"The Congress" is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when…
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.
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)
Though I've never personally experienced the Tingler or Ghost-a-Rama, my life as a moviegoer has touched on most of the other legendary film gimmicks.
PARK CITY, Utah--Here is a Cuban film about a flamboyant homosexual who is freely critical of his government and society. It was shot on location in Havana. It is now in release around the world. How, I asked myself - how was it possible that this film was financed and produced in Cuba, and actually shown there, and the filmmaker was not disciplined by the government?
Q. I recall a rumor that "The Exorcist" used subliminal messaging to affect the audience. When I saw it on its initial theatrical release, I passed out at one point--and I don't faint easily. It was early in the film when she was having her brain x-rayed: The scene showed Regan with a needle on the end of a tube stuck in her neck, and there's a gyrating X-ray machine and the machine-gun-like sound of sheets of film rapidly advancing. I recoil at the thought that a movie could have such an impact on me without some kind of unfair advantage. Maybe the hype surrounding the film and the crowded theater set me up for it. When I came to, I noticed that I'd slumped down and jammed my shins against the metal edge of the seat in front of me. They were cut and bleeding. Probably one of the few times that watching a movie led to physical injury. (Tom Norris, Braintree, Mass.)