Tuesday, January 12, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Siskel & Ebert & the (Science Fiction) Movies

I miss Siskel & Ebert. Yes, I know Roger Ebert is still reviewing movies in print for the Chicago Sun-Times, and has a great blog that's about whatever's on his mind (which is frequently movies, but also often not). But I miss the team, and I miss the show.

I'm from the Chicago area, and I was a child of the 1970's and '80s, which is as much as to say that I grew up watching the critics on Sneak Previews (1977-82), At the Movies (1982-86), and Siskel & Ebert (with and without & the Movies, 1986-99). Starting around the sixth grade, my friends and I got into a Siskel-and-Ebert-induced mania for giving things star ratings. My parents subscribed to Gene Siskel's Chicago Tribune, while a friend's subscribed to the Sun-Times, and we were partisans for the respective critics, and appropriately enough, argued for their points of view. (When Ebert's first book of reviews came out, though, I read it, and switched my allegiance.)

Unfortunately for S&E fans, neither WTTW, the PBS affiliate that produced Sneak Previews, nor the Tribune Company, which produced At the Movies, felt their movie reviews were anything but ephemera, and most of the episodes were wiped. (Disney, by contrast, keeps pretty much everything, so you can enjoy reviews from the Buena Vista-produced Siskel & Ebert on the website for its current incarnation, confusingly titled At the Movies.)

Fortunately, some episodes from 1980-86 survive via home video recordings. And, this being the future and all, they're on YouTube for us to enjoy. Here's a 1980 Sneak Previews "Take 2" episode (taking an in-depth view of a subject in lieu of regular movie reviews): "Invasion of the Outer Space Movies."  (Only this clip of the first third is available.)

In this 1982 Sneak Previews, S&E take on Blade Runner. (That review begins at about 2:10.) I won't ruin it for you by telling you what they thought.

The next year, on At the Movies, they indulge in a surprisingly long review of Return of the Jedi.

Siskel: "I want the next ones to come out much quicker than one every three years."  Ironically, he wouldn't live to see the next one, sixteen years later.

Here, Siskel and Ebert defend the Star Wars films against a snooty New York critic (who employs one of my least favorite debate tactics: "If you disagree with me, you are, objectively, an idiot") on ABC's Nightline in a clip from so long ago that I'd completely forgotten that Ted Koppel's hair was ever that dark. (WARNING: Much louder than previous clips.)

What I don't understand is how Ebert, a science fiction fan in his youth, has never really appreciated Star Trek. In practically every one of his Trek film reviews, he goes on about the clunkiness of its technology. Never mind that the Millennium Falcon was flown with levers. Oh, well.

Finally, from their last year on At the Movies, here's their review of Short Circuit.

Okay, I have to admit, all of these clips come from the same YouTube user. You can see a lot more S&E clips via his channel page.

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