As many of The Playlist team wrote earlier today, the late Roger Ebert was instrumental for many of us discovering a nurturing what has become a lifelong passion of cinema. And much of that has to do with "At The Movies," his influential long running show with Gene Siskel (and in later, less satisfying years, Richard Roeper) that brought the movies into our homes with pointed critiques, debates, arguments and most of all, enthusiasm. While many have been digging up Ebert's zingers and classic takedowns, we wanted to focus on the moments where he got truly excited and got behind a movie.
Those are the times that stand out for many of us, that got us off the couch, and down to the video store or local theater to see what Ebert was writing about, or what he was discussing with Siskel. There are countless choices we could have made, but for the sake of brevity, we're zeroed in on five as a sampling of Ebert's dedication to great movies and filmmakers. Do you have a memory of a movie Ebert championed that helped you discover it? Share you memories below.
"Hoop Dreams" (dir. Steve James)
This is probably the quintessential example, but it also speaks to the power Siskel and Ebert had with their little show. Though the groundbreaking documentary premiered at Sundance in 1994, it was later that fall -- as "Hoop Dreams" hit the festival circuit in Toronto and New York -- that momentum began to galvanize behind the picture and it's all due to "At The Movies." "This is one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen," Ebert said on the show, with picture named the best of 1994, and later, the best of the decade. Both Siskel and Ebert carried the torch for James' documentary, and even shamed the Academy when it wasn't nominated for an Oscar. In fact, the pair helped expose the flawed voting system and were responsible for seeing it changed. And while "Hoop Dreams" didn't get the statue, it has lived on as a benchmark standard of the genre, and a truly outstanding accomplishment and certainly would not have been as widely seen if not for the efforts of Siskel and Ebert.
"Do The Right Thing" (dir. Spike Lee)
Last night, Lee tweeted "I Miss My Dear Friend Roger Ebert.Roger Was One Of The 1st Major Movie Critics To Support My Joints,Especially Malcolm X And DTRT.-R.I.P." Indeed, there was no one in the critical community as supportive of Lee through his career than Ebert, and it all started with "Do The Right Thing." The incendiary picture made a fiery debut at the Cannes Film Festival, and it's potent blend of racial politics had many fearing audiences would reach violently. Looking back it was all a bit silly, but it was Ebert (and Siskel) who maintained a clear head, and spoke eloquently of the film, with "At The Movies" even dedicating an entire show to Lee's early films.