July 27, 2008

Closing the Balcony

As everyone probably knows by now, Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert are no longer co-hosting At the Movies. The latter gentleman's health issues notwithstanding, it seems that the show is moving towards a slightly different focus.

Which is a shame, really, because At the Movies - throughout its long history - has probably done more to put film criticism back in the hands of the viewer, and out of the hands of the professional "critic".

Yes, it's hard to believe that at one time, the only outlet for discussing films was reading the reviews in your local paper. Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were possibly the first to actually use critical language and discuss films in a rather personable way. Along the way, they had theme shows (like this early science-fiction oriented episode), and made what could have been geek only issues like colorization seem like water cooler discussions.

In time, both Siskel and Ebert became kinda sorta pop culture icons, their Mutt-and-Jeff chemistry often spilling into appearances on talk shows and other media. (Their zenith/nadir, of course, is their love duet on The Critic.) There were some who argued that they "cheapened" film criticism - that they did for film discussion what Penn & Teller did for stage magic - but in many ways, they made talking about films less geeky and more...sexy.

Of course, in the wake of Siskel's death in 1999, it has been hard to recapture that unique lightning in a bottle chemistry. Sun-Times columnist/fake Facebook friend Richard Roeper came rather close, but with Ebert's health mandating his departure from the show, one can see - in recent episodes - some lack of enthusiasm.

It's easy to see it as the end of an era, but somehow, I don't think so. Even as some postulate the "end of the critic", the emergence of new media (such as blogs, podcasts, etc) will only mean that the idea of two film critics talking seriously about films will always be present, even if it takes a dramatically new form

And if that's not a thumbs-up idea, I don't know what is.


Roger Owen Green said...

The news made me very sad. "Two critics" may still be around, but frankly, some of the pairing I'd seen over the years were awful.

Siskoid said...

But I love Penn & Teller!

That said, yeah, it hasn't been the same since Ebert had to leave, usually because of Roeper's revolving fawning partner.

One of the things that worked about the show is that you got to know each critic's tastes compared to yours. Maybe Ebert didn't like it, but from his reasons, you knew you would, etc.

Which is why any revolving critic hurt the show, whether while Ebert was auditioning people pre-Roeper or as it is now.

Stephen said...

the internet and us effed them