Friday, March 18, 2011

Ebertfest 13 Scarcity-Based Recommendations

"Ebertfest Audience" by rexb, used under CC license

If you're anything like me, you woke up tired yesterday. And then, during breakfast, you saw the list of films to be shown at Roger Ebert's Thirteenth Film Festival, and the excitement energized you a bit [1]. Then you remembered that it was a work day, flopped on your bed next to your cat, and whined a bit about how you ought to call in tired.

I did come in to work, and I'm here to provide you with recommendations of what films to see at Ebertfest. Assuming you do not have a pass and are perhaps cash-strapped, you'll likely pick and choose which individual films to attend. You can read reviews as well as I can, and if you're trying to choose which to see based on quality, go on over the the Ebertfest site and read what's been written about each [2].

I'm basing my recommendations on scarcity. The more rare the experience of seeing a film at Ebertfest, the higher I'd recommend seeing it--if Ebertfest appears to be your only opportunity to see a film, I'll recommend it over others. What follows is a good chunk of discussion and then my recommendations--feel free to skip to the recommendations if you're in a hurry.

Of the twelve films to be shown, the library currently owns four, but I've ordered a couple others that are available. We own The Complete Metropolis, Umberto D, Leaves of Grass, and I Am Love [3]. Coming soon are Only You, and Me & Orson Welles, both of which can presently be requested from other libraries in the system [4].

The other six films are currently touring festivals or being shown on television some time in the future--I'm confident that most of them will be distributed on DVD eventually. The animated My Dog Tulip, which features the voices of Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave, and Isabella Rossellini, is based on a memoir by J.R. Ackerly. Look for the memoir in the library in a couple of weeks--it's in my order to go out next week.

With all of the buzz that Tiny Furniture is still generating, I'm sure it'll see a DVD release after it's finished racking up festival accolades.

"On Stage" by rexb used under CC license
A Small Act and Louder Than a Bomb, this year's music film, have both been picked up for television. A Small Act has already had it's TV premiere, but will air again on HBO 2 Saturday, March 26 and Monday, March 28. As an HBO documentary, I'm hopeful it'll be available for our collection eventually. Louder Than a Bomb will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network. With the awards and acclaim it's picked up, I'd also bet on it hitting our shelves down the line.

The two films I'm less certain about being available to you from the library are Life, Above All and 45365. Life, Above All is a South African film in German, distributed theatrically in the US by Sony Pictures Classics. The V.P. of SPC was on last year's Ebertfest panel for Synecdoche, New York, and noted that SPC looks for "evergreen films," being those of a quality that would stand out over time. My uncertainty of a US DVD release rests on the film's being 1) in a language other than English, and 2) not so well known in the US (overlooked, if you will). In the film's favor are it's being 1) South Africa's Academy Award entry for the Best Foreign Film category and 2) an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival.

45365 is a documentary that sounds fantastic--pardon my lack of experience in film-watching by only being able to compare it to Wisconsin Death Trip in style. 45365 is the zip code of Sidney, OH, and the film shows snapshots of a contemporary day in the life of the townsfolk (see? Death Trip-y in that snapshot style, not the emphasis on the abject). That's not going to work for people who need all stories to be narratives, whom I cynically see as the majority of movie viewers. So I worry, despite the awards, acclaim and Independent Lens premiere, that 45365 will have difficulty finding its way to our library.

So, what to see at Ebertfest a la carte?

"Roger Ebert Blvd." by rexb used under CC license
See both 45365 and Life, Above All, as you either may not have the opportunity or a really long wait to see either again. Adjust based on your preferences for documentaries or subtitles.

After that, see the restored Metropolis. Yes, you can already watch the DVD in the comfort of your own home, but you will not have the live Alloy Orchestra in your living room--at times, they're as much fun to watch as the film they're scoring.

Next, based on anticipated wait until you have another opportunity to see a film, check out in order My Dog Tulip, Louder Than a Bomb, A Small Act, and Tiny Furniture.

For films already on DVD, it's up to you.

Now adjust for fanaticism. If you're big on Norman Jewison (Only You), Richard Linklater (Me & Orson Welles), Tilda Swinton (I Am Love), Tim Blake Nelson (Leaves of Grass), or any of the other festival guests who will come out for a panel discussion following the film for which they shared responsibility, make their films a higher priority. How many times will you be able see your favorite filmmaker discuss their work in a relaxed environment and receive a golden thumb?

 Make your prioritized list. Put it away and look at it again tomorrow. Make changes. Review again in a week. Be confident in your decisions by April Fool's Day and relax over that weekend. Individual tickets go on sale the following Monday, April 4th. Call The Virginia and order your tickets, and note the lack of regret or uncertainty [5].

They're all gonna be good. It's not like any is a bad choice.

1. Roger Ebert's Film Festival official site

2. To see the write ups on a film, just click on its title on the festival schedule.

3. Check out the films you can get at the Urbana Free:
    The Complete Metropolis
    Umberto D
    Leaves of Grass
    I Am Love

4. Check out the films you can get from other libraries until our copies arrive:
    Only You
    Me & Orson Welles
    Btw, Me & Orson Welles is based on this novel by Robert Kaplow that you may borrow from us.

5. The Virginia Theater's number is 217 356-9063.

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