Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ebert changed cinema, film journalism

  • Print

IT'S hard to sum up one man's achievements in any article or post. It's even harder if that man is Roger Ebert, who in no particular order was critic, TV personality, social-media guru, blogger, scholar, screenwriter and advocate.

Still, there are some very quantifiable ways that Ebert, who died Thursday at age 70, changed film and film journalism. That's true in very noticeable realms -- reviewing and supporting movies, and adding a remarkable voice to the criticism canon -- but in more subtle ones as well.

Here, then, are five hats Ebert wore that helped him leave his mark on cinema and journalism.:

-- The hyphenate. It's axiomatic -- if sometimes burdensome -- that newspaper journalists these days need to divide their time between print, video and digital efforts. But it was hardly like that a quarter of a century ago. In an era when "multi-platform" still referred to, well, a variety of stages, Ebert was doing it all. He was a print critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, a TV personality for a popular public broadcasting / later syndicated show and eventually, with the rise of the web, a prolific and popular blogging and social-media presence as well.

-- The populist. Before Ebert, there was plenty of smart film criticism. But movie-related essays could also be windy and inaccessible. Ebert, picking up in some ways on the democratic spirit of Pauline Kael (though with his own spin) was part of a movement to change all that. Using a direct and entertaining prose style, his nonetheless sophisticated print reviews (he was one of the first critics to win a Pulitzer Prize) ensured that people far away from film scholarship could understand and use the same analytical tools that critics did. And though his TV show could take some knocks -- it was predicated on conflict and the sometimes-maligned thumbs-up -- millions of people who wouldn't pick up a newspaper review were suddenly learning the vocabulary of film criticism from the show.

-- The Midwesterner. Critics in New York and L.A. may not have talked about it much, but long before the web allowed local critics to become international voices, Ebert was reaching people far and wide from the relatively small cinema pocket of Chicago. Studios knew it too: They would often screen movies for him at the same time or before they did for reviewers on the coasts.

-- The directors' critic. Reviewers don't practise their craft to change how directors practise theirs. And directors don't exactly think of critics every time they're yelling "action." But filmmakers do pay attention to reviews -- or at least they paid attention to Ebert and his clear-eyed, uncompromised assessments.

-- The tastemaker. Film critics' sway has been debated since the first images flickered on to celluloid. No one ever debated Ebert's. One has to look only at his bestselling books -- from the endorsement-oriented Great Films series to eviscerations like I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie -- to see how much power he had in defining what was good and bad at a given cinematic moment. Or the way one of his first reviews, of Bonnie & Clyde, proved prescient in its belief that the movie would come to epitomize the '60s. His first and only filter was an assessment of a film's quality, and legions followed him because of it.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2013 G3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets this week with Tim and Gary in Anaheim

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google