I have to admit, initially I was taken aback by the outpouring of grievances across the country on the passing of Roger Ebert. Unquestionably he is, and has been for decades, our nation’s pre-eminent master of cinematic journalism. What surprised me is how many people really truly seemed to care about his death. It’s as though we have lost a Hemingway, a Picasso, an Einstein. This past Sunday night I stayed up for over two hours, reading and watching tributes to Mr. Ebert. It all makes sense to me. We have lost one of our geniuses.
Now, why in a blog dedicated to neighborhoods am I waxing poetic about the loss of a film critic? Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that beyond our day jobs, Roger and I share the exact same passion. We are advocates for, and lovers of, our city. Ebert could have had any newspaper job on the planet. With their proximity to abundant filmmaking, New York and Los Angeles would have made more sense than Chicago. Instead, the larger-than-life cinema guru chose to live here. Sure a whopping salary didn’t hurt, but it’s not as though his writing hasn’t been in high demand for decades, especially after winning the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. I mean, does America’s second-most-read critic, whomever that may be, have half the readership as Mr. Ebert and his website?