Happy Birthday Roger, June 18th, 2020 (Table of Contents)


This special edition of Thumbnails features articles and videos republished in honor of Roger Ebert’s birthday on June 18th.—The Editors

As an introduction, here is an excerpt from Roger’s essay, “Go gentle into that good night,” published on May 2nd, 2009…

“’Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, 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. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”


“Roger Ebert Accepts an Honorary Degree at the AFI Commencement Ceremonies in 2004: Shared on YouTube by the American Film Institute.

“The motion picture is the most important art form ever devised by the human race. That’s because it is the art form that creates more empathy than any other.


“This land was made for you and me”: Roger celebrates the election of President Barack Obama on November 4th, 2008.

“As the mighty tide swept the land on Tuesday night, I was transfixed. As the pundits pondered red states and blue states, projections and exit polls, I was swept with emotion. Not because America was ‘electing its first Black president.’ That comes a little late in the day. It was because America was electing the right President. Our long national nightmare is ending. America will not soon again start a war based on lies and propaganda. We will not torture. We will restore the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, and habeas corpus. We will enter at last in the struggle against environmental disaster. Our ideas will once again be more powerful than our weapons. During the last eight years, the beacon on the hill flickered out. Now the torch will shine again.”


“Roger Ebert Defends ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ at Sundance”: An unforgettable excerpt from the behind-the-scenes documentary of Justin Lin’s 2002 film. 

What I find very offensive and condescending about your statement is nobody would say to a bunch of white filmmakers, ‘How could you do this to your people?’ … Asian-American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be. They do not have to ‘represent their people.’


“Thoughts on Bill O’Reilly and Squeaky the Chicago Mouse”: Roger responds to the disgraced Fox News host on April 7th, 2009.

“Dear Bill: Thanks for including the Chicago Sun-Times on your exclusive list of newspapers on your ‘Hall of Shame.’ To be in an O’Reilly Hall of Fame would be a cruel blow to any newspaper. It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. My grade-school teacher, wise Sister Nathan, would have called in your parents and recommended counseling with Father Hogben. Yes, the Sun-Times is liberal, having recently endorsed our first Democrat for President since LBJ. We were founded by Marshall Field one week before Pearl Harbor to provide a liberal voice in Chicago to counter the Tribune, which opposed an American war against Hitler. I’m sure you would have sided with the Trib at the time.”


“Life Itself Clip”: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing. 

He used to tell me, ‘I waited just about all my life to find you, and I’m glad that I did, and I’m never going to let you go.’


“The One-Percenters”: Roger’s essay on economic inequality, published on April 9th, 2011, is timelier than ever. 

“Many of the rich have a conscience. Andrew Carnegie built libraries all over America. The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations do great good. Bill Gates lists his occupation as ‘philanthropist.’ Yet the most visible plutocrat in America is Donald Trump, a man who has made a fetish of his power. What kind of sick mind conceives of a television show built on suspense about which “contestant” he will ‘fire’ next? What sort of masochism builds his viewership? Sadly, I suspect it is based on viewers who identify with Trump, and envy his power over his victims. Don’t viewers understand they are the ones being fired in today’s America?”


“William Friedkin pays his respects to Roger Ebert”: A moving recitation of Dylan Thomas from the 2013 Chicago Critics Film Festival on April 14th, 2013. 

“I’d like to quote a little verse for Roger Ebert, who was my friend. … ‘And death shall have no dominion. / Dead men naked they shall be one / With the man in the wind and the west / Though they ink through the sea they shall rise again / Though lovers be lost love shall not / And death shall have no dominion.’”


“The body count”: Roger’s impassioned response to the shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th, 2012. 

True, there is no way we can defend ourselves against insane shooters. But I suspect Australia, England, Germany and Canada have about the same percentage of crazy people that we do. It’s just that they can’t get their hands on firearms so easily. Nor do they sell assault rifles over the counter in those nations. You know what? The hell with it. I’m tired of repeating the obvious. I know with a dread certainty that I will change nobody’s mind. I will hear conspiracy theories from those who fear the government, I will hear about the need to raise a militia, and I will hear nothing about how 9,484 corpses in a year has helped anything. That is a high price to pay. What depresses me is that half of my fellow countrymen are prepared to pay it.

Image of the Day

This excerpted chapter from Roger’s memoir, Life Itself, details the deep and abiding love he had for his wife, RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert.

Video of the Day

This priceless video from The Official Roger Ebert YouTube page contains footage of Roger Ebert Day being proclaimed by Chicago Mayor Daley in 2005.