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About Me

I love entertainment...

Sex: Female
Language: English
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Location: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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      • 5/5 (2 votes)
      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
        5/5 (2 votes)
        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)

        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
        5/5 (1 votes)
        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

      • Thumb page madness

        On April 20th, “A Page of Madness” brought a silent realm of extreme ambiguity (to put it lightly) to the 20th annual Ebertfest. The experimental Japanese film, directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, was released in 1926 and considered a lost film for four decades, before a print was discovered in 1971.

        Set in an asylum, the silent feature does not have a clear narrative, and leaves countless questions for its audience while offering a completely sensory experience. The live musical score, written and performed by the three-person Alloy Orchestra, helped guide viewers’ emotions throughout.

        The post-screening panel was moderated by University of Georgia film studies professor Richard Neupert and critic Nell Minow, and featured two members of the Alloy Orchestra, Terry Donahue and Ken Winokur.


        Multiple interpretations: “The first five minutes can be interpreted about 18 different ways," Neupert said.

        Embrace the craziness: “Because the narrative is so fractured, we didn’t want to force a narrative onto something that wasn’t there, which is why we just opened up into chaos,” said Donahue.

        Clarity vs. dreamland: “In Japan, you have to script for censorship. But what Kurutta Ichipeiji ended up doing was just transcribing the imagery. But just because it was written down doesn’t mean the interpretations are clear at all,” said Neupert.

        A first: “The guy who wrote the screenplay went on to become the first Japanese author to win the Nobel Prize,” said Minow.

        Just go with it: “This score was more improvisationally based than some of our past films. We just went with what we saw and did it (the way) it made us feel. And you heard how it made us feel: a little bit uneasy,” said Winokur.

        One word for it: “When I watch this movie it’s confusing and frustrating, but I’m actually quite captivated,” said Winokur.

        Another word for it: “It’s traumatizing,” said Neupert.

        No need to be linear: “The director said that all of his stories had a beginning, middle and end, that he just didn’t put them in that order. He said if you want to understand my film, just put it on again in a different order,” said Neupert.

        Which explains why … : “The alternate title was ‘A Page Out Of Order,'” said Winokur.

        Madeline Galassi is a 2017-18 Roger Ebert Fellow at the University of Illinois College of Media.

        By: Madeline Galassi
        Posted: April 23, 2018, 9:28 pm

      • Thumb columbus 2018

        Kogonada’s directorial feature debut, “Columbus,” started day three of the 20th annual Roger Ebert Film Festival at the Virginia Theatre. The filmmaker introduced the film on stage just before it began, but kept it short and sweet. In the post-screening Q&A panel hosted by Matt Fagerholm and Nate Kohn, Kogonada and his producers offered detailed answers to every question presented.

        The writer/director was as relaxed, calm and thoughtful as the film itself.

        A slight nerd: “Because I read about it, and was a slight architecture nerd ... and had passed by Columbus (Indiana) so many times driving on 65 … I was so surprised I had never heard of this city as an architectural site.”

        Location, location, location: “I visited the city and really immediately felt a sort of melancholy promise. It felt like the place itself was a story and I knew this was going to be the place for the story I was working on in my head.”

        More than photos: “Often our relationship with architecture is through these really pictorial photographs that turn them into objects. But I knew by the end of shooting the buildings of ‘Columbus’ that we wouldn’t just experience them as photographs.”

        One the one hand…: “So much of filmmaking is a choice of what you point at and when you decide something is over, and so often we are trying to remove all those moments that do not feel like drama or something that is exciting to us.”

        On the other…: “Our lives, in comparison, are mostly about waiting and trying to find significance in that waiting.”

        Amazing: “Because I’m surrounded by my producers and executive producers, I was sitting and watching this again and thought ‘it’s amazing to me that they allow me to spend their money, you know?’”


        Choice: “There were so many choices that I made that I wanted to make, and they allowed me to make it — that’s a big deal.”

        No Asians: “The longest part was trying to find financing … and then this female producer has the sensitivity to say yes to a project that has a lead as an Asian man. We brought this project to a number of other people, and one of the consistent things we found was no one wants to watch an Asian man as a lead.”

        No fireballs: “This is a kind of film where you can’t hide behind a plot or explosions and there are gonna be a lot of moments where it’s just you.”

        After the drama: “I do love films that take place narratively in the aftermath of the drama; I was so happy we didn’t make a film about when she was 15 and her mom was having all those difficulties — that wasn’t the subject. It was about a few years after that, and the kind of heartache that never leaves you.”

        Tyler Panlilio is a 2017-18 Roger Ebert Fellow at the University of Illinois College of Media.

        By: Tyler Panlilio
        Posted: April 23, 2018, 9:28 pm

        • Entertainer

          Thumb ebertfest

          With the conclusion of the 20th Roger Ebert's Film Festival (Ebertfest), we've gathered all of our coverage on this past week's panels, guests and film presentations. Included is the work of Chaz Ebert, Brian Tallerico, Nick Allen, Matt Fagerholm, Peter Sobczynski and our three Ebert Fellows, Niani Scott, Madeline Galassi and Tyler Panlilio.

          Ebertfest 2018 Guests: Part I 

          Ebertfest 2018 Guests: Part II

          Dear Roger: I Can't Believe Our Film Festival is Twenty Years Old! by Chaz Ebert

          Ebertfest 2018 Guests: Critical Mass

          Ebertfest 2018, Day 1: Year 20 Starts with a Modern Action Classic by Brian Tallerico 

          Ebertfest 2018, Day 2: Critics Panel, 'Interstellar,' 'Selena,' 'Belle' by Nick Allen

          Ebertfest 2018: Eight Things I Learned about 'Belle' from Amma Asante by Ebert Fellow Niani Scott  

          Ebertfest 2018, Day 3: 'Columbus,' 'A Page of Madness,' 'American Splendor' by Peter Sobczynski 

          Ebertfest 2018: Ten Things I Learned from Kogonada about 'Columbus' by Ebert Fellow Tyler Panlilio

          Ebertfest 2018: Nine Things I Learned About 'A Page of Madness' by Ebert Fellow Madeline Galassi 

          Ebertfest 2018, Days 4 & 5: 'Daughters of the Dust,' 'The Big Lebowski,' '13th' and More by Matt Fagerholm

          By: The Editors
          Posted: April 23, 2018, 9:31 pm

        • Thumb daughters of the dust 1

          Want indelible proof that great cinema is indeed timeless? Look no further than the films of Auguste and Louis Lumière, who captured images that manage to enlighten, amaze and in some cases, elicit belly laughs over a century after they were made. Day 4 of Ebertfest’s 20th anniversary installment opened with “The Lumière Brothers and the Birth of Cinema,” an hour-long lecture given by Richard Neupert, the professor whose marvelous introductions to silent classics are an annual highlight of the festival. His presentation on the trailblazing brothers included an expertly curated series of clips immortalized by their cameras. Viewers at the time couldn’t imagine how anyone would prefer the false, flat backdrops of theatre over movies showcasing the wonder of real life. Even veteran preservationist Barry Allen was impressed with the footage Neupert had selected, a good deal of which was decidedly anti-colonialist, epitomized by a scene of wealthy women throwing seeds to a group of poor children as if they were pigeons. Equally striking was the shot of women tirelessly doing laundry, their reflections visible in the water, as men stood motionless in the background. This is a key example of how the filmmakers went about surveying the essence of modern life in all corners of the world, allowing multiple planes of action to unfold within the frame. 

          I especially enjoyed the excerpt Neupert selected from a review of the Lumières’ famous film in which a train arrives at a station. The amount of information the writer infers from the fleeting appearances of passengers is quite touching, singling out the “young man with the humble bundle who has left home in search of work.” In terms of comedy, the Lumière Brothers certainly weren’t against staging pratfalls, as witnessed by the vignette of a gardener getting pranked by a kid. Yet I was surprised by just how loudly I laughed at the sight of grown men participating in a sack race, some of whom opt to awkwardly shuffle down the street rather than hop alongside the others.

          One of the most rapturous ovations I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been attending Ebertfest was received by Ava DuVernay, the celebrated director who flew to Champaign, Illinois, amidst a busy schedule, in order to attend the Saturday morning screening of her Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary, “13th.” I immediately rose to my feet when she appeared on the stage, not just because her film is a towering achievement but because its call to action is overwhelming in its potency. DuVernay’s film pinpoints the 13th Amendment’s loophole approving slavery “as a punishment for crime,” and uses it as her jumping off point for a scathing indictment of the U.S. prison system. She explores how the “war on drugs” propelled by Nixon and enforced by Reagan targeted African-American communities, sending the vast majority of prisoners to jail without a fair trial. 

          The festival audience applauded renowned activist Angela Davis for unapologetically wearing an afro to her court hearing, and several audience members booed Donald Trump, whose racist comments about “the good old days” are chillingly played over footage of the violence he incited at his own rallies. Though DuVernay is grateful to Netflix for giving her full creative control over her film, making it available in 190 countries on the same day, seeing “13th” on the enormous screen of the Virginia Theatre made for an infinitely more impactful viewing experience. In the wonderful Q&A that followed, DuVernay recalled how the reviews penned by Roger Ebert and Ebertfest guest Carrie Rickey of her 2011 feature debut, “I Will Follow,” played a crucial role in launching her career. “Don’t knock on closed doors,” she advised the aspiring artists in attendance. “Build your own house and your own door.”

          The more you concentrate on the sparsely subtitled dialogue in Julie Dash’s 1991 masterpiece, “Daughters of the Dust,” the more you are bound to be left mystified. Dash’s portrait of a Gullah family living on the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia circa 1902 is visual poetry of the highest order, illustrating how this particular community kept the culture of their ancestors alive, while being among the first generation of African-Americans who were “born free.” Scars of slavery are detected in hands stained permanently blue by indigo. Though Aunt Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) commissions a photographer to chart her family’s trip to the mainland—a journey to modern civilization that will ironically leave them in the ghetto—she eventually finds that her adopted way of life cannot fill the spiritual void within her companion. There’s also a Native American inhabitant of the islands who resisted marching with his family to a destination deceptively promised as “a better place.” “If they stayed behind,” Dash noted during the post-screening Q&A, “they would’ve had everything they needed.” 

          Dubbing the Ebertfest attendees the “warmest and most engaged audience” she’s encountered since traveling to a festival in India, Dash was entirely humble every time her work was praised. DuVernay referred to her as the “Queen Mother,” and was thrilled to have Dash direct two episodes of her OWN series, “Queen Sugar.” What’s distressing is that Dash has been unable to direct another theatrical feature, despite the fact that “Daughters of the Dust” is hailed as one of the seminal achievements in American cinema. Onstage, the director revealed that she had initially wanted to make a silent film, and had intended on it feeling like a foreign import, recounting its tale in the style of an African griot. Dash marveled at the “artistic courageousness” of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” video (which paid homage to “Daughters of the Dust”), and recalled how her extras mistakenly thought their hair needed to be tied a certain way, simply because they had seen the hairstyle in “Gone With the Wind.” I couldn’t help being reminded of the “life imitating art” anecdote in “13th,” when DuVernay revealed that cross-burning wasn’t a tactic utilized by the KKK until D.W. Griffith lensed it in “Birth of a Nation” for its cinematic value.

          After the ferocity of “13th” and the hypnotic majesty of “Daughters of the Dust,” it was refreshing to sit back and cherish the perfectly pitched mixture of dark humor and lovely humanism in Martha Coolidge’s 1991 gem, “Rambling Rose.” In the “Siskel & Ebert” review unearthed from the archives that played before the feature, Gene Siskel quoted a line from the script that struck him as profound, delivered by Robert Duvall: “Some of us die, some of us don’t.” The latter is certainly true of Rose (Laura Dern), the young woman who escapes a life of prostitution by agreeing to live with Duvall’s family during the Great Depression. Taking place in Georgia (a.k.a. the “mainland” in “Daughters of the Dust”), Coolidge’s film slyly tackles the ways in which women are oppressed in American society, even by men who are, in many respects, good at heart. During the Q&A, my colleague Sheila O’Malley discussed perhaps the film’s most moving sequence, centering on Duvall’s discovery that what had seemed appropriate in his mind—regarding how to solve Rose’s “promiscuous” problem—was actually monstrous. The tear that subtly caresses his face is stunning to behold, and according to Coolidge, it was achieved in a single take. 

          An entire festival could be curated that contains the collaborations of Dern and her real-life mother Diane Ladd, who both earned well-deserved Oscar nominations for Coolidge’s film. Ladd plays Duvall’s wife, who has no qualms with “squeezing the trigger” in order to hit people “with the truth right between the eyes.” The audience alternatively squirmed and squealed with delight at Coolidge’s frank portrayal of the sexual awakening that occurs within Duvall’s son, sublimely played by Lukas Haas. When Rose cautions him that “curiosity killed the cat,” his response (“Satisfaction brought him back”) brought down the house. Elmer Bernstein’s score has several flourishes that are evocative of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” particularly in the film’s final moments, a bittersweet ode to, in Ladd’s words, “life itself.” After seeing a cut of “Rambling Rose,” the legendary composer told Coolidge, “I would pay you to let me score your picture.”

          In the pantheon of astonishing Ebertfest moments ranging from Tilda Swinton’s conga line to Donald O’Connor’s final public appearance, the spectacle of Jeff Dowd dancing down the aisles to Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” ranks somewhere near the top. Dowd is an accomplished producer and activist who served as the real-life inspiration for Jeff Lebowski, the iconic character nicknamed “The Dude” and played by Jeff Bridges in Joel & Ethan Coen’s 1998 comic odyssey, “The Big Lebowski.” Though “Daughters of the Dust” wouldn’t seem to be an obvious companion piece at the outset, both films have a dreamlike quality as well as narrators prone to losing their train of thought (“I’m rambling’ again,” admits Sam Elliott in voice-over). The Q&A that followed this spectacular 20th anniversary screening had decidedly more Qs than As, as Dowd’s insights spiraled off into tangents that left the audience amused, captivated and occasionally baffled. He correctly noted that Chaz Ebert, the festival’s co-founder and host, also had a tendency to go off-script during her daily introductions, and that is a big part of the festival’s appeal, as well as the singular charm of this film.

          Dowd recalled that many critics didn’t like the film upon its initial release because it lacked a cathartic third act, whereas this one is assuredly existentialist, strolling along like a “tumblin’ tumbleweed.” Though it falls in line with other Coen pictures where characters find themselves perpetually in over their heads, Dowd says that The Dude is a “holy fool liberated from the concerns of everyday fear.” Seeing the film with a full house, it’s clearer than ever that “The Big Lebowski” is one of the funniest films ever made, anchored by brilliant performances from its cast, particularly John Goodman as Walter, a volatile Vietnam vet who routinely tells his alleged pal, Donny (Steve Buscemi, the Mel Cooley of the piece), to “shut the f—k up.” Like Lebowski, Dowd was one of the Seattle Seven, famous members of the anti-Vietnam movement, the Seattle Liberation Front. Whereas the 60s was characterized by seismic cultural shifts, Dowd believes that present movements occurring in the world are even more exciting because they are systemic in nature. In order to bring about tangible change, Dowd encouraged the audience to make short, viral videos that are about something important. Perhaps they can borrow a few techniques from the Lumière Brothers.

          Ebertfest 2018 came to a close on Sunday, April 22nd, and began with footage of Roger’s longtime friend, Bill Nack, who passed away earlier this month. The clip selected by Chaz was from Steve James’ “Life Itself,” and showed Nack reciting the critic’s favorite passage in all of literature: the last words from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Nack recited these same lines onstage when “Life Itself” opened the festival in 2014 and his presence was felt throughout the theater yesterday as his face flickered on the screen. This turned out to be the perfect prelude to the festival’s final feature, Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Mairoana’s prize-winning documentary, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” a film about the oft-forgotten ways that our past informs our present. Following in the footsteps of other rousing pictures illuminating vital stories from our history, such as “Hidden Figures” and “20 Feet from Stardom,” the film provides a rich assortment of vignettes detailing how the influence of Native American artists on popular music has long gone unacknowledged. Guitarist Link Wray’s galvanizing performance on the 1958 instrumental hit, “Rumble,” serves as the film’s anthem, embodying the disruptive spirit that has been channeled into protests at reservations like Standing Rock. From Mildred Bailey’s groundbreaking vocals to drummer Randy Castillo’s tribal rhythms—reminiscent of a heartbeat—the film ended Ebertfest on a joyous exclamation point, yet the show was far from over. 

          Joining Mairoana for a post-screening Q&A with Peabody award-winning director Rita Coburn-Whack and renowned pianist George Lepauw was a special guest who captured the audience’s heart. Pura Fé, an indigenous solo artist who appears in the film, brought her songs to the Virginia Theatre, treating the audience to a concert that was simply spellbinding. The singer-songwriter’s technique of recording her voice and then harmonizing with it, layering track upon track, beautifully conveys how the voices of ancestors are echoed throughout the generations, enabling us to move like boats against the current, “borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Some of us die, some of us don’t, and thanks to art forms like cinema, some of us never will.

          By: Matt Fagerholm
          Posted: April 23, 2018, 3:36 pm

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          The typical day at Ebertfest is one that sends attendees down any number of highways and byways, cinematic and otherwise, and provides them with an experience that exposes them to any number of experiences. This was especially true of Day 3 of this year’s Ebertfest, a journey that covered nearly a century of film, covering subjects running the gamut from architecture to avant-garde. It even included a street party with cake, ice cream, music and, perhaps inevitably, a couple of dancing dinosaurs. And as incongruous as these elements may sound listed in print, they all, with the possible exception of the dinosaurs, came together into one strange and beautiful whole.

          The screening day kicked off with “Columbus,” the brilliant 2017 feature debut from writer/director Kogonada. Set in the city of Columbus, Indiana, a place considered the Midwest Mecca of Architecture for the number of modernists structures on display, the film stars John Cho as Jin, a Korean-born man who arrives in town to visit his seriously ill father in the hospital. While there he becomes acquainted with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) a high school graduate who has been putting off going to college, at least in part so as to help take care of her mother, a recovering meth addict. An architecture fan herself, Casey takes Jin to look at her favorite buildings and as time goes on, a bond begins to develop between the two despite the age difference between them—both have, after all, been forced to deal with absent parents in the past and are having to come to terms with separating from them entirely. 

          From this description, you may think that you know how this scenario develops and you would probably be wrong. Written and directed with the kind of precision rarely found these days in most feature, let alone debuts, and beautifully acted by Cho, Richardson (whose turn was one of the best and most heartbreaking seen on a movie screen in 2017) and Parker Posey as an old friend of Jin’s as well as a student of his father, “Columbus” is one of those films that quietly grabs a hold of you and sticks around in the mind long after the end credits have stopped rolling.

          After the screening, Kogonada was joined on stage by producers Andrew Milano and Danielle Behrens, executive producers Bill Harnisch and Ruth Ann Harnisch and writer Matt Fagerholm for a Q&A moderated by Nate Kohn. Kogonada, who got his start making video essays, discussed the key influence of legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu on his work, especially in the way that he effectively utilizes empty space to underline the emotions of the characters throughout. (Although there are a number of shots in the film where nothing exactly happens from a narrative perspective, I cannot readily think of a single image on display that I would not consider to be absolutely essential.) Obviously, screenplays for projects that deal with subjects as arcane as film theory and architecture are not exactly the easiest of sell but, as Ruth Ann Harnisch put it, you “get into movies to make art.” Behrens also talked about how she needed to be sold on Richardson, who Kogonada had wanted to appear based on a hunch after meeting with her, and how Behrens managed to help get the film’s highly important sound mix done at the legendary Skywalker Ranch.

          Next up was one of the longest-lasting and most beloved of all Ebertfest traditions, the annual appearance of the Alloy Orchestra, the three-man ensemble—Terry Donahue, Ken Winokur and Roger Miller—who compose scores for silent films that they then present live at screenings utilizing a wide array of instruments ranging from the familiar to the downright peculiar. Speaking of peculiar, their choice for a film this year was “A Page of Madness,” a 1926 work from Teinosuke Kinugasa that I would be willing to bet that virtually no one in the audience had even heard of, let alone seen, before it turned up in the program. Between its pronounced avant-garde trappings, the loss of what could be up to a quarter of the footage included in its original release and the lack of any intertitles to help clarify story points, the film is, especially for first-time viewers, perhaps the single most bewildering work that has ever played at Ebertfest. This is not a criticism, mind you, as much as it is an observation. Could I give you a summation of the narrative without looking it up somewhere for a refresher at this very moment? No, though I might say that if you tried watching “Shutter Island,” “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and the last 20 minutes of “2001” at the exact same time, it might generate the same sensations this film does. However, what I can tell you is that the combination of the wild and hallucinatory visual style and the relentless driving contributions of the Alloy Orchestra (whose score is one of their very best) made for a truly unforgettable moviegoing experience.

          What that something might be, of course, proved to be up for debate, not just among members of the audience but among the members of the discussion panel, consisting of film critic Nell Minow, Alloy members Miller and Donahue and moderator Richard Neupert. Although some portion of the talk was given to the historical significance of the film—as much of Japan’s film archives were leveled during Word War II, the fact that it exists at all, even in an incomplete and imperfect form, is some kind of miracle—much of the talk consisted of everyone trying to piece together exactly what they had just seen. At one point, Minnow even brought out a description provided by members of the Shunkankakuha literary movement, who helped with an early version of the screenplay, and their explanation was so convoluted that she then explained “This is why we don’t let artists talk.”

          Having just spent 73 minutes freaking out on industrial-strength art-house acid, the Ebertfest audience was brought back down to Earth with a genuine street party held right outside the Virginia Theater. Designed as a way to celebrate the fact that Ebertfest is now in its 20th year and to serve as a memorial to Ebert, the late festival guardian angel and travel coordinator Mary Frances Fagan and longtime volunteers Leonard Doyle and Sharen Slade. Live music was played, there was dancing for those so inclined as well as ice cream and cake for one and all. The breather served as a perfect way for viewers to sort of shake out the cobwebs, get some fresh air (thankfully, the weather actually cooperated for once) and get reenergized for the final movie on the day’s program. (That said, the dancing dinosaur on display are going to haunt me for a long time to come.)

          The last film on the program was “American Splendor” and in many ways, it might have been the biggest surprise of the day’s offerings. It's the meta-movie look at the life of Harvey Pekar, an ordinary schlub from Cleveland who became celebrated for turning his day to day miseries working a dead-end job as a file clerk into artistic gold into the cult comic book. When "American Splendor" came out in 2003, I liked it a lot but I don’t think I ever had a chance to revisit it until now. Watching it again, I found myself pretty much blown away by how great it was now revealing itself to be. For starters, the performances by Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as his wife, Joyce, are breathtaking in the ways that they invoke the real people they are playing with a startling degree of accuracy. Their accomplishments can be properly appreciated thanks to one of the most impressive stylistic gambits employed by co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, former documentarians making their narrative debuts—the decision to mix fact and fiction by bringing in the actual Harvey and Joyce appearing in stylized behind-the-scenes moments commenting on their lives and how they are being depicted. Hilarious, thought-provoking and even genuinely touching during the scenes in which Harvey finds himself facing testicular cancer.

          Afterwards, Berman and Pulcini were joined on stage by producer Ted Hope, critic Nick Allen and moderator Leonard Maltin to talk about the story behind the movie, one that could itself make for a fascinating movie of its own. They were presented by Hope with a collection of “American Splendor” comics and a videotape featuring Pekar’s legendarily cantankerous appearances of “Late Night with David Letterman” in the '80s when Pekar’s star was on the rise, and charged with somehow wrenching the material into a screenplay. (The first draft got the film greenlit, and the second was nominated for an Oscar.) They then had to get Pekar to approve them, which led to a memorable trip to Cleveland that found them staying in a hotel of his choosing, a place that was connected to a local hospital and which was the place where Cole Porter wrote “Night and Day.” During the audience portion of the discussion, critic Matt Zoller Seitz even went so far as to tell those gathered that when he originally reviewed the film back in 2003, he gave it only a middling review. After watching it again at the Virginia, he now felt it was a masterpiece and offered a public mea culpa for his original take. As I said earlier, anything can happen at Ebertfest—even a critic eating his own words in the best possible way.

          By: Peter Sobczynski
          Posted: April 23, 2018, 3:36 pm

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          The Roger Ebert Film Festival celebrated its 20-year anniversary with 12 movies, six directed by women. The late 18th Century period drama “Belle” (2013) was directed by British-Ghanain filmmaker Amma Asante, and starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Belle, the West Indies-born biracial daughter of the nephew of the Lord Chief Justice of England. The Thursday night screening was followed by an onstage panel featuring Asante, critic and essayist Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, and Chaz Ebert, the festival’s co-founder. 

          Eight things I learned about “Belle” from director Asante:

          Father passed: The film’s fact-based relationship between Lord Mansfield and Dido was “an ode to my own father who passed away during the making of the film.”

          Two English roses: The movie took inspiration from the 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. “Right when I looked at it, I saw two English roses. The same way roses come in many types, I wanted to say to you guys as an audience … let me also present to you an English rose you may have never seen before.”

          Taking a seat: “By showing Elizabeth being at the table, I was able to really emphasize Dido not being at the table. I think that’s a great metaphor for today.” 

          Something extra: "Gugu Mbatha-Raw has such a great presence. The key thing is that there were lots of amazing young women that were brilliant actresses. But what Gugu has is an innate elegance.”

          The resume: “I didn’t go to film school. And I hope that’s a call to all young women and young men out there who didn’t go to film school.” 

          Typing school: “I started as a child actress and I was terrible! I was so bad … when I was 21, I gave up acting but I didn’t want to leave the business. I wanted to continue to be in a world that told stories. So I started writing, mainly to get my typing speed up; my mom had sent me to typing college.”

          Pseudonym: “I sent out (the screenplay) in the UK with my mother’s maiden name as a pseudonym because lots of producers in the UK know me as a child actress. And I didn’t think they would take me seriously."

          More than coincidence?: “I was living in the Netherlands during the time that we were making the film, so I had to come over to the UK. So I had to find an apartment to rent. My sister came over to me and said: ‘Did you know the apartment you have chosen is on the very street John Davinier and Dido Belle lived when they first got married?’ London is not small, so for that to happen is incredible. I felt like that was Belle’s endorsement saying, ‘I’m cool with you telling my story.’”

          Niani Scott is a 2017-18 Roger Ebert Fellow at the University of Illinois College of Media.

          By: Niani Scott
          Posted: April 23, 2018, 3:37 pm

          • Entertainer
            Entertainer uploaded 35 images to an album Chloe Grace Moretz [118 images]
            Chloë Grace Moretz (/ˈkloʊiː ˈɡreɪs məˈrɛts/; born February 10, 1997) is an American actress and model. She began her acting career in 2004 at the age of seven, and her first award nomination came the following year for The Amityville Horror. Her...
            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post Pass Over

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              As the nation eagerly waits for Spike Lee’s new film “BlacKkKlansman,” produced by “Get Out” writer/director Jordan Peele and set for a world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the prolific American director has now adapted a Chicago theatrical production, but in a way that’s truly cinematic. True to Lee’s reputation of playing with the chemistry of storytelling, “Pass Over” has the air of an experiment and the clarity of poetry, as inspired by the news and told by artistry beyond far beyond Lee’s. In the grand scheme of his filmography it’s one of his smaller projects, but it is by no means a minor work. 

              Written by Antoinette Nwandu, the play “Pass Over” is directly inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot just as much as it is the nation’s headlines of police killing African American men and women, like Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times in 2014 by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. Like Beckett’s story, it’s an existential riff about two men that are not moving from one particular spot waiting on something to happen. But Nwandu’s vigorous play treats that concept as a means of societal stasis, with the constant hum of anxiety. Whenever gun shots are heard, they drop to the ground, in fear of the “angel of death” that they call the police. These men want to leave the block, but they’re not sure of what will be out there. 

              In this production directed by Danya Taylor, the two men in this case are Moses (Jon Michael Hill) and Kitch (Julian Parker), best friends who are homeless on the block of 64th and Martin Luther King Drive. With high-voltage performances from both, we see all shades of these men as they horse around, essentially performing for each other. They’re funny, vulnerable, magnetic. With percussive line-delivery and precise acting beats, Hill and Parker give their characters full emotional scales, and the simple set of a streetlight on a sidewalk is filled with an incredible energy. Just the same, Hill and Parker have the ability to change emotions on a dime, especially when they’re reminded of the loved ones they have lost, or the fears that have kept them on that block. 

              As “Pass Over” ruminates with these characters, and then later shows them interacting with two disturbing white men (one dressed up as a real Americana throwback, the other a racist police officer; both representing white supremacy), it has an invigorating no-BS approach. Nwandu's raw characters interact with abrupt and heavy-handed Biblical elements, from the idea of its title referring to the River Jordan, or touches upon the ten plagues, with one of the characters even being named Moses. One can see why a storyteller such as Lee would be drawn to the project, especially with its bombastic supporting characters and a spiritual element that’s unpredictable but larger-than-life. 

              Best of all, like the documentary “Whose Streets?” before it, which showed the experiences of those in Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement after Mike Brown was shot by Officer Darren Wilson in 2014, "Pass Over" expects you to already have empathy for its world and its heroes. If you think these men have nothing to fear from the police, “Pass Over” does not concern itself with persuading you; it turns a wounded culture into artistic aggression, throwing it all on the stage and daring you to look away. 

              Much of what I’ve talked about with “Pass Over” was already there before Lee decided to shoot the play, in secret, last year. His handling of the incredible material has an equal low-key quality, excelling at its goal to enhance the type of visual storytelling experience a theatrical production offers. Using numerous camera angles and expressive editing, Lee’s filmmaking emphasizes the emotion on Nwandu’s pages, like the abrupt cuts to Moses and Kitch dropping to the ground whenever they hear bullets. Extreme close-ups are utilized in very select passages, mirroring the immediate fourth-wall breaking monologues and word-less gazes of various projects of Lee’s past. There are sequences in which “Pass Over” uses so many cuts and different angles that it plays like a film that was shot on a very minimal set, as if unfolding in some type of microcosm—a further testament to the project’s artistic grandiosity. 

              Lee’s most powerful addition to the story comes from his consistent interest in documenting people. Along with the introduction of men and women from the Southside coming to the theater, we sometimes see them in a wide shot whenever he shoots the play from the backstage, looking out toward the crowd, as if putting them right there on the block with Moses and Kitch. And during specific moments within the play, Lee refers to close-ups of his audience members, like a silent Greek chorus whose facial reactions to Nwandu’s outraged story say it all without any words being necessary. As a brilliant mix of the theatrical and cinematic, Lee’s vivid adaptation of “Pass Over” does not concern just Nwandu’s story, but the very experience of it.

              By: Nick Allen
              Posted: April 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

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