Perhaps the famous film critic Roger Ebert needs no introduction. Arguably the most popular and highly regarded film critic of all time, he made a very long and prosperous career for himself during his 70 years of life. In addition to making a name for himself as a respected critic, Ebert also found acclaim as a historian, journalist screenwriter, and author.
Roger Ebert worked primarily for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. During his tenure there, he would work his way into becoming an extremely prolific writer, known for his honest, intelligent, informed, and thought-provoking reviews of movies.
Praise for Ebert’s writing is easy to find – as are awards and recognition for his work. In fact, he was the first person to ever win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. What a feat that is … to be so successful at what you do that the Pulitzer Prize committee has to go out of their way to invent a whole new category just to formally praise you. If that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is.
His career was not limited to the page, though. Roger Ebert also found plenty of success on television as the co-host (alongside colleague and fellow film critic, Gene Siskel) of the iconic PBS film review shows Sneak Previews and At the Movies. Siskel and Ebert would humorously exchange barbs and snarks at one another amidst their entertaining reviews of new movies. They are also credited for inventing the now widely used phrase “two thumbs up.” These shows were the first of their kind and have not been successfully emulated since – but one more item in a staggeringly long list of legacies that Roger Ebert has left behind.
According to Wikipedia, upon his death, Neil Steinberg (also of the Chicago Sun-Times) famously said that Ebert “was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic.” And Forbes’ Tom Van Riper at one point referred to Ebert as “The most powerful pundit in America.” It is rare that a writer of such talent is able to reach out to the American people and become a household name in the world of popular entertainment. But Ebert was never one to be discouraged by traditional boundaries.
Unfortunately, the only boundary that he was not able to overcome was that of mortality. Ebert suffered from thyroid and salivary gland cancer, which resulted in the removal of his jaw in 2006. He had become physically disfigured from the surgery, no longer able to speak or eat without assistance. He did not let this stop his pen, however, and he transcended yet another barrier in the defiant act of courageously continuing to write and publish in print and online until his very last day on earth: April 4th, 2013.
His spirit lives on, though, through his film review website, rogerebert.com.
Ebert himself hand-picked the writing staff for his website shortly before he died. This would be one of the final brushstrokes that he would paint his legacy. The site is a hybrid of many things; part Memoriam to Ebert, a partial archive of Ebert’s writing, part current film criticism, part collection of cinema blogs, a part ongoing collection of op-eds, and part platform for Roger Ebert’s wife, Chaz to publish her own writing. It is not every day that you come across a website that is as versatile and well-executed as this one. It is truly a fitting conduit through which Roger Ebert can live on.
Two months after Ebert passed away, Chaz hired the formidable film and TV critic, Matt Zoller Seitz as the editor-in-chief of rogerebert.com. At the time, Seitz’ Indie Wire blog had reached a fever pitch of popularity, and both Indie Wire and Roger Ebert’s websites happened to share several contributors. It only made sense then, as Chaz Ebert saw it, for Seitz to take over the editorial team of the site, already familiar with the majority of Roger Ebert critics.
Rogerebert.com has received nearly as much acclaim as Roger Ebert himself. Noel Murray of The Dissolve, for instance, referred to it as “…an invaluable resource, both for getting some front-line perspective on older movies, and for getting a better sense of who Ebert was.” Furthermore, R. Kurt Osenlund (Slant) has highlighted the site’s diversity, drawing attention to the fact that the site features a great deal of “first-person narrative” pieces (as Ebert was wont to do), but also noted that “…there are other contributors, like Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who don’t do so much of that. The overall diversity makes the site a kind of an artist’s collective.”
I am quite fond of the way this site is designed. It has an elegant feel to it. It is highly organized and as easy on the eyes as it is easy to navigate. It manages to pack a ton of high-quality and substantial content in a way that does not feel cluttered or disorienting – something that not every movie review site (I’m looking at you Meta Critic and Rotten Tomatoes!) can boast.
At the risk of abstraction, I want to say that the website feels almost literary – a fitting aesthetic for a site in honor of a writer who elevated criticism to the level of literature. I think that I am getting this impression from the papery color of the theme, as well as the clean and almost book-shaped layout.
The site menu bar at the top of the page makes it as easy as it should be to navigate so much content. Explore the site by clicking on Reviews, Great Movies, Chaz’s Journal, Blogs, Far Flungers, Channels, and Contributors. Or, of course, you can always simply type in whatever it is that you’re looking for on the site’s adjacent search bar.
As I touched on earlier, this site offers many features and different types of content. There is so much to read on this site, lovers of the film will never be stricken with a dull moment.
Feel free to scroll through any one of Roger Ebert’s classic reviews if you fancy a trip of nostalgia; keep up with all of Chaz Ebert’s musings on politics, film, festivals, and life in general with Chaz’s Journal; delve into some rarer Roger Ebert prose by checking out his “journal;” see what editor-in-chief Matt Zoller Seitz has to say in his blog for the site; receive some expertly curated movie recommendations; or take a trip abroad and read reviews from the “Far-Flungers,” far-flung correspondents critiquing cinema from all around the world.
Pricing and Plans
It is 100% free to access rogerebert.com. There are no paywalls, no limitations on how many articles you can read. Nothing but free thought here – the way that it should be. That being said, the site does contain a few ads. But they are not too intrusive; nor do they impede one’s enjoyment of the site. It’s a classy affair.
Hardcore Ebert fans, too, can opt into a subscription-based service called The Ebert Club. And it is very reasonably priced. For $20 per year, members of The Ebert Club receive hand-selected content: an exclusive weekly newsletter, additional articles, fresh-on-the-reel trailers, streamable full-length films, and access to a special members-only version of the site. As far as subscription offerings go, The Ebert Club offers some of the most diverse and unique features I’ve seen on any site of its kind.
Suggestions that I have for Roger Ebert
I really wish I could think of something to say in the way of a critique, granted that I am reviewing the site of the greatest film critic of all time. But, if I’m being honest, rogerebert.com is quite possibly the best-executed film review site I have ever seen. They have truly thought of everything. This is precisely how a website should be.
Whether you are a fan of Roger Ebert’s work or never heard of the guy before today (this seems unlikely, but, hey, you never know), this site is sure to entertain, intrigue, humor, challenge, and benefit even the highest-brow cinephiles among us. If you are looking for a site that could be called the authority on film criticism, congratulations, you have found it – as one would expect from a site bearing the name of Roger Ebert.