Just when I thought it wasn’t possible day two of Ebertfest surpassed any expectation I could ever conjure. There wasn’t a single dull moment during the ten plus hours at the Virginia Theater yesterday. What made Saturday, however, was the opportunity to meet Roger Ebert.
I flew in from California to attend Ebertfest, which is true. But meeting Roger was always my utmost intention. Although I can’t quite recall what I said or heard, it’s an experience never to be forgotten. If you remember me Roger, I apologize. My nerves were so incredibly high that I suspect my rhetoric wasn’t exactly effective. Hopefully my sincerity came through when I said “you were my inspiration to go into film criticism, Roger”.
Most of all, I’m just extraordinarily thankful to both you and Chaz for allowing me to be apart of such a wonderful event. As I wrote down on the card, “Your writings have meant the world to me” – a statement that will hold true till the end of time. You may not be able to speak Roger, but your invaluable voice will live forever.
Below are capsule reviews of the films I saw today:
Higher Ground: What’s impressive about Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut entitled Higher Ground is that it neither panders to Christians, nor patronizes them. And what a rarity in contemporary American cinema that is. Especially in an industry where we have a film like Kevin Smith’s Red State aggressively disrespecting the religion, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, movies like Fireproof and Courageous that are one dimensional and didactic. High Ground is honest and non-partisan in observing religion, marriage, doubt, and faith. In unison with our protagonist Farmiga’s film – adapting from Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir This Dark World - is brave, and follows the heart, rather than the consensus. – A full review to come soon -
Patang: is an explosion of visual imagery and free spirited, observational storytelling. It’s directed by Chicago born Prashant Bhargava, and his latest film – set in Ahmadabad, India focusing on an annual kite festival – is the latest entry into the progressive “Indian film movement” that is transpiring all across the globe. Taking 7-years to write, research, and shoot, Patang is a labor of love at its most simplistic connotation: every ounce of this movie is ingrained within Bhargava. It takes roughly two acts to get going, and I still have much trepidation that the film never quite establishes or finds an organic tone. Still, despite the shortcomings I may have, I’m delighted a film like Patang – free of over utilized storytelling conventions – will be distributed in cities across the United States this summer. I may my reservations, but the film’s message of “holding onto happiness, rather than sadness” is one any person can get behind. Patang truly is a warm-hearted film. My full review of the film will be published during its release starting June 15th.
Take Shelter: Upon my first viewing of Jeff Nichols’ second feature film Take Shelter, I was in awe, and absolutely blown away by the auteurs storytelling techniques, and the way in which he built tension. Last night, watching it on a beautiful 35mm print with an in depth (nearly two hour long) Q & A with the director and lead star afterward, I have a new found respect for the film. Reading over my review from December, all my initial feelings hold true today. Still, nothing can quite compare to the experience of watching the movie last night. Here’s my full review of Take Shelter.
Note: Thank you again Michael Shannon and Jeff Nichols for a brilliant Q & A. It was two hours of enthralling, perceptive conversation. Next year, though, bring your father Mr. Nichols.