Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ebertfest Report: The Start of the Ninth Annual

Last night was the opening of the 9th annual Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival. I am a big fan of Roger Ebert and his festival, usually taking vacation days so that I can attend everything. This year, I will only be able to go to the Wednesday night and Thursday movies because of Chris's concert at Carnegie (see below.)

Ebert displayed a lot of courage, or maybe a fanaticism about movies that exceeds the bounds of reasonable people by showing up Wednesday night. He had warned the public in a Chicago Sun-Times column on Tuesday that he's not a pretty boy anymore. He's not; his face has become misshappen because of multiple cancer surgeries on his jaw; he can't speak because of a tracheotomy and he's walking like a man with a lot of health problems. But his spirit and his love for movies and for his hometown are still there. His wife, Chaz, did the speaking for him last night, with Roger standing at the podium beside her, scribbling notes and making her laugh.
I like Ebert's movie picks, although I don't always agree with his evaluations, because although he has informed opinions, he does not exhibit the distain for ordinary people and pedestrian movie tastes that some self-annointed movie experts show.

I did not like the opening movie last night, Gattaca. I have a prejudice against science fiction; I just cannot suspend my disbelief enough to get into it. This movie features an excellent cast, with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman in lead roles; Gore Vidal in his last movie, and Alan Arkin and Jude Law in supporting roles. It is set in the "not too distant future" (the movie was made in 1997, so maybe about now.) It envisions a world in which through DNA testing, parents can select nothing but good genes for their children.

Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, a young man who wants to go on a space mission to Saturn, but because he was born the old-fashioned way, cannot get into the space program because of genetic deficits in his eyesight, heart and life expectancy. He devises a way to fool the genetic testers using blood and urine samples from Jude Law's character who has the right genes, but a broken down body from an automobile accident.

For such a technologically-advanced society, the gene testers are ridiculously easy to fool. Improbability is piled on top of improbability, until the whole structure topples over into the mandatory Hollywood chase scene. If chase scenes don't hook you, there is also the formulaic love interest with the beautiful Uma Thurman character, who figures out the scam but doesn't say anything.

Ebert apparently likes this movie because it is science fiction based on "ideas," the idea that a "perfect" world might not be so "perfect." That is all well and good but the "ideas" behind this movie neither educate me nor entertain me. The movie did nothing to change my prejudice against science fiction and I rated it two stars.

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