The Passage of Time

This is a large portion of a blog I posted elsewhere at the time when “At the Movies” ceased (before Roger engineered a short termed comeback). I’ve left off a bit of complaining about some but wanted to share here my background with Roger & Gene, growing up in Michigan.  I’m mostly an agnostic with hope.  Today, I’d like to think Gene was waiting somewhere with a cold glass & a couple chairs in the balcony & a stack of films from their 10 best arguments ever. Call that place whatever you like. Happiness will work for me.

…agreement is not the point of “At the Movies”.  The argument is the beauty of that particular, now deceased, beast.

I grew up with Gene & Roger.  Being from the midwest, even in pre-cable days, we were able to access.  I remember very clearly.  The Grand Rapids station used to air old Harold Lloyd shorts on Sunday mornings & follow with “ATM”.  There was a very specific aging process in our family where you were old enough to skip first Sunday School & then eventually church service (or even the far less painful fellowship hour which involved treats) to rush home in time to watch the thumb direction.

My brother & I were film addicts from an early age.  My dad’s great aunt Peggy was the office manager at the Bijou in Battle Creek.  Almost weekly our mom would take us there after school on her ‘grocery shopping’ day.  It was an excuse, I think, for her to indulge in the pleasure of that treat. The matinee.

So the addition for us of two men from Chicago? a city our dad worked in.  a city we’d been to.  a city that was real- unlike the dream of NYC or LA at that time.  two men who talked in a way we understood & told us that foreign movies were ok & that ‘popular’ & ‘good’ aren’t synonymous & eventually to be on the lookout for the actors that weren’t stars yet?

That shaped my view of  the movies & the world like little else. I remember how they celebrated the Brits & the small films & made me realize that when you watched a movie & it made you uncomfortable & you had to think about it & not cement your opinion immediately, that it was ok.

I remember the old ‘stars of the future’ shows & i doubt not that they were my intro to Aussie films like “breaker morant” & “The Year My Voice Broke”–both of which i still own & love & still follow actors from.  russell crowe in “romper stomper” ? they paid attention.  so I did too.

Tonight was an example of what led to the demise.  Yesterday was admittedly one of the biggest release days of the summer & i understand they wanted to fit in the tributes.  But the self proclaimed ‘revenge of the nerds’ hosts chose to ignore my beloved “Animal Kingdom” – a decision they’ll regret come awards time & notably one the best ‘indie’ releases of the year. don’t just take my word for it– there’s plenty of evidence to back me up.

hey–heres a hint. Don’t be the thing you’re trying to piss on.  You’re bemoaning the death of a show that would have celebrated a David Michod while ignoring his work.  (that was the sentence i scribbled while the show was in progress).

it’s the in-between years that killed the beast.  the shabby way executives treated Ebert after Gene was gone. Those diaper clad morons who preceeded the current hosts & what i refer to as the “Roeper” years.

Remember-I live in Chicago.  I was familiar with his writing work prior to his  assignment as permanent co-host.  In other words, I had a pretty low opinion to start with.  He’s a pop culture commentator.  Usually a fairly misogynistic one.  & I appreciate that he was probably Ebert’s favorite guy from around the office but it brings us back to the point.  He’s from a culture that doesn’t understand the beauty that is the informed argument.  that you get your best results and relationships when you agree to disagree.  Siskel & Ebert are/were film lovers -in the best sense. Roeper is a celebrity analyst (look-i’ve sold the guy research material when i worked at Borders.  this is an informed opinion)

Tonight Michael Wilmington said one thing that stuck with me particularly:

“you can’t wear the sweaters roger & gene wore in an ivory tower”

I don’t mean that to sound like they would have survived being strictly a tea sipping, PBS broadcasted, accent embracing entity.  Part of their beauty was dedicating entire shows to the impact of a Tom Cruise.  But that’s the key.  Analyze the impact-don’t oversell the importance. It’s ok to love subtitled films & enjoy ‘top gun’.  and conversely.  you like “The Godfather”?  check out something with Vincent Cassel (mesrine is coming soon)

Love Sundance.  it’s a great festival & it can have a huge impact.  but don’t ignore quality for publicity. or vice versa.

i fear i’ve gotten off track.

I loved & hated “At the Movies” for years.  I was 10 when it premiered as “Sneak Previews” and probably watched it pretty reliably til I left for college in 1983 & for years following depending on access.

It makes me terribly sad to see it end, especially with two hosts with some potential.  None of us expected it to be exactly the same.  nothing survives in a vacuum.  But i feel like, still, that I said good bye in 1999.  Gene Siskel is a man whose opinion and life i respected immensely.

I still hope & yearn & pine for a situation like that.  we’ve become so possessive of our own opinions.  I express mine pretty freely & the older i get, the less I filter.  but despite what you may be thinking, i’m pretty tolerant of disagreement.  i’ll tell you when i don’t agree but i won’t end a friendship because of it. i’ll listen to your thought process, at the least. Siskel & Ebert were old enough to be part of the breed of writers who understood the concepts of a discussion vs. an argument.

Tonight’s show made me nostalgic for the days i worked in video stores with people who used to hold gatherings to watch film.  & who would go see “my left foot” on Oscar night so we’d understand why Daniel Day Lewis won. & it made me miss the aforementioned  Bijou.  & the Vogue in Louisville, KY, where i could gather a gang to go sit in the front row for opening night of “Heavenly Creatures”.  or meet up at Denny’s to fuel up for the midnight “pulp fiction” showing.  & there was my waiter friend Rob who could recite all the Best Picture winners from the beginning.  or Steve who came to a party in a sheriff’s hat in honor of “Fargo”.  &  the double features of “shaolin executioner” & “straight to hell”.  & my buddy Dave reviewing things like “Die Hard 3” as BDF (big dumb fun)for the LEO.

So I guess I think the best way to honor the show & criticism & film itself is to embrace it.  my buddy Tim went to a morning screening of “animal kingdom”  in LA on little but the strength of my recommendation.  friday i spent 15 minutes worth more than most of my week, with my buddy Matt, who gave up 15 minutes of his precious day to chain smoke, trade off “Empire” magazines & catch up on 3 months of movie conversation.

Find a way in your day, in your life to LOVE the movies.  remember what a gift art is & what freedom we have in this country & remember to embrace films made by people who literally stake their lives on it.

It’s worth it.  It’s worth your time & I promise there is a pay off.

I do so love the movies.  I have since i was the little girl. Parked in the middle of our living room on a railback chair. with my fingers over my eyes out of fear & my legs clinging to the chair  so my mom couldn’t pull me away as i was afraid and thrilled by the flying monkeys & the witch in “Wizard of Oz”.  I love watching “sound of music” at a late night screening after christmas shopping & having the drunks wander in and sing along.  i love my friend Ben, who handed out Trix to the audience so they’d have munchies for “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.

I LOVE the movies.  & the best remedy to this hole for me and you is to fight for the future of movies and not the future of the publicity machine.

I wish i had a more articulate ending.  it’s late.  i’m sleepy.  i’ve ranted.

but i hope at least one of you enjoyed it.  even if you didn’t agree.  because that’s the real point.  the conversation.  not winning the argument.  let’s all of us talk about why we love the movies  for Gene. A now for Roger.   That’s reason enough.  Good enough for me, at least.

-C”

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~ by ShortFilmSunday on April 4, 2013.

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