Tag Archives: Roger Ebert

Life Itself – “Two Thumbs Way Up”


SPANKY: This is a superbly balanced film. We see the young, over-confident Ebert, his relationships with Gene Siskel and famous movie directors and finally the love of his wife Chaz. The movie doesn’t drag out any of these stages, and is visually  stunning.

JOHN: You missed one aspect, Spanky, though I agree with what you  said. There was a time and a place when movie discussion was the star. Now, perhaps the costs are too high for anyone to be unclear or subtle. We are hit over the head with whatever is offered. But once upon a Felini, Bergman, Herzog time we could stay up all night and debate. It wasn’t that we believed the directors were wrong, just that it took our participation to figure out their message.

SPANKY: And Siskel and Ebert were our models.

JOHN: I enjoyed seeing the differences between the two and witnessing Ebert’s resultant courage in allowing the camera to follow him through to the end.

SPANKY: I can’t imagine a better tribute to a man, or a better conclusion to his life. Wow, I want to watch this over and over again.

Spanky gives this 4 Barks out of 4

John, 4 GOs out of 4



our Roger Ebert 

EbertJohn: I grew up in Chicago where this guy started out with Gene Siskel on the local PBS station. Forty years later I was still watching different incarnations of the Ebert formula. In fact I had suggested to a friend that we do the same thing on the web. I said I would even write both parts if he wanted. When that didn’t fly, I did it with my dog instead—SpankyandJohnGoToTheMovies.com.

Sparky: I don’t blame the guy; you even got my name wrong. It’s Sparky, John, Sparky not Spanky!

John: Well I always liked those “Spanky and Our Gang” early shorts. But one way or another we’ve had almost 16,000 viewers from all parts of the globe (Norway, Taiwan, etc). And now we do old movies as well as new releases since many people watch Netflix or other movie options.

Sparky: So getting back to Ebert (if that really was his name), why do you think he was the best known movie critic?

John: People loved the discussion. It wasn’t just Pauline Kael telling us what to think, but two people discussing something they were participants in. It reminded me of college, arguing over Plato and the Existentialists. We felt we were a part of the dialogue—no, the best part of the dialogue. And Siskel and Ebert or Ebert and Roper demonstrated how that could be.

Sparky: So how is that different from today?

John: Now we are consumers, manipulated by the film industry. There’s big money at stake so they aren’t taking any chances. But with Ebert we were…artists, searching for meaning. Finding the memorable. Some people, like Hitchcock and Bergman, had enough confidence in their audiences to let them be players. Now, I don’t know. Roger Ebert’s time, our time, is over. Still it’s hard not to love a man who emblemized something so special.

Spanky: And we do that by keeping his spirit alive in our blog.

John: Four “Barks” out of four, my friend. Four “Barks” out of four.

Fargo – “Coen Brothers Masterpiece”

Fargo  – Joel Coen, director, 1996

JOHN: Dead-pan familiarity and frigid winter plus those Minnesota accents. “You betcha.” Roger Ebert said, “The movie rotates its story through satire, comedy, suspense and violence, until it emerges as one of the best films I’ve ever seen.” He then states that films like Fargo are why he loves movies. I feel that way too. I’ve seen this film at least six or seven times and it is always tense, though-provoking and fresh.

GO, GO, GO, GO (4 GOs out of 4)

SPANKY: John and I recently watched it on DVD and here are the ten things I remembered about it from before and looked forward to seeing again:

1.    Marge, with murder in the back of her squad car, driving through white snow and fog saying “And it’s such a beautiful day.”

2.    The scene where her old friend tries to get it on with the pregnant sheriff.

3.    William Macy driving out of the car lot after saying he was going to do a “lot” inventory.

4.    Body being stuffed in the wood chipper.

5.    Steve Buschemi’s wound after he’s been shot in the face.

6.    The Paul Bunyan statue.

7.    The value of the 3 cent stamp, where Marge’s husband’s drawing will appear.

8.    The two murders watching the Tonight Show after banging some prostitutes.

9.    Guys on the street talking about winter weather.

10. The intractable father pulling a gun and getting shot.

BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK (4 BARKs out of 4)