Article du C-U: Ebertfest ’14, pt.6

“Second Intermission: A SIMPLE LIFE, CAPOTE, and all else in between”
After sending a battery of Confidential agents into the Ebertfest fold last April, we present their findings

by Jason Pankoke


By the time this entry in our coverage of the 2014 Roger Ebert’s Film Festival appears, we most likely will have eclipsed it with the schedule announcement for “Ebertfest” 2015. So much for making the run “relevant, complete, and worthy of being dubbed an ‘Ebertfest epic’” in a timely manner, then, but we’re forging ahead anyway to plug the gaping plot holes in our series and account for the remainder of the films, albeit briefly. (Additional feature-length essays failed to materialize, much to our collective chagrin.) Using the prompt towards the end of this post, you can backtrack to read our recent Patton Oswalt/YOUNG ADULT observances courtesy of Samantha Ducey along with prior installments regarding WADJDA, MUSEUM HOURS, SHORT TERM 12, and LIFE ITSELF, to which we will soon add your humble editor’s thoughts on viewing GOODBYE SOLO at the Virginia Theatre. With all that on the table, dearest readers, we hope you will follow along until we hit our conclusion, in and of itself an achievement compared to our inadvertent cliffhanger last time out. Cheers!


According to an essay in the Ebertfest 2014 program by journalist and silent film aficionado Thomas Gladysz, HE WHO GETS SLAPPED is a “singular and even profound work,” establishing a high water mark for both the legendary actor Lon Chaney, Sr., and the Swedish filmmaker Victor Sjöström. In the production, Chaney plays a scientist who responds to heartbreak and career thievery by joining the circus as a clown. A hit when released during the holiday season of 1924, SLAPPED was not only the first in-house production from the newly-merged Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio but also featured the debut of the now-famous Leo the Lion as their emblem.

HE WHO GETS SLAPPED played the sixteenth annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Friday, April 25, 2014, 1 p.m. The Alloy Orchestra accompanied the film with their music score.

HE WHO GETS SLAPPED is a production of and distributed theatrically (U.S.) by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and on home video (U.S.) by Warner Archive Collection/Warner Home Video. It was written, produced, and directed by Victor Sjöström, and stars Lon Chaney, Sr., Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, and Tully Marshall. 1924, 35mm, B&W, 80 minutes


In his 2005 review of CAPOTE, reprinted in the program, Roger Ebert stated that “what makes [the film] so powerful is that it looks with merciless perception at [Truman] Capote’s moral disintegration.” This feature directed by Academy Award nominee Bennett Miller (FOXCATCHER) dramatizes a six-year period in the life of literary giant Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) when he befriended – and arguably betrayed – the two Kansas murderers whose story he would retell in the book, In Cold Blood. “The film,” posed Ebert, “focuses on the way a writer works on a story and the story works on him.” The late Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance.

CAPOTE played the sixteenth annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Friday, April 25, 2014, 4 p.m. Director Bennett Miller appeared as a festival guest.

CAPOTE is a co-production of A-Line Pictures, Cooper’s Town Productions, and Infinity Media distributed theatrically (U.S.) by United Artists and Sony Pictures Classics, on home video (U.S.) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and on VOD by MGM. It was directed by Bennett Miller, written by Dan Futterman, and produced by Carolyn Baron, William Vince, and Michael Ohoven, and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, and Amy Ryan. 2005, 35mm, Color, 114 minutes


A heat-stroked summer day, beating down on the predominantly African-American neighborhood where Sal (Danny Aiello) runs his pizzeria, does its part to turn Brooklyn denizens upon one another in the vibrant, cutting, and sadly relevant Spike Lee classic DO THE RIGHT THING. Revisiting the film a decade after first seeing it in Cannes, France, in 1989, Ebert talked about Lee’s surprising artistry as well as the layers of knowing critique on which the scenario was built. “You can anticipate,” wrote the late critic as shared in the program, “that trash can approaching Sal’s window [in the hands of Lee’s character, pizzeria employee Mookie] propelled by misunderstandings, suspicions, insecurities, stereotyping, and simple bad luck” due to societal racism.

DO THE RIGHT THING played the sixteenth annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Friday, April 25, 2014, 8:30 p.m. Director/writer/producer Spike Lee appeared as a festival guest.

DO THE RIGHT THING is a 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks production distributed theatrically (U.S.) by Universal Pictures and on VOD and home video (U.S.) by Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It was written, produced, and directed by Spike Lee, and stars Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, John Savage, and Lee. 1989, 35mm, Color, 120 minutes


Ebert called the understated drama A SIMPLE LIFE “one of the year’s best films” in a 2012 review repurposed for the program. Directed by the prolific Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui, this tale about an indefatigable relationship between a middle-aged movie producer, Roger (Andy Lau), and his family’s caretaker, Ah Tao (Deanie Ip), “filled me with an unreasonable affection for both of them,” he explained further, “[for] here is a film with the clarity of fresh stream water, flowing without turmoil to shared destiny.” LIFE gently depicts what happens when Ah Tao is forced to retire after suffering a stroke and elects to move into a nursing home.

A SIMPLE LIFE played the sixteenth annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Saturday, April 26, 2014, 2 p.m. Director/writer Ann Hui appeared as a festival guest.

A SIMPLE LIFE is a co-production of Bona Entertainment Company, Ltd., Focus Films, Ltd., and Sil-Metropole Organisation, Ltd., distributed theatrically (U.S./Canada) by China Lion Film Distribution and on VOD and home video (U.S.) by Well Go USA Entertainment. It was directed by Ann Hui, produced by Roger Lee, Pui-wah Chan, and Hui, and written by Susan Chan and Lee, and stars Andy Lau and Deanie Ip. 2012, HD, Color, 118 minutes


BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY appeared during filmmaker Oliver Stone’s remarkable run of political and counterculture dramas in the Eighties and Nineties, daring to cast heartthrob Tom Cruise in an affecting biography of real-life Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic. As an idealistic young man, Kovic served overseas in the Marine Corps only to become a lifelong anti-war activist after returning home crippled and demoralized. “It proceeds from a philosophical core,” stated Ebert in his original review from 1989 that appears in the program. “It is not a movie about battle or wounds or recovery, but a movie about an American who changes his mind about the war.”

BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY played the sixteenth annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Saturday, April 26, 2014, 9 p.m. Director/producer/writer Oliver Stone appeared as a festival guest.

BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY is an Ixtlan production distributed theatrically (U.S.) by Universal Pictures and on VOD and home video (U.S.) by Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It was directed by Oliver Stone, written by Ron Kovic and Stone, and produced by A. Kitman Ho and Stone, and stars Tom Cruise, Kyra Sedgwick, Raymond J. Barry, Jerry Lavine, Frank Whaley, and Willem Dafoe. 1989, 35mm, Color, 145 minutes


New Orleans educator Lily Keber chronicled an unsung local legend, the rhythm-and-blues pianist and singer James C. Booker III, in her documentary portrait BAYOU MAHARAJAH. A child prodigy, Booker left his mark through vibrant stage performances and a handful of recordings; one can only ponder what greatness he might have achieved if drugs and alcohol had not contributed to his death at age 43. “MAHARAJAH could easily have focused on the most sordid aspects of Booker’s life,” explained Los Angeles culture blogger Chris Morris in his write-up, “[but] the movie is emphatically about Booker’s music, and you get to hear plenty of it.”

BAYOU MAHARAJAH played the sixteenth annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Sunday, April 27, 2014, 12 p.m. Director/producer Lily Keber, producer Nathaniel Kohn, editor Tim Watson, and musician Henry Butler appeared as festival guests.

BAYOU MAHARAJAH is a Mairzy Doats Productions film. It was directed by Lily Keber and produced by Nathaniel Kohn and Keber, and features James Carroll Booker III, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Harry Connick, Jr., Irma Thomas, Charles Neville, Dave Bartholomew, Hugh Laurie, and Ron Cucia. 2013, HD, Color/B&W, 90 minutes


:: Part 5 :: Part 7 ::

Cover graphic: © Roger Ebert’s Film Festival/Daily Illini

CAPOTE graphic:
© 2005 United Artists/Sony Pictures Classics

A SIMPLE LIFE graphic:
© 2012 China Lion Film Distribution

© 2013 Mairzy Doats Productions

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