THUMBAPALOOZA: EBERT PRESENTS “NOSFERATU” AND MORE

This day started strong and really fizzled out at the end. The first film featured was “Panic.” The entire cast made every scene extraordinary. Ebert invited critics Peter Sobczynski and David Poland to join him on stage to discuss the film. Sobczynski said, “‘Panic’ is a much better film than ‘American Beauty’ because it doesn’t fall apart at the end.” Up next was “Girl On The Bridge.” This black and white film was captivating.
One of the highlights of the entire festival was a silent vampire film called “Nosferatu.” The Alloy Orchestra (Roger C. Miller, Ken Winokur, and Terry Donahue) provided the sounds for the film. In addition to regular musical instruments, they generated sounds from a bed pan, cowbell, horseshoes, pots, pans, pieces of air conditioning duct, and any metal found in trash . They made this film come to life – literally! I was fascinated by the fact we were watching this in a theater built about the same time the movie opened in 1922. “Nosfertu” is one of the best films presented at this year’s festival.
Next came “Dragonflies, The Baby Cries,” a 10 minute short which wasn’t worth 10 seconds of my time. Why this movie was made I will never know and don’t care. Same with the next film called “3 Women.” I think both of these films ought to be slapped together on DVD and sold to drug consumers. Only they could understand such material. What was Ebert smoking when he picked these films?
This day may have ended on a low point, but “Panic,” “Nosferatu” and “The Girl On The Bridge” made it all worthwhile. Three good films out five isn’t bad. ^ ==========
REVIEW: ^ PANIC (2000) ^ * * * * out of 5 stars (R) ^ Panic is about Alex (William Macy) a married man (with a son) who works for his father (Michael Sutherland) as a hit man. Yes – he makes a living killing people for Pop! His wife doesn’t know anything, but his new psychiatrist (John Ritter) does and Alex’s father doesn’t like the fact he revealed the family business to a doctor, so he orders his son to kill the nice doctor. Here things really start to change, creating plot elements with his son, wife and Sarah (a young girl attracted to Alex – an older man).
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “The movie takes these strands and weaves them into an emotional and logistical trap for Alex.” Indeed it does and catapults this film into a finale deserving of those involved.
Ebert calls this film “one of the year’s best” and I agree. Ebert said, “‘Panic” was a success at Sundance 2000, but didn’t get a major release after a test audience disliked it. I don’t blame the test audience; this is not a look-alike movie. But the executives who believed the audience instead of their own eyes should be ashamed of themselves. Now the film has won a national release.”
Strange the executives would panic over “Panic.” In a panel discussion at “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival,” film critic Peter Sobczynski pointed out the movie was better than “American Beauty” for a number of reasons – especially because the film didn’t fall apart at the end.
Roger definitely got it right: “Panic” is not to be overlooked. ^ ======================
REVIEW: ^ GIRL ON THE BRIDGE (1999) ^ * * * * out of 5 stars (R) ^ “Girl on the Bridge” is about a girl named Adele (Vanessa Paradis) who one night stands on a Paris bridge with tears in her eyes as she contemplates jumping off. Then out of nowhere comes Gabor (Daniel Autueil), a knife thrower who needs a human target for his show. Adele, who has had not luck in her life, has no where else to go, so she goes with him.
They travel along the northern bank of the Mediterranean to perform. Along their way, a fortune is won through gambling. Although they have a platonic relationship, the sex-starved girl seeks to sleep with handsome guys she encounters during their travels. She later elopes to Greece with a newly-wed groom, and Gabor is stuck in Turkey. Gabor can’t even throw knives right, and now he accidentally harms his targets. Then Adele is dumped by the groom. Gabor and Adele finally realize that luck isn’t with them unless they get together again.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “There is nothing like being partners in a knife-throwing act to encourage a man and a woman to focus on their relationship.”
I like this film because things I would expect to happen didn’t. Instead, it keeps us guessing and wanting – and what finally comes is worth the waiting. A film not to be overlooked. ^ ===============
REVIEW: ^ NOSFERATU (1922) ^ * * * * out of 4 stars (unrated) ^ “Nosferatu” is a 1922 silent movie about vampires. “Roger Ebert’s Film Festival” brought in the Alloy Orchestra (Roger C. Miller, Ken Winokur, and Terry Donahue) for the live percussion – and WOW! What power and feeling came from the music and images as they collided with one of the most eerie films I’ve ever seen.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “It doesn’t scare us, but it haunts us. It shows not that vampires can jump out of shadows, but that evil can grow there, nourished on death.”
I think the very setting of this movie added to its haunting delight. Here we are in The Virginia Theater which opened one year before this movie came about. You get a real sense of what it must have been like to sit and watch this movie back in those days. The moment this film beings, you know you are in the presence of a true masterpiece.
Ebert talked about teaching a class on silent films three years-ago at the University of Chicago and he said the students there were very dubious about the subject matter – wishing he had chosen Woody Allen or Stanley Kubrick films. Ebert said, “As we showed film after film, week after week, their enthusiasm grew.”
I know that feeling exactly. I haven’t seen very many silent films in my life, but that would change if the movie industry wouldn’t overlook this long-forgotten style of film making. “Nosferatu” is one of the best films to be screened this year at “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival.” ^ ==========================
REVIEW: ^ DRAGONFLIES, THE BABY CRIES – 10 minutes short ^ * out of 5 stars ^ Here’s another silent movie. You watch this movie and wonder if the little children in the film would one day grow up to star in “The Blair Witch Project.” What a strange film. This 10 minute short really wasn’t worth ten seconds of my time. But I did appreciate the visual images and music – but unfortunately nothing melded together to make this worthwhile.
Jane Gillooly (director) said in a panel discussion, “I’m a documentary filmmaker. All my documentaries are social issue types of films – very serious. This is a big departure from my documentaries.”
Big departure, indeed! Perhaps, Jane, you should depart from this genre of film making – or at least make something that makes sense. This film could make adults cry! Everyone should overlook this film – even you Roger! ^ ==============
REVIEW: ^ 3 WOMEN (1977) ^ * * * out of 5 stars ^ “3 Women” is a movie about, uh, well…I don’t know. The director (Robert Altman) actually made this movie out of his own dreams. Good God. If I dreamed like this, I’d fear sleep! It’s no wonder Elvis died that year.
The movie brings us three Texas girls. Pinky (a young Sissy Spacek) is a reclusive girl working in a solarium and becomes emotionally attached to her fellow worker, Millie (Shelley Duvall). After an accident, the women seem to inexplicably swap personalities, and then return back to normal. A third woman, a local artist, prowls around on the periphery of the story. The movie is one weird mess. And it is way, way, too long!
Ebert said in a panel discussion with four women how many critics hated this movie. He said, “The scene where her dress gets caught in the car door was insufferable to many critics. It generated a lot of hostility from the critics who didn’t like it.”
This seems to a commonplace with all critics, Roger. You’ve been quite hostile, indeed, toward some films. But I agree with Ebert that sometimes critics can just be too darn picky in regard to this movie. The dress scene in the movie, in my opinion, was one of the more entertaining elements in the film. I liked Shelly Duvall’s shrimp cocktails, home decorating ideas, and her Cheese Whiz. If a critic is going to put down a movie, at least make an effort to point out something positive. Duvall’s eccentric lifestyle at least help me to keep my sanity while sitting through this mindless muddle of a movie.
The studios sent Roger Ebert a new print of the film for display at the festival, but only one-half arrived at The Virginia Theater. UPS lost the other half. So the first part of the film was extremely grainy. Roger made sure the newer edition was still added for the night’s screening. What’s strange, though, is that I started to watch this grainy, old footage and began to become very intrigued by the characters. Then the new clear footage revealed itself (which even earned an applause from the crowd). It’s here things begin to be drawn out in inexcusable lengths, and the story becomes as grainy as the images projected in the first half!
This movie despises its characters. It despises its use of time. Why Roger brought this film to the festival – I don’t know. Even the audience had to force themselves to clap at the end. Truly some things need to be overlooked and this film is one of them.
Shame on you, Roger!
Read Herb Kane’s next report from “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival” and get the scoop on Bill Paxton’s appearance at a special showing of “A Simple Plan and more!>>>




Posted on May 3, 2001 in Festivals by
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