Episode 211

(30 Sep, 2011)

Beyond the Balcony: Ebert Presents At the Movies

Transcript for Beyond the Balcony: Ebert Presents At the Movies

 

CHAZ EBERT:

We really worked hard to get this show back on television, and Roger felt it was important to go back to public television where the show began.

DON DUPREE:

I know each week when I tune in, I want to find out what Roger Ebert thinks about movies, and so we’re able to have the best of both worlds to have Roger on the show and also behind the scenes.

 

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:

It’s almost like speed chess.  You know where you have the clock.  That’s what it feels like because you have to respond so quickly.

 

CHRISTY LEMIRE:

It was thrilling to do the show for the first time and just to see the balcony and the set that is so well known, so recognizable, um, to actually sit in that chair was daunting and thrilling and an honor all at the same time.

 

OPEN ANIMATION

 

ROGER EBERT (VO):

In our early days all we either one of us ever wanted to do was work for a newspaper, but then somehow we both got television jobs.  In our early appearances we looked just a little ill at ease. Little did either one of us know that we were about to be given the opportunity to work together and for that matter little did either one of us desire that. In the autumn of 1975, Chicago’s public broadcast station, WTTW, decided there ought to be more talk on TV about the movies. “Opening Soon” gave way to a new season of “Sneak Previews” and a producer named Thea Flaum rode shotgun on us in those early years.

THEA FLAUM:

When we began this show, it was on not once a week but once a month.  So, I would meet them once a month.  We would get together to have lunch to discuss the show, and they would argue about everything because each of them was afraid that the other one was going to get ahead of them. So, we would argue about, they would argue with each other about where we were going to have lunch; picking out the restaurant.  They would flip a coin to see who would get to do the main review on each movie.  They would flip a coin to see who would get to go first at the beginning of the show.

CHAZ EBERT:

It was a show I had watched because it originated in Chicago on WTTW here.  It was exciting right from the beginning.  What is little known, and I’m revealing for the first time, I sided with Gene not with his reviews but something about the way he presented them in the beginning before I met Roger.  Now, I’ve never said that before.  Um, but then Roger became my favorite and together I just think they were two of the most exciting men on television.  Period.  In television history.

ROGER EBERT:

We started we kind of had notes little notes, little three by five cards and little points…talking points we wanted to make.   And we were trying to remember what we were going to say, and then the other person would change what he said and that would change what we were going to say.  And finally, we agreed we’re not actors.  We can’t remember what we’re supposed to say.  We can talk about the movies.  We can talk to each other about the movies.  And the day we started doing it that way was when the show really started to work. 

DON DUPREE:

And people would always ask me then and now, “Was it really that bad? Did they really not get along?  It was kind of made up. Wasn’t it?”  I’m like, “Oh, it was much worse than you thought it was.” 

ROGER (VO):

The Thing was we weren’t pretending to ignore Johnny Carson there, we really were ignoring him.

CHAZ EBERT:

It meant so much to them to convince the other of his viewpoint that it got pretty rough sometimes.  After six years of public television, Roger and Gene moved into syndication with “At The Movies” followed by “Siskel & Ebert.”

CHRISTY LEMIRE:

I have very fond memories of “Siskel & Ebert” in the 80s.  I mean they were formative, and they did something that nobody else had done.  And so, you know, when you’re a kid, and you’re in love with movies, too, these guys had the dream gig.  I mean they talked about and wrote about what they loved, and uh, they were very much an inspiration to me in going into this kind of work.

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:

I wasn’t a viewer of “At The Movies” when I was a kid.  Um, I was aware of “Siskel & Ebert.” I had…I saw a few of the shows, um but I was never a regular viewer.  I, you know, my entry to film criticism wasn’t through the show.  I know for a lot of people it is.  It was actually through reading film criticism.

CHAZ EBERT:

Gene was diagnosed with brain cancer and one of the aisle seats became empty in February 1999. 

DON DUPREE:

After Gene Siskel passed away, Roger at Chaz’s advice and council brought Richard Roeper in.  From Siskel & Ebert it became Ebert & Roeper, and I think it made that show possible because of the way Roger dealt with Richard.

CHAZ EBERT:

In 2006, Richard held down the fort with a number of guest co-hosts after Roger himself became ill.

Newscaster:

Roger Ebert is scheduled for cancer surgery later this month, a cancerous growth has resurfaced in the salivary glands, his doctors first diagnosed him with thyroid cancer back in 2002, since then he’s had three surgeries to remove malignant tumors in his thyroid and his gland the surgery is set for June 16th, 2 days before his 64th Birthday.

CHAZ EBERT:

Some people don’t know that Roger and Oprah dated before he met me. They just had a few dates, it’s not like they were a big couple or anything, they had a date or two, and remained friends all these years. I like Oprah very much.

When Roger was sick, Oprah was one of the people we called for advice for getting people to come in to help him. And she was a good friend. And when Roger got well, she invited us to come on her show, to demonstrate a new custom voice a company in Scotland was making for him. And…So they came to our house, and set up, and I listened to this new voice for the first time, on camera.

Computer voice:

Want to hear the new voice? 

CHAZ EBERT:

Okay…

ROGER EBERT:

This is the first my computer voice. It still needs improvement, but at least it sounds like me when I type. When I type anything, this voice will speak whatever I type. Whenever I write something, it will read in my voice. In first grade they said I talked too much, and now I still can.

CHAZ EBERT:

It kind of overwhelming, because I had not heard Roger’s voice for a long time before that.

OPRAH:

I’d just like to say this to you, Chaz, as one woman to another. I remember when roger was going through the early surgeries, and he’s been through so many – do you know how many he’s been through?

CHAZ EBERT:

No.

OPRAH:

Surgeries?

CHAZ EBERT:

A lot.

OPRAH:

I’d just like to say from one woman to another, you’re incredible. You make me proud to spell my name W-O-M-A-N, the reason is this: This woman refused to let him die. She refused to let him die. Years ago during the early first operations, when people were saying it’s done, it’s over, Chaz called me and said I refuse to let him die.

And she stood by him, and has been with him, and taken care of him, and shown what true love is, you’re a real woman, a real woman.

CHAZ EBERT:

I do miss his voice. I miss that voice. But so many people write in and say, when they read his reviews, or even when the wonderful bill kurtis speaks for roger on the show, they say they can still hear roger’s voice through those reviews. So I guess that’s something we can be real grateful for.

Bill Kurtis:

 A new Vampire Movie named Fright Night makes use of an ideal location: Las Vegas, a city of night. This is Bill Kurtis speaking for Roger Ebert.

CHAZ EBERT:  

For years we have had Roger and Gene, Roger and Richard Roper, even in the time that we had guest critics, most of them were men. To me it’s important if you’re gonna have a show, and bring it into the 21st century, bring in the opinions of a woman film critic as well. That was very important to me.

CHRISTY:

 I filed in with Richard several times when he had different critics every week.

RICHARD ROPER: 

I’m Richard Roper filling in for Roger in this special show. I’m here with Christy Lemiere of the Associate Press. Welcome back to the Balcony. 

CHRISTY:

So glad to be here, thank you very much.

RICHARD:

Got some good movies to talk about. For once I’m sure, we’ll have some good movies to talk about.

CHRISTY:

And some bad ones.

CHRISTY:

he and I had hit it off, and had a lot of fun, and they nice enough to ask me back several times, so I kind of got a feel for what the show was like and how it worked.

DON DUPREE:

Christy’s greatness is shown not only in how she handles her reviews or her writing, or how she is on the show, but the way she has embraced Ignatiy. And helped him. How she’s fostered that relationship and let it develop. It was a really classy way that she’s done that, and I don’t know many people who could do it better. 

CHRISTY:

 I don’t know if we need little indie, low budget, Sundance comedies in 3d.

IGNATIY:

I would love that so much.

CHRISTY:

I do not need The angst is in my lap.

CHAZ EBERT:

I think Christy is great. She can explain things really well, and she has a viewpoint that I think America Embraces.

CHRISTY:

There are like, two different kinds of Buddy Bromance movies just slammed up against eachother here.

CHRISTY:

I grew up Los Angles,  in San Fernado Valley in the 80s, so movies like Fast Time at Ridgemont High, and Valley Girl were very exciting because they were shot at our mall, ya know?

IGNATIY:

I came to the US just a little before my 9th birthday. Ya know, I grew up with my dad essentially, until I was 17 and could move out on my own. You know, like most kids I really liked movies. Kids love movies. I was obsessed with the VCR, and being able to rent tapes. I tended to like a lot of action movies when I was a kid, 5 years old. I think Commando was my favorite movie.

CHRISTY:

 Roger Approached me in 2008, and said hey, we’re gonna try and get this show back up and running again, and would like you to host. And I cried. It the dream gig, and I was so overwhelmed that he thought enough of me and had enough faith in me to carry on this legacy, I was pysched I was thrilled, and I love working with Ignatiy, it’s a blast.

IGNATIY:

By the way I was actually going to bring you purple Justin Bieber never say never glasses,  which I have been saving for this episode –

CHRISTY:

Oh you’re so sweet.  Compared to a lot of them, these are very real world kind of trendy ray-bandish. A lot of them are really bulky and ugly, but these are kind of cute.

IGNATIY:

Kind of cute, alright.

IGNATIY:

We’ve only been doing the show for six months, but I feel like uh, we’ve developed such a good relationship between the two of us, despite the fact she is often dead wrong.

CHRISTY:

IT DRAGS! It’s these shots of nothing

IGNATIY:

It’s got animals, ya know?

CHRISTY:

Why is there there’s a llama at a gas station?

IGNATIY:

Why shouldn’t there be a llama!?

CHRISTY:

It’s it all our own interior llama?

IGNATIY:

We get along really really great, she’s my friend, but we come from completely different traditions of film criticism, we come from completely different ideas of what cinema is supposed to be, we have completely different tastes and backgrounds and expectations. We like very different things, and even when we like the same things, we tend to like them for completely different reasons.

CHRISTY:

That’s kind of the blast of Ignatiy. Is you think you got him pegged and you think you know what his tastes are gonna be, then he’ll like something like The Green Hornet. Or he’s Thumbs Up on Season of The Witch. He’s Thumbs Up on this most recent transformers movie, which will probably appear on a lot of worst of lists.  So I love that he has enough confidence in himself, he doesn’t care about what anyone thinks, he’ll find merit in something and support it.

IGNATIY:

Sometimes the things that come out of her mouth are…ya know, I can’t even use words, or kind polite language to describe them….they’re infuriating.

CHRISTY:

We will dig into eachother if we disagree about a movie, we definitely won’t hold back. We have a lot of fun together. And I’ve hung out with his wife, and he’s hung out with my husband and my son, and uh, it’s a more playful kind of relationship, kind of a give and take, we’ll goof on eachother, but it’s uh, it’s fun.

IGNATIY:

But in reality it blends at least a dozen different shooting formats, most of which are not in 3d, And that makes it the weirdest looking movie put out by a major studio in a long time, but that doesn’t make it any good, though.

CHRISTY:

Why you gotta hate on the beebs?!

IGNATIY:

I don’t have on Bieber, I hate on this film

CHRISTY:

What is wrong with you!

CHAZ EBERT:

What Gene and Roger had, I don’t think we’re ever gonna see with anyone. But I wanted to see a certain chemistry with Chrisy and Ignatiy, and I think we found it.

IGNATIY:

All I know it deeply changed my mood for the rest of the day

IGNATIY:

We could do a show on this movie

CHRISTY:

I would love to do an entire show on this movie, and even we still would not even scratch the surface because we’d keep seeing different things over and over again.

IGNATIY:

The way I ended up on the show is that roger had overheard me talking to someone and looked up who I was online, then Chaz, our producer, Roger’s wife, called me, and she asked me “Would you uh, want to come talk with me and Roger.”

CHAZ EBERT:  

I knew, that day, he’d be one our critics. The first day

IGNATIY:

They asked me whether I’d be interested in screen testing to be a contributor to the show. Not the main host, but someone that could be on every few weeks. And they said, well, the thing is we’re going out to California tomorrow, and they asked me whether I’d go out with them. I packed my bags, flew out with them at I think 7 Oclock the next morning, and that’s when I first met Christy.

CHRISTY:

I have not seen the audition tapes, I’m not sure I want too.

CHRISTY:

that forces me to pronounce Ignashious’s last name…Vishnafesh…What is it? How do you say your last name?  

IGNATIY:

 It’s Vishnevetsky

CHRISTY:

Okay, I’ll let you say it.

CHAZ EBERT:

 And he had never done television, so the first things were a little raw, but we saw he was smart, we saw he takes direction well.

CHRISTY:

It’s so him

IGNATIY:

It’s snappy and it’s smart, but it also sometimes feels like a TV movie.

CHAZ EBERT:

We brought him back to learn to read teleprompter, and to learn all sorts of things, just to have him be comfortable in that spot.

IGNATIY:

I’ve seen the tape from the audition, I’ve seen part of it. I have trouble even watching the first few episodes of this show.  I mean you can imagine how hard it is for me to bare that original screne test. But I guess I showed some potential. I don’t know what that potential was.

DON DUPREE:

When Roger and Chaz told me they had found Ignatiy, who was a 24 year old movie critic with no TV experience.  I thought they were crazy. I said, we’re starting this new show, and you, roger found someone in a screening room…and he has no experience, and you overheard him, and you don’t know him, and he’s one of the two people? He’s going to be sitting in your chair! Are you crazy?

CHAZ EBERT:

We knew our decision would be controversial because he was only 24 years old.

DON DUPREE:

Roger and Chaz are braver than I am.  They said yes, I thought it was a big mistake. But they were right. Ignatiy was the right guy.

CHAZ EBERT:

He lives and breathed film. It was just, he was the perfect fit.

DON DUPREE:

Also, I think that he brings, in many ways, and I think this is ironic, he brings a little Gene Siskel to the show, he sees things very much from his point of view…

IGNATIY:

I can think of very few other movies made in the last few decades that have been this ambitious, or this driven to reshape exactly what a movie can be.

DON DUPREE:

And I think when you watch him you’re watching someone who really is a student of film. He was the right choice. He wasn’t my choice to begin with, but the right choice.

CHAZ EBERT:  One of the reason’s Roger wanted me to be the executive producer is that he realized that I had a different vision for the show. 

CHRISTY: I think Chaz really has big picture and detail going on simultaneously, and it’s a lot to juggle. And it’s a brand new…thing. It’s an established legacy, but it’s a brand new thing of it’s own. So there’s a lot of juggling going on, but she’s always here to answer questions and give advice.

IGNATIY:I think Chaz has a particular vision for how she wants the show to be. But at the same time she’s also very willing to try a lot of things, which is why the format of the show will often chance from episode to episode

SONIA:

No idea is a bad idea, which I love. Roger and Chaz encourage everyone to add their ideas.  By that, I think we’ve gotten a really unique show, because ideas we think we shouldn’t try, Chaz would be like “Yeah! Let’s try it! Lets do that” So it’s been a really nice place to work.

CAITLIN:

Working for Ebert Productions in general has been so surreal for me. It’s been such a great experience; I really have no words for it. And it’s been really inspiring, and once again, surreal.

CHRISTY:

Don Dupree our director knows the show intimately, inside and out. He’s been involved with it in it’s different incarnation over over a decade, 15-20 years. He can answer any question, figure out any problem, and his advice from above! The voice of God, from above, when we are on set was always very helpful.

DON DUPREE:  

This will be a fun show, let me know anything I can do to help you, and here we go.

DON DUPREE:

For everyone who likes the show, there’s a person to thank, and that’s Chaz Ebert. Without chaz the show would not be on. Chaz is the driving force in getting the show on the air, and getting roger to be a part of it. Getting a show on the air, during a recession? That’s not an easything to do, but Chaz is tenacious. And who else would be able to walk in, take a show from scratch, oversee it, bring everybody in, make it happen, and make it successful. And I tip my hat to her, and I know Roger does too.

CHAZ EBERT:

It’s hard work, but it’s such a joy to produce something and see our product out there. To see everything that our staff, and crew, and Christy and Ignatiy and Roger, and everything that they all do, that we all do together, to see it week after week, is such a joy I never knew I had.

CHRISTY:

Roger’s support has been hugely humbling, and when we first began the show he was much more hands on then is now, but he’s juggling a ton of things himself. He pumps out a ton of reviews each week, he just wrote his memoirs, he’s up and tweeting in the middle of the night. He’s got his hands full, but he’s definitely a part of the show.  

DON DUPREE:

Roger’s like the zealot character in a woody allen movie. He kind of shows up, pops up these places, and reinvents himself all the time. It’s remarkable.  You look at it, and he starts in film criticism, and he winds up writing movies, then he becomes this proflicfic author, an incredible host on television. I think a lot of people after his health problems thought “Well, what’s Roger gonna do” well Roger knew what he was gonna do. He was gonna reinvent himself again into this person who’s unbelievably prolific, on his website, with twitter,  one of my favorites of all roger reinventing himself, I think this is one of the all time classics, with all Roger’s been through, and all of his difficulties, he writes a cook book! I got the book! It’s pretty good!

CHAZ EBERT:

Ebert fest, our film festival at University of  Illonois, at Champange Ubana, is one of the joys of our life. We really love doing it, and Roger gets to choose all of these little gems of movies.  Some that haven’t been seen much by an audience, and some that actually have been nominated for Oscars. But they’re  things he thinks should be seen again with an audience at the Virginia Theater, this beautiful movie palace down in Champange Ubana.

RICHARD LINKLATER

I love the festival, this big beautiful theater, that’s just the best starting point ever. if you can watch movies in a big beautiful theater with a lot of people? It doesn’t get much better than that. 

TILDA SWINTON:

It’s pretty much exactly what I’d hoped and more. It’s a bunch of film fanatics all in a room, staying there. Going out having a coffee and coming back in and seeing the next film.

ANG LEE:

With the very first one, they started with the TV reviews in a debating form, which is a great form.

CHRISTY:

The whole time I was watching this, I was like, “I can’t wait for Ignatiy to explain to me why this is supposed to be good.” 

CHRISTY:

There is a sense of responsibility to the legacy of Siskel and Ebert, and yet we are our own people. We have our own dynamic and people are gonna compare us them of course. We will be respectful and professional and intelligent, and hopefully insightful, and hopefully steer folks in the right direction, but we’re not them.  We are our own people, and we’re doing it our own way.

DON DUPREE:

Roger could have easily said, you know what, my legacy is secure, I don’t need to take that risk. But my hat’s off to him. Instead he said there’s really gotta be a place for film criticism on television, it’s important. And I’m willing, along with Chaz, to out there and make it happen.

CHAZ EBERT:

We have not stopped pushing the envelope

IGNATIY:

I like the fact that this is a show not set in stone. I like that it’s a show where we can do very many different kinds of segments. Different approaches not only to criticism, but to engaging with an audience. We can change it from episode to episode; it doesn’t always have to be the same thing.

CHAZ EBERT:  I love this show, I love doing this show, and I hope everyone enjoys it.