Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ebertfest 2012: Day 4

Films:
  • "Higher Ground" (2011)
  • "Patang" ("The Kite") (2011)
  • "Take Shelter" (2011)

My alarm goes off and reality hits me: it's Ebertfest time! I'm up bright and early (for a slacker selection crew member) at 9:00AM. As I'm relaxing and eating my breakfast, I'm sitting there realizing how early I'm going to be; but nerves and anticipation hit too hard, sleep is not an option at this point. By the time 11:00AM rolls around, I'm walking out my door and thinking I must have done something right to get to be at this amazing event. That's when it all went wrong.

Photo courtesy of Thompson McClellan Photography
My luck must have forgotten to wake up when I did. My car refuses to start....oh no! I'm stranded! I beg and plead and cry for everything I can think of, everything short of walking out to the chicken coop to get myself a sacrifice! Then it starts! I'm okay, I'm only 15 minutes behind schedule; I should be fine since I was overcompensating on time to begin with. I get into town, and of course, the traffic is horrible. I've forgotten that a marathon is happening here in Champaign on this very same day. We cross paths - I must reroute! I get to a new path, but get locked into a 30-minute traffic jam. Finally, I get through and find out that all free parking downtown has been blocked off. I was expecting this fortunately, so I go 'round to where I remembered a free parking lot. Then, the marathon blocks me off yet again! Curses! I bail on the plan and drive out to a nearby friend's house that's only a 15-minute walk away. By the time I arrive at the Virginia i'ts 20 minutes until start-time and I feel like I've just been through a Ben Stiller comedy.

I walk in and see it was all worth it. The place is as fantastic as I remember, and all of the people inside are happy and excited to share a movie experience with their enthusiast brethren. My bad vibes just melt away as I settle into my seat; the people around are people at their best - the kind of people that give you hope in humanity; the kind of people that ask if it's okay to sit in front of you. This is where I was meant to be. Right as I am coming to all of this information, the curtains close and Chaz comes to the stage to open the festival for the day. She makes a very interesting statement before bringing on the writer of the movie "On Higher Ground" to introduce the film. She says: "the thing I like is it just sort of rambles on, kind of like life." At the time I wasn't sure if I understood that; it seemed like an insult. After watching the film though, I realized exactly what she meant and I agree in the highest authority (if I'm allowed to give that).
Photo courtesy of Thompson McClellan Photography

After the movie was over, they brought out the writer of the book, Carolyn S. Briggs, and awarded her the The Golden Thumb Award - the thumb is made by the same team and company that makes the Academy Award statuettes, and is a cast of Roger Ebert's actual thumb!

One of the first things she was asked was from Michael Barker: when you watch the movie do you see yourself? In response, she offered up: "I think this is the 26th time I've seen it and this time when I watched it, in that last scene when they kiss I realized...this was my life. But I have to say guys, there was no baby in a cooler".

For my favorite question of the Q&A, I'd like to devote an paragraph. It is something I love to hear out of a film executive, especially one associated with SONY. Nell asks Michael "Do you try to make edits to get a PG-13 rating?" (the movie was rated-R, for the record) and Michael says "No, it's not in our lexicon. We don't wish to restrict anyone from making a film the way they see it in their head, we simply provide the avenue". The audience applauds.

Photo courtesy of Thompson McClellan Photography
The next movie up is "Patang (The Kite)". It looks promising, the introduction is nice, and the director is gracious but obviously nervous. But this is his biggest showing, he has a right to be. The lights dim and the movie begins. Something is wrong, no one is sure what it is; no one can quite put their finger on what it. But the problem is.....NO SUBTITLES! People quickly find that they can't understand anything and we have no on-screen guidance! The director plays it smooth and walks out on stage to let us know the problem is being fixed. People clap. After a moment he says "I feel like I should do something...". Just then, an obnoxious audience member shouts "RAP!" What does he do in response? "Whoever said that must not have known I actually can rap!" He then lays in a fresh tasty rhyme right up on stage in front of hundreds of people! It blew minds! The crowd gave him a standing ovation as the curtains open back up to allow the movie to replay with subtitles intact. One must wonder if it wasn't his plan all along just to show off his musical talent...?

Photo courtesy of Thompson McClellan Photography
After the movie, we finally get a break. Time for me to run outside and get a pulled pork sandwich before I find a closer seat for what I'm considering the "main event" of the night, "Take Shelter". I grab a seat on the floor right next to the girl covering Ebertfest via Twitter, Maggie (@ebertfest) - check out their Twitter page for their full recap of the event!

The lights dim, the energy is high. People all around me are waiting in anticipation to see both the director/writer (Jeff Nichols) and lead actor (Michael Shannon). They are introduced before the movie and receive a standing ovation as people simply have no other means by which to let their energy fly. Once done, the movie starts and the crowd goes silent. Everyone is glued to the screen to experience this masterful piece of film. When it's over, the audience is stunned silly. Then, they erupt in applause! All of the pent-up untamed raw energy people were feeling suddenly bursts out in the form of mass appreciation towards the film.


Photo courtesy of Thompson McClellan Photography
When the first question is asked during the Q&A, it's what everyone had on their minds already but didn't want to ask: "Jeff, will you tell us how to interpret the end of this movie?". Jeff though is smart and witty and simply says "I just really wanted to make something up-beat...so people could leave feeling good about life." Then he drops back into a serious note and says "I purposefully wrote it to be somewhat ambiguous and I'd like it to remain that way." In my opinion, that was a great answer as I don't want anyone to tell me what the ending means. What piece of actual info he does drop on us is to remember "This is actually a film about marriage". And for more questions and discussion make sure you check out this link. I would like to point out one main quote that was just fantastic: a girl asks to Jeff Nichols "is there going to be a sequel?" At the exact end of this sentence Michael Shannon bursts out laughing and Jeff just drops his head in his hand and covers his face. Jeff gives a kind of wise-ass remark saying "I'm actually working on a television series following...no, I'm sorry, there will be no sequel".

I suppose It's time to close out my Day 4 post. I just want to say that it was an amazing event! It was truly magical and astounding to see all the different films and movies from all over the world. The people were so friendly and enthusiastic. I highly recommend people check out this event if ever given the chance; the hosts are some of the best hosts to any event I've ever attended and treat everyone like they're family. And let's face it, we all are brothers and sisters of the silver screen. I hope you get the chance to experience this event one day, and who knows, maybe next time I'll see you there!