 04/05/2013
i actually woke up this morning expecting to check reviews for this weeks releases on his website. its going to take some getting used to. Like most of us, i grew up watching At the Movies, even before i developed my own opinions on film. He was truly a personal hero of mine and will be missed. RIP.
i actually woke up this morning expecting to check reviews for this weeks releases on his website. its going to take some getting used to. Like most of us, i grew up watching At the Movies, even before i developed my own opinions on film. He was truly a personal hero of mine and will be missed. RIP.
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10:57AM on 04/05/2013

This is THE best site for movies

And lovely tributes like this is one of the reasons why.
And lovely tributes like this is one of the reasons why.
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9:52AM on 04/05/2013

Brilliantly put

I loved reading this. When is your memoir coming out?
I loved reading this. When is your memoir coming out?
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9:35AM on 04/05/2013
Very well done sir! A great personal tribute to a great man who has left a bigger impression on the movie world than most filmmakers.
Very well done sir! A great personal tribute to a great man who has left a bigger impression on the movie world than most filmmakers.
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7:03AM on 04/05/2013
Thank you for this write-up, Berge. There's something about this site that has made it my go-to movie site for coming up on 10 years now. And articles like this remind me what it is: heart.

RIP Roger Ebert
Thank you for this write-up, Berge. There's something about this site that has made it my go-to movie site for coming up on 10 years now. And articles like this remind me what it is: heart.

RIP Roger Ebert
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2:15AM on 04/05/2013

Review In Peace

I literally just found out about his passing. After a long day of work, I went to the movies with my girl. After leaving, I turn on my phone and there I get a text from a fellow movie lover telling me that Ebert had passed away. He will be missed greatly, and your article was a wonderful tribute to the man. What a great and inspiring story.
Good job, Jo
RIP
I literally just found out about his passing. After a long day of work, I went to the movies with my girl. After leaving, I turn on my phone and there I get a text from a fellow movie lover telling me that Ebert had passed away. He will be missed greatly, and your article was a wonderful tribute to the man. What a great and inspiring story.
Good job, Jo
RIP
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-7
1:26AM on 04/05/2013
Salut.
Salut.
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12:53AM on 04/05/2013
:)
:)
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12:43AM on 04/05/2013

Nice Words

Nice words for such a legend. I myself have him, and yourself, to thank for providing me with years of good, quality reading. You've given me heads up on some of the best movies out there. Whenever I'm curious about a movie, I always go to his website and read up on it before I commit myself. I have been doing that with your website as well. This is a sad day for me too, as I am going to miss him. His words guided me to the best in movies. I shall miss that. Good Bye Roger.
Nice words for such a legend. I myself have him, and yourself, to thank for providing me with years of good, quality reading. You've given me heads up on some of the best movies out there. Whenever I'm curious about a movie, I always go to his website and read up on it before I commit myself. I have been doing that with your website as well. This is a sad day for me too, as I am going to miss him. His words guided me to the best in movies. I shall miss that. Good Bye Roger.
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-5
12:36AM on 04/05/2013

Straight from the heart

Your tribute brought both a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Beautifully written and such a nice way to say thank you to a man who meant so much to you and aways believed in you.
Your tribute brought both a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Beautifully written and such a nice way to say thank you to a man who meant so much to you and aways believed in you.
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11:06PM on 04/04/2013

Two Thumbs Up for this tribute!

Now that's a tribute, Mr.JoBlo. I think it's safe to say that Mr. Ebert would be proud to have a tribute on such a personal, heartfelt level written to his honor. This was a good read. You'll be missed, Mr. Ebert. Your influence on the world of cinema will be cherished forever.
Now that's a tribute, Mr.JoBlo. I think it's safe to say that Mr. Ebert would be proud to have a tribute on such a personal, heartfelt level written to his honor. This was a good read. You'll be missed, Mr. Ebert. Your influence on the world of cinema will be cherished forever.
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10:47PM on 04/04/2013
Nice story. He seemed like a nice guy. I've been reading his reviews since I was a kid and watched the show like a lot of us did, so it is sad to know he is no longer here to recommend new movies.
Nice story. He seemed like a nice guy. I've been reading his reviews since I was a kid and watched the show like a lot of us did, so it is sad to know he is no longer here to recommend new movies.
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10:34PM on 04/04/2013
A great piece that brought a tear to my eye. Well done, sir.
A great piece that brought a tear to my eye. Well done, sir.
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10:20PM on 04/04/2013
Such a lovingly-written tribute. RIP Roger Ebert, you made more of an impact on film criticism than you'll ever know.
Such a lovingly-written tribute. RIP Roger Ebert, you made more of an impact on film criticism than you'll ever know.
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10:07PM on 04/04/2013

WELL SAID

Berge -- Since the late 90s, I'd read both you and Ebert every single week, religiously. Movies were a staple in my house growing up, and I always believed you two were the best at conveying your opinions with honesty, humor and wit. It was shocking to hear of Ebert's passing today, but your tribute to him is truly touching. As a journalist, you two have shaped me so much as a writer, and I can't thank you both enough for that. Ebert may have been an icon, but you and your JoBlo team honor his
Berge -- Since the late 90s, I'd read both you and Ebert every single week, religiously. Movies were a staple in my house growing up, and I always believed you two were the best at conveying your opinions with honesty, humor and wit. It was shocking to hear of Ebert's passing today, but your tribute to him is truly touching. As a journalist, you two have shaped me so much as a writer, and I can't thank you both enough for that. Ebert may have been an icon, but you and your JoBlo team honor his passion for film every single day, in a way no one else does on the Internet. Thank you JoBlo, and thank you Roger.
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10:04PM on 04/04/2013

Great Write up

Whoever is thumbs downing all the comments. Seriously?! This isnt the place to Troll.
Whoever is thumbs downing all the comments. Seriously?! This isnt the place to Troll.
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9:52PM on 04/04/2013

Beautifully written

I can't imagine reading a better tribute than that.
I can't imagine reading a better tribute than that.
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9:43PM on 04/04/2013
That's a compelling story, Mr. Joblo. Well said. RIP, Mr. Ebert.
That's a compelling story, Mr. Joblo. Well said. RIP, Mr. Ebert.
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9:08PM on 04/04/2013

Well done

Really nice piece Berge.
Really nice piece Berge.
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8:47PM on 04/04/2013
Great read, Joe. I remember meeting him a few years back. He couldn't talk due to the cancer but when I mentioned a movie he enjoyed, his eyes lit up and he raised his two thumbs up. Great memory. RIP, Roger.
Great read, Joe. I remember meeting him a few years back. He couldn't talk due to the cancer but when I mentioned a movie he enjoyed, his eyes lit up and he raised his two thumbs up. Great memory. RIP, Roger.
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8:19PM on 04/04/2013
Very well said, sir. Roger Ebert will be missed.
Very well said, sir. Roger Ebert will be missed.
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8:17PM on 04/04/2013

So sad

Man I was just reading yesterday that he was taking time off because his cancer came back, I literally could not believe it when I hopped online today and saw he passed away. This really is a sad day, I too remember watching his TV show back in the late 80's when there was no internet, and always loved hearing what they thought of movies that hadn't come out yet. Me and my friends used to go to movies every Friday when we were in our mid-teens, and his reviews always gave us a good idea of
Man I was just reading yesterday that he was taking time off because his cancer came back, I literally could not believe it when I hopped online today and saw he passed away. This really is a sad day, I too remember watching his TV show back in the late 80's when there was no internet, and always loved hearing what they thought of movies that hadn't come out yet. Me and my friends used to go to movies every Friday when we were in our mid-teens, and his reviews always gave us a good idea of what to see and what to avoid. This is a sad day, I may not have always agreed with his reviews, but he was a class act.
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8:16PM on 04/04/2013
Amazing tribute, sir. Very touching. Also, I agree with Jim Law.
Amazing tribute, sir. Very touching. Also, I agree with Jim Law.
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-6
8:12PM on 04/04/2013
Great write up, dude. Truly a sad day. RIP, Mr. Ebert.
Great write up, dude. Truly a sad day. RIP, Mr. Ebert.
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8:12PM on 04/04/2013
RIP Mr. Ebert. A HUGE thumbs up sir.
RIP Mr. Ebert. A HUGE thumbs up sir.
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-7
8:08PM on 04/04/2013
Stand proud, this is a terrific tribute. RIP Mr. Ebert.
Stand proud, this is a terrific tribute. RIP Mr. Ebert.
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8:01PM on 04/04/2013

Amen

I used to watch Siskel and Ebert ever week, and Ebert's always been the best of the best. I'm devastated to hear he's gone. I'm thrilled I got to meet him, and he'll always be an inspiration.
I used to watch Siskel and Ebert ever week, and Ebert's always been the best of the best. I'm devastated to hear he's gone. I'm thrilled I got to meet him, and he'll always be an inspiration.
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-2
7:58PM on 04/04/2013
Also, sweet pumpkin lights. How did you NOT get that job?
Also, sweet pumpkin lights. How did you NOT get that job?
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-5
7:57PM on 04/04/2013
Great article for a great man.
Great article for a great man.
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7:55PM on 04/04/2013

Terrific...

This is a terrific and extremely heartfelt write up and I wouldn't expect anything less from the creator of my favorite movie website.
This is a terrific and extremely heartfelt write up and I wouldn't expect anything less from the creator of my favorite movie website.
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7:47PM on 04/04/2013

Perfect Obit

Thanks, JoBlo. As an amateur film critic myself, I always viewed Roger as the Gold Standard of the old guard of critics and JoBlo as the gold standard for the new guard and now I have some insight into why that is.
Thanks, JoBlo. As an amateur film critic myself, I always viewed Roger as the Gold Standard of the old guard of critics and JoBlo as the gold standard for the new guard and now I have some insight into why that is.
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