Here’s something that many of us movie lovers have been waiting for: Roger Ebert will announce on his blog next Wednesday (March 21) the lineup and guests for the 2012 Ebertfest.
"People are getting impatient," he tweeted Tuesday.
We know of one guest: stand-up comic/actor Patton Oswalt. He will be at the festival with a movie, but festival director Nate Kohn wouldn’t reveal to me which one. Drats!
Oswalt will arrive in C-U before Ebertfest opens on April 25 to screen "Kind Hearts and Coronets," an Alec Guinness vehicle released in 1949 by Ealing Studios. In it Guinness, a master of disguise, plays eight different characters. Oswalt will do that on April 24 at Foellinger Auditorium on the University of Illinois Quad. He will introduce it and lead a discussion about it afterward.
Though geared toward students the event will be open to all — and free. The doors will open at 7 p.m.; the action will get underway at 7:30 p.m.
The actual 14th annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, a marathon of movie watching, movie talk and seemingly utopian cinematic camaraderie, will be April 25-29 at the vintage Virginia Theatre in Champaign and on the UI campus. The festival likely will showcase 12 movies, though Ebert is known to make last-minute additions.
If you don’t have a festival pass yet, don’t despair. As of just now (around 4 p.m. March 14), 72 passes remained available at the Virginia. Call 217 356-9063. Each pass costs $135, with an additional $2 processing fee.
Oswalt, the cherub-faced comic, as the Daily Beast calls him, is known for having voiced Remy in the great animated movie "Ratatouille" and for his appearances in "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas" and "Young Adult," released last year.
Oswalt, who’s also appeared in a many TV series, among them "King of Queens," is popular with college students and is enthusiastic about meeting with them, Kohn said. The festival director, who is a professor of journalism at the University of Georgia, told me his students exploded in delight when he told them Oswalt would be at Ebertfest. Someone on Twitter said the actor’s appearance at Ebertfest is worth the price of the festival pass.
Kohn said Ebertfest will be international this year but it tends to be that way nearly every year as the world’s greatest movie critic brings from nearly all over the world directors, producers, actors and others involved in film-making. (Raconteur Werner Herzog, my all-time favorite Ebertfest guest, will not be coming this year.)
And, of course, every movie screened during the festival, with the possible exception of one, will be digital.
To get you into the Ebertfest mood, Steve Shoemaker, who graduated from Urbana High School in 1961, a year after the world’s most famous movie criticd, will air on April 22 his 1999 pre-first-Ebertfest interview with Ebert. In that 58-minute chat, the world's most famous movie critic expressed reservations about how many people would attend his festival. In just a few short years the festival became quite well-attended, as well as the premier entertainment event in central Illinois.
Shoemaker will air that during his program "Keepin’ the Faith," from 5 to 6 p.m. on WILL 580-AM.
It will be sort of bittersweet. Ebert, as we know, lost his speaking voice a few years ago as a result of cancer and other surgeries. He maintains a huge voice, though, in the cyberworld.