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Jul. 22 2010 - 11:00 pm | 357 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Sad to see the balcony close: Mourning the loss of ‘At The Movies’

Chances are you’re out doing stuff on a Saturday night, and if so, good for you. But one of my favorite late night activities isn’t hitting up the bars or the clubs, but unwinding on the couch, with the latest episode of “At The Movies,” a.k.a. that movie review show once hosted by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, still filmed in Chicago — but not for much longer.

With Ebert sidelined from TV due to health reasons, Siskel long passed and his replacement Richard Roeper splitting from the show over creative reasons, “At The Movies” took a turn for the terrible when hosted by quote whore Ben Lyons and  Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. The two critics lost their post after just one season in the wake of some major criticism, and starting last fall, the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips and The New York Times’ A.O. Scott, two of the finest film critics out there today, took over.

But the ratings never recovered and now Disney is letting it go. “At The Movies” is ending in just four weeks.

So why watch it now? I’d say do so to pay a little respect to a program that while different from its hey day is still about one thing at its core — a couple of passionate people talking about movies. For any movie buff, its a must, and frankly with Phillips and Scott at the helm, the show is the best its been since the Siskel-Ebert days. The two engage in enlightening, engaging back and forth that’s primarily about the films, rather than the bickering, which has become the focal point of so many debate shows from “The View” to stuff on CNN. It’s a shame that with the show getting so good again it has to now go away. Personally speaking, I can’t imagine it being off the air, considering that I’ve watched it since I was a just a kid, and recalling all the fantastic films (from “Dark City” to “Hoop Dreams” to “Where The Wild Things Are”) I was convinced to see by its hosts. But, thanks to Philips and Scott, at least the show is going out in style. Considering the circumstances, I can’t think of a better way to see the show come to an end.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Philips and Scott about the show’s end, how they got their groove and the relevance of film criticism today, and will have the interview up at Moviefone at the end of the month or in early August. Check if you’re in Chicago like I am, you can watch the show on ABC 7 at 10:35 p.m. Saturdays until August 14th. 


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    About Me

    I came to Chicago for college because I liked the look of fire escapes snaking down alleyways, because I wanted to see what this Second City comedy thing was all about, because "The Blues Brothers" and "The Untouchables" made it look like the coolest city ever. And while I've never been chased down by hundreds of cop cars or involved in a slow motion shootout on the steps at Union Station, I still find Chicago to be the greatest city in the world. Architecture, food, Midwestern values and people aside, it's the arts scene that really makes Chicago come alive, be it the witty and wonderful wordplay over at The Second City and Steppenwolf, or the stirring sounds of the city's orchestra or rock bands at Schubas and Metro, or the mind-blowing flicks I've caught at the Music Box (including David Cronenberg's classic "Scanners," in which a mind does literally blow).

    I've lived in Chicago on and off since 2001, and having done the entertainment reporting thing ever since, it's my honor to report on the city's movie, music and performance scenes for True/Slant. I consider it a mission from God.

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