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HAL 9006 reports on Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival: Premiere of the restored 2001!!! + James Cameron news!!

Hey folks, Harry here... Ahhh, Roger's OVERLOOKED FILM FESTIVAL... In my opinion the best thing in the world that a Film Historian, Critic or Enthusiast can do is throw a Film Festival and screen prints that would otherwise languish somewhere unappreciated. Personally, Roger's taste for the overlooked seems a bit too modern for my tastes what with eleven of the 14 films coming from the past 5 years, but they are all... EXCELLENT CHOICES. But I'd rather screen films that most folks have never seen or heard of like THE GREAT SMOKEY ROADBLOCK starring Henry Fonda or the Dick Powell directed SPLIT SECOND... But this is why I have my fest and Roger has his... And you should have yours. It is impossible for anyone to have a complete encyclopedia of films in their mind. Everyone has their expertise... the area of knowledge and familiarity where they pretty much kick ass. For the period of time that Roger has been a film critic.... he's a god. He knows EVERYTHING it seems... But get him talking about obscure poverty row films from the thirties and forties... Not as great... Tarantino seems to know everything from the sixties, seventies and eighties... but again silents, thirties, forties and fifties... Quentin is still learning. Me? I know my silents, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties pretty damn well, but seventies, and non-geek eighties I'm extremely weak in... but learning. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that if you are in the Chicago area... Going to Ebert's festival... It is an exceptional line-up with wonderful guests.... I mean, tonight Arthur C Clarke admits to having an unnamed project in the works with James Cameron!!! WHAT THE HELL? See... Cool stuff happens here!

1. Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen, USA, 1996).
2. Girl On the Bridge (Patrice Leconte. France, 1999).
3. Jesus' Son (Alison Maclean, Canada/USA, 1999).
4. The King of Masks (Wu Tianming, China, 1996).
5. Maryam (Ramin Serry, USA, 2000).
6. Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, Germany, 1922).
7. On the Ropes (Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, USA, 1999).
8. Panic (Henry Bromell, USA, 2000).
9. Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, Sweden, 2000).
10. A Simple Plan (Sam Raimi, USA, 1998).
11. Such A Long Journey (Sturla Gunnarsson, UK/Canada, 1998).
12. 3 Women (Robert Altman, USA, 1977).
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, USA, 1968). 
14. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Jan Harlan, UK, 1999). 

Greetings Harry,

Many thanks for your website, and encouragement. I am writing to you from the Advanced Computer Laboratory in Urbana Illinois. As you may recall, one of my predecessors was born here in January of 1992. Tonight, I witnessed 2001 on the big screen for the first time.

A large crowd came out for this film. Enthusiastic patrons filled every one of the 1540 seats in the Virginia Theater. For awhile, I listened to stories of people who had memories of the place. One person told me about an event in the 1950's. Another spoke of a 1940's event. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin once graced its stage. Many in the crowd had seen 2001 back in 1968. I am from a younger generation, but the crowd was razzed.

Then Roger Ebert strode onto the stage. "Welcome to the 3rd Overlooked Film Festival," he said. (Visit for more info) He reminisced a bit about growing up in Urbana, discussed the slate of event, and then started discussing the film we were about to see.

"How is this film overlooked? Well, there are many categories of overlookedness that we can apply. In this case, it's the format. 70 millimeter." We applauded. He continued "There aren't many audiences that would applaud a format. This is a -- I hate to use the word restored -- a reloved version of the film. New sound, and every frame cleaned up. With this format, 4 times the usual amount of information is thrown at the screen. This make everything seem richer and deeper." He talked a bit about the premeire of the film. Soon after, the film started.

Pitch black screen -- incredible sounds. I was absolutely awed by the title sequence. Compared to seeing it on television, well, there is no comparison. As the Ascent of Man started, I was taken in by the lush details of every shot.

Usually, the transition scene is described as a bone turning into a spaceship. ( It's actually an orbiting bomb.) The vision of 2000 (the year in that scene) seemed incredible. There was an audible gasped from the audience as Heywood Floyd asked his daughter what she wanted for her birthday. "A bush baby." Prophecy?

Zarathustra never spake so well. Soon, HAL was introduced. Fascinating, fascinating. I noticed they watched their interview on an IBM ThinkPad. I was surprised by how pleasurable it all was to watch.

Zero-gravity was done convincingly. Keir Dullea (who portrayed astronaut David Bowman) explained how he did one of the stunts for the film -- the pod bay hatch. He jumped straight down at the camera from the equivalent height of a three story building. Attached to his back was a rope that went up into the pod, then off to the left where a Circus Roustabout was waiting with gloved hands. Right as the rope reached a certain knot, the roustabout jumped off a platform, causing Keir to reel back towards the top. Right as the roustabout's feet touched the floor, he let go of the rope, letting Keir drop again. The roustabout grabbed the rope as a second knot whipped into his hands.

Later, the credits were rolling. Applause was given to many things -- Keir Dullea ... Strauss .... Super Panavision. Distributed by Warner Brothers added at the end. There was buzz everywhere about how spectacular the film looked. Everyone who had seen the film in 1968 told me that they don't remember the film looking so good.

Ebert, Keir Dullea, Frederick Ordway, and Arthur C Clarke (by phone, via satellite (who he thought up)) took the stage to have a discussion and to answer question. First off was how STUNNING the film looked. Ebert was still tingling from it, and tried to describe his "feelings of intense excitement." Keir talked about the last time he'd been with Arthur Clarke -- the two of them were meant to be news filler before the first moonwalk. But the "small step for man" happened a bit early, so they were rushed to the control room to watch it. A. Clarke had very damp eyes, according to Keir.

"Do you have any other movies coming out?" was asked. Arthur Clarke mentioned the Rendezvous With Rama project, then mentioned another. "I've recently been in discussions with a struggling young director -- James Cameron. Perhaps you've heard of him." He also mentioned two websites he'd recently acquired for large project. One of the websites was (I think) HAL9000BRIT.COM .

One person asked what his inspiration was. "A huge green monolith with dollar signs." He also explained the reason why Hal was born in Urbana. His favorite math professor at college, George MacFifi (sp?), was from Urbana. HAL's birthplace was in honor of him.

Then Keir Dullea took center stage. He's a very funny guy, which seems surprising after watching him as David Bowman. "We all had background stories, we knew the double PhD's our characters had. It was thought that the astronauts of the future would be carefully picked by their psychological profiles. Specifically, they would need to be the type that would remain calm in situations that would cause most of us to run away screaming. Completely unflappable."

Ebert had a few final words. "Today, there isn't a studio around that would green light this picture. The whole film is filled with long takes. In a more recent movie, the average take lasted four seconds." I suppose I've gotten jaded by cheezy digital effects. This effects seemed new and fresh to me, and I was completely blown away by them. The whole crowd seemed awed and delighted. I *HIGHLY* recommend seeing this film when the remastered version is released.

You may call me HAL 9006.

Readers Talkback
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  • April 26, 2001, 2:16 a.m. CST

    Cameron should do that Solaris remake...

    by Salem Hanna

    ...and set it aboard the ISS!!! PS am I first?

  • April 26, 2001, 2:20 a.m. CST

    In fact, let's start a net campaign for it...

    by Salem Hanna

    If enough people are interested in a murder mystery set aboard the new space station, some A-List director, Cameron or otherwise, will get his clout-packed ass up there and do it!! Not sure Nasa would approve, but the space program could sure use the backing of public imagination again. Use real equipment (not fictional spaceplanes like Armageddon) and it'd be sorta intelligent too.

  • April 26, 2001, 2:56 a.m. CST

    Someone can fellate me, if they'd like...

    by Dlhstar

    ...Or I believe my words to the administrator were more along the lines of, "You can just suck my dick!" ANyway, back to the point... I went for Tron in 99, and I believe that was also in the 70mm format. Last year I couldn't get excited about the line-up, and I couldn't get too excited this year, either. I still think Ebert could have picked a more overlooked title for an overlooked film fest in the SF catagory. If it is included because of the overlooked 70mm format, then perhaps next year he should show Slacker and Nadja (both of which IIRC have scenes filmed in Pixelvision-2000). Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a rather 'safe' choice to pick 2001 for a film to be shown in Champaign-Urbana. Growing up in the region, I can tell you that it seems that everyone in the area is aware of that film and its relation to the UofI and the city... But hey, not my film fest, and I have played to the audience myself for some slight recognition in the past, so I can't complain.

  • April 26, 2001, 3:21 a.m. CST

    If je hasn't already...

    by Di

    ...Ebert should show CLEAN, SHAVEN at one of these things. That's a DAMN fine, mostly overlooked film. I can't think of another film so unsettling. And Jesus' Son is a fine of the tops of last year.

  • April 26, 2001, 4:59 p.m. CST

    Dammit, I thought Cameron was doing True Lies 2???!!!

    by Blue Devil

    Everywhere I look, it states Cameron is directing True Lies 2, but I haven't heard anything official yet! And now, this Arthur C. Clarke business. I wish "The Man" would do something soon- I'm dying out here without any good movies.

  • April 27, 2001, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Chat between Cameron and Clarke

    by andreasingo

    I think this talk between Arthur C Clarke and James Cameron has something to do with his Mars films. I would be really surprised if they got a new project together.

  • April 27, 2001, 1:33 p.m. CST

    I was there, folks.

    by rk33

    Okay, now I have a better point of view about how stuff like this gets started. I was at the showing of 2001 on Wednesday night, and I listened to the stage conversation in its entirety after the show. ARTHUR C. CLARK DID NOT SAY HE WAS 'IN TALKS' WITH JAMES CAMERON! The question from the audience was what story of his he'd most like to see made into a movie and who he'd WANT to direct it. His Cameron comment, from where I was sitting, was made in the spirit of the gathering . . . that is, IN FUN!!! sheesh . . .

  • April 27, 2001, 1:34 p.m. CST

    Salem: Last I heard Soderbergh was to remake Solaris.

    by bswise

    No doubt keeping intact the subtlety and metaphyscial rumination of Tarkofsky's hypnotic 1972 classic that is beyond a syrrupy (if effective) action man like Cameron. To wit, Solaris is about a hell of a lot more than a "murder mystery set aboard the new space station." No doubt scenes of it will be shot in Zero G and Soderbergh is the best director.

  • April 27, 2001, 3:05 p.m. CST

    2001 DVD

    by Peter8148

    Just to say, yet again, that the current 2001 DVD is a shameful and disgusting abortion of a product and all at Warners should be ashamed of themselves. Anyway if Kubrick were not closeted away in a remote foreign land (England) then the execs would have been all over him and the result would have been - well - 2010. Ah, yes. All those lingering majestic shots chopped for the attention deficient. All those lovingly constructed sets made cheap and nasty. The flat screen displays turned into curvy shiny cathode ray tubes... Interior design lifted from Alien.....................................Who these days will make the next Sci-fi epic which is also Art? Answer - What would be the result of a typical preview screening of 2001 with the usual audience of morons with questionnaires. I don't understand it. Too boring. Too long........ .................... It will never get made...

  • April 27, 2001, 9:35 p.m. CST

    If it is simply a matter of the 70mm format...

    by Dlhstar

    I guess the reason it was chosen, in the long run, is its placement in the overlooked '70mm format' catagory. I'm not knocking that, since I'm sure the number of films out there that are still in good shape and worth seeing in 70mm might be few and far between. But maybe next year he should seek out an honest-to-god 50's 3D movie, since that is being overlooked too, since absolutely no one is making those anymore (with the exception of that Nightmare on Elm Street movie a few years ago). I'm sure they could sell a ton of 3D glasses at the door and make extra money that way for the Virginia Theatre.

  • April 27, 2001, 10:56 p.m. CST

    2001 Re-release Plans?

    by Shawn

    Does anyone have the skinny on when, where and how this version of 2001 will be released?

  • April 28, 2001, 2:06 a.m. CST

    You guys will probably kill me for saying this but

    by Kyle.Reese

    I was really bored by 2001. It was slow and dull. We spends minutes looking at a still object in space and with no character development at all... Now don't go making the assuption that I'm only saying this because I'm a no-brainer action fan who doesn't know quality because I do still like a lot of Kubrick's films. But 2001 put me into a coma. Is there anyone who agrees with me on this?... As for Cameron, would he really wanna do a Mars film after the god-awful Red Planet and Mission t Mars (worse of the two)?

  • April 28, 2001, 2:34 a.m. CST

    Kyle Reese found dead: Ebert's involvement suspected.

    by Dlhstar

    Just kidding... But I seriously know a guy that when you mention 2001 in front of him, he actually stops the conversation and goes something like, "2001: The most overrated piece of shit ever filmed... Go on..." A true story, to the best of my recollection...

  • April 28, 2001, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Ebert deserves applause just for 3 WOMEN...

    by Stephen Dedalus

    I'm happy to see Robert Altman's much neglected 1977 masterpiece is getting the attention it deserves. I hope they finally release this on video sometime soon.

  • April 28, 2001, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Too Kyle Reese

    by andreasingo

    Hey, here I am again. I can understand you thought 2001 was boring because it IS slow. Well, that's part of why I like it but your opinium is as good as anyone. Anyway, about Camerons Mars films. The rumours I have read seems to indicate he won't do the miniseries based on the triology "Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars" but I still think he want to do the IMAX 3D film. Don't worry about the previous stinkers, this is more of a documentary project and isn't tailored at the same audience as those (which was kids and teens). This is a deadly serious film, documentary style in every detail. Cameron is equally obsessed of getting the Mars mission right as he was getting every detail on the ship in Titanic right. I don't worry about this one. I predict cameron WILL get this right. Another thing: Stanley Kubrick is the best director who ever have lived.

  • April 28, 2001, 12:08 p.m. CST


    by mibesu

    Mibesu's overlooked film festival: Grease, Gone With The Wind, Pulp Fiction, E.T., Jurassic Park AND I CANNOT BELIEVE IT BUT WE HAVE GOT A PRINT OF TITANIC!!

  • April 28, 2001, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Caledonian. Well said.

    by andreasingo

    2001 is the thinking mans movie. It makes you think about our past, the present and our future. But what I love most about it is Kubricks magnificient direction. Here is one who was brought up on action movies and hated everything else. Then I saw 2001, A Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove and I was changed forever. Don't get me wrong. I still love those actionfilms (especially camerons). The complete opposite to 2001 is Star Wars which I also like.

  • April 29, 2001, 7:33 p.m. CST

    A long time ago, in a theater far, far, away...

    by Moonwatcher

    I was 13 in the summer of '68, when I saw 2001 at the Cinestage in Chicago. Having been weaned on Disney, George Pal and laughable '50's special effects, I was not prepared for what Kubrick surrounded us with that summer. Within two seconds of the appearance of the opening shot of a shrouded earth, there was an audable "Ooooo" from the audience. It didn't take long for us to realize that Kubrick was giving us something that no one had seen before, and even tho I didn't understand it, I still kept going back to be mesmerized by the visuals, the exquisite photography, and the grand ideas. Only Kubrick could turn a scene of an ape discovering the lethal potential of a femur (?) into epic cinema. What a happy occasion, that Kubrick and Clarke found each other at such an opportune time. Clearly the planets were in line, as portrayed late in the film, when they collaborated on this landmark event. Each generation of filmgoers should have its own moment of discovery similar to that summer of '68, when Kubrick and his associates parted the curtains and revealed the next step in what film, and filmmakers, could do.