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Roger Ebert, an Illini to the End

By Jen Chung in Arts & Entertainment on May 19, 2004 7:21PM

While Chicagoist is not a fan of his selection of Richard Roeper as his current "At the Movies" partner, we can't sing Roger Ebert's praise more: Whether we agree or disagree about what movies he likes, in spite of some factual errors we read in his reviews (which are nothing compared to the mistakes we make, believe us), Chicagoist is grateful to Ebert for trying to make sure the American moviegoing public knows about smaller films outside the Hollywood system, especially in this time when publicists try to harness soundbites from journalists who barely think about the movies they see. The greatest example of that was his and late "At the Movies" partner Gene Siskel's championing of Hoop Dreams, the 1994 documentary about two inner-city Chicago boys trying to make it in the competitive world of high school basketball. The opening paragraph to his review for Hoop Dreams:
A film like "Hoop Dreams" is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.
Not only did Ebert name it the best movie of 1994, it was also his number pick for best movie of the 90s.

Lately, Ebert's been telling people to see films like Spirited Away, All or Nothing, 13 Conversations About One Thing, Innocence, You Can Count on Me, The Son, and Owning Mahoney as well as well-made studio films (Minority Report, Master & Commander, and A Beautiful Mind). It's not about agreeing with him, or being angry with him after we see a movie he said was good but that we hated - it's about reading and understanding the things he likes and looks for in a film that can help us be better viewers.

Rogert Ebert is in Cannes right now, trying to clock in a couple movies each day. You can read his disatches daily. He will also be co-hosting, with Columbia University film professor Annette Insdorf, the closing ceremonies of the Cannes Film Festival for American viewers. The closing ceremonies (awards!) will be broadcast on IFC at 1PM.

Ebert is a graduate of the University of Illinois and runs his great "Overlooked Film Festival" in Champaign. Check out an interesting interview with Ebert about what it means to be a critic.