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Roger Ebert Angry Over Siskel Tribute Video's Removal

by Joel Keller, posted Feb 16th 2010 5:02PM
Roger Ebert at the Toronto Film Festival 2009Anyone who thinks that we in the blogging, Twittering, Facebooking universe have hastened the death of the long-form magazine story as we know it needs to take a look at this Esquire profile of Roger Ebert, written by Chris Jones.

As fans of 'At The Movies' know, Ebert's been off the air for almost four years, since complications from cancer surgery on his jaw left him unable to eat, drink, or speak. The pictures of Ebert that accompany the story are stark; no matter how many times I see it, the image of the withered lower half of his face is tough to see.

The article, though, is inspiring; it shows an Ebert who has been able to come to terms with how he's currently living his life and how he navigates through it, mostly through the excellent writing on his Chicago Sun-Times blog. But the most emotionally-charged moment in the whole story was his visible anger at seeing that the video of his 1999 Gene Siskel tribute show has been pulled off his 2009 blog entry about his partner and friend's death.

Smith conveys an imagery of Ebert's anger over the move -- which his wife Chaz feels is part of Disney's retribution over the messy way Ebert and Richard Roeper disassociated themselves from 'At The Movies' -- that's heartbreaking to read. It damn near made me tear up, which is something that hasn't happened to me via the written word in years:

"He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH," Smith writes. "But Ebert doesn't press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger."

Here's where it gets heartbreaking, almost like a scene out of a movie Ebert might be reviewing: "He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they're just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he's still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he's shouting now."

This description sends chills up my spine every time I read it. Which leads me to this question: Why is Disney being so damned petty about this?

If you read the blog entry, it's a very touching eulogy for Siskel, ten years after his untimely death. It talks about how Siskel and Ebert got together and how they became close friends over the years despite their passionate fights about their tastes in movies that often devolved into Ebert calling Siskel "bald" and Siskel calling Ebert "fat." Then it talks about the stoic way Siskel went through the illness that ultimately killed him.

When I read the eulogy for the first time last year, it struck me as one of the best things Ebert's ever written, and having the tribute show attached was a nice touch. If Disney had some copyright violations issues with the videos, wouldn't it have been a nice gesture to provide Ebert with some Disney-blessed embeds he could use? Instead, we see three black squares that say "Content Deleted."

If that's the kind of gratitude Ebert gets after a quarter-century of making Disney money, then what hope do the rest of us have when we have to retire?

[via Romenesko]

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I remember reading the tribute shortly after it was published. Even before watching the videos I was in tears. Reading the Esquire article yesterday had me in tears again - this time tears of rage. I've disliked Disney for years but now I'm motivated far beyond giving Mickey the finger. Until the videos are back Disney gets not a penny from me. Now I understand how the phrase 'that's so Mickey Mouse' came into being.

February 17 2010 at 8:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tommy B.

I was able to find some links to it on youtube, and I think there might be a second copy of that particular show on there as well. Perhaps Disney just removed an older, previous one?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0tRNy9rELg - Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtO4_--TRgo - Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKR9pQmMXv0&feature=related - Part 3

February 17 2010 at 2:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tommy B.'s comment

You are so awesome. Just read the Esquire article and really needed to see the tribute. Made my night. Thank you!!

February 19 2010 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Waaaaaaaa. Me, me, me. It's so important that everyone see my tribute. The world is suffering without it. Boo hoo.

Stop making siskel's death about ebert

February 16 2010 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow. The tears started around page three. What an amazing interview and what an amazing guy.

February 16 2010 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The article is incredible. And inspirational. And heartbreaking.

February 16 2010 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Disney may be able to circumvent the First Amendment and suppress someone's speech by alleging that their copyright supersedes another party's human rights.

But what Disney can't do is convince me and others like me to spend one dime to finance their empire of greed. Actions like this will only add to the ranks of those who refuse to fund them.

February 16 2010 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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