I am so sad about this. I started watching “Sneak Previews,” in the late 70’s on my PBS station in Anchorage, AK. There is shit to do up there folks, especially if you were an arty introverted type like myself. And this was the late 70’s/Early 80’s! Meaning no cable TV, no computers, no VCR’s. Nothing but books, board games and movies if you wanted to stay inside. That show and Elsa Klensch’s CNN fashion show saved my friggin’ life. A taste of art and culture that sustained my appetite till I could make my escape.
Not only could I take a peek at all the new movies (the arty ones did not make it up to Anchorage), I got to listen to a heated debate pro or con on the film’s merits or missteps. It lit a fire in me to seek out different films, foreign films, independent films. It opened me up to the dimensions of film, what characters really were, the importance of directors, the craft of great writing. This set the stage for me deciding to go to film school and abandoning a more financially stable path, much to the chagrin of my immigrant Korean parents. So yeah, my parents can blame Roger Ebert for me not being a lawyer.
I followed Siskel and Ebert to their syndicated show, “At the Movies,” hanging on their every word, and starting to agree or vehemently disagree with them. I was more of an Ebert gal. Gene Siskel didn’t have the credentials I required if one is to be so full of himself. You could tell Ebert was a great writer. He was awarded a 1975 Pulitzer for criticism. You also could tell he was smarter than Gene, and that’s why Gene was such a dick. Most film criticism involved summarizing the plot, but Ebert made reviewing a movie like reviewing a book or a play or any other piece of serious art. He elevated being a film fan from something passive to something active.
He succumbed to cancer, but fought valiantly, and served as an inspiration to all of us.