Beloved film critic Roger Ebert dies at 70

Liz Goodwin & Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

Renowned Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.

Ebert's struggle with thyroid cancer, chronicled in a 2010 cover story by Esquire, caused the loss of part of his jaw and the ability to eat and speak. He communicated through a computer program and reached his many fans through Twitter and his blog, gaining admiration for his relentlessly positive attitude about his disease.

Ebert's death comes two days after he announced a "leave of presence" due to a recurrence of cancer after a hip fracture he suffered in December.

"For a generation of Americans—and especially Chicagoans—Roger was the movies," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive—capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical."

Film critics are mourning Ebert's loss on Twitter, a medium Ebert avidly embraced.

"Ebert was singular," New York Times critic A.O. Scott tweeted. "We are all in his shadow and his debt."

"Roger Ebert was my hero," Scott Jordan Harris, a blogger for London's Telegraph and Ebert's U.K. correspondent, wrote on Twitter. "More recently he became my boss and my friend. I will be forever honoured. I loved him."

"Man, I feel so lucky and so sad at the same time," Chris Jones, who wrote the Esquire cover story, tweeted. "I'll miss you Roger, very much."

"One of my favorite quotes, by Henry James, is: 'Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind,'" Time Out New York film critic and New York Film Critics Circle member Keith Uhlich wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "That was Roger Ebert, a man somehow able to treat even undignified subjects—be it a godawful movie or a life-threatening illness—with clear-eyed compassion."

"Next time I see a movie, I doubt I'll ask myself what Ebert would think of it," writer Mark Harris, "Oscarologist" for Grantland, tweeted. "But I'll ask much better questions of myself because of him."

Filmmakers also took to Twitter to pay their respects to Ebert.

"Millions of thumbs up for you," Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore wrote on Twitter. "RIP."

“We lost a thoughtful writer," Darren Aronofsky tweeted. "I remember my first review from him ... it was a career highlight.”

"It was a privilege to interact with you," screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote. "Thank you for the support, the criticism, and the true love for the movies.”

Director Cameron Crowe called Ebert a "clear-eyed dreamer" and "king of the written word."

"A film critic with the soul of a poet," actress Annabella Sciorra wrote on Twitter.

"I never grew tired of his opinions ... on everything," Howard Stern tweeted.

Even The Onion delivered Ebert a poignant obituary. (Headline: "Roger Ebert Hails Human Existence As 'A Triumph'")

For 24 years, Ebert collaborated with fellow Chicago film critic Gene Siskel, until his death in 1999. The two were opposites, who fought like cats and dogs, according to Ebert himself.

"They were like a couple of ... cartoon characters," a friend said in an oral history of their partnership. "If you drew them, you couldn’t quite do the real thing justice—especially in the early days with those 1970s clothes. They didn’t look alike, they didn’t sound alike, and they didn’t think alike. They both had a much different delivery—Roger more contemplative and Gene kind of pushy."

"Our whole city learned with sadness today of the passing of Roger Ebert, whose name was synonymous with two things: the movies and Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "The final reel of his life may have run through to the end, but his memory will never fade."

"Roger Ebert loved movies," his Sun-Times obituary begins. "Except for those he hated." He was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize.

But film reviews were only part of Ebert's legacy.

In person, Ebert was "exactly the man that you see or read about," Steven S. Duke, Ebert’s former editor at the Sun-Times, wrote. "He was warm, gracious, embracing, funny, generous. There was nothing false about him."

"A great journalist and critic, his last chapter was his most inspiring," David Axelrod, Obama's former adviser and fellow Chicagoan, tweeted.

"If cancer came to take me piece by piece, I hope I could summon even a fraction of the grace Roger Ebert showed us, in such abundance," actress Mia Farrow tweeted.

"His film reviews and great movie essays are the easy pick-up-and-thumb-throughs," Uhlich wrote, "but it is his blogs on disease and death that I will personally cherish—they are some of the most profound, cut-to-the-quick articles I've ever read on the subject."

"At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you," Ebert wrote on Tuesday. "It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness." ("The Host," the most recent film Ebert reviewed, was not one of them.)

"The death of Roger Ebert is a blow to movies, not just movie criticism," Rolling Stone's Peter Travers wrote. "He energized the medium by taking it on full force, two-fisted, making it better by not letting the suits get away with anything."

But Ebert, who co-wrote the 1970 film "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," was interested in more than just movies. Ebert used his blog and Twitter feed to sound off on a myriad of topics: from his battle with alcoholism to gun control to marriage equality to the Westboro Baptist Church. In 2011, Ebert fulfilled a lifelong dream: winning a cartoon caption contest for the New Yorker.

He also wrote poetically—and often—about his wife, Chaz, whom he married in 1992. “She fills my horizon," he wrote. "She is the great fact of my life, she is the love of my life, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone."

"I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state," Ebert wrote in 2011. "I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn’t interesting."

"Thank you for going on this journey with me," Ebert wrote on Tuesday. "I'll see you at the movies."

Watch Roger Ebert defend 'Return of the Jedi' on 'Nightline' in 1983: