An Inspirational Two Thumbs Up – Andy Burns on Roger Ebert

Safe to say I never thought that I’d be writing about Oprah on here, but after yesterday maybe I should be joining the lady’s book club. Ok, probably not, but yesterday’s episode left tears in my eyes and a genuine sense of hope in my heart.

If you’ve been following the entertainment news over the last few weeks you might have noticed a lot of talk about film critic Roger Ebert, whose voice was silenced in 2006 because of cancer-related surgery which left him without the lower part of his jaw. For those of us that love movies (and if you’re reading Biff Bam Pop than I’ve got to guess you’re one of us, one of us), Siskel and Ebert were our first real taste of film criticism. At The Movies was a show I watched as far back as I can remember, almost always on a Sunday at some time I can’t quite recall. The duo’s back and forth was constantly entertaining – you almost didn’t want them to agree on a film just to hear the banter. After Gene Siskel’s death in 1999, Ebert carried on with Richard Roeper, and while it could never be the same, there was still credibility.

An Esquire article with Roger Ebert, who now communicates via pads of paper and a computer voice a la Stephen Hawking, appeared a few weeks ago, detailing the pain and perseverance that the man has gone through over the past decade. Amazingly, Ebert continues to work, attending screenings and constantly writing. Though his speaking voice may be gone, like so many other writers, his intellect is constantly on display at his website. However, yesterday on Oprah came the revelation that Ebert had in some ways gotten his voice back. A Scottish software company named CereProc had taken hundreds of hours of Ebert DVD commentaries to create a program that allowed the man to be heard with his own voice, which Ebert’s first demonstrated to his wife Chazz and the world yesterday. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Forget iPads and iPods and Blackberries and Blu-Rays and whatever newfangled technology we all feel we need (I’m no exception) – the technology that gave Roger Ebert back his voice in some form is more meaningful and impressive than anything I’ve ever seen.

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