Growing up, I was a fan of Siskel. Siskel was the nice man, with the nice smile, the easy way of talking and glints of good nature in his eyes. Ebert, the pudgy one, was of course, the mean one. The sour one. The one liable to be judged based on his mediocre looks. As long as Siskel gave his thumbs up, I didn't really care what Ebert thought.
When Gene Siskel died from complications of brain cancer in 1999, I was living in Korea and shocked by the news of his passing--you never expect someone to die at the age of 53. (He died on February 20.) And I wondered how Siskel and Ebert would continue. But it did. With a number of guest hosts until Richard Roeper stepped in and the show was renamed Ebert and Roeper. I think I saw maybe one or two episodes of Ebert and Roeper.
At some point I started reading Roger Ebert's reviews online. At first, for just the current batch of movies. But then, as I realized how great his writing was, I started reading the reviews for all the movies I had ever seen, and even for movies I hadn't seen. I read them for the insight they provided not only into the movie, but into the human condition and recently, into Ebert's own soul. The reviews aren't very long. Just long enough to say something meaningful and hopeful, and when the movie sucks, comical. And then I started reading his essays. On politics. On the sadness he felt when Siskel died. On how his own bout with cancer made him a lot more human. I began to really, really like Roger Ebert.
Ebert recently wrote an article about an emotion he dubbed Elevation, the feeling of uplift that's created when you see a good person doing a good thing. You hardly see many stories on the news, especially these days, that produce this feeling of Elevation. I wanted to post something today that would have been elevating. But after scouring the Internet, I kind of gave up. Which is how I ended up writing about Siskel and Ebert.
I will reveal a corny dream of mine: I dream of getting a four-star review from Roger Ebert someday for one of my screenplays. He gives out lots of 3-stars, and you know the movie was really kind of mediocre if it gets anything fewer than that. But he doesn't give out too many 4-stars. I think getting 4-stars from Roger Ebert would be even better than getting an Oscar.