I don't get to go to Ebertfest this year.
And when I say, "I don't get to go to Ebertfest this year," I mean I don't get to go TOMORROW.
I'm shooting a movie in New York. Well, in New York, Los Angeles and, I've just been told, Iceland -- later in the year.
And this is what happens when you shoot movies. There are miscalculations, and delays, and plans get shaken away like a diagonal line on an Etch-a-Sketch.
Things were delayed today. I was supposed to fly out of NYC tomorrow morning at dawn, to be in Champaign in time tomorrow to do a screening and q&a of Big Fan (with Steve Prokopy, "Capone" from AICN) and then a late-night screening and discussion of Kind Hearts and Coronets.
And, most of all, I was going to get to meet -- and thank -- Roger Ebert.
I've kept it pretty quiet, 'cause I know how off-putting it is to engage your fan-boy screechers and drive away everyone cool, but Roger Ebert was one of my beacons. Harlan Ellison, Lester Bangs, Willa Cather, Martin Scorsese and teachers and friends you've never heard of also guided my snout out of the reprocessed Sterling, Virginia air and led me, comedy-stage-by-comedy-stage, westward. And then worldwide.
But as far as my tastes in cinema go, it was the yearly editions of Roger's Movie Home Companion, all through the eighties, which led me upwards towards Ozu and Welles, downwards to Sybil Danning in The Howling, Part II and sideways to Infra-Man ("When they stop making movies like Infra-Man, a little light will go out of the world.") I know that for a generation before me it was Pauline Kael, but I missed out on her until I'd graduated college. For a suburban kid with no car and slim pickings at Erol's Video Rentals (before it became Blockbuster) Ebert's reviews made those video store visits count. Later, when I had a car and could Ferris Bueller my way out of school and spend an afternoon at the Janus or Orpheum in downtown D.C., an Ebert review (whether it be in his books or on his TV show) made sure I didn't miss Bye Bye Brazil or The Gods Must Be Crazy or Repo Man.
So yeah, I was really looking forward to saying thanks. To saying how amazing that infamous interview with Lee Marvin was. My envy of him getting to write with Russ Meyer, to meet the Sex Pistols, and date June Mack. And most of all, to get to be there at ground zero for the French New Wave, the collapse of the Hollywood studio system, and the subsequent rise of the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls of the 70's. And to have the writing chops he had to set it all down, in newspaper offices on a manual typewriter.
Roger, if you and Ebertfest will take a chance on me next year, I will task my agents and managers to keep those days sacred, and not try to pull off the last-minute, no-sleep derring-do we tried and failed to do this year. If not, I understand. I guess, in a way, I should bless the frustration I'm experiencing right now -- my dream of getting to hash over movies with Roger Ebert has been derailed because I'm...making movies.
If you'd told my 18 year-old self, reading Roger's "My 10 Favorite Films, and Why" essay in the...was it the '87 Movie Home Companion? '88? Anyway, if you'd told him that he'd one day be prevented from hanging out with the guy who wrote so eloquently about The Third Man and Floating Weeds and Gates of Heaven 'cause he was shooting a movie in Astoria, Queens, on the same soundstage they filmed The Cocoanuts and The Emperor Jones?
He'd think, "That sucks. And it's also kind of awesome."
Sorry, Roger. Sorry everyone. Next year?