To All Our Cherished Critics, Contributors, Readers and Subscribers:
Happy New Year! I hope all of you have had a healthy and enjoyable holiday season. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you for your contributions, whether it be through your writing, your reading of our reviews and essays or quite simply, through your moral support during the second year of the pandemic. You can come to our site every day for the best film reviews, TV/streaming reviews, collections, interviews, blog entries and more. All of our contributors, and their individual collection of published work, can be found here.
Before we embark on the next twelve months ahead, I’d like to take a moment to look back on some of the extraordinary work published on our site, RogerEbert.com. In January, we returned to the Sundance Film Festival, publishing dispatches from our editors Brian Tallerico and Nick Allen as well as our contributors Robert Daniels, Kristy Puchko, Carlos Aguilar and Odie Henderson. In February, Barbara Scharres brought us highlights from the Rotterdam International Film Festival, while our annual Women Writers Week was held in March, showcasing the essential work of so many brilliant female writers, both familiar and new.
We honored the anniversary of my husband Roger’s passing on April 4th, 2013, by sharing some of his finest reviews curated by Brian Tallerico that focused on the topics of connection and rebirth, poignant themes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to cancel Ebertfest for the second year in a row. Our Editor-at-Large Matt Zoller Seitz also took the time to pen a deeply personal series of essays entitled “The Cruelest Month,” in which he paid tribute to his first wife, Jennifer, his second wife, Nancy, and his parents.
Upon its release in May, Barry Jenkins’ landmark miniseries “The Underground Railroad” was praised by Brian Tallerico as a major event in the history of television, while Robert Daniels conducted an insightful interview with the director. I was thrilled to hold our inaugural Black Writers Week, where we celebrated an array of storytellers in diverse fields such as Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Karen Horne, Brandon David Wilson and JaNeika & JaSheika James, among others. Our talented guest editors were Robert Daniels, Odie Henderson, Sergio Mims, Danielle Scruggs, and Shawn Taylor. It was so meaningful that Juneteenth became a federal holiday that very week.
In July, I returned to the Cannes Film Festival along with our contributors Ben Kenigsberg, Jason Gorber and Lisa Nesselson, and hosted nine video dispatches directed and edited by Scott Dummler of Mint Media Works. On August 25th, the eighth and final episode of Brian Raftery’s excellent podcast about the legacy of “Siskel & Ebert” on The Ringer/Spotify, for which I was interviewed, was released, prompting me to pen a thank you note to him.
Film festivals were back in full swing in September, with Glenn Kenny returning to the Venice Film Festival; Brian Tallerico, Monica Castillo and Tomris Laffly reporting from Telluride; and Brian and Tomris joining Robert Daniels and Marya E. Gates in covering the Toronto International Film Festival, with “Dune” director Denis Villeneuve receiving the TIFF Ebert Director Award. Our assistant editor Nell Minow interviewed curator Maya Cade about the new Black Film Archive, comprised of films from 1915-1979 that provide a crucial portrait of the Black experience.
Toward the end of the month, ten remarkable filmmakers between the ages of 11 and 21 were honored at a screening at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier of their winning submissions about racial healing for the inaugural No Malice Film Contest, presented by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation (ALPLF) and The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation. Grants were provided by Healing Illinois, a racial healing initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust.
In October, Rebecca Hall’s exquisite directorial debut, “Passing,” was released on Netflix, and she opened up about her personal connection to the material in her interview with our contributor, Isaac Feldberg. I was proud to be an executive producer on this project along with Nina Yang Bongiovi and Brenda Robinson, and I penned a personal essay on the film entitled, "The Freedom to Pass." I am so happy to see its stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga receive such widespread acclaim for their performances from critics including our own Odie Henderson.
When the Chicago Critics Film Festival made its long-awaited return to the Windy City’s historic Music Box Theatre in November, Matt Fagerholm penned an in-depth interview with one of the festival’s celebrated guests, author Barry Gifford, who shared some priceless stories about Roger’s longtime co-host, Gene Siskel. This month, our writers shared their picks for the best films of 2021, and I did the same with my own list, which I am continuing to update.
We lost many giants this year, including Melvin Van Peebles, Cicely Tyson, Norman Lloyd and Michael Apted, and paid tribute to them with thoughtful and illuminating tributes. You will find many more in our Tributes section.
Finally, I want to give one more shout-out to our Managing Editor, Brian Tallerico; our Editor-at-Large, Matt Zoller Seitz; and our three Assistant Editors, Nick Allen, Matt Fagerholm and Nell Minow for all of their hard work this year. Thank you to our formidable roster of critics, our esteemed contributors and all of our readers and subscribers for keeping film discourse alive and well.
Roger, the conversation about movies continues...
Here's wishing you many blessings throughout the new year: Health, Peace, Joy, Prosperity, Love and above all, Good Movies!