Ebertfest Day Two – Big Fan

Big FanTo kick things off for Day Two of Ebertfest, we were treated to Big Fan. Big Fan is a movie about a New York Giants superfan, Paul (Patton Owalt) that spends his life obsessing with the Giants. He spends his free time, as well as some time at work, writing diatribes to call-in sports shows at one in the morning. His life changes forever when he finally meets his hero, Giants player Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm). His life changes even more when Bishop beats him within an inch of his life.

Paul is by most accounts, a total loser. He lives with his mom, works as an attendent in a parking garage, and has no aspirations beyond rooting for the Giants. His indifference to what his family wants for him is partially what makes him an interesting character. While it’s easy to judge him and write him off as a loser, Paul is truly happy with his choices in life. Even for those of us that have a small interest in sports will find relatable things in Paul’s lifestyle and his behaviors.

Big Fan is a movie about sports at its core, but it is quite removed from being a “sports movie”. One can literally have no knowledge of the sport of football and still understand nearly everything in this film. In fact, during the Q&A session with writer/director Robert Siegel, he admitted that Oswalt himself has an embarrassingly little amount of sports knowledge, yet nails the role.

Speaking of the Q&A session, it was one of the best at Ebertfest so far. Siegel was genuinely funny and frank about his movie and it was a delight to hear from him and his thoughts. It’s an absolute shame that Patton Oswalt, whom was scheduled to be here this week, was unable to attend, Siegel more than made up for his absence with his charm. While it wasn’t a technical discussion, it was informative and introspective to the process of this movie and others.

I give it 4 radio sports show call-ins out of 5.

Some interesting Ebertfest links:

The festival’s main site: http://www.ebertfest.com/
Stream the interview sessions for free: http://ustre.am/JauL
Follow me on Twitter @WatchesMovies

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Young Adult (4/2/12)

Young AdultMovie Seventy Two

Young Adult perfectly captures the life of a bitchy high school girl that never grows up. We all grew up around people like her and I’m sure we all wonder what happened to some of them.

What makes Young Adult work as a film is the realism of the characters. Unlike the previous collaboration between writer, Diablo Cody, and director, Jason Reitman,  Juno, the viewer is not beaten to a pulp with “witty” dialog and “quirky” characters. Mavis (Charlize Theron) is not a likeable person, but she feels real.

Mavis is from a small town near Minneapolis Minnesota and was the most popular girl in high school and despite being a selfish person even then, people adored her. She is now a ghost writer for a once popular young adult novella series. She finds out her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson)  is having a baby and decides to win him back, not realizing that real life isn’t like high school. She meets Matt (Patton Oswalt) who is pretty much the opposite of Mavis, but the two become friends in drinking.

One thing I really enjoyed about Young Adult is that there are no sappy realizations of truth. Mavis has been and will always be the same person. Movies that are a small slice of someone’s life where they have all these enormous life changing moments never ring true for me, but this does. I think everyone will identify with the characters and you will likely be able to place people you know in the roles.

Young Adult isn’t a terribly exciting movie, but it is smart and funny without overdoing it. As good as Theron’s performance is, Patton Oswalt really stands out. I’ve been a fan of his for many years, and I’m glad to see him in roles like this.

I give it 4 Blu-Ray book covers out of 5.

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Ebertfest 2012 Announcements!

Roger Ebert’s Blog – With the Ebertfest announcement

Allow me to give a brief history lesson to set up this post…

I am from the greater Chicagoland area and have been a movie lover for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family would watch Siskel and Ebert At the Movies religiously. My father wouldn’t see a movie without hearing the opinions of both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. I have literally grown up with Roger Ebert as the film critic and I’ve enjoyed reading his work my entire life.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ebertfest, here is the official site, here is the Wikipedia page. It pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a film festival helmed by Mr. Ebert. It is held near the University of Illinois campus and unlike other film festivals where submissions are welcome, Ebertfest choices are handpicked.

I am incredibly excited to get to be going this year and a good friend of mine is flying up from North Carolina to share the experience. It’s my first time going, but hopefully not my last.

Now, onto the film choices…

  • Kind Hearts and Coronets – Not only is this a great movie, but Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) picked it and will be the host for the night. Alec Guiness is simply amazing in this.
  • Big Fan – Another great movie, starring Patton Oswalt as a rabid NY Jets fan. Obviously Oswalt will join for this
  • Joe Versus the Volcano – An seemingly odd choice but one of Ebert’s favorites. I’m always up for classic Tom Hanks movies.
  • Phunny Business: A Black Comedy – Totally unaware of this documentary but it is about an all black night club and the owner. The owner of the club, Raymond Lambert, will be joining us.
  • The Truth About Beauty and Blogs – Short film, hadn’t heard of it before but it looks like it will tie into Phunny Business. Joined by Kelichi Ezie, the comedienne and filmmaker. Joined by the writer-director, actors and some crew.
  • Kinyarwanda – I have heard many things about this and if it’s as heart-wrenching as it sounds it will be mesmerizing.
  • TerriHey, I blogged about this! Star Jacob Wysocki and director, Azazal Jacobs, will join.
  • On Borrowed Time – A documentary about the past two years of Paul Cox’s life after getting a life-saving kidney transplant. Should be a fascinating watch. Cox and Nate Kohn will join.
  • A short film collection accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra including Georges Méliès’ Trip to the Moon, which you may recognize from Hugo. Alloy Orchestra members will join the discussion.
  • A Separation – This Iranian film (and Oscar winner!) is something I regret not having already seen so I greatly look forward to it. Director, Asghar Farhadi, is hoping to join.
  • Special effects techniques from the wizards that worked on The Tree of Life.
  • Higher Ground – Not the stoner comedy that its name makes it out to be, this is a film about how religion shapes a woman’s life. Screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs will join.
  • Patang – I don’t believe I had heard of this film before. The director’s father was one of Ebert’s old film students. Director Prashant Bhargava will join along with his father and assorted cast and crew.
  • Take Shelter – A movie that has ranked very high on my ‘to-watch’ list and I couldn’t be more excited that Michael Shannon will be there along with director, Jeff Nichols. So very excited for this one.
  • Citizen Kane – Not only is this one of the best movies ever, but Ebert recorded a commentary track for the DVD release some years ago and that will be playing along with the movie. It is a fantastic commentary to go along with an incredible film.

More details can obviously found in the source link at the top of this post but I must say again…I am EXTREMELY excited for this. I will be posting from the event, so expect more to come!