Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Welcome

My name is Patrick Franklin. I’m your official blogger for Roger Ebert’s 7th Annual Overlooked Film Festival. You may remember me from last year’s festival or maybe from a popular granola bar commercial in which I wrestle a pig. Or was that a dream I had? “Why am I official?” you ask. I’m official because I’m wearing a shiny blue uniform with a 24-karat gold lapel pin bearing an engraving of Roger Ebert’s thumbprint. Okay, maybe not. But imagine that I am. Also, imagine that I have a broadsword, a time-traveling tricycle, and a pet iguana named Colonel Steppenwolf. Don’t ask why. Just do it.

I must admit I’m more excited about this year’s films than those of last year. It’s a great selection. From a documentary on quadriplegic athletes to a $7,000 science-fiction film, I think Roger covered his bases this time. And if there’s one thing I always think to myself every time I imagine programming my own festival one day, it’s Tati, Tati, Tati, and more Tati. I’m never one for superlatives, but if I were forced at gunpoint to choose a favorite film director, it would be Jacques Tati. So, needless to say (what a pointless phrase), I’m very excited to see Tati’s Playtime the way it was intended. It’s been a dream of mine for some time to see a Tati film, any Tati film, on the big screen, so it’s the perfect way to kick off this film lover’s vacation.

I’ve heard of most of the films playing at this year’s festival. I’ve seen only one - Playtime. Most of these films never came to Athens, Georgia where I live. Some only came for a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it screenings. I already had the intention of seeing a few of these films, namely Primer. Why? Because I’ve heard so much about it. A few of these films have gotten a bit of buzz in the past few months. So are they really overlooked? Or simply not-yet-looked? Or maybe under-seen? Roger has more definitions for “overlooked” than most people do for “love”, but this is fine with me. Most film festivals have loose definitions for the words “film” and “festival” to begin with, so Roger can show whatever he dang well pleases.

But is it so much that we live in a world where good films are overlooked or do we live in a world where everything else is over-hyped? Two sides of the same coin maybe. Much of what is tattooed onto our memory cells and said to be significant is simply that which is overly visible. I don’t own any Britney Spears albums and I don’t know the name of her husband or what he looks like, but I know that they are pregnant and that this should somehow be important to me. I never saw a complete episode of the original Survivor, but somehow I know that a man named Richard Hatch won a million dollars by the end of the season. I can also name a few American Idols, but I care nothing for over-produced, over-sung, and poorly written pop songs. Bigger is bigger. If Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me taught us anything, it’s that the Texas-T moustache just plain doesn’t work. If it taught us something else, it’s that we Americans like everything big – and that means in plain sight. Such is the nature of the film world. It’s not which film is the most significant or provocative or challenging or unique that matters. It’s which films star’s head will look appealing when blown up large enough to be on a cardboard standup that will so strategically block your path to the rest room at the Cineplex. We live in world of the overly visible. Isn’t it frightening how they can digitally manipulate the advertisements behind the batter during a major league baseball game? “Hey, weren’t they telling me to switch brands of motor oil on ball two. Now, it’s strike three and I have a sudden craving for a candy bar.”

But enough about the oversized, overstuffed, and overdone. (I’m over-overing, aren’t I?) On to the “Overlooked” film festival. We shall see how my second experience with this festival compares to last year’s. The real test this year is whether Roger will remember me. I’ve only met the man twice and he meets a lot of people on a daily basis I’m sure. Will he wave from across the room and bee line his way to shake my hand? Who knows? Just play it cool, Patrick. Just play it cool.

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