Here's how Roger Ebert begins his review of a wonderful new movie: " 'The King's Speech' tells the story of a man compelled to speak to the world with a stammer. It must be painful enough for one who stammers to speak to another person. To face a radio microphone and know the British Empire is listening must be terrifying."
Brisk, unshowy, empathetic.
Ebert has his own speech problems now. Because of surgeries for thyroid and salivary-gland cancer, he no longer has a lower jaw. He speaks with a voice provided by computer. Ebert wrote about that process with an unselfconscious wit in a piece called "Finding My Own Voice" on Roger Ebert's Journal.
A lesser writer might also have pulled his experience into any vaguely related critique, especially of a terrific, high-profile movie like "The King's Speech." While wading through a run of middle-aged movie critics' previews and round-ups, I was astounded at how many tired reviewers dragged their kids into the discussion with a huge amount of self-consciousness and no great urgency -- as if they merely wanted to proclaim, "I have a life."
When Ebert, who really does have a life, gets personal, it's without affectation and with point. What is inspiring about the CBS Sunday Morning interview with him above is how sure and matter-of-fact he is about the most important things, including his two great loves: his wife Chaz and the movies.
On Saturday, January 22, 2011, on Channel 67 at 6:00 p.m., Baltimoreans will get their first glimpse of his new film-review show, "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies." May it live up to Ebert's hopes and bring spirited film discussion back to public television. Whether you agree with him or not about individual movies and performances, Ebert is one critic you can believe when he says that a great movie "fills me with joy for its greatness. When I experience it, I sometimes even feel a tingle in my spine."