The Man Who Knew Infinity
An account of a remarkable person should strive to be as equally remarkable as its subject, not the timid and tidy boilerplate special of a…
Roger Ebert became film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He is the only film critic with a star on Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame and was named honorary life member of the Directors' Guild of America. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Screenwriters' Guild, and honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Since 1989 he has hosted Ebertfest, a film festival at the Virginia Theater in Champaign-Urbana. From 1975 until 2006 he, Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper co-hosted a weekly movie review program on national TV. He was Lecturer on Film for the University of Chicago extension program from 1970 until 2006, and recorded shot-by-shot commentaries for the DVDs of "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Floating Weeds" and "Dark City," and has written over 20 books.
TORONTO--We have a saying in Chicago: Don't drive the Dan Ryan expressway until you've driven it three times. Nobody should see Todd Haynes' "Far from Heaven" unless they've seen a lot of movies, especially from the 1950s. Unless you know what he's doing, you're likely to hate it.
TELLURIDE, Colo.--At some point early in his life, Michael Moore must have found himself wearing a baseball cap, a windbreaker, and a shirt hanging outside his jeans, and decided he liked the look. That's what he was wearing when I met him at the Telluride Film Festival in 1989, and that's what he was wearing here Saturday. It is also what he wears in "Bowling for Columbine," his new documentary film, when he goes calling on K-Mart executives and Charlton Heston, the spokesman for the National Rifle Association. He is not necessarily wearing the same shirt and jeans, you understand. His closet must look a lot like Archie's and Jughead's, with rows of identical uniforms. The clothes send a message: Here is a man of the people, working-class. He may be on television but he is not of television. In his films, he is a huge hulking presence at the edge of the screen, doggedly firing questions at people who desperately wish they were elsewhere. His face is usually in shadow because of the baseball cap.
TORONTO--It can be exciting to watch young actors trying as hard as they can to be good. But there's something sort of inspiring about an older actor who has made so many movies over so many years that he knows how to do it without thinking.
Q. Studios still produce trailers that start with "In a world..." and then gather momentum with quick cuts and explosions, followed by a supposedly cool line by the star. Having just seen the clever trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's new movie "The Comedian," I wonder if you think the days of the mind-numbingly predictable voice-over are numbered? (G. Doig, Glasgow, Scotland)
TORONTO--There is a moment in "Bowling For Columbine" when Michael Moore is at a loss for words for perhaps for the first time in his life. The moment comes at the conclusion of one of the public psychodramas he has become expert in staging, in which he dramatizes evildoing (as defined by Moore) in the way calculated to maximize the embarrassment of the evildoer.
TORONTO--If the 27th Toronto Film Festival closes after two days, it will have shown six wonderful films and one magnificently bloody-minded one--and I do not exclude the possible greatness of entries I have not yet seen.
After Cannes, the Toronto Film Festival is the most important in the world. Last year's festival was ripped in two on Sept. 11. I walked out of a screening, heard the news, and the world had changed. Now comes the 27th annual festival, opening today. Are movies important in the new world we occupy? Yes, I think they are, because they are the most powerful artistic device for creating empathy--for helping us understand the lives of others.
TELLURIDE, Colo.--Bob Crane seems to have been an awfully nice guy. Not a faithful husband, not a great father, but a helluva nice guy to run into late at night in a bar or a strip club, especially if you were young, female, and a fan of "Hogan's Heroes." Chances are he would even oblige you by having sex.
TELLURIDE, Colo.--The schedule of each year's Telluride Film Festival is as closely guarded as the Oscar winners. Until they arrive, gasping for air, in this pretty little mountain town at the 10,000-foot level, festival ticket holders have no idea what they'll be seeing. Rumors start early. At the Denver airport, waiting for the shuttle to Montrose, I was informed that Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" will be sneaked here this year. That is almost certainly not true (never say never). Then again, if somebody had told me that Telluride was going to resurrect the three-screen, three-camera Cinerama process, I would have doubted it. And they are.
Movies can bridge cultural boundaries, but sometimes they also confuse them. Consider the tricky case of "Happy Times," a new film by the distinguished Chinese director Zhang Yimou. As I wrote in my review: