When movie critic Roger Ebert was named "person of the year" by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences on Tuesday, it was the second big prize he'd garnered just this week.
On Sunday he received the prestigious Mel Novikoff Award at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival, basking in praise from directors Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff"), Terry Zwigoff ("Crumb"), Errol Morris ("The Thin Blue Line"), and Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air").
In an email Monday, Zwigoff told me, "As part of my tribute to him I read some of his review of my favorite film, Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Army of Shadows.' His review somehow captures the feeling of that film -- very matter-of-fact, and strangely beautiful. The whole damn thing was pretty moving...."
In 2008, I wrote, "Although symbols take on lives of their own, the force of the thumb, star or report-card grade rests solely on the credibility of the reviewer behind it. Ebert and [Gene] Siskel identified themselves as critics and could defend a position in open argument; that's what made their show unique."
How much do you miss seeing Ebert's thumb in action on TV? He is planning a new series that will intelligently exploit "the new media." How much are you looking forward to that? And have you been reading the on-line output that has won him a Webby?