Roger Ebert, one of America's most preeminent and popular film critics, has announced that he will reduce the amount of writing he takes on as he fights a new battle with cancer.
Writing on his site Tuesday night, Ebert said that a hip fracture has turned out to be cancerous and that he was taking a short pause as he received radiation treatment to combat the disease. He would still contribute to his site, but many reviews would be picked up by others.
"Typically, I write over 200 reviews a year for the [Chicago] Sun-Times that are carried by Universal Press Syndicate in some 200 newspapers," he wrote. Last year, I wrote the most of my career, including 306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles. I must slow down now, which is why I'm taking what I like to call 'a leave of presence.'"
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He added, "What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me."
Ebertfest, the April gathering in Champagne-Urbana that this blogger has found to be one of the most enjoyable film gatherings around, will go on as planned, and Ebert said he would soon begin a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to bring back the "At the Movies" TV show. (You can read the full statement here.)
The news was likely to cause sadness in the tightknit world of film critics and writers. With his eloquent posts, sharp Twitter feed and other forms of online writing, Ebert has solidified his status as one of the country's most liked and well-read critics, even as he has fought illness over the last seven years.
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When I saw Ebert's wife Chaz several months ago, she was trying to maintain a stiff
upper lip after learning that the hip break would cause Roger and she to miss Sundance.
The couple had just taken the rare step of canceling their plans. As then, I and others who write about film were keeping him uppermost in our prayers.
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