20 February 2010

The Essential Roger Ebert

If you love movies, there is little chance that you would not know the name, not to mention the contribution, of Roger Ebert. Ebert, with his longtime partner and nemesis, Gene Siskel, gave us "two thumbs up" and peerless guidance of what was worth seeing on the big screen. Chris Jones of Esquire magazine has written a remarkable portrait of Roger Ebert, a man now silenced by repeated treatments and surgeries to battle the cancer that is taking his life by inches.
Seven years ago, he recovered quickly from the surgery to cut out his cancerous thyroid and was soon back writing reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times and appearing with Richard Roeper on At the Movies. A year later, in 2003, he returned to work after his salivary glands were partially removed, too, although that and a series of aggressive radiation treatments opened the first cracks in his voice. In 2006, the cancer surfaced yet again, this time in his jaw. A section of his lower jaw was removed; Ebert listened to Leonard Cohen. Two weeks later, he was in his hospital room packing his bags, the doctors and nurses paying one last visit, listening to a few last songs. That's when his carotid artery, invisibly damaged by the earlier radiation and the most recent jaw surgery, burst. Blood began pouring out of Ebert's mouth and formed a great pool on the polished floor. The doctors and nurses leapt up to stop the bleeding and barely saved his life. Had he made it out of his hospital room and been on his way home — had his artery waited just a few more songs to burst — Ebert would have bled to death on Lake Shore Drive. Instead, following more surgery to stop a relentless bloodletting, he was left without much of his mandible, his chin hanging loosely like a drawn curtain, and behind his chin there was a hole the size of a plum. He also underwent a tracheostomy, because there was still a risk that he could drown in his own blood. When Ebert woke up and looked in the mirror in his hospital room, he could see through his open mouth and the hole clear to the bandages that had been wrapped around his neck to protect his exposed windpipe and his new breathing tube. He could no longer eat or drink, and he had lost his voice entirely. That was more than three years ago.
Ebert's own response to the article is posted on his blog - his words are as touching as is the Esquire article itself. Well worth the read if you are a fan of film, of Roger Ebert, or both.

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

No comments: