Roger Ebert

Dan Herrick/KPA/ZUMA Press

Roger Ebert's invaluable contributions to film, journalism and LOL critical zingers got a very big thumbs up Thursday night.

The late film critic, who died on April 4 at the age of 70 after a long battle with cancer, was honored at a memorial service at the Chicago Theater, where actors and filmmakers fondly remembered the beloved cineaste, arguably the most popular film critic of the last four decades.

The tribute, called "Roger Ebert: A Celebration of Life," drew actors including John Cusack and Joan Cusack, filmmakers like Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) and Gregory Nava (El Norte), and film critics including The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. Ebert's widow, Chaz, welcomed about 50 members of Soul Children of Chicago, who kicked off the memorial in song.

John Cusack, Joan Cusack

Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

Later, as the Cusack siblings took the stage together, Joan read a letter from Barack and Michelle Obama, who saluted Ebert for his "zest for life," per the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, John—who praised the late critic for his "integrity"—recalled how he first encountered Ebert when, as an upstart 17-year-old actor, John happened to sit next to Ebert and his late, great critical sparring partner, Gene Siskel, at New York City's famed Carnegie Deli while in town to promote his 1985 movie The Sure Thing.

As John sat there, petrified, Ebert supposedly leaned over and said, "I liked your movie."

The heartfelt memorial served as a bookend to a pair of public tributes to Ebert.

On Monday, hundreds of mourners gathered at downtown Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral to say their goodbyes to the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, a sterling testimonial to the lasting imprint Ebert left on the art form he loved so much, and to those who admired and respected him for his impact on it.

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