A (Very Short) Tribute to Gene Siskel

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Roger Ebert was a great movie critic. There were those who didn’t like it, but he undeniably had a distinguished career. I’ve been rummaging through old Siskel and Ebert reviews and discussions lately, as I am prone to do every few months or so, and I’ve noticed that Ebert seems to get highlighted more often than Gene Siskel. That’s understandable given the fact that Siskel passed away nearly 16 years ago. Since then, I believe Ebert’s entire review catalog has been put online while only a smattering of Siskel’s can be found, Ebert has had various books published, Ebert continued to co-host At the Movies for many years after Siskel’s death, and Ebert stayed very much in the public consciousness. Even now, Ebert is back on everybody’s minds due to Life Itself, a documentary about Ebert’s life based on his bestselling autobiography published in 2011. This, I’m sure, will die down some in the coming years, but with all this praise being piled on Ebert (and deservedly so), I think Siskel is getting left out in the cold a little. I wanted to highlight him today, if only for a moment.

Good old Gen was always positive about an idea (barring some of the Worst of the Year shows). Many times Roger would say an idea could never work and Gene would reply with “any idea can be done well.” His point of view was that anything can work as long as you have the right guys behind it. It says that anything in film is possible. You can tell any story you want to tell as long as you know how to tell it. It’s a hopefulness that meshes with film so well. Movies are partially about optimism and hope, I think. They look with a favorabile eye at what we’ve accomplished, what we will accomplish, who we are, and the good we’re capable of doing as a race. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into. Either way it gives me a new admiration for Mr. Siskel. It’s what I’ll always respect most about him.

Siskel should also be commended for his work as a critic and being the other half At the Movies for 24 years. Just because Gene has been gone for a while, though, does not mean Roger should get sole credit for heavily influencing film criticism from the mid 70s onward. I raise my glass to you, my good sir.

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