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David Poland

By David Poland

It's Roger Ebert Day!

The 11th Ebertfest starts tonight with a 70mm screening of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. (EDIT: Turns out that the 70mm print was pink. So they got a 35mm that wasn’t pink. This is similar to what happened a few years back when there was a print problem with Three Women. And so it goes…)
But before that, the governor of Illinois (not Rod of the hair) showed up to read a proclamation decreeing this day Ebertfest Day in the State of Illinois.
And even before that, the dean of communications at the university announed an anonymous $1.5m donation to Roger and Chaz’s fund to support students of the department.
What’s more, Chaz wore heels.
“This is Roger’s happening and it’s freaking him out.”
Not a bad day’s fest.

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50 Responses to “It's Roger Ebert Day!”

  1. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Looks like Ebert has a geek fight on his hands.

  2. Nick Rogers says:

    Roger is so patient that he even endured Pat Quinn’s gasbag proclamations. I’m an Illinois native. I love the state. Roger deserved the honor. But Illinois pols play the Lincoln card so goddamn often that they’d use it to honor the Guinness record-holder for longest continuous fart if it were someone from the state. I had to hide my heckle impulse once he started droning on about how many words the Gettysburg Address contained. STFU and screen “The Wall” already.
    As for “The Wall,” while I was bummed to not see it in 70mm, once “In the Flesh?” kicked with the thunderous subwoofer clap, I no longer cared. I don’t think there are any current bands from whose albums such a film like this could be made. Truly a one-of-a-kind experience for my first visit to Ebertfest in almost 10 years.

  3. Joe Leydon says:

    I must admit: I’ve never understood the appeal of Pink Floyd’s The Wall (the movie, not the album). Of course, I’ve only seen it once — during its original theatrical run, on a big screen at a Toronto theater just before the film festival years ago — so maybe I need to take a second look. But, frankly, I don’t remember it being as much fun as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

  4. LexG says:

    Not even an especially huge Pink Floyd fan (fan, just not rabid) but it’s all about Parker’s 1982-as-fuck visuals that look like THE MEMOREX COMMERCIAL and things like THE GIANT MIKE SCHMIDT COKE AD in the background and the askew hallways and GIANT VACUUM CLEANERS and DEAD RATS and the awesome, depressing as hell COMFORTABLY NUMB sequence, the highlight being a blinged-out Bob Hoskins in awesome unbuttoned jacket and shirt…. Totally, endlessly DEPRESSING and I put it on all the time to pump myself into an even WORSE mood than I’m ever already in.
    Also: JENNY WRIGHT THE 1982 K-STEW there should be BOWING.

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    Actually, I did like the scene where Bob Hoskins enters the rock star’s trashed-out hotel room, takes one look around and exclaims: “Fuck. Me.”

  6. christian says:

    THE WALL is magnificent. A textbook example of how to translate song to image. Puts most videos to shame and from 1982!

  7. a_loco says:

    “I don’t think there are any current bands from whose albums such a film like this could be made.”
    This statement makes me wish Lady Gaga and Jonas Akerlund would make a full blown rock opera on film.
    But then again, I also want to see an R-Rated musical comedy starring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg.

  8. leahnz says:

    ‘the wall’ is a weird, grim trip, parker’s best musical in my book

  9. LexG says:

    HUGE FAN. I want to “grab her junk.”

  10. Nick Rogers says:

    a_loco: I guess I was thinking more along the lines of rock bands, but having seen Lady Gaga’s live show – about as David Lynch as mainstream pop spectacle gets – I’d pay to see your hypothesized movie. Hell, maybe even both of them.
    Joe: If you expected fun while watching “The Wall,” you were very much at the wrong movie.
    Lex: You’d have gone nuts over just how huge the Mike Schmidt ad was on the Virginia Theatre’s screen. And I can see where Jenny Wright could be the 1982 version of K-STEW.

  11. Ju-osh says:

    Wholly unrelated:
    The Ass-Kicking continues in the new music video from LA rock band, The Soft Pack, and director Kashy Khaledi. Kick-Ass stars Chloe Moretz, Clark Duke and Christopher Mintz-Plasse engage in the food fight to end all food fights in this messy, witty vid.

  12. Tim DeGroot says:

    I believe there’s still talk of a Gorillaz feature film. Could be interesting.

  13. Has anyone watched 8 Million Ways To Die? They’ve been showing it on IFC lately. I DVR’d it last night so I could watch after seeing the S.A. Spurs beat the shit out of the Mavericks.
    Anyway, what a film. It’s wildly uneven, but the stuff that does work is pretty awesome. The opening helicopter shot made me wonder if Fincher was a fan of the movie. (It’s very similar to the taxi sequence in Zodiac.) The big finale between Bridges and Garcia is crazy. (Tarantino is a big fan of the scene) No wonder 1986 critics and audiences didn’t respond to the movie.
    While not quite at the level of the great 52 Pick-up, 8 Million Ways To Die deserves to released as partof one those DVD-on-Demand services.
    It would nice if HBO decided to do a proper series of movies adapted from the Lawrence Block-Matt Scudder novels. Hell, I would love to see HBO do a series of films featuring the Ellroy’s Lloyd Hopkins character.

  14. mutinyco says:

    It’s a baseball bat. Son of a bitch. Dumb shit.

  15. LYT says:

    “I don’t think there are any current bands from whose albums such a film like this could be made.”
    Green Day – American Idiot.
    Obviously wouldn’t likely be as surreal a film, though.
    I wouldn’t have minded a movie of Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar, but think that moment has probably passed.

  16. Cadavra says:

    “Turns out that the 70mm print was pink.”
    To quote Ms. Finke: TOLDJA! (TM)

  17. Nick Rogers says:

    Luke: I was thinking along the lines of something more interpretive and (to use your word) surreal, less literal than that would be. I love “American Idiot” and am looking forward to seeing the stage show, but as a movie, it would seem like it would be an entirely different animal than “The Wall.” Is Manson still making that Lewis Carroll film?

  18. palmtree says:

    Foamy, I guess no one here is interested in geek fights. But I am…Ebert says video games are not art and will not be art in our lifetimes. I kinda see where he’s coming from, but it’s the kind of statement that is demonstrably false and confrontational which truly bugs me.

  19. SJRubinstein says:

    What really, really sucks for Scudder/Block fans is that Scott Frank wrote one of the greatest adaptations in the past decade with his script to “A Walk Among the Tombstones” and it just hasn’t gone before cameras. I mean, it is just one of those screenplays that you read and are in awe of. And it just kept, kept, kept getting close with Harrison Ford, but when he finally walked, it basically killed the movie. I think, at one point, it was set to be Joe Carnahan’s follow-up to “Narc” (ironic a bit as, of course, he and his brother have that great Ellroy/”White Jazz” adaptation they did).

  20. a_loco says:

    Green Day? Really?
    I can think of few things more grating than any of the singles from American Idiot. Sure, it’s built like a rock opera, but it’s also godawful and preachy as hell.
    I think the problem with not seeing any rock band today do a rock opera is the fact that current mainstream rock bands kind of suck. Seriously, excluding holdover acts from the nineties (like Radiohead) and bands that emerged from the indie scene (like Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire), are there ANY good rock bands from the last decade?

  21. LexG says:

    BIZKIT POWER. They should make CHOCOLATE STARFISH AND THE HOT DOG FLAVORED WALL into a THE WALL-ESQUE movie, directed (of course) BY DURST and co-starring Mark Wahlberg, Evan Rachel Wood, Chris Evans, Sam Worthington, LexG, Jena Malone, Xander Berkeley, Jessica Alba, Jason Biggs, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matt Blucas, Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, Peter Weller, Ray Wise, Wesley Snipes, Heather Graham, Billy Zane, Stephen Baldwin, Pauly Shore, Method Man, DMX, Anthony Anderson, James Cromwell, Estella Warren, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, Jeremy Piven, Brian Doyle-Murray, Steven Bauer, Eddie Griffin, Leland Orser, and Emmanuelle Chriqui.
    It would be like the MASKED AND ANONYMOUS of AWESOME MUSIC.
    Shit, if I thought anyone would be interested or Durst would be down, I’d totally write that shit on spec.

  22. jeffmcm says:

    I’m curious, Palmtree, what’s your positive argument? As opposed to a direct counter to Ebert’s argument.

  23. Nick Rogers says:

    a_loco: Radiohead and Arcade Fire. Yes, they might be able to pull off something like “The Wall” (although I’m not the biggest Radiohead fan).
    LexG: Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J only get to be in that movie if they ask, “Fuckin’ magnets! How do those work?”

  24. modernknife says:

    Got a chance to catch the 70MM print of THE WALL at the Castro in San Francisco in the late 90’s. When the first music cue was struck, it felt like the whole theater was shaking.
    A powerful night at the movies to be sure.
    The film is still a remarkable work of art. Gerry Hamblings editing is still some of the finest I’ve seen in a music film. I know the term “MTV Editing” gets thrown around alot, but back in 1982, most music videos were not shot in 2.35:1 and did not have this type of scope in sound + visuals. Parker’s vision is still pretty modern, even by today’s filmmaking standards.
    And speaking of visuals, Peter Biziou’s work is nothing short of masterful. I was one of those who were happy to see him win an Oscar for MISSISSIPPI BURNING, if only to make up for the lack of notice on THE WALL.
    Too bad about the “Pink” 70mm print. I can remember THE WALL being a popular midnight movie back in the late 80’s in Houston. Must have seen it four or five times on the big screen then — back when only the pan-and-scan VHS was available.
    I also always had a laugh when I heard Roger Waters complain about the film, especially after watching the videos he created for THE FINAL CUT. There is a big difference from having a filmmaker like Alan Parker translating your music into film vs. a journeyman music video director.
    And yes Lex, JENNY WRIGHT was soemthing else in the “Young Lust” scene. Had a crush on her from GARP as well.

  25. palmtree says:

    “I’m curious, Palmtree, what’s your positive argument? As opposed to a direct counter to Ebert’s argument.”
    Well, the “positive” argument has to do with the definition of art. If you define art as the combination of various elements into an expressive and emotional experience for an audience, then video games more than qualify. People have been known for years to cry during games. And yes, it’s not just the sweet smell of victory, but also because of feelings for the characters, story, etc. And some new game designers are choosing to express various ideas more than just provide fun gameplay.
    Now, I think Ebert’s argument is more about defining video games as an artform, and to include it within “the Arts,” which includes novels, symphonies, paintings, etc. And on that front, yeah, very few video games do more than run a virtual reality engine to shoot zombies or whatever. So…really, I think it’s just a semantic argument.

  26. a_loco says:

    I disagree with Ebert’s notion that video games can’t create the same sort of intellectual or emotional responses to games as they do to other artforms, but I think one of his main points is that video games can’t be considered art because the “characters” decisions rely on the user. Whereas every other form of art exists in its final stage due to the artist, in games, the experience is more formally interactive.
    But I think it all boils down to how you define art, and in this instance, the difference between art and not-art is trivial and very probably insignificant.

  27. jeffmcm says:

    Yeah, I agree that it’s basically a question about the definition of the word, and Ebert is displaying his cranky-old-man-ness by picking this debate instead of keeping an open mind. I don’t play games at all, but I’m curious as to what titles people would single out as ‘art’?
    Also, it seems like video games haven’t had their breakout event yet, the same way film did with the likes of Birth of a Nation becoming a mainstream must-see. Or am I wrong?

  28. Foamy Squirrel says:

    There’s many examples of performance art where interaction is necessary for the expression of the artist’s vision, often in a formalized “stand here” kind of way. At the most basic level, Felice Varini specializes in perspective art where the viewer must stand in a particular place… all the way up to the free random actions of audiences influencing the direction of the performance.
    To expand on the comic contained in the link –
    If a team of artists spend years creating captivating art images…
    If a team of composers spend years creating mood-influencing environments and audio art…
    If a team of writers spend years writing scripts and events intended for performance art…
    How can the result, when put into a complete package, not be art?

  29. palmtree says:

    Haha…a_loco, looks like I beat you to making the same/similar point.
    I dunno about the interactive argument. It just means that the video game artist is responsible for crafting multiple scenarios to experience instead of just one.
    The one game I’d single out is Passage, it tells a very simple story using video game conventions that I found quite moving.

  30. Foamy Squirrel says:

    As examples of games as art:
    Experiential art – Myst
    Musical art – Electroplankton
    Storytelling art –
    Planescape: Torment
    Visual art – Crayon Physics

  31. jeffmcm says:

    Foamy, I think the answer to your question is “see any Michael Bay movie”.

  32. palmtree says:

    The irony perhaps is that Ebert would sooner consider the worst Michael Bay movie as art than all the art games mentioned here combined.

  33. torpid bunny says:

    It’s an interesting question. Ebert’s problem is probably that he takes “art” to really signify-if it can signify anything at all-cultural status. And in a way that’s fine. But the idea that video games are necessarily for all time confined to some kind of cultural ghetto is obviously narrow-minded and backwards looking. You want to be able to say, “video games can never be art because…Ingmar Bergman” or something like that. The idea that “games can’t be art” is specious in that many highly generic movies (i.e. 90% of movies in theaters) rely on a game-like interaction with the expectations of the audience. Vincent D’Onofrio aptly compared Law and Order to a crossword puzzle. And obviously such games can also be vehicles for meaningful experiences.
    The most I would say is that, at this particular moment, the expressive capacity of video games in general is not as culturally significant as movies. There are various historical, demographic, and economic reasons for that, all of which could change, perhaps quite rapidly.

  34. LexG says:

    Oh, look. Internet posters making fun of zillionaire pussyhound world-famous, well-coifed, in-shape director Michael Bay.
    That’ll show him!

  35. leahnz says:

    don’t worry, he’s too thick to understand people are making fun of him anyway

  36. a_loco says:

    Not defending his movies or anything, but I’m pretty sure Bay is far more intelligent and self-aware than most haters give him credit for. He might be arrogant to the extreme, but I highly soubt he’s “thick”.
    That said, this is definitely worth watching:

  37. a_loco says:


  38. LexG says:

    Loco, that POWER DIRECTOR thing is pretty close to my favorite YT video EVER. The guy playing Bay is BRILLIANT, as is his list of THINGS HE LIKES, as is THE LARRY BIRD STORY, his I WOKE UP AT 5AM SO I CAN SEE TRANSFORMERS NINE TIMES!
    And my favorite throwaway is when he surveys the Burbank 7-11 parking lot (a favorite Lex haunt!) and the crowd gathered for the Simpsons promotion and goes, “What the FUCK is this?” And his bitterness about people not seeing THE ISLAND.
    SO awesome. I’ve watched it literally a hundred times.
    Pure genius. No idea who the guys are who made it, but it’s perfection. BIG THUMBS UP.

  39. jeffmcm says:

    I’m just using Michael Bay as shorthand for ‘famous director almost everybody can agree is terrible’. Feel free to substitute Shawn Levy or your awful director of choice. And considering that Bay actually does display effective craft in cinematography/editing/special effects (he just overdoes it) it’s more fair to pick somebody with zero skillz whose movies are just flat-out boring.

  40. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Uwe Boll.
    That is all.

  41. LYT says:

    Best bands to really blow up big last decade: The White Stripes and System of a Down.
    For all I know they probably started in previous decades, but the oughts made ’em.

  42. a_loco says:

    I don’t know if I’d consider White Stripes mainstream. Sure their albums sell more than most indie artists, but Jack White also does crazy idiosyncratic indie things like numerous side projects, recording albums in a couple of weeks, and doing a tour of Canada that exclusively caters to small towns.
    And System of a Down? I wouldn’t call them good, but to each his own.

  43. RudyV says:

    Storytelling art – Planescape: Torment
    What? Or should I say WTF? Or maybe STFU! I gave up on that game less than two hours in because I spent more time clicking through conversations than beating guys up. And I’m being totally serious here. The LOOOOONG conversation trees are about all I remember about that POS, plus the removable tattoos, of course.

  44. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Liking something isn’t a prerequisite for it to be “art”. I can appreciate the craftsmanship in Kubrick’s 2001, but it bores me to tears so that I’ve never made it through the entire thing in one sitting (which is surprising considering how I adore the glacially paced Good, Bad, Ugly from the same era).
    Where most other games train you to click through the conversations as quickly as possible to reach the 10min+ action sequences, Torment plays the reverse so you click through the fights to get to the conversations – they ARE the game. That may not be your bag, baby, but that’s okay.
    For me, any game that contains:
    – Literally arguing someone out of existence
    – Experiencing your own conversation from the other person’s perspective
    – Being able to create a separate Tyler Durden-esque figure by lying to other people
    – Talking with a pregnant street
    – Invading Hell with an entire town (buildings and all)
    – And where killing yourself is a legitimate solution to a puzzle
    …THAT’S a game made of pure win for me, and given its continual placement on “Best Story of All Time” lists I’m not alone in that assessment.

  45. christian says:

    “I can appreciate the craftsmanship in Kubrick’s 2001, but it bores me to tears so that I’ve never made it through the entire thing in one sitting”
    You just made my list. And if you’ve never seen in all the way, I assume you were at home, lazy. Go to a 70mm screening then get back to us.

  46. Foamy Squirrel says:

    You have a “list”? Dare I ask for what purpose?
    People like different shit, and that’s totally fine. I love Moulin Rouge, but other people find it pure torture. I’m not going to force them to sit through the entire thing because I’m convinced I can make them like it if I’m determined enough – “Go on – give it a chance… now in HD… in a theatre… how about the director’s cut…”.
    I can appreciate the artistry in the construction of 2001, but I find the experience as a whole mind-numbingly excruciating. Don’t make me put you as the first name on my own list of “People Who Will Be First Against The Wall When The Revolution Comes”.

  47. christian says:

    The “list” is a joke. But since you haven’t actually seen the whole film so I’m curious as to when you checked out. And sorry Foamy, 2001 is Kubrick and worthy of one theater viewing. For posterity. And not comparable to MOULIN ROUGE.

  48. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Oh… yeah… I was… um… totally joking about my list too…
    Oh… yeah… I was… um… totally joking about my list too…
    <.< I've seen the entire thing, but it's taken me multiple attempts and never all in one go. I wasn't trying to compare Moulin Rouge to 2001, I was using it as an example of something that people tend to either love or hate (you may be indifferent, but again that's your prerogative). I've forced myself to do many masochistic things in my life, including drinking snake's blood in Laos, climbing Mt Fuji in a thunderstorm, flying razor-glass kites in India, and navigating the London Underground, but I think I may pass on seeing 2001 in a theater unless it's part of some other occasion.

  49. RudyV says:

    I saw it in 70mm in the early 80s in a frickin’ cold theater in the bad part of town, and yet it’s the visuals that I still remember the most.
    Maybe it’s just me, but I think IMAX screens are too large, resulting in an underwhelming overall image quality compared to seeing a 70mm film in a regular-size theater.

  50. Joe Leydon says:

    Christian: Do I get a special mention on your list because I saw 2001 at a Cinerama theater — twice?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon