Q1 2024

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50 C I N E M O N T A G E B O O K R E V I E W By Betsy A. McLane R eviewing movies with a "thumbs up/thumbs down" gesture might bring to mind the fate of ancient gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. It is definitive and dramatic. But for many years beginning in the 1970s, For many y e a r s b e g i n n i n g i n t h e 1 9 7 0 s , o t h e r thumbs, be longing to film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, were watched by m o re p e o p l e t h a n a ny R o m a n E m p e r - or's. Their decisions carried weight with the moviegoing public, but whether they meant life or death for a film is debatable. Matt Singer's book, "Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel and Ebert Changed Movies For- ever," attempts to prove that Siskel and Ebert's thumbs determined the fate of many movies. Consider that this is a review, by a reviewer, of a book written by a reviewer, about two other reviewers: meta-criticism. Meta-criticism is defined by the Oxford Dic- tionary as "Criticism of criticism; that is the examination of the principles, methods and terms either in general, or [as in this case] the study of particular critics or critical debates." "Opposable Thumbs" parses in extraordinary detail the lives and work of film critics Siskel and Ebert. Singer is him- self a film critic and currently chair of the New York Film Critics Circle. Singer's criti- cal stance can be assessed by looking at his other book, "Marvel's Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular-The Definitive Comic Art Collection," co-authored with J. M. DeMatteis. Singer is also the editor and film critic at Screen Crush, a movie fan site. Singer is concerned with the popular, hence an emphasis on superlatives. "Spectacular," "definitive" and "favorite" are large claims. WHAT A PAIR SISKEL & EBERT WERE THE MOST FAMOUS MOVIE CRITICS IN AMERICA. BUT COULD THEY REALLY TURN A FILM INTO A HIT? This perspective may be a good starting place to write about men who were the most visible critics in U.S. television history, but such adulation casts a skeptical light on any claims of "Forever." If meta-criticism sounds too highfalutin an approach to a book about two well-liked 20th century American newspaper writers and television personalities, consider the grandiosity of its subtitle. Before the cover is opened, the subtitle makes clear that Singer is a fervent fan of the movies, and of these men. This is confirmed by a tone of respectful eagerness that wafts through TWO OF US: Siskel, left, and Ebert in 1981, with their mascot Spot. P H OT O : P H OT O F E S T

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