An eerie coincidence: two nights ago, I spent a half an hour watching an old Siskel and Ebert movie review at http://siskelandebert.org/ of one hell of a week for movie lovers. During that week in 1982, they reviewed Tootsie, The Verdict and Sophie’s Choice. Not too shabby.
The next day I found out that Roger Ebert had died.
This news jolted me, as I’d just been watching the forty year-old Ebert offer his witticisms the night prior, and though the news saddened me, I’d already felt the loss of no longer being able to watch new versions of the great show both he and Gene Siskel left behind. Fortunately for us, two other film lovers have helped catalogue these old reviews at http://siskelandebert.org/ (though I notice the website was down earlier today. We can only hope this was because of too many hits and not because the powers that be at Disney/ABC – the owners of all the “At the Movie” episodes from 1986 through 2010 - have thrown their weight around and filed a lawsuit. For more on the stupidity of Disney/ABC, click on a blog of mine from a year ago).
Siskel and Ebert’s show was part of my life due to my mother’s influence, when in the 1970s we tuned into the show “Sneak Previews” on PBS. We even watched for a while after Siskel and Ebert’s departure, but before long we turned back to the critics we’d grown to love at their new show, “At the Movies.” Always interesting, sometimes enlightening, and almost always entertaining, the weekly show helped to solidify in me what was already becoming a fascination with the movies.
For any of you who missed how insightful and entertaining movie criticism can be, look no further than their 1990 discussion (at minute 14:40) of the anti-Semitism accusations people made of Spike Lee for his film, Mo’ Better Blues. As both a film lover and a Jewish man, Siskel handles the subject deftly, while Roger Ebert displays his innocence by admitting he didn’t even know the characters were supposed to be Jewish (I didn’t either back in 1990). It was a grown-up discussion before the days of the Internet when name-calling and browbeating weren't the norm.
Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert will be missed, with or without a video record of their contributions to film criticism, but what’s mindboggling to me is how a similar show can’t succeed today. Aren’t their two skillful writers out there who’ve got some personality and who can provide movie lovers with a show in the same vein as “At the Movies”? Even an Internet-only broadcast would be acceptable to me. If one exists that I'm simply not aware of, please leave a comment at the end of this blog.
An aside: I should also note that in 2011 I happened to be listening to an Amy Winehouse song at the same time I later found out she was dying, and now Roger dies hours after I watch a review of his. For those of you whose blogs I read, watch out.