THUMBATHON: EBERT’S OVERLOOKED FILM FESTIVAL (part 3)

HYENAS ^ (2000) ^ By Mike Hall ^ Critic Doctor intern ^ * * * * (out of 5 stars) ^ CRITIC DOCTOR INTERN EXAMINES: Richard Porton (Cineast Magazine) ^ I cannot help but agree with Richard Porton, “Cineast Magazine,” whose review appeared in the “Ebertfest” program. He said, “Mambety’s film can be seen as both an assault on ongoing economic imperialism and a mournful commentary on the current state of African communalism.”
This is a surprisingly wonderful film spearheaded by a superb actor Mansour Diouf who plays Draman Drameh, the male lead in the film. The film’s obvious commentary on capitalism (Coke, Camel cigarettes, Chevrolet, etc.) is neither mean-spirited or one-sided, but thought provoking. I could not watch this film without thinking of Jamie Uys’ “The God’s Must Be Crazy” (1980) concerning the African continent as it relates to future modernization.
Questions concerning greed, power, wealth, and good versus evil are brought to a head and turned upside-down thus requiring one to look inward at subjects often difficult to confront.
GEORGE WASHINGTON ^ (2000) ^ By Herb Kane ^ * * * * (out of 5 stars) ^ CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) ^ When I was done watching “George Washington,” I was shocked when director/writer David Gordon Green said it cost only $50,000 to film. This was a very high quality movie and the acting was both humorous and heartfelt.
“George Washington” is a movie about a group of boys and girls who go through some difficult times during one summer. We see black and white kids, but racism never becomes an issue. They are friends regardless. But bad things do happen – beyond their immediate control.
Roger Ebert said in his review, “A tragedy happens, but the movie is not about the tragedy. It is about the discovery that tragedies can happen…the tragedy in the film comes so swiftly, in the midst of a casual afternoon, that it should be as surprising to you as to the kids.”
And so it is. You really feel for these characters because of an unfortunate circumstance. It all seems so real, too. We see how one character Buddy (Curtis Cotton III) deals with a crush. Then we see George (Donald Holden) jump in a swimming pool to save a life, even though he is not suppose to get his head wet because the plates in his skull don’t meet right. Then Buddy disappears. What happened to him? Watch the movie and find out. It is worth your time.
Roger Ebert summed the movie up best: “It remembers a summer that was not a happy summer, but there will never again be a summer so intensely felt, so alive, so valuable.”
WONDER BOYS ^ (2000) ^ By Herb Kane ^ * * (out of 5 stars) ^ I wonder why Roger Ebert brought “Wonder Boys” to this festival. Yeah, it was overlooked and for good reason. But I think Ebert’s infatuation with this movie is a result of a longing for his bygone days in college. That has to be it.
Ebert starts his review out reminiscing about moments he had at the University of Illinois. He remembers himself walking across a snowy campus at dusk (with a book bag on his shoulder) on his way to a seminar room to drink coffee and discuss Cather or Faulkner. He continues to remember the endless weekends, driving oversized American cars to parties where you find intellectuals filled with as much mind altering substances as they are filled with with themselves.
Ebert said, “It is the most accurate movie about campus life that I can remember.”
I say, keep your memories to yourself! I got real tired watching Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) get stoned every waking moment and he is basically depressed throughout the whole movie. Ebert said, “It is his best performance in years.” Ok, Roger. Now who’s stoned?
Michael Douglas had better roles in many films: “Wall Street” (1987), “Falling Down” (1993), “The American President (1995), “The Game” (1997), “Traffic” (2000) – just to name a few. James Leer (Toby Maguire) was one of the more intriguing characters, much in the same way Ricky (Wes Bentley) was in “American Beauty” – a very deep and mysterious individual who keeps us wondering.
The movie did have its funny moments involving a dead dog, a stolen car, the cops and stolen Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. But funny moments in the film wasn’t enough for me to take this movie seriously. Sometimes a screwball comedy can be just a little too screwed – or in this case – too stoned.
A SOLDIER’S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES ^ by Herb Kane ^ * * * * (out of 5 stars) ^ CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times). ^ Roger said in his review, “You can sense the love of a daughter for her parents in every frame of “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries.”
Indeed! In fact, the parents in this film love their daughter Channe (Leelee Sobieski) so much, they allow her boyfriend to stay overnight just so they can have sex. Bill Willis (Kris Kristofferson), the father, said, “They’re gonna do it anyway; let them do it right.”
I’m reminded of my own teen days when my mother allowed my girlfriend to stay the night. Of course, there was no talk of sex. But it was pretty much the same idea. I wouldn’t do that as a father today, but this story does show how close a father and daughter relationship grows in the presence of trust. Before I watched the movie, I thought the title suggested there was going to be some kind of abuse going on here. The totally opposite happened.
The movie is based on the life of famous author James Jones (of Robinson, a town located 110 miles from Ebert’s festival), a talented writer and a hard-drinking man. His most recognized work is: “From Here to Eternity,” “The Thin Red Line,” and “Whistle.” The movie’s story came from a novel written by his daughter, Kaylie Jones. The plot deals with the issues of adoption, love and family relationships. There are some funny moments, even in the midst of despair.
When Bill Willis has a heart attack, he is being loaded into an ambulance and at the same time reminds his son to rake the leaves. There is one scene in the movie where Bill laughs while seated at the dining room table and then says, “Did you hear that laugh? I sounded like a dying dog.” I’m inclined to think that this particular scene happened accidentally, a blooper that wasn’t bleeped. It was hilarious!
Roger Ebert summed the movie up best: “If the parallels between this story and the growing up of Kaylie Jones are true ones, then James Jones was not just a good writer but a good man.”
Actor Kris Kristofferson played the father in “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries.” Though he is known for writing his own lines in movies (such as “Blade II”), Kris said during the panel discussion, “I didn’t for this one because the script is so good.”
Get the whole story in part four of THUMBATHON: ROGER EBERT’S OVERLOOKED FILM FESTIVAL>>>




Posted on May 5, 2002 in Festivals by
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