I'm still processing Roger Ebert's death. His work was a huge influence on me both as a writer and as a person. I never really saw his show, to be honest, but in high school I took to reading his movie reviews every week. I often tell people that you don't need to get any of those "How to Write" books if you just read his 0-1 star reviews and the four star ones. All you need to know about writing - characterization, plot construction, etc - is in there.
In particular, I often cite his review of Kazaam! In it, he imagines the meeting in which writers and producers, tasked with writing a vehicle for Shaq, said "Hey, he's bald - he could be a genie!" At that point, Ebert said, someone should have said "Okay, that's level one. Let's take it to level three."
I got to see him in person twice. The first was shortly after I moved to Chicago, at a book signing. I told him I had an idea for someting called "Ebert! The Musical," which would open with him, a young boy whose father runs a fruit cart in the car chase district, describing his future career, to which his father would respond with the song "No Son of Mine Is Going To Do THAT With His Thumb." He told me to give it a shot, but I never got around to it.
I saw him again when he introduced a screening of Citizen Kane in the park - that year they let him pick the movies in the park, and so they screen Kane, Star Wars, E.T., Annie Hall, and, Night of the Hunter. Just about my entire list of my top 5. Before the Kane screening I got to chat a bit about Wonder Boys with him and a guy I later realized was Roeper.
Rest gently, Roger. I'll never stop asking myself a couple of basic questions about each of my books as I work on them: 1. If this was a movie, what would Ebert think? 2. Am I at level one? If so, how do I take it to level three?"