After a long absence from his TV show Ebert & Roeper and infrequent articles on his review site, film critic Roger Ebert has given the world an update on his condition. Along with a startling current photo of himself, the world-famous critic comes clean about exactly what surgery he's undergone and his current condition. It's a tribute to his frankness in the face of illness, but also a shock to fans who have not seen him for awhile.
He states that after salivary gland cancer moved into his lower right jaw, a portion of his mandible had to be removed. Two attempted surgeries to reconstruct the missing piece were unsuccessful. Another result was a tracheostomy, which has left him without a voice. Doctors are now working on an alternate plan that should restore his speech.
Despite his newfound handicaps and drastically different appearance, he promises to attend his "Overlooked Film Festival" that he has held for the past eight years. Despite advice that he should avoid subjecting himself to getting photographed by the tabloid press, he responds with a movie quote: 'I don't give a damn.'
I have to admire Ebert for his tenacity. He could easily hide in the shadows to mask his completely changed appearance. Not him. He puts a picture of himself on the internet for the world to see. And while his thumb is up, I also picture him giving the bird to everyone who told him to not to do it.
My basis for film reviewing (and later making) was formed by watching the original Sneak Previews on PBS, then At the Movies, then Siskel & Ebert & the Movies. Along with the late Gene Siskel, Gene and Roger (often referred to as "the bald one" and "the fat one") were the first recognizable national film critics. Their trademark "Thumbs Up" is still quoted by studio ads looking to sell their film to the public.
As a kid, I started watching just for the movie clips, but over time started listening to what these two guys had to say. They certainly knew their flicks, and often got into heated discussions about their varied opinions. I mostly agreed with Ebert who like sci-fi much more than Siskel, and even bought several of his review compilations (which are moot now as all reviews on archived on his website).
I still watch the show (Ebert & Roeper), but have to admit the edge went with Gene's passing, and Ebert himself seems to have softened quite a bit. Still, I will always acknowledge his influence on me as a writer/filmmaker and wish him the best of luck and a quick recovery.