Roger Ebert remembered as acclaimed film critic
Chaz Ebert, center, wife of film critic Roger Ebert leaves Holy Name Cathedral after his funeral in Chicago, April 8, 2013. The Pulitzer Prize-winning movie reviewer died Thursday, April 4 at age 70 after a long battle with cancer. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
CHICAGO (AP) — Roger Ebert, one of the nation's most influential film critics who used newspapers, television and social media to take readers into theaters and even into his own life, was laid to rest Monday with praise from political leaders, family and people he'd never met but who chose movies based on the direction of his thumb.
"He didn't just dominate his profession, he defined it," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a brief eulogy to hundreds of mourners who gathered at Holy Name Cathedral just blocks from where Ebert spent more than 40 years as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert died last Thursday at the age of 70 after a yearslong battle with cancer.
It was Ebert who told readers which films to see and needed to see and which ones they should stay away from, Emanuel said, remembering the influence Ebert had on movie goers through his newspaper reviews and the immensely popular television show he hosted with fellow critic Gene Siskel during which they would issue thumbs-up or thumbs-down assessments.
Pallbearers carry the casket of film critic Roger Ebert before his funeral at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Monday, April 8, 2013. Ebert died Thursday, April 4, 2013, at age 70 after a long battle with cancer. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
"Roger spent a lot of time sitting through bad movies so we didn't have to," joked the mayor.
In a 90-minute funeral Mass, speakers took turns talking about how Ebert spent his career communicating his ideas about movies, social issues, the newspaper business and finally the health problems that left him unable to speak.
"He realized that connecting to people was the main reason we're all here and that's what his life was all about," said Sonia Evans, his stepdaughter, her voice choking with emotion.
That realization, she and other speakers said, helped explain Ebert's fascination with outlets such as Twitter and his blog that he took to just two days before he died to tell readers he was taking a "leave of presence."
"Roger was 24-7 before anybody thought of that term," said John Barron, Ebert's former boss at the Sun-Times, who said Ebert was among the first to recognize the changing media landscape as well as the first in the office to use a computer or send emails.