Ebertfest 2019 Day 1 | Our favorite moments

Ebertfest 2019 Day 1 | Our favorite moments

Arts-and-entertainment expert Frank Pieper's take:

My favorite Day 1 moments

— The belated arrival of Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon at Wednesday night's opening gala at the UI President's House palpably jump-started the 21st Ebertfest's energy level from the moment each tried to enter the room discreetly. As if! Gershon seemed a trifle embarrassed at all the instant attention, but Tilly ate it up, eagerly joining Chaz Ebert at the podium and taking over the microphone to offer a warm memory of the festival's Pulitzer Prize-winning namesake, Roger Ebert.

"'Bound' was one of those films that sort of came out, and everybody was confused, and Roger just got it. I mean, he championed the film," she said. On the other hand, she said, while Ebert was "a ferocious lover of film," he was just as quick to tell her that a film she was in that seemed to be well-received, "that wasn't such a great film ... but I loved 'Bound.'"

— As if she needed any help in winning over Ebertfest fans, Tilly endeared herself even more Wednesday by gushing to Chaz Ebert and her guests, "This is an amazing festival. I would love to come some time and just see all the films! What a great audience you've got!" Consider this an open invitation, Jennifer.

— Among the many special guests Chaz Ebert singled out for recognition and applause at the gala was someone I'd already had the pleasure of meeting a few minutes earlier while eyeing the hors d'oeuvres table: Polish actress Maja Komorowska, who was accompanied by her grandson, Jerzy Tyszkiewicz, who was also doubling as her interpreter. Komorowska was in town for Friday's showing of "A Year of the Quiet Sun," a 1984 film in which she starred as a Polish refugee opposite frequent Ebertfest guest Scott Wilson, who died last October and is being honored at this year's festival.

She and her grandson had flown into Chicago from Warsaw, and he was still marveling at "the shortest plane ride I've ever had" in the 45-minute shuttle flight from Chicago to Champaign. She seemed more concerned with persuading him to eat something from the hors d'oeuvre table. You know how grandmas are ...

Looking forward to Day 2

— 9 a.m.: The panel discussions at Ebertfest as a rule get less publicity than the film screenings, but they have a lot to offer the inquiring cinephile as well, not to mention an intriguing mix of talented critics and media experts. There are two panels scheduled for this year's festival, both of them this morning on the lower level of the Hyatt Place Hotel, 217 N. Neil St., C.

Both are free and open to the public, with the first (from 9 to 10 a.m.) the Alliance For Inclusion and Respect Panel moderated by film scholar Eric Pierson on the topic of "Challenging Stigma Through the Arts," and the second (from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.) the Women in Cinema Panel moderated by Chaz Ebert herself, and featuring Tilly and Gershon as panelists, on "Hollywood or Independent, Does It Make a Difference?"

The best part? For sleepyheads like me, the panel discussions as well as the post-screening Q&A sessions are all livestreamed on the festival's website at ebertfest.com and available there anytime thereafter.

— 4 p.m.: Paul Wood will be catching the day's first film, the silent classic "Coeur fidèle" ("The Faithful Heart") with Alloy Orchestra performing. But I’ll be back in the Virginia later in the afternoon for "Rachel Getting Married," with movie executives and media experts Michael Barker and Stephen Apkon as special guests. As I wrote in today’s "Frank’s Faves" column, this viewing, like most of the rest on the Ebertfest schedule, will be a first for me, and I’m especially looking forward to catching Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-nominated performance.

— 9 p.m.: No question, this will be the high point of my day, especially if special guests Tilly and Gershon are in the house, as scheduled, for the screening of their 1996 crime drama "Bound."

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