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Lisa Nesselson Reflects on What Roger Meant to Her

Internationally renowned film critic and friend of Lisa Nesselson recently wrote a moving, personal piece about Roger Ebert for the Australian site, SBS Movies. She was kind enough to share the piece with us and we wanted to take the opportunity to share it with you, especially in light of the birthday celebration planned for later today and the upcoming release of "Life Itself."

In her delicate, touching article titled "Roger and Me," Nesselson describes how her professional respect for Roger Ebert intersected with her personal relationship with someone she knew for 20 years. "Although Roger was a rather extraordinary fellow, he had the common touch.  As far as I could tell — and I say this as a film critic who needs time to organise my thoughts and my prose — in writing terms, Roger was the equivalent of Usain Bolt: Gifted and impossibly swift, starting and finishing with elegance."

Nesselson's piece was inspired by the Cannes premiere of Steve James' "Life Itself," which is opening in theaters stateside and will be available On Demand on July 4, 2014. She notes how Roger was there in the early days of Cannes: "Cannes was still a sleepy town and Roger sketched and wrote about the stuff dreams are made of with a down-to-earth immediacy that keeps his 'old' dispatches feeling fresh even at this remove."

In a way that only someone who has a personal connection to the subject can convey, Nesselson details some of the biographical details of Roger's life, seguing into her own experiences with the legendary critic and how it felt for someone in her field to be recognized: "Whatever one's field, it is very nice to earn the respect of one's peers. For a middle-class kid who grew up seeing Roger's byline in the then-hefty newspaper and his face on the side of delivery trucks, our relationship felt a bit like one of the friendlier gods taking a break from Mt. Olympus to smile and wave at me out of all available mortals.

My in-person rapport with Roger and his sharp, funny, bottomlessly supportive wife Chaz was cemented in Cannes indoors in the dark."

Nesselson's understanding of what Roger meant to so many people continues, "While Roger continued to write tight informative prose to fit newspaper length restrictions, it was online in the infinite reaches of cyberspace that he really took wing. Anybody interested in the big issues — life, love, illness, friendship, family, scientific breakthroughs, faith, literature and, yes, movies — could do far worse than to read through Roger's first person essays archived online along with the thousands of perpetually valuable film reviews he wrote as a deadline critic."

There's so much more to this beautiful piece, but you should click here to read the rest and please join us at 11am PST today as we celebrate Roger's life on his birthday.

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