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“Gone to the Movies”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 4, 2013

This isn’t really about music, but I did include a lovely sad song that seems appropriate.

The balcony is officially closed.  Roger Ebert passed away today at 70 after a long battle with cancer that saw him lose his physical voice but not his cultural voice.  I am almost as saddened by this news as if I had received word that an old friend had died.  In a way, Roger Ebert is one of my oldest friends.

I started watching At the Movies when I was about 10 or 11.  At the time, it was the only program of its type.  Two critics sitting around talking about movies as if they mattered (the movies, not the guys).  Roger Ebert, along with the late great Gene Siskel, taught me how to watch film.  They showed me that it was possible to look at movies just as seriously as any other art form.  They might not have been the first movie critics to treat film this way, but they were the first ones I ever knew of.  I would lay on my bedroom floor, and watch them argue about what made a particular movie good or bad on my little black & white TV.  I couldn’t yet articulate why, but they were enthralling.  Gene usually favored the crowd pleasers, the mainstream movies that were popular across a wide audience.  Roger was the “artsy” guy, who liked weird and intelligent and difficult films.  (Of course, this segment where they review Blue Velvet finds their roles reversed.  I think they’re both full of shit here, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Blue Velvet.)

They enjoyed arguing, constantly baiting each other over the years.  Siskel and Ebert reviewed movies for rival Chicago newspapers, and had a fractious relationship, to say the least.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the term “frenemy” was coined to describe them.  They were rivals and competitors; they had personal disagreements, as well, sometimes going for months without speaking to each other outside of the At the Movies set.  But they were friends as well, professionals who respected each others work.  When Siskel was diagnosed with the brain tumor that ended his life in 1999, no one was more devastated than Ebert.  They were two peas in a pod, and it was really weird watching Roger go one for those years after Gene died.

Well, now they can get together in the balcony again and argue about movies.  I hope they have a great time.  I know I did.  So long, Roger.  The movies won’t be the same without you.



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