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Ebertfest 2008: My heart is in Urbana

The 10th Anniversary Ebertfest begins tonight in Urbana-Champaign. It is with some melancholy that I write these words on a legal pad in a hospital bed in Chicago. After consulting with my doctors, I have decided it may not be prudent to try to make the journey today with a fractured hip.

Sigh. I was really happy with this one. The films, the guests, the friends. Chaz, Nate Kohn, Mary Susan Britt and I had all the pieces in place. The only tweak I didn’t have time for was a proper full-length review of “Shotgun Stories.” It was on the to-do list. What I’m using now is what I wrote after seeing it at the Chicago Film Festival. The rest is almost a turn-key operation---the little festival that runs itself, with the help of countless volunteers.

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It’s hard to express what it means to me that the festival is in my hometown. People never seemed to think I quite had a job. “And how is Roger?” my mother’s friends would ask. “Is he still just… going to the movies?”

Illness has been playing an unwelcome role in my life these days. After unsuccessful surgery in January, I ended up back in the friendly confines of the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute. Graduating from there in good shape to attend Ebertfest, I went to the wonderful Pritikin Longevity Institute for more exercise. I was there one day and -- whoops! -- my shoe caught on a rug and I fell and broke my hip. Nobody’s fault.

A broken hip adds to my tour of medical adventures. My current plan is to take it easy, obey the doctors orders, and start writing reviews again.

In the meantime, my heart will be in Urbana. Old friends like Bill and Carolyne Nack, Richard and Mary Corliss and Barry Avrich and Hannah Fisher will meet new ones. Chaz will be the Emcee. Again, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson will add their gravitas and wit to the proceedings.

My “Ebert & Roeper” colleagues Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips will be on board. And damn, I wish I could be there for Michael Barker, Christine Lahti, Tom DiCillo, Paul Schrader, Timothy Spall, Rufus Sewell, Bill Forsyth, Ang Lee, Joey Pantoliano, Aida Turturro, Farmer John, Tarsem Singh, Jeff Nichols, Eran Kolirin and the great designer Eiko Ishioka.

But there will be the sad absence of Dusty Cohl, who the festival is dedicated to.

Jim Emerson, the editor of this site, will be blogging from Ebertfest for rogerebert.com, and also check out the blogs of David Bordwell, David Poland, Lisa Rosman and Peter Sobcynski. I will.

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