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Time keeps on slip, slip, slippin' away

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1s&e.jpgI sense it's about time to share some of my thoughts about television and movie critics, myself, and the past, present and future of my corner of the critics-on-TV adventure. My friends A .O. Scott and Michael Phillips are well into their first season as the new co-hosts of "At the Movies." Richard Roeper just announced he will be streaming reviews on his web site, and they will re-run a week later on the Starz cable channel. I wish them all good fortune. And good health.

This act of the saga began for me with a call from good Dr. Havey, who had some good news and some bad news. The bad news was that I had thyroid cancer. The good news was that it was the most common kind, which is usually curable by the peculiar treatment of surgery, followed by tossing back a shot glass of radioactive iodine, being isolated for 48 hours and not sitting next to any pregnant women for a month. Enough about that. It worked.


The thyroid removal surgery left me with a slight speech impediment which I tried to deal with by punching out words more forcibly. One side of my mouth drooped a little, and it was recklessly reported online that I'd had a stroke. Diagnosis by video. No such thing.

Follow-up x-rays revealed I had salivary gland cancer, very slow-growing, which had returned after surgery 15 years, as I was told it probably would. I had surgery again in July 2006. Saying goodbye to Chaz in the hospital room were be the last words I would ever speak.


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It was said reconstructive surgery would restore my speech and repair my face. I had three such surgeries. Twice it worked, and Chaz held a mirror so I could regard my face as it had been. All three times, as the doctors say, "it fell apart." No need for additional details. They did their very best.

It became clear I might never return to Ebert & Roeper in a speaking role. I had other ideas for participation. Richard Roeper carried on with guest co-hosts, some of whom had also done me the same favor after Gene Siskel's death in 1999. Our long-standing producer and director, Don Dupree, coordinated this, obviously with a look for good long-term candidates.

I believed that such as Michael Phillips, A .O. Scott, Christy Lemire, Kim Morgan, Lisa Schwartzbaum and a few others were good hopes. Roeper and Dupree thought so too. Most of the guest hosts were possibilities for the permanent job. Certain potential guests were suggested to us by friends. Many agreed, One popular recommendation however said she just wasn't interested in doing TV.

Disney in Burbank, who had been a good company to work with, now had a younger generation less impressed with our history. (We were Disney's first show in syndication, and therefore its longest-running.) The studio was concerned about improving its demographics in younger age segments. After Roeper and I announced we were leaving, Disney had Phillips shoot test segments with Ben Lyons, a young Los Angeles celeb-TV personality. Phillips was a good sport; he was essentially helping to choose his replacement. I heard Lyons was pretty much at sea in debates with him. In way, he wasn't to blame; he'd been recruited despite Dupree's incredulity for a job he was obviously unsuited for, but the infatuated Disney producer was dangling a prize plum.


Ben Lyons at that time had never published a single movie review, and to my knowledge still never has. To put him in my seat was a mistake, and it was not well-received. A full-page story in the Los Angeles Times displayed a huge thumbs-down -- not the opinion of the writer, but the general opinion. I wrote a blog entry, "Roger's Little Rule Book," that never mentioned a critic by name, but...

Our new Disney executive from Burbank had other new ideas. She looked at the balcony set at ABC/Chicago, one of the most iconic set ideas in the history of television history, which had survived for more than half of the life of the medium, and decided it needed to be replaced. Don had offered to donate the similar set we used when we did the show at CBS/Chicago to the Smithsonian, which accepted it, but Disney said no to the Smithsonian.

Now workers tore at our set with sledge-hammers, and it collected in a dumpster in the alley. It was replaced by two sets, one resembling a demo counter at a trade show, the other two nice chairs at an Admirals' Club. (Siskel advised me 25 years ago to buy a Lifetime Pass to that club for, as I recall, $200 at the time. He gave me a lot of useful advice. When I pull out that ancient piece of plastic at a club, I'm treated as if I were George Clooney with his Titanium Pass in "Up in the Air.")


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The first Ben & Ben season did not start well. "Roger," an ABC/Chicago friend called and said, "the first taping is this afternoon, and right now they're repainting the sets. They didn't like the color." Those sets could have been painted like Joseph's amazing dreamcoat and they would have been the same crappy sets.

The show's reviews were not kind. Two websites opened to catalogue Lyon's lapses. I e-mailed Mankiewicz in sympathy, comparing him to the victim of a drive-by shooting. That he remained polite and supportive throughout the ordeal is the mark of a gentleman. I was nowhere near that nice to Siskel, and I loved him.

It was clear that the two Bens would have to go. Roeper and my wife Chaz and I had announced a new show. Would Disney simply pull the plug on theirs and walk away? What, and vacate the "At the Movies" time slots for us to try to grab? Unlikely. Time slots are like chess pieces.

The studio announced the hiring of -- why, A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips, of all people! Michael courteously came over to our house to inform us personally. I e-mailed my congratulations to them both, and in our living room enthusiastically told Michael I would bring back the Thumbs and give the show my endorsement. Disney turned down my offer, explaining that the show had "moved on." That was a sad day for me.


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We were not blowing smoke about our new show. Gathering up Richard, Michael and Christy Lemire (the Associated Press film critic), Chaz and I seemed to have found a welcome at a major syndicator. Unfortunately, its president left. I suspect, but do not know, we fell victim to the ancient Hollywood custom that a new executive must clean house by throwing out his predecessor's projects. Perhaps there was more to it than that. They treated us honestly and fairly, but it was not to be. At about that time, the economy went into free-fall. Roeper & Phillips & Lemire was the show that was never to be.

Now here we stand. Chaz and I still have plans. We still love Christy. She and Chris just had baby boy Nic. Don Dupree has caught fire as assistant news director of CBS/Chicago, helping them to a recent ratings surge. Richard has announced his own plans for his web reviews and Starz. Good luck, buddy.

I confess I felt a twinge that Rob Feder's column quoted you: "As much as I loved doing 'Ebert & Roeper,' this will have much more of an unfiltered, uncut, viral feel. As someone at Starz put it, they wanted 'Roeper uncut.' If a film is a piece of shit, I'll say it's a piece of shit."


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Richard, were you not uncut at E&R? Did you never say a movie was "a piece of shit?" On the web and cable you can use that very word, of course, as you do in your web site's promo for your new enterprise, promising to review "a lot of big movies, and some smaller, shitty ones as well."

Things are better. Ben Lyons has returned to celebrities. Ben Mankiewicz is still at Turner Classic Movies and will prevail. Scott and Phillips are doing exactly what we all advised Disney two years ago they should be doing. Everybody still has the day job.

I still can't speak aloud, but I have the dear Sun-Times and write more than ever. When I try to put things in context, I remember Olympia Dukakis's wise dialogue in Norman Jewison's "Moonstruck." Her husband thinks he's been getting away with cheating on her, and she tells him: "I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else."





As is so often the case, Rob Feder broke the Richard Roeper story.



In a time of shifting sands for movie critics, Roger's Little Rule Book..



Christy Lemire and Richard Roeper disagree about "Lucky You" .


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Kim Morgan joins David Poland and friends for food and a discussion of "Ingluorious Basterds." A variation on Siskel's "I'd rather see a documentary of the same actors having lunch." Few crickets would leave that much food on the table.





Lisa Schwartzbaum and Owen Gliberman of ET disagree on Bruno and sex itself.





Ben Mankiewicz on his third day on the new job.








198 Comments

It's too bad about the set being discarded. What ever would cause them to make a bad decision like that?

You've had, and are still having, an amazing career. This Journal included...

Well, I'd rather read your stuff than listen to anyone else. Thank you for writing.

Roger, the film world needs your voice now more than ever. I look forward to all your future endeavors. Thanks again.

-will1138

I was looking forward to the new show until Michael Phillips joined At The Movies. I thought Disney stole him from you. Maybe you can do a public access Wayne's World review program in your basement. Wait, that's what Roeper is doing.

Is there a television hall of fame? You and Siskel have to be inducted. Just as there will never be another Bob & Ray. The magic of Siskel & Ebert will never be matched.

Peace in.
Peace out.

It's great to finally hear you break your silence about At the Movies, and I think you come across very professional even when talking about Richard Roeper's disastrous first replacements. The Bens both seem like decent people, and to an extent I enjoyed watching them every week, but I think it was best all around to get two of the smartest critics working today to discuss film at a level that the Bens simply couldn't reach. Scott and Phillips are doing a great job in my opinion, and it's refreshing to hear discourse that's on the same intellectual playing field as you, Siskel and Roeper.

I'm hoping that Richard Roeper and you can maintain a close relationship despite his subtext that he can now be himself as opposed to who he was before, which I agree with you doesn't quite make sense. I was 19 when Siskel died, and though I have fond memories of him as a teenager, my more important memories are of Roeper and you, and I think the two of you had such perfect on screen chemistry together.

Siskel and Ebert are a legendary duo revered in television history. Ebert and Roeper, however, is a legacy that can still be maintained and nurtured. As a fan, I wish that you both will somehow find a way to do just that.

Thank you for the insight on my third favorite Chicago television institution. The first two are Bozo and Svengoolie, obviously.

But if I might harp about Mr. Lyons for one moment:

I know it's silly to complain, but, I just completed a degree at the University of Michigan (Gleiberman did also, in fact, I met him several months ago). I wrote film content for The Michigan Daily for four years and am really struggling. Lyons barely finished and was plucked from obscurity. Uhh, me no like.

But, oh well. I'll just keep watching "Quiet Man." These anecdotes about my personal rock stars are most amusing. Thanks.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Roger.

First of all, a correction: Gene died in 1999, not 1989.

I watched the first episode of At the Movies with Ben and Ben and afterwards I said I would never watch another episode until the hosts were replaced. I've watched most of the Scott and Phillips episodes and they are much better hosts. I'm particularly enjoying their Best of Decade lists being revealed week by week. Did you and Gene and/or you and Richard ever consider doing that?

Have you ever considered doing a commentary track for the DVD where your thoughts on the movie would be a subtitle track? Cameron Crowe's wonderful commentary for the Untitled version of Almost Famous is done this way, which I like since I can watch and listen to the movie while reading Cameron and company's quotes.

Ebert: I'll get my hands on that!

Since coming of age, every week I've needed a movie review fix. Had the two Bens NOT been on, I would have never sought out an alternative way to feed my addiction. So thanks to them, I am a podcast-aholic. I especially enjoy the WBEZ-backed show, Filmspotting, which I've called the Siskel and Ebert show of Today. I really enjoy the fact they they can have extended discussions/arguments without the pressure of fitting in time for ads. I imagine it's a lot like when you guys were on PBS.

However with the new team at "At The Movie", this junkie is totally blissed-out.

Many thanks for this, Roger. As a kid growing up in the 70s I spent a lot of time watching you and Gene doing reviews and actually bickering about films. It was great. It was a weekly ritual that my father and I had and one of the great things I remember us doing together as I grew up. I often look back at those moments with great appreciation for what those shows probably did for me and my father in that it formed a great bond centered around discussing movies which continues to this day. (And thank goodness, too, since we can't discuss politics at all.) Choices were limited, and I admit to trying over and over again to find other movie reviews that lived up to my expectations I had formed around you two. Frankly I can't recall any other movie reviewers that stuck with me in my mind aside from Gene Shalit (and I can't even tell you why that stuck with me because his reviews were just lousy standup... wait, maybe that's why it DID stick with me). As I got older I started going to more and more movies, ultimately spending my early 20s as a theater manager in the mid to late 80s (which was a great time to be doing that) so that I could watch all the movies I wanted for free. (We got one day off a week, and guess what I usually did with that day off?) Theater management, though, is a young man's job. A very young man's job, and ultimately I wandered back off to school to study philosophy and learn how to use computers in such a way that I have ended up making a living from it.

Watching movies and being able to approach them both critically as well as charitably is something that I learned from you and Gene and has always stuck with me throughout my life. I have been lucky enough to attend seven of Harry Knowles' birthday parties over the years (affectionately known as the Butt-Numb-A-Thon) and at my first one I was truly reminded exactly what it was like to watch movies as a kid again. It also rekindled my love of discussing movies with people and forming friendships over them and I often remember you and Gene's great heated debates when I would get into such a discussion with my wife or friends.

I am glad that you have posted this great synoptic history of the show and how rebirth sometimes takes a few, shall we say, miscarriages. While I miss the original I am well aware that much of that is me fondly remembering my childhood and you and Gene contributing to it in such a great way.

But, hey, we get older and life moves on with us or without us. I was lucky enough to have your show not only for many years but to be lucky enough to have it formed something remarkably special for me and dad. We still chat endlessly on the phone about movies to this day and it is truly a great connection to have.

I hope the new show can pull it off. Lightning may not strike twice, but it certainly revisits the same geographical area from time to time.

I was born too late, never got watch you and Siskel trade fire. Aw well. But I'm thinking of starting up my own little animated review series with my cousin, on newspaper cartoons. Judging from your show's success, what do you say are the most important things a review series needs to survive?

Sorry if this is too personal a question, but do you use sign language or do you subsist only on your computer voice? Also, were you going to try and do a show speaking on your computer? If so, the only way to convey my respect is to collect and point up the thumbs you cut off for Saw, not to mention my own.

That asked, I hope you get yourself a television show. If it airs in India, you've got one viewer confirmed.

Ebert: Only pigeon sign language.

Thanks for the inside scoop on this, Roger. I never missed Sneak Previews, S&E at the Movies, and Ebert & Roeper, and I faithfully stuck around through Rich and all the guest critics. I had high hopes for Ben & Ben because I think Mr. Mankiewicz is smart and a class act (and I've always enjoyed him on TCM).

But Mr. Lyons was completely out of his depth -- some of his reviews were just laughably ignorant. (Younger demographic is one thing, but juvenile and uninformed is something else.) Anyway, I'm sorry Ben M. was a casualty and have devoutly wished I could tell him how much I liked the job he did.

That said...you were the best, Roger. I miss seeing you on the air, but I'm so glad we still have your erudite written reviews. I don't make a move, movie-wise, without you. Happy Thanksgiving -- you're one of the people for whom I'm truly thankful.

Did I miss something? Some exec wants Siskel and Ebert with "a harder edge"? I seem to remember the two of you calling a bad movie "a piece of shit" without hesitation -- although you did so with more class and a much bigger vocabulary.

And by the way, it doesn't matter about your decibel voice. Your Internet voice is louder than ever and much appreciated in this quarter.

Long live Cyber-Ebert!

How sad that Disney turned down your offer! What the hell is wrong with them? I think this might be the cancer of the studio system, or any corporate system, for that matter: everyone wants to make a name for themselves by doing their own thing, while jettisoning everything that came before. The problem is, you have to root what you do in something that will hold if you decide to break from the past (I hope that makes sense--I'm writing this at midnight my time). Ben Lyons was not that something. A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips are (even if they both liked New Moon, though Phillips did have a point that watching the movies saves you from reading a lot of awful writing. But I'd rather go see Let the Right One In on Netflix, instead. Vampires should never ever sparkle. Ever.).

Anyway, not having a TV show has given you time to write a blog, encourage fellow reviewers (and, in my case, writers), and hopefully devote more time to writing Great Movie Reviews. And host a limerick contest. :-)

Roger, you are a Chicago icon, a Hollywood icon, and a true gentleman. I appreciate your candor in your writing and wish you the best.


"Roger's Little Rule Book." I remember that entry, which, among many a wise word, also included the unforgettable "The delighted Clint Eastwood" photo.

It's a shame the earlier plans didn't pan out, but, as you also point out, the blog has been an exciting new avenue for you, and your readers.

Roger,

Thank you for finally for telling your side of the wild story that was, unfortunately, the last years of At The Movies. I do feel that a lot of "studio Heads" who listen more to demographic than to viewership and good informative television make the worse decisions imaginable. Yet this has always been the way (of course the famous story is When NBC canceled Star Trek because of poor ratings and then a year later started breaking up ratings by demographics and they found out that the younger demographic was the demo to have and Star Trek Excelled in that demo. total reverse story in "At the Movies" case but still demographics and a public service are two different things)

I have always been, i guess you could call it, on the other side of the demo. I watched your show religiously in my Junior high - high school years. If it wasn't for your show I wouldn't have had the profound love for movies nor would I see the more intricate details in movies that would have been missed. If it wasn't for you and Gene, I would have never have heard of Fellini nor Bergman. I would never have seen Citizen Kane for the piece of art that it is (instead of some old black and white movie that everyone says is so great). I would never had been exposed to Stanley Kubrick nor see the true brilliance that was Saturday Night Fever (Thanks Gene). Nor would I have heard about Tarantino (even though I would have to say that he has yet to equal or beat the quality that was Pulp Fiction)

When the two Ben's came on the scene I cringed every time Lyons did a review. I felt that he was not genuine. Didn't see films as art but more as...dare I say...a past time. I felt that he was the type of person that would go to a movie, always with a friend cause he would never go alone, people would think that he has no friends, and when the film was over he would turn to his friend and say that was good or that sucked and then go a grab a beer at the local club. I'm sure that there is more to him than that but that was the aura that he was giving off thru the TV towards me. But then he asked to see my movie via Twitter. He hasn't let me know what he thought of it but I doubt that he even saw it.

I'm very glad that the show has gone back to becoming the public service that it set out to be. A celebration of film and to let the public know what to look out for and what to miss. It's still not the same without you or Gene on it but, alas, it will have to do. Hopefully it will inspire and inform other young kids like it did when I was a lad.

“Disney in Burbank, who had been a good company to work with, now had a younger generation less impressed with our history…. The studio was concerned about improving its demographics in younger age segments.” – Roger

Sometimes, change is for the better. And then there are times when it just plain sucks and for reasons which don’t seem to be improving, at least not in the States. Namely; the extent to which youth dictates all and because America is a consumer based society and money is their religion. And at this current rate of pandering, it won’t be long before everything is aimed at a 13 year old.

Oh, wait a minute… Twilight: New Moon – already there!

“I saw your review for the new movie "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." You have a lot of nerve!! I remember when you and Siskel reviewed the movie "The Accidental Tourist" and gave it four stars, and with that recommendation I went and saw it, and you know what? It was the BIGGEST PIECE OF **** known to man! I decided from that day that I would not listen to you or Gene Siskel and save my money. So, for the next year or so, I did not go to the movies and today, I use my formula: wait two months after a movie comes out and spend the $1 at RedBox to rent it if I dare. Thanks, Roger, thanks for making people not want to go to the movies.” – Joe Flambe, question for Answer Man

Yeah, Roger! Don’t you know telepathy is part of your job as a Film Critic? :)

Side note: I think Joe is a spoiled teenage brat in disguise, but that’s just me, always suspicious. But how else to account for such reasoning? Which is truly frightening by the way, owing to the sense of sheer self-entitlement it reveals, not to mention mental laziness. And while I don’t think it’s typical of what’s out there, I don’t think it’s an exception to it, either.

More than ever now, people want to know in advance if they’re going to like a movie or not – but it’s never worked that way! It’s always been a roll of the dice; likes and dislikes are too subjective. Roger can’t know in advance what you personally don’t like so to specifically warn you, eh?

“Dear Joe, don’t bother going. Everyone else, it’s okay!” – Ebert

WTF?

Little wonder things end-up looking the way they do, if Networks are catering to such sensibilities. Or worse, share them on some level for being a byproduct of the same crap that went into the making of it. Hell, at this point I’m surprise “At the Movies” doesn’t look like a Japanese Game show – ‘cause Anime is big, right? Kids like anime and flash based cartoons, right?? Sigh.

Note: I say this because I liked the balcony seats! It sucked when they changed them. Half the fun was thinking you were sitting there too – listening in. And if no one else was around, talking back to the TV set and arguing with whichever critic you disagreed with that week; smile. But that’s an old lament, I know. We all miss Siskel & Ebert. (I’m still hoping to find those two little B/W movies you guys made with a pair of Panasonic Pixelvision camcorders, as part of a 1986 ish Christmas Video Gifts special!)

“Kim Morgan joins David Poland and friends for food and a discussion of "Inglourious Basterds." A variation on Siskel's "I'd rather see a documentary of the same actors having lunch." Few crickets would leave that much food on the table.” – Ebert

Crickets?

Note: I watched all the clips – although “Christy Lemire reviews Twilight” wouldn’t play for me. But I found it on You Tube instead and that played okay!

I appreciated how articulate Kim & Co. were about movies and “Basterds” in particular but… well… too many cooks in the kitchen, etc. And they didn’t seem entirely comfortable at the table; where none of the food was touched! That distracted me, too. If you’re not talking, your hand should be reaching for some free food, dammit.

Anyhoo and although I’m curious enough to take the odd peak at what another critic writes, if I want to know about a movie, I invariably read you. As even if I decide in the end it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, there’s always the pleasure to be had in the reading of it. And the only voice needed to do that, is the one you never lost.

If I could, I sneak into the T.A.R.D.I.S. and go back in the time and fix everything! You and Gene would still be doing your reviews and happily arguing over them, Bush would be selling used cars in Texas (never having made it to the White House) 9/11 never would have happened, or Iraq or Paris Hilton or Sarah Palin or any of that stuff. Instead, pot would be legal, making a profit off healthcare not, everything would have gone green, gardens would be everywhere even on rooftops and inside buildings, Artists would be running the planet and there’d be no more Wars because everyone’s soul would be too full to want it. Music would be everywhere, and gummybears and ice cream too!

And Harold and Maude would be playing at Ebertfest.

Oh yes, I’d fix it all. :)

I loved watching Siskel and Ebert, and I was 20 when it first aired-- probably just the demographic Disney was trying to cater to years later when they destroyed the show. (The thought of taking a sledgehammer to that set breaks my heart.) A wagging finger of shame at Disney.

Don't even get me started on Ben Lyons. You don't get to be a movie critic just because your father was one. We fought a war with England over that.

Not a very happy read. Sad to know that one of my childhood institutions fell victim to the predictable corporate machinations of dimwits.

Indeed, we do all die eventually. Every damn last one of us.

Thank you, sir, for all of your contributions online, in print and on television. I grew up with you and Siskel and you guys led me to film criticism in general. I became a much more well-rounded movie buff and came this close to becoming a film critic myself. I couldn't hack all the bad movies, though, and so remain a happy amateur. I was lucky enough--in the early 90s--to briefly correspond with Gene Siskal on the then new online service Prodigy (online dinosaur times). So it is great to be able to at least leave you the occasional comment on your blog. This journal is one of the best-written on the web. Thanks again.

I love reading your retrospective, enjoyed the Scorsese clip -and I now have new movies that I want to see.

Life sometimes takes us on a strange journey. No matter what, as King Solomon said, " This to shall pass". Please be well and keep writing.

Funny you should bring this up. I will sometimes watch Reelz channel especially when it is spotlighting a director or, in this case, is showing Phillips and Scott going at it. I had never seen them before and I believe I was lucky to catch the program at all since it was wedged between that weeklong gagathon on Twilight – clearly aimed at a “demographic” not my own. Anyway, I was reminded in some ways of At the Movies, a show I used to look forward to every week.

Lines were drawn among my group of friends: Which band was better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Who really should have won Best Picture, Goodfellas or Dances With Wolves? And which film critic spoke truth, Siskel or Ebert? That kind of thing; it was always a debate. You were my two thumbs up guy, Roger. I found over the years that you rarely steered me in the wrong direction and, pretty much, though I loved to listen to him, I often wondered which movie it was that Gene had actually been watching when he offered up his reviews. I came away from Phillips and Scott with a similar sense. One of them had my number, so to speak, and the other was from another solar system entirely. It was great fun.

I love movies, always have. They take me on a journey, sometimes magnificent and sometimes not so much, but always interesting in its own way. In some circles, and I believe you may know what I mean, November is thought of as “gratitude month”. I thought I would express mine to you. Thank you for all of your hard work, your humor and bravery, and the wonderful roads your suggestions have taken me down over these last decades. I would not have wanted to miss a single moment of it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Roger.

One of the fun things about the Internet is googling, though its competitor Microsoft's (MSN) spell check doesn't recognize the word 'google' and wants you to correct it to 'goggle.' Also the same system doesn't recognize either 'Barack' or 'Obama" (it tells you to change Obama to 'Obala', whatever that is.

So I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about the very attractive gate crashers at the President's first White House State Dinner (the total breach of security), and 'googled' Jerry Berliant, the champion gatecrasher of our time and before I knew it I was reading Roger's blog (for the first time ever). He is indeed a fabulous writer (not just his movie reviews) and I enjoyed every story. If he hasn't put together a volume of his blogs, self edited, I hope he does. And one of my upcoming New Year's resolutions is hopefully to spend part of a fun afternoon with Roger (at least fun for me) as he is the only person I know in Chicago (or anywhere else) who knows as much (or more) about London as I do.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things, and I am thankful for Roger Ebert among them. I first knew him when they used typewriters at the Sun Times, and yelled 'copy', and probably haven't seen him since we've both had our little health challenges. Even if we don't have a visit, I treasure his written words.
To quote the late Harold Washington, Roger is simply 'sui generis', and I mean that in a totally positive sense.

Frankly, I don't what kind of non-compete clause you have Roger, but I think you should have a weekly or even monthly show with a prominent Hollywood actor, actress or director reading an essay(s) by you. I can just see Meryl Streep or Dustin Hoffman, Densel Washington or aClint Eastwood, reading your words. Even maybe Jerry Berliant - but only once.

And this idea pans out please make sure you give me a 'fair' finder's fee. Whatever you think is fair is fine with me.

I miss the days when movie reviews were about the movies and not the person reviewing them.

As much as it was Siskel & Ebert or Ebert & Roeper, the show was always about the movies and your opinions on them. No fancy set was needed, who really cared? I always liked the theatre set, it felt more real.

I haven't seen the new version at all, I am not even sure if I get it in Canada, not that I have looked very hard.

As for my own memory, one of my favourite interactions with you and Gene was over "Cop and a Half". The set didn't matter and maybe it wasn't "edgy" but it sure was fun to watch.

My sisters and I used to tune into Sneak Previews every week on PBS (channel 2 Boston) back in the day. We watched it for the clips and the reviews of course, but deep down inside we were always hoping for a great Siskel & Ebert fight to break out.

Love that old picture of you and Gene, by the way. The only thing that could make it better is if Gene were twisting the end of his 'stache.

You know Roger, I loved your show, but I think that you can't capture lightning in a bottle here. The medium is obviously changing, and I think the "movie review show" could never reach the heights that you and Sir Siskel have created. I love A.O. Scott, but you can't create a relationship ad hoc, even if Phillips and Scott are credible reviewers.

I think you should look online for some good teen movie reviewers or bloggers and license the thumbs to a new generation of media creators. The newspaper industry is changing so much that the weight of the Trib or the NYTimes just doesn't carry much in the new generation.

Imagine the legitimacy you'd be giving Online Media if you did that.

The next Siskel and Ebert won't come from a newspaper. They'll be online.

DR


Et tu, Roger?

I had hoped you'd never use the horrid term "cricket," much in vogue with bloggers, to refer to film critics. But I see it above in a cutline.

Is this how you now view your profession? As an insect mindlessly chirping in the dark?

Ben Lyons is a cricket.

You sir, are a critic.

Calling a movie 'shitty' is not edgier; it's easier. The dropping of the 's-bomb' in his promo seems more scripted than an SNL skit, unless Roeper is truly a font of joyful cussing in real life. That can be musical in itself, but in his promo, it seems about as natural as Kevin Costner's British accent.

Roger,

Your journal entry reflecting your opinions on the glorious past, present and infamy of AT THE MOVIES brought back a memory to THE FUTURIST! Years ago ... many years ago ... while working at a business that enabled THE FUTURIST! to use a "company" phone to call anywhere he pleased, THE FUTURIST!, as a dedicated fan of your program with Mr. Siskel, decided to use the corporation "dime" to call Chicago and see if he could verbally tell his favorite critcs how much he enjoyed their illuminating show. Roger, you were the first choice to call, due to the fact, in THE FUTURIST!'s mind, that you seemed the more approachable and seemingly kindhearted. The Sun-Times was reached, but THE FUTURIST! was told you were unavailable that afternoon. Having the uninterrupted opportunity to try another call, THE FUTURIST! attempted to reach Mr. Siskel at The Tribune. It was a more anxious call, because Mr. Siskel seemed more irascible and, perhaps, standoffish from his appearance on your program. The Tribune receptionist (or whomever) picked up the phone and THE FUTURIST! asked to be connected to Gene Siskel. Shock ensued after she happily said "One moment" and made the connection.

Mr. Siskel answered within one ring. THE FUTURIST! nervously said hello and then in one breath began a run on sentence filled with appreciation and over used adjectives about your show and both of you as hosts and critics. Mr. Siskel was wonderfully kind and seemed a bit taken aback by the praise. He asked questions about favorite parts of the show and recent reviews. There was no arrogant tone or dismissal in his voice. He was patient and thankful. After talking for a few minutes, Mr. Siskel thanked THE FUTURIST! for the kind words and the call ended.

To some this may seem silly to recount as a fond memory, but your original PBS show was never missed and Mr. Siskel and yourself brought some great films to attention; films that many would never have bought a ticket to or sought after on video. THE FUTURIST! has always loved film and AT THE MOVIES, in its original incarnation, enriched that love with intelligence, education and humor.
And Gene Siskel was sorely missed. Your hosting duties with him were never matched, due to your perfect chemistry of mixed love for each other, your refreshing honesty and, oft times, the mutual hostility.

Thank you.

You mean that S&E wasn't filmed in a real movie theater's balcony? I mean, I always knew something was fishy when none of the multiplexes I went to had balconies, but I was fooled regardless.

The problem with the new At the Movies set was indeed its sparkly newness. While the Ebert and Roeper set didn't exactly have the same charm as the Siskel and Ebert one, it was still recognizable as a movie theater, dammit. The new one looked like something you'd see at the top of the screen on the TV Guide channel.

You mean that S&E wasn't filmed in a real movie theater's balcony? I mean, I always knew something was fishy when none of the multiplexes I went to had balconies, but I was fooled regardless.

The problem with the new At the Movies set was indeed its sparkly newness. While the Ebert and Roeper set didn't exactly have the same charm as the Siskel and Ebert one, it was still recognizable as a movie theater, dammit. The new one looked like something you'd see at the top of the screen on the TV Guide channel.

You may be silent but we can still hear your voice through your writing. And today that's one of the things I'm thankful for.

I agree with Michelle. I'm thankful for all your writing, Roger. Keep up the good work.

Because of warm memories of Siskel and Ebert, the new show hasn't grabbed me as yet, but at least it is watchable. The Ben and Ben show wasn't. In fact, I often cursed if I accidentally saw a bit of it.

It was obvious that Lyons was hired because of who his father is, always a dumb reason to hire somebody.

Enough negativity. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for having had Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert as my own personal movie advisors.

Quite honestly, the draw of "At The Movies" was never for film review. The dialogue between you and Mr. Siskel was just fun to listen to. Even now, I like reading your review after I see a movie, and see how you break it down, skewer it or praise it. That's where the fun was for me.

It's been said that Richard Roeper falls into the common trap of movie critics, which is to spout out clever one-liners, rather than relying on the love or hate of a movie to be the driving force. He's a good and competent reviewer, however, and an interesting, funny guy.

I bring that up to this: certain movies can't be recreated, we all know that. Casablanca cannot and should not ever be remade with new actors. This is both the blessing and curse "At The Movies" has. You and Gene are the Clark Gable and Carrey Grant of movie critique. While that secures your position as legends, it makes it impossible for anyone else to try to recapture that glory.

At The Movies was a simple idea, and fresh for it's time, being the first show to have two reviewers sharing their views on movies. But it wasn't simply the plot that made this popular, it was the characters that brought it to life, played by actors who come around once in a lifetime.

Still, I wish the dream continuing on the Siskel & Ebert legacy success, and if possible, however difficult, surpasing the legend of "At The Movies".

Peace.

I grew up in Chicago watching Siskel & Ebert in the 80s, learning about films and film criticism at the feet (as it were) of the best. I'm now fortunate enough to be living in London and working in journalism here, writing book and film reviews, and doing film reviews for the BBC, and your work remains a benchmark. This is a depressing tale indeed, but it doesn't undo the importance of what you and Siskel pioneered. There are many of us who are grateful and who appreciate your passion, your skill, your expertise, and your professionalism. Thank you for helping me learn how to think about films. I look forward to reading your work for many years to come, and I hope you and yours have a very happy thanksgiving.

Ebert: Sarah Churchwell! I know your work online! It was great to spot your name.

Don't be a stranger around here. This is a very classy blog, despite the 904 entries in the limerick contest. And even at was classy! How often do you find the Life of Edward Lear told in limerick form and illustrated with his landscapes, birds and botanicals?

I concede it disappointed me that not a single one of the 904 said anything about my work. Noooo...t was all limerick, limerikck, limerick.

It is of course hard to let go of the past, but I am going to quote my stepmother who grew up in Urbana, Illinois and met Gene Siskel in the late 1970s. She is a writer and has a couple of books published.

"we must create new memories."

She said this after our family recently went through drastic changes. One of my best memories as a child in the 1980s was watching Gene and Roger every weekend with my dad.

Roger being able to communicate with his readers through the internet, continuing to write reviews, and still being around is of course amazing and we can be thankful for it. These can be called new memories.

I also remember when Jeffrey Lyons and Neal Gabler replaced Gene and Roger at PBS. I was wondering if Roger has spoken to Jeffrey Lyons about all the recent changes to the show. I think I read somewhere that Jeffrey Lyons was trying to defend his son, but as Roger already stated, all is good and Ben still has his job.

Thanks for the memories Roger.

Your experience with Disney reminds me slightly of mine at GE. I started out there in 1968 working with and for giants and ended up ... well, no use being bitter, I'll try to emulate your attitude. I'll just share one minor anecdote from my last years there. A colleague came back to his desk after a meeting shaking his head and saying, "They have a new word for experience at GE now. It's called 'baggage'."

Sometimes I agreed with you and sometimes I agreed with Siskel. I never agreed more with you than during the show when you two reviewed "Silence of the Lambs", one of my favorite movies of all time - but in retrospect, Siskel was prescient. He objected on the grounds that the movie glorified serial killers. I thought the movie made plain that Dr. Lector, although clever, was an evil monster, but sure enough, there are serial killers everywhere you look on TV now - even a drama, "Dexter", in which a psychopathic serial killer is the hero. I think "Silence of the Lambs" started that, and Siskel saw it coming.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and keep up the good work letting me know about the good movies out there - although they rarely come to my local cineplex.

I know it sounds horrible, but not as many people are as lucky as you, to still have a job and especially at your age actually be enjoying it. I would have very much liked to have seen you avidly defend some movies on television, that needed defending in the last year or so, Knowing could have gained from your vocal help. I like watching you argue with Gene and Roeper those where your most organic videos. Who do you think you disagreed with most often between the two?

As Mutt says "You're pretty good in a fight... What are you like 80?"

"Life loses its dynamism from the moment we lose the passion with which to live it. No matter what our age, we cannot afford to let the flame within our heart grow dim. We do not become unhappy because we grow old. We become unhappy only when we grow ever more unwilling to change as we age"....Daisaku Ikeda

The original Sneak Previews was a family event in our home, back in the day when there were only a few channels. I credit Roger and Gene for my understanding and appreciation of what makes a film great--thank you for that. Though you don't talk anymore your voice is still widely heard and your opinion is still highly regarded and always thought-provoking. Thanks Roger!

And we still occasionally talk about Spot the wonder dog!

Thank you, Roger, for giving us the straight dope on your TV-show project. We had wondered.

Much is written about your not being able to speak, and a fair amount about your appearance (you look quite jolly to me, although I will concede that you should probably avoid those children who have clown phobias). It is more seldom mentioned that you can't eat any more, either, and that must be annoying for you on this, the most food-oriented of holidays. Some years back, you were in a stretch of some months in which you could speak perfectly well, but you couldn't eat. At the CWA in Boulder, you spoke with some bitterness about the corn-sweetened goop you were reduced to ingesting. I hope that, this time around, you've come upon a slightly less odious source of nutrition. And I hope that you can enjoy the smells of food without being tormented.

I join everybody in giving thanks that you continue to be here. I envision you with friends and family, enjoying your ritual viewing of "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles". Happy Thanksgiving!

"The studio was concerned about improving its demographics in younger age segments." Once again, we see how demographics theories poison everything they touch.

Dear Mr. Ebert,

I just want to say that I have learned so much about movies (and other stuff) from your reviews. Not the TV reviews but the ones on your website. Reading you is always a pleasure. I pretty much read your website every day. And now your blog.

Best wishes.

If anybody needs a filter, it's Richard Roeper! He's like a tiny yapping dog that never shuts up. I used to hate watching him on Media Creatures with Rick Kogan because he never let Kogan get a word in edgewise. I'm sure his new web venture will have a more viral feel to it... just like having the swine flu.

Ben Lyons is an embarrassment, and I'm glad to finally hear the whole story of how the execs behaved. The part about the set being fed to the dumpsters seems especially sad.

ROEPER NOW 3 YEARS YOUNGER THAN SISKEL WHEN HE DIED

Richard Roeper has turned 50, this column has learned by reading Robert Feder's blog post at http://www.vocalo.org.

Roeper apparently agreed with Homer Simpson's assessment of himself as Roger Ebert's "kiss-ass new partner" because Roeper now has embarked on a venture with a subscription-based movie channel that "will have more of an unfiltered, uncut, viral feel. If a film is a piece of sh--, I'll say it's a piece of sh--," said Roeper, who implied he was muzzled by Ebert, who has now been muzzled himself through disease. (If you would like a rendition of the aforesaid without the bad taste but with the bad taste of the expletives included, read Robert Feder's blog post at http://www.vocalo.org)

Roeper's new venture with Starz ends his long search for a new partner. He had been reading the obituaries for the last 16 months since his syndicated movie review deal fell through. At one point it looked as though he had a deal to replace the late Louis Teicher of the piano duo of Ferrante & Teicher when Roeper read of Teicher's death in August 2008, but then Art Ferrante died in September of this year.

"Sometimes the window is open for such a short time. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of a timely death. Mayor Daley the first could not have ascended to power had it not been for at least a couple of deaths above him on the political ladder," a source said. "It's part of the great Chicago tradition."

Ebert: Hey, Bruce, my favorite value-added sportscaster. I'd watch you on a day with no sports news. In fact, I'd prefer that.

It is unfortunate that Hollywood controls things from afar and sometimes the way things should be don't always happen.

I was really sad, when you left the show (but I understood). When you don't like a movie, YOU DON'T LIKE A MOVIE, and I always enjoyed hearing you present that case. Even if it was a movie that I liked.

But at least you still write and for that I am very great full. You have no idea how much I look forward to reading your reviews. Hell, every week I check early Wednesday to see if you put them out early.

To me, you are the smartest movie critic I've ever read. And more than not, when you rave a movie, I look forward to it even more.

I've never done anything like this, posting a comment on someone's blog, but I felt it was necessary since I respect you wholly.

I'm not that religious, so I can't come here and say I'm gonna pray for you. But you will be in my thoughts forever.

Thank you for giving me something smart, funny, educational to read every week. To quote one of my favorite sayings:

Good Night, And Good Luck.

Mr. Ebert,

I will never, ever be able to say enough or even fully, of the massive impact you and your words have had upon my life. I can still hear your voice--so thankfully, I can still hear it.

Thank you for this post, dear sir, as I have happily begun watching the show again. To see A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips in those seats makes me proud that the legacy you and Siskel began has carried onwards in the right way.

You and Gene introduced something to film criticism that had not been seen before, or since for that matter, and that was a very real, palpable sense of suspense and drama. Concord or discord and to what degree. This was the hook that got our attention, the hook that pulled us into a world where film is intelligently and thoughtfully considered. And of course, we know that drama and suspense don't mean a damn thing unless we care about the characters. Well, we did, and we do. Much thanks.

I can't count the number of movies I never would have heard of, the directors I never would have discovered, and the genres I might never have dabbled in had your work not been around as I was growing up. To paraphrase something you once said about Dead Man Walking (another great film I saw on your recommendation), your reviews have always ennobled film criticism. And now your journal ennobles blogging. Come what may, you have the rare distinction of actually being a legend in your own time. Happy Thanksgiving, from a lifelong fan.

I find it interesting that most of the people who have commented began watching Siskel and Ebert when they were rather young. I myself probably began watching it when I was 9 or 10. Sure, I watched it then for the clips of films and not for the reviews, but over the years I began to listen to the reviews and learn about film. Skewing to a younger demographic does not have to mean pandering to youth. Hiring someone like Ben Lyons did that, it pandered. Why is it that big studios think that because you're young you're stupid? This thought pattern is making youth stupid. Why learn when everything is dumbed down for you? This practice is insulting in the cruelest way. It's assuming that not only do young people not understand, but that they can't understand and don't want to.
Ask a 19 year old about a film made twenty years ago and they'll likely say, "that was before I was born." What does that even mean, that the film can't exist because they didn't? It's getting scary how uninformed kids are today. We need to change this by giving them the benefit of the doubt, they just might be able to learn. Give them the chance.
Today's rant was brought to you in part by the fact that The Road won't be opening at my local theatre because New Moon is taking up 50% of the screens.

One of the things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving is your blog (and you!) Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Criticism is best in writing where you can't see anyone.

For what its worth, Roger, what you have written and moderated here has taught me (and I'm guessing many others) more about movies, politics, religion, science, art, etc.. than your show did.

I've read things on your blog (including many of the comments) that have changed the way I thought. I've also met two good friends in person, Stanley Dancer and Randy Masters. I don't make friends easily, so this is really saying something.

Happy Thanksgiving, Roger. We both have a lot to be thankful for, don't we?

David

I first started reading Roger Ebert when I was 13 years old and I started religiously watching the show when I was about 14.

That Disney would throw out your show after so many years on air just like that...unthinkable. An institution like that, done away with in the blink of an eye, just cause some genius executives decided it didn't appeal to the "younger demographic". That speaks volumes about Hollywood.

And that Ben Lyons was Roger Ebert's replacement! That's like replacing Picasso's paintings on a museum wall with an 7th grader's work.

This whole story is hilarious. It sounds like a plot line of Entourage.

What "younger demographic" did they think they were reaching?! Any young person interested in film criticism would have zero interest in watching Ben Lyons! Young people into movies *want* to see two middle aged reporters who know their stuff.

Unlike you, Ben Lyons has no fans of his own and, if he does, they wouldn't be interested in seeing him review films.

By putting Ben Lyons on a review show, they made a show for no one.

Ebert: I wonder if our new producer hoped to reach a demographic no more interested in the movies than she was.

This made me think of how everything changes from what we expected in our youths. Not sure if that was the message...

After watching the discussion on Inglourious Basterds, I can tell that many are still having trouble grasping what the movie is about, myself included. I do have one speculation, however, and I am just throwing it in for the heck of it even though I am probably going to inspire more questions than answers.

So there are three characters in Inglourious Basterds that are trying to stand out among the sea of references Tarantino juggles around throughout the movie. Shoshanna is trying to become more than a Jewish victim(Shoshanna's usual role if Inglourious Basterds is a more conventional film) of Hitler's actions and actually try to kill Hitler. Zoller is trying to be more than a Nazi who killed a bunch of Allied soldiers and actually try to show his human side through chasing Shoshanna. Hans Landa wants to be more than just "the Jew Hunter" and be a detective whose standing rivals Sherlock Holmes. In the end though, film is too powerful(another theme of Inglourious Basterds), and Shoshanna, Zoller, and Landa are overwhelmed by World War II, World War II movie conventions, and their own original stereotypes. This creates a poignancy that I found incredibly moving as I watched Inglourious Basterds - especially when Shoshanna and Zoller...well...I will leave it at that...

Marie Haws wrote:
If I could, I sneak into the T.A.R.D.I.S. and go back in the time and fix everything! You and Gene would still be doing your reviews and happily arguing over them, Bush would be selling used cars in Texas (never having made it to the White House) 9/11 never would have happened, or Iraq or Paris Hilton or Sarah Palin or any of that stuff. Instead, pot would be legal, making a profit off healthcare not, everything would have gone green, gardens would be everywhere even on rooftops and inside buildings, Artists would be running the planet and there’d be no more Wars because everyone’s soul would be too full to want it. Music would be everywhere, and gummybears and ice cream too!
And Harold and Maude would be playing at Ebertfest.

Can I live in your world?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (even if you don't celebrate it)!!

I always thought there was a great show, if only you could put

Spike (Richard Roeper with his goatee and spiky haircut)

across the aisle from

Richard Roeper, Sun Times columnist

and let them argue the merits from a schizophrenic's viewpoint. Maybe for a special April Fool's show.

My personal gripe was the Writer's Strike, which brought the number of high concept projects down. This summer, only Hasbro Toys seemed to have new movies. This Christmas, Avatar and Sherlock Holmes aren't exactly a Bonanza. (Do we really need more aliens who look like rail-thin supermodels? ET started ugly and wound up iconic.)

Next summer, the movie industry will be back in business, and that's when you should launch a new show.

Interview the writers. In fact, go around Hollywood and interview writers who are trying to get projects off the ground. I remember when Steven Spielberg called Michael Crichton and asked, "What are you working on?" Crichton said "Dinosaurs" and complained that he hadn't found a better genre than a theme park that spirals out of control. Crichton had the image of "Jurassic Park" in his head, and it would be fascinating to hear the "before the studio got involved" version in his own words.

All this talk of looking around for good movie reviewers, I can't stay silent. I LOVE Carina Chocano's reviews! She worked for the LA Times for a while, though she's no longer there. I was disappointed when I saw no more new work on their website. I know you're not scouting for writers, but I couldn't have this subject go by without mentioning her name. A search on latimes.com will turn up several movie reviews.

Roger, you are the best critic I've ever seen, going back to the days with Gene, because after your review I *always* know whether I will like the movie or not. What more could I possibly want from a critic? Add in the wondrous Great Movie reviews, the Answer Man...movie heaven. Disney clearly has forgotten that quality always sells.

I was going to say that I wasn't surprised by Disney's overwhelming myopia, but, on thinking a bit longer, I realized I was surprised after all. I'm surprised they didn't replace you with Mickey and Iron Man, and set it at an ESPNzone, that would be about their speed...

Roger, as far as I'm concerned, you're the only film critic who matters, in any format. I watched you and Gene beginning when I was 12 years old, and your reviews always mattered to me. The rest of these guys .... I just don't give a crap. I'm glad we still have you, in whatever form or fashion. You helped me to realize very early on that it was OK to think that a big-budget, hugely popular film might indeed be a piece of junk, and that a smaller movie that nobody ever heard of might be the year's best. I started looking at movies in a completely different way once I became aware of Sneak Previews with you and Gene. I do wish the "new crop" of critics luck, because God knows we do need intelligent, useful, insightful film commentary, but they will always be just a pale imitation of ... Siskel & Ebert! Best.

It's Thanksgiving Day afternoon, and here I sit going over Roger Ebert's archives.

(WHEN are the spellcheck people going to fix it so that "Ebert" is recognized?)

My excuse is a) they're great fun, b) I'm alone. Catt's with the whole brood a couple states away and I have to watch the animals. No I won't hire anybody else. I don't trust anybody else. PS the thing I really miss is little pumpkin kids to romp around with.

Just finished reading "Siskel & Ebert at the Jugular," 11/19/08. Also Roger's earlier paean to Gene. Who are these two guys (they'll never be past tense), how did they work and why won't there ever be a pair like this again?

It seems to me the first movie I went to see on Roger and Gene's recommendation was from "Sneak Previews," stumbled across on a sultry afternoon like this one, tho' a Sunday -- on a black and white TV, no less... was it... what was it... had seen a couple three of their shows by then...

Star Wars. They reviewed Star Wars. I Remember Gene praising John Williams' score (And later, Tom Snyder of the Tomorrow pointing out that if you turn the sheet music upside down, you get the melody for "Born Free"). I haven't seen any lines so long waiting to get into any movie since 1977. Have lived in much larger towns since then.

Siskel & Ebert left "Sneak Previews" and along came... Neal Gabler and Jeffrey Lyons. Later, Michael Medved. But as soon as we could tune back into S&E, wherever they'd moved, the harder it was to remember even John Williams' name, let alone Gabler and Lyons and Medved, whose names I just now had to look up. It's not that "Siskel and Ebert" is all that sonorous a mnemonic. "Gabler and Lyons" is probably more a sonorous neurolinguistic mnemonic (that's even more fun that figuring how to use "numismatist" in a sentence, Rodge), but it didn't help their ratings any better than numerology would have. Any two names out of the phonebook would have worked for Gene and Roger.

Not that the replacements weren't talented, but... they seemed more prettyboy than personality, even then. I can't remember a thing about them... and years later now I'm not the least bit interested in what Michael Medved has to say about anything. I've tried. Sorry, but his writing is too shallow. Gabler? J. Lyons? No idea what's become of them, hope they're fine.

Roger's essaying about it rejected the pop biz term "chemistry," and I'd agree. There's simply no way this formula could ever be repeated. Maybe what was magical about it was that the pair of them together were so un-magical. Here's bald uncle Joe and fat Uncle Tim arguing about something after T'giving dinner, and since they both happen to care what they're talking about, it's really interesting. They're not checking the time nor are their careers running through their heads in the background.

Drinking coffee as I write. I've got a big barrel to collect rainwater for coffee. My coffee is evil, more powerful than a speeding espresso. When it snows and melts into the barrel, which it has, it makes it even better. Col. Jack Ripper was right about rainwater, boy. It's wonderful, alone or mixed with anything.

But this tastes... how can coffee taste... a little gummy?

Oh lord. Because the horses have nosed through the dust-screen on top of the barrel and they've been slurping it up too, is why... I've got horse goo in my coffee... I will not throw up. I will not throw up. These horses are sweet and good and healthy. I will not throw up.

And here are two of them at the door this moment, reminding me it's feeding time... two states away, Catt and brood are chowing down on tasty things that aren't fortified 12 different ways with happy horse goo...


I remember back in 2006 when you didn't come back from surgery as expected and how it was a really big downer for me. When the weekly movie reviews stopped coming in it was like one of the greatest outlets for my interest in film was gone; I kept reading reviews and articles trying to find more cinema outlets but in the end, it was never quite the same.

When I first heard that Roeper was being replaced by the two Ben's, I immediately looked up both the credentials of the new batters. Ben Mankiewicz I found suitable, accredited with Turner Movie Classics. Ben Lyons, to my horror, worked with E! Hollywood entertainment. I thought it was some sick joke Disney executives were pulling, trying to appeal to the "new generation" of movie goers by slapping on a fresh-faced persona who worked with E! Hollywood. I hoped that I was wrong, I wanted the show to succeed with its new hosts, I wanted to like the two Ben's. I really, really wanted to.

Well unfortunately my hunch turned out right. As you put it, Mankiewicz was a poor victim in a drive-by shooting, and Lyons was the unqualified fresh-face who dashingly dropped lines like "'I Am Legend' is the best movie EVER!" I never watched the show with the two Ben's but I heard enough to cringe at Mankiewicz's misfortune and Lyons incompetence. It was a slap in the face, putting Lyons in the previous seats of Siskel and Ebert, Ebert and Roeper. Was I suppose to relate to him? Was I suppose to go "oooh hee soooooo gets it!" ? Did executives honestly think my generation no longer appreciated competence and eloquence? Whatever Disney thought when they placed Lyons into place I can justly say they were wrong, oh very wrong indeed.

I'm glad Mankiewicz is back at TMC. He deserves more than the criticism the show succumbed due pretty much all in part to Lyons. It's just really unfortunate that the once longest syndicated show disappeared under these circumstances but hey, at least A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips are getting their well-deserved chance to shine. After following your reviews, expositions, blogs and answer mans for so long, I'm just glad that I'm even able to comprehend a smidgen more about film compared to how I was six years ago.

Oh, and have an awesome Thanksgiving!

I've said before that I love all your journal entries, but it's the more personal ones that I've connected with the most. In a way, this feels like your most personal one yet. I can't tell you exactly why, but for some reason this one really got to me. I want to take the time to tell you why I appreciate what you've done for movies, and on a more personal level, what you've done for me (I'm gonna warn you ahead of time, this is going to ramble).

I first fell in love with film when I was in middle school, fifth or sixth grade, and it began with me only watching thrillers and action movies. I didn't know much about them besides what I could read on the box at the video store, but in this way I found what at the time were some of my favorite films; films like "The Rock," "The Negotiator," "Conspiracy Theory." My tastes have broadened considerably since back then, but I'll always have a certain fondness for those films.

I think I was in seventh grade when my family bought a computer, and it was through this that I ended up discovering your reviews. I immediately took a liking to them, and I ended up going back to check what you had said about movies I had already seen. I don't remember if it happened gradually or right away, but after discovering your website I became even more obsessed with film, and the only ones I'd seek out were the ones you gave positive reviews to. It got pretty bad at one point; one of my best friends in eighth grade literally stopped hanging out with me because all I talked about were movies.

Back in seventh and eighth grade, all I could think of doing with my life was directing movies, but when my friend stopped hanging out with me, something kind of clicked and I decided I needed to tone it down a little bit, and that that probably wasn't a very realistic thing for me to shoot for. So while I still loved movies all throughout high school, they were no longer all I talked about and they were no longer what I wanted to do for a living.

After high school, I went through a couple years aimlessly, working a crappy retail job, and not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I wasn't so concerned about that because I had a girlfriend who, dellusionally, I thought I was going to be with forever and I was happy. Well, needless to say, that didn't go as planned, and I was crushed. But there was one thing that came of it that I'll be forever grateful for: I began to write.

I know it's hard to see what all of this has to do with you, but what I haven't said is that throughout all these years and everything that happened, I always loved movies and you were always a part of my life. While there were always certain writers and directors and actors that I admired, you were, and still are, the one person I truly looked up to. I've learned so much about movies from you, and even sometimes about life. One thing you wrote that I will never forget was (paraphrasing) "Never marry someone who doesn't love the same movies as you; they will eventually stop loving you." I really took that to heart, and, even if it costs me a future wife, I plan on living by it. I can't tell you how much it means to be able to read these entries and write back and have you read it. I realize this might seem slightly out of the blue, and I apologize for the whole life story, but something in your entry inspired me to finally tell you how much what you do means to me, and it seemed like an appropriate time, it being Thanksgiving and all.

Roger,

Your voice lives on, and will continue to live on, even after you're gone. I've spent far more time reading online since this blog was created, and I thank you for sharing your heart and soul and formidable mind with us.

I often wonder if you feel the love for you out here in cyberspace - I know that nothing compares with the love of Chaz and your close friends, but I hope it means something to have so many dear friends in cyberspace who you will never meet, yet who truly care about you!

Take care,

David in Athens, Ohio

I watched you and Siskel from the beginning of your partnership; never missed a show. Then I tried watching you and Roeper, and all the other incarnations; it was just too painful to watch.

You are a true gentleman, a true gentle man. All the best for you and yours.

I admire the way you have improvised and adapted to overcome adversity. Right now with your blog you are charting a unique new course. I am certain that you will be as successful at rendering the most from it as you have everything else in your life.

Marie: ...Artists would be running the planet and there’d be no more Wars because everyone’s soul would be too full to want it.

---Uh... Marie...? Sugar...? Dollin'...? Snookylumps? We've already been there. Hitler was an artist. That's how he made his meager living. He was pretty good, too. All he wanted to do after he destroyed Western Civilization was get back to his paint set... he said so...

---After long and careful consideration, I'm pretty sure that who we need running this planet is janitors. Not people who think they're smart. Just janitors.

Music would be everywhere, and gummybears and ice cream too!

---Would you at least settle for a little horse goo in your otherwise perfectly tasty coffee? There's probably nothing wrong with it. XOXOX

Time travel does work! I have just returned from 1990 where I watched Siskel & Ebert, comfortable in their authentic balcony seats, discussing Dances With Wolves. (Not the best example actually since you both liked it. If that had been a prizefight the crowd would have rioted. I'll have to think of a title that puts you in full combat mode.)

Of course I'm talking about the video review search feature on the current ATM website. It never occurred to me to look there for these old gems. I guess I assumed that, with all the other pettiness that went on, anything predating the current regime would have been purged. Happy to be wrong. Of course I am probably the only one here that didn't know about this...

Do these old clips belong to Disney or what? Are they available and indexed anywhere else on the Web?

Ebert: 1. Disney. 2. Not.

Sounds like a sad Thanksgiving tale. But here's wishing your holidays will be a lot happier.

Happy Thanksgiving Rog. :)

I remember back in 2006 when you didn't come back from surgery as expected and how it was a really big downer for me. When the weekly movie reviews stopped coming in it was like one of the greatest outlets for my interest in film was gone; I kept reading reviews and articles trying to find more cinema outlets but in the end, it was never quite the same.

When I first heard that Roeper was being replaced by the two Ben's, I immediately looked up both the credentials of the new batters. Ben Mankiewicz I found suitable, accredited with Turner Movie Classics. Ben Lyons, to my horror, worked with E! Hollywood entertainment. I thought it was some sick joke Disney executives were pulling, trying to appeal to the "new generation" of movie goers by slapping on a fresh-faced persona who worked with E! Hollywood. I hoped that I was wrong, I wanted the show to succeed with its new hosts, I wanted to like the two Ben's. I really, really wanted to.

Well unfortunately my hunch turned out right. As you put it, Mankiewicz was a poor victim in a drive-by shooting, and Lyons was the unqualified fresh-face who dashingly dropped lines like "'I Am Legend' is the best movie EVER!" I never watched the show with the two Ben's but I heard enough to cringe at Mankiewicz's misfortune and Lyons incompetence. It was a slap in the face, putting Lyons in the previous seats of Siskel and Ebert, Ebert and Roeper. Was I suppose to relate to him? Was I suppose to go "oooh hee soooooo gets it!" ? Did executives honestly think my generation no longer appreciated competence and eloquence? Whatever Disney thought when they placed Lyons into place I can justly say they were wrong, oh very wrong indeed.

I'm glad Mankiewicz is back at TMC. He deserves more than the criticism the show succumbed due pretty much all in part to Lyons. It's just really unfortunate that the once longest syndicated show disappeared under these circumstances but hey, at least A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips are getting their well-deserved chance to shine. After following your reviews, expositions, blogs and answer mans for so long, I'm just glad that I'm even able to comprehend a smidgen more about film compared to how I was six years ago.

Oh, and have an awesome Thanksgiving!

Roger, I am always on the At the Movies site, and I can never find episodes like the colorization or letterboxing ones. I'm just curious if there is a place on the web to find them.

Note- some are on youtube, but not all of them

Ebert: I wonder if our new producer hoped to reach a demographic no more interested in the movies than she was.

Zing!

Love the blog Roger. By far my favorite on the internet. Thanks for making many of my days that much more interesting.

I'm 44 now, and have in one way or another referenced your work, in print, on television, or on the web, since I was a teenager. I believe that I am a better person today for including your work amongst my interests.

The idea of a subtitled DVD commentary is most intriguing.

Dear Roger,

Will the "At the Movies" website update its database to include all the video reviews before 1986. I've caught a couple of your old reviews and special segments on subjects like "Movies that Influenced the Movies" and "The Magic of Steven Spielberg" and short video segment defending Halloween against the so-called "Dead Teenager Picture". I really found those clips fascinating and very informative and I wish that more of those are available. Is there any intention on the part of Disney or WTTW, the channel where Sneak Previews originated from, to put these videos on the web in a high-quality format so that way everyone can view them?

Roger, I'm just curious, what do you make of the fact that you (and Gene) apparently reached so many young people on your show? I became aware of Sneak Previews when it was on PBS, back in the early 80s. I was 11 or 12 and could not have watched much prime-time PBS, but I discovered you guys anyway and stayed with you. I learned about many films that most of my friends at school had never heard of, and I was able to track down and view many of them, back when, say, "Police Academy" movies were in fashion. You and Gene had a huge influence on my taste as an adolescent and beyond. Did you guys have any idea that you might be reaching "kids"?

I'm so glad to have At The Movies back. The new show, while very different from Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper, evokes the *spirit* of those shows, and that's what matters.

It's a reboot! Like all of the good reboots it's different than the original but retains the intangible flavor of it. Philips and Scott are great, except that Philips is always wrong and Scott is always right. Kidding. Maybe it's because I've gone a year without a decent televised critics, but I'm really loving it and look forward to it every week.

Roger,

I am among those in the younger generation who grew up with you as a guide to good taste in films and you are partly to thank for the impeccable taste I possess now (the rest of the credit goes to my mother, who, during my childhood, introduced me to the likes of Mel Brooks, Orson Welles, The Beatles movies and even Chaplin films at an age when my friends were being fed on the usual diet of fourth rate Hollywood tripe. I've always been grateful to her, even when my friends ridiculed me.). I would now like to express my gratitude to you. It was also my mother who gave me as a birthday present one year one of your movie yearbooks, which, for a long while, served as my bible on what to watch. Years after the fact, I still look to you for recommendations and continue to appreciate the great talents you've pointed me towards (Ramin Bahrani, for example) and while we don't always agree (seriously, you didn't like Star Trek?), I've always trusted your judgment.

And while I don't have any kids of my own (and honestly I'm not in a big hurry), I have an even greater influence I can exert on the younger generation than parents can. I teach Freshman Composition at a university, where I make it a point to incorporate great films into my curriculum. Earlier this semester, I showed them Rashomon as a way of introducing them to the idea of differing perspectives of an event. I could not have been more pleased with the results. They whined and complained when I told them I'd be showing them a sixty year old Japanese film, but by the end had fallen under Kurosawa's spell (well, most of them did) and had to begrudge that they'd enjoyed the film a lot more than they thought they would. It was also to my great delight that the department asked me to put together a list of controversial films for a project being taught in the Freshman Composition program next semester. You can rest assured that it is of the utmost good taste. Now I just have to decide which one I'm going to show them in class.

I concede it disappointed me that not a single one of the 904 said anything about my work. Noooo...it was all limerick, limerick, limerick." - Roger

Awww, poor dude! Putting on thinking cap...

Roger's line was swift and loosey,
His hand upon the pen all goosey,
As places loved were caught,
People not to be forgot,
All now eternal fond memories.

I find limericks hard to write. You need a truly dexterous vocabulary and mine falls short, and why I tend to insert "thingy" a lot in my posts.

Note: I can see a dirty limerick in that last sentence, but that's also another stumbling block - the humour in a well-written limerick tends to be decidedly "male". Moreover, men appear to find certain bodily functions far more amusing than women do. :)

Although and that said, I spent part of today drooling over Jack Lane's photobook after he sent me the link to it - which is full of would-be paintings I might add, and phrases like this:

"...awful Ed had a dog named sudden death. He pointed out that we all fear it so he thought it best to live with it." - Jack Lane.

See?! Some people just innately know how to word a thing. :)

Otherwise, I'd have been posting away inside the Limerick thread about Edward Lear's paintings and cartoons and your stuff too, etc. But you said it had to RHYME and not go off-topic! At which point, I knew I was f'cked.

Chuckle!

@ Greg Salvatore wrote - "Can I live in your world?"

Yes. Yes you can. Just as soon as I get my hands on that time machine.

When you're young and growing up, it seems everyone older than you always has a complaint about "kids today, eh?" But that's just a normal byproduct of seeing change when you're comfortable with how something is.

That's not the same as when stuff is genuinely changing for the worse. As not everything old needs to be torn down - and people seem to be increasingly forgetting that. Mind you, Disney is based in California and L.A. in particular, is notorious for trashing its own history - all those wonderful old buildings from the 1920's for example; far too many have been lost. It's not like New York or Chicago - you can still find older buildings despite real estate development.

Note: when I changed my cable I wound-up with a new list of channels. Some were familiar, others not and of those, some new local U.S. stations - L.A., New York and... CHICAGO!

At 5:00 am PST here on the West Coast, I watched the 7:00 am WGN-TV morning news live in Chicago! I saw a helicopter view of the whole city (I think snow is coming!) It was surreal watching commuters driving into downtown. And seeing the preparations for the Thanksgiving Day parade (giant Garfield cat float!)

I mean, I'm in another country entirely and next to the Pacific Ocean. Yet I'm able to watch people going to work in Chicago. And that's as freaky as is it cool.

And New York and L.A. I get to see those cities too. Not as pictures in a book but what it really looks like right now - and again as mentioned, L.A. is all about new, new, new.

All of which is to say, that I see it as being part of it; one of the external factors or forces involved in why "At the Movies" changed. For had Gene and Roger never left, they'd still have faced dealing with a "younger Network suit" one day, eh? And health issues aside, it's the one thing that was always going to be beyond their control as they don't run Network Television. However...

Enter Oprah Winfrey. :)

If there's a chance of ever recapturing even a little of the magic "At the Movies" had, with another like-minded show, I think Oprah's new Network will be the place to do it and because of who's running the ship.

And so any sighs of lament I may have for "At the Movies" and the loss of what I'd loved about it, it's tempered by the growing hope now of maybe one day..? Another dynamic duo..? And this time, one of them should be female.

As that would be sure to keep everyone's scalpel sharp.

Smile.

No point in rehashing what so many others have said so eloquently. Just want to add my appreciation for your contribution to film criticism and popular media, Roger. You are the only critic I consistently reference and rely upon, due to your ability to enjoy both the brilliant and the godawful in equal measure, each on their own merits. You are a joy.

If there's one consistent quality of the marketplace at large it is its' ability to ignore known quality in its constant plumbing of the depths of popularized mediocrity. Thank you, as ever, for being so consistently thought provoking, entertaining, and wondrous.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for this piece.

I hear your voice when I read your reviews and your journal entries, Roger. This comes from having watched you with Gene and from your skill at incorporating your spoken voice into your writing. All that tv time served a purpose.

Professionalism at its best is an art form. I knew that watching Gene Siskel toward the end and I was reminded of his efforts when I watched Ed Bradley become increasingly more frail on 60 Minutes. The work matters.

Very thankful on this day that you are still a working man.

I disagree with these two comments you made to Sarah Churchwell.
Ebert: And even [the limerick contest] was classy!
Not really. For one thing I, among many others, contributed to de”classy”fying it.
Grace Wang, God bless her, shows she’s got far too much class to write a traditional limerick.
Ebert: I concede it disappointed me that not a single one of the 904 [entries] said anything about my work.

I studied your work diligently. DRM: “However, the ensuing 1,125 words of verse you wrote are clean as a whistle.” I was greatly surprised that the contest lasted only five days. There was much to say about your excellent narrative limericks and Lear’s outstanding paintings, a couple of which are among the best I’ve ever seen, all of the landscapes but espescially the fourth one: In Egypt!!

Ebert: That's the most famous one.

Thank you very much, Roger, for writing this. I very much love to hear the progression of events (much that seemed rather disastrous). It is sad to hear all that happened in this situation, how it seemed that Roeper was left out in the cold, how Ben Lyons, a man who should not be reviewing movies, got that job, but, as it seems, much worked out for everyone. I really like the show with Scott and Phillips (although I do have my disagreements. Haha), and I'm glad that I still have the good fortune to read your work.

And Disney needs to get its head straight; dismantling the set? Are you kidding me?

Savvy

Hi Roger,

I am 22, I was born and raised in Venezuela and i am currently a student at Dartmouth college.
Even though i have majored in Economics, only recently have I started actively pursuing film, which has been a dormant passion of mine.
I have never written on your blog before but I have been reading your reviews obsessively for 8 years now and I read every one of your posts.
I will admit that the reason I haven't posted before is because maybe subconsicously I felt that maybe I was dumb for reading your work so obsessively.
Yet i need to tell you that I appreciate everything you write because it feels genuine and because i see in your writing such a compassion for all fellow human beings that I admire and that I aspire too.
Only recently have i come to terms with the fact that i've been doing a lot of things (like pursuing an Economics major without questioning myself or like planning a life as a cog of a big consulting company) for the wrong reasons. (In particular the sub-conscious necessity to please my conservative mother, who didn't even ask that I do these things ...)

I write all this because you talk so frankly about your pains that relate with your show (which i can only assume is something you really care about) and are not afraid to admit vulnerability. I wanted to tell you that this has set a great example for me and has been one of many elements that have allowed me to admit vulnerability (it might seem silly but even as a 22 year old, I tended to dismiss people that drink or that are not in track to graduate summa cum laude as immature. And i think that when i admit these things I am vulnerable, but that's okay)

I am applying for Teach for America and I am busy at work (and i'll hopefully have 2 years for this) creating a solid film portfolio so that i can apply to an MFA in film in a good school.
One of my dreams is that one day you will review one of my films, but alas I know time is not on my side.
I am sad that Disney has treated you and your wishes for the show so poorly, I for one would have loved to watch you again on TV. But oh well, life happens. We move on.

For what it's worth I wanted to thank you for keeping on writing.

Mr Ebert,

When I was watching your reviews (and those of Gene Siskel) you always made me think of a given film in a new light. Even if I didn't agree, (Three and Half stars for 2012!!??) I found it hard to not consider your view on any given subject. The absolute best moments were when both you and Siskel were at each other's throats and you both made sense. I hope you feel better and that your cancer is done and gone because... for me, consideration of movie critic opinion will die with you.

Dear Roger,
I have been a faithful viewer and reader of yours for years.I realised from the beginning that I could trust your "voice"and I have learned over the years that you give me enough information to choose for myself.For instance I knew I would love Mama Mia after reading your review however nothing you could say would convince me to see apocalyptic drivel like 2012 or The Road,I just dont have enough time in my life.
Your written work is so good,so funny and insightful.Thanks Roger

I remember the days when the name Disney was synonymous with happiness, joy and laughter. What happened?

When it was announced that Scott & Phillips were taking over for the Bens, I was so happy but still hoping there was room for two competing movie review shows as Roeper is a very appealing guy and I love his writing. To this day, I thought the all time best non-Ebert episode of the show was when he went toe to toe with Kevin Smith. I would almost pay a subscription fee for a weekly Roeper/Smith review show.

Saddest still is that they refused to take back the thumbs. Shows to me that corporations today don't know anything about anything except for the bottom line - and they still haven't wrapped their heads around that.

Which sounds better in a newspaper review:

1. "2 Thumbs Up!"

2. "2 'see its'"

Next thing you know we'll be thumbing through an issue of Entertainment Weekly in the DVD section and see an ad that says "Michael Phillips says 'Rent It.'" Do they think moviegoers are that stupid?

As for the future of TV film criticism, maybe it would be a good idea to go back to the past. You and Gene started on public television--just as Janus films gained a wider audience by airing its movies on PBS. Could public TV once again be the home of intriguing films and spirited film discussion--or am I just zonked on tryptophan?

Does the internet make being speechless more bearable? Do you think you would have started this blog if your reconstructive surgery had taken? I'm not sure I would have ever discovered your longer and more distinguished career as a writer if I hadn't been forced to seek it out following the end of your career as a TV personality.

I studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology for a year, which houses the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The NTID has an interesting mix of Deaf students that sign almost exclusively and mainstreamed students that read lips or hear by means of a cochlear implant. The Deaf students signed because they chose to; in an ASL world they were not disabled. The deaf and hard of hearing students had availed themselves of a much larger world, but it was a world that views them through what they don't have rather than what they have. Both groups seemed to love the internet, not to mention texting -- teletype without the intermediary.

The college I transferred to had a Communication Disorders program that offered American Sign Language courses. ASL I was taught by a Deaf professor and greatly expanded my knowledge of the culture and corrected some of my false assumptions. One of the things I learned was that all of this new technology is killing ASL and the Deaf World, because deaf youth are increasingly adapting written English as their primary language.

How important has the technology been for bridging the gap for you as a person who can hear perfectly fine? I was legally deaf for two years in elementary school before an operation improved my hearing (which still isn't spectacular), so I often think about what the other road would have been for me.

Ebert: The blog would have happened sooner, but now it has become necessary to my sanity, almost.˜=

There once was a man named Ebert
Whose mind was brilliant and alert
He loved to write
of films and life
and penned a legend of words in concerts

You know why none of entries talked about your work? Because YOU specified them to be dirty! And your admirers simply revered you too much to do so.

Oh and DRM, god bless you for thinking that highly of me, but really I just suck at writing dirty limericks. I cringe a little. Too bad though, the prizes are so nice.

Don't worry about time slipping you by...there are tons of people waiting to catch you, should you ever fall.

"(Not the best example actually since you both liked it. If that had been a prizefight the crowd would have rioted. I'll have to think of a title that puts you in full combat mode.)"

My favorite of these type of reviews is "Outbreak." Mr. Siskel found the sight of Dustin Hoffman in the biohazard suit both unbelievable and amusing, and Mr. Ebert responded, "If the guy has to put on the suit, let him put on the suit! He gets inside it, that's how he looks!" That line is often quoted around my apartment. (Outbreak is my biggest movie guilty pleasure. With the hours I've spent watching that movie, I could have read the collected works of Charles Dickens, easy.)

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

I hadn't ocurred to me, until this article, that my boy's generation wouldn't relate to the "balcony" in a movie theater. There was one in my hometown theater when I grew up. But, it disappeared in the 80s, replaced by the cement block cinema at the mall.

As fond as I was of your show (with Siskel) growing up, I really don't need that type of show at the moment. RogerEbert.com, this Journal, and Rotten Tomatoes are all of the resources that I need. I haven't seen a "At the Movies" style show in a while.

A story: I stopped by the multiplex on the way home Wednesday afternoon to see a flick. Any flick. I just wanted to see a movie. Have you ever walked up to a multiplex and just picked a movie? Anything good starting in the next half-hour or so? Well, there's the rub. Not only was there nothing good in that timeframe, but nothing good at all. 14 screens of dreck!

I picked "Old Dogs". Mainly because I am becoming an old dog. And it had Kelly Preston, who is lovely in whatever she's in. I've only walked out on one movie in my life, but this one came close to being the second. It could have been worse. I could have chose from several screens of Twilight...

Time is going by. Movies are getting worse. But, you are still the best.

@ Tom Dark wrote:

"---Uh... Marie...? Sugar...? Dollin'...? Snookylumps? We've already been there. Hitler was an artist. That's how he made his meager living. He was pretty good, too. All he wanted to do after he destroyed Western Civilization was get back to his paint set... he said so..."

Hitler doesn't count, dude! He wasn't an Artist in the truest sense. All he possessed was a level of technical skill; his soul was never in the right place.

When I say "artist" it's a term qualified by my definition of it; smile.

And no, you don't have to eat gummy bears and ice cream - but in case you change your mind, it would always be readily on hand. :)

Hi Roger,

I have much more to say, but am formulating what to say, and I don't think this comment is it. We'll see. And, considering that I just tweated about a possible link between the big hair of old school martial arts flicks and 1980s metal bands, this comment might seem unusually serious.

I don't really know why I started watching your show all the way back in *early* grade school, but I suspect that it was related to your being on Channel 11. I'm sounding facetious, but I'm serious when I say that it may be that my early relationship with you ties in to my early relationship with Big Bird, as well as my early relationships with Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno (by way of "The Electric Company").

My copy of your Movie Home Companion sits on a shelf among my other books. Perhaps we reveal our love through the tatteredness of our most tattered books, and yours is among my most tattered books.

Just as old television shows are being sold on DVD by season or as "complete series," I would hope that your shows would also get the same treatment (especially because the website is hard to navigate for "special" shows).

And, it seems to me that you say much more in this posting than what is apparent on the surface, not only in your comments about the different characters in the story above, but also about the bittersweet nature of this sweet life.

I wonder if Roeper is speaking in the loose tongue of a South Sider/Suburbanite. It's that same loose tongue that periodically gets POTUS in trouble (i.e. Nancy Reagan Seance, Special Olympics, etc.). And, it's the same tongue that frequently gets me in BIG trouble. He was raised in Dolton; I was raised in Riverdale and South Holland.

Anyways, just as our hearts get increasingly tough, they also get increasingly tender. Sometimes we can persevere through the worst tornadoes, but the lack of a simple "thank you," might break our hearts.

But, we are reminded again and again that this world is a series of vivid temporaries. When we can anchor ourselves in the temporary, we see how fleeting the fleeting world is, with and without us.

And, as you know, I come (as a poor example) of a tradition where Death is not an end, but a doorway. And, in this tradition, everything that is said and done is fully recorded. So, your mark is made.

But, consider where your impact is felt. It is not in plaques, street names, or in museum artifacts (though those are all very cool). Rather, by engaging with and through three of the most influential art/crafts/media of our era (film, tv, internet), you *engaged* with *us.* The only thing that is lacking is that you haven't performed any songs (and not to burst anyone's bubble, but I'm expecting that you're a better writer than electric guitar player). But, you engaged with us, and thus your impact is in the ideas and consciousnesses of people. I'm saying that at the end of the day, your title has been "film critic," but your profession has been "teacher."

And, I fully expect that you will continue, my dear teacher.

Best wishes my friend.

Omer M

Mr. Ebert,
You are a true one-of-a-kind legend. I love you and your work. You inspire me to thrive for my dreams of becoming a journalist everyday. These words you wrote for this blog are truly from your heart and soul and I love that. You are deeply honest in your film reviews and blogs and I really respect that because too many people in this world are too afraid to speak their minds. You, my friend, are not one of those people. I write movie reviews for the Frankfort Station, my local newspaper, and it is due to those years of watching you and Richard Roeper on TV and due to my continuous reading of your reviews that inspire me to keep writing.
I just wanted to let you know that I, Bobby Meyers, a 16 year-old aspiring journalist, respects everything you do and I could only hope to accomplish your feats if I become a film critic. You are everything I hope to be.
Thank you, Mr. Ebert.

Well for me, there is only one movie critic. Roger Ebert.

I always get the feeling that Roger is on the side of movies. I think some critics simple want to use them to shine a spotlight on what they consider to be their own brilliance. Roger doesn't have these insecurities. I think when the lights dim and the screen brightens, he really wants to be dazzled, or moved, or drawn in. Just like the rest of us. So when I read a review or watch his discussions about films I recognize that he has placed himself, not above or beside the audience, but right in it's midst. When I've seen a good movie I want to go out for a drink after and talk about it with the person I went with. I want to ask 'what did you think'? Oft-times I don't know what I think, or feel. That is to say I can't express it adequately, emotion is there but not the words. Roger has the words.

A good review is itself a finely crafted thing. I don't know anyone else that can frame the mood of a piece so quickly. When movies are done well they seek to hit certain notes. I find that Roger finds these notes and crafts his openings to be in perfect tune. Consider his review of Into The Wild

For those who have read Thoreau's Walden, there comes a time, maybe only lasting a few hours or a day, when the notion of living alone in a tiny cabin beside a pond and planting some beans seems strangely seductive. Certain young men, of which I was one, lecture patient girl friends about how such a life of purity and denial makes perfect sense. Christopher McCandless did not outgrow this phase.

Perfect. I know what the movie is going to explore. I know the headspace and soulspace I'm going to be lead into. I don't know the plot or the actors or the locations. That's not the first important thing. The first important thing is the reason for it all. Consider another opening paragraph...

She sits, tearful and crumpled, in a corner of her little bedroom. Her brother has torn apart the living room with a baseball bat. Rocky, the guy she has fallen in love with, comes into the room. "Do you want a roommate?" she asks shyly, almost whispering. "Absolutely," says Rocky.

Was that movie about boxing? No. Boxing was just one of the anvils on which these characters were forged. Forget the boxing, or replace it with anything else and you're still exploring the same themes. Roger did that very thing in his opening paragraph when he reviewed Rocky. So now, when we continue into the wider story of the movie we are still in the proper headspace to look deeper into the various characters. Already we are past the surface and into deeper waters. Sarah Churchwell said it right, "Thank you for helping me learn how to think about films."

I like Roger in the same way I liked Forrest Gump--because he is a good man, honest, and easy to sympathize with. But unlike Gump, he's clever as hell. I appreciate his literary sprinklings. You know how he inserts a line of prose from some author he admires, an inside joke, a wink to the audience. I myself do not catch ten percent of these, but when I do it brings a chuckle. I too feel clever, for a moment.

Then of course there are the many new films he introduces us to. Perhaps this one of the most satisfying aspects of his career. The role of ambassador for the over-looked film. Recently I listed a few movies that I rented, Roger replied "3 out of the 4 played at Ebertfest". Yeah, I know. How do you think I heard about them? Films like Chop Shop, Hoop Dreams and Dark City were introduced to my by Roger Ebert. I would not have seen them if he had not brought them to my attention. I have a floating list of films that I keep a lookout for. If I happen across the title "Still Walking" or "Goodbye Solo", I won't breeze by it, I'll snap it up.

A note about Roger's DVD commentaries. I always listen to these tracks, no matter who does them. Most are slightly good or slightly bad, few people do them really well. Michael Jeck is one such person. His Seven Samurai track is probably the best I've ever heard. Roger is nipping at his heels though. All of his commentaries have been top-notch. Yet another talent. Putting together a stream of consciousness dialogue can't be easy. Yet it seems so effortless in Citizen Kane, Casablanca and Floating Weeds. When I've rewatched these great movies I always start them again for his commentary track. I heard a different quality to his voice in Dark City. A certain strain that wasn't there before. I didn't mark it at the time but long after, when I learned that he would no longer be able to speak. I was very sad about that. Zachary (above) has made an excellent suggestion. Perhaps Roger, you could do a sub-titled commentary track. I think this is a great idea, and I'll be firing off an email to Criterion, suggesting they make you an offer tout de suite!

Now I've rambled on, and for the most part I haven't even addressed you directly Roger. I haven't even mentioned this fine blog and all it's wonderful writing. Or the way it's expanded my point of view on so many things, and marked out new places to explore. Be they books, or old bookstores, or taverns found at the end of long walks. I would like to thank you for all these things, and if I happen to see you at the next Ebertfest, I will shake your hand and happily do so.

two things:

1. isn't "classy limerick" an oxymoron? i'm not picking on the art form nor its artists, but i thought the aim was for something silly, risqué, or just crass.

B. you are not a film or movie critic. you are a social observer who also knows a heck of a ton of a lot about films, film making, and the makers of films.

First off, Mr Ebert, to read that your voice has been silenced strikes me as such a cruel shame. I was raised by film lovers, and grew up with you and Gene. However, it was always your voice I could pick out anywhere because your style of speaking, your inflection, your obvious wit and intelligence remind me so much of my father. He was your vocal double ( if there is such a term ) His voice was silenced forever 9 years ago but hearing your voice, whether in old clips or on Howard Stern or some late night talk show, it brings him to life all over again. I hope that it does, one day, come back to you. As far as I'm concerned, after all these years, yours is still the opinion I value the most. You and Gene were partly responsible for my love of film. Always loved on that old set when you would show a clip of some new film. The set would go dark, the screen would light up, and for a minute or two it was like I was in that balcony with you. Catching a brief glance of some upcoming film and planning how to get an older sibling to drive me to the theater to see the next "greatest movie ever!". Never missed a show back then. Love your website and all the stuff you write. I wish you all the best in the upcoming New Year and prayer for good health.

Roger, it's refreshing to finally hear your (civil) comments on the "At the Movies" situation, which was depressing for me and a number of friends online. I'm happy to see that you support Phillips and Scott, who've been articulate and witty with their reviews, although I can't fathom why Disney would turn down the Thumbs. This "rent it" silliness has to be stopped.

Also, if you haven't already, check out A. O. Scott's DVD video reviews at the New York Times site - his recent comments on "Dead of Night" and "Blazing Saddles" were spot-on.

Keep blogging!

Siskel and Ebert was the mold, certainly, and you've only yourself to blame for the inevitable tripe that has tried to emulate it. You set a bar too high and shame on you - you guys ruined everything.

You were the one, Roger. Along with Gene, you were the reason I watched and learned. The parade of 'wanna-be's trying to fill Gene Siskel's indelible shoes I accepted only because you gave them your approval. Roeper never seemed like a film critic to me - simply a guy you liked who could talk about a movie without embarrassing himself. If pronouncing 'shit' is his way of maintaining his self respect and place of pride, more power to him and to us all.

The new incarnation of 'At The Movies' is perfectly fine by contemporary television standards, the talent skilled and plausible (at last).

But you, ol' buddy....you're the guy I go to when it's time to watch a film. You have yet to lead me astray and you are right here where I can get to you when I need an opinion I can trust.

I, like all your readers, miss the good old days of Siskel and Ebert, but the new incarnation with Scott and Phillips is quite good. Who cares about the set, sure the current incarnation is inferior to the theater set, but its not a show I watch for the set. What bothers me is the lost of Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down. "Two 'See It' recommendations!" just doesn't have the same ring as "Two thumbs up" on a movie poster.

See It, Skip It, Rent It aren't even honest recommendations. Phillips recently told me to See Twilight New Moon, although I am sure he meant is, "If your daughter drags you to this movie, you might be surprised to find you like it, I did." He certainly didn't recommend that I go out of my way to see this movie. The problem is they're both quite presumptuous. I can tell my brother he should skip 2012 because I basically know what types of movies he likes. A critic can't do the same thing to a general audience. He/she can only tell us whether or not they thought the movie was any good and whether or not they liked it. It bothers me. Don't even get me started on Rent It.

As a child, I watched Siskel/Roeper and Ebert almost weekly. Though I never felt Roeper was as knowledgeable about film as Roger, I felt that his skills in debate and his reasons for liking and disliking films were always great. Plus, his books were excellent reads. I'm looking forward to his new show.

I must admit that I haven't been and won't be watching A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips. Both are skilled critics and great to read, but for me, the show has always been about Siskel, Ebert, and Roeper, and when they left, the show died. At least now, along with these wonderful blogs and continued print reviews from Roger, I'll have a movie criticism show I can watch again.

It's amazing to me that Disney turned down your offer. Every time I'm back in Chicago for break I make a point to visit the Gene Siskel Film Center, and the fact that such a place even exists shows your impact on both Chicago and the world of criticism. These thoughts just go to show that even the most famous people in the world have trouble getting stuff green lit.

In late August, 1981 I was nearly sixteen when I had the chance to go to Washington D.C. to see the White House, U.S. Capitol, several monuments, etc. I had a week to take as much of it in as possible. Two days were spent at the Smithsonian -- Museum of American History, and the Air and Space Museum. I stayed with my uncle, a retired Naval Commander stationed at Bethesda. We had little time to watch T.V. or read, but when there I did catch up on some local news, including a publication that critiqued the PBS show Sneak Previews. I vaguely recall the author of that piece saying the dialogue between you and Gene was not the first thing he would look for to watch, but he would not tune it out either if the show was on. I wish I could recall for you the name of that publication; you'd probably enjoy it.

Twenty-eight years later, and I am following your own version of 28 Up, and the set I watched all those years ago is in the Smithsonian. I made a promise to my own kids that I would take them to Washington when they are old enough to appreciate it -- probably five years from now. And I will be looking for that set. Exactly where is it located? Thanks for the memories.

"At the Movies" changed my life in incredible ways. That may be quite silly for an 18 year old to say, but I do think it's true. When I was little (I think it was called Siskel and Ebert back then, but maybe that's just what my family and I called it), I watched it on television far before I could read film criticism. It lead me to reading Roger Ebert's writing. I am now applying to film schools and I can clearly see that I would not be where I am if it was not for Mr. Ebert. It has been painful as such a big fan to see what has happened to the show. Especially, from what I have read here, in the name of gaining a more youthful audience. Even my friends who are only vaguely interested in film criticism would be repulsed by that olive branch.

I was wondering if you will continue trying to get the new show made with Christy and another critic. I thought she was great, personable, (and pretty), and it would be a shame if she was not on television.

Mr. Ebert
I am sorry that you were treated in such a shabby manner by Disney.
I caught a couple of episodes of At the Movies with Mankiewicz and Lyons, and was not very impressed. Lyons in particular was clearly out of his depth, little surprise given that his father is a mediocre critic. I remember wondering if the producers were deliberately targeting a younger, less well-informed audience. I also remember that the hosts did not seem comfortable in their chairs, or maybe they were not comfortable with each other.
No disrespect to Mr. Roeper, he is a fine critic, but I never got the impression that you were equals. You were not rude or condescending, it was just that he was not in your league. The back and forth banter between you and Mr. Siskel was always fascinating and educational. As I said when I sent the picture of my childhood home for your homes of critics project, I first learned about movie genres and the power of movies to criticize or whitewash social inequalities by watching your show, especially your annual tribute to the Oscars and suggested movies for the incoming president.
I also think that providing subtitled comments on movies is an excellent idea. Your commentary on Casablanca was superb, and it is depressing that there are no new Roger Ebert commentaries.
Thank you for the lessons and inspiration that you have provided, and I will continue to look forward to your reviews and commentary.

Well, I never really liked Roeper and practically stopped watching the show when he came aboard. Instead, I continued reading you online in the Sun-Times site. So, for me, Siskel and Ebert is the show; that's gone now, but I've been to your site for many years now and to this blog from the beginning, so, I really don't see the need for edgier reviews of shitty stuff.

Mr. Ebert,

There are individuals who define a profession. While Jack Parr was the original late night talk show host, Johnny Carson defined that role. Suspense/Mystery movies are a dime-a-dozen but Alfred Hitchcock defined what "the best" means in that field.

You and Mr. Siskel defined what a television movie review show should be. There were television movie critics before the two of you and there will be many to follow. The fact that they will all be measured by "At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert" proves that the two of you defined that role in television history. While I always enjoyed the show after Mr. Siskels passing, as long as you were involved, I never saw the same greatness that belonged to the two of you when you were together. Like Burns and Allen, Martin and Lewis, Butch and Sundance, by yourself, you were simply great. Together with Mr. Siskel, you were brilliant and set the standard for all who will follow.

Thank you for the wonderful entertainment and education you have provided this movie lover.

Sincerely,
Calabogie (lifelong fan)

Reading this article, what really becomes apparent (and saddens me) is the folly of executives. I imagine I am part of that lucrative younger demographic that Disney is trying to go after -- that early 20s market. But appealing to someone my age is an immensely difficult task; I never saw Siskel and Ebert because I was simply too young, and I never saw Ebert & Roeper because whenever I wished to see how a movie was faring, I'd simply load up Rottentomatoes and check the score. We want a numerical value about what to expect from a movie, and we don’t want opinions – my local newspaper critic is disliked and criticized by my friends when she gives a movie they’re anticipating a poor score, but no one ever suggests Rottentomatoes is any less trustworthy because it is rating a film at 13%.

However, despite that, there is always one thing that remains true of their target demographic that Disney seems to be forgetting – ask any 18-24 year old to name a film critic, and the answer they’ll give you (and often the only answer) is Robert Ebert. That isn’t to disparage any other critics; I’m sure there are many wonderful ones out there, but my demographic is only going to recognize names like Siskel and Ebert because even in an age of Rottentomatoes, the Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down system and At The Movies is still an institution that many of us respect and know despite having no actual experience with – it is just something that we recognize. You throw ‘film criticism’ into Google or YouTube, and the first critic you’re bound to end up with is Roger Ebert. The show had become such an integral part of film criticism over the decades that it is still an icon to those of us that have never actually seen it.

The fact that Disney made such sweeping changes to At The Movies, threw out the classic format and even turned down Roger Ebert’s approval of the latest itineration of the program shows me that they’re simply out of touch with what we’re looking for. When we begin to get that inkling of interest in more than cold numbers in our reviews, we look up the only thing we know – Roger Ebert (and hence how I arrived here). If anyone my age is looking to tune into At The Movies (which is unlikely, as I doubt many people realize it still continued after Ebert & Roeper ended), they’re going to find a program that is completely different than what they had heard of, and they’re just going to move on. Bringing back respected critics and tweaking the show to fall more in line with the classic format is a nice step forward, but it is only going to serve to mollify long-time watchers of the show. For that young demographic, it is Siskel, Ebert, the balcony, and the Thumbs system that made the show a hallmark of film criticism in our minds, and Disney’s refusal to associate the show with that bygone era proves just how out of touch they are. It is a shame, too -- with the prevalence of film discussion on the internet, it feels like this is the perfect time really grab attention with a new film show, but either I’m mistaken in that feeling or executives simply don’t understand it enough to take the chance.

I enjoy the new At the Movies. I have a lot of respect for A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips. They are classy guys, gentlemen of perspicacity and taste, but this may turn out to be a mixed blessing. They may be too classy and have too much respect for each other. They hardly ever disagree strongly enough to argue. I know it's bound to happen eventually, after all A.O. Scott liked Freddie Got Fingered and Michael Phillips liked 10,000 B.C. so I know that there's no such thing as impeccable taste. But so far it's a great way to find out what movies are worth seeing but it made a better show when either of them was paired with Richard Roeper who understood the value of an occasional moderate infusion of vinegar.

Currently on British TV there is a major gap in the market because at the moment we just don't have a major film critic anywhere on television.

We have one huge TV star Jonathan Ross who fronts both the BBC's flagship film review show and also his own BBC Friday night prime time chat show and in my opinion that situation just isn't viable.

As a chat show host Ross is very good, his show is entertaining and he can quite easily hold his own against the likes of Letterman or Leno. However it is with him as a film critic where I have the biggest problem.

His review show goes out on a Tuesday while his chat show is on Friday and because Ross's show is the biggest on TV his guests usually consist of the stars from the films he has reviewed or will be reviewing.

I feel that these two jobs put Ross in a very difficult situation and that it is possible his guests may colour his reviews.

If Ross trashes a film on Tuesday is the star going to want to go onto his Friday show to promote it? Likewise if Ross is all sweetness and light to an actor on Friday then rubbishes them on the Tuesday are they going to want to be interviewed by him again? Plus what if a guest pulls out of one of Ross's shows or clashes with him will this effect Ross's review of their product.

The BBC's flagship film review show 'FILM (insert year here)' format has remained more or less the same for over 35 years, it works well.

Barry Norman was the previous incumbant his presenting style was understated, conversational and suited the show down to the ground. The fact he fronted 'FILM (enter year here)' for over 25 years gives credence to that.

Ross aims for the same presenting style but it is so at odds with his chat show persona that no matter how good a critic he may be he comes across as awkward and uncomfortable.

Norman started as an entertainment journalist and film critic for The Daily Mail in the 50's and 60's. He had interviewed many stars and wrote a number of books on film and actors. He was experienced, knowledgable and people trusted his judgement.

Not everyone liked him but Barry Norman was basically Britain's Roger Ebert.

Barry Norman left the BBC for SKY about 10 years ago and it was the worst decision either party could have made.

Norman was seen less and less on our TV screens and the BBC never replaced him adequately enough they just gave the job to their biggest asset.

The Beeb, who have a habit of getting rid of presenters at the wrong time, now have a presenter who is not only bigger than the show itself but also bigger than most of the films and actors he now reviews.

A change is definitley needed over here.

I would be interested to know Roger if you ever crossed paths with Barry Norman or for that matter Jonathan Ross.

Disney schmisney, I say! Show business, like no business I know...

I've wanted to ask for your thoughts on At the Movies since you left, but I figured it was too personal, and that you didn't want to belittle the people who took over the show. So, thank you for sharing what I'm sure gives you mixed emotions.

The feelings of one fan regarding your article:

1) I seldom express open distain (undiluted with sarcasm anyway), but Ben Lyons just plain annoyed me. He had an E-Entertainment, sugar-coated, superficial vibe. And thats all I'm going to say about that....

2) I did however like Mankewicz. I didn't get a clear idea of whether you felt he was qualified, but he at least seemed intelligent.

3) I was personally thrilled when I heard A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips were the new hosts. Back when they were guests hosts I actually settled on them as the best critics in rotation, which made Disneys decision all the smarter to me.

4) Not accepting the "thumbs" from you was ludicrous. I haven't seen "See it" on any advertisements, and if any nugget review has sway on the general populace, it's a thumbs up. The only intelligent reason I could see Disney wanting to distance themselves from it is that the thumbs lacked the punch of "Siskel and Ebert give this film two thumbs up", as your names were as synonymous with popular film criticism. Plus, "See it" is free.

5) I'm sorry you will likely not return to At the Movies. But if your being off tv means you're able to interact with your genuinely interested audience through this blog, then I will take it. And try another live chat again. That was fun.

P.S. This is off topic, but thank you for putting "Apocalypse Now" in Ebertfest next year. I wrote on your blog several months ago that I wanted it for my likely last Ebertfest. And while you obviously had many reasons to put it in (it's being awesome for instance) if I planted the seed in your mind at all, I'd like to say thank you. I will be there.

Please pardon my ignorance, but was the original program ever one hour in length (aside from special year-end editions)? For some reason, I want to remember a brief period when it went to an hour.

The only bad thing about "At the Movies" was the prohibitive time length. It was obvious that you and Gene were having great, extended discussions that were being trimmed down radically for time. I could have watched that program for two hours every weekend. (At age 15 I anticipated it as rabidly as each week's "Saturday Night Live.")

Plus, I recall that in the early years you often ran a second clip from a film, which really helped flesh out the audience's understanding of the movie. Now the shows give you one quick clip, and bam!--they're outta there. A fast statement of opinion from each critic and then they move on. The whole format seems much more rushed to accommodate extra little features (and more commercials?).

You and Richard Roeper were pretty good together, but the program obviously lost some of the magic generated by the Ebert/Siskel friction. Further, I never sensed that Roeper was a particularly "daring" critic in the way that Pauline Kael or yourself might surprise everyone by passionately championing a particularly unlikely choice of film. And Gene was never afraid to try to literally shout you down if he truly believed in a movie; a few of the disagreements looked like they could have escalated into fisticuffs with little provocation. (Mmmm...GREAT television!) Roeper, on the other hand, always seemed like a nice, intelligent guy who knew a lot about movies, but was still groping for a personal style on camera. Perhaps he still is; maybe he's trying to cultivate this edgy, "shit"-talking persona in order to stand out from the rest of the pack of (younger, edgier) critics out there. Looks like he might have a new tailor.

Roeper & Guests was an emergency move, which worked to varying degree. But to make it really hum, you would have needed a stronger main host to pair with the guest critic. ("Ebert & Guests" could have been very interesting, for example. It would have great to see you paired for an episode with somebody like Fred Willard or Oliver Stone--some guests you generally agreed with and others you didn't.)

Ben & Ben just didn't make it, for reasons stated. Mankiewicz appeared to have his bonafides in order, but the other guy didn't seem to possess any passion or developed viewpoint. I'm not even sure it made sense to have two hosts that had the same first name.(Frankly, "Ebert & Mankiewicz" probably could have worked: the revered lion versus the young critic. Could have been interesting in an inter-generational discourse kind of way.)

And that brings us to the new guys--both great critics, and both genial with good senses of humor. At present the show is watchable, but they have still to develop any sustaining chemistry. They still seem too much alike. Scott maybe a little more outre in his tastes, but fairly similar nonetheless. I think they'll get there, but achieving a unique identity within an established show usually takes time. (Just ask David Gregory...)

Which brings us back to you. Several passages in your blogs suggest you have at least some nostalgia for working in television. Given the amazing number of cable markets now available and sorely needing content, are you still interested in appearing on TV? If the production could accommodate your schedule and needs, might the idea have any appeal to you? Thinking here about something completely different from the Balcony format...maybe you one on one with a different figure (e.g., star, director, writer, etc.). Not a million miles away from Lipton's show, but more of a harder critical edge. Perhaps kind of like that "Journey Through Film" that Scorsese did--lots of rich analysis.

Given your huge Internet presence and established following, I think it's fair to assume that a lot of people might want to see you on television again, even if you don't look exactly as you once did. (And, hell, who does?) You could use your new electronic voice, possibly display your thoughts on screen as text being rapidly typed out with cool accompanying sound effects, or use some other technological means of presentation, which could actually make the program very cutting-edge. (In fact, with your wealth of past recorded audio, there's probably a way to regenerate your "past" voice electronically, if you were more comfortable using that instead.)

It could be a great forum for your insight and wit, and I'm not at all trying to be flip or disrespectful when I say I see your role in this as something like Stephen Hawking meeting Groucho Marx. Having a distinctive look and presentation makes you unique now; in fact, woe be to the show that doesn't have something distinctive going for it in some way. (I don't know why but I sense it could even have a certain "You Bet Your Life" quality, depending upon whether you felt like working with a studio audience or not. For crying out loud, you could even have your own Fenniman!)

I guess my point in all this is that there are plenty of ways to skin a cat, especially these days with all the technological bells and whistles out there. Why not use all this whiz-bang wizardry to good effect--to put America's "most sane and sensible critic" back on TV?

Like they said in RoboCop, "I'd pay a dollar to see that."

*****

And, oh yeah, since it appeared that nobody has limericked you yet, I offer the following, such as it is, and even though I know the contest is over. I was going for mildly bawdy:

"There once was a critic named Ebert
Who parked with his wife in his T-Bird
They stopped and they necked
'Till she cried 'What the heck?'
When he moved a little fast with the 'please' word"

or

"There once was a critic named Roger
A young boyfriend, he lived as a lodger
He lingered to stay
At her YWCA
But they wouldn't oblige him obliging her"

or Allan Sherman's 1963 limerick, which he sang to "Billy Boy":

"Oh what have you done, Billy Sol, Billy Sol?
Oh what have you done, charming Billy?
You took almost every cent
From the U.S. Government
Which you spent on fertilizer, which is silly"

Sorry, couldn't resist.

"I concede it disappointed me that not a single one of the 904 said anything about my work. Noooo...it was all limerick, limerikck, limerick".....RE

I guess we were too busy admiring our own newly-born talents of limerickery.

On having a second go-through of Ebert's Learnama, still inadequate, one is forced to acknowledge the vein of inspiration and the many rivulets of style and allusion gushing freely around, something like Don Juan. I'm sure the goodly Lear would applaud.

To quote Mohammed Iqbal, one of the great poetic voices of the subcontinent:

Hazaron saal Nargis apni benoori pe roti hai
Bari mushkil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar peyda

Translation:

For a thousand year bewails the narcissus it's absence of light
Rarely is a sighted-one born in the garden

and Jan Takami, from the Japanese:

As sand scooped in hands
Falls through emaciated fingers
So does time with a gritty sound
Run out.
Time-so short and precious.


1. I have always said Disney and it do gooder white bread movies is evil and and incidious and trasher the set instead of sending it to the Smithsonian proves my point.

2. I have read your columna and watched your show with Siskel with delight. Not always agreeing with what you said but always entertained and informed by how you said it.

3. Ben Lyons is such a little "pisher" as my grandmother (and probably his) would say that I can't take anything he says seriously. Ben Mankeiwcz i s tolerable at TCM only because I love TCM so much.

4. I am going on here but I have been off the computer going through the present (Broken)health care system with my husband who had bypass surgery in early November....we are still trying to get his "Primary care physican" to read his discharge papers from the hospital....also his primary care physician never even called him to ask him personally how he was....he has however had his billing office call us numerous times to make sure insurance pays him....but I digress the next time ytou write a health care entry I can tell you the horrow story of how his angina ws never found even though he complained of shoulder and arm pain for many years..but he has learned to respect your opinion because of me and when a new movie comes out he always asks "What did Ebert say about it?" One of the reasons I love him!

It really is a shame that the set is gone. I saw the set in person on a middle school field trip to CBS in the early 90's. Since I had aspired to be a film maker back then (alas, I became a pastor instead) and watched the show faithfully, seeing the set was the highlight of the trip. What really surprised me back then was that the set wasn't a large room, but rather a clever exercise of forced perspective.

I first discovered the show, "Siskel and Ebert and The Movies," in the 80s through AFKN (American Forces Korea Network) in Korea. After that, I watched it semi-religiously, but it wasn't because I liked the review part of the show where Mr. Siskel and Mr. Ebert were going at each other, er I mean, discussing movies. In fact, those were my least favorite part of the show.


To me, the best part was where it showed all kinds of trailers, clips, and teasers from the latest movies that I knew I would probably never get to see anytime soon. Back then in Korea, most Western/American films opened several years after their original release date in the US, and even then, films were heavily censored. All this, coupled with the fact that I was only a teenager (gasp!) then, meant that the kinds of movies I was allowed to see were pretty few and far between.


So you can imagine how livid I used to get when the show (my precious movie show!) got interrupted by two middle aged white men talking with (and sometimes over!) each other. All I could think (in Korean of course) was: Oh just SHUT UP YOU TWO and show me more clips, more scenes, more trailers, more teasers, more movies! It probably didn't help that I didn't understand half of what those men were saying, what with their speaking in English and all.


Still, I must admit I very much liked the thumbs up and thumbs down thing they would do at the end of every show--probably because I understood what they meant, as body language is universal.


Fast forwarding to now, everything seems to have changed, as it always does. People have come and gone, the show is no more, and I'm at that place where I find myself sadly reminiscing about what wonderful days those were, more than eagerly anticipating what lies ahead.


Because really, those were the days, weren't they?

Marie Haws, I remember the fun you were having with some very cleaver twists and turns when you were writing, among others, some Jim Morrison ones. They are no longer on the thread. I hope you saved them in Word. I usually write my material in Word and then transfer it to the entry thingy. I wrote what I considered to be a funny limerick about a prude named Niles Chrain—a clever way to have it read in the reader’s mind by David Hyde-Peirce, which I didn’t save. (Four stances long and, it actually met the aabba limerick format.) It was either spammed into oblivion or rejected for some reason. I’m making a folder on my desk top to keep my material organized in.

Mr Ebert, please give some kind of heads up about an upcoming thread that requires some preparation for those who need to get warmed up, like Marie; or like me caught up on the material. And in the case of a contest knowing it’s duration would very helpful.

Personally, I would be reluctant about giving a week’s notice, because I would not be looking forward to having 1,265 [ 904(7/5) ] entries to read on the contest’s first day. But Shirley, you can think of something.

I looked Lear up in Sister Wendy’s "1001 Masterpieces," and he wasn’t there. I didn’t know Lear’s painting “In Egypt” was famous. Well, I still think it’s excellent anyway. : )

Where is Stephen Hunter these days? I always enjoyed his film reviews and his guest spots on the show. I know he found a second career as a novelist, but I'm less taken with his work in that arena. I don't recall you ever having the chance to work with Hunter, but I think it would have generated some interesting chemistry. You both have some passionate and polarizing differences in political opinion, as well as different approaches to film criticism. Since you both are successful writers, perhaps you and Hunter could take the dueling-critics format online in written form. Grumpy Old Critics?

I started watching your show in, probably, '96. I would have been 10 years old then and I was basically just developing the ability to distinguish between movies (kids movies, of course) that were good and those which were perhaps pretty, or exciting, or cool, but otherwise lacking. Anyway I watched every week until it went off the air and it is no exaggeration to say that through watching your show I went from a typical casual movie goer who asks only for some good explosions and snappy one-liners to a serious film lover who owns hundreds of DVDs of all sorts of movies including ones from the likes of Bergman, Bresson, Scorsese, Woody Allen, Kurosawa, Oliver Stone, and others, etc, etc. Furthermore, I'm sure I'm not the only one who can say this. I've never understood why you got so much flack from people for doing a TV show. Well, actually, scratch that, I do understand, but your critics are extremely short sighted and foolish. Do they imagine that anyone was watching your show INSTEAD of reading full length reviews or serious essays or what have you? If it weren't for you and your show I wouldn't even know such things existed! A show like yours is an opportunity to bring attention to films that most people would never even hear of otherwise, and to verse a largely ignorant mass public in at least a basic language of film criticism. This is an invaluable service. So, in conclusion, I'll just add that I believe that every art form would benefit from more engagement with mass media (even if it does necessitate some brevity and simplification) and that every artform would benefit from more critics like Roger Ebert!

I've been a fan of your work since 1967. Your writing is now better that ever. All the best.


There was a young critic named Roger
Whom some say has become a codger
Yet, with skill and relentless caché
He now writes more than others can say
With insight that turns cynics to fodder.

I have long been saddened at the assessment that the majority of your PBS and Tribune episodes have been decreed lost. I'm curious to know, however, when exactly did the material get erased? When Criterion put together their laserdisc editions of films like HALLOWEEN and RAGING BULL, they managed to get original clips of the respective episodes when you reviewed and later revisited the films, and that was the mid-'90's. With outlets like that looking to license that footage, why would it get wiped after that?

If the shows are indeed gone, have the respective copyright owners ever considered offering an incentive to home tapers to come forward with their VHS copies of past episodes to rebuild the archive? Since at one time there were many clips on YouTube, it seems there is a hardcore fanbase that saved the shows much better then them. I think they're missing out by not doing this; Disney, for being as cavalier with your legacy as they were, still is smart enough to keep your clips available for viewing, imagine the internet traffic and eyes the other companies could get if they decided to play ball.

Ebert: I'm convinced PBS/Chicago still must have them around somewhere. Isn't 30 minutes of produced television worth more than an errased blank tape?

Your speaking voice may be silenced, but is a voice I can call to mind in an instant, after so many years of faithfully watching all incarnations of your TV shows. I can still hear Gene too. Blessings to you.

I remember when I was a child and staying up late on Sunday nights just so I could watch your show. I guess it is probably where my love of film started, so thanks for that.

Someone mentioned “The Simpsons” Roeper apparently agreed with Homer Simpson's assessment of himself as Roger Ebert's "kiss-ass new partner" because Roeper now has embarked on. . .
I remember an episode that had a Chatting About God segment where the host asked: With all the suffering in the world, do you ever doubt the existence of God? The Rabbi, Catholic Priest, and Protestant minister replied: No. Of course. Not for a minute. The host responded, “Well, that was an interesting discussion.
So with that in mind—that things can get boring when everyone agrees. I’d just like to say that even though I don’t know the first thing about any of these disputes or Mr Roeper and never saw the show: Mr Ebert and I were discussing Nelson Mandela a while back and how he had forgiven his oppressors and given his jailers front row seats at his inauguration. So why shouldn’t we all try to follow the example of this great man? Life is so short and maybe someone who does us some wrong will eventually see the error of his ways.

One of the reasons I watched "At the Movies" was because you had won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. Of course, the chemistry on the set that you had with Gene Siskel made it more compelling. To read in this blog that beneath the banter and what some would have interpreted as animosity was a friendship has been and is an enlightening chapter on how enduring professional and personal associations can be managed.

The world is indeed changing and I think Disney/ABC has missed how much it has changed. I'm not sure exactly what is happening at Disney/ABC. I have been watching some of their programing--mostly "Dancing with the Stars" and it seems as if they are scrambling. Just looking how the celebrity competition was managed makes one wonder because it seems so disorganized. Then to announce a show ("Let's Dance") one week and then cancel it the next? I understand this show is still being developed, but such actions don't really give you confidence in the management of Disney/ABC.

One of the ways that I feel ABC hasn't been receptive to change is audience and media. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind the Ben & Ben was, but once you insult your audience and fail to concern yourself with the fan base you're stars have already built up, you're unlikely to keep all of your loyal fans. That's one of those essential lessons in marketing and sales.

When "At the Movies" began, no one thought we would have a black president in 2009. Or the possibility of a woman president could be taken so seriously so soon.

I also think that in 1975, it would have been hard to imagine a major stage musical production by deaf actors such as "Big River" or a popular TV show ("Glee") with a musical number where all the actors are in wheelchairs.

Today, I do not get most of my information via TV or print media. TV/radio used to be for immediate news and newspapers and magazine for more in-depth coverage. I use the Internet. The Internet can give voice to the voiceless.

So I am disappointed that Disney/ABC still wants to keep the same format: two white guys in suits--even if they are intelligent white guys. And they didn't consider how to use the Internet or other forms of technology to keep you, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, involved.

Of course, the destruction of the set is just a sign of how little foresight the management had or has.

Count me as yet another viewer who would love to see Mr. Ebert back on the television. If Marlee Matalin can both act and interview with a translator, for example, certainly a lack of speaking voice should not keep one of our finest critics from reviewing movies! There are all sorts of creative solutions, if a studio would only be open to them.

But as much as I'd like to see that come to pass, I am just as interested to see how this website evolves. The site has all the advantages of television (opportunity for back-and-forth dialogue, the means to insert film clips and soundbytes) and then some (mass participation with feedback from readers and peers)! There have been many online film reviewers who have taken advantage of the format, but none I know of with the knowledge and experience that you have. Perhaps in the future, it will be possible for film critics to produce fully authorized internet experiences, with the same access to brand-new clips that television reviewers have. That was something I really appreciated about Sneak Previews, to actually see a moment from the film and listen to two very smart film critics discuss it. I see it starting to happen here in your festival blog entries, and perhaps there will be more of a merging of the blog and the reviews to some degree? Any way it goes, it's going to be a very valuable resource for filmgoers.

Incidentally, I feel the need to mention that Matt Zoller Seitz has been doing some very interesting video essays online, for anyone unfamiliar with what he's been up to. I suppose it's not so different from any amateur YouTube collaging, with his expertise I can't help feeling he's onto something totally new. http://www.thelmagazine.com/newyork/mass-terror-on-film/Content?oid=1269814

By now I have mentioned to you that I have interviewed you and Gene twice and had pleasant conversations with you both. I said it now and will say it again: There can never be a critic's forum much like you and Gene used to have. There will be many imitators, but it will never be the same. You both inspired me to write film reviews which I still do at frazierflickz.blogspot.com. Hoping for another pairing like Siskel and Ebert is like hoping for the second coming of Michael Jordan... Nothing will come close...

Roger: I'm sure you're aware by now that your voice, both real and figurative, has left an indelible mark on American, and probably world, culture so I won't belabor that point.
I just wanted to let you know that, even though my family - a wife and two siblings - roll their eyes every time I quote you, they happily spent the latter part of Thanksgiving watching (and enjoying) Green for Danger and Strangers on a Train. For my daughter, who's an art school graduate, this isn't particularly noteworthy. But for my son who, bless his heart, though intelligent and thoughtful yet still prefers laser weapons to character development, this was especially encouraging. Your influence over the years, your passion for quality work, is a fundamental reason my family can spend time meaninfully together. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Ebert, for your well-written article, and for the amazing video links. I very much enjoyed watching you and Mr. Scorsese discuss the Top Films of the decade, though I will admit that I could not locate The Horse Thief on netflix, but I'll bet with some digging I can find it.

I'm really disappointed in Ben M. and that film clip. It was disrespectful to you, and it reminds me why I don't watch (haven't watched) that version of the show, ever. I grew up in Chicago, remember running in the mornings in high school on Fridays and stopping by the Elmhurst downtown area to pick up a copy of the Sun-Times and the Trib so that I could read your reviews and Mr. Siskel's reviews before school. Your show was an integral one in our household; you turned us on to movies like "Fargo" and "Hoop Dreams" when most other people had never heard of them.

Your dedication to what you do inspires me every day as a classroom teacher. I'm in awe of all that you've accomplished.

(Any advice for films to show in conjunction with teaching "The Odyssey" to a group of 9th graders? I'm thinking the Coen Bros, "O Brother Where Art Thou" could work for some moments, as well as Minghella's "Cold Mountain" at times. I'll probably show some "Clash of the Titans" just because I love that movie. Are there any connections to "The Odyssey" that I could show my students, film-wise? We are on our "Hero's Journey" unit, and eventually, I will show Episode IV Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks, Mr. Ebert.)

I miss Siskel and Ebert, but am glad to see that there is, once again, a thoughtful show about the movies. I am tired of the attitude that all things must be tailored to a younger demographic. Don't people realize that younger demographics grow up? In doing so, they grow into enjoying programming that they might have thought was for older people. Here in Canada, they are dumbing down the CBC news to reach a younger demographic. I hated the CBC as a kid, but grew into ejoying it as an adult. I hope the failure of the dumbed down version of your show serves as a reminder that there is a market for mature ideas.

As a tangent, I will say that I loved your show, but there is one thing that I hope A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips change. I was horribly frustrated when your reviews were cut short for plugs for Nestle's Raisinettes. I want A.O Scott and Michael Phillips to earn a decent living, but do they need so many commercials in such a short show?

"Siskel & Ebert" made me fall in love with movies (and talking about movies) in the late 1990s, so I'm glad the torch has been passed to qualified professionals -- though I haven't yet gotten a chance to watch the Scott/Phillips edition. Hard to believe you've gone so long without your speaking voice, because you've been so prolific in print lately that I feel like we've gotten to hear more of your voice than ever.

I would like to second Marie Haws. You need a time slot and Oprah owes you a favor. As for the target hosts, they'll come running when the cameras roll.

Hell if they don't, I'll do it.

I love movies, and I really enjoyed watching "Siskel and Ebert" and "Ebert and Roeper." I to this day regret that I didn't get a chance to meet you when you were in Madison at the Civic Center for the National Film Registry Tour kickoff in 1996 (I was the WUD Film Committee Director at the time at UW-Madison).

Selfish though this sentiment may be, I'm not sorry you aren't doing that show anymore. I understand that in business and life bad things happen. All the standard cliches are true in this case for you, because your columns have become must-reads for my friends and me since these things happened to you. I love that you've chosen to go for it. You're writing your best stuff right now, and I'm happy to be one of the beneficiaries. The show was great, but your website is better.

Roger, I really respect you and miss seeing on and Richard on TV together. But you totally blew up about Richards comments. He responded on his blog today about what his comments meant, and I completely believe him. Of course he was allowed to trash a movie on your guys show if he wanted to. But he was just meaning that his reviews are going to be more raw and uncut, and he can freely say whatever he wants, and if that involves swearing, then he will be able to do that. Thats all he was saying. You really took it the wrong way. In no way was he back talking you and or what he was allowed to do on the show.

I do miss seeing you, and writing this update was very neat, and helped clarify some things about the show. I read every single movie review you do, and I look forward to reading more. I wish you would do a section where fans of yours could ask you what you think of movies that you never wrote a review for. Like Apocolypto or The Man Who Wasn't There with Christian Slater for example. There are some really small films that I see, and performances are great, but not reviewed much. I wish you would do a section where fans could ask you, and you could review them, or if you have not seen them, watch them and then write a review.

Please read this and respond. I comment quite a bit but never have had you respond back to it. Thanks Roger!

Nelson

Nice to see that Mankiewicz is doing well. I honestly can't believe that I didn't recognize him untl I read this post. I am a regular viewer of the Young Turks, so I really should have remembered him. Mr. Ebert, I strongly recommend that you look at a tribute to your show by the Nostalgia Critic(aka That Guy With the Glasses). It's very well put together and shows a great deal of respect to you and your colleagues. You can see it at thatguywithglasses.com Just clck on the Nostalgia Critic page and it should be on the list of his videos.

I'm in my late 20's and I'm a HUGE 'At the Movies' fan. I've seen (and collected) pretty much every episode since 1982 up until Richard's departure. (thanks, in part, to the internet) It saddened me when Siskel died because I knew there was never going to be a better pairing of film critics. When Richard came along, I thought he wasn't as good as Siskel, but I still respected him. And during his last few years on the show, he seemed wiser and finally grew on me.
But when the Bens sat on the 'balcony', I was in shock. I couldn't believe what they had done to my beloved 'At the Movies'. It wasn't even the same show! After a few episodes, it seemed that Ben Mankiewicz seemed 'capable' and grew on me quickly, but (like everyone) I thought Ben Lyons was a joke. I found it disrespectful to me as a viewer that they would hire somebody like that. What were they trying to do? Make 'At the Movies' hip for the ADD generation?! 'At the Movies' was never hip, and it never treated the viewers like idiots. And that's why I liked it.
I've learned so much about film by watching the show and reading your reviews (which I read every week). In fact, some of your reviews are better than any film school. Ebert, you're my favorite film critic and will always be. I'm happy that you decided to 'break your silence' about the shows latest updates.

I lived for your show when it was on. Now I live for your reviews on Friday. It's one of only a few treats I consider mine. And while I don't share your political views I like to hear how you arrive at them, you are such a persuasive writer.

I rarely go to the movies but I consider myself well versed on new releases because of your thoroughly considered and witty reviews. It would NEVER occur to me to watch a televised review show now that you are "off the air."

But the business of business won't stop just because you are off the air and because Phil Blevins doesn't watch the next thing. The decision makers, new and old, will continue to make goofball decisions and occasionally desecrate what we hold sacred in spite of good advice.

Thank god you're still here. On Thanksgiving Day I have that.

To Grace, who said, "Oh and DRM, god bless you for thinking that highly of me, but really I just suck at writing dirty limericks. I cringe a little."
I know. That’s one of the reasons I think so highly of you. Your blog reveals a very beautiful human being. That's the way Tony Bennet described Bono, who is a beautiful human being and a fine example, also.

Roger,

Thank you for your professional writing. Nothing can replace "Siskel & Ebert", but only succeed it.
And although, we cannot hear you speak....... your voice is as loud as Ever.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family........ and keep on writing my friend.

Roger, this entry made me sad. I always loved watching you, both with Siskel and Roeper. Perhaps the best thing I can say is that my favorite period reading movie reviews in the New York Daily News was that brief time when they used your reviews for the Sun Times. Your words were important to me then, and I greatly appreciate that you still use them in the blog, the most intelligent reading I get on the internet.

I hope I don't have to choose, but I'll take pen over tongue.

I'm glad and relieved that AO Scott and Michael Phillips are now in the reviewing chairs and not the other 2 Bens as most can agree here. I don't know why people are knocking on just Lyons, as I thought Mankie was equally boring and vapid with his reviews. Oh, and their review of Synecdoche NY made me most frustrated when they just shrugged it off as a Kaufman fail. That's one of my favorite movies of all time if not the. That's why I'm soooo glad Roger you're still doing what you do best, even if it's less tv accessible. I truly respect and admire your work. Although your 1 star review of New Moon might have been a bit harsh methinks? Oh well, still love you man!

"It takes backbone to lead the life you want."
-Kate Winslett a la Revolutionary Road

Aw, Roger, you and Gene caught lightening in a bottle. It was too cool. When Johnny is doing the "thumbs" on The Tonight Show, you KNOW you've left your mark on Popular Culture. The show was amazing and I'm just glad I was around to catch the first one on my little portable TV.

Since this is the season for expressing gratitude, let me say thanks for your BOOKS, Roger. The shows were the best and I love the blog, but the books are an incredible resource. I have them all, buddy, and they sit on a shelf near the TV. Sometimes it's fun to pick up one of the books at random, open it to any page and just start reading.

Thank you, sir.

Siskel and Ebert was a very special team and, like a laurel and hardy team, not replaceable. After many years of subsititutes, i hope you are realizing "movie critics" are not replaceable. You were never really able to replace siskel and now the studio cannot replace you and succeed. I hope you may gain some satisfaction by discovering the brand was you and siskel and not the show format. You and siskel were unique and very interesting personalities that clicked --and not a program format.

At some point, the kids leave home and life goes on. That doesn't mean you don't get a twinge when the kids go bad. You want them to do well.

Phillips and Scott have the depth and the insight to carry the torch forward. It's a two in a billion chance that two people can match the chemistry that you and Gene had. They come close.

We love this journal. I look forward to years of excellent writing from one who has honed his craft over the years of a great career.

The fact that Disney turned down returning to the thumbs is simply tragic. "Two Thumbs Up" was a distinct honor for any film to receive. I always looked for those select films lucky enough to earn that honor, and it made me enthusiastic to see those films. I long for those days to return, but alas, they are no more. Your website and blog are an excellent resource.

At age 23, I was born around the time the syndicated TV show started, and it was weekly viewing for my family for many years. Unfortunately, over time, the show has gotten buried on my affiliate channel. I can remember it at 5pm Saturday afternoons during the Siskel & Ebert days, to after the late local news Saturday nights during the latter days of the Ebert & Roper years, to now airing at 1AM early Sunday morning. I have spent many hours on the "At the Movies" website catching up on current releases and reliving the good-old-days in the archives.

Thanks for all you have done, and all you continue to do with your website and blog.

Disney says no to the Smithsonian and trashes the set. That has got to be the lowest, most vicious, vile, despicable act of arrogance and corporate hate it has ever been my unfortunate circumstance to have heard of. Having said that, I've got to say I'm more than a little impressed with how the mousketeers play hard ball.

Like everyone, I was saddened when Gene Siskel died so young and so tragically.

The two of you were a perfect team. I never understood why Richard Roeper was given the job. He's nowhere near as smart or knowledgeable as you are - but he thinks he all that and more. I never could stand his smarmy superior attitude, not to mention that he always looks like he needs to meet a bathtub and a dry cleaner. Now, apparently, he needs to add a bar of soap for his mouth.

You are the gold standard. If you can come back to tv, please do. We don't care if you can speak out loud, we don't care what surgery may have done to your appearance. We just like knowing you're around. And as long as there is an internet, your words will continue to be heard everywhere.

Wishing you good health and peace of mind.

It stinks Disney wouldn't take your blessing after all you've done for them over the years. I remember when 'Two Thumbs Up' was a badge of honor that VHS boxes wore in the video stores. It seems like such a simple phrase but really I think it is the absolutely perfect way to rate movies. I mean it's become a part of pop culture where instead of asking "Did you like the movie?" you ask "Thumbs Up?" See It/Rent It/Skip It is so unoriginal and boring. And why would you rent a movie if it wasn't good enough to see in theaters? I still don't really get that. Tony and Mike better sit down and have a pow wow for a new catch phrase.

After Roeper started on the show, I stopped watching. He was more into special-effects movies than serious films and seemed kind of smug and condescending. The chemistry just wasn't as interesting as it was between you and Siskel. I sensed a certain sincerity and intellectual curiosity in your writing that extended beyond movies. Also, your writing is also very humorous, a quality that doesn't get mentioned very much. Keep up the great work!

Roger, as much as you may be hurt by Richard Roeper's comments, I wouldn't let them get to you too much - for a few reasons:

1) The fact is, no matter how good Roeper was, he will always find himself in Siskel's shadow. Siskel was the original and the best. That is by no means a slight against Roeper - it's just the way it is.

2) Roeper possibly sees this as a chance to carve out his own legacy on his own terms. Instead of being "Gene Siskel's replacement" or "Roger Ebert's partner," I suspect he wants to succeed on his own merits. In no way, Roger, does any of that take away from your generosity or nurturing of Roeper during your years together.

3) The economy sucks and stuff like "I'll say it's a piece of shit" is just an attempt for Roeper to sell his new venture and appear relevant to a younger, "hipper" demographic. I don't think it was meant as a slight against you, Roger. It's just marketing.

With all of that said, I do understand why you were bothered by Roeper's comments. Truth be told, they would upset me too if I were in your shoes. Still, to me, it seems more like a calculated career move on his part rather than an intent to offend. If that's what it is, I disagree with Roeper's advertising strategy but wish him all the best of luck nonetheless.

It is amazing to me that television criticism is waning while print criticism (including online) is stronger than ever. I can't think of any other instance where that's true. You're a major part of that, Roger, and you should feel proud. Long live the printed word!

Ebert: I concede it disappointed me that not a single one of the 904 [comments] said anything about my work. Noooo...t was all limerick, limerikck, limerick.

How about if I praise your writing in a haiku (to do so in a limerick would be difficult, though Grace did a pretty good job with it)?

Roger Ebert wrote
A very long limerick
Classy, wonderful.

Also, I was quite impressed that you condensed Lear's life into linking limericks. And, the illustrations are great.

Your comment reminds me a little bit of when Ulysses S. Grant, while writing his memoirs, asked Mark Twain's opinion on the quality of his writing. Twain was shocked that the hero of the Civil War would want or need his advice, but then he realized that Grant was a first-time writer (and a damn good one, I might add), seeking out the advice of an experienced writer. Perhaps you wished for some comment on your work because you are a newbie when it comes to limericks, like Grant was to writing, and you want to know what we, your loyal readers, think of your skills (though, for all I know, you've been secretly writing limericks for years).

@ Marie:
Let me know when you build that time machine, though all you really need for that is a cardboard box, as Calvin & Hobbes proved. ;-)

I was in high school when Gene Siskel died, and I remember crying when I heard the news. With all due respect to Richard Roeper, who is an insightful and witty guy, nothing can ever replace the banter and the chemistry between you and Gene.

It's too bad, too, because there is a real value to watching movie reviews on TV. At least it would mean my girlfriend wouldn't have to listen to me read her every single new review of yours out loud!

I didn't think there was anything wrong with Mankiewicz, he seemed smart enough and capable for the job. But Lyons, Man In The Sky forbid, was that guy terrible. Nothing against him personally, but he just didn't "get" film.
Glad to see Phillips and Scott on the show now. And I can't wait to see Roeper's online reviews.
As for your show that could've been, that's too bad. Those people can eat your poop.

Just don't ever retire.

Roger,

Best wishes with everything.

The best compliment I can give is that you were the most prominent and driving force which got me to write seriously. I am 31 now, and I clearly recall waiting for your show to start so I could watch the great debates with Gene, and I would often imagine what I would say about films when I grew up.

I do not write professionally, but I have published poems, short stories, sports related articles, and, most recently, I have been writing movie reviews on my website, and I do it all for the love of critical thinking and debate.

I owe a lot of that to you.

Thanks - Matt

ps- Is it possible you've been giving out a few too many 3.5 and 4 stars the past few years? I find myself a little puzzled sometimes and just honestly wonder if life experiences have brought that on or if I am simply delusional.

Yeah, Disney wanted to go for the younger demographic, the same demographic that loathes the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for doing to good soulful music what Disney has done to criticism. They won't see the irony, because avarice is the conduit through which corporate-think flows.

Hi everyone, it's Thanksgiving Day! I'm enjoying my extra day off, and I am planning to doing something fun that will probably involve a moto trip and seeing something new in Mililani Town I haven't seen yet.
You write something new at Thanksgiving?

I must admit I’m a little more than upset about how Disney handled this. First of all, the obvious pathetic attempt to wipe out the old and create a whole new movie critic review show. After the first Ben & Ben show I couldn’t bear to tune in again for a month or so, I didn’t even have the obligatory can’t turn away from a car crash feeling as I did with The Magic Hour.

Thankfully, once they got rid of the mind numbing excess I could at least tune in again, I do think Mankiewicz was capable and I admire his defense of why he didn’t like Dark Knight. Ben Lyons was an abomination, it was impossible for the show to continue with him.

I’m mad at Disney by the way they treated this institution called Siskel & Ebert. That’s what it is, an American institution. Nobody, and I mean nobody tunes into S&E to watch a bright, flashy jazzed up Entertainment Tonight type of show. No, we watch S&E because the original hosts believed in what they were doing, Roger and Gene had a passion for movies just like we do. They bled for their art so to speak. If they were even a little spoiled by their unexpected celebrity (who couldn’t be?) they didn’t show it on S&E. No, they wouldn’t treat us that like that. The show may have updated the set a little over the years but the foundation of the show NEVER changed.

Thankfully, the show has mostly been fixed. Hopefully, and I don’t say this to be mean (but I am angry), hopefully somebody at Disney paid the price for so callously tearing down the old set and practically ruining 30+ years of a must see show.

Okay, I’ve said my peace but before I go I must say thank you to Roger and Gene for giving me such a wonderful gift. It endures.

Ebert: The producer resigned and sought unemployment elsewhere.

Although she was in Chicago week after week, she never once made any attempt to speak with me.

Does Roeper honestly think that calling a movie "shitty" is really going to be any funnier, or more insightful than an eloquent, thoroughly scathing review? All he needs to do is refer to the "Your Movie Sucks" files to realise his mistake. To accurately and thoroughly dissect exactly what is wrong with a movie is a critic's job, otherwise you may as well be a commenter on IMDB, or youtube.

And honestly, "shitty"? Argh. Curse words are only funny (and meaningful) when they're anachronistic. When they become common place they are, at best, descriptive. More often, they just become a sign of your inability to identify an actual shortcoming by name.

Roger, Im still one of those who rents at the local Brickbasher movie store. I always look for a review from you if im not familiar with a movie. I don't see as many of your review taglines as I used to. Are you passe? It doesn't seem so,from your online contributions, you set the standard in the discipline. Your a GD movie reviewing icon! Maybe Im not as observant as I think. So what gives? I mean,I have noticed you give about 3 times more positive reviews then negative. A perusal of Roger Ebert.com reveals almost exactly a 3to1 ratio of 2 thumbs up to 2 thumbs down movie reviews. It seems your fairly easy to please and an eloquent wordsmith. Why not more Ebert reviews on the DVD covers? Is it age demographics?

Ebert: No. It's that "Two thumbs up!" was one of the best quotes of all time.

I used to watch Sneak Previews/At the Movies religiously. I only really stopped because I could never find it on the schedule (I think our local channel moved it to some ungodly hour of the morning and I was never able to find it on a consistent basis thereafter). I never really forgave you guys for making Videodrome your dog of the week, though, but your blog and your Great Movies feature have mollified those feelings over the years.

I'm all for seeing you explore new media.

All my best to you and yours.

Roger, some time back you wrote about your search for a fast, flexible, intuitive, natural-sounding and emotive speech generator. Did you ever find a technology that even seemed promising?

Ebert: Cere Proc in Edinburgh looks very good. Anybody remember who first linked me to them on this blog?

Just ran across this piece you wrote explaining what happened to "At The Movies". I'm a little older than you (wrong demographic) and seem to have had you and "wassup?" in the not-so-far back of my mind for a long time. Watched S&E--from PBS thru the end of E&R--always hoping for your return. Couldn't stomach B.L and now am pleased to see the current duo--although with some longing for the days of S&E.

The thing is,that thru your movie reviews, I got to know who you are--always a privilege--whether in one's personal life or a more public person. Takes guts to reveal one's self--and you had plenty enough. I recall your being hurt by Gene Siskel's not telling you that he was sick, so that his death was a terrible shock. Later,when you were so open about your health problems, I thought to myself that you must have really learned from that experience and resolved to not keep secrets.

Since the changes at the SunTimes, buying out some Chicago suburban papers, I now receive the movie section with your reviews in the local paper every week (only reason I keep my subscription).

Well, Roger, my spirits are lifted to know that you're alive, well and better than ever. I'm so happy to still be able to be connected with you.

Peace and Love

CereProc certainly looks impressive. Actually I was thinking in terms of something portable with real-time input (like a court reporter pad?) that could be used in a friendly conversational setting, without getting left behind.

I guess we're not there yet ... where are all these people who are supposed to be inventing the future? We have enough iPod attachments already. Come up with something useful.

You've always been the only movie reviewer I can trust to recommend films since our tastes seem to align quite a bit, and your reviews are always insightful. Thank you for years of movie education.

So glad you're now on Twitter!

It was great to read about what was going on with your new show. When I heard that Michael Phillips was going back to At the Movies last summer, I thought, "Well, then what will happen to that show Roger was planning?" Yeah, sometimes it is difficult when there are changes in a company and they feel they have to throw out all the old ideas, even if they are good. Personally, I hated hated hated hated the Bens and the music and the yellow lights. As for the current one, it is better, using the music you used in 1999 and blue lights. However, I can't see why they don't use a balcony. And what's with the mugs? You never see Tony and Michael drink from them. But I still miss you and Richard and why Disney didn't decide to do Roeper and Phillips is beyond me. It is good the ratings aren't doing well. Maybe they will cancel the show and you can step in and show those jerks at Disney how it is done. In the meantime, I still read your reviews and Yearbooks (will get the new one that is out next year) and stand up for you when people on imdb.com complain about you and your reviews.

Roger, your ex-producer may not have contacted you because her employment contract/"resignation" terms may have forbidden it. This is not uncommon, esp. in syndicated deals and is particularly Disney-esque. The 800-lb mouse is feared for the way its legal dept. will pursue litigation unto death just to keep the precedent going and inhibit others.

Trashing the set was stupid, though. If they'd done proper market research they may have found that re-creating or exhibiting that set would have been a draw/paying attraction/goodwill social contrib/tax write-off. Demographic targeting is not just slice-n-dice, as Disney has discovered to its bottom-line chagrin at its Chinese amusement park.

Ebert: No, it was during the time she took over the show and started destroying it that she didn't contact me.

Hello Mr. Ebert. I have always been a huge fan of your work. I wonder if Disney will ever release Siskel and Ebert At The Movies on DVD??? I see them on YouTube but the quality is suspect at best especially the older reviews.

I will always respect what you do as a reviewer. I pretty much agree with most of your reviews of films.

It is too bad that you and Mr. Roeper can't continue "Ebert and Roeper at the movies". I miss it already!!!

Take care and peace.

I've never been particularly good at limericks, and so trying to write one invariably leads to a massive brain fart; although I admire those skilled enough to do it without stinking up the place. :)

And it got me to thinking, not about poetry but rather a contest easier for the hapless to win - and where you'd still get to use potty words and stuff.

Now, it's no secret that the spam filter and I are not on friendly terms. He is my mortal enemy and must die. So too, that I never tire of grumbling about the relocation of the Irish Heather Pub or the fact Roger Ebert only gave Harold & Maude 1.5 stars - Pulitzer Prize my @ss! What the f*ck was that?!

But I digress... :)

A good long snarky rant can be a thing of beauty when approached with a sense of unapologetic glee. A showcase for satire and wit - or the delightful and utter poverty of it unwittingly so and thus to the amusement of all. And it's not like it's hard - as who couldn't find something to b*tch about, eh?!

And so I think Roger should hold a "B*tching Contest" to see who can grumble the best! I know some in here have been practicing such an entry for quite some time now. And thus sure we'd see tons of submissions and on every topic under the sun!

And doesn't that sound like fun? Rubbing hands together. :)

As for a prize, I think it should be a secret! Yeah! A top secret prize only to be disclosed once a winner's been declared.

That way, it could be ANYTHING. A signed book, a DVD, a bag of unmarked 20's - U.S. dollars, of course. Or even a bar of soap.

Either way, the bragging rights of the winner would be a treasured thing to hold. So whadya say Roger? Let's have a b*tching contest!

Grin.

Watching you and Gene--then you and Richard--was a Saturday evening ritual for my wife and myself for many years. It was a sad day when you were no longer able to give literal voice to your ideas and opinions. While Richard and his various sidekicks never really replaced you--that's just not possible--they helped us to learn about what films were worth seeing. They did a fine job. When the fools at Disney dropped them, and replaced them with the two youngsters, we swore we'd never watch the show again until grownups were put back in charge of it. And we didn't. Now that Phillips and Scott are back in the saddle, we happily mix up our martinis, settle in and enjoy the show. And now that we know where to find Richard again, we plan on following his critical adventures, as well.

To Dan Mitchell on November 28, 2009 9:51 AM
It doesn’t matter what the ratio is. What kind of a reviewer says, “Oh I’ve given five good reviews in a row, so now it’s time to put the kibosh on one.” ?

Hey Roger, I'm a big fan and I've followed your work since your last few years or so on Ebert & Roeper. I am now 16 and I still always look to you before viewing a film and am a proud owner of both volumes of The Great Movies.

Anyways, I've noticed from some great YouTube clips uploaded by a fan of Siskel & Ebert that you and Gene were frequent guests on David Letterman's shows in the 80s and 90s. Do you still keep in contact with Letterman?

Also, I am a writing student (creative, not journalistic) and I was wondering if you had any advice on overcoming writer's block.

I've been reading your reviews since I was a teenager. I don't have TV. Thanks for all the good work.

There are the "goods" and there are the "Greats."

There are many good news broadcasters...and then you have Walter Cronkite.

There are many good sports announcers...and then you have Vin Sculley

There are good actors...and then you have Meryl Streep.

There are good film critics...and then you have Roger Ebert.

Roger is one of the Greats.

I was watching very old clips on YouTube (one where you and Gene reviewed the original Terminator, which you curiously claim in your Terminator: Salvation review that you didn't see). It was strange seeing just how much and how little the format has changed. You two had chemistry. It wasn't even important what you two said but how you said it. Even if I agree with you, I always love your opinion.

Roeper has gained my interest and I watched the show up until he left. I think that until two personalities that I've grown to really love take the balcony seats, I simply don't want to watch.

Roger, watching "At the Movies" is just not the same without you and Gene and Richard in it. Forgive me for trying to sound sappy or sentimental about certain TV programs; that's not my intent. To put it bluntly, the show was just better before the newer versions.

I'm sure people like the two Bens, A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips and the like are fine people of decent moral character, a love of cinema and all that jazz, but with due respect there is just something very fishy about the way they (the studios and large companies) handle the entire program. Scott and Phillips (as far as the show is concerned) seem to be evolving nicely, and seem comfortable with one another but their show as well as shows in the past have had an atrocious sense of phoniness and over-scripted mediocrity.

The views about movies (today) seem as orchestrated and contrived as a third rate muppet show. While Ben Lyons laced the screen with boring adjectives and stupid references to past films (that he seemed to rip off from a college bloggers film paper), Scott and Phillips are over-intellectual and don't seem very emotionally connected to the subjects or one another for that matter. Their responses seem indeed "pre-determined" when trying to debate about current topics and the films in general. As a result (in my opinion mind you) they often come across as being elitists, unconcerned with the movie going public and more concerned with their own self-image. (Of course I don't deny the possibility that the show like most programs may be scripted--a different matter altogether).

Please don't get upset if they're your good friends. I respect them both (though I've never met them and you wouldn't know it by those last two paragraphs). I only judge based on what I've seen of their program (you'd be surprised, ordinary people can tell when something is not quite right or insincere--such is the nature I suppose of why shows become cancelled). And on a side note: Trust me, the old saying of: Those who can't do teach and those who can't act teach acting class (or something like that) would apply to myself here. Moving on:

These problems however, if I may say so were never the case with you and Mr. Roeper. Together the two of you (Gene too) seemed genuinely concerned with the state of film and were more enthused with engaging in intellectual debate more than you were concerned with plugging a certain "buzz word" or trying to copy the reviews of other publications on the TV or internet. In short, your movie discussions (and discussions about topics in general) are straight from the heart, and involve a real commitment to knowledge, understanding and welfare. The mark of any devoted journalist, writer or poet. I'm saying all these things as a compliment. You and some of your esteemed colleagues are a dying breed. Artists and public servants in quest of truth rather than titillation. I think the world needs more of you guys, even if those doses are humble in stature. There is of course that ongoing debate about the nature of journalism on television, how the written word is a dying breed and is being replaced by cynical, money-driven orchestrated drivel. But I won't go there today.

I'm sure like most people you think I don't know what I'm talking about but please trust me on this one. What you do makes a difference in peoples lives. The movies like most art forms of the world are indeed a cultural phenomenon that has sustained its life well-past a century. It has reinvented itself, sometimes for the worst but often the better and its fans continue to climb in numbers. To think that perfect strangers actually gather in a room to watch light projected on the wall. They sit there, quietly and enjoy stranger's company for a few hours. Much like a campfire in ancient times. Perhaps this has to do with advertising, with manipulation, with science. I wouldn't doubt that but I'd like to believe its something more personal, something more innate, more sincere. We live in a complicated world. However, the more complicated the world we live in becomes; I believe the more layers are peeled back to reveal what we as people truly are, where we came from and where we're headed.

No doubt that art is important, possibly even more so than politics and economics, math and science. For if we loose that innate human ability to question our surrounds, to look at the flowers, observe, write and smell. What will become of us then? What will become of our children? The world needs critics, critiques and artists now more than ever. In ancient times the scribes were the ones that recorded the words of kings. The artists drew upon rock walls the portraits of life's everyday nuances to show future generations.

Critique in itself is an art. And like most art forms its not the kind of paint that you buy, not the kinds of brushes you use. Any idiot with a canvas and $1000 oil paint can have a great foundation, but it takes a person with true love to bring magic to that canvas. And without beings like that to surround ourselves with, the world will become as weary and troubled as places like in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" (maybe that dude something there).

If you only take one thing from your times spent on this profession, on this show, on this website, newspaper, on this medium and on this subject (no doubt a very small part of who you are) please know that you have made an immense difference in the world of movies, in the world of art, of literature; of the written word. People remember that stuff. And its the stuff like that that shapes the world into the place it is. Not trendy spreads of adjectives that don't amount to much. It's like that song said: All you need is love. Well, my friend; you have it in your bones.

Keep on writing. We'll be reading. And as for the movies, well, people will be watching.

I know this film critic named Roger,
a much-loved, intelligent dodger.
Doesn't speak now, but Jeez lord,
what he'll say with a keyboard
outshines many voluble codgers.

That was one (though I could write more)
from the fighting 904.
Didn't write one for you
'cause I thought that you knew.
There's a lesson here I won't ignore.

Now listen, kids, and let me this tell:
There's an Ebert and once was a Siskel
who came on every week;
and the words they would speak
sorted cinema beef from mere gristle.

Roger wrote: I concede it disappointed me that not a single one of the 904 said anything about my work. Noooo...t was all limerick, limerikck, limerick.

Well, I don't know about the 904 comments, but are you really sure noone said anything about your limericks elsewhere? :)

I have to say, it seems odd to me that the studio wanted to 'update' the show so it would appeal to a younger demographic. Is 'At The Movies' and its various permutations really that kind of show? What would be accomplished?
Just doesn't make sense to me.

Like many film enthusiasts out there, I was pretty unimpressed with the Ben and Ben show. Oh, they tried, at least a bit, but it was clear from the outset that Disney had no faith in them (Critics Roundup, anyone?). I blogged about it when it first was announced (http://wilybadger.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/seeing-the-future/ for the curious), where I said at the time:

Clearly Disney is thinking, “Oh, yes, we’ll hire a young pretty-boy, team him up with someone who at least doesn’t look fat or bald, and we’ll get that prized 18 – 25 demographic!”. Yes, cause no one watches film critizism shows at 11:05pm on a Sunday night quite as often as people in that pricessless demographic.

Back then I said I figured Disney would show the program for a season and then quietly pull the plug. I've seldom been happier to be wrong about something. The new show with the new hosts is working just fantastic, though I'll always have a place in my heart for the Big Three.

While I've never really bought into the idea of everyone having a destiny, I do believe that where you end up in life is simply the sum of all the choices you've made. I always liked that idea because it's vaguely comforting to know that where ever you end up in life, it's kind of where your supposed to be. Of course, the theory falls apart when you factor in events like, well thyroid cancer, but that's why it's just a theory.

My point is that while it would be great to have you and Roeper up on that balcony again (it would also be great if the balcony still existed), maybe this is exactly where you're supposed to be: on here, talking to us.

Hi,Roger.Really miss you at the balcony..But I must say that I´m fascinated by how prolific you are as a writer.How do you find the time(blog, book, reviews?. The reason why I admire you so much are all summed up on your own review of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties .Whether on TV or on the paper you´ll always be our reference when it comes to movies.Keep it up!

Ebert: It's fun, that's how.

One of our entertaining new projects right now is sort of in Beta. It's the daily Kolb Report. It is always at this link:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/pages-for-twitter/larry-j-kolb-covert-internet-a.html

New Sunday edition will be up in an hour or so, and believe me, it's worth checking out.

I'd love to see a movie critic version of Dinner for Five. Obviously, the head of the table would be for Roger who'd write his stuff done and have someone speak for him -- sort of the way a deaf person has an interpretor speak for him/her.

@By Skippy20009 on November 28, 2009 9:18 PM
I was thinking the same thing myself. There must be a clever, wink-wink, sort of way to go about such a premise. But then Roger would have less time for the blog, which is a unique and resourceful endeavor in and of itself.

@Roeper and Anyone Else
What a clever and articluate way to phrase something--like a five year old. "If something's a piece of shit, then I'll say, 'It's a piece of shit.'" Even if your audience doesn't require a greater, more imaginative and eloquent way of stating something, does not mean you shouldn't strive for it. Roger used his wits most of the times I saw him on "At the Movies" to knock his point out of the ball park. (Yeah, I know, I used a double negative. Well, at least I didn't . . .)

I am astonished that Disney would demolish your old set. It was one of several things about "At the Movies" that was just perfect. It found the right balance between artistic sensibilities and cheesy entertainment that makes movie-going such a special experience. You guys got me to see great films by directors like Werner Herzog and Akira Kurosawa, but you also appreciated fare like "Speed" and "Wayne's World." That's one of the great things about movies: They're an art form, but they're also supposed to be fun. (OK, plays and books and paintings can be fun too, but you don't usually get to combine them with popcorn and Raisinettes.)

A TV show is also the right medium for discussing movies. Written reviews can give me an idea of what the film is like and whether I'll want to see it, but on your show I got to see actual clips, interspersed with some pretty entertaining conversations/arguments. "At the Movies" wasn't quite an action movie in its own right, but it was certainly animated.

I'm surprised that no one has managed to do it that well since. I tried watching the replacement show after yours ended, but the magic just wasn't there, and I stopped tuning in. It's a shame, because it also means I'm going to fewer movies these days. Your show would really whet my appetite, and for awhile there I was going to at least one a week, and sometimes two or three. Now I go months sometimes without seeing a movie in an actual theater. Maybe I've just gotten busy with other things, but if you were still on the air, I think I'd still find the time.

I miss those days.

There once were two lads named Roger and Gene,
Whose love for the movies was simply obscene,
Which pretty much sums up
Why we'd all give our thumbs up
For one more Roger with Gene in the mezzanine.

I just can't get over the picture of Gene with the thick, full moustache. I don't think I ever saw him with that before. At least I don't remember it.

When did he get rid of it? Thanks, if you choose to reply.

Rog, you never mentioned this anywhere so I guess I have to.

A paper picked up the story about your Ben Lyons blog- and you refused to comment on it! I can't believe that you chose to not say anymore than had already been said. Some paper in Canada, if I recall.

Now that is a classy move.


What Siskel & Ebert accomplished is nothing less the Television history.
It is not surprising that attempts to re-invent their program proved impossible.
If Julia Child changed America's palette then Siskel & Ebert changed the way America views movies.

I mostly stopped watching television at 17 or so.

Too many good things to read, and too much to write.

I did see your show once in a while, but never cared much for Siskel and, frankly, always enjoyed your criticism far more in written form where it had room to breathe.

Do not lament the fate of your TV show, or of your spoken reviews. The written reviews are and have always been more important. They are what will carry your voice into the future, and they are not edited to fit into little chunks of time between idiotic commercials.

Television has become a medium for carrying a vacuum of thought across a 500-channel spectrum into peoples' homes. Once in a while when my folks are around and have the TV on, I will walk through the room and it's as if the giant ogre of stupidity lurking inside society is delivering some horrible gaseous bowl movement directly into my brain.

I flee the room.

Writer, Roger, write! It is what you were born to do. At the moment you are at the top of your game and, whoda thunk it, you don't need to say a word.

Is there such a thing as a written track to accompany a DVD? Kind of like pop-up bubbles or subtitles instead of audio? (Or perhaps a RiffTrax type service?)

I think having your written commentary track on a DVD would be something a lot of us would truly enjoy. Not to mention that you could still hear what is going on in the film instead of having the commentary track over the audio.

Ebert: I'm checking out the DirCut of "Almost Famous."

Roger,
You asked above who on this blog linked you to Cere Proc:
(Ebert: Cere Proc in Edinburgh looks very good. Anybody remember who first linked me to them on this blog?)

In fact, I think you found them yourself.

Per your entry in August:
"But wait! There is new hope! Just this moment, searching for the Cepstral URL to link for you, I found a new company I had never before seen on the web. This is CereProc, from Scotland--from Edinburgh, in fact, that ancient center of medical learning where Dr. Jekyll did his pioneering work."

I have a mac. Didn't realize it could read aloud. I have Alex speaking to me now. Thanks.

I remember the original PBS series as well. That was back in the day when there was only one TV (or at most two) per household, so your show had the attention of the entire family. As others said above always informative and entertaining. Sorry to hear the Smithsonian was not allowed one of the sets. It would have been a popular stop.

Ebert: So that's who tipped me off! They're making progress

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Twelve months, 91 million visits at rogerebert.com.

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"He gets comments that are the envy of anyone in the business." -- New City, Chicago

"America's #1 pundit." -- Forbes

Roger Ebert


Roger Ebert's latest books are Scorsese by Ebert and Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2009. Published recently: Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews (1967-2007) and Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. Books can be ordered through rogerebert.com. (Photo by Taylor Evans)

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