WORD Presents Matt Singer with Alison Willmore

10/24/2023 - 7:00pm

FREE EVENT! Limited Seating + Additional Standing Room; RSVP below

*Please note event space is only accessible by stairs; we do not have an elevator.*

About the Book

Once upon a time, if you wanted to know if a movie was worth seeing, you didn’t check out Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB. You asked whether Siskel & Ebert had given it “two thumbs up.”

On a cold Saturday afternoon in 1975, two men (who had known each other for eight years before they’d ever exchanged a word) met for lunch in a Chicago pub. Gene Siskel was the film critic for the Chicago Tribune. Roger Ebert had recently won the Pulitzer Prize—the first ever awarded to a film critic—for his work at the Chicago Sun-Times. To say they despised each other was an understatement.

When they reluctantly agreed to collaborate on a new movie review show with PBS, there was at least as much sparring off-camera as on. No decision—from which films to cover to who would read the lead review to how to pronounce foreign titles—was made without conflict, but their often-antagonistic partnership (which later transformed into genuine friendship) made for great television. In the years that followed, their signature “Two thumbs up!” would become the most trusted critical brand in Hollywood.

In Opposable Thumbs, award-winning editor and film critic Matt Singer eavesdrops on their iconic balcony set, detailing their rise from making a few hundred dollars a week on local Chicago PBS to securing multimillion-dollar contracts for a syndicated series (a move that convinced a young local host named Oprah Winfrey to do the same). Their partnership was cut short when Gene Siskel passed away in February of 1999 after a battle with brain cancer that he’d kept secret from everyone outside his immediate family—including Roger Ebert, who never got to say goodbye to his longtime partner. But their influence on in the way we talk about (and think about) movies continues to this day.

About the author

Matt Singer is the editor and film critic of ScreenCrush.com and a member of the New York Film Critics Circle. He won a Webby Award for his work on the Independent Film Channel’s website, IFC.com, and is the author of Marvel’s Spider-Man: From Amazing to Spectacular. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

In conversation with

Alison Willmore is a film critic at Vulture and New York magazine. She previously worked as a critic and culture writer at BuzzFeed News and the TV editor at Indiewire, and with Matt Singer hosted the Filmspotting: SVU podcast. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Sammo, who also has strong opinions about movies, but prefers to keep them to himself.

 

Interested in a signed copy but unable to attend the event?

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Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever By Matt Singer Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9780593540152
Availability: In stock at Brooklyn or Jersey City -- click for more details
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - October 24th, 2023

Once upon a time, if you wanted to know if a movie was worth seeing, you didn’t check out Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB.

You asked whether Siskel & Ebert had given it “two thumbs up.”


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