Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Morning at the Movies

While flipping around the channels on this Sunday night, I managed to catch the final episode of At the Movies.  The majority of the online film community has been shedding a tear for the end of this 35-year franchise and what it did for film.  Let me bring you up to speed.

At the Movies started way back in 1975 when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert started meeting on Chicago's PBS station to review movies.  It was such a hit, that in the early -1980s, it went into syndication, first by Tribune Entertianment, and then by Disney.  During this era, it was most commonly known as Siskel and Ebert, and brought the world of movies into people's homes.

But, the past decade was not kind to At the Movies.  It all began in 1999, when Gene Siskel passed away.  Roger Ebert then had a rotating panel of co-hosts until Y2K, when he settled on his fellow Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper, and it became Ebert and Roeper At the Movies.  It was like that until 2006, when Roger Ebert had to step down due to his failing health.  So, it was Roeper and rotating co-hosts until 2008, when Disney decided to take the show in "a new direction."  That new direction was critics Ben Lyons and Ben Mankewicz.  I never caught it during this era, but reviews were not kind.  Last year, they were replaced with critics A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips, but it was too little too late. 

Watching that final episode, I was a little sadder than I thought I'd be.  I have fond memories of Siskel and Ebert.  In the early-1990s, my parents were good church-going folk, but I didn't want to go, finding church to be too boring.  Being old enough to be left at home on my own, my family would leave me at home on Sunday morning while they went to church.  And I stayed at home and watched Siskel and Ebert

The early 90s was the perfect time to be watching Siskel and Ebert.  I mean, growing up in small-town Alberta, where you rented movies from the local gas station and the closest movie theatres were an hour away, where else was a kid going to be exposed to the entire world of movies out there?  And with the rise of independent film in the 1990s, Siskel and Ebert was where I was first exposed to Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarintino, Hayao Miyazaki, and many other fantastic filmmakers.

Hell, my first exposure to Clerks was when the special edition laserdisc came out, and Siskel and Ebert showed the original ending to Clerks on the show and debated whether Kevin Smith was right to cut it or not.  (Consensus:  he was.)  My first exposure to Hayao Miyazaki was their review of My Neighbor Totoro.  Ebert loved that film so much.  That show gave a lot of films exposure that wouldn't have gotten any. 

And now, it's done.  Great films will still get exposure, though.  My favourite film, The Iron Giant, was brought to my attention, not because of a TV show, but because of all the reviews I read online.  Great films still have a way of getting out there.  Part of the problem, though, is on the Internet, there's just so many voices to weed through.  Not like the old days, when it was just two guys talking about films, and you were eavesdropping through the TV. 

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