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Ebert Calls Hiatus on Movie Review Show: Let It Go, Roger

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by Anne Thompson
December 1, 2011 1:25 PM
42 Comments
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Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

Roger Ebert is a superman. I am currently buried in his must-read memoir, "Life Itself," which is a pleasure to go back to every night. The man can write. And he is trying to hang on, bless him, to his new TV review show, "Ebert Presents At The Movies." He and wife/producer Chaz Ebert have been financing their show themselves, with help from the Kanbar Charitable Trust. In his most recent blog post on the subject, Ebert is checking out a Kickstarter campaign as he takes the show on hiatus.

People have been very supportive. We've spoken to the top executives of several channels and film distributors, charitable foundations, web delivery services, potential corporate sponsors, and crowd-funding sources. And we are still talking with them, but the time crunch has intervened. It is a complicated process, and so we are going on hiatus while we sort it out. During this period I've been moved by the determination of Chaz and our team to push ahead. We really believe in this show and its mission to provide an intelligent place for the discussion of movies in a forum accessible to the public, and in a manner that is easily understood yet that feeds the thirst for both entertainment and knowledge.

Ebert, until he lost his voice to cancer, was able to hang on tenaciously to Disney/ABC's "At the Movies" after the death of his best and most evenly matched sparring partner, rival Chicago critic Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune. While I enjoyed the revisits to Ebert & Siskel episodes past on the reconstituted show this year, and commend the Eberts for trying to bring a new smart review show back to television, unfortunately the voiceless Ebert could not provide the show with his full-throated personality. He tried typing with voiceover, and replaying past shows, but his new reviewers, perky eager-to-please blonde Christy Lemire (A.P.) and smug gap-toothed upstart Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (Chicago Reader and Mubi) simply lacked the right stuff.

Women film critics on television walk a tightrope: while they write with authority in print, on camera they instinctively soft-pedal their opinions so as not to come off shrill or harsh. Meanwhile men are free to be as arrogant and know-it-all as they like. It's an unfair match. Lemire knew more than her younger less experienced partner, but he was more aggressive about winning arguments and not letting her get a word in edgewise. I found them annoying. I wanted her to stand up to him and I wanted him to shut up.

So. Roger and Chaz: you tried. Let it go. Ebert is hugely successful as the new model critic in print and online who uses social media as well as anyone. His book is a bestseller, no surprise. Onward.

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More: Critics, Reviews, Books, TV

42 Comments

  • Satish Naidu | December 2, 2011 11:39 AMReply

    Let me break it you very gently. Ignatiy is one of the best critics around there, right in the league of Michael Sicinski, or his mentor Jonathan Rosenbaum (who, well, is not really around there).

    If someone ought to be the heir to Bordwell's methods, as well as cut cinema a new theory, Ignatiy would be my man.

  • substream mike | December 2, 2011 11:08 AMReply

    Agreed, though less because of the quality of Ebert's replacements and more due to the sad fact that any replacement for Roger on the show will just be a reminder of his - and Gene Siskel's - absences. One'd want him to hang around longer putting whatever influence he can on the show if he wasn't so talented at working in the media that have grown up around TV in the past few years - blogging and tweeting, etc - as well as traditional media like the... what are they called again... book.

  • Scooby | December 2, 2011 10:00 AMReply

    Kind of sad that Ignatiy has to defend himself against ruthless blogger trolls like Anne Thompson (who's quickly becoming the poor-man's Nikki Finke) simply because she's bored and has an axe to grind. Ignatiy was tapped by the most renowned film critic on the planet in his mid-20's to co-host a national film debate program. He's more than held his own. "At the Movies" has struggled in ratings ever since Ebert fell ill. Maybe instead of critiquing the critics (even the two Bens), we could instead be grateful that a unique program such as this existed in the first place.

  • TC Kirkham | December 2, 2011 9:13 AMReply

    Ms. Thompson, I could not disagree with you more - At The Movies has been a joy, Christy and Ignaty have finally found a great chemistry together, and with the rest of the contributors (including Bill Kurtis speaking for Roger Ebert), it has been a dynamite show. And judging from the support Ebert has recieved since his first post about a month ago, obviously he has A LOT of people who want his show around every week, whether he's in voice or not. I think your assessment is completely incorrect.

  • Jasper | December 2, 2011 5:09 AMReply

    I think that Ignatiy and Christy are amazing together. I love how they view films differently, are totally different people, but can back up their opinions. Their discussions are what film is about!

  • Bharat | December 2, 2011 4:38 AMReply

    Ignatiy is one of the most honest critic I've read/seen. Just because he doesn't follow a herd doesn't mean he's smug.
    I wonder, Why AT has shut up now after spewing so much negativity?

  • Amanda | December 2, 2011 1:03 AMReply

    Whatevs? Damn you Ignatiy for surprise charming me. Like I said, I'm just a passive lay person/viewer. By no means are you in my burn book. I think it's really great/smart of you to be critically watching your show/ yourself. I do think Anne's post seems oddly personal anti-Ignatiy. She should shore that up. I have to say, I will now be watching for Ignatiy 2.0 If you knew me, you'd know that's kindof something. Good Luck! I say that sincerely.

  • I.V. | December 2, 2011 12:50 AMReply

    Whatevs, Amanda. I'm at a point where I'm fine with people saying whatever they want about how they think I "seem," as long as they realize that "seem" isn't the same thing as "is" and that unscripted television -- like any medium -- warps and distorts. I mean, I'm a critical viewer myself, and I'm not too proud of the "persona" I project in the early episodes of the show; fact of the matter is, even when you're "yourself" on TV, it's always a performance (for example, I actually talk kind of slow in real life, but because Christy talks fast, I have to keep up). It's easy to be understood by people who are also on your wavelength; the real secret, I think, is to control how you're being misunderstood and misinterpreted -- and that I'm still trying to master.

  • F.P. | December 4, 2011 2:53 PM

    I.V., I hope the show comes back and I generally have no issues with you or Christy, not that it matches what the show had been in prior incarnations. I do however notice a sexist bent in what you say sometimes. Your review of 'Another Earth' in particular was extremely condescending to its writer and actor, Brit Marling. You should tone that down.

  • Amanda | December 2, 2011 12:43 AMReply

    To be fair, you're sounding more charming with your quips about reformating. Also super fairness, who the hell knows who you are as a person.

  • Amanda | December 2, 2011 12:35 AMReply

    You're right, you weren't intimidating Christy Lemire into some passive "dainty" fainting women. I think Anne is over the top with that. You're right to call her out. But frankly, you don't seem like the kind of person i'd want to have vivid discussion about film with. I don't think it's because we may have different opinions on a fim, but because you seem like something of a know-it-all, it's kind of a kill joy. This is just one viewers opinion. Always end with a cliche.

  • I.V. | December 2, 2011 12:28 AMReply

    Since I'm the, er, "smug gap-toothed upstart" mentioned above, I thought I'd say my piece. I don’t have any problem with being called "smug" (though I'd like think that I'm not) or an "upstart;" "gap-toothed" is a bit of an exaggeration (paired with "smug," it also suggests a bit of an unusual anti-gap-toothed bias). I don't have a problem with someone saying that they don't like the show, or that they don't agree with my work as a critic (as a matter of fact, someone tells me the latter every week in front of a national audience). Obviously I happen to think that we make a damn good show, but if someone doesn't like it, that's okay. Critics are nothing if they can't handle criticism. You can all me "inexperienced," a know-nothing, whatever all you want; that's fine (though I'd like to point out that my presence on this show points to something, as I clearly wasn't hired for my easygoing on-screen demeanor, vast TV experience or instant rapport with Christy).What I do take issue with, though, is the condescending attitude of the above post, specifically toward Christy. Christy's not some wee dainty lass whom I bully on a weekly basis; she's fucking ferocious, and, I'm sad to say, rips me a new one more often than I'd like to admit (I'd hate be in a fistfight with her, since I know she'd go straight for eye-gouge). As for the "interruptions" -- it’s a TV show, and TV shows are edited for time, meaning we edit dead space out of every discussion. Sure, it means it often sounds like we're cutting each other off when in reality there’s a few seconds of silence, but it also means that pretty much everything that was mentioned in the discussion gets on the air without the show running over. If I was the sort of person who psychoanalyzed blogposts, I'd be inclined to agree with the commenter below that you’re projecting some sort of bias on the relationship between Christy and myself. Sure, you might not like our chemistry because it's not Siskel & Ebert's chemistry. Siskel & Ebert were two guys who held fundamentally similar opinions on cinema -- what it was supposed to be, how it was supposed to work -- and criticism, but who, due particular aspects of their personalities and ideals, were inclined to disagree with each other. Christy and I are two people with nothing in common in terms of how we approach films or the practice of film criticism, but are able to have a conversation about it. That's our version of the show in a nutshell -- a sort of controlled meeting of two wildly different worldviews. Even when we agree on how much we like a film, we usually do it for completely different reasons (see, for example, either of our J. EDGAR reviews); that's the essence of our chemistry, and of this show. But, ultimately, the fact that you don't like the two of us as hosts -- again, you're entitled to your opinion -- has got zilch to do with why this show is currently going on hiatus. Funding takes time; no one in their right mind is going to just dump money on your lap without looking through a lot of contracts, etc. Fact of the matter is, there was just no way we could be sure we’d have everything straightened out with an underwriter by the time season renewal came around; the hiatus allows us to take the amount of time that's needed.

  • Matt Genné | December 2, 2011 3:15 PM

    I.V., I think you've nailed this blogger's axe-grinding intent.

    I for one (my wife is another) have thoroughly enjoyed your show. We couldn't disagree about movies more either, and we're both completely taken with the beautiful cacophony you and Ms. Lemire make together. If the Eberts can come up with a new financing model, I'll happily contribute what I can. Best to you and your team on 'Ebert Presents.'

  • G.S. | December 2, 2011 2:52 AM

    Well said, Ignatiy. I happen to enjoy the current show a great deal (the Michael Phillips/AO Scott incarnation was terrific as well) and find the contrast in worldviews and approaches between the two hosts to be among the most compelling aspects of the show. Sure, the gender and age dynamics play a visible part- I think the Eberts should be lauded for their decision to mix things up and for being adventurous in this regard, but what is most relevant, and indeed what makes the current show so watchable to this viewer, is really the fundamental difference in the hosts' approaches to criticism. This, as Ignatiy pointed out, is the heart of the matter. If I may generalize: in Christy we have a reviewer who appears to respond most readily to traditional narrative cinema (a perspective no doubt shared by majority of the movie-going public) but in Ignatiy we see a very different kind of understanding of the nature and function of cinema (a perspective that, in this viewers' mind, happens to be more urgently in need of public exposure, but that's a conversation for another time) This made possible the very balanced and interesting discussions the show has had on films like Apichatpong Weerasethakul's UNCLE BOONMEE, Godard's FILM SOCIALISME, etc- a notable departure from previous incarnations of the show. While we are perfectly entitled to our own feelings and opinions about the current show and its hosts, we ought to recognize this fact and command the team for trying to do something meaningful for the popular discourse on cinema. I for one hope the show stays on air and makes a strong return after the hiatus.

  • I.V. | December 2, 2011 12:29 AM

    Third time's the charm. Feel free to delete incorrectly-formatted versions.

  • I.V. | December 2, 2011 12:22 AMReply

    This is what happens when you write a well-reasoned response in Word and then decide to paste it.

  • Amanda | December 2, 2011 12:01 AMReply

    Thank you for pointing out how smug Ignatiy Vishnevetsky can seem on the show. It hard to say that valid complaint without sounding like a hater/angry internet commenter(who's angry?). Christy Lemire is somewhat bland. She seems lovely, but she lacks that connection. Why not revamp/recast Roger?

  • SMP Belltown | December 1, 2011 10:58 PMReply

    Anne, I have to disagee.

    I think that the Ebert crew is trying to develop a contemporary half-hour movie program that sort of re-imagines the format that Siskel, Ebert and Spot created a few decades ago. To me, it seems like they've taken the layout of the syndicated version of the show, kept the basic review time, and then replaced the 8 minutes or so of commercial time with an unpredictable mix of new material. (A kid reviewer? Why not. A basic For Beginners featurette about the Cannes and similar fests? Go for it! Oh, and let's actualy review/discuss "Human Centipede 2"....) Maybe the show needs some more time to develop, but it's definitely a show that's worth keeping around while they work the bugs out.

    There's no reason that this concept can't be developed into a useful and entertaining weekly half-hour movie program (on broadcast TV, yet!) for the 21st Century. I think that the Ebert team is on the right track with what they've done so far, and I really hope they can come up with the finacing to continue developing this show. Onward, indeed.

  • Steven Millan | December 1, 2011 9:58 PMReply

    First off,I like Roger Ebert,consider him to be one of the all-time five best film critics ever,and highly admire his strong spirit in bravely moving on after his tragic cancer dilemma,but he really needs to let go of this sadly terrible show and move on,for the format is outdated in this Internet savvy era and there's dozens of on-line shows(such as various independent YouTube shows and Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers' witty and entertaining film review videos)that heavily overshadow this show,and the show's critics Christie Lemire and Ivanity Vishnevetsky are just plainly terrible and heavily lack Ebert and his deceased colleague Gene Siskel's knack for analyzing films(and how those films made them personally feel after viewing them). The news that this show is taking a December hiatus doesn't sound very good(making it seem like a sign of the beginning of the end),for this tired show has overworn its welcome and it's time for it to permanently go. And I fully agree that both A.O. Scott(Ebert's protegee)and Michael Phillips were never given a chance to fully shine and strongly develop(as Ebert and Siskel's successors).

  • WGB | December 1, 2011 9:03 PMReply

    I liked the copied format of the old Siskel and Ebert show. What I found the most annoying was the flailing arms and hands of the male host Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. He uses his hands and arms to empasize whatever he is talking about, distracting and infuriating this viewer. The ESPN executroid who came up with the concept of their commentators using their hands to emphasize a point should be fired. Everyone is now copying it and it is to say the least ANNOYING. But, I hope the Eberts find backers and a network. I applaud Mr. Ebert for hanging in there. At least one thumb up for him.

  • SamLowry | December 1, 2011 6:34 PMReply

    I followed the link here from MovieCityNews, read the article, and didn't even think about the identity or gender of the writer until "Ed" started griping about "man problems". Then KXD tore into the writer as well and only then did I look up to see that the blog was written by a woman.

    The piece has nothing to do with men or women or the writer herself, but dang if some readers didn't project a lot of their own gender issues and outright misogyny into it just because it was written by a woman. If A.O. Scott or Elvis Mitchell had written the same piece, would any of those issues have even appeared in the comments?

  • Yodamite | December 1, 2011 11:55 PM

    If you didn't see evidence of Thompson's 'man issues', then you didn't read the entire article. She grossly misrepresents Christy as being this timid creature incapable of standing up for herself on screen to the mean overaggressive man, in an attempt to avoid being judged as an 'overly-assertive uppity woman'. Talk about projecting gender issues! She even rips Ignatiy a new one based on his looks. The word your looking for here is 'misandry'. Thompson's article is dripping with it.

  • Theodore | December 1, 2011 10:29 PM

    Did you miss the end of the 3rd paragraph and then the 4th paragraph all together?

  • cinephile | December 1, 2011 7:40 PM

    I totally agree.

  • cinephile | December 1, 2011 6:30 PMReply

    I totally agree, Anne, the both of them weren't a successful match and it wasn't a good show. I couldn't bear to watch it for a long time, and before that I watched almost every single episode of A.O.Scott and Michael Phillips who were GREAT. It's a shame that their show was canceled because they proved to be wonderful successors to Siskel and Ebert without trying to immitate them. The two Bens were goddamn awful, just terrible - especially because of the younger Ben. And I don't know if women critics should worry about "being shrill" any more. We live in a time when it's not that easy to pigeon-hole someone like that. You just prove how to do it right yourself in your Oscar Talk with Kris Tapley week for week. You are really even partners, there is no issue about the gender of either of you at any time. You are just two experts, discussing film topics on a totally equal level.

  • Ed | December 1, 2011 6:13 PMReply

    YOU are the real chauvanistic pig; On the first show, Lemire hated film while her counterpart gave a thumbs up to all of them; subequent shows have revealed that not only does she not pull her punches, she is considerably pushier about what's right and wrong The idea that because he is younger he is automatically her inferior simply reveals your own bias and partisanship. I find him t be far less arrogant and pushy. In fact, that may be the problem with this show;the reason Ebert and Siskel were so superb was their mutual dislike of each other in the early years a barely sealed contempt in fact that gradually developed into a grudging respect. Get your head out of your ass and get on a psychiatrist couch to deal with your man problems

  • Jeremy | December 1, 2011 5:54 PMReply

    I like Christy, but Ignatiy comes across as so pretentious and conceited that it really off-balances the dynamic of the show. The show should be let go.

  • stev | December 1, 2011 5:48 PMReply

    I probably like A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips more than Lemire and Vishnevetsky a little bit, but all four were miles ahead of the two Bens. Lets remember that.

  • Derek 8-Track | December 1, 2011 5:11 PMReply

    What he needs is A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips, and Advertising.

  • Roy Batty | December 1, 2011 5:11 PMReply

    Sorry, but the "Two Tony's" were only brilliant when it came to being boring. Neither had an spark, but will agree by that standard were step up from this last pairing which seemed less like a review show and more like a teacher caught in an inappropriate situation with a bright student. or a Fox sitcom, "The MILF & the Geek."

  • chrw | December 1, 2011 5:09 PMReply

    The key line in this blog entry: "People have been very supportive." The reason why: because it is a good show. And I like the two hosts. What I don't like is juvenile putdowns of people's looks and Anne, I'm sorry, you lost me when you put down Mr. Vishnevetsky on that level. High school is over, grow up.

  • Theodore | December 1, 2011 4:23 PMReply

    What an incredibly offensive blog entry

  • Scooby | December 1, 2011 10:23 PM

    My reaction as well.

  • orangeflava | December 1, 2011 3:45 PMReply

    Bring back Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott! They were the perfect combo to succeed on "At the Movies".

  • KXD | December 1, 2011 3:39 PMReply

    I don't know what show you were watching but Christie held her own and was just as aggressive with her opinions. Nice professional touch, on your behalf, to describe Ignatiy as "gap-toothed" Really? Maybe you're dumping your own baggage into your writing. A little insecure Anne? A little jealous? I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone, in describing your critic skills, threw in "The saggy, elderly and bitter Anne Thompson" It was a good show in all of it's perky, gap-toothed glory.

  • cinephile | December 1, 2011 6:20 PM

    I'm not sure why Anne Thompson should be jealous. She is more acclaimed as a critic and industry expert and more popular and esteemed in the movie industry itself than either of those critics, and she was herself a guest host in the original At The Movies show, when it was airing and when it was still successful.

  • Craig | December 1, 2011 3:17 PMReply

    So men are "free to be as arrogant and know-it-all as they like," eh? That seems a bit shrill. And harsh.

  • Archibald | December 1, 2011 4:32 PM

    Well played, Sir...well played. I award you one internet.

  • Beth Hanna | December 1, 2011 3:32 PM

    By writing that you are only proving Anne's point, btw.

  • G. | December 1, 2011 1:41 PMReply

    Anne, they should bring back the two Tony's. They were excellent together and demonstrated exceptional film knowledge. They made me want to post questions on their website, and I really enjoyed their Top 10 of the decade. They agreed more often than they sparred, but it was the best iteration of that show since the original. It was probably too high-brow for mainstream watcher, but I miss it and you can't access those videso anymore. G.

  • Mark | December 2, 2011 10:27 PM

    Ignatiy, I started watching the various versions of Siskel and Ebert SINCE BEFORE YOU WERE BORN--and that is your problem! You simply do not have the life's experience, or--to me, the taste--to have been chosen by Roger to be the heir apparent to the show! You are wrong to say that Gene and Roger approached film criticism the same way. You cannot minimize personal taste in film criticism, and these two often were at opposite ends of the totem pole. They managed to make these differing polemics exciting and insightful in the very few minutes that they had to review a film. And I agree with Anne Thompson about Christy on-screen. I would add the word "chirpy" to perky. She lacks the gravitas for me to take her very seriously when she is still so nostalgically enamored of the Muppets, regardless of the merits of the Muppets latest movie. As for funding, I have long recommended that you guys turn to the 3 big networks and try to get a network show going. Money would never be a problem if you got on their prime-time schedule. Even though I have reservations of you both as film critics, the show is infinitely more intelligent than all the reality crap that the networks feed us--and they wouldn't even have to fly you to remote places like Sumatra to do your show! I read that the demographics of your audience are the 18 to 49 group so coveted by sponsors. The mistake some of us have is thinking too small. THINK BIGGER! Have Roger and Chaz approach the network heads of the 3 big networks (forget FOX--they are too conservative and anti-hollywood) and you never know--they might just say YES! Good luck!

  • Anne Thompson | December 1, 2011 11:18 PM

    I've been a devoted watcher of the show since the beginning, until Ebert was unceremoniously kicked off and the two Bens came in. Then I liked the Phillips and Scott a lot. But I couldn't warm up to this pair--still TiVoed the show, watched it faithfully every Sunday night--they never built up a regular weekly rhythm, there were missing weeks, many replays of old shows, etc. I tried to like it. And yes, I had my one shot in the guest spot opposite Richard Roeper --I think it aired on Christmas Eve--and I wasn't good either! We had no chemistry at all. My fault is that I wanted these experts to inform and heighten my awareness of new films and I found myself arguing with them. The Eberts produced a respectably smart show, by no means were Lemire and Vishnevetsky on the sad level of the two Bens, but I far prefer Lemire on the online show What the Flick with Matt Atchity and yes, the smarter of the Two Bens, Mankiewicz, where she's relaxed, opinionated and charming. Maybe Marshall Fine is right and the outdated format was part of the problem: http://hollywoodandfine.com/fineblog/?p=1067

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