Finally getting back to the questions of Ask Me Anything! 2009, here are a few answers.
First up, reader and frequent commenter (especially when I give voice to my Inner Liberal!) DaveS asks:
As a movie guy Did you Like Siskel & Ebert? Which one did you prefer?
I loved Siskel and Ebert. Loved ’em. During the 90s, they were usually on where we lived on Sundays at 10:00 or maybe it was 11:00; I watched faithfully. Their main corporate sponsor at the time was, appropriately enough, Orville Reddenbacher Popcorn. As entertaining as it was to listen to them disagree, I got more out of it when they agreed on movies, because that almost always meant that it meant something good. I honestly don’t recall ever seeing a movie that got “Two Thumbs Up!” that I personally didn’t like. I also loved how they didn’t just constrain themselves to the newest blockbusters and major releases; they’d frontload the show with those sorts of films, but toward the end they’d discuss the smaller films, the documentaries, the indie films, the foreign films, and that sort of thing. The show, for just its half hour a week, was never just about how good the newest Schwarzenegger flick was.
There was never anything cynical in the approach Siskel and Ebert took; each man showed a fierce love of film that always shone through, even when they disagreed. I recall one argument the two men had once that led to Ebert saying to Siskel, “I don’t think you wanted to like the movie”, to which a shocked Siskel replied, “How can you say that? I love to like movies!” Lots of critics write with a tone that implies that they are genuinely surprised every time they like a movie; Siskel and Ebert never seemed that way.
As to which man I liked more, I’d probably have to say Ebert, although that’s not so much based on the show as the fact that Ebert has had significantly greater visibility over the years, between his prolific writings on film and the fact that Ebert is still alive. I honestly don’t recall reading much of Siskel’s work, so I have no idea what kind of writer he was. But he and Ebert had a wonderful chemistry that has obviously not been duplicated since, even if Ebert had a decent partnership with Richard Roeper.
There seems to be a consensus that Ebert’s writing has improved substantially since his bouts with cancer rendered him unable to speak. I’m not sure if it has; Ebert’s always been a fine writer. More likely the attention has been focused more on his writing, now that that is his only real avenue for expression.
But yeah: I liked Siskel and Ebert a great deal.
More answers to come!