Ebert Presents co-host has loved movies since boyhood

Posted by puguh on Friday, January 21, 2011

Ebert Presents co-host has loved movies since boyhood. Ignatiy Vish­ne­vet­sky doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t fascinated by movies.

“My interest in film goes back to the start of my childhood memories,” Vishnevetsky said. “I was a real VCR kid and watched pretty much everything.”

Since then, Vishnevetsky, who is just 24, has amassed a wide knowledge of cinema that he will put to good use as a co-host of “Ebert Presents at the Movies.” He joins Associated Press critic Christy Lemire for a revamped version of the review show that made Ebert and Gene Siskel household names. It debuts at 8:30 p.m. Friday (with a repeat at 11 a.m. Saturday) on WTTW-Channel 11.

Vishnevetsky, who has written for several websites and the Chicago Reader, has never done any television, but Ebert and his wife, Chaz, a producer of the program, are confident they have found their man.

“It makes sense to take a great film critic and develop him as a TV personality,” Ebert said in his hiring announcement. “It’s been tried the other way around, and it didn’t work.”

Vishnevetsky, who originally had been tapped as an occasional contributor to the show, replaces critic Elvis Mitchell, who previously had been named as Lemire’s co-host.

“I was surprised and honored when they offered me the job,” Vishnevetsky said in a recent interview, adding, “I love so many things about movies and feel they are the greatest thing ever invented.”

Vishnevetsky was born in Russia and lived there until he was 9. His parents divorced, and in 1995 he relocated to Atlanta with his father, a professor of Russian literature, who had accepted a position at Emory University. Later they landed in Milwaukee.

In 2005, Vishnevetsky moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. He studied directing but dropped out after a few semesters, deciding instead to study cinema on his own. He supported himself by working a series of odd jobs and spent every other second watching the classics.

“I met a lot of people who were really into movies, and we would end up getting into a lot of discussions that would go on for a long time,” Vishnevetsky said. “Then I would get home and think of something brilliant I could have said. So because of that I began writing things down.”

As an interest in film criticism began to take form, Vishnevetsky devoured the work of past critics including James Agee, Andre Bazin and Manny Farber. Eventually he began writing for mubi.com and the Chicago Reader, whose former critic Jonathan Rosenbaum he credits as “a big influence.”

A thoughtful speaker who parses his words (with no trace of a Russian accent), Vishnevetsky first came to Ebert’s attention at the local critics’ screening room, where he overheard Vishnevetsky’s conversation with a fellow critic.

“He knew a lot about Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent classic ‘Man With a Movie Camera,’ ” Ebert recalled. “I had recently written a Great Movies piece on it and realized that before I started writing the piece, Dziga Vertov was not a name that sprang trippingly from my tongue.”

Vishnevetsky is one of those brainy cinephiles who can talk deeply and intricately about the art of cinema. On the Mubi site, he has posted essays on Jean-Claude Van Damme, the use of voice in cinema, Clint Eastwood’s Brechtian talents and why Renoir isn’t elegant.

He admits his approach is “dense” and that “no one can actually talk the way I write.” The on-air reviewing has offered him a new challenge.

“You have to be very straightforward and concise and extremely focused,” Vishnevetsky said. “I’ve learned you can cover a lot of ground sometimes in just one sentence. You just have to trim away the fat from your ideas.”

On the show, Vishnevetsky will sit in contrast to the more populist-thinking Lemire. A comparison of their top 10 lists from 2010 reveals not a single selection in common.

“Christy and I definitely feel differently about movies,” Vishnevetsky said. “But we also happen to get along very well and are interested in each other’s ideas. It gives it all a nice balance.”

Source : www.suntimes.com

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