Daily | Ebertfest 2014

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert, a portrait by Kevin Horan via ‘Life Itself’

You’ll find the most extensive preview of Ebertfest 2014 at, naturally enough, Peter Sobczynski notes that this year’s program “covers the gamut from recent critical favorites to sadly overlooked titles to a couple of classics celebrating milestone anniversaries, not to mention the programming of a silent film masterpiece with a live musical accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra that is always a highlight among highlights.” That’d be He Who Gets Slapped (1924) with Lon Chaney. “There is also the sense that the numbness that could sometimes be felt last year amongst a crowd that had not yet fully processed Ebert’s passing has departed and that all involved will be receptive to celebrating both the life and work of the man and the art form that he so thoroughly cherished, especially in the wake of this year’s kickoff film.”

That film is, of course, Life Itself, Steve James’s documentary based on Roger Ebert‘s memoir. It premiered to terrific reviews at Sundance and, as the site announced yesterday, it’ll also be screening as part of Cannes Classics next month—with an addition section on the late film critic’s “adventures” at the world’s top-ranked film festival.

As Laura Emerick reports for the Chicago Sun-Times, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone will be on hand for anniversary screenings of films Ebert championed; he “hailed Lee’s Do the Right Thing as ‘a call for racial empathy’ and described Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July as an apologia for the Vietnam War and its aftermath.”

Also presenting films at the 16th edition of Ebertfest, running from tonight through Sunday: Jem Cohen (Museum Hours), Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Bennett Miller (Capote), Haifaa Al-Mansour (Wadjda), Ann Hui (A Simple Life), Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo) and Lily Keber, Nate Kohn, Henry Butler and Tim Watson (Bayou Maharajaah).

Meantime, in the News-Gazette, Melissa Merli looks back on her most memorable moments from the first 15 Ebertfests.

Last night, as a pre-fest special event, Patton Oswalt introduced a screening of Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974):

Updates, 4/25: A life-sized bronze statue of Ebert was unveiled yesterday outside the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, reports Caryn Rousseau for the AP.

At Thompson on Hollywood, Ryan Lattanzio notes that Ebertfest is streaming panels and Q&As on YouTube.

Updates, 4/29: “If last year’s Ebertfest was a memorial to the late great Roger Ebert, this year was a rebirth of sorts,” writes Sam Fragoso at Indiewire. “While the festival must now exist without its namesake, what transpired April 23 – 27 suggests that there will be many more Ebertfests to come.”

“What happens when you take one of the most intimate and sensitive films about art and friendship and project it to a full house in a gigantic, 1500 seat theater?” asks Kevin B. Lee at “The Virginia Theatre screening of Jem Cohen’s acclaimed Museum Hours was as strangely beguiling as it was singular to the Ebertfest experience.” Kevin was one of two interviewers (the other being Ebertfest director Nate Kohn) at the post-screening Q&A.

And there’s much, much more Ebertfest 2014 coverage at here.

Update, 4/30: Ebertfest “always displays a strong humanist streak, but that seemed to be the case even more so this year,” writes Laura Emerick in the Sun-Times. “Ramin Bahrani, one of Ebert’s favorite young directors (and who made his third Ebertfest appearance with Goodbye Solo), spoke about the critic’s impact on his career and how his life philosophy continues to inspire him. ‘Goodbye Solo at its core acknowledges how death is a part of life, and how they are intermingled, and how they must be seen as part of a journey,’ he said. ‘That’s something that Roger always understood.'”

Update, 5/1: Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell have both posted wide-ranging thoughts on this year’s edition.

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