As 2013 closes, we look back at the talented individuals we lost this year.
The following seven featured individuals contributed to The Walt Disney Company in various capacities, from film and television work (like Annette Funicello), to altering the landscape of Disney history (thanks to you, Diane Disney Miller). We pay our respects and reflect back on these individuals who shaped Disney, many of whom passed away far too young.
This week, Facebook Home, Anonymous hacks North Korea, Thunderbolt gets bolt-ier, Google Fiber rolls out to Austin, Bitcoin hits a bubble, Wikileaks wants to make a “˜Library of Congress’ of secret government documents, and we say goodbye to Roger Ebert.
Roger Ebert will forever be remembered as an emblem of film criticism, a man whose appreciation and critical analysis of the medium defined his life. He wrote many books that compiled thousands of movie reviews, and opened the eyes of millions of Americans in looking at more than just the face value of a film. In 1987 Ebert and fellow critic Gene Siskel’s PBS series caught the eye of Buena Vista Entertainment, Disney’s formerly-named television division, when they syndicated the show to mass audiences.
Ebert’s relationship with Disney would continue for two decades as co-host of the series, which went through many names including Siskel and Ebert and the Movies and later Ebert & Roeper. Though having a show essentially owned by Disney could have clouded many a critic’s judgment, Ebert was never one to shy away from the truth. He loved some movies. He hated others. But no matter the review, Ebert always shared an informed, well-reasoned opinion that viewers could relate to, as if he was just another friend sharing his thoughts.
A huge part of me has accepted the news and is happy that Ebert’s suffering is finished forever and the legacy he left behind will sustain his memory in the minds of his most ardent followers and many more still to discover his unique body of work for generations to come. But in my heart I still can’t believe it has happened.
“Who are Siskel and Ebert?,” I wondered as a child after seeing a television spot for an upcoming movie, the name of which escapes me now, “and why do they always say ‘Two Thumbs Up’?” There was a time when I needed no critical encouragement to see a movie that had already captured my youthful imagination. If I wanted to see Back to the Future Part II or Dick Tracy I was going to pester my parents until they either sent me to my room or caved under the pressure to take me to see those films, regardless of what the critics happened to think of them. In those days the only critics I trusted were my friends and classmates at school; that’s usually where the best word of mouth could be spread amongst us kids.
I had seen a few episodes of Siskel & Ebert At the Movies, usually in brief increments, in my youth but cared little for them. Back then I had not yet developed the healthy interest in cinema that I have today. Movies were a very moderate part of my life, as they are now in a sense, because there was so much else going on that I had precious little time for them. Until my late grandmother Betty first got cable television and HBO with it, the only times I would get to see movies were during the sporadic occasions when my family would check out the latest popular family feature or on the weekends when my mother would take my brother, sister, and me to our neighborhood video store and rent a few titles along with one of those old school top-loader VCRs.
Roger Ebert, the famed film critic whose career spanned decades in which his examinations of cinema and movies helped propel him to become one of the more prominent critics of the modern age, passed away today at the age of 70 from cancer, according to CNN.
For Ebert, it ended a long struggle with the disease, which had left him without a jaw in recent years and unable to speak. Of course the man still rang through loud and clear in his words and reviews, in which he dissected film and all its glories in an honest, erudite, literary manner as he had always done, putting him on par with like-careered colleagues like Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby. Getting his start in the late 1960s and writing right up until the present day at the Chicago Sun Times and in cyberspace as well on his own website (and even co-penning the cult classic Russ Meyer film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970), Ebert became a celebrity himself as the years went on, winning the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975 and even earning a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, something that a film critic had never been able to attain.