We lost Roger Ebert in 2013, but the movie critic's film festival carries on the legacy of this legendary Chicagoan by exposing audiences to some of his favorite films. Ebertfest takes place in Champaign from April 15-18, but if you can't make it to the festival, you can still celebrate by watching a few past selections.
Richard Linklater was a recurring festival guest, most recently for his dark comedy Bernie. This film was based on the bizarre real-life case of Bernie Tiede, an affable Texas mortician who befriended a widow and ended up murdering her. Linklater uses the premise to create an intriguing and original portrayal of small-town politics, human flaws and heartfelt humor.
Before The Artist pushed silent film revival into the mainstream, Spanish director Pablo Berger was working on Blancanieves, his visually stunning adaptation of Snow White. Berger re-imagines the fairy tale character as the daughter of a matador who arouses the ire of her wicked stepmother as she gains fame bullfighting with seven dwarves. With a sense of editing, framing and soundtrack all lifted heavily from the romantic expressionism and melodrama of silent Spanish cinema, this film is more of a lovely homage to a bygone era than a pastiche.
Escape From Tomorrow reflects the original purpose of Ebert's festival, to showcase more obscure or overlooked films. This gorgeous black-and-white film was shot guerrilla style in one of the most famous American theme parks, and it humorously explores its dark underside as a family vacation turns surprisingly sinister.