It’s not Friday. I don’t care.
I checked into Facebook an hour or so ago and saw that one of my friends had changed his cover photo to an adorable picture of Siskel, Ebert, Telly the Monster and Oscar the Grouch. I laughed. Then I scrolled down and saw why he posted it: after many years of an epic battle, cancer finally proved, again, that it sucks the most of all the things that suck. It took Roger Ebert. Come on, cancer. We all agree you’re the Suckiest of the Suck. Just stop.
My dad, sister and I watched Siskel and Ebert religiously. Our local movie theater, a converted opera house, had its own balcony, and it was always closed because of the extreme rat infestation up there, but we always fantasized that we’d sneak up there, just like they did, and get to Talk Movies. In college, my pledge name was “Siskel,” presumably for all the VHS videos I had in my room, and I remember grumbling to a friend that I was SO more Ebert than Siskel.
In the last few years I’ve been reading Ebert’s blog regularly, checking into it every few weeks, and realized some things I hadn’t known about him. He’s a brilliant writer, first of all. He’s a compassionate person. He’s a devoted husband, crazy about his wife in a way that most of us can dream about, and she’s the most extraordinary person: beautiful, strong, and fiercely caring for him. Of course, those descriptions all came from him, and I can’t imagine that he’d ever see her as anything but a warrior angel.
It breaks my heart to re-read those sentences and realize I inadvertently used present tense, and that I should’ve said “was.” He WAS those things. Cancer. Suck.
After wiping the tears from my keyboard, I knew I’d have to post a SlumberPartyMovies tribute to him. To what I’m sure would’ve been his horror, I first thought of “Summer School”–a movie I saw in a drive-in double feature, paired with “Lost Boys.” (BTW: How radical am I? Except that was the first time I’d worn my contact lenses, and one fell out during “Cry Little Sister.”)
My sister and I loved this movie. Like, LOVED it. Like, one summer, when we were totally bored, I helped Samantha write down every word of the movie in the computer so we could print it out and have the whole script. Kids, this is what your elders did before the internet.
I tried finding a scene from the movie when Chainsaw and Dave give one of their Siskel and Ebert reviews–like after the roller coaster, when they give a thumbs-up/thumbs-down, and then confirm it’s a thumbs-up when a classmate barfs into the garbage can. But I couldn’t find it. What I did find was this gem.
The song, “Mind Over Matter,” rocks on every level, and we had it on our version of repeat, which is to say, we recorded it over and over on a whole tape and let it play continuously. The song plays when the students are taking their Big Test and going into labor, and–miracle of miracles–is sung by “Better Off Dead” singer EG Daily. (How did I not know that?)
Watch this video. You won’t regret it. Especially not the part at about 2:10 when motherfucking Carl Reiner dances in a linen suit. I can’t say for certain, but I’m reasonably sure this is the only appearance he ever made in a music video. What else? Strobe lights, aerobic thongs, and the cast performs onstage, something you won’t see happen again until Rockula.
What did Mr. Ebert think of Summer School? I’d tell you, except the SunTimes server crashed under the weight of millions of internet mourners moments after the news broke. I can tell you what the excerpt on Google says: “Summer School is a movie like that, a comedy so listless, leisurely and unspirited that it was an act of the will for me to care about it, even …”
My guess is, the rest of the review don’t go so good.
But Mr. Ebert, I still choose to pay tribute to you with “Mind Over Matter” anyway. And this might sound as hokey as a principal letting a teacher get tenure even though 80% of his class fails summer school, but you, sir, are the greatest example of mind over matter I’ve ever known. You fought cancer. You lost half your damned face, for Christ’s sake. And still, you wrote to us, and spoke to us, and we developed with you the kind of one-sided personal bond that one can only get by being a blogger, and allowing comments, and sharing your story with the world.
We’ll see you at the movies.