Monday, September 8, 2008

Everything I Consume: Tropic Thunder

Many years ago there was a great show on PBS called Sneak Previews. There were two movie critics talking about movies and it was really good. The knew their shit and loved talking about it. The two guys were a little annoying on their own and didn't seem to like each other but boy, did they have chemistry together. Like Astaire and Rogers or Lemmon and Matthau or one part hydrogen and two parts oxygen. Of course, I'm talking about Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

They did the show for a long time and became famous. The name changed to At The Movies and moved to commercial television. Everyone in the world knew what "Two Thumbs Up" meant. They taught a lot of people, like me and my brother, about movies and gave time to everything from My Dinner with Andre to Friday the 13th. They really cared. When the last Star Wars movie came out Roger Ebert watched two days in a row from the same seat, once in in digital video, once in film to judge how the special effects looked. When the re-edited the ending of Jade before it was released, Roger went to see it again.

My favorite memory was the Worst Movies of 1995 episode. That was a year I saw a lot of movies. Gene Siskel picked Jade as the absolute worst movie of 1995, a choice I totally agreed with. When it was Roger's turn he said, "Just for the record Jade was my worst movie too but Gene won the coin toss and I had to pick something else."

The show was frequently imitated but nobody came close. Still, it was always nice to hear two people who loved movies talking about them even if one of them was Rex Reed. At the Movies lasted for about twenty years until Gene Siskel got sick and died.

He is buried in the white suit from Saturday Night Fever. Really, look it up on his Wikipedia page.

Roger Ebert continued the show with a variety of hosts before settling on a decent guy called Richard Roeper. It wasn't bad. But Roger got sick a few years ago and even though he's healthy he can't talk any more. He's still going strong. They tried some guest critics but the people in charge of the show decided to chuck Roeper and try something new.

The new At the Movies has five critics who spend about five seconds apiece telling you whether you should "See It", "Wait for the DVD" or "Skip It". Here's a math problem, if two people you've never heard of tell you see a movie, two people you never heard of tell you to rent the DVD and one person you've never heard of tell you to skip it what do you do?

The only person I recognized in Ben Mankiewicz from TCM who is supposed to be the snarky kid but comes off as a burned-out art director who will never get the promotion to head creative and realized it years ago but is too lazy to quit. Sadly, At the Movies now just reminds me of the political shoutfests that have destroyed American democracy. There's no depth and no kids are going to learn anything about movies, or anything, watching this show.

Anyway, Tropic Thunder was great and everyone should see it.

1 comment:

Ted said...

Aw, man, made me all wet-eyed. Very nice. Remember when it was only on Channel 21. What was the one with Leonard Harris (?) we used to make fun of?

Okay, I'll put Tropic Thunder on the list. Not much else on it anyway.