Smile Politely

Ebertfest Day 4: Vishnu and vampires and reporters, oh my!

10:30 – Arrive at Ebertfest to see an already long line.  Grab press pass.  Feel unrealistically superior.

11:00 – Movie still hasn’t started.  I go get coffee.  I talk to a nice, quietly spoken gentleman with long hair. Someone later tells me he’s in a band in the area, and they’re pretty good, and that I should check them out. I refuse, on the grounds that supporting local musicians means more people handing me flyers.

11:15 – The Fall starts. Roger comes out and introduces the guests:  teenage Romanian actress Catinca Untaru, the star of the film.  She has grown quite a bit since the movie came out, which is apparently something humans do.  I, for some reason, am surprised by this.

1:15 – The Fall ends.  I will write a full review later, but let me say that I liked it a lot better today than when I first saw it in theatres.  It’s not a perfect film, and a lot of the story elements feel kind of cliché and tacked on, but it has some breathtaking imagery.  Seeing it on the giant screen at the Virginia let those images make up for all other faults.

1:30 – During the Q and A, Untaru says that since the film hasn’t come out in her home country of Romania yet, none of her friends know she’s famous. The kid’s a natural, and totally cute. I am saddened that the world will break her spirit and crushe her dreams.

2:00 – Me and my girlfriends go over the green room, located at the Springer Cultural Center about two blocks away from the Virginia. We are served a lunch in the VIP section. It was a roast beef pita from English Hedgerow. I highly recommend it. MY girlfriend quickly leaves, as she is a sane human being who only sees one movie a day, if that.

2:45 – Sita Sings the Blues starts. It’s an utterly charming movie that moves really quickly. It could have easily been pretentious and self absorbed, but writer/director/star/everything else unless otherwise noted (her credit actually said this) Nina Paley injects a great sense of humor in there.  It is available for free at

4:22 – The Q and A starts.  Paley is an energetic little thing.  She talks a lot about creative common licensing and such, which is something smart people know about. I ask a question about whether or not her ex-boyfriend, who is a major character is the autobiographical sections of the film, has seen the movie. She answers quite politely, saying that he has and she heard through a friend that he did see it and he thinks its “fair.”  The whole crowd looks at me.  I vomit in my mouth a little.

5:00 – Go the green room for dinner.  Once again, quite delicious.  I had some spare ribs with some sweet corn paste thing. I rate it quite highly. I see Matt Dillon enter the room, and resist the urge to ask him if Paul Haggis’ cloud of smug self satisfaction is now so thick that he can literally flow on it.

6:20 – On the way back to the Virgina, I see Matt Dillon and Nina Paley having a discussion about something.  He picks up a stick and then dropkicks it, for whatever reason.  I resist the urge to ask him how much pressure was put on Neve Campbell to go topless in Wild Things, and if Kevin Bacon’s full frontal scene was an attempt to meet the movie-going public half-way.

6:45 – Nothing but the Truth starts.  Maybe its movie fatigue, but I find this one a little boring. It’s certainly well made, and Dillon actually does a good job at conveying an oily determination. But the whole thing lacks passion.  It’s just too dry.  But I do give it props for having one of the most awesomely uncomfortable sex scenes ever, between Kate Beckinsale and David Schwimmer. I’m willing to bet one of them enjoyed that day of filming more than the other.

8:49 – The movies ends and the Q and A starts. I skip out, needing some fresh air and some water, and to try and call my girlfriend and remind her that I exist. NOTE TO FUTURE EBERTFEST PATRONS: Spending four days straight in a dark room is not healthy for relationships. Just keep that in mind.

9:30 – The Q and A for Nothing but the Truth is still going strong.  Apparently no one has asked Mr. Dillon to defend the sub textual value in You, Me, and Dupree. I am disappointed. The line for the next movie, the Swedish vampire/existential/Bergman-esque/love-story Let The Right One In, is getting pretty long, which I attribute entirely to me giving it a brief notice in an Oscar column I wrote a couple of months ago.  I said, and I quote myself here:  “Go see Let the Right One In. Seriously, go. It’s a goddamn masterpiece. Rent it, download, drive to Chicago (it just finished up a weekend-long stint in Normal at the Normal Theatre). It is a movie that is most often, and not entirely inaccurately, described as a “vampire” movie from Sweden. It does have a character in it who drinks blood and doesn’t age, but it’s more of an utterly unique love story than a horror movie. It’s about loneliness and connecting to others. It is totally unlike anything you have ever seen before, and to say too much more would be to ruin it. Just go see it. Or, at least, look for it on DVD soon.”  This was before I knew it would be at Ebertfest.  The point is, I’m a taste-maker, and that is why I should get a share of all royalties from the film.

9:40 – I run into the producer of Let The Right One In outside the Virginia, before his movie starts. He rejects my request for Royalties.  Swedes.

9:45 – Let The Right One In starts.  It is a great film, but the audience seems a little cold on it.  It is definitely not an easy movie to like; it is cold and distant at times. But at least the audience gasps at one very well placed shot. I think fans of the film know which scene.

12:00 – The film ends. Q and A time. One of the panelists has an awesomely terrible beard and is wearing a suit that seems a couple sizes too big for him.  Although I am fiercely heterosexual (in the way that a man who knows nothing about cars, has never watched a football game of his own free will, and annually throws a well-attended Oscar Party), I still get all “fashion SWAT” on him.  Brother needs a mirror.

12:01 – I look down at myself, and realize that I am in no position to judge anyone ever again.

12:05 – The Q and A is pretty interesting.  Molinder talks a little about the remake, and how it now has a director attached. It’s Matt Reeves, who directed Cloverfield and also the mid-nineties David Schwimmer mope-com The Pallbearer. Bizarre filmography.

12:15 – I attempt to ask a question. The mic doesn’t work, so I simply yell. I am good at yelling. I ask about the child actors and how he found them, and if their parents were there every day. As it turns out, they auditioned pretty much every single child actor in Sweden, and eventually settled on these two kids (the rejection probably pushed the Swedish Frankie Muniz one step closer to knocking over a liquor store).

Overall, a good Ebertfest!

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