The film world is mourning the loss of critic Roger Ebert, who died today at age 70 after a decade-long battle with cancer. But most of us know Ebert's face (and his famous thumbs) from his TV shows alongside fellow critic Gene Siskel: first PBS's "Sneak Previews," and then the syndicated "Siskel & Ebert."
Siskel and Ebert helped bring film culture to the masses with their highly opinionated reviews of both Hollywood blockbusters and tiny indie flicks, singlehandedly bolstering a film's box office chances by giving it their trademark "two thumbs up." They also had plenty of heated disagreements that made for great television.
The duo reviewed films together on TV from 1975 to 1999, when Siskel's failing health forced him off the show. (Siskel passed away that year from complications following a brain tumor.) Ebert went on to co-host with film critic Richard Roeper for a few more years before leaving in 2006 to deal with his own health issues. But with all due respect to Roeper, we'll always remember it as "Siskel & Ebert."
And thanks to the magic of YouTube, we can relive those glory days with a few vintage reviews featuring Siskel and Ebert. We'll start in 1975, back when their show was called "Opening Soon," with Siskel (sporting an amazing 'stache) and Ebert disagreeing about Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." (We love you, Gene, but you're way off here.)
Siskel and Ebert tackle another great director here, Steven Spielberg, in reviewing the 1982 mega-hit "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." They really get at what makes Spielberg's films so special.
Siskel liked Tim Burton's 1989 smash hit "Batman," but Ebert panned it; he says he "didn't care about anything that happened in the movie." Good thing there wasn't an Internet back then... poor Ebert would've been crucified by the fanboys.
We loved seeing them wax rhapsodic about a great film, but Siskel and Ebert were at their funniest when they really hated a movie. Here they are eviscerating two stinkers from 1989: the awful sequel "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" and the Hulk Hogan vehicle "No Holds Barred."
(Bonus: This clip includes the "Siskel & Ebert" opening credits, with Roger and Gene meeting up and arguing over their reviews before heading into the movie theater together.)
Finally, we have Siskel and Ebert gushing about one of the best films of the '90s, the Coen brothers' masterful dark comedy "Fargo." They both named it their favorite film of 1996. (As Ebert puts it, "When we disagree, one of us is wrong, but when we agree, both of us are right.")
If you need us, we'll be watching "Siskel & Ebert" reviews the rest of the day. Until then, the balcony is closed.