Ebertfest 2019 finale | Our favorite moments

Ebertfest 2019 finale | Our favorite moments

— A cute touch late in the festival's final day Saturday was Chaz Ebert inviting her daughter, Sonia Evans, and public relations handler Lee Meltzer onstage to have the audience sing not one, but two versions of "Happy Birthday" to them. Moments later, Chicago Sun-Times film critic and special guest Richard Roeper got laughs by offering a third version — or at least a line, a vocal "guitar riff" and a couple drum beats of it — that being The Beatles' "Birthday" from the White Album. Rock on, Richard!

 

— Roeper was entertaining as always in his remarks about both of the films he chose for Ebertfest 2019's lineup, especially when he recalled that 2004's "Sideways" was a fave of both his and Roger Ebert's, as it came out while they were co-hosting the syndicated TV series "At the Movies." Roeper recalled that "I used to tease him that he was Paul Giamatti, and I was Thomas Haden Church in the relationship, and we'll leave it at that."

 

— Two among the legions of Ebertfest faithful (and longtime sponsors) glad to hear the festival will go on have been coming every year since it began. Well, sort of. Dave Crouse says he's probably been coming to Ebertfest one less year than his wife, Shirley, who recalls when the original festival's turnout was so sparse that she could eat Twizzlers undisturbed in the front row of the Virginia Theatre balcony, and not have to worry about any nearby spectators objecting. The Champaign couple both give this year's Ebertfest high marks. In fact, Dave admits his favorite movie in this year's fest was one he hadn't had high expectations for, "Cold War," a black-and-white foreign-language picture about a romance set during the Cold War in France and Poland. He rates the film's cinematography and music "outstanding."

 

— I, too, have already been asked for my favorite movie from Ebertfest 2019, and while I didn't get to see nearly as many of the festival's 13 movies as I'd wanted, I did see several for the first time. And much like Dave Crouse, I think my favorite film (or films) of the bunch earned that distinction by virtue of far exceeding my expectations. Even without the charming duo of Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon on hand to enliven the viewing, the smart, sexy crime thriller "Bound" impressed me as an outstanding debut effort by the Wachowski duo, for its camera work and pacing as much as the plot and the performances. And I'll admit it, the documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor" left me with tears in my eyes and an urge to hug someone. Not too many movies I can say that about.

 

— One of Ebertfest's additions this year, announced Saturday by host Chaz Ebert, is a YouTube page containing video uploads of the website's livestreams from all the panel discussions, film introductions and guest Q&A's. You can find it on YouTube. While you're at it, check out the video for the "Sideways" Q&A with actress and Chicago native Virginia Madsen via Skype from Saturday night, as well as the Q&A for "Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise" from earlier Saturday in which Chaz Ebert presents co-director Rita Coburn with the festival's first Icon Award — another new addition this year.

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