Thursday, April 28, 2011

Like You Were There: Ebertfest 2011 (Day One) (JB's Take)

JB is taking over Like You Were There this week, as he reports daily from Champaign, Illinois, while attending Roger Ebert's annual film festival, Ebertfest.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to stand out in the rain, but I was able to remember this afternoon because 1) Ebertfest is traditionally held on the coldest, wettest weekend of the year in Champaign, Illinois (this year a bonus tornado warning was thrown in at no extra charge!) and 2) Ebert has long ago dismissed the possibility of reserved seats, which would eliminate this pneumonia-baiting tradition.

Missing this year were the theatre’s marquee (see pic above), which was either sent out to be dry cleaned or is being replaced, and the theatre’s mighty Wurlitzer organ, which used to serenade attendees between screenings, also apparently out for restoration. They are both missed.

Tonight Ebert screened the most recent restoration of Metropolis with an added bonus: an original score by the Alloy Orchestra, recorded for the recent DVD/Blu-ray release but removed at the last moment by the German copyright holders. ‘Tis a shame. The Alloy Orchestra’s score is amazing, and they appeared in person and played LIVE. Ebert has featured them at almost every festival; their appearances are always a highlight-- and this year’s score was a marathon! Nearly three hours long, it was quite the musician endurance test. Bravo, Alloy.

The Q & A after the screening with members of the Alloy Orchestra was interesting, if only to hear classy and concise Michael Philips of the Chicago Tribune, and to witness firsthand the self-satisfied yet obscure douche-baggery of Ebert Presents At The Movies’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

This year’s opening night featured a new wrinkle-- a second film. After being bowled over by Natural Selection at this year’s SXSW film festival, Ebert had to have it, even though his fest was already booked. It was dropped into the newly created 10:30pm Wednesday night slot.

The audience loved the film, but my reaction to it was more problematic. I find it a mixed bag of indie film cliches (characters with massive differences forced to travel together, anyone?), jarring changes in tone (black comedy or female empowerment tract?), and some of the best performances I have seen this year. Rachael Harris succeeds in creating a character we haven’t seen in a movie before, and isn’t that what we wish ALL movies would do?

Oh my, just look at that. It is past my bedtime. More tomorrow.

Ebertfest: Day Two Recap

Ebertfest: Day Three Recap 

Ebertfest: Day Four Recap

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