Ebertfest, days four and five

My belated round-up of the last two days of Ebertfest…

On Saturday, I missed the matinee showing of I Capture the Castle (2003). I haven’t previously made any effort to see this film, which is based on one of my favorite novels of all time. I have such specific visions of the characters and setting that I’m pretty wary of messing with them (which is of course the eternal dilemma with the movie adaptations of beloved books). However, this film is streaming on Netflix, so I will give it a chance soon, if only in the interest of Ebertfest completeness.

The next showing on Saturday was the documentary Vincent: A Life in Color (2008). I wrote a review of this film over at MacGuffin—check it out there.

The third screening of Saturday was the Michelle Monaghan film Trucker (2008). I pretty much adore Michelle Monaghan, and her performance is the main reason for anyone to see this film. She plays Diane, a female trucker, who is forced to look after the 11-year-old son she left a decade ago when his father is sick with cancer. While there is nothing especially groundbreaking or unpredictable about the film, it is solid, and has a few particularly nice scenes between Monaghan and the actor who plays her son, Jimmy Bennett (who is a serious find in the realm of kid actors).

The writer/director James Mottern and Monaghan spoke about the film afterward. While I thought the film was good and I completely understand Monaghan’s enthusiasm over having had the chance to play a conflicted, complex woman whose main concern has nothing to do with nabbing a husband, I think both Roger Ebert and the filmmakers overestimated the power of the film. I was disappointed in the inevitable track taken with Diane, wherein she must change her natural tendencies in order to be the good, maternal woman. I think they could have let her face her responsibilities without some moments that, to me, felt overly judgmental about Diane’s desire to be sexual or apprehension about being responsible for a child. Nonetheless, Monaghan is captivating in the role and the film is worth seeing.

Saturday concluded with a screening of the Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke film Barfly (1987). I was very surprised by this film, which follows a couple of career drunks over the course of several days. This is no Leaving Las Vegas: it’s an odd, funny, contemporary comedy; gothic and seedy, yet bright and clever. The screenplay, by Charles Bukowski, consists of little but one clever exchange of dialogue after another, interrupted here or there for someone to kick the crap out of someone else. It’s exceedingly entertaining. Director Barbet Schroeder fought his way through the pesky ash cloud to come for the screening, after which he told numerous anecdotes about the making of the film (including confirming the infamous tale that he threatened to cut off his own finger if he couldn’t get financing).

On Sunday, the festival concluded with the documentary Song Sung Blue (2008). I also reviewed this film in the same post on MacGuffin I linked to above (clickety!).

Ebertfest was quite an experience, one I hope to repeat sometime. Friends, who wants to come along?


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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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