Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Welcome Back, Roger

As I begin my movie blogging adventures, I think it is serendipitous timing that Roger Ebert is back in the spotlight again. He is producing a new movie review show for public television, in the vein of Sneak Previews/At The Movies, a long-running geek-tastic program in which two movie geeks talk about - what else? -  movies. Ebert has been a crucial staple in my movie-going history. I've been reading his reviews since I began studying film -- first as a hobby, later as a film major. He's been writing since the 60's, well before I stepped foot in a movie theater for the first time. He, too, lives and breathes the movies.

Every weekend growing up, I would watch Siskel & Ebert religiously. I remember watching their review of Kingpin and they were going on about how wonderful and refreshing it is find a movie that made them laugh so hard. That movie ended up on both of their Ten Best Films of '96, and it's one of my favorite comedies of all-time. They introduced me to so many movies, ones that I would never have seen without their thumbs of approval. It was as if these two film geeks personally guided me through the history of movies, teaching me how to appreciate the art of the medium.

When Gene Siskel died suddenly of a brain tumor, it was heartbreaking. It was almost like losing a mentor. But the show went on through various incarnations of guest hosts and replacements. Then Ebert later fell ill, and after a few unsuccessful surgeries, he lost his voice. The man still writes; his humor, intelligence and wit remain intact to this day. I watched Richard Roeper and guests, as well as the last group, Michael Philips and A.O. Scott, and enjoyed them all for what they were: a place on television where movie geeks can talk about movies. The spark of Siskel & Ebert was missing, but the passion and appreciation was still there.

Sadly after 35 years, At the Movies was officially cancelled by Disney last year. And now, Ebert is back on screen this weekend with Ebert Presents At The Movies. He may only appear in brief segments of the show (the show is anchored by Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky), but Ebert's fingerprints are all over this thing.

Joe Siegler wrote a highly informative chronicle on the History of At The Movies (click on the link to read). Worth a look if you enjoyed watching the show as much as I did.

It's nice to have balcony back open again.

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