Monday, March 31, 2008

Ebertfest Report: 2008 Lineup is announced

Roger Ebert's annual film festival in our town is always a big event, with me. I usually take vacation days Thursday and Friday and devote myself to watching movies and listening to the panelists discuss them. Last year, I missed most of it (but I'm not complaining, the reason was a trip to New York to hear Son Number Two perform at Carnegie Hall.) One of the highlights has always been to listen to Ebert talk with his guests, but his throat cancer kept him from talking last year, and apparently, will again this year. The schedule for this year was announced Friday.

The movie I am most looking forward to seeing is Kenneth Branagh's four-hour version of Hamlet. This is the last movie made in 70 mm format, and the Virginia Theater, where the festival is held is one of the last, if not the last, theater in the country to have a projector that will show 70 mm movies. The difference between seeing a 70 mm movie projected on a wide screen and seeing a DVD version of the movie on your home television is like the difference between seeing the Grand Canyon through a viewfinder and seeing it in person. Still near the top of my movie viewing experiences is seeing the opening scene of the movie Patton, in 70 mm format a few years ago at Ebertfest. It was breathtaking to watch as Patton' head started ascending, in front of the American flag, and then, finally, a life-sized Patton standing there giving his speech. Hamlet has a laundry list of well-known actors, like John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Richard Attenborough and Julie Harris, Charlton Hesston, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kate Winslet and Jack Lemmon. It should be great (at least if they give us a bathroom break.)

The director, Ang Lee will be the most famous guest of the festival. Unfortunately, the Lee movie that Ebert will be showing is Hulk, a movie that I would not ordinarily go see. However, since it is Ebertfest and Ang Lee will be there to defend the movie, I intend to go and see what I can learn.

I have less confidence in Ebert's ability to pick good movies since he foisted Bad Santa off on us several years ago. This film was even worse than Bad Santa since the director, Terry Zwigoff was there with the director's cut version which included scenes too bad to be in the theatrical release. I still haven't figured out what the redeeming quality was in that movie, and suspect it was shown only as a way to get Zwigoff and the movie's star, Billy Bob Thornton to show up at the festival.

The only other movie on the schedule I have heard of is The Band's Visit, an Israeli movie which has won a lot of awards. It happens to be playing in our local art theater this weekend, and I would have gone to see it had it not been on the schedule for Ebertfest.

Here is the complete schedule, with the list of guests:


7:00 pm

Hamlet (238 min)


1:00 pm

Delirious (107 min)

Tom DiCillo, Director

4:00 pm

Yes (99 min)

Sally Potter, Director*
Christopher Sheppard, Producer*
8:30 pm Canvas (100 min), preceded by
Citizen Cohl: The Untold Story, a short film tribute to Dusty Cohl Joey Pantoliano, Actor
Adam Hammel, Producer
Lucy Engibarian-Hammel, Producer
Joseph Greco, Director
Barry Avrich, Director (Citizen Cohl)


11:30 am

Shotgun Stories (92 min)

Jeff Nichols, Director

2:30 pm

Underworld (80 min)

Alloy Orchestra

7:00 pm

The Real Dirt on Farmer John (83 min)

John Peterson, Himself
Taggart Siegel, Director
10:00 pm

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (121 min)

Paul Schrader, Director


11:00 am

Hulk (138 min)

Ang Lee, Director

3:00 pm

The Band's Visit (89 min)

Eran Kolirin, Director

7:30 pm

Housekeeping (117 min)

Bill Forsyth, Director
Christine Lahti, Actor

11:00 pm

The Cell (108 min)

Tarsem Singh, Director



Romance & Cigarettes (115 min)

Aida Turturro, Actor
Tricia Brouk, Choreographer


PG said...
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PG said...
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Lydia said...

Oh, enjoy! I liked the Band's Visit - it didn't try to do too much, and therefore accomplished more.

I also enjoyed Romance and Cigarettes, although it is Decidedly Flawed, it's also sorta rompingly fun.

Also, if you learn anything about why the Hulk wasn't awful, I'll be interested.