Dirt Nap City

Who Were Siskel and Ebert?

February 15, 2024 Dirt Nap City Season 3 Episode 40
Dirt Nap City
Who Were Siskel and Ebert?
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Show Notes Transcript

When it comes to the kings of movie reviews, no one comes close to Siskel and Ebert. The duo brought movie reviews to the masses with their syndicated television shows and "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" rating system. But despite their success and popularity, they were not really great friends - in fact, they often berated one another during their reviews of films on which they disagreed. But many people found their sniping and heckling one another to be the charm and entertaining part of the show.

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Alex:

Hello everybody and happy New Year Kelly. How's it going, man? It's going great. Although the beans for us here because this this episode won't be out until like February or March but

Kelly:

Well, I got my crop top on and my Bud Light and I've got my flip flops I'm down in Port a shirt. That's right. Happy Spring Break, everybody. Happy Spring Break. Everybody. Got a one of the last episodes? I did. I told you that I had to start catching up with the 20,000 famous people than that. And yeah, we have a big pool. I cheated a little by doing to people. You mean Hanna Barbera Hanna Barbera? Yeah. And it got me thinking though about these these Duo's

Alex:

So let me ask you a question I've been kicking around. Would you rather be half of a Or a sidekick of a super successful person?

Kelly:

I mean, I feel like probably, I don't want to be Flavor Flav. You know what I mean? I feel like probably half of I mean, I already am half of a have a super successful partnership,

Unknown:

Or am I your sidekick? I guess that's what the real question is, isn't it? No. Yeah. So you'd rather be the half where other person's name. Also, Penn and Teller kind of thing? Yes, sure. Sure. Sure. Okay, okay. We Wow.

Alex:

That's probably a future. You remember that city? Oh, do I remember them? Oh, yes. That's why I first learned about

Unknown:

the they had a mime. That's right. They did a pantomime act. Shields in your now. Yeah, scenes of a successful person like an assistant for somebody who was really, really successful, Researching things, helping them out? Or would you rather be the reason for someone success, but they writer or something where nobody knew who you were, they get all the credit. But you in your I think more of the second thing, like to actually be, yeah, to be the creative to be the creative thought no, I don't want to be an assistant, but a producer, like if I was the producer, where does producer lie? You know, like, you know what I mean? Like, or manager of a famous person. not famous. Nobody knows who you are. And one though, that you're the real reason for the someone else is getting all the credit for your stuff. Am I making money? Yeah, but not nearly as much as the person who's the front person. But I'm gonna making a lot of and they could have 100. Okay, I'd be happy with that. Okay, as long as we have the parameters I feel like you're about to tell me about some deal you've got in the works. No, no, I just I about famous Duo's and how, you know, like with Hanna Barbera, they were very famous, but only thinking I wonder how that would feel about being half have a very successful team but only people you know you hardly without without that, and how that would feel and if you would resent that and been talking to other people and people have different different ideas about that about you adds another layer to some people are comfortable with fame. Some people I think would rather be anything like that. Yeah, given given the choice between money and fame, I'd take money. I'd rather be rich and not famous than famous and rich, famous and would be just be infamous and poor You're right, right, right. Or the guy that jumped in the Bass Pro Shops tank. Right, right. Without you, he's not making a lot of money off of that, but everyone knows who he is. Right? All today. Okay. Like I said, working my way through that list today, but I'll only know one of these wouldn't know him without without the other probably, you know, they're just inextricably They were both born in the 1940s. And one of them died in 1999. And the other died in 2013. And they had a number of different TV shows with different names, but basically the same format, later on after that. on PBS, MacNeil Lehrer. Oh, that's a good guess. But no, that's a good is it? Okay. What kind of what kind of show did they have on PBS? Like, what was the well, if I told you But because I don't really think there's variety shows on PBS. And you might not even remember that of syndicated version of the shows. But were they American? They were American. In fact, they were both from the city of Chicago. Ah, they were both newspaper men, writing in rival newspapers, one for the Chicago Tribune and the until the one day a week that they would meet and record their show. Oh, Siskel and Ebert, Siskel guys? Oh, yeah. You know, actually, if you get on YouTube, there are you can watch the original they? Did they like it? They did. They did. They both. And this was before, you know, it was sort of like a default setting to like it. Right. This was talking about it as a, as a, you know, kind of a Western and having all the plot points of a entertaining. And, yeah, I just recently saw that, because I get a lot of Star Wars stuff in my they reviewed movies and kind of their philosophy and their relationship with each other. But before you use ratings just in general, restaurant ratings, movie ratings, Yelp reviews? Are you into With no input? Probably more and more I count on ratings. Yeah, I'll look and see what what's been on Amazon, or Home Depot, or Best Buy, all kind of read the best one and the worst one, just to get a I've not purchased something online because of review. So you're not as concerned with a one star something wouldn't keep you from that if you read a three star review of the movie or anything. I know, you can write Google reviews. And I feel like I only write them when I feel really strongly either one star or five star reviews of restaurants or service added, you know, or, you ziplining place we went to ones because they were so awesome. It's so nice. And so it's very, it's very rare that somebody unless it's their job, just writes a review that is just mean, you wouldn't go to a restaurant and think that and then give it a you know, go out and make know, probably not, unless, unless you had really high expectations and it didn't meet it like, you know, if you really expensive. It's going to be really nice. And then it was just kind of mediocre, then you was okay. But that was kind of Roger Ebert philosophy when it came to watching movies. He of horror movie, you're not comparing it to Citizen Kane. You're comparing it to the best that all in context. You know, take put put context and when you're reading these reviews, Both Siskel and Ebert, like I said, we're writing for rival newspapers in Chicago and they both gave half to four stars. But on the show, do you know what their what they used with thumbs up or thumbs up. I don't have trademarks the right word, but they actually had intellectual property with the shows weren't allowed to use that that was like owned by them, the whole arms up, thumbs down, and Siskel and Ebert are trying to explain to Elmo and I think it's Elmo, or maybe it's Oscar and tally the monster about what the thumbs down up, thumbs upwards. So that meant good. And they were explaining and then the monsters were telling Right? And then they got into big argument Siskel and Ebert got in an argument about whether some yelling at each other, I have to say, you know, thumbs up thumbs down is it's a double edged of nuance, to say, well, you know, I liked these things about it. I didn't like these things. But right? It's it's, you got to appreciate just Should I say it or not just I don't need a one sometimes nuance isn't what's needed, just should I go see this thing? You know, and in fact, Eva, always, as Gene, Cisco and Robert, Roger Ebert, if I haven't said already, he'd say gene needs to up and I can see, I can tell you to go see the movie. If there's parts of it that I don't like they disagreed a little bit about what what constituted a thumbs up or thumbs down. But I, I think it worked, at least in that TV format. Maybe if I'm reading a longer, more thought out review, of liked that thumbs up, thumbs down. And it was so quick that these these hits were like four or down, move on to the next movie, they do a four or five movies in, in a show. And then they sometimes movie that was really bad. But you kind of already already knew it was bad. Going into it, you know? two thumbs up, then you're pretty confident that it's gonna be a good movie, especially to people that's kind of the where the magic is, these guys fight about a lot of things. And most of the they both like it, chances are I'm probably gonna like it too. And the thing is, by watching the review, this is what I don't like about Yelp. Is that for me on reviews, I like to get to use person has never steered me wrong. Or this person doesn't have good taste. In Yelp. It's just random where the where Yelp works. And Google works is in the wisdom of the crowd, right? And 1000s of trends towards one direction or the other, you can probably count on it being that if it has five other, then you can't really trust it. Yeah, I agree completely. Well, let me tell you a little talk about their work together. So Gene Siskel, he was the skinny guy if you're trying to picture who these guys before, but it was kind of a skinny one and a portly one. And Jean Cisco was born in 1946. in with his aunt and uncle at nine years old. Jean Cisco, experienced a lot of anti semitism as well degree in philosophy and graduated in 1967 and went wrong, almost right away and got a job at the did a lot of criticism of film criticism, which at the time, film criticism was pretty high brow. pretty new. Art Criticism was what? What was probably in vogue. And a film was starting to be in the late respected. Roger Ebert, the Affer mentioned portly one, went to University of Illinois. He ended up getting a master's degree at Keio University of Cape Town started actually in the Ph. D. English. down South University of Chicago. He wanted to be a writer. He got a job at the Chicago Sun Times just to kind actually wrote some really trashy movies back in the 70s. He wrote with Russ Meyer, who was like an movies back then that were kind of just wild and raunchy, but they're not like porn. But he used to write all these really far out movies. And Roger Ebert helped them out and wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. It was oh, yeah, yeah. And then I've heard of that beneath the I have. I've heard of that. Yeah, yeah. He helped write the screenplay on that. And he actually even supposed to be the Sex Pistols version of Hard Day's Night. They were trying to get the Sex the Beatles path. And he wrote this movie, but it was never released. Because, well, Grace Kelly was on the board of Fox. And Fox was going to try to release this movie. And she ever seen in my life. You know, we're not releasing this movie. So nobody's ever seen the internet for who killed Bambi? Yeah, so So wait, it was gonna be the Sex Pistols as acting as like, was gonna be like Hard Day's Night. Oh, yeah. Or didn't the Beatles do one called help as well? think I think that's the idea behind this Sex Pistols movie. But like I say, they filmed I think any Sex Pistols, concert footage. And I don't know if any of that footage exists, but I know the So he eventually had to kind of quit his, his education was too expensive. And he kind of got Roger Ebert. He they were both. So now they're both writers that rival papers. And Chicago is a Kelly? I wasn't a big newspaper guy. I did like to read the comics. And I did like to read Dave article, comedic article. Sure. As a big newspaper guy, but yeah, I know some people that like got the newspaper every day and know, and maybe got more than one newspaper. Yeah, I think for a while we were getting in Houston, Not because I don't think I don't think anybody my family ever really read it other than like, the Oh, yeah. The newspaper anyway. Yes, I do remember newspapers. And then you know, what a great thing So in big cities like Chicago, they'd have multiple newspapers. And at the time in the 70s, the Sunday Times. So if you got the Tribune, you flip to the movie section or the entertainment section, you'd see out. If you got the sun times, you'd flip to the entertainment section, you'd see Roger Ebert these guys together on a TV show. And, and they who clearly didn't see eye to eye didn't really and let the sparks fly. Now, Roger Ebert was a great writer, like I said, he was a English even though they're kind of trashy, but he was a good writer. He actually won the Pulitzer Prize kind of resented that and thought that other than that, just was jealous of that. So I started the show together on the local Chicago PBS station, and it was called, this isn't Doesn't really roll off the tongue. It was called opening soon and a theater near you. Wow, they didn't really workshop that title at all. I feel like we really workshopped at NAB city, right dying soon at a theater near you. Right so it was called opening soon in a theater near you from 75 to 77. I do not remember that sneak previews. And that's when I got on board like 1978. They can call it sneak previews. And I Monty Python or before Monty Python and on on PBS. And that was the only reason I had to watch PBS and it was just two guys talking about movies, there was nothing flashy about him. I just, and I movies, a lot of them were R rated movies, a lot of them were boring movies, that eight year old watching these two. Grownups just kind of yell at each other. And, you know, college, should they mean, I didn't watch the show, but I don't ever remember them like really going off on each other see today with like Fox News, where people are just, you know, yelling at each other and tell. I could tell as a little kid that these guys had issues with each other and they thought that whatever it is that they were talking about. And I used to love that. Like I said, I wasn't watching movies. I was watching because I liked watching these guys argue. And I think part of it was they civil to each other but really had almost a passive aggressive. Very, yeah. 1982 they Oh, yes. I remember that. That's the one I remember. And then they had a dispute with their companies, and then they did and then they titled their show, Siskel and Ebert and the movies. Oh, allowed to call it at the movies. They called Siskel and Ebert and the movies and that was seven Emmy Award. So they were together for 13 years of that one of that one. So they were together. Wow. Man, how did they do it? So Roger Ebert said his philosophy was, it's not what a movie is about. It's how it's about what it's about. That's what he thought film how it's about what it's about, tell you why. And to do so. And like I said, four minutes. And people probably made it look easier than it actually was. They did not like each other, it's, there's a great book, I have not read this book, because it just came out about a month ago each other. And that book has a great title. You know, what the title would you call a book about something or another? It's better than that did. What? opposable thumbs? Oh, wow, great. Thumbs up. Yeah, two words. You know exactly what it's about. this book. But it's about how Siskel and Ebert changed movies forever by Matt singer. I can't wait to dive into they didn't rehearse the show at all. So when they rolled camera, they did not know what the other the other one was gonna say. They actually didn't even know what movie one of them didn't know what Right? They also the CIT champion, small, independent movies. And I think that's that was another thing, have known about a movie like My Dinner With Andre. That's not something I see at the big metro But you know, when you talk to one about the other, they would never say that they didn't like you this. This is what Roger Ebert said, we had a lot of big fights. We were people who came together one day a week and daily newspapers in two different television stations. So there was a lot of competition and a tuning forks strike. One and the other would pick up the same frequency. When we were in a group together, we Sometimes this took the form of camaraderie, shared opinions, sometimes sometimes hostility. both thought was funny but weren't supposed to God help us if one caught the other ones I, we almost may be the best sign of intellectual communion. So they respected each other, kind of, but I want you that are friendly to one another. This is let me set let me set this up. This is them recording a found less excited, Roger. That's why we're doing it because of what you did. If thriller week on Siskel and Ebert the movies and we've got three new one and the movie, not And that's why we're doing it this time. It's thriller week on Cisco labored in the movies and we've got three new ones. Dennis Quaid and The And Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman and no way out this week on Cisco. And Ebert and the movie and the iPhone. And that's Roger. Oh, wow. Yeah, that's, you know, sometimes when you when you riff on somebody like that, you're kind of laughing and Well, and the visual of this is great, because they're both one is kind of, they're one sitting like, kneeling in the chair, and they're both looking at the camera, but they're not looking at at each other, you can be a little more cross and the way you say things, you know, and I thought that was pretty, pretty funny. Yeah, it that. If you look on YouTube, there's more of those kinds of guys just kind of getting getting find that Alex? Siskel and Ebert want to kill each other Cisco in Hebrew fights? Yeah, you know, all that I know of. Some of the movies that Jean Cisco loved he loved. I think his favorite movie was Fargo. Good movie loved also Hoop Dreams. And he loves Saturday Night Fever. Remember the John Travolta actually bought the suit. The white suit the famous John Travolta white suit, he bought that at Travolta wore. Yeah, he bought that. Yeah, not not a replica. This was Gene Siskel. Yeah, yeah. Okay. as a movie prop. And then Roger Ebert love 2001 Space Odyssey and raging bull. Those are probably funny to see the movies, especially with the with the passage of time to see the movies that they hated that ended up being kind of thought of poltergeists Scarface, Beverly Hills Cop, Terminator, Thelma and Louise in silence of the know, yeah, though. I mean, those are all movies that people still talk about today. Right, right, gladiator Fight Club Elephant Man. Clockwork Orange Raising Arizona usual suspects Fast Times would see the movie before other people so they weren't influenced by what other people had to had want you to play though, is the review for the movie Home Alone three Did you know there was a No. So you know Home Alone one right kind of a Christmas I don't know if I've ever actually seen Culkin doing mean things to mean guys. So these movies get played a lot of around the holiday time of Christmas staples. Home Alone three though didn't have any of the same people that made the just kind of a direct to DVD. cheap attempt at reliving cashing in on the name totally cashing were involved at all. And actually Roger Ebert liked this movie better than the first two. Which even make sense. movie had a theme song it would be dumbbells keep falling on my head. The story For every family that's going to be suckered into saying Home Loan three. Now this is going to It does astound me. Are you okay? Better than you were the day that you like starship Trooper, okay? little kids. This is the one where they finally got it right, I liked it better than the other the idea that they can somehow affect the outcome that they can have power over grownups that they things. It's not as violent as the second one. The kid is charming. He really is a good little actor. And thought the kid was generic laptop. And I thought that they're hooking up and that kid Yes, come on, the other thing is, it's the same plot as the first one only more bumps to the head. And second, that this one empowers them more than the other one. Absolutely. Not just the secret of the that's because they love the fantasy that they have power. But it's overdone overkill here and I'm not All right. All right. So quick question for you. Was that from the episode that actually aired? Or That's the kind of stuff they would do when they Yeah, they would just Yeah, I guess I don't just remember the be nerdy dudes that watched the movies and gave it a thumbs up. That's what I up like, like he says, well, not as dumb as when you like started. That was probably years earlier. that. Roger Ebert had a really fun way with words though. And when he didn't like a movie, he would the more popular Roger Ebert pans pan's was from a movie called North. Have you ever heard of that movie? No. I think it had like was like during Seinfeld. Or maybe I had one of them in it. Not the other. I don't know. I don't remember who was in it. But it And who? romcom No, I think it was supposed to be a comedy. I don't know. But here's here's his hated, hated, hated, hated this movie, hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant, audience thought anyone would like it hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone up writing a book called I hated, hated hated this movie of all, and it had a it was a collection of like it. Another funny one. Is there was a movie called Mad Dog time that came out in 1996. Have don't think it was very popular. He said this is the first movie I've seen that does not improve on length of time. I've seen that movies before. But usually they made me care about how bad they were in a city where you're not sure if they have a bus line. And he said that the film should be cut up to provide free ukulele picks for the poor. I guess Sally Lloyd's ukulele picks some that's some genius criticism for ukulele picks. Well, these guys were they would appear on talk shows together. You can see some of them on Johnny everything together. And I do think over time they had this. You couldn't say one without the other. kind of liking each other respecting each other. Whenever, unfortunately, Jean Cisco was diagnosed committed to the show that he did the show from his hospital room on the phone having while you're having brain surgery, he announced the leave of absence and later. Well, Roger Ebert continued to do the show with different guest hosts was never really the In 2002, though, he got thyroid cancer. I don't know if you remember this. And then he had to have remove his jaw. And ultimately that that took away his voice in 2006. He couldn't speak. And so he still wrote Movie Reviews. He still did his job. And then I remember seeing him I think it was on Oprah or something around 2000. When did he died in 2013. So I think around 2008 or so they came up with the technology where they His voice, they were able to use his voice and then have the electronic voice that he used to be his voice because they just had so much of that, of course, the technology wasn't this is 20 the last few years of his life, he was able to speak with his electronic voice, rather than just was able to still kind of do some talk to his wife, you know, I don't think he did full shows or his with his voice. And he finally, like I say, he finally passed in 2013. And today, there's the the Film Center at University of Chicago is the Gene Siskel Film Center. And they Illinois, at the University of Illinois in front of a movie theater. And it's three chairs, movie a thumbs up. It's a statue of him with the thumbs up nice. And then at the Cannes Film Festival, Conference Center, which is probably kind of the ultimate honor that you can get. Yeah, yeah. For But, you know, I think today, when you win there, I don't think anyone's filled their shoes. I gives that kind of film criticism, unless you, you know, you can read film criticism, which is great. form of recaps, where you they just tell you everything that happened, and then they kind of There's nobody out there that I trust, like I used to trust them. In terms of giving me a non should go see this film, thumbs up or thumbs down. Yeah. Yeah. So back to your original question that you asked me about? Would I rather be the, you know, behind all? How does that relate to Siskel and Ebert? Well, I think just the idea that you there was no such thing as like a Gene Siskel fan, like, it was always Siskel and Ebert, you that the deal that they made was, even though they didn't like each other, they were linked, and they these days when there are successful Duo's sometimes, one of the people in the duo thinks do it on their own. And I think in today's world, they would have probably both split up both had a their thing on their own and think, why do I need this other person? And I think it's, I think they with each other, or the power of them agreeing with each other, that they needed each other. so I don't think there's a lot of that these days, it's just not a lot of those two person teams that Yeah, yeah. So so I could see, with the two of them being partners at the time that they were, of course, you know, everybody's, you know, getting clips on YouTube, everybody's, you know, doing all those things. At being on television. That wasn't something that everybody got to do, right? You didn't, even if job at the Chicago newspaper and ended up getting a television show. But I do agree that you don't to me, I wouldn't know. I wouldn't know what you meant out of context. You'd say oh, yeah, of Cisco, I might say that or if you just said, Ebert, I might, you know, like not hearing the that connection. So I see what you mean about them being tied at the hip. I saw an interview with about how that became Siskel and Ebert. And they said they flipped a coin and Eber lost. And the and then switch and then switch it up. Oh, of course. So, you know, why would you why would you switch it people know you as this, but at right time, and get the crowd to say it sounds just as good Ebert and Cisco and they had the Crowd Chant Ebert and and he was laughing. Cisco was annoyed, you can tell he was annoyed at the notion that it would be But you know, it is funny, I don't know if it's because your brain is just used to one way. Or if together, like Siskel and Ebert, to me sounds better than Eber and Cisco. But is that just it actually, there's some sort of phonetics to it? That sound better? I don't know. I guess we'll gonna say, about them as a duo not going out on their own necessarily, it's kind of like a band, popular band, but nobody knows, really knows the individual members? Or, I mean, like, Third Eye did a lot of really good things. Most people don't know the names of any of the band members, but get just individuals Justin Bieber or, or Beyonce or whoever, who are single person stars. And you is, right? So I don't know, I kind of like a kind of like the second, or the first scenario of being in a band anonymous. And but when you say the band name, everybody's like, Whoa, yeah, that's, yeah, that's idea who you are. But I think though, in this case, too, they were individually at least they had their newspaper recognition. They didn't just start together known as like the movie guys. Ranch had separate then when you put it all together, that made me I don't think they would have been as popular as dudes or something. Yeah. And that's why when, you know, we started talking about podcasts and you No, no, like that. It's gonna be better if it's dirt nap city, and, yeah, leave yourself out of Siskel and Ebert and the movies at the movies. You didn't like that? It must be hard to say Siskel and Ebert in the movies. Just doesn't cause a lot. There had used to be called at the movies. Oh, yeah. Well, you heard in their outtake, they they couldn't do Siskel in the movies. Thanks. Good night. Well, if you would like to hear to the modern version of two idiots arguing about a movie, check we debate the merits of the movie Wonka classic. It's our take on Cisco. Yeah, that's about as smart as the time you did a podcast about Pilates. Bye, everybody.