Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Siskel and Ebert's "At the Movies" final bow

This past weekend was the final show for what was originally a local show, a radio show and eventually a nationally syndicated TV show where these two critics review and appraisal was highly sought after.

This all started in 1975, years before I ever knew about them. I didn't discover them until the '80s and came to love their rivalry and friendship. Until Siskel died. Others have taken over the show since then but because of the internet mostly I would presume, they are really a kind of anachronism now.

About critics. Many people misunderstand what a critic is, or what function they server for us, the viewing public. You do not look for a critic that agrees with your point of view; because that is hard if not impossible, to do. What you want is a critic that is consistent in their view, who will let you know, what you are getting into by seeing a certain film. In having the two of them, you got an even better view.

I got to know, after a while, that even if they both hated a film, I might like it, or if one did for his reason, and the other didn't, for his, I would hate it. Or whatever combination is possible, I could make a decision. They weren't always right but in general, they were. Right, in the way that even if they were wrong, I could make an informed decision on what to do with my free time and money that night. The point is, to be able to know if you will want to pay your hard earned money, more importantly, to spend your valuable free time, to see this film or that film, or not. I have at times, not gone to see a film I wanted to see, went to see a film I hadn't considered and in the end, been pleased I did. All because of these critics' valued opinions.

I hadn't watched the show for a while, but then watched it one day, years ago. It was the same show. But something seemed odd about Siskel. I told people about it. It was like he was drunk, or on drugs. I assumed Ebert was going to be pissed off, thinking, how unprofessional, what with is being so critical of everything (I always agreed more with Siskel's film appraisals).

But that's not what I saw Ebert do. He was, in his one shot, looking at Siskel with a kind of affection, or love, for his partner who was having difficulty speaking. I think of it now and it brings emotions forward in a most uncomfortable and satiating way. I later learned that was one of, if not the, last appearances of Siskel on their show, because he was dying and then passed on, to be seen by his public no more.

It is the passing of yet another era now that their show is no longer being aired. It is a sign of the times, it is a perhaps progressive move into the future, but it is also a sad, melancholy thing to behold. They will, by some of us, be missed. Because even though we have not watched the show in sometime, even though neither of them were on the show anymore, it was comforting, in some way, in knowing they were still out there, their legacy being carried on in some way. But that time has passed, and they will be missed.

I was touched and pleased to hear Siskel's voice once again on the NPR Fresh Air archived interview from 1998.

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