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The Dirty Little Siskel Secret

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Thank you for printing Patrick Z. McGavin's article about the School of the Art Institute's decision to name its Film Center after Gene Siskel (July 14). McGavin is polite and evenhanded, but he breaks the conspiracy of silence about Siskel, who did essentially nothing to advance movies, or movie criticism, as an art form. McGavin writes that "Siskel's reputation among aficionados suffered because he was more accomplished on television than he was in print." In fact, Siskel's reputation suffered because he never said anything original or intellectually provocative about movies. Simply compare his output to that of Jonathan Rosenbaum, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, et al. He wasn't a critic but a reviewer of product--an important cog in Hollywood's publicity machine who did virtually nothing to promote movies outside the mainstream. I'm sure Roger Ebert (a better reviewer and writer) has a sincere desire to memorialize his former partner, but Ebert also has a vested interest in exalting Siskel's position--he stands in the same shoes. Those of us who have no similar interest but simply care about movies, and about the Film Center, will be chuckling and shaking our heads each time we pass under Siskel's "three-story"-high marquee.

Sincerely,

David Berger

N. Astor

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