As I've been preparing to head out the door for my eighth trip to Roger Ebert's Film Festival, I saw the news that the host will not be able to attend this year.
It's unfortunate, to say the least, that Ebert will be in the hospital rather than his regular spot at the back of the Virginia Theatre. His triumphant entrance at last year's festival was an inspiring sight. The man loves what he does, and the people love him for it.
Film critics are stereotypically perceived as being elitist and standoffish--killjoys who fashion themselves superior to who and what they write about and those reading them. From my observations of Ebert at his festival, no one could make such charges about the most famous film critic in America, if not the world. He has time for those who wish to speak to him about their shared love for film.
Fifteen hundred people or so will fill the Virginia over the next five days, but there will be one empty seat. Without a doubt, Ebert will be missed at the fest bearing his name, but his love for movies and his hometown will be felt as the rest of us settle in for his tenth festival. Get well soon, Roger.