The 16th annual Roger Ebert‘s Film Festival, also known as Ebertfest, will kick off April 23 with the critic himself. The Ebert documentary Life Itself, from director Steve James (Hoop Dreams), will open the annual film festival held in Champaign-Urbana, IL where special guests Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Patton Oswalt, Ramin Bahrani, Brie Larson, Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker, Fandor’s Ted Hope, and critics David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson will be in attendance. Established as a haven for overlooked but praiseworthy films, Ebertfest this year will screen Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Stone’s Born On The Fourth of July, Jason Reitman’s Young Adult starring Oswalt, Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo, and last year’s acclaimed SXSW winner Short Term 12 featuring a breakout turn by Larson, whose co-star Keith Stanfield will also be in attendance. New Orleans blues musician Henry Butler is set to close out the fest with a special performance in honor of jazz singer and pianist James Booker. Chaz Ebert will host the festival created by her late husband, who passed away last April. Here’s the full slate:
“I think I am so fortunate to have had one of the greatest love stories,” Chaz Ebert emotionally told the crowd tonight at the Sundance Film Festival world premiere screening of the biographical documentary about her late …
Myriad Pictures has tapped Richard Loncraine to direct Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton in Life Itself, a comedy based on the Jill Ciment novel Heroic Measures. Charlie Peters wrote the screenplay, about a long-married NY couple who find themselves swept into an emotional and comical real estate bidding war when they put their beloved downtown apartment on the market — and must come to terms with the possibility of moving from the home where they have spent most of their adult lives. Freeman and Lori McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment will produce with Latitude Productions. McCreary, Curtis Burch, Peters and Tracy Mercer are producing, and Freeman will executive produce. Myriad’s Kirk D’Amico and David Ducar negotiated international sales rights to the film and the company is introducing the project at Cannes. Its slate here includes Emanuel And The Truth About Fishes starring Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel; The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Him And Her with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy; Life Partners with Leighton Meester, Adam Brody, and Gillian Jacobs; and the Derek Martini-directed The Curse Of Downers Grove with Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till and Kevin Zegers. CAA and WME Global co-rep North American rights to Life Itself.
Certainly Roger Ebert will be remembered for many things. Winning an unprecedented Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for film criticism is just one of them. For me, though, beyond that distinction Roger was far more unique in the pantheon of the truly great critics of our time, and all time. Along with Gene Siskel he figured out a way to take film criticism to the masses in a way it never really had been, at least on a national basis. With their patented ’2 Thumbs Up’ and ’2 Thumbs Down’ reviews on their pioneering PBS and later syndicated weekly TV show, this pair not only brought the job of a film critic into the national consciousness, they also made it fun. And accessible. The ‘thumbs’ signature was really the forerunner of a site like Rotten Tomatoes, an instantly recognizable label that moviegoers could use like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it appeared in an ad as it did hundreds of times.
Related: Reactions To Roger Ebert’s Death
Unlike so many critics today Roger Ebert loved movies, even when he hated them, an attribute so many of today’s self-absorbed so-called critics greatly lack. In fact one of my favorite personal Ebert memories happened at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival at a mid-day screening of Vincent Gallo’s unwatchable The Brown Bunny. Not only did he call it then the worst movie in the festival’s history, he added, “I have not seen every film in the history of the festival, yet I feel my judgement will stand”. At one excruciating point in the film he even started singing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” out loud, eliciting laughter from what was left of the audience at that point. I wondered at the time “now who has the chutzpah to do that?” only to find it was Roger.