Ebertfest, Day 3: Linklater Charms, a Q&A Disappoints
A surprisingly blustery Champaign, IL, morning started Ebertfest 2011 Day 3 fittingly with the lighter than air 45365, a free-form 2010 doc that takes its name from the zip code of sibling co-directors Bill and Turner Ross’ small Ohio hometown. Eschewing interviews and defined character studies, the first-time directors instead float their cameras voyeuristically from subject to subject, letting the audience glean what they can about the subjects—and in turn, the town—via candid, overheard snippets of conversation. Keep your eyes peeled for the as yet unannounced DVD/BluRay release date—this compelling slice of small-town America is definitely worth a visit…though you wouldn’t want to live there.
Next up was Richard Linklater’s delightfully lighthearted 2009 coming-of-age romp Me & Orson Welles, a mostly fictionalized account of the pre-Citizen Kane titular director’s legendary 1937 modern-dress off Broadway re-staging of “Julius Caesar” as seen through the eyes of a young bit player (played likably here by Zac Efron) who, with no theatrical experience, bluffs his way into a part and under the flamboyant director’s wing. Shining brightest is actor Christian McKay, whose authentic turn as the young Welles feels completely without caricature or artifice–from the voice to the baby-face, McKay is THE definitive Welles. Somebody should use this guy to capture more of Welles’ famously rocky life and career, stat. McKay’s tour-de-force performance alone makes this joyfully crafted comedy worthy of a spot in your Netflix queue, pronto. The laid-back Q&A following the screening touched on how Linklater discovered McKay (the latter was performing in a one man show as a much older and heavier Welles) and how/why the film was shot on location on the Isle of Man (the tiny country’s film bureau’s fiscal incentives, a sweet old theater there fit the bill perfectly). As a fun bonus, Linklater conducted a Welles trivia quiz throughout his Q&A, with special handmade prizes–a few personally redesigned M&OW posters and a few self-burned CDs of a Linklater-approved version of the M&OW soundtrack. Whatta guy.
The screening of Norman Jewison’s sweet and silly SOP 1994 Marisa Tomei/Robert Downey, Jr. romcom Only You ended the night with a satisfying poof—that is, until the legendary 84yo director’s following Q&A took a disappointing turn. The two poorly chosen and unforgivably ill-prepared critics chosen to interview him seemed interested only in discussing their own love for his Moonstruck and their hatred of the term “chick flick,” which is great, sure, but the guy’s been making movies since 1962′s 40 Pounds of Trouble. A cursory IMDB review would have at least kept Blonde Critic from asking the director whether a movie he mentioned, Gaily, Gaily, was still an upcoming project (Uh, it was released in 1969, thank you, IMDB!). Jewison obviously has a treasure trove of stories from his half-century in the biz, and it’s unfortunate that these two didn’t bother asking for any of ‘em. And Blonde Critic? A chick flick is just a romantic comedy that is pleasing to the ladies. So yes, this film is 100% chick flick approved. Get. Ova. It. (I’d add a link to the Q&A video but it is no longer available online. Good choice, Ebertfest!)
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion next Friday! Tilda Swinton is chatty! Tim Blake Nelson is polite! Well-meaning white people try to talk about Africa without being condescending!