EbertFest

The Andy Ihnatko Pan-American Collegiate Goodwill Tour continues. Now I’m in Urbana, Illinois, attending and speaking at EbertFest. It’s my very first film festival, I’ve been here since Wednesday, and I do believe that this is the first full night’s sleep I’ve had.

It’s been an education and I started learning even before I left home: I have now proven that it is categorically impossible for me to leave for the airport with more than two hours of sleep under my belt. My flight left at noon. Noon! Which seems like plenty of time for a lie-in and then what-ho for blue skies and bluer women and yet I made housecleaning and office organization a priority.

Well, it was kind of necessary. I’ve been traveling so much this month that when I got home from Penn State last week and went shopping, it was the first time in weeks that I dared to put a few days’ worth of perishable food items in the fridge.

I had to grind through my taxes this month, too. Result: I gave myself a mulligan on housecleaning. Late on Tuesday night, I looked around and thought “Do I really want to return to this?” I decided that a few hours of cleaning would be easier than finding a new place to live while I was away.

I’m going to try hard to blog about all of the movies I see while I’m here.

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music,
The Director’s Cut

I wish I could have seen this flick under better conditions. A new 70mm print in a great old theater with a full house is a great start. But I had arrived at the Virginia Theater immediately from the airport, and the film’s 225-minute running time represents almost twice the amount of sleep I got when I left the house that morning.

Yes, I was a Human-Shaped Object, rather than an active and engaged audience member.

It’s weird to watch a concert movie with so many acts, after growing up with access to a Next Track button on all of my music players. The Who did two numbers and I was metaphorically standing up and shouting “#&@* YEAHHH!!!!” But then someone let Joan Baez get at the microphone and my thumb started tapping the inside of my index finger, trying to punch a button on an iPod that wasn’t there.

But then Janis Joplin steped on stage and once again I was cheering and shouting words that could only be printed in the form of high-ASCII characters.

I had a lot of trouble staying awake. It wasn’t the fault of the movie, of course. It’s a fantastic concert film and a hell of a document. I felt like I missed a huge opportunity.

I wish the film were released in two extended forms. The “documentary” scenes are endlessly compelling. A city of 400,000 appeared in a field and was gone (apart from uncountable cigarette butts) four days later. People showed up, they had a good time, they tried very hard to get along with each other and not screw things up, and then they left. How did that happen?

But there were a wide range of acts and nobody’s a fan of every single act on the bill. It’s not a comment about Joan Baez. It’s just me and my particular taste in music. This is one of those bits when I dozed off despite my struggles.

My favorite scenes: John Sebastian, embodying every bad stereotype of Hippie culture. He dressed and spoke like a character that a 50-year-old comedy writer would have created for an episode of “That Girl.”

And then there was the guy cleaning the Port-O-Sans. “I have two sons,” he explained, as he sloshed a bucked of disinfectant around and replaced the toilet paper in an efficient and cheery manner. “One is here. One is flying hueys in Vietnam. I’m proud of ’em both.”

The director yanked on my ponytail during dinner last night and called me a “dirty hippie.” I loudly protested “I love America as much as you do, sir” and when I had a private moment assured him that I was an undercover narcotics officer and that I hated those filthy Bolshevik bastards just as much as he did.

1 thought on “EbertFest”

  1. If you are a fan of thick, pan pizza, you should not leave Champaign-Urbana without a visit to Papa Del’s on Green Street, just west of campus. I’ve been eating Pop’s for 30 years, even though I haven’t lived within a hundred miles of C-U for 25. I keep the carry-out number in my cell phone so I can make an order from the highway whenever I’m driving nearby. I know Roger Ebert will wax rhapsodic about Steak ‘n’ Shake, but don’t be deterred—Papa Del’s, pan pizza with sausage (whatever other topping you like is fine, but you must include the sausage).

    Oh, and enjoy the movies, too.

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