Ebert's co-host, friend as excited as ever to attend film festival

Ebert's co-host, friend as excited as ever to attend film festival

You'll be seeing a lot of Richard Roeper at the 2019 Roger Ebert Film Festival.

The Sun-Times critic, TV and radio star was close friends with Ebert and his co-host on their TV review show for nearly a decade.

This year, his Virginia Theatre appearances are not formal, but he'll be sharing the stage with festival producer and host Chaz Ebert for at least a couple of the movies.

"I'm not really co-hosting as much as I'll be there to celebrate and remember my time as Roger's co-host and friend. It's a one-time event, but I have often participated in the Film Festival and I'll continue to do so," he said.

The event runs from April 10-13.

The movies to be shown have not yet been released, but Roeper shares his friend's passion to reach films that audiences might have missed. The festival premiered as Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival.

Roeper, too, is an advocate for lesser-known films, like "Leave No Trace" and "Lean on Pete."

In his review of "Widows," which he named the best film of 2018, he wrote "Twenty years from now, we'll be wondering why it wasn't more celebrated and acclaimed when it was first released."

You'll be seeing films that very well never showed in local theaters.

"I think even now, the Roger Ebert Film Festival celebrates not only big movies and classics, but some smaller gems that deserve to be remembered and cherished," Roeper said.

After the death of the Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel in 1999, Ebert tried several co-hosts for "At The Movies," the successor to "Sneak Previews."

Roeper turned out to be the keeper. The series became "Ebert & Roeper and the Movies" in 2000 and then was shortened to "Ebert & Roeper."

Roeper had been friends with our hometown hero, who died of cancer in 2013, for years.

"I was lucky enough to meet Roger (years) before that, as we were colleagues at the Chicago Sun-Times. We were already friends by the time I joined the show, but that friendship really grew and became deeper during the years we did the show together," Roeper said.

Like Ebert, he's been a movie fan since he was a child.

"I grew up in a family that loved movies. We were always watching films on TV, and as soon as I was old enough to go to the local theaters, I attended as many movies as possible," Roeper said.

But cinema isn't his only love.

He's a White Sox fan and has written a book about the South Siders. Roeper has also written about gambling.

What if he had to choose between sports and movies?

"If I had to pick, I think I'd go with movies. But often it's the best of both worlds, i.e., movies about sports!" he added.

Roeper has quite a few commitments besides the Sun-Times — TV, radio and the internet. It sounds like a frenetic week for him in April.

"But the thing is, I love what I do, so even if it's a 12-hour workday, I'm so lucky to be working in radio and TV — and my first love, newspapers," Roeper said.

Festival passes are $150 and are already on sale.

Passes can be purchased at thevirginia.org; at the Virginia Theater box office, 203 W. Park Ave., C; or by phone at 217-356-9063.

Best of the best

Here's some of what Richard Roeper had to say in the Sun-Times about the best films of 2018, including some you may have never heard of:

10. "Mission: Impossible — Fallout"

I know it's about Ethan Hunt, but this is one of the best James Bond movies ever made.

9. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Just when I thought I was Spidey'd out, along comes this bold, brilliant, diverse, funny, cool and badass animated adventure.

8. "Blindspotting"

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal team up for a free-verse, hip-hop, funny, consciousness-rattling, sometimes very funny, sometimes brutally honest and ultimately moving take on the classic buddy movie.

7. "Black Panther"

A landmark film for so many reasons, from that amazing cast ... to the great action to the emotionally resonant moments to the fact this was the first time an African-American lead starred in a giant superhero franchise film.

6. "A Star is Born"

Bradley Cooper directs and stars in the latest remake of "A Star Is Born," co-starring Lady Gaga, a singer who can truly act.

5. "Lean on Pete"

You might not have heard of this one, but trust me, it's a small masterpiece about a 15-year-old boy and the horse that becomes his saving grace.

4. "Leave No Trace"

Another under-the-radar gem. This one starred the great character actor Ben Foster and future star Thomasin McKenzie as a father and daughter living in the woods in the Pacific Northwest.

3. "BlacKkKlansman"

Spike Lee is one of the best directors of the last 50 years, and he delivers another zeitgeist drama starring John David Washington as a black Colorado detective who manages to infiltrate the Klan.

2. "Roma"

One of the most beautiful films you've ever see, sure to win the Oscar for best foreign film and quite possibly the best picture overall.

1. "Widows"

I'm still baffled by the indifferent box office for Steve McQueen's epic, multi-faceted drama/heist film/political thriller/domestic drama hybrid. Filmed in Chicago and starring Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy role ... an instant classic.