Apart from the filmmakers themselves, I can't think of many people who have championed directors more than Roger Ebert, who for 40 years has been an outspoken supporter of filmmaking not just as entertainment but as an art form. And the Directors Guild of America agrees: The group announced today that on Jan. 31, Ebert will receive its Honorary Life Member Award.

He will be the 43rd person (and the first film critic) in the DGA's 61-year history to be given the award, which is "for recognition of outstanding creative achievement, or contribution to the Guild, or the profession of directing." Michael Apted, current president of the DGA and a frequent recipient of Ebert's praise for his own films, said in a press release, "From the blockbuster to the tiny independent film, Roger Ebert has devoted his career to sharing his love of film with generations of moviegoers. In doing so, he's kept directors on their toes for more than 40 years. I am very pleased to welcome him as an Honorary Life Member of the DGA."

Ebert said, "It is a great honor to be chosen by those men and women who are the creators of the art form I love above all others," though I suspect we'll see a more detailed response in his blog.

It's been a banner year for Roger Ebert, and even more so for those of us who love him. After a couple years of shaky health, the dean of modern American film criticism is back to writing reviews at a prolific rate, attending film festivals, and remaining an active force despite losing his speaking voice to thyroid cancer. He has used his blog, which he launched in April, to relate personal anecdotes, respond to films he missed while in the hospital, and lay the smack down on various people and things in need of smacking down (including himself) -- always with humor, style, and class.