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I Miss Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel
I love movies and I truly miss two men who were my (movie) friends. Although I never met them, I grew up with them. Way back, before there was access to anything on the Internet-before DVD’s and instant gratification for anything, there were these two rather unassuming men on public TV; who sat in a row at a movie theater, showed small clips from new movies releases, and then gave their opinion on them. They were: Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, and I miss them dearly. There were both beautifully articulate men who obviously loved film and loved talking about it. They were nerds and they had no problem with it. Films touched them like a great poem, book, or piece of music and they understood that this art form that they criticized was important. It made you feel or experience something new, or it might evoke in you, a past or present life moment. They were our first mass conduit for film review in this country and their show got bigger and bigger. They changed from local to national TV stations, and I followed them everywhere. Film clips from movies you were jonesing to see we rare on TV, and I ate everyone of them up. I was so happy to see them every week on TV.
Gene was the gentle soul, who tended to be a bit more goofy, but he was an incredibly intelligent man who was easily likable. He was more prone to going with a general audience appeal for his reviews than Roger. Roger was more of an intellectual, who’s command of language in his reviews was succinct and easy to understand. He knew how to convey what he was feeling in his writing. He sometimes came off like he knew better than Gene on the show at times, but I always got the feeling that it was more like a sibling rivalry than anything else. At least a conversation was being conducted, and the two could (slug) it out.
Look, when your are asked to perform a task of any kind, and people are in some form or another, relying on your professional opinion or observation to form what they think of something- there is certainly a sense of importance that comes with that duty to be sure. It is inevitable and a human trait. You are now an expert; someone we hold in some regard in that particular field. They weren’t experts; they were two men who loved film and they wanted to share their passion with us. I bought all of Ebert’ guide books of the previous years best and worst, and I reread them many times.
Siskel and Ebert became popular because they were good at what they did and people enjoyed watching these everyman discuss movies. It was a great idea and forum, and the timing was perfect. (Siskel & Ebert At The Movies) was the new syndicated show they hosted when their small PBS one became popular. thumbs-up, thumbs-down: their signature for see this movie or don’t, became a part of American culture. Hollywood started to pay close attention and hoped that they would give their new movie the thumbs up to boost box office. If you love film, the most wonderful thing they did for cinema, was to promote the smaller movies with limited distribution. Great films like (One False Move) would not have been recognized as well and probably would have disappeared had they not sung it’s praise. They were the champions of hundreds of creative and diverse films, directors, and actors whose success was aided by these two men who loved movies and wanted you to also. They didn’t give two craps about box office; they cared about quality movies we could all enjoy.
I was very sad to hear of Gene Siskel’s passing back in 1999. Read his bio and you will see that he was a loving man, husband and father who had passion and was honest to a fault. He was 53.
Roger Ebert had been ill for some time and had to have his lower jaw removed that left him speechless. With the aid of a vocal device which sounded strangely like him, he made limited appearances, and he carried on with what he loved; reviewing film. He died this year in April; he was 70. Roger won the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975.
I miss these guys a lot.
write by Verity