critic Roger Ebert, is set to debut on January 21, but until yesterday, the program had lined up only one of its two hosts: AP critic Christy Lemire. (Ebert will contribute a weekly segment but won't be a regular host.) Obviously, speculation about who would fill that second chair has been the subject of much discussion amongst film critics -- who, admit it, kinda wish Ebert would pick them. But instead of going with a known commodity, Ebert has selected a newbie: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. And as everyone keeps mentioning, yes, he's only 24 years old."Ebert Presents at the Movies," the new show from
Since most people's response to this news will be, "Who??," let's get to know Mr. Vishnevetsky. Born in the Soviet Union, he moved to the United States just before his ninth birthday, going to high school in Milwaukee and eventually moving to Chicago, the city where Ebert calls home. Ebert attended a screening that Vishnevetsky was at, and, according to Ebert, "I was struck by the depth and detail of his film knowledge, and by how articulate he was."
We admit we didn't at first recognize Vishnevetsky's name when the announcement was made, but once we started looking him up online, we realized we actually knew his work pretty well -- and were very impressed. His resume is stellar -- he previously served as a translator for a Russian literary journal, and he co-founded a site (Cine-File) that keeps up with independent and underground screenings in Chicago -- but he's done astounding work writing for Mubi, the essential film-snob website. But that doesn't mean he just writes about three-hour Thai films set in the imagination of a paraplegic son of French mimes: His think-piece on Jean-Claude Van Damme is thoughtful, clever and smart without trying to be an egghead about it. (You get the sense he actually, you know, enjoys action movies.)
Still, the fact that he's only 24 will surely raise some eyebrows. But as the Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik points out, the move shows that Ebert really believes in the future of film criticism, particularly on the web. Without the Internet, we might not get a guy like Vishnevetsky, who is by no means a "mainstream" voice but who has been able to hone his critical chops in a public forum at such a young age. And, as Zeitchik mentions, Vishnevetsky is the anti-Ben Lyons, the young, shallow film critic that Disney selected to be one of Ebert's replacements back in September 2008. Lyons was all vapid slickness; we haven't yet seen Vishnevetsky speak, but at least the guy sounds bright. A lot of our colleagues are complaining that a relative unknown has just been given one of the greatest jobs in our profession. But that seems to have been Ebert's point: He didn't want to find another established film critic; he wanted to find a new star. Now Vishnevetsky just needs to prove he was worth the gamble -- no pressure there.
Ebert Presents at the Movies [Roger Ebert's Journal]
Roger Ebert Adds 24-Year-Old Movie Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky to 'At The Movies' [Slash Film]
With his new PBS show, Roger Ebert goes alternative [24 Frames]
- Roger Ebert