Saturday, June 30, 2007

Movie Critic Joel Siegel R.I.P.

Joel Siegel, the film critic for ABC frequently seen on Good Morning America died yesterday at the age of 63. He passed on yesterday afternoon after a long battle with cancer.

Siegel was born July 7, 1943 in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from the University of Los Angeles. Siegel began as a disc jockey newscaster. He wrote freelance for various advertising agencies and publications. He eventually received the job of writing book reviews at the the Los Angeles Times. In 1972 he moved to New York City and started work at WCBS-TV and hosted Joel Siegel's New York at WCBS Radio. It was in 1976 that he moved WABC, where he reviewed his first movies for ABC. It was in 1981 that he started reviewing movies for Good Morning America. Siegel also wrote the book for the Broadway musical The First in 1982.

In 1991 Siegel founded the Gilda's Club (named for Gilda Radner) with Gene Wilder, a non-profit group that supplies support for cancer patients and their families. He was honoured by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association for excellence in individual reporting and was given a public service award by Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.

Siegel was known for his jovial demeanour and sense of humour, present even when the movie he was reviewing was less than stellar. Siegel had an almost unique ability to take stabs at bad movies so that even the people who made them enjoyed the review. OF the film "The Sweetest Thing" he said, "Remember the movie critic Sony invented to give their films good reviews? Not even he would like this movie." 40 Days and 40 Nights he said, "What I learned from this movie: Absitenence can be a very good thing. Especially from box offices where this film is playing." Siegel had a gift for writing funny reviews.

Joel Siegel did invite a bit of controversy when he rather loudly walked out of a press screening for Kevin Smith's film Clerks II, even invoking a word that definitely was not "fudge." As for myself, I prefer not to hold Siegel's behaviour at the press screening for Clerks II against him. Everyone can have a lapse of good judgement at times. That having been said, Joel Siegel always came off joyous and good natured in his reviews, even when it was clear he did not like the film he was critiquing. Unlike many critics, one got the sense that Siegel loved movies, that he truly enjoyed them. What is more, he seemed to have genuine taste when it cames to movies, something that is rare among critics. I cannot say that I ever agreed with him 100% of the time, but I agreed with more than many other people who make their living reviewing films. At any rate, I must say I am saddened by the passing of a man whose reviews I honestly enjoyed.

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