Ask 'Mimi' July 20, 2014
Q: Mimi, have you ever visited the Bryant Cottage State Historic Site in Bement?
A: I stopped in Bement a couple of months ago but the cute little cottage was closed. I hear it's worth a visit.
Built in 1856 by Bement businessman Francis E. Bryant, it's known as the place where Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln talked about their famous 1858 debates.
It's open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays; from November through February, it closes an hour earlier.
Q: After seeing "Life Itself" at the Art Theater Co-op, Jeff Huth asks how actor Stephen Stanton was able to sound just like Ebert as he read excerpts from the Urbana native's memoir.
A: To prepare, the L.A.-based voice-match expert and impressionist read Ebert's memoir, studied a rough cut of Steve James' documentary and listened to YouTube videos of Ebert.
Stanton told The Chicago Sun-Times voicing Ebert was "around an eight" on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most difficult.
At the private screening of "Life Itself" I attended in Chicago in March, Chaz Ebert said Stanton is now asked at parties to mimic Ebert but refuses out of respect for the late critic.
Q: After seeing "Life Itself" on video on-demand, my sister, Carol, asks why Ebertfest wasn't included.
A: Scenes of the Virginia Theatre during Ebertfest are but there is no mention of the festival Ebert loved. James told me he had wanted to include Ebertfest but couldn't find the appropriate place without breaking the narrative.
I saw a couple of places. One is when the documentary covers Ebert's work on the Russ Meyer flick "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." Ebert closed the 2007 Ebertfest by showing that movie, followed by a live performance by Stawberry Alarm Clock, a band that appears in the movie.
And, at the start of the 2010 Ebertfest, just after Gov. Pat Quinn declared it Roger Ebert Day in Illinois, Ebert quoted his "Beyond..." screenplay: "This is my happening and it's freaking me out." "Life Itself" shows an actor in "Beyond..." saying those very words; James could have cut to the 2010 Ebertfest opening. (All Ebertfest action is videotaped.)
All in all, though, James did a good job covering Ebert's life, showing his generosity of spirit and making some important points on race and physical appearance.