As Roger Ebert noted in February, film festivals have become so ubiquitous that there's almost certainly one within driving distance of most film fans in the US. And lots of them are sprouting world-wide. Three years ago, I'd pitched Roger with an "FFC" piece on the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. He advised that I provide a sense of the town and its atmosphere, the people, as well as what the festival itself was like.
Marie writes: It was my birthday June 25th. Unlike Roger however, I'm a Crab not a Gemini. So to celebrate and with my brother's help (he has a car), I took my inner sea crustacean to Barnet Marine Park on the other side of Burnaby Mountain... and where our adventure begins....
• Grace Wang of TorontoIt's my last day in Hong Kong and I'm spending it indoors - specifically - at a Starbucks in Kowloon Station across from the cross-border bus terminal, of which I'm booked to get on a bus in 3 hours back to Mainland China.
Across from me in the cushy tan sofa, a woman is dozing over an English newspaper. The headlines reads "EU summit puts off the tough decisions"... Hmm, not exactly light Sunday afternoon readings (or is it Saturday? I lose count). She has long curly dark brown hair that is half-dry and is dressed fashionably in jeans and a black leather jacket. She looked a little anxious when asking whether the seat was taken, and a little taken aback when I blurted out "no" in English (caffeine hasn't quite sank in then yet). Is the newspaper part of an effort to brush up on her English? I wonder. Did she have a rough night? Is she waiting for someone?
I begin with a confession of ignorance. Before the Olympic Games, I had a confused and narrow vision of China. It was assembled from many movies, some of them historical dramas like "Raise the Red Lantern," some of them biopics like "The Last Emperor," some of them powerful slices of life like "The Blue Kite," "To Live," "Ju Dou" or "Story of Qui Ju." But all of them depicting the distance, the strangeness, the difference of China. Along with those images came a heavy overlay from the Cold War, the reign of Mao, the idea of China as a hostile superpower. I saw photos of the Shanghai and Beijing skylines, but I also pictured tens of millions living in poverty and age-old conditions.
Q. The Hulk never knows when he'll be angry enough to metamorphose into a giant of extra proportions; yet whenever he does metamorphose, he always has his shorts on. I'm a science fiction fanatic but I've never come across the explanation as to how Hulk is not running around totally naked. (Her Lao, Saint Paul MN)
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.