The Farewell Party
High drama and lowbrow, morbid humor get stitched together in this successful tragicomedy about terminal patients and assisted suicide. Works better than expected.
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.
There is a large electric billboard in the Las Vegas airport, right above luggage area 3, which flashes the following messages, one after another:
Q. In a theater lobby I saw the poster for the new movie "Bye, Bye Love," and there seemed to be something uncannily wrong about it. After staring at it for a long time, I realized what. The stars of the movie are all lined up smiling, including a small boy in the second row who is giving a "thumbs up" sign. If you compare the size of his hand with the size of the hand of the small girl also in the same row, you will see that his hand is about three times larger than her hand--almost as big as his face, in fact. Do you think this is really his own hand? Or has it been painted in by the ad agency, as a subliminal way of giving the movie "thumbs up?" (Sheila Chesham, Chicago)
Q. I hear there's a remake of "Casablanca" in the works with Kevin Costner and Demi Moore in the Bogart and Bergman roles. True? (James Portanova, Fresh Meadows, N.Y.)
Pieces of time. That's what the movies have been called. Usually they begin with the first piece and continue with the second piece, onward to the inevitable conclusion. But currently there's a small group of filmmakers who don't think that way. They shuffle the deck. You can't put all the pieces together until the movie is over. It's challenging, and it can be fun.
A kid in Macedonia wants to be a movie director, but there are no openings in the official film school in Belgrade. One day a professor from Southern Illinois University comes to lecture in his home town, and the kid gives the professor a pitch about how he wants to go to film school, and the professor says, "Fine, send me some of your work," and the kid mails his writings and some of his short films off to Carbondale, and they give him a scholarship.
Q. In the history of the Oscars, which movie nominated for best picture has received your lowest rating? (Paul Mayes, Austin, Texas)
The committee found five better pictures, is the glib explanation.
Q. When I walked out of "Hoop Dreams," I said to my date it was the best movie I had seen in years. After talking endlessly about it to anyone who would listen to me, I have convinced myself that it was one of the top three movies I have ever seen. The fact that it was not nominated for an Oscar tells me the Academy is a political backscratching organization that doesn't have a clue. I cannot express how disappointed I am. (Kevin Brouillette, Kansas City, Mo.)
House Republicans, who have promised action on their 10-point "Contract With America" in the first 100 days of the new Congress, reach the halfway mark today. No one has been more identified with the GOP's recent surge in Congress than Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). He has used his new position as House speaker to promote his vision of where the country should be heading - and to suggest the viewing of movies as a means of shaping social policy. Who better to give Newt some movie guidance than Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert?
Q. I have been following the comments about moviegoing experiences in America, Taiwan, etc. As a Brit, having just completed a trip to New York City, it amazes me why your cinemas are so backward compared to those in London. Why do Americans tolerate such awful service? We Brits are told how much we can learn from the service industry in the U.S., but the simple task of seeing a film can turn into a nightmare! Examples: (1) Why do New Yorkers enjoy queuing up for 45 minutes to purchase a ticket? (2) Once you've bought your ticket, why do you have to queue up again to wait for the cinema to open the house doors? (3) Then, when it's open, there's an almighty rush to find the best seat, and then you have to wait another half hour before the film starts! By contrast, in going to the movies in London, we: (1) Telephone cinema and book tickets on credit card. Best available seat numbers are given. (2) Get to cinema five minutes before film starts, collect tickets, go into the auditorium, usher takes you to your seats and film starts. Simple as that. No queues. No hassle. (Darren Tossell, London)