Sunday, April 25, 2010

Full catalog of my Ebertfest 2010 tweets

Pulled from Twitter at 11:20PM on 04/25/2010
(starting from the most recent, working backwards...)

@lynnejordan1 - missed you at ebertfest but did you rent anything and watch along from home, or watch streaming video?
about 1 hour ago via web in reply to lynnejordan1

ebertchicago The Bahrani-Herzog "Plastic Bag" which just played at Ebertfest, is going viral. You GOTTA see it.
about 1 hour ago via web
Retweeted by you and 23 others

Only 360 days left until the next #ebertfest - so be ready to buy your pass when they go on sale this November!
about 5 hours ago via txt

@ebertchicago started with a blank slate and ended up with a program reflecting life, conflict, and unexpected love stories. #ebertfest
about 8 hours ago via txt

Eddie Vedder championed this film, and even Neil Diamond himself loved "Song Sung Blue" - how very cool. #ebertfest
about 9 hours ago via txt

"Song Sung Blue" receives standing O and today played to its largest audience ever, plus a live performance afterwards, at #ebertfest
about 9 hours ago via txt

"Song Sung Blue" doc feature about Milwaukee duo Lightning & Thunder just closed out #ebertfest 2010. Not a dry eye in the house.
about 9 hours ago via txt

Soaking up the last few hours of #ebertfest - my personal thanks to @ebertchicago for another fantastic year.
about 11 hours ago via txt

Check out my latest #ebertfest blog update at - with pictures uploaded
about 19 hours ago via web

12 down and 1 last movie to go before #ebertfest 12 is a wrap.
about 24 hours ago via txt

I expected the talent of a young Mickey Rourke, but did not expect that "Barfly" would be a love story. Has a timeless quality. #ebertfest
about 24 hours ago via txt

"Vincent" Chicago doc. f`ilm subject just walked in... he did his jacket twirl and then (oops, I almost tripped the poor guy accidentall ...
7:18 PM Apr 24th via txt

Pics will be posted to my blog later. ` Go rent TRUCKER now - then rent "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" later for a fun contrast. #ebertfest
5:25 PM Apr 24th via txt

Monaghan on stage now discussing TRUCKER. I`m front row center. She keeps looking @ me - but I`m not reading into that. No worries honey :)
5:20 PM Apr 24th via txt

Live streaming Q&A for Monaghan`s film TRUCKER starts right now at #ebertfest so go to now and follow links. Great flick.
5:06 PM Apr 24th via txt

Monaghan`s film TRUCKER starts right now at #ebertfest w/ live streaming q- after.
3:32 PM Apr 24th via txt

Meeting Charlie Kaufman last night was way cool - but meeting Michelle Monaghan moments ago was sublime. {Please google immediately.}
4:29 PM Apr 24th via txt

The Austenesque "I Capture the Castle" at #ebertfest has convinced me to seek out the book. How did this film garner an R rating??
11:18 AM Apr 24th via txt

I am standing in a line that wraps around the block. Glad there is coffee in my immediate future.
8:04 AM Apr 24th via txt

Check out my latest #ebertfest blog update (with more to come) at
1:35 AM Apr 24th via web

@ebertchicago Will you perhaps consider mentioning Warren the organist tomorrow at #ebertfest? He had been ill last he OK?
12:42 AM Apr 24th via web

@waelkhairy88 #ebertfest welcomes you... New festival motto: Never let an ash hole stand in between you and your dreams.
10:46 PM Apr 23rd via web

ebertchicago Tumultous Standing O for "Departures" at #Ebertfest. Cries of "Bravo!" Sniffles all over the house.
10:35 PM Apr 23rd via web
Retweeted by you and 3 others

Kaufman`s "Eternal Sunshine" is my fav of all he`s authored... but "Synecdoche, NY" is right up there.
8:51 PM Apr 23rd via txt

Mr. Kaufman`s "Synecdoche, NY" was called best movie of the decade by Roger Ebert.
5:10 PM Apr 23rd via txt

Mr. Kaufman`s "Synecdoche, NY." What a riot - he just walked by.
5:08 PM Apr 23rd via txt

Charlie Kaufmann is HERE with his film "Synecdoche, NY." What a riot - he just walked by.
5:05 PM Apr 23rd via txt

@ebertchicago - If the internet was invented at U of I, shouldn`t this whole town be a hot-spot by now?
4:42 PM Apr 23rd via txt

Hmm. If only I could bribe someone here at the VT for their private wi-fi access code.
4:38 PM Apr 23rd via txt

Silent film with live accompaniment by Alloy Orchrestra - "Man with a Movie Camera" - starts now. My film history prof would be so proud.
2:24 PM Apr 23rd via txt

The #ebertfest program says DEPARTURES is from 1982. Clearly false! More like 2008 - and yes, available on DVD.
2:20 PM Apr 23rd via txt

So incredibly powerful on the big screen here at #ebertfest, DEPARTURES is the first must-see film of the festival!
2:15 PM Apr 23rd via txt

#ebertfest wildly successful yet again. I`m tweeting & blogging thru the whole festival via
1:55 PM Apr 23rd via txt

"Departures" starts any minute now. 1982 - directed by Yojiro Takita. Day 3 is underway!
11:07 AM Apr 23rd via txt

@ebertchicago Hey Roger, being a local guy, does this #ebertfest blogging thing make me a Near-Flung correspondent? :)
11:02 AM Apr 23rd via txt

Went to sleep at 5am. Got just enuff sleep to be coherent today. Blogging is a late-nite endeavor here ... no wi-fi hot spot at the VT.
10:54 AM Apr 23rd via txt

Check out the mad ramblings of an #ebertfest non-blogger.
2:59 AM Apr 23rd via web

The ebertfest passholder line stretches down the street and around the block.
1:10 AM Apr 23rd via Twitpic

@ebertchicago, "Munyurangabo" is the biggest Ebertfest 12 surprise so far - IMHO. Blew me away.
12:42 AM Apr 23rd via web in reply to ebertchicago

ebertchicago The Rwandan story "Munyurangabo" was just an enormous success at Ebertfest. Thank you, Lee Isac Chung.
12:57 PM Apr 22nd via web
Retweeted by you and 9 others

Retweeted ebertchicago Links to bloggers and Tweeters at Ebertfest.
4:31 PM Apr 22nd via web
Retweeted by you and 1 other

I'm like a snail on the edge of a straight razor. And now it`s time to read some Conrad.
10:23 PM Apr 22nd via txt

Apoc. Now Redux starts in 20 minutes. I love the smell of napalm in the evening.
5:43 PM Apr 22nd via txt

Hot Braised Shrimp from Peking Garden - 1 block from the Virginia Theater. Very hospitable, like everything else in C-U.
5:40 PM Apr 22nd via txt

`The New Age` - a film I didn`t know existed. Strangely prophetic.
3:29 PM Apr 22nd via txt

RT @ebertchicago: The Rwandan story "Munyurangabo" was just an enormous success at Ebertfest. Thank you, Lee Isac Chung.
1:01 PM Apr 22nd via txt

Munyurangabo was quite a film, carrying on a key tradition - revealing an overlooked foreign gem to the ebertfest faithful.
1:00 PM Apr 22nd via txt

Roger making his way around the room, shaking hands, posing for photos. The man is a class act.
7:31 AM Apr 22nd via txt

Greetings from the Illini Union, epicenter of the U of I universe. Meet n greet for Ebert Club members. RE just arrived.
7:26 AM Apr 22nd via txt

My Ebertfest blog -
1:26 AM Apr 22nd via web

4 hours of sleep in the last 46 hours. Hmm. Might be time to cash it in.
12:38 AM Apr 22nd via web

It's movie-nerd heaven. Filmmakers and critics talking about intelligent films. Watch it streaming live.
12:33 AM Apr 22nd via web

The second and final movie on festival day one - "You, the Living"
9:48 PM Apr 21st via txt

Pink Floyd`s The Wall to begin shortly. I`ll drop some acid first tho.
5:06 PM Apr 21st via txt

The hotel tries to jack up the rate they promised... holding my ground and requesting the manager works wonders. WTG Eastland Suites.
3:34 PM Apr 21st via txt

I have the upgraded parking pass on the dashboard, and the festival pass in hand; time to check into the hotel while my place in line is held.
3:21 PM Apr 21st via txt

I'm tweeting and blogging the ebertfest experience, so get ready...
3:18 PM Apr 21st via txt

Day 4 continued: "Trucker" and "Barfly"

Today I was telling my wife that Ebertfest 12 has been a great festival --- as good or better than most.  This is due to movies like "Trucker" which was never released in my neck-of-the-woods.  I only knew that it existed after having read the festival line-up last month on  This is one of those "slice of life" movies, as I have been describing them over the years, that Roger seems to favor each year.  "Come Early Morning" and "Tully" are two other examples, and both are well worth your time.

"Trucker" is a challenging film with an unflinching performance at its core.  Watching Michelle Monaghan's character evolve is mesmerizing, and we can see why Roger calls this a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination.  It's a shame that didn't happen..  "Trucker" is something special from beginning to end. 

Barbet Schroeder accompanied his film "Barfly" to the festival, and this was our fourth and final film of the day.  Moderator Kim Morgan guided the Q&A, and Schroeder spoke about Mickey Rourke being adaptive and overall pretty easy to get along with.  And what more can we say about Faye Dunaway, striking in her role as Wanda?  Rourke and Dunaway together conjure up images of "Leaving Las Vegas" at times - and I wonder if John O'Brien (who wrote LLV) was inspired by the Schroeder film. 

I know, I know --- no discussion of "Barfly" is complete without a mention of Charles Bukowski --- but I don't really want to get into that here. 

One more movie to go, and that will be the end of Ebertfest 12.

Day 4 of Ebertfest 2010

Today started with a screen of "I Capture the Castle."  Throughout the film I thought about how much it reminded me of Jane Austen and figured perhaps my parents or sisters had been familiar with this book, or perhaps even the movie.  Then I realized that it was actually an R-rated film (which is completely silly because there is nothing but some brief and harmless nudity).  I did appreciate "Castle" but I wonder if the book is even better.  I intend to seek it out one day. 

The panel discussion (shown above) included bloggers, the Movie Mom plus three of Roger's far-flug correspondents. 

The second movie was called "Vincent: A Life in Color" - a documentary about a colorful Chicago character who can barely see -- but loves to be seen.  Vince was present in the audience, and took the stage afterwards to discuss the film.  This is a flamboyant soul; his suits are blinding with the brightest colors and I can only imagine how jarring it must be to see him through the NBC 5 Chicago street-level window every morning. 

His endless puns are legendary.  I got to spend a few moments with him today, and when we shook hands he replied, "Just like at the butcher shop - I'm glad to meat you."  Then he blurts out, "Oh no...(groan)."  Vincent is endlessly likable and his director, Jennifer Burns, is charming and has a deep affection for her subject.

The discussion panel consisted of Vincent Falk, director Burns, and editor Christine Gilliland (along with Richard Roeper and another of the Far Flung crew). 

To be continued...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday: Day 3 of the 12th festival

The skies were overcast this morning when we were getting ready to go stand in the passholder line at the festival.  Doors open an hour before the first showing, and generally we try to be there at least an hour before that.  Once we get inside, we always go for the same seats - front row center.  Now please understand, friend, I would never do this in a typical multiplex where moviegoers are crammed into small auditoriums and sitting in the front row is the equivalent of a brain aneurysm.  This is not the case at the Virginia Theater.  The front row here is actually perfect for both the film and the Q&A photo-ops. 

So eventually "Departures" gave way to "Man with a Movie Camera," a silent film accompanied by Alloy Orchestra who returns for yet another Ebertfest.  A Russian avant garde film made in 1928, MWAMC is pretty wild, the culmination of much of the cinematic technique of that era.  Afterwards, during the on-stage panel discussion, the Alloy guys tell us that they are leaving for LA immediately in order to play at the TCM festival.  They're going to accompany the new extended "Metropolis" - and that comment alone generated applause by this audience.  "Metropolis" was shown here once several years ago; even as an extended version, I'd have a hard time believing they'd bring it back to this festival.

The third and final movie of the day was "Synecdoche, New York."  More on that one later.

Photo:  Roger comes up to welcome two of the Alloy Orchestra members.  The theater bursts into applause for Roger as much as the artists.

Photo by Joe Bennett


Great movies so far.  Plenty of fodder for good movie-conversation.  But here we finally have the first must-see film of Ebertfest 2010.  A skilled review would share just enough information without giving too much away.  Personally I prefer to know very little about a film upon first viewing whenever possible.  I want to walk in cold and let it unfold.  So I don't want to say too much - but I will say that it is a Japanese film with English subtitles, made in 2008, with an actor who is apparently a pretty big star in Japan (Masahiro Motoki).  It's as good as another former Ebertfest favorite, "Shall We Dance" ( from 1996.  This too is a comedy --- but not the same kind of comedy.  Make no mistake, this is by no means a "light" film.  If you see it, let me know; I'd love to discuss it with you. 

Yôjirô Takita, the director of "Departures," was present for the screening and participated in a Q&A via a translator after the film.  He's a charming and gracious fellow, and I knew absolutely nothing about him before today.  He does have some previous work that is perhaps a bit, um, out there - according to IMDB.

I have one concern to mention about "Departures" (  Those who attend Ebertfest are very spoiled:  We have the advantage of awe-inspiring projection and sound, and audiences of 1,000+ who are open to the recommendations of one Roger Ebert, a hometown hero in these parts (and a global media star beyond that).  A fancy home theater system is nice, but THIS is the way that movies were meant to be seen.  Will this film still muster up the same emotional experience for those who view on the small screen?  All I can say is - I sure as hell hope so.

Photo:  Director Yôjirô Takita stands (with translator) to take a bow.  He received a standing ovation for "Departures" at Ebertfest on Friday.

Photo by Joe Bennett

Friday, April 23, 2010

Apocalypse Now Redux ~ in all its glory

I'm no film scholar, and I don't know that there's a whole lot I can say about Apocalypse Now that hasn't already been said.  Some general (and completely random) observations:
  • This was the extended version of the film, and somehow it really did move along fairly quickly.  I expected to be peeking at my watch at least a few times, and that didn't happen.  No intermission either.
  • I had been under the impression that Walter Murch would be in attendance.  This was not the case.  And what this truly means is that I could not have my photo taken with Mr. Murch, a photo that I would have forwarded directly to my film history professor, who would have promptly voiced his jealous hatred.
  • I had seen the original version of the film years ago, and I remembered the general layout of what happened - the key milestones - but I had misplaced a lot of the details.  As such, in some ways it was like seeing it for the first time.  Quite an experience.
  • Clearly the script is rife with absurdity, as perhaps was the war itself.  Yet for some reason I felt like this was even more so the case in this extended version.  Robert Duvall's character seemed more over-the-top than ever.  The Playboy bunnies are soldiers in their own right (or so says a fellow festival-goer who saw that scene through a completely different lens than my own...)  And the French plantation scene seemed like it just didn't belong.
  • The projection was flawless; are James Bond and his partner back in the projection booth this year?
  • Um, no possibility of a disclaimer stating that no animals were harmed during the making of this flick, that's for sure.  The slaughter of an ox on camera?  And people ask me how I get by without eating meat.  Seriously?
  • Post-film discussion panel was lead by David Bordwell.  Face it, the man is fascinating.  And Michael Philips is another favorite - I enjoy his humor and sensibilities.  Here is a photo that I took from the front row of the Virginia Theater.
My dad bought me Conrad's Heart of Darkness a few years ago, and I am now finally ready to read it.  But first I may watch Mrs. Coppola's documentary.  Time to get the real dirt on the making of this masterpiece.

Photo:  Ali Arikan, Michael Philips, (a gal whose name I did not catch,) and David Bordwell.

You must embrace the thing that hurts you: "The New Age"

Here's a flick that, for me, came completely out of left field. Generally I'm familiar with the movies that are presented here at ebertfest to some degree, but here's one that apparently flew completely under my radar. Made in 1993,when Peter Weller was still a pretty big name; I was 20 years old at the time and movies like "Wall Street" and "Less Than Zero" were still visible in the rearview mirror. Makes me wonder - did this make any money at the box office, or was the movie-going public under the impression that they'd seen this movie before? They had not; nor had I.

As things got underway, I predicted a distant west-coast-cousin to Oliver Stone's Wall Street somehow. (Stone's fingerprints are here; he has a producer credit.) At the 20 minute marker, I incorrectly assumed that the director intended this to be a portrait of what the typical Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Power Couple might look like. ( "See, they have problems just like anyone else, only they live on a planet called Hollywood.")

Reagan-era excess lead to the world portrayed in this movie, and spawned the Peter Weller character. If the guy had a son, he'd have grown up to be Bernie Madoff. Adam West is perfectly cast as Peter's father, whose apple fell mere centimeters from the tree. What a fun performance. During the Q&A afterwards, director Michael Tolkin mentioned West's casting and commented that he wanted Batman to be Robocop's father. Talk about inspired casting! How could West have turned down an opportunity to be present for this screening?

Through a very specific lens, I could actually relate to these people a little bit. Seems strange saying that but it's true. And their descent is epic. (We've all been there on some level, I suppose.)

I'm glad Roger picked this film Ebertfest 12. Thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining, "The New Age" was an unexpected surprise.

Day Two: Far Flung (from Northern Illinois)

Four more hours of sleep last night. Every little bit counts I guess. Could have slept in some, but had an opportunity to have coffee with fellow Ebert Club members at a double-secret-meet-n-greet at the Illini Union at 8:30. First and foremost, let me say that the Union is an incredible structure, awe-inspiring, like approaching the White House. That kind of majesty. Right in the heart of the U of I campus, strolling around gives me a feel for the university-life that I missed. Walking around here just feels good, especially on this bright and breezy morning.

Roger's assistant of 20 years, Carol, was an astute hostess, greeting me with a warm smile and immediately facilitating connections. She quickly introduced me to some fellow Clubbers and hooked me up with some coffee. At that point I was already pretty wired but it really hit the spot.

I didn't get there until almost 9:00 so Roger's group of Far-Flung Correspondents were already in high gear, the social butterflies that they clearly are. These are intriguing people with stories to tell, as deft with the spoke as with the written word. I was just starting to get my mingle on when Roger entered the room, as evidenced by the applause. Welcome Grand Poobah.

Roger made his way around the room, graciously shaking every hand. When he got to me I promptly announced myself as a 9-time festival attendee. (I wanted him to know that I mean business. Roger, you're looking at a devotee, not a poser. Although my Bears t-shirt clearly speaks "DORK" to the world.) At the mention of 9 festivals his eyes lit up; he released my hand and broke into applause, bowing in that way that has become his communicative trademark in recent years. His "voice" has perhaps evolved, but still speaks volumes, even in silence.

Lots of other fun people there too, including, Chaz and Nate, Tribune critic (and TV star!) Michael Philips, and of course the incomparable David Bordwell. Here's a guy that makes everyone else smarter just by standing in our general vicinity. Please David - keep blogging.

Sorry to see that Marie Hawes is apparently not here; she is Ebert Club online facilitator and headmistress, and was especially helpful to me when the club registration process was acting particularly glitchy for me. Perhaps she will make an appearance before festival-end.

Well the first movie of Day 2 will begin shortly, Mumyurangabo.

Day One: The Whirlwind

Wednesday was a blur.  We got to C-U with just enough time to get our parking pass from the Mental Health Center of Champaign.  (Thanks to Marcie for always taking care of us.)  Quickly grabbed our passes and A&G settled into the passholder line while I drove over to the hotel to get us checked in.  Got back in plenty of time to hear Chaz & Co. introduce "Pink Floyd: The Wall." 

This soundtrack for this film was one that I must have played a thousand times when I was perhaps 17, but I had never seen the film itself.  I remember having heard that someone had committed suicide after watching The Wall, which seems likely to have been an urban legend.  Not really sure.  (Someone has probably offed himself after watching "Two-and-a-Half Men" also, yet such rumors do not persist, however justifiable the concept may seem.) 

An impressive film; what a thrill to finally see it - and in this venue.  I did know the film's reputation as being inventive in terms of animation, and the artistry did not disappoint.  And of course, that music...  The most beautiful and haunting song of the movie, of course, is "Comfortably Numb" - one of those songs that always brings me to a very specific place in time.  This was a perfect way to begin Ebertfest 12. 

Trying something new this year, Roger & Nate decided to double the number of movies shown on Wednesday, jumping from one to a whopping two.  The second film was entitled, "You, the Living."  I'm probably a bit tired to try to expound on this now, so I will pick this discussion up again later. 

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, April 22, 2010


You are probably wondering why Joe Bennett is blogging. Who is this guy, and could he really have anything to say? Well let's keep this simple. I'm just your average guy, a film lover, spreading the word about the Ebertfest experience.

For those of you who don't know me: I'm a contracts specialist for a hospital. If I mention "my girls" I'm referring to my wife and daughter. If I refer to "Thumper" it's because we have another baby on the way and he likes to kick a whole lot these days. I'm a White Sox fan even though it's hard to admit it right now, being 5-10 to start the season.

This is my 9th consecutive Ebertfest. I have amassed a good number of pictures over the years, and someday I intend to do a photoblog of past festivals. I have attended with my cousin and my friend since our first trip to the festival in 2001. The three of us tend to measure the year by how much time has passed since the last Ebertfest, and how soon until the next one begins. We enjoy the hospitality shown to us by the people of C-U and only wish we'd found out about the event sooner.

So call me an impostor if you like, but the truth is that I'm not really the blogging type. Yet here I am. Read along; it's a lot of fun. Maybe I can convince you to attend next year.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nate Who?

This will be our 9th consecutive Ebertfest. I believe we found out about it a few days after the 3rd festival ended, so we had to start with the 4th. We were hooked, and the rest is history.

Year after year, the unassuming Nate Kohn runs this thing. How is it possible that I have been completely in the dark about his awe-inspiring list of accomplishments until just tonight?

The countdown begins... 3 weeks from tonight


How is it possible that the year flew by this quickly?