My obsession with the flow of time and the curious fact that life and time even exist, perhaps. My whole life seems present to be in memory.
You speak pretty frankly about your alcoholism as well as that of your mother's and father's alcoholism. Did you have any reluctance or hesitation about disclosing something so personal? Was that one of your goals with this book — to provide an unflinching look at your life, warts and all?
How could I write honestly about my life and not deal with such a significant aspect of it? But this isn't one of those confessionals by someone three months out of rehab. I took my last drink 42 years ago, so for most of my life I've been sober.
What do you think the biggest misconception or stereotype is about you and your writings? Or do you pay attention to those who describe in ways you don't consider accurate?
Some people think I don't "get" some new movies because I'm too old. I believe I "get" any movie that works. Transformers 3, for example. I "got" all too well.
Some of your chapters are quite moving such as the memories you share of Gene Siskel, Studs Terkel and others. Looking back did you have any idea how much the "thumbs up" would take off? Any regrets on how big that became? Was that your idea or Gene's or both? Did you really copyright it?
My idea. A trademark. Some people unkindly reduced our criticism to the thumbs. There was a good side: It was a spur for me to begin things like the Great Movies reviews.
You have taken some flak for comments you have made in recent years, about, for example, the death of the Jackass star, about your comments suggesting video games can't be art, etc. Do you regret commenting on things like that? Do you think you sometimes become a target when you talk about issues that are not what film critics traditionally talk about?
I was correct in suggesting that friends don't let friends drink and drive. I wish I had capitalized Jackass to make the meaning of that tweet more clear! On video games, after thousands of comments, there is still a debate going on. Perhaps my column, right or wrong, was an inspiration for self-examination among gamers.