CHICAGO – Roger Ebert, one of the nation’s most influential film critics who used newspapers, television and social media to take readers into theaters and even into his own life, was laid to rest Monday with praise from political leaders, family and people he’d never met but who chose movies based on the direction of his thumb.
“He didn’t just dominate his profession, he defined it,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a brief eulogy to hundreds of mourners who gathered at Holy Name Cathedral just blocks from where Ebert spent more than 40 years as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert died Thursday at age 70 after a yearslong battle with cancer.
It was Ebert who told readers which films to see and needed to see and which ones they should stay away from, Emanuel said, remembering the influence Ebert had on movie goers through his newspaper reviews and the immensely popular television show he hosted with fellow critic Gene Siskel, during which they would issue thumbs-up or thumbs-down assessments.
“Roger spent a lot of time sitting through bad movies so we didn’t have to,” the mayor joked.
In a 90-minute funeral Mass, speakers took turns talking about how Ebert spent his career communicating his ideas about movies, social issues, the newspaper business and finally the health problems that left him unable to speak.
“He realized that connecting to people was the main reason we’re all here and that’s what his life was all about,” said Sonia Evans, his stepdaughter.
Ebert’s widow, Chaz, who received a standing ovation as she made her way to the lectern to speak, expanded on that devotion.
“It didn’t matter to him your race, creed, color,” she said. “He had a big enough heart to accept and love all.”
That was the message of Jonathan Jackson, who told the crowded church why Ebert’s early support for the films of Spike Lee and other black filmmakers was so important.
“He respected what we had to say about ourselves,” said Jackson, who pointed to Ebert’s glowing review of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” in the late 1980s. “It was not his story but he understood the value of an important film was authenticity and not the fact that it depicted your interests.”
Actress Halle Berry joins in battle against hunger
NEW YORK – Halle Berry says she’s a woman of compassion and Michael Kors says he’s a man of action. Together, they want to make a dent in the battle against hunger around the world.
The actress and fashion designer announced a philanthropic campaign Monday called Watch Hunger Stop that includes raising money through the sale of a version of Kors’ best-selling Runway watch.
For each $295 watch sold, 100 meals will be provided to children through the U.N. World Food Programme.
The 46-year-old Berry, who is expecting her first child with fiance Olivier Martinez, said in an exclusive joint interview Saturday with Kors: “I hope we go while I’m pregnant, so I can talk about prenatal care.”
Berry, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said she wanted to meet and talk with mothers struggling to feed themselves and their children while she was expecting. It will help build a connection, she said.
“It’s so important to me, being a mom, that I can help educate women on how important it is that when you have a healthy child, it helps set them up for life.”
Halle Berry and Michael Kors have launched a campaign called Watch Hunger Stop.