Friday, August 03, 2007

On The Web: Siskel & Ebert

More than ten years’ worth of reviews from Siskel & Ebert, beginning in 1985, are now available online. Looking at a few clips reminded me how much of an impact the show had on me during my budding movie buff years. Sometimes the only thing I’d know about an independent or foreign film that wouldn’t play the hinterlands of South Florida would be what Gene and Roger said about it.

Too bad you can’t watch entire episodes. I have vivid recollections of one from June 1987, when Gene’s annoyance that Roger gave a thumbs down to Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket while praising Benji, The Hunted ate away at him throughout the telecast. He kept circling back to it, goading Roger. When they appeared on talk shows that summer, Gene continued to bring it up.

The Full Metal Jacket clip shows both critics at their best. (For the record, I’m with Gene.) Gene Siskel is a classic example of someone who shouldn’t work on television – a vinegary, balding, middle-aged man – taking to it with aplomb.

I stopped watching the show regularly after Gene’s death in 1999. I have tremendous respect for Roger Ebert as a critic and a human being, but it was his tetchy chemistry with Gene that made the program worth watching. For proof, check out the look of disbelief on Gene’s face as Roger famously gives a thumbs up to the Burt Reynolds kiddie comedy Cop and a Half. “Where’s your red suit and beard, Santa, ‘cause you just gave them a gift.”

Miscellaneous: Blow Out the Candles

When I was a kid, my least favorite days of the year were December 25 and August 3. Christmas and my birthday. Because for at least part of those days, I was the center of attention. And believe it or not, I hated being the center of attention.

But that was then, this is now, and I’m starting to warm up to the spotlight. So, for the good of my own mental health: today is my birthday. Hooray for me.