THEATER 2 Tue, Nov 28, 2023 6:30 PM


Join Matt Singer for a reading from Opposable Thumbs, followed by a conversation with Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips, and a presentation of iconic clips from “At the Movies.”

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.” In 1975, Gene Siskel was the film critic for the Chicago Tribune, and 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 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, and how their influence on the way we talk about (and think about) movies continues to this day.