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Roger Ebert: Changing Sadness Into Joy

Updated on February 24, 2014

Family of Origin Pain

We have found that Art, Music, Acting, and Writing Therapies are useful in combatting depression that is sometimes linked to alcoholism or substance abuse in a Dual Diagnosis disorder (meaning, more than one psychiatric diagnosis - the most I've seen myself is eight within a single patient). Many well known creators of artistic works have perhaps been exceedingly effective in their crafts, because of the underlying depression fueling them; or, so one theory goes. We might think of Edgar Alan Poe; Ernest Hemingway, who committed suicide; Tyler Perry; Oprah Winfrey; Jerry Lewis, who reported that his psychiatrist felt he would no longer be funny if "cured"; and dozens of others.

Some stars in all fields have suffered a painful existence in their childhood families, not becuase of their own depression or substane abuse, but because of mental disorders, substance abuse, and even child abuse exhibited by one or both parents (or uncles, cousins, or aunts). Some of the more recent stars that fit this category are Elvis Presley, Michael and Latoya Jackson, Tyler Perry, and Pulitzer Prize winning film critic and recovering alcoholic Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013).

I had not read Roger Ebert's memoirs, although I had read nearly every single one of his reviews. It was not until April 4,2013 (Ebert's last day on Earth), that I learned about his mother's behaviors in a biographical essay posted online in tribute of his life. She was a "controlling, alcoholic, faith-obsessed mother whom he was frightened of displeasing...I would never marry before my mother died,”(see reference: Retrieved April 4, 2013).These two sentences gave me an education.


Spreading Joy to Others

No child should ever be forced to live in an abusive home or one in which parent(s) suffer Severe Mmental Disorders and do not receive or even refuse treatment. However, thousands of kids do just that and some of them find creative outlets and careers that bring joy to multiple millions of individuals. Roger Ebert accomplished that.

Even though he will miss his own Ebertfest in April 2013, the attendance will probably be double the usual number, doubled by people that want to pay tribute to him. Not a man of any defined faith (opposite of his oppressive mother), Ebert is probably as popular as the Reverend Billy Graham and has touched as many people. My favorite Ebert quote (from the same reference listed above):

...if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.


Roger Ebert Books

Faith or not, Roger Ebert tried so hard that he received a semi-truck full of awards and accolades. More importantly, for movie fans and local critics like me, he gave us entertainment and wit. Every time I decide to view a film (either personally or for, I read the Ebert review to see what he thought about it.

He loved doing his reviews and you can tell that from the writing. He provided solid information and opinions of new films and reminded me of older films that I had forgotten.

One of our oldest local theaters in Central Ohio, Studio 35, has been running Bad Movie Night and screening classic films on other evenings, in between the latest releases of first run features.

This theater also sponsor guest appearances of host Fritz the Night Owl, who has been connected with our local TV's Chiller Theater since the 1960s. I look for Studio 35 to honor Roger Ebert in some way very soon. A marathon of Roger Ebert's Top 10 Movies woukd be a fun way to start.

In the interlude, it's time for me to catch up with others and read his memoirs.

Siskel & Ebert Door-to-Door @ David Letterman, 1994

Roger Ebert felt that 3D effects might be too distracting.
Roger Ebert felt that 3D effects might be too distracting. | Source

Illness and Relapse

According to all accounts, Roger Ebert remained positive in attitude and spirit throughout his seige of cancer and relapse from 2002 - 2013. I must wonder why medical science did not approach him about the possibility of growing new bone tissue through the use of pig bladder powder extracellular matrix, but it may have been too late for the critic when the substance was proven to work. I think of the suffering of losing jaw bone and muscle, but all I can visualize is his smile.

Chaz Ebert, Roger's wife, related on April 4 that they were preparing to leave the hospital that day. They were returning home to begin hospice care for Roger there, rather than in a hospice center. "Hospice" usually means the end of life, and when I read his blog announcement on April 3 stating that he would cut back on some of his work activities, I felt that he was dying.

On April 4, Roger Ebert looked at his family in his hospital room, smiled, and gently died.

I read that he died, but the only thing I could think of was his smile.

The Last Review

The last review I see on Roger Ebert's Chicago Sun-Tines web page is one for the 2013 film Host. His opening opinion: Don't listen to inner voices from other planets. See his review at the embedded link.

Roger Ebert's List of Top 10 Films, Updated 2012

  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog)
  • Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
  • Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
  • La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)
  • The General (Buster Keaton)
  • Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
  • Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
  • The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
  • Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)

Reference:; April 4, 2013.


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