Tag Archives: Cannes Film Festival

Remembering Roger

 

Roger Ebert taught me a lot about movies.

When we sailed together on Dusty Cohl’s bi-annual Floating Film Festival, Roger would screen some already much-appreciated film — Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, Casablanca — and dissect it frame by frame. A master class, if you will. But Roger’s frame-by frame-process was different. He called it “democracy in the dark” and he urged his audience to share our observations during his narrative, even right in the middle of a scene if that was when the urge struck us. After all, it wasn’t as if we didn’t know how it was going to end.

Sometimes it took two or three 90-minute sessions to get through a film. To be honest with you, I never intended to stay for any of them. I had already seen Citizen Kane more times than I could remember; I felt neither the desire nor the need to see it again. My plan was to be present for the first session, just to show my support, and then quietly slip away after the lights went down. I would give it, say, 20 minutes, just to make sure the screening was going all right. But then Roger would make some little comment, give some historical background to a scene we were watching, and I would somehow lose track of time. And 90 minutes later Roger would be saying that he thought this was probably a good place in the film to take a break. By which point I would decide that I would only stay for the first 10 minutes of the next session. Because, after all, how many times could you watch Citizen Kane and keep finding new things in it? But somehow Roger always did. So I always stayed.

He was a great teacher. He taught by example. He didn’t preach; he practiced.

rogerebert-736078I remember the year that Roger came to TIFF with his new laptop voice. He was seeing lots of movies, but also doing some interviews. I asked Michael Caine how it felt to be interviewed by Roger and his new voice.

“Now that you mention it,” said Caine, “I realize I barely noticed it. It just seemed like another interview with Roger.”

I reported Caine’s reaction back to Roger. “Michael said he felt completely at home with you,” I added.

Roger scrawled something on his ever-present notepad and handed it to me. Of course he felt completely at home, he wrote. When I asked him questions I used the laptop voice with the British accent!

In the last few years he was living in a special state of grace. We spent far more time worrying about him than he did. He was busy establishing a whole new curriculum, teaching us how to be human. It was an amazing course. It was a tough course. It was, as you might have predicted, the course less traveled. Had any of us expected, even for a moment, that it could be anything less?

Roger left us a year ago today.

He left us richer for his presence. He left us poorer for his absence.

So why am I laughing?

Because when I think of him, as I often do, what I remember most is how funny he was.

My most vivid memories of Roger were at the Cannes Film Festival with Dusty Cohl and Billy Baxter. Dusty was the uncrowned King of the Hotel Carlton, and the most coveted Ask at Cannes was an Invitation to join him at his table on the Carlton Terrace. Billy was the boisterous Pretender to the Throne at the Hotel Majestic, and ruled the Majestic Bar with an iron American Express credit card.

Roger had carte blanche at both tables on both terraces, but on most evenings, after we had filed our stories, Roger would hold court at Dusty’s table on the Carlton Terrace and regale us with a bottomless repertoire of jokes. He was an extraordinarily good joke-teller, as good as any seasoned standup comedian, and his rapid-fire hysterically funny homages to Henny Youngman and Lou Jacobi and other Catskill comics frequently sparked uncontrollable shrieks of laughter from our table on the Terrace.

This was the ’70s, by the way, when our days and nights in Cannes were constantly fueled by cigarettes and alcohol and a fair amount of champagne. The day before the festival began, hotels and restaurants in Cannes produced ‘special’ menus and ‘special’ drink lists, both with outrageously high prices.. (When one of his guests ordered a glass of orange juice, Dusty winced. “How about vodka and orange juice?” he countered. “Same price!”)

And in one of Roger’s great columns from Cannes, he told his Chicago readers how Edy Williams had climbed up on our table to perform an impromptu striptease for a cadre of clamoring photographers. Roger admitted that he found this quite upsetting, not because Edy was taking her clothes off, but because when she got up on our table she almost knocked over his bottle of Perrier water. “And if you knew how much a bottle of Perrier water costs at the Carlton Terrace,” he assured his readers, “you’d be pretty upset too.”

When Roger stopped drinking I suspected he’d never again be as funny as he was on those nights at the Carlton Terrace. Happily I was wrong. Maybe our nights in Cannes had been fueled by alcohol, but his richly refined sense of humour and his magical sense of timing were fueled solely by his unique talent and his irrefutable skill as a superb storyteller.

They’re all gone now. Dusty, Roger, Billy. Gone, but not forgotten.

All the links in this blog today are kinda special, but here’s the most special one. This is a link to Roger’s tribute to Billy. Read it and, well, laugh. Go ahead. Laugh out loud. We certainly did. And some of us still are.

Here’s (still) looking at you, kid.

 *****************

World Global International Home Office

Dear Lord Lew,
All arrangements are in order for
the maiden voyage of your lordship’s yacht.
I have been successful in inviting the top film
critics of England and America to join you.
They are eager to learn about
your legendary show business career.
As of today, I have confirmations from
Kathleen Carroll and Rex Reed of the New York Daily
News, Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles
Times, George Anthony of the Toronto Sun,
Alexander Walker of the London Evening
Standard, Richard and Mary Corliss of Time
magazine, Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice,
Molly Haskell of Vogue, and Roger Ebert of the
Chicago Sun-Times. I have told them to keep
tomorrow morning free for embarkation.
Please have your office send cars
to the front entrance of the Majestic at about 10.”

Billy Baxter

-/-

 

Russell gets Cannes, Leah gets yoga, Jeff gets on stage, Brenda gets new Shoes, and Rick gets Rideau Hall??

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: First it was all those enthusiastic fans who launched that Rick Mercer For Prime Minister campaign. Recently it was Toronto Star sportswriter

ALLEN: next month in Niagara

Randy Starkman who proposed that, due to Mercer’s unflagging support of our amateur athletes, Canada should make him an honorary Olympian.  Last weekend legendary Montréal Gazette editorial cartoonist Aislin proposed yet another new role for Mercer, as our next Governor General. Where was Mercer when Aislin’s creative comment was published? Hiding out at one of 007’s favorite haunts in the Bahamas, enjoying some well-earned post-season R&R and trading sunburn remedies with fellow resort-dweller Paul McCartney.  Meanwhile, to see Aislin’s clever cartoon, just click here …. funnyman Tim Allen and SNL alumnus Joe Piscopo are both set for two-night stints at Fallsview Casino next month …  Al Pacino’s reportedly eyebrow-raising portrayal of Dr. Jack Kervorkian premieres this coming Saturday night on HBO Canada … crowd-pleaser Christian Potenza has just launched his own YouTube Channel … Brenda Hoffert’s new photography exhibit, Shoes, opens April 30 at Gallery 888 on Queen Street in Leslieville

TRAVIS: looking for heroes

Thursday night headliners Ken Lindsay and Mark Cassius surprised fans at Fuzion last week by switching roles for The Nearness Of You. While ex-Nylon Cassius caressed the ivories (the ivories loved it,) piano man Lindsay delivered the vocal … terminally gorgeous screen siren Leah Pinsent has signed up for a double fitness marathon of yoga and high-energy Zumba Fitness sessions on April 25 at the 2nd annual Yoga in Motion at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex. The award-winning actress is fund-raising in support of breast cancer research at Mount Sinai Hospital. For more info, click hereModern Family scene-stealer Ty Burrell is reportedly set to star opposite Jennifer Garner in her new romantic comedy Butter … and the biggest buzz-du-jour in TV circles is Debbie Travis’ new prime-time show – her first for CBC.

CROWE: heading for Cannes

Especially fascinating is her current search for local heroes. If you know someone you believe deserves to be recognized for his/her service to your community, don’t keep it a secret – just click here!

FLICKERS: Okay, don’t get me wrong, I realize that director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are one of filmdom’s most dynamic duos. First there was Gladiator, then A Good Year (hey, nobody’s perfect,) then American Gangster with Denzel Washington and then Body Of Lies withLeonardo DiCaprio.  All in all, pretty good stuff.  But did I expect their new collaboration, Robin Hood – yes, that Robin Hood – to be invited to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival? Nope. Which strongly suggests

EHRENREICH: Grow-ing concern

that this Robin Hood must really be something to see … and Toronto’s fast-approaching Hot Docs filmfest will celebrate springtime by presenting three special open-air screenings in its new Rooftop Docs series. The annual marathon of documentary films will take over the top tier of the Citipark Cumberland Garage in Yorkville on Thursday May 6, Friday May 7 and Saturday May 8, presenting film screenings and live music, with locally brew courtesy of Steamwhistle Breweries and free popcorn courtesy of Whole Foods Market. For more info, click here.

FOOTLIGHTS: First Ken Gass directs the much-anticipated return of George F. Walker’s hit comedy Featuring Loretta, opening May 1 at the Factory Theatre. Then the

SEYMOUR: on stage in June

theatre world gathers to celebrate Factory’s big birthday with a 40th Anniversary Gala on May 10. And yes, tickets are still available. For more info, click here … David Mirvish is set to premiere Jake Ehrenreich‘s now-fabled  stage production A Jew Grows In Brooklyn at the Panasonic Theatre on April 28  … after winning glowing reviews in L.A. for both his direction and his performance, Jeff Seymour is set to co-star with Len Lesser (a.k.a. Uncle Leo on Seinfeld) in Ronald Ribman’s Cold Storage, on stage for 10 performances only, June 1-11 at the George Ignatieff Theatre … how do you attract attention for a new play without a big ad/pub budget? Bobby Del Rio is garnering eyeballs with an intriguing movie-style trailer for his new theatrical venture, The Market, now set to open in T.O. next month. To sample his stage wares on video, click here .

And have a great week!

-/-


More rain from Prince? More Hobbits from Jackson? More big screen roles for Dexter and Cristina? Stay tuned

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Hypnotic Six Feet Under alumnus Michael C. Hall, so good as Dexter, is set to move to the big screen. He’ll costar with Brie Larson [United States of Tara] in a new flick called East Fifth Bliss … is Prince planning a film  sequel to his

MARSHALL: fan fave

’80s megabit Purple Rain? My spies swear it’s so. In the sequel (or ‘the squeal,’ as his fans adoringly refer to it) his character The Kid is now 50, has lost his record deal and has to go up against much younger (and supposedly hipper) artists. Talk about spectacular comeback material … .Joe Manganiello has been cast in HBO’s True Blood as the series’ very first werewolf (who knew?) … Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Josh Brolin, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan and Charlie Sheen are reportedly committed to attending the Cannes Film Festival now that Wall Street II has been selected as the closing gala …  and fan favourite Amber Marshall, who stars in CBC’s hit Sunday night series Heartland, was thrilled by the turnout this weekend when she agreed to sign autographs at the Can-Am Equine Emporium, a popular all-breeds horse show in London, Ont. “The signing was unbelievable!” she reports. “We had originally planned for a one-hour signing at 2 pm, but by 5 pm I was still signing away!!  Girls started lining up at 11 in the morning, and some drove for seven hours to get there. All in all, simply wonderful.”

OH: teacher, teacher

FLICKERS: First release of the 2-D DVD of Avatar is reportedly due this Saturday — Earth Day. So turn off the lights and enjoy …  d’ya suppose Tim Burton is as surprised as I am that his 3-D Alice In Wonderland topped box office grosses for the third consecutive weekend? Chalk up first week grosses to Johnny Depp star power, but it’s all word-of-mouth since then. And word-of-mouth on the film continues to be spectacularly good … screen-stealer Sandra Oh took a break from Grey’s Anatomy just long enough to play with Josh Duhamel and John Corbett in the upcoming Ramona & Beezus. Ms Oh plays school teacher to rambunctious pupils Selena Gomez and newcomer Joey King … and Sir Ian McKellen will return as Gandalf when Peter Jackson starts shooting The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel to Lord Of The Rings, this summer in New Zealand.

WILLIAMS: happy anniversary

CALENDAR JOTTINGS: The new Canadian Media Fund, which opens for business next week, kicks off this Friday with a bilingual webcast launch and virtual town halls … speakers set for April 10-12 Toronto Screenwriting Conference include Tim Long, Writer/Executive Producer of The Simpsons, Chuck Tatham, Co-Executive Producer of How I Met Your Mother, and Robert C. Cooper, writer/Executive Producer of Stargate Universe … Hot Docs is set to announce its top picks for its April 29-May 9 2010 festival tomorrow morning … it doesn’t seem possible that a decade has passed since Tonya Lee Williams first championed it, but her ReelWorld Film Festival celebrates its 10th Anniversary season April 7-11. Wow! … and yes, it’s March 22. Happy 80th (!!!) birthday, Stephen Sondheim, And many more, please!

TOMORROW:

Rick wraps, k.d. sings and Zach chats up Jerry.

The new kid in The Hall goes to Cannes

 

Maybe Simone Signoret was right after all.
As I recall, the title of her 1976 autobiography was  “La nostalgie   
n’est plus qu’elle était” (“Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be”.)
I remember her in twilight, sitting outside the Colombe d’Or,  
clutching her shawl, hunched over like a little old French lady.
But while you wax poetic and I wane nostalgic, I hear another story, a  
new story, that makes me remember how we felt about Cannes in our  
halcyon salad days. And this story is unfolding as we speak.
He’s just a young guy from Newfoundland.
His name is Stephen Dunn.
Last November Stephen and seven other 1st year film students competed  
in the Toronto 48 Hour Film Project. They entered a short film called  
‘The Hall’ — a film which Stephen wrote and directed.
Competing against industry professionals many years their senior, they  
won Best Film, Best Writing, Best Acting, Best Cinematography, Best  
Editing and the Audience Choice award.
As a result they represented Canada at the Miami International Film  
Festival in March, won the top prize, and were proclaimed to be one of  
the Top 15 international short films for 2008.
‘The Hall’ was then chosen to screen in Boston on March 30 as one of  
the best films in the history of the 48 Hour Film Festival.
And where did that lead them? To Cannes.
‘The Hall’ will be screened this Tuesday March 19 at the festival’s  
Short Film Corner. (It will also be competing in the NFB’s online  
short film contest.)
And while i get all nostalgic about the once and magical student hang-
out on the Rue d’Antibes, I doubt if Stephen Dunn has ever heard of La  
Petit Carlton, let alone the Croisette hotel & terrace it was named for.
But then, he’s all about the present. And living every minute of it.
“I’m here now,” he emailed fellow Newfoundlander Rick Mercer,  “and  
it’s so effing intense. Yesterday I saw two films, saw Tilda Swinton,   
listened to Martin Scorsese speak TWICE and watched Francis Ford  
Coppela cry from 10 feet away. I’ve been here two days and can already  
say that this has been my most incredible trip yet.”
To check out ‘The Hall’ and its filmmaker, his youtube channel has his  
vlogs at
The trailer for his short film is at
And his facebook page is located at
Yes, it’s a new world. But some traces of the ‘old world’ excitement  
still survive.

-/-

 

He’s just a young guy from Newfoundland.

He’s just a young guy from Newfoundland.

His name is Stephen Dunn.

Last November Stephen and seven other 1st year film students competed in the Toronto 48 Hour Film Project. They entered a short film called The Hall — a film which Stephen wrote and directed.

DUNN: kid from The Hall

DUNN: kid from The Hall

Competing against industry professionals many years their senior, they won Best Film, Best Writing, Best Acting, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and the Audience Choice award.

As a result they represented Canada at the Miami International Film Festival in March, won the top prize, and were proclaimed to be one of the Top 15 international short films for 2008.

The Hall was then chosen to screen in Boston on March 30 as one of the best films in the history of the 48 Hour Film Festival.

And where did that lead them?

To this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The Hall will be screened March 18 — this Monday afternoon — at the festival’s Short Film Corner.

SWINTON: at Cannes

SWINTON: at Cannes

(It will also be competing in the NFB’s online short film contest.)

Stephen Dunn is having a very good time in Cannes.

“I’m here now,” he emailed fellow Newfoundlander Rick Mercer a few days ago,  “and it’s so effing intense. Yesterday I saw two films, saw Tilda Swinton,  listened to Martin Scorsese speak TWICE and watched Francis Ford Coppola cry from 10 feet away. I’ve been here two days and can already say that this has been my most incredible trip yet.”

I predict he will be just fine. If  he doesn’t implode by Monday.

To check out The Hall and its filmmaker, you can see his vlogs on his youtube channel right here.

To see the trailer for his short film, just click here.

And to send a message to him on Facebook — because, c’mon, you know you want to —  just click here.

Bonne chance, Stephen.  

Or we say in Quebec, Merde!