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Roger Ebert: The balcony is reopened

Film critics Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on

Film critics Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on the set of “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies.” Photo Credit: Handout

While his battle with thyroid cancer has robbed outspoken film critic Roger Ebert of his voice, that hasn’t stopped him from starting up a new version of his popular film-review show.

Ebert has enlisted veteran Associated Press movie critic Christy Lemire and greenhorn reviewer Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of Mubi.com to co-host “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies.” The previous incarnation was canceled last March.

The new series, which debuts on Friday on PBS, follows in the long tradition of television film criticism dating back to 1975, when Ebert and the late Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel started “Sneak Previews.”

amNY spoke with Lemire about the new show.

How did you get the gig?
I had filled in several times in 2007. … When Roger was thinking about trying to revive the show, they came to me. … And, of course, I cried like a little girl at the prospect of it.

What have you learned from Roger?
Here’s what I love about Roger: He has a Pulitzer, he’s been doing this forever, and yet there is never any snobbery about him, never any condescension. He’s completely open every time he walks into a screening to the possibility of being dazzled.

What can we expect from your co-host Ignatiy?
He is hugely knowledgeable. Do not let the fact that he is 24 in any way suggest to you that he is not ready for this or doesn’t know his stuff. He knows everything.

How will this iteration of “At the Movies” differ from prior versions?
Because we are on PBS, we get closer to a half hour of airtime. So it is a little similar to the original show in that we’re sitting in a “movie balcony” and we’re debating films. Then there are other segments that we’ve added.

What’s your favorite new segment?
My favorite part of the whole show is Roger’s segment. It’s called “Roger’s Office” and he will review … a movie on DVD or something that’s new in theater. He’ll do it with the help of the computerized voice that’s attached to his laptop, and you’ll see him kind of gesturing as the voiceover goes along.

Most important question: Have you been doing your thumb exercises?
[laughs] You know, I have not. I don’t want it to seem rehearsed or staged, so I’m going to try and let my thumb be in the moment.

On TV: “Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies” airs on WLIW/21 Friday at 7 p.m. and on WNET/13 Friday at 10:30 p.m.

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