?You have to realize you’re not writing for the filmmakers, you’re writing for the potential film audience. And I would much rather hurt somebody’s feelings who made the picture then send somebody to see a movie and spend two hours of their life seeing a movie that I don’t think is worth seeing. ?
— Roger Ebert
What better credo could a critic ? any kind of critic ? live by? Would that more wine writers kept it in mind.
I never met Ebert, though he did decline to write the introduction for my book about the movie ?Casablanca, ? written for its 50th anniversary. My editor, who knew him a little, thought she could talk him into it, but without success.
I did, however, have a great moment with Gene Siskel, who was Ebert ?s original co-host on their TV movie review show. I was a 17-year-old phone clerk in the sports department at a newspaper in suburban Chicago in 1975. One evening, I answered the phone, expecting to talk to a high school basketball coach.
?Is Temple Pouncey there Pouncey was one of the writers, and was hosting a party that was legendary at the paper.
?No, he ?s not. Can I take a message
?Yes, this is Gene Siskel, Can you tell him that I ?m coming to the party
I almost dropped the phone. Siskel was the film critic at the Chicago Tribune, and this particular 17-year-old phone clerk wanted nothing more than to one day work for a big city newspaper like the Tribune. I idolized reporters the way others did rock stars.
?Yes sir, Mr. Siskel. I ?ll give him the message. ?
?OK. Now, that ?s Gene Siskel, ? and then he spelled his name for me, ?S-I-S-K-E-L. ?
Which is another lesson wine writers should learn ? no matter how famous you think you are, you probably aren ?t. Humility never goes out of style.