Monday, March 20, 2006

Ebertfest 2006 films


After obsessively checking the Ebertfest site for the past two months, the films playing the 8th annual Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival have been announced.

The Thumbed One offers his perspective on the films playing this year's festival, something which helps clarify the one choice that to me seemed out of step with its purpose.

And no, I'm not talking about MY FAIR LADY, which follows in the tradition of opening the fest with a film in 70mm. Ebert has said many times at the festival that "overlooked" goes deeper than commercial performance and critical reputation, although those qualities may factor into the equation. Anyway, if he wants to play it, he can justify a film's inherent overlookedness one way or another.

This year's selections, in the order in which they will play, are:

MY FAIR LADY (George Cukor, 1964)

One of the festival's greatest pleasures is seeing a classic film in the best presentation possible. Sure to be a great way to lift the festival crowd's spirits. Too bad it wasn't VERTIGO, which rumors had as the potential opener last year.

MAN PUSH CART (Ramin Bahrani, 2005)

Call it pre-overlooked. Ebert has made a habit of bringing in a couple films he sees at Sundance. Not only does this give an assist to films that need it, but in this case, the showcase might be the necessary nudge to gain distribution for it.

DUANE HOPWOOD (Matt Mulhern, 2005)

Here's a perfect example of what the festival is about. I know next to nothing about this indie. It was released last year and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

RIPLEY'S GAME (Liliana Cavani, 2002)

Never released theatrically in the U.S. Its domestic premiere was on IFC.

SOMEBODIES (Hadjii, 2006)

I had no doubt that if the movie was any good (in Ebert's opinion, of course), it was a sure thing. Festival director Nate Kohn co-produced the film with his wife.

THE EAGLE (Clarence Brown, 1925)

The Alloy Orchestra accompany Rudolf Valentino.

SPARTAN (David Mamet, 2004)

Nice. One of my honorable mentions from 2004. Indicate you heard me.

MILLIONS (Danny Boyle, 2004)

Unlike the unconventional choices from other years, maybe this is a little too recent or too obvious for the children's matinee. Nevertheless, MILLIONS deserves another chance to find an audience. One of my 2005 honorable mentions. I predicted DUMA in this slot. I expect it'll be at Ebertfest before too long.

CLAIRE DOLAN (Lodge Kerrigan, 1998)

I'm a little surprised Kerrigan's KEANE wasn't picked, but going for a title a few years older makes sense with all the other selections that are three years or younger.

JUNEBUG (Phil Morrison, 2005)

I was mixed on JUNEBUG last fall, although it seems like something right up my alley. I'm really curious to take another look at it. For what it's worth, I was a big supporter of Amy Adams on my OFCS and COFCA ballots in the recent awards season. She's currently scheduled to be present for the post-film Q&A.

BAD SANTA (Terry Zwigoff, 2003)

Here's the one that seemed like an iffy choice to me. Zwigoff's LOUIE BLUIE played at the festival two years ago. Aside from MY FAIR LADY, BAD SANTA has the strongest claims to being a hit, and a recent one at that. Then I read what Ebert had to say:
Terry Zwigoff, director of "Bad Santa," will be at the festival with his personal print of what he calls "Really, Really Bad Santa." The original "Bad Santa" (2003) starred Billy Bob Thornton as an alcoholic department store Santa who used his job as a cover for robberies. It was rated R on general release, and then additional material was added for an "unrated" DVD. Zwigoff says the print he's bringing includes material not even on the DVD.
Good enough for me.

U-CARMEN E-KHAYELITSHA (Mark Dornford-May, 2005)

The only "what in the world is this" title for me. A musical has become the standard closing film. This year it's a South African version of CARMEN.

It's an eclectic bunch of titles, which keeps things interesting, and I've only seen four--five if you count BAD SANTA--of the films playing. See you in Urbana-Champaign.

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