Since I was a very, very young kid, every single weekend my family and I would go to at least one movie, if not three or four after a marathon Saturday. My parents always went to those movies that got three or more stars in the local paper and occasionally a two star one that was getting some buzz or tickled my mom or dad’s particular interest.
We didn’t always watch “At the Movies,” because it was on at weird times during the weekend, but anytime we did happen to catch it I remember really loving it. I also remember how, whether we watched a particular episode or not, there was always such a huge mystique about Siskel & Ebert and their all-knowing thumbs. There was a time when any movie that managed to get the elusive “Two Thumbs Up” undoubtedly wrote that in huge letters on the box when it was released to video. It’s very weird to me to think of a younger generation growing up now who has no idea who Siskel was and no memory of their show in its glory days, since together they were the most prominent movie critics in America.
Anyway, I happened to Google Ebert recently because I randomly remembered him being very ill with cancer a few months ago and wondered how he was doing. I was pleased to learn not only is he recovering, he has a ridiculously active and extensive blog which not only includes reviews of all the latest movies that have come out, but a lot of feature articles about great movies of the past and a write-in movie trivia column that fans send in questions to. Even better, I learned that all of the old tapes of Siskel & Ebert have now been archived at: http://bventertainment.go.com/tv/buenavista/atm/.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to actually watch the full episodes. Instead, the reviews are listed by film titles and you can also browse through by year. I have been really enjoying going back and watching some of their old reviews lately, especially considering that when I first watched them I was 14 years old or younger and I have a much greater appreciation for the nuances of their opinions these days.
I love all things nerdy and there’s nothing that scratches that itch in a more intense way than to watch two ridiculously nerdy guys like Siskel and Ebert, who are both ultra opinionated and obsessively into film, spar like maniacs about whether a movie was a total train wreck or just barely worth watching. It’s nice to know that even though Siskel is no longer with us and Ebert has stopped doing the show, you can still go back and see what they thought of a ton of the older movies and enjoy their total vigor for hating it, loving it, even just vehemently meh-ing it.
I was also very touched to find out just how passionately they both went about their job as film critics. Siskel actually did a few shows via telephone while he was hospitalized and apparently, after being put out of commission for a while due to health problems a few years ago, Ebert is now actually going back and reviewing every movie that he missed. For all their often inflammatory debates, both reviewers shared a real zealotry about the art of having a strong opinion about a movie that I still find intensely great.