Ebert & Siskel : The Gold Standard Of Journalistic Film
Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! Used to be their phrase. Siskel and Ebert are their names and today I’ll be looking and discussing their long form careers and many iterations of their television shows. From Opening Soon At The Movies, Sneak Previews or Siskel & Ebert At The Movies. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were pioneers of journalistic film along the lines of a Pauline Kael. No matter what iterations came after these two were as lightning in a bottle as you can get. Never before and never again will we see two people analyze filmmaking at its finest. The duo grew in their dominance from the early 70’s through the late 90’s. With not only their impressive film discussion but also there story before they ever reached our tv screens and today I wanted to talk about the two in tandem.
Starting from the perspective of Roger Ebert a journalist, who made his first impression in the papers with his stunning film reviews. In the movie Life Itself, Roger claims when he began working for the Chicago Sun Times, their recent film critic happened to depart the paper and the position was offered to Ebert instead who gladly accepted it.Through festivals and film reviews readers fell in love with his deep analysis of film, however he grew in popularity after he showed his more vulnerable side in an article where he talked about his hardship with drinking. It’s something that allowed his audience to connect with him on a deeper reflection. However while he was on the up and up he had another young rising star following suit.
While Roger was staking his claim to fame another top reporter was closely trailing on his tail. Gene Siskel was a reporter who aside from Roger was living the high life starting from being a philosophy major. To moving into the city of Chicago catching the eye of powerful people such as Hugh Hefner who was a dear friend of his. Not to mention Siskel had been getting interviews with powerful people before he ever became a critic. He was able to interview the president and other politicians. He was always at the forefront of large sporting events happening in Chicago. However once he did become a film critic he had quickly stolen the scene. With not only his approach to it but how quickly he was able to gain a more of a following in the paper once he took over the position.
Their respective papers struck accord in the papers with the rivals of the journalistic film clashing heads. The two garnered so much attention that they were eventually handed a broadcast in which they would work together and according to the documentary Life Itself, the two were very hesitant to work with one another due to the fact that they worked for respective papers which made them inherently dislike each other at first to a point where they couldn’t and wouldn’t even talk after the show was done being made. However they grew close over the course of working with one another by wanting to be right so often that they discovered more, through fighting and arguing, debating and discussion both men creating magic unlike anything we’ve ever seen before or ever see again. These men were inseparable and became the two most powerful men in the film industry using the thumbs up thumbs down moniker which help sky rocket movies that they gave movies they enjoyed. Siskel brought facts and reflection to the majority of his reviews while Ebert went on emotion and feeling of how the film made him feel. The two men were complete opposites in the best possible way that lead to the long standing success of At the movies. It also lead to a growth in their respect for one another.
All in all these men pave the way for Jounalistic film to be looked at in a new way bringing not only class but also respect to the medium. However no one could ever replace the two men and what they did.
Written By William Christian Praise