Sneak Previews was a 30-minute conversation between two Chicago film critics, the late Gene Siskel and the late Roger Ebert.
One was skinny. One was not.
One was balding. One had hair.
One wore glasses. One did not.
I loved watching them discuss films. They taught me so much.
What I learned from Gene Siskel was that it was okay to be critical. To have a strong opinion and not be overly concerned about the consequences of someone disagreeing with you – or even being offended.
For my money, Siskel was the better critic; if for no other reason than he was harder to please.
What I learned from Roger Ebert was that it was okay to like a wide variety of movies and to analyze each film not only from your own personal perspective, but also from the objective of the filmmaker’s aim. This proved to be a very valuable lesson for me as a father to three boys.
When I take my sons to a film (which is often), I do my best to remove my critic’s hat and enjoy the film from their youthful, un-jaded perspective. I’m not always successful, but I have gotten pretty good at biting my tongue when one of them asks me “Did you like it?” Why let my personal – AND SUBJECTIVE – opinion taint, diminish, or downright crush their just-finished viewing experience?
The flip side to this, however, is my absolute joy in turning a frown in to a smile. In explaining why certain films are more than mere entertainment. How important they are in teaching us valuable lessons about the world. About each other. About ourselves. This is an appreciation I must also now credit Siskel & Ebert for.
After all, isn’t that why they did what they did? Isn’t that why they were good at what they did?
They loved movies!
They loved talking about movies, and consequently their shared enthusiasm made for a very entertaining 30 minutes of banter. Yes, they bickered and disagreed; and, yes, that was a big part of the show’s success. But the crucial component to their success was shared enthusiasm.
So, thank you, Gene. Thank you, Roger. Thank you, Siskel & Ebert, for sharing your enthusiasm with the rest of us.
You made me a better film watcher. And even a better father.
Two very big thumbs up for two men who gave us so much to talk about.