MORIARTY's Second Report From The Overlooked Film Festival
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
It’s funny. Harry’s traditionally been the one who had the relationship with Roger. He’s the one who went on the show as a guest-host on numerous occasions. My dealings with Roger have always been from a distance, via e-mail or in print. He’s always been inordinately kind when mentioning me by name, and I confess... the first time I saw him mention me (in one of the 4,523 enormously successful books he’s published), it was a rush. I remember watching SNEAK PREVIEWS on PBS back in the lae ‘70’s, when I was still just getting a handle on what movies were.
The idea that these two guys were being paid to be on TV and talk about movies... that seemed impossible to me. And wonderful. And like many movie fans my age, I grew up with Siskel & Ebert as a natural part of my unnaturally voracious movie appetite. Even when I didn’t agree with one or the other or both of them, the thing their show imparted to me, loud and clear, was the idea that it was okay to feel passionately about films, and that discussion of them could lead you to all sorts of unexpected pleasures.
This is about one of those unexpected pleasures. This is my diary of my trip to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, for the Overlooked Film Festival, an annual event created and hosted by Roger Ebert himself.
All of this is my “short-story-long” way of saying that Roger Ebert was as profound an influence on me at a certain age as George Lucas was. I certainly never imagined myself growing up to be someone who talks about movies for a living, but that is where fate has, in part, brought me. Because this wasn’t my focus or any sort of conscious career path, I’ve managed to blunder my way into various altercations with other writers over the years, heated e-mail exchanges or imprudent name checks in print. And, on a few infamous occasions, I’ve even traded a few jabs in public with Roger... coughthecellorfightclubcough...
Because of some of my “damn the consequences” attitude, I wondered at times if I’d burned bridges or caused any genuine hard feelings, which is never what my writing is about. I’m still a film student, every day, someone who absorbs experience from each film I watch or set I visit or festival or conference I attend, and the idea that my inevitable mistakes or unintentional offenses might cause lasting irritation in someone is often on my mind these days.
Sitting in the Virginia Theater, waiting for the first film on the first night of the fest, I’m pretty sure Roger doesn’t hold a grudge.
I’m positively dippy from lack of sleep as I wait for this opening film. I don’t always travel well, and in this particular case, I didn’t sleep at all last night. There were so many last-minute things to take care of and my flight was so early that I just worked all night until John Robie picked me up at 6:00 AM.
I’m almost never a fan of air travel. The flight from LAX to St. Louis was severely overcrowded, and checking in and negotiating security took well over 90 minutes. Still, that flight was a delight compared to the tiny plane that carried me from St. Louis to Champaign-Urbana. Flying in a heavy lightning storm aboard something smaller than an LA city bus is one of those things that will wake you right up, no matter how fatigued you are.
None of that matters, though. I’m here now. I was met at the airport by Claire, a volunteer for the festival, who was given the task of getting me to the opening night of the festival. I’m too late for the reception at the home of the President of the University, so I take advantage of the chance to freshen up just a bit. Now I’m all checked in at the place on-campus where I’m staying, and I’m ready to see PATTON, a film I’ve never seen on the bigscreen. I’ve certainly never seen it in Dimension 150, the process in which it was originally photographed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, so I don’t really have an opinion on it beyond my admiration for George C. Scott’s larger than life performance.
My first glimpse of Roger for the week is onstage. He steps out to speak before the movie, and he’s very gracious as he says hello to everyone for the first time. I’m still sort of soaking up the Virginia. It’s an old movie palace, one of the places Roger visited frequently as a child. His lifelong love affair with movies was started right here. The screen is enormous, the sound system fairly state of the art. There’s cosmetic restoration work that could stand to be done on the inside of the place, here and there, but that’s not uncommon in theaters of this age. Overall, it’s a splendid venue, manned by a pretty outstanding group of technicians both in the projection booth and on the sound and lighting for the stage.
Roger is on and off stage quickly, and then PATTON begins. Right away, I am startled by the clarity of the print. I’ve never seen the film’s unforgettable opening images played this large, so I never realized how successful an illusion it is. George C. Scott seemed to actually walk up some stairs and out onto the stage of the Virginia, staring out at us, backed by that overwhelming red-white-and-blue pattern.
In fact, the clarity of the image is so precise that you can actually see the meshed lines of the makeup applied to George C. Scott’s eyebrows. It’s unforgivingly clear. I can’t recall ever seeing a movie where it maintained that level of image intensity all the way to the edges of the frame, especially not a frame this large. It took me several minutes to get past the simple shock of the image and let myself get lost in the movie. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen PATTON in any format. The script by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North is smart, surprisingly simple, and manages to humanize this growling, outsized personality with a delicate touch. In some ways, PATTON stands as a direct opposite, narratively, to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Both films are epic-length attempts to define a military genius using personal details. LAWRENCE is infinitely complex, though, peeling back layer after layer, yet never really finding the beating heart of T.E. Lawrence, a walking contradiction who may well have been unknowable. With PATTON, the screenwriters were working from two books, one of which was written by Omar Bradley, one of Patton’s friends and supporters, played in the film by Karl Malden. Patton seems to be a very simple man, undone not by a knotted soul but by his own urges at self-aggrandization.
After the film, Roger took the stage with the first special guest of the festival for a discussion of the process in which it was shot. This is, after all, the Overlooked Film Festival, and in Roger’s opinion, large-format filmmaking has become overlooked, abandoned in the rush to make screens smaller. He started off by lamenting what it is that we’ve lost as Hollywood “scales down its dreams to these little piddling dreams of today.”
Dr. Richard Vetter joined Roger onstage, along with Daniel Cohen, director of DIAMOND MEN, who knew and worked with Franklin J. Schaffner, PATTON’s director. Dr. Vetter was one of the creators of the process, which isn’t just regular 70mm. In fact, if you’re literate in the various large-format processes, you know that there is no one standard for 70mm. Dimension 150 was only used on two big Hollywood epics: PATTON and John Huston’s THE BIBLE. It was created to be shown on a deeply curved screen surface, the only thing that the Virginia didn’t manage to recreate. Still, Vetter said that the film (projected by Steve Kraus and James Bond, who Roger heaped praise on for the duration of the fest) was the finest presentation he’d personally ever seen of the process.
Roger’s discussions all tended to skip from subject to subject, allowing him to share a number of great anecdotes from over the years as well as asking questions about which he always seemed genuinely curious. He talked about Gene Siskel interviewing George C. Scott and asking him what to look for when judging a performance. ”First, is the actor properly cast? If not, there’s nothing they can do about it. Second, what choices do the make in the key emotional moments? Look at how honest those choices are, at how well they deliver. Finally, is there a joy of performance?” By all three of those yardsticks, I would agree with Roger that Scott delivers as great a performance in PATTON as any film performance I can name.
Roger spoke about his oft-stated preference for film over digital projection. “Light through celluloid is the best,” he said. “Light through 70 millimeter celluloid is even better.” He talked about the impact of that opening shot of George C. Scott walking out onto the stage, the nearly 3-D quality of it.
It was at this point that he brought out Dr. Vetter and Dan Cohen. Dr. Vetter talked about the creation of the film’s opening sequence, which was designed to test the full range of lenses available in Dimension 150. They wanted to really test the tools right off the bat. The process was created to simulate Cinerama, a difficult and expensive process that created unforgettable effects on an audience. The Dimension 150 process uses a negative that is more than three times the size of conventional 35mm film.
Despite the larger size, the process remained easy to work with, and Schaffner and his director of photography, Fred Koenekamp shot the film fast, working in 5 countries, shooting on 71 locations, wrapping it up in a brisk 18 weeks. Roger seemed both impressed by the speed and also frustrated by the wasted potential. “What happened to big-screen films?” he asked Dr. Vetter, who spoke about the economics of exhibition and the multi-plexing of theaters. There’s no room in today’s economic model for single-screen palaces that can handle this sort of giant screen experience.
Ebert told a quick story about Fred Koenekamp, who not only served as director of photography on films like THE TOWERING INFERNO and PAPILLON and PATTON and THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION, but also was assigned by Fox to shoot BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for Russ Meyer, much to Koenekamp’s annoyance. He didn’t want to work on the film, but this was at that moment in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s when the studios were bleeding money and everyone was chasing EASY RIDER, in search of a youth-market hit that could save them. Koenekamp was talking about how desperate Fox was for Meyer and his co-screenwriter, Ebert himself, to come through. “You’re the salvation of this studio. Everyone out there is making their EASY RIDER, and what does Fox having coming out this year? Two war films and a western.”
Of course, Roger pointed out that those films turned out to be PATTON, M*A*S*H*, and BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, three of the biggest hits in Fox’s history, and all of them now considered classics. What’s that famous mantra of William Goldman’s?
After the film, I had a brief moment of “what do I do now?” panic due to a combination of not knowing where my volunteer driver was and having no idea where the theater was in relation to the campus. That was assuaged, though, when I ran into Roger.
”Are you going to the Steak’n’Shake?” he asked me.
”I don’t know.”
”You should ask your driver,” he said.
”I don’t know where my driver is.”
”That’s it. You’re coming with me.” Roger steered me through the crowd as it dispersed, out to his car. He had the best space possible, right out front, and his personalized plates – “MOVIES” – were immediately noticeable.
Chatting with him on the way to the restaurant, I found myself relaxing finally. Anytime I get the chance to deal personally with someone who I primarily have media images of, there’s that strange process where the real person gradually replaces the public image.
At the restaurant, we ended up with a group of maybe a dozen people, including Paul Cox (one of the director’s of this year’s festival, here with INNOCENCE, and possessor of a thousand great Werner Herzog stories) and Dusty Cohl, the founding force of the Toronto Film Festival and the Floating Film Festival. The conversation was good, the food was cheap and plentiful, and we were there until after 2:00 in the morning. I’m not actually sure how I was still awake at this point.
One thing that becomes obvious if you spend time in Champaign-Urbana is that Roger Ebert is a huge celebrity here. As we were sitting and talking and eating, there was a steady stream of adorable sorority girls and giddy college guys walking up and asking for Roger’s autograph. Just before the screening, the street in front of the theater was rededicated as Honorary Roger Ebert Blvd (“I’m told that I can’t get a ticket if I park on my street,” Roger beamed). This is the town, after all, where Roger grew up.
I’ve moved so many times in my life that I don’t really have a home town, someplace where I’d feel this connected to things. I am always boundlessly jealous of people who have deep personal roots like this, and watching Roger here just reminded me of why.
Finally, the night wound down, and Roger drove me back to the Illini Student Union on campus, where all the fest guests have their rooms, Roger included. Thanks to construction in town, we ended up committing a few dozen major traffic felonies en route, but no worries.
After all... it’s his town.
I slept as late as possible the following morning, missing the two discussion panels that took place. I was doing good just to make it into the shower and down the stairs in time for Claire to drive me over to the Green Room, where meals were provided for the festival’s VIP guests. On Thursday morning, students from the university’s Media Studies department were eating lunch with the VIP guests, and the questions were frequent and interesting. I ate quickly, then strolled over to The Virginia to claim what became my recurrent seat for the rest of the fest, on the aisle, about three rows up in the Reserved section.
Roger introduced the day’s first film by talking about how he is the film enthusiast in his house, while his wife is more of a theater enthusiast. She took him in London one time to see a production of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s The Visit, one of her very favorite plays. It was only later that Roger learned of an African film that adapted the play to a Sengalese setting, and ordered a video copy of it from Facets Multimedia, a great service if you’re looking for obscure titles.
The film is a fable about Colobane, a small African town that is dying, drying up, bankrupt. News comes of the imminent arrival of the town’s one true success story, a woman who left in disgrace decades earlier, only to become a billionaire in her time away. Now she’s coming home, and there is the sudden hope for an economic influx that could save the community.
In an effort to win her over, a new mayor is chosen, the local shopkeeper Dramaan Drameh, played by Mansour Diouf. It’s known that he was somehow involved with her, a friend of some sort, and it’s assumed that putting him in charge guarantees that Linguhre Ramatou (Ami Diakhate in a magnetic and disturbing turn) will be generous with her once-and-future hometown.
What no one realizes is just how involved Dramaan was with Linghure. There are secrets between the two that seem to have faded in time to a fuzzy, pleasant memory as far as he’s concerned. For her, though, these things are scars, fresh and painful and important. She returns with an agenda, furious, her anger a seething thing that finally erupts when she and Dramaan come face to face.
She does exactly what the town hopes. She offers them money, and vast amounts of it. She gives them gifts of modern appliances and electricity and the promise of more. All she asks in return is that someone kill Dramaan Drameh. She doesn’t care who or how. And after a time, neither does anyone else.
Even with my limited knowledge of the reality of life in modern Africa, I could tell that this film was a fable, a morality play, and not something literal. It’s a stylized landscape that the story plays out across, and the characters themselves are like dream figures, Grecian masks of drama, etched with just enough detail to make the point. This is a story about what sort of community would let themselves be tempted by this particular devil’s deal, and by the effects of accepting the offer. It’s also, very pointedly, a film about the World Bank and its role in third world countries. The play was written after WWII and could be read as a specifically pointed attack on the role of Switzerland in the conflict, but the updating works. This film was made in 1992, but there’s a timelessness to it that works in its favor. Because it’s not set in a specific time or place, it is easier to relate to what we’re watching. The film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambity, is technically simple but structurally sophisticated, with a real command of montage for effect. There’s a carnival late in the movie that is overwhelming, nauseating, exhilarating, and awful all at once, and it’s the sure hand of Mambity that makes it pay off so vividly.
I apologize in advance to anyone whose name is either mangled or forgotten over the course of this piece. Write me an e-mail if I’ve wronged you and I swear I’ll change the article immediately. If I get 95% of the names right from the weekend, it will be a miracle. Remember... I’m well over 200 years old. If claiming to be feeble will get me off the hook, then that’s me all over.
I say all this as precursor to the admission that I’ve got no idea who either the professor or the grad student who joined Roger onstage after HYENAS were. The discussion was interesting, delving deeply into the symbolism of the film. Lines like “The world made me a whore, and now I will make the world a whorehouse” generated lively discussion both onstage and from the audience once it was opened up to a Q&A.
Don’t get me wrong, though. If I’ve made the film sound like a downer or a lecture, it’s not. It’s actually quite funny and visually striking, with a score that’s really not like anything you typically hear in film. And it never once surrenders that potent current of anger that runs just under the surface of every scene. I thought of a Biblical quote as I watched the film – “And what shall it benefit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?” – not knowing that the quote would show up in another film during the festival. Roger’s got a real knack for setting the films up to echo off of each other as a festival unfolds. He’s an intuitive programmer. He doesn’t have some master agenda he’s trying to satisfy here. This particular selection was driven by his own curiousity as much as anything. He admitted that he’s seen less than a dozen African films since he became a critic in 1967. Even at festivals. Even with the sort of prominence he has. It’s possible to miss major cultural scenes in cinema, no matter how many movies you see in a lifetime, and it’s cool that Roger can admit a lack of knowledge. He’s not invested in pretending to have every answer. I consider AICN an education as much as a job, since I learn something every single day. It’s encouraging to see that Roger’s still doing the same thing.
Finally, the discussion wound up, and I’m left with the impression that HYENAS was a multi-layered film I just barely scratched the surface of. It’s worth seeking out for adventurous viewers, no question.
I love this movie.
It’s one of those films that points up to me the absolute numbing absurdity of ever putting films on lists. How do you rank something like this against mainstream blockbusters or even conventional arthouse dramas? What genre is this film? How do you give it a simple neat little label and just stick it on some Blockbuster shelf to languish?
GEORGE WASHINGTON is a hazy memory of childhood, a single summer wrapped up in shimmering heat, images and memories more than anything else. It doesn’t play by any conventional rules of narrative, but it packs a powerful emotional punch anyway, and in meandering, it seems to make its points with a secret power that proves even more effective.
When people compare this film to the seminal work of Terrence Malick (DAYS OF HEAVEN, in particular), that’s an enormous compliment to first time filmmaker David Gordon Green. And a fitting one. It’s impossible not to invoke Malick’s name after seeing the film if you know his work. The use of voice-over narration is deliriously good here. It does what the best narration should do: it gives us insight into the soul of the speaker in a way that visual information never could on its own. As much as I have a soft spot for STAND BY ME, that’s a calculated Hollywood film, and GEORGE WASHINGTON is the same story, but as told by a poet. It’s about the moment you came face to face with the reality of your own mortality, and how you handled that powerful emotional detonation, and how its ripples played out through your group of close friends at the time.
Shot in and around Durham, North Carolina, GEORGE WASHINGTON takes place in a moment before sexuality and before race-awareness creeps into the world-view of this particular group of kids. The first scene between Nasia (Candace Evanofski) and Buddy (Curtis Cotton III) strikes such a particular tone that you know right away if you’re going to hand yourself over to this filmmaker, to his particular sense of character and mood and gentle, surrealist humor.
There’s a lot of beauty among the filth in Green’s vision of the world, and there’s one moment in particular that just floors me each time I see it. George (Donald Holden in a performance of intuitive brilliance) has a birth defect, a soft skull that means he can’t go swimming or even bathe normally because of what can happen to his improperly protected brain. He wears a football helmet everywhere for the first part of the film, before he becomes convinced that he’s not only NOT fragile, but is actually a hero. Nasia harbors a crush on George, but finally comes to terms with the idea that George isn’t going to return her affection in the way she wants. It’s not that he’s disinterested. George simply doesn’t seem to have the ability to show her any tenderness. It’s not in his vocabulary. As her heart breaks, she turns away from him in the dim afternoon light and says, softly, “I hope you live forever.” That may well be one of the most beautiful lines of dialogue I’ve ever heard in a film, so rich with meaning that you can practically see it hanging in the air, vibrant, waiting to be further explored.
After the screening of the “Youandwhatarmy Filmed Challenge,” Ebert was joined onstage by David Gordon Green and Curtis Cotton... Buddy himself. It was a great discussion, and my admiration for Green grew tenfold just listening to him talk about his film and where it came from. He was working on a few specs, calculated commercial projects that he was going to sell to Hollywood, and kept a notebook that he used to just sort of warm up. It was odds and ends, dialogue snippets, things he could never use in a “real” film. And after a while, that notebook of odds and ends was more interesting to him than anything in his “real” scripts. He found himself with a 170 page script that he eventually whittled down to 80 pages before he began casting. There was one rewrite done once the cast was in place, but it was mainly just dialogue polishing. Roger paid Green a particular compliment on the naturalistic style of the dialogue. Green talked about the importance of imperfection, how he hates “clever.” Much of the film has an improvisational feel to it, and there were a few occasions where Green allowed his actors to stretch. They all shared a house – both cast and crew – for the duration of the shoot, so there was a real collaborative sense that developed between them. Still, most of what appears spontaneous is the work of Green and his keen sense of observation.
For the second time during the festival, Roger brought up Gene Siskel, and I have to admit: it got to me each time he did it. I was at QT Quattro in Austin, at the Alamo Drafthouse, in the midst of a long and enjoyable ten days of movies, when I heard about Gene Siskel’s passing. Everyone in the Drafthouse was immediately affected by the news, and it cast a strange pall over the rest of the evening. Knowing that Roger actively keeps Gene’s name alive in conversation is something I found quite affecting. This time, he told us about a conversation Gene had with Meryl Streep. He asked her to give him a lesson on acting, to teach him something that would help him as an actor. She asked him to say a simple phrase to her, “I love you.” He did, and asked how he did.
”You were terrible,” she responded. “You don’t understand what you’re saying. ‘I love you’ isn’t a statement. It’s a question. What you’re really saying is ‘Do you love me?’”
Roger then tied this in to my favorite line of dialogue in the film, the one I mentioned earlier, and suggested that Nasia’s quiet, almost off-hand statement is, in fact, what “I love you” sounds like when there’s no question about it at all. Green seemed both pleased and embarrassed to an extent by the praise of the film and by the comparisons that were made to DAYS OF HEAVEN, which Roger called “an elegaic memory of a time both past and present that’s still being puzzled over,” a description that could absolutely be applied to GEORGE WASHINGTON just as easily.
Green deserves effusive praise, though, and encouragement to follow his peculiar muse through his next few projects (including one that Malick is producing). One of the things I love most about his film is the luminous photography by Tim Orr. It was important to Green to shoot anamorphic scope, a full 2.35:1 ratio, something that I feel many directors don’t understand today or are scared by. It makes his film feel both intimate and epic. The use of found locations and natural atmosphere is quite striking overall, and the idea that the film cost $50,000 total is just mind-boggling to me. The film is obviously the work of big talent; it’s nice that it features an equally big heart at work, painting a world where race simply doesn’t matter. People are what they are.
”This setting may be dilapidated and burnt out, but this is my Utopia. If I’m going to play God, then I’m going to say that there’s beauty in this place and these beautiful relationships exist,” Green said at one point. He talked about how things simply happened for his film, and how important it was to be flexible enough to take advantage of them while shooting. For example, there’s a very emotionally charged scene in the film in which George’s uncle Damascus (Eddie Rouse) apologizes to George for something truly awful, one of those transgressions that forces children to learn the hard lesson: people cannot always be trusted, even those we love. His apology is both horrible and darkly comic and moving. He means it, even if what he means is damaged beyond repair. The scene was shot off-schedule, though, because of a death in the immediate family of Eddie Rouse. He needed to leave, and there was going to be a delay before he could return. As a result, Green was prepared to move all of his scenes to the end of the shoot, but Rouse came to him and said he wanted to try the apology before leaving to go home. What Green got on film is real. There’s very little acting required. Rouse is simply so full up with potent emotion that our hearts break for him, even if we aren’t sure why.
I bailed out of the theater as soon as the Q&A ended and headed over to the Green Room, where we’d all eaten lunch. I ended up sitting at a table with Kris Kristofferson, Kaylie Jones, Roger, his wife, and Mitra Sen, the lovely and charming director of “Just A Little Red Dot,” a short film that was screened in two off-venue sites during the festival. A local restaurant, Michael’s, was responsible for dinner each night, and it was always great. Not surprisingly, so was the conversation. Roger and Kris ended up talking over their first meeting in Durango, Mexico, on the set of Sam Peckinpah’s PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID. The talk digressed to include John Wayne, Bob Dylan, Guillermo Del Toro, James Jones, Terrence Malick, and a dozen other subjects, and before we knew it, time was up. We all barely had time to finish our desserts before heading back to The Virginia, where the next feature was just getting underway.
Roger’s introduction to this film was very probably the most personal of the week. He spoke about college life in Champaign-Urbana. In particular, about his college life in Champaign-Urbana. He was a local, so he lived at home, off campus, but he experienced every bit of it. The parties, the verbal shorthand that the students developed. He remembers those long, hazy nights that Richard Linklater hinted at so powerfully in DAZED & CONFUSED, but college parties, at some house somewhere in town that everyone managed to find with just a number. And even if you didn’t find it, you still had fun driving around, a party on wheels, the looking for it becoming the thing itself. When people complain about anecdotal personal material from film critics, they miss the point. A good critic’s body of work should ultimately be about their personal lifelong dialogue with movies. All of us have a constant, ongoing relationship with movies. We have our particular likes and dislikes and our weird fetishes and our guilty pleasures and our formative memories, and criticism is about context as much as it is about conveying an opinion. If you don’t know anything about the critic, how can you tell if their opinion means anything to you? There are people who come at film from such a different point of view that I honestly don’t know how we would ever have anything like a productive conversation about anything film related. Roger wasn’t just telling us this story so that we could be impressed that we were in his home town; he told it to try and convey why he loves WONDER BOYS so much. As far as his memory is concerned, this film is true. It gets it right. And it spoke to him.
WONDER BOYS is one of those films that grows for me each time I see it. The first time, I was distracted by my love of Michael Chabon’s book. This time, it hit me full-force, both as a great comedy and as a rather piercing portrait of a writer in turmoil. It’s been a really fucking difficult year here at the Labs in some ways, and a great year in other ways, and that juxtaposition of the sweet and the sour (as Cameron Crowe so ably described it) has given me any number of Grady Tripp moments of my very own to deal with. On the other hand, I have my share of James Leer in me as well, and consider myself a student every day as I move through this rather bizarre life I’ve carved out for myself, trying to peddle words for a living, so I watch this film with my viewpoint fractured.
Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire are both gifted comic performers in a minor key, subtle instead of broad, and that’s key to the ultimate success of the picture. If someone tried to play this manic, it would come across as silly. Instead, Curtis Hanson lets things unfold in a sort of daze, a stoned slow-motion screwball comedy tempered with the regret of age and the uncertainty of youth. Frances McDormand gives another one of her nuanced, wonderful, and completely individual performances, and it’s great to see Douglas turn a cold shoulder to the charms of Katie Holmes in favor of McDormand. When we hear complaint after complaint about movies in which older men bag younger women, many times straining belief, this is an example of how sexy and how appealing a romantic relationship can be when played out by more appropriate partners. Robert Downey Jr. is one of those guys who does great work if you give him great material, and he delivers as promised here. To be honest, there’s not a single performance in the film that rings false to me, and that’s one of the things that really sank in as I saw it again.
Afterwards, the Q&A was supposed to be with two members of the faculty of the College of Communicatons at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and Dean Kim Rotzoll and Professor Andrea Press both joined Roger onstage. Despite being both very charming and at ease, they were overshadowed when Michael Chabon, author of the novel, was patched through on a speaker onstage, calling in from home. Roger was surprised and delighted to have Chabon join in, and the discussion (which was originally going to compare reel college life with real college life) quickly turned into an in-depty discussion of the process of adapting a novel into a film. I’ll be honest; Chabon is one of my new literary heroes, like a newer, younger John Irving. Listening to his smart and articulate praise of Curtis Hanson and Steve Kloves was a lesson in graciousness.
The comparison was made by an audience member between WONDER BOYS and AMERICAN BEAUTY. There’s a difference between the two of them for me as a viewer. AMERICAN BEAUTY makes a thunderous impression on first viewing, but fades somewhat upon reexamination. The THREE’S COMPANY plotting and the broad, almost theatrical style of it wears on me upon repeat viewings, even if I think Connie Hall’s photography still elevates the material tremendously.
With WONDER BOYS, though, it seems doggedly anti-Hollywood in shape, with the possible exception of the last five minutes. They both handle the ideas of a midlife crisis and an examination of attraction between young women and older men, but WONDER BOYS is so specific, so full of strange, oddball life at the corners of the story, that it seems clearly superior to the Oscar-winning Best Picture. I’m still stumped as to why Paramount couldn’t turn WONDER BOYS into a hit, even with two releases.
I managed to get off one question for Chabon, who mentioned that he was in the middle of working on the screenplay adaptation of his staggeringly great novel THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY. I asked him what he learned from the work of Steve Kloves on WONDER BOYS, and what he learned from the process overall, and how he’s applying it to condensing such a textured book. He says his first move was to considerably compress the time that it covers. He talked about the dangers of being overly faithful in adapting something, and brought up another job by Kloves as an example: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR’S STONE. WONDER BOYS took some liberties with the novel and invented material and, in the end, manages to catch the spirit of the book beautifully. HARRY POTTER is almost slavishly faithful, and although it’s a handsomely mounted film, it’s almost all surface. We’re shown events without the full context, and as a result, it plays like a greatest hits for fans more than it does as a film. Chabon also spoke about such disparate topics as the weather in Pittsburgh, the influence of Preston Sturges on his own writing, and his affection for screwball comedy. All in all, it was a wonderful evening with the writer, and Roger seemed to enjoy it as much as any of us did.
Between films, I learned one of the strangest things about Champaign-Urbana: there are no pay phones.
Seriously. None. Anywhere.
I found a couple of oddball phones that would allow you to make a local call for a quarter, but there’s no long-distance available. Someone offered me the theory that it helped prevent drug dealing, but I don’t really follow. All I know is that I walked three blocks in every direction looking for a phone, finally giving up and heading back for the final film of the night.
It’s appropriate that a film about a novelist should follow a film about a novelist. Wasn’t planned that way originally. Lawrence Kasdan’s GRAND CANYON was supposed to close the night, but Kris Kristofferson was only free on Thursday. As a result, the films got shuffled, and another one of those thematic echoes was set off by the new screening schedule.
This is one of those movies I skipped. We all do it. We see a trailer that turns us off or we read a review or something happens, and we just end up not seeing something. And maybe you catch up with it down the road on video or (more likely) some late night on cable. When I saw the trailers for this movie, it looked like the story of a daughter and her father fighting and making up, and it looked like Lifetime Network crap. It was a lousy trailer, a terrible ad campaign. It’s only because of cable that I eventually found this movie, when I saw the middle segemnt (of three), not knowing what I was looking at.
None of what I thought about the film turned out to be true. None of the tone of the trailer is present in James Ivory’s impeccably performed, beautifully written memory piece based on the autobiographical novel by Kaylie Jones, daughter of James Jones, author of THE THIN RED LINE. You could say that this is “a film about the bonds of family,” but it’s not. It’s not really a film about any sort of universal message or big theme. Instead, it’s a portrait of a particular family on a unique journey, and the way this trip affects the development of Channe (Leelee Sobieski), the main character. It is specific, unusual, and utterly absorbing.
While in Paris, the Willises adopt a boy, the same age as Channe, named Benoit (Samuel Gruen). He’s French, and his parentage is one of the film’s many narrative threads that make up a persuasive tapestry of family life. The film opens with images of Virginie Ledoyen, playing his mother, keeping notes in a journal before his birth. There’s that sense of expectation, of something about to happen, and then we go directly into “Billy,” which deals with the childhood of Channe and Benoit, who eventually takes the name Billy as his own.
This entire first segment is told about the children as seven year olds. We see the adults through the eyes of the kids, all so loud and colorful, with their constant drinking, their unconventional manners, their bohemian lives so messy, so interesting. If Bill Willis is indeed meant to be James Jones, then he seemed like a hell of a guy. There’s such a no-shit attitude about him and his approach to raising his kids and his work that you can’t help but like him. He’s admirable, immediately, and everything he does very clearly comes from love and from his desire to make the lessons of the world easier for his kids. He’s gentle with them in a way that belies the ferocity with which he wrote.
There’s a rivalry between the kids that mellows out somewhat by the time the second segment, “Francis,” rolls around. Now the kids are 14, played by Leelee Sobieski and Jesse (so good in Soderbergh’s equally overlooked KING OF THE HILL) Bradford plays Billy, who is as American as Channe now, even though they’re still living in Paris. One of the things I like is that the reasons for Willis leaving America are never spelled out, but considering the time we’re dealing with (the late ‘60s and early ‘70s), one can guess. Vietnam couldn’t have sat well with a man who wrote so powerfully of war and the costs of it. The segment title refers to a friend Channe makes, an opera-singing “sissy” (to use James Ivory’s word) who is played with remarkable poise by Anthony Roth Costanzo. Channe defines herself as much by the ways she is different from Francis Fortesque as by the ways they are alike. He’s an incredibly important friend for her, and his refusal to be like everyone else drives Channe crazy from time to time, even as it gives her permission to define herself any way she chooses. There’s a pretentious late-‘60s version of SALOME that they attend that had me laughing so hard I got the hiccups at one point, particularly embarrassing since I was apparently the only one laughing out loud at it.
I managed to calm down for the final segment, set back in America, called “Daddy.” Bill Willis is dying and he knows it, and he brings his family back to America, where he wants to spend his final days finishing some work. It’s a wicked case of culture-shock for both of his kids, and Willis finds himself working overtime to impart certain ideas to them before it’s too late.
For the last four reels of the film, there was a technical issue that meant we had to wait for a minute or so between each reel as they alternated on a single projector. For some films, disruptions like that would be fatal. It can kill a sense of momentum. Here, though, the film is so emotionally powerful, and it’s such a slow, gentle build, that the pauses only gave us a moment to catch our collective breath. In that last stretch, the film turns into a very sad, very plaintive story about living on borrowed time and trying to make the most of it. Sobieski and Kristofferson are so good together, so genuine in the love they share, that any tears this film causes you to shed are earned, not jerked.
It’s interesting that this is a uniquely feminine coming of age story, something you don’t often see captured this well on film, yet each of the segments of her life is named after one of the men she is influenced by. I was eager to talk to Kaylie Jones and Kris Kristofferson as they joined Roger onstage for a Q&A. Kaylie said this was the first time she’d seen the film since the premiere in 1998, and she talked about how different it was seeing it now, away from the intensely emotional experience of making it, and away from the even more emotional experience of seeing it with her mother. She talked about how her mother wasn’t able to separate herself from what she was watching, complaining that they had Bill sleep on the wrong side of the bed and the kitchen was never that color, things that had nothing to do with the movie itself. “She did try to seduce Kris, though,” she observed, “so she liked something she saw.” Kris tried to deny the incident, but his laughter was a dead giveaway.
Roger talked with Kris about his career-best performance, easily the equal of his work as Charlie Wade in John Sayles’s brilliant LONE STAR. There’s more nuance to the work Kris did here, and he spoke with great passion about researching the life of James Jones. He memorized much of his work and grew quite fond of him as he learned more about him. That affection is evident onscreen in the smallest of observed behaviors. It’s easy to forget that we’re not watching home movies of this family, that these are performers, recreations. Roger talked about how it is rarely the overtly sad moments that make him cry in films; instead, he’s often moved by moments of happiness or contentment, little bits of bliss. Kris agreed, then added, “Great joy weeps; great sorrow laughs.”
Roger went on to talk about how the entire day of films seemed to have an accidental theme: give the characters room to breathe. All four films are driven by small behaviors rather than elaborate twists of plot. Even WONDER BOYS manages to subdue its own screwball tendencies in the interest of the quiet moments. A film like A SOLDIER’S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES makes you feel like you’ve got another family. You get so caught up in the intimate details of their lives that the film sneaks up on you. You get lost in it in the best possible way. I don’t understand how someone could call films like these “boring.” What is it that bores them? The tone? The focus on emotion? The attention to detail? Roger suggested that he was more bored by things like excessive action that becomes indistinct, visual white noise, and incessant motion.
Kaylie spoke about being totally involved in the production of the film, even though she was pregnant with her first child, preventing her from flying to Paris for filming. She joined the production when it returned to the U.S. Even though this is a real story, it was produced because it was part of a thematic trilogy by director James Ivory. He wanted to explore the idea of expatriates living in Paris, and made JEFFERSON IN PARIS and SURVIVING PICASSO before this film. I’d say this is easily the best of the three, and one of Ivory’s unsung triumphs.
To Kaylie, it’s hard to know what to call autobiography and what to call fiction at this point. Much of the film was shot on the actual spots she wrote about, real Parisian locations including her actual school from childhood. When Roger started to go into the minutiae of what was or wasn’t true, she shook her head and said, “That’s the problem with fiction. After you write something, you forget what was real and what wasn’t.”
No matter how serious Roger was in his questioning, some of his guests couldn’t resist the set-ups, like when he said to Kristofferson, “You’ve made a lot of movies and worked with a lot of different directors. From James Ivory to Sam Peckinpah is quite a span.”
”Sam Peckinpah was quite a span all on his own,” Kris grumbled back.
I was startled when Kaylie mentioned that there was originally a three hour cut of this film that had to be cut by a full hour for American distribution, including a monologue by Kris (a reading from Jones’s WHISTLE) that Ivory called the longest monologue ever shot for a film. Once it had been done, Ivory didn’t bother putting it back for the rest of the world. He had to really sculpt the film to make sure it still worked with that much footage lifted out. I hereby issue this challenge to October Films or whoever currently owns this title: find that extra footage and put it on DVD. Please. Use the footage shot onstage during the Q&A as bonus footage for the DVD. Put together a nice edition of this film, and I will pimp it mercilessly here. I’m being entirely selfish. I want to see it. Please. Soon. Ahem.
Pardon my grovelling. So much of the Q&A was just a sort of free-form stroll down memory lane with Kaylie, who has a great eye for detail. She told stories about her real-life adopted brother’s naturalization ceremony, when he finally became a U.S. citizen, and where his name was called as “Hymay Ho-nes” since they couldn’t believe a “Jamie Jones” would need to be naturalized. She talked about how Ismail Merchant is one of the greatest Indian chefs in the world, and how he makes giant meals for his casts, and how the whole company was pressed into helping him prepare the meal on location. She talked about the bizarre experience of walking into “her house” on location in North Carolina and finding it to be an exact reproduction of her real house from those years, down the furniture and the place settings in the kitchen and the records on the shelves.
Nick Nolte, who had done JEFFERSON IN PARIS with Ivory, actually was set to play the role of Bill Willis, and he took the role in THE THIN RED LINE to research the part. When production ran long, he found himself trapped in the jungle with Terrence Malick, and Ivory had to recast. In a way, it’s a godsend, because Kristofferson is a surprise here, a wonderful revelation, where Nolte might have done solid work not unlike much we’ve already seen from him. Anyway, at this point, it was after 1:00 in the morning, and we finally wrapped it up after a long and heartfelt ramble from a lifelong James Jones fan obviously delighted to meet Kaylie. I headed straight home and to bed, knowing the morning would come all too soon, along with my first discussion panel appearance.
I’ll be back with a Day Two report a little later this week, along with my review of RULES OF ATTRACTION, an interview with Art Linson, producer extraordinaire, and my impressions of a little indie film called ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Until then...
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May 7, 2002, 4:45 a.m. CST
hmmmm Mor great story dude, whena re we getting that review we are all waiting for ah? Yours, thx777b
May 7, 2002, 5:37 a.m. CST
by Cash Bailey
I've been waiting for a good, long Rumbling (ooh-err, missus) for too damn long. Mind you, I'm still waiting for that KILL BILL script review.
May 7, 2002, 7:37 a.m. CST
Moriarity; Patton is one of my all time favorite films. The screen writers probably didn't have a hard time with the script, because of Patton's genius it wrote itself. I have a copy of Ordeal and Triumph the other book you spoke of, and it's a fascinating look at the greatest general of WW2. Alot of his quotes and some of his poetry made it to the screen. My only question is did you get up and snap to attention, then salute when that opening sequence hit the screen?
May 7, 2002, 7:58 a.m. CST
...........WONDERBOYS is an amazing film! that's all.
May 7, 2002, 8:35 a.m. CST
Thats all their is to it, Tobey's only bad work yet. Katie Holmes as much as I love her though has a nack for average to bad movies (except for Go, and Ice Storm). Also, how behind is this site? The Indy 4 news was on Z100 gossip a week ago... and if they got it then it isn't that hard to get.
May 7, 2002, 10:47 a.m. CST
by Smilin'Jack Ruby
Looking forward to the next one.
May 7, 2002, 10:51 a.m. CST
Can't wait for part two. (And glad to see you survived your flight in one of those Buddy Holly/Ritchie Valens Specials")I have to agree with your comments about the joy of seeing film on a truely big screen. The last two weeks I've been driving two hours to Jersey City, NJ to see films at the in-the-midst-of-restoration movie palace Loew's Jersey City (www.loewsjersey.org plug, plug). Two weeks ago it was FORBIDDEN PLANET and this past weekend was ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and DR. NO. PLANET is one of my favorite films of all time but this was my first time seeing it on something bigger than a 31 inch screen. Damn what an experience. And with a brand new print that was better looking than the laserdisc release. After this past weekend, I have a renewed respect for MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, perhaps the most underrated Bond film of all- non-formula storyline, beautiful locales and the best staged commando storming the stronghold sequence in the series. (Hey, ninjas repelling into the volcano base is cool, but wasn't shot as well as this sequence is...) Support your local movie palaces people. If there's one near you being restored- contribute a couple of bucks or maybe a few hours of your time. Support any programing they might have. I can't wait for what Loews has cooked up for the fall- MGM musicals, Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes flicks, Sinatra birthday celebration and classic monster flicks for Halloween.
May 7, 2002, 11 a.m. CST
Tobey's brilliant in Wonder Boys, you don't know what you're talking about. One of the best young-ish performances of all time.
May 7, 2002, 12:50 p.m. CST
Even the quintessentially American Altman has their schtick down pat. Leelee Sobieski's great, because there's some sort of clause in her contract that stipulates she has to strip down to her underwear or less in every film she does. Boooiiiing.
May 7, 2002, 2:22 p.m. CST
May 7, 2002, 4:22 p.m. CST
I absolutely loved Wonder Boys... Until the last five minutes of the film. It was shaping up to be one of my all-time favorites until that god awful ending. As a writer, I too could relate to the story and all its little quirks. To a point, it reminded me so much of my career and my college roots. Then there came that ending that just killed pretty much everything for me. The ending was pointless (which by itself doesn't bother me in particular - some of the greatest moments in film history are absolutely pointless), unfounded, and contradictory to the characters and the plotline itself. I felt royally reamed after watching it. The movie was going along sooo wonderfully, and it kept building and building and building, until... the very end where it just pulls the whole damn house from underneath you. The answer to the question was replaced with a nonsensical metaphor. It's like you sit down to a 3 course meal in a pricey restaurant. You get to the main course and all you find is a generic brand jello pudding pop surrounded by shrubbery. Very disappointing. The ending betrayed and made the meaning of the film very shallow and one-dimensional. I think the writers were trying too hard to leave us with something poignant. It ended up just being silly. Anyways, to know where I'm coming from, I've never read the book, 'just going by what I saw in the movie.
May 7, 2002, 4:33 p.m. CST
Great article, Mori! I now really want to see A Soldier's Daughter... Also, thanks for the hyperlink to excessive religiosity.
May 7, 2002, 6:15 p.m. CST
They called him a pervert for writing Russ Meyer films and some other stuff. I was dying laughing. Of course, he started it when he criticized them in his Q&A column. Really funny stuff.
May 7, 2002, 7:18 p.m. CST
Bradley hated Patton and it's ironic that Bradley was paid as a consultant for a movie on someone whom he loathed. If you want the real story on Patton read this book: "Genius for War" by Carlo D'Este. Out...
May 7, 2002, 7:40 p.m. CST
Oh, come on, you didn't think I could let a BVD reference go by without commenting, did you?
May 7, 2002, 9:48 p.m. CST
by Chilli Kramer
Nothing that we would normally expect happens in Wonder Boys. Michael Douglas doesn't take up with Katie Holmes, even though the signs are there (Grady says he's never seen her with her cowboy boots off - then never does. Frances McDormand tells Mike that his new wife will be young and pretty - but it ain't Katie). Grady doesn't intervene when Robert Downey Jr is going to sleep with Tobey Maguire. When Downey Jr tries to charge the car at a guy threatening Grady, it is pathetic looking, as it would be. Grady's parents in law don't go mad when they find him and Tobey in their house. Instead they break out the milk and cookies. Grady doesn't plummet off the balcony at the end, and the book never gets miraculously finished. This is tied to the fact that Tobey's aspiring author character makes up more dramatic pasts for himself, and narrates his life dramatically. Frances McDormand's husband in the film writes a book about DiMaggio and Monroe which exaggerates the importance of their relationship to culture, 'The Last American Marriage'. Grady doesn't dramatise things like this; in fact he realises people do it and rejects doing it himself. Hence writers block. The film itself is filtered through Grady's viewpoint, so it doesn't overuse dramatic license either. It shows how looking at the moments where things might become dramatic, but don't, is far more rewarding and realistic than making every scene a major dramatic argument. Grady learns this lesson during the actions of the movie, and so it is the future Grady who tells the story in the movie from his perspective as a matured writer. As you may have guessed, I liked the film!
May 8, 2002, 2:23 a.m. CST
Organizations like CAP are worthless pieces of shit. They're hindrances. I just read a review of "The Rookie" that cited the film for having the ACTORS touching each other in a way that would be viewed as being sexual. The actors!!! Dennis Quaid and Rachel Griffiths are playing a married couple, yet the problem is that the actors are not married so the scene is inappropriate. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS ALL ABOUT!?!
May 8, 2002, 3:23 a.m. CST
Listening to the man's reviews over the last few years has become quite boring. He's just one of many wishy-washy critics now, as opposed to his early-to-mid Siskel days where one could count on him to be provocative and passionate. These days, especially now that he's paired with the god-awful Roeper, he generally falls back on one of two stances: either the movie was okay "for what it was" or it was disappointing because "it should've done more with what they had." I'm really tired of hearing those trite phrases coming from him. Host as many film festivals as you like, Roger ol' bean, but please consider yielding your exonerated post to a fresh voice who actually has a POV instead of formulaic, knee-jerk criticisms.
May 8, 2002, 3:32 a.m. CST
I really don
May 8, 2002, 6:44 a.m. CST
Seems that Thomas Jefferson had no problems with sexuality or race-awareness. Unlike his descendants.
May 8, 2002, 8:30 a.m. CST
by Johnny Ahab
One of the things I appreciate about this site is learning of small films coming down the pike from the festival world that may have a "don't blink or you'll miss it" release because their small cash-strapped distributors can't compete with "The Scorpion King" and the Hollywood Hype Machine. One of those was "Two Family House" which Harry heaped praise upon a few years back (and which I've had the pleasure to rediscover on HBO recently). Another was "Ginger Snaps" which got a two-week release of 10pm shows only around Halloween at Manhattan's tiny Cinema Village. It had no ads, and I would have missed it had the NY Times not given it a glowing review. Upon Harry's recommendation, I bought the Canadian DVD, not the US Blockbuster version which apparently butchered the film. Put these on the list for next year, Roger! Both are great little films that got buried. Oh, and nice piece, Mori -- good work as usual. Felt like I was there and I'm green with envy that I actually was not.
May 8, 2002, 10:53 a.m. CST
I read your book! sk
May 8, 2002, 12:42 p.m. CST
Not so fast. Katie Holmes also appeared in a little film called The Gift. An awesome film directed by this guy named SAM RAIMI.
May 8, 2002, 12:53 p.m. CST
I understand the concept. I still hated the last 5 minutes though. Anti-film doesn't mean it can't have a strong ending. It just felt like it petered out for me. Like they ran out of ideas and hastily slapped a bunch of half-assed conclusions together. Understand though, I've always been torn with this film because I liked the rest of it so much. I just feel let down when I watch it.
May 8, 2002, 12:55 p.m. CST
Wonder Boys is one of the most well written films I've ever seen. It's impeccably acted and exceedingly witty. American Beauty, on the other hand, really falters on repeat viewings. Spacey is my favourite actor, but I feel little emotional attachment to that film now, after about 4 or 5 viewings. But hey idiot, you keep on waiting for Indy 4; I'm sure Connery and Ford will turn in great work, that's all "their" is to it.
May 8, 2002, 12:58 p.m. CST
I think it's more to do with the udder stinkatude of his partner, Roeper, than with his age. His rapport seems to have declined since he lost his partner, the one who stimulated intellegent conversations and arguments. Roeper's just a dumb-ass. Liable to stimulate bowell movements more than anything else.
May 8, 2002, 1:15 p.m. CST
In the old days before the AOL and the internet as we know it today, there used to be "Compuserve" - no graphics, just white on black text with many forums (Star Trek, History etc). In the Showbiz Forum, there were reviews, trivia, and a Roger Ebert Movie Section, among others. We were a limited group of people who posted reviews, sent queries to Ebert, and talked abour our love of film in general. Ebert was always very kind and personally tried to answer as many of the chat messages as he could. I still have a printout of a kind message he sent me when knowing I was going to cancel my subscription and move on to other things. He's a decent man, with a deep love of film.
May 8, 2002, 9:40 p.m. CST
How can a movie called "WONDER BOYS" not have a blonde kid caveman who throws hammers and sometimes rides skateboards to rescue the green haired chick? Or forget to include the boy knight that answers questions about Sega games posed by the Sphinx and then fights a dragon, only to be turned into a dragon (and then several other creatures). I was also dissappointed by the Tenacious D song "Wonder Boy" for pretty much the same reason.
May 8, 2002, 9:49 p.m. CST
It got a flashing red light because of the score it received using his "objective" WISDOM scale, but otherwise he seemed to actually like the film: "But I gotta subjectively admit, Spider-Man was an amazing piece of work, comparatively lite in sexual issues, comparatively lite in language and obviously a statement of good over evil." "As the battle ensues, the onlookers on the bridge start pelting the Green Goblin with anything they can throw, saying "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!" Nice touch, Sam Raimi, Stan Lee, at al. Nice touch, indeed. I am proud of you. A great "replacement" for editing out the scene of the car of bad guys hung by spider web between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Thank you. And I am sorry to hear your stunt man broke both ankles swinging onto the moving car. I hope he healed well." http://www.capalert.com/capreports/spiderman.htm
May 9, 2002, 12:43 a.m. CST
by Regis Travolta
"You make the other poor dumb bastard die for his post!" And that's how you win a flame war on these here boards boys. Best part of Patton was the music, a truly stellar score by Jerry Goldsmith.
May 9, 2002, 12:38 p.m. CST
I like Ebert. Always have. I tend to disagree with many of his reviews... Especially more recently. But I still like the man. I guess more than anything, I miss Siskel. Roeper just doesn't do it for me. He comes off more pompous than anything. I don't think he really fits in well with Roger either.
May 10, 2002, 6:55 a.m. CST
There's something cocky about Roeper; I don't know. I mean the guy is knowledgeable about film, but I don't detect a Geek's film love of it, the way I do with Roger. I don't know, they just don't work...Harry, on the other hand, seemed to do quite well with Roger, and quite frankly, as much as I disagree with a lot of Harry's stuff ("Godzilla rocked!" "I cried at Amrmageddon!" "Phantom Menace is a good film") he is the only natural succesor to a guy like Ebert, plus he looks bizzare enough for caricature. Roeper looks like a Wall Street broker who drives a BMW and sips Frappucino's while reading Pauline Kael reviews.
May 11, 2002, 5:06 p.m. CST
And what's wrong with Pauline Kael, exactly?
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