Monday, April 8, 2013

Siskel & Ebert Give Think Fink Two Shrugged Shoulders Up.

I don’t want to eulogize Roger Ebert here because I don’t know anything about Roger Ebert, the man. His passing has gotten me reflecting on his career as Roger Ebert, the critic and how his movie reviews influenced my views on movies for almost as long as I have been watching them.  

Roger Ebert, along with his former partner in crime, Gene Siskel, brought the film critic out from behind the cloak of a newspaper byline and on to the Sony Trinitron TV resting on the trunk in my family’s den.  Being part of the first cable generation, I devoured movies on TV, like other kids consumed Pepsi, Sprees and Cool Ranch Doritos, which is a perfect combination to suit the discerning palate of any 12-year-old foodie in the ‘80s.

As an aside, the reason foodies are more annoying than hipsters, although one can easily be both, is because most people have never opened a conversation after sitting down at a restaurant on a first date like this-”You know I read about this place in New York Magazine and I have been dying to try it. I hope you don’t mind that it’s a bit expensive but the chef supposedly once worked in the kitchen at Babbo. Have you ever been to Babbo? I love Babbo.  I’m kind of on a truffle oil kick right now. You know, I have to admit, I’m kind of a foodie.”

If you offer up that you’re kind of an anything to show off your knowledge of something in the first two minutes of meeting someone, you’re usually kind of an ass.  

My digression into a rant on food snobs has nothing to do with Roger Ebert except for the fact that he was a master at pointing out things in movies that annoyed him.  I started watching Siskel & Ebert: At The Movies around the same time that video stores began popping up in every suburban strip mall. If you got a 'Thumbs Up' by both Siskel & Ebert your movie was most likely going to do well.

Their entertaining bickering, Laurel and Hardyish appearance (or Spade and Farleyish appearance for those too young enough to remember black and white comedies on TV) and opposing viewpoints on whether a movie was worth a “Thumbs Up,” lead to a perfectly natural on-screen chemistry. They not only engaged you into thinking about why you should or should not see a movie but they also introduced you to what was playing at the theaters in a time before Google. I’m pretty sure Ebert would have hated the film “A Time Before Google” for its predictable ending and wooden acting performances but Siskel might have given it a reluctant thumbs up for its surprisingly satirical script and tight dialogue.

Ebert’s review of the movie North is remembered for breaking the record for the amount of times the word hate has been used in a review of anything that a human has ever had to endure. His quote from his review for Freddie Got Fingered is equally as classic. "This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as barrels."

If Siskel and Ebert were to review my blog, I’m sure it would go something like this:

Siskel: “The next blog we’re going to review is Think Fink. It is filled with a random collection of fictional stories and observations from a man who clearly has too much time on his hands. At the same time, he doesn't post often enough for the viewer to get sucked in to his haphazard, yet whimsical observations. There is something here though and even though he tends to put himself in the center of his mostly fictionalized tales that often go off on major tangents in the middle of thought processes, I liked where he was taking me. I found myself laughing out loud on more than a few occasions and I give it a reluctant but surprising 'shrugged shoulders up'."

Ebert: “Gene, I agree with you in the fact that the voice behind Think Fink seems to get as distracted in his own thoughts as a child trying to recite lines in a school play while fireworks suddenly go off outside the window. But, that's kind of what this new ‘blog’ medium is all about. The writer is no longer limited by the narrative rules of a screen play or novel. His sensibility seems to have grown out of a steady diet of John Hughes movies and Pop Rocks and you get the feeling there is a bad ‘80s sit-com constantly going on inside his head but I found myself rooting for his ‘Fink’ character. I even thought about it afterwards. albeit briefly."

"There is a romantic, hopeful side that is pervasive throughout his sarcastic pop culture references. In the story about climbing out of barrel full of monkeys, you want this likable dreamer to get out of that figurative barrel and get ‘the girl in the dorm room next door.’ Normally, I would have stopped reading at his Greatest American Hero song parody on experiencing a "fridgid finkie" which on the surface seems as infantile as a porn title, but what can I say, it sucked me in.  This writer might not be ‘the greatest’ or even a hero but I found myself enjoying the view from his world and I give “Think Fink” a less reluctant ‘shrugged shoulders’ up.”

In short, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel helped me learn to articulate why I like movies, why I hate movies and why I love to hate movies that other people like and for that I'm grateful.  I'm not sure if Roger Ebert would phrase it quite this way but you know, I have to admit, I’m kind of a goonie.


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