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HAL 9006 reports on Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival: Premiere of the restored 2001!!! + James Cameron news!!

Hey folks, Harry here... Ahhh, Roger's OVERLOOKED FILM FESTIVAL... In my opinion the best thing in the world that a Film Historian, Critic or Enthusiast can do is throw a Film Festival and screen prints that would otherwise languish somewhere unappreciated. Personally, Roger's taste for the overlooked seems a bit too modern for my tastes what with eleven of the 14 films coming from the past 5 years, but they are all... EXCELLENT CHOICES. But I'd rather screen films that most folks have never seen or heard of like THE GREAT SMOKEY ROADBLOCK starring Henry Fonda or the Dick Powell directed SPLIT SECOND... But this is why I have my fest and Roger has his... And you should have yours. It is impossible for anyone to have a complete encyclopedia of films in their mind. Everyone has their expertise... the area of knowledge and familiarity where they pretty much kick ass. For the period of time that Roger has been a film critic.... he's a god. He knows EVERYTHING it seems... But get him talking about obscure poverty row films from the thirties and forties... Not as great... Tarantino seems to know everything from the sixties, seventies and eighties... but again silents, thirties, forties and fifties... Quentin is still learning. Me? I know my silents, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties pretty damn well, but seventies, and non-geek eighties I'm extremely weak in... but learning. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that if you are in the Chicago area... Going to Ebert's festival... It is an exceptional line-up with wonderful guests.... I mean, tonight Arthur C Clarke admits to having an unnamed project in the works with James Cameron!!! WHAT THE HELL? See... Cool stuff happens here!

1. Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen, USA, 1996).
2. Girl On the Bridge (Patrice Leconte. France, 1999).
3. Jesus' Son (Alison Maclean, Canada/USA, 1999).
4. The King of Masks (Wu Tianming, China, 1996).
5. Maryam (Ramin Serry, USA, 2000).
6. Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, Germany, 1922).
7. On the Ropes (Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, USA, 1999).
8. Panic (Henry Bromell, USA, 2000).
9. Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, Sweden, 2000).
10. A Simple Plan (Sam Raimi, USA, 1998).
11. Such A Long Journey (Sturla Gunnarsson, UK/Canada, 1998).
12. 3 Women (Robert Altman, USA, 1977).
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, USA, 1968). 
14. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Jan Harlan, UK, 1999). 

Greetings Harry,

Many thanks for your website, and encouragement. I am writing to you from the Advanced Computer Laboratory in Urbana Illinois. As you may recall, one of my predecessors was born here in January of 1992. Tonight, I witnessed 2001 on the big screen for the first time.

A large crowd came out for this film. Enthusiastic patrons filled every one of the 1540 seats in the Virginia Theater. For awhile, I listened to stories of people who had memories of the place. One person told me about an event in the 1950's. Another spoke of a 1940's event. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin once graced its stage. Many in the crowd had seen 2001 back in 1968. I am from a younger generation, but the crowd was razzed.

Then Roger Ebert strode onto the stage. "Welcome to the 3rd Overlooked Film Festival," he said. (Visit for more info) He reminisced a bit about growing up in Urbana, discussed the slate of event, and then started discussing the film we were about to see.

"How is this film overlooked? Well, there are many categories of overlookedness that we can apply. In this case, it's the format. 70 millimeter." We applauded. He continued "There aren't many audiences that would applaud a format. This is a -- I hate to use the word restored -- a reloved version of the film. New sound, and every frame cleaned up. With this format, 4 times the usual amount of information is thrown at the screen. This make everything seem richer and deeper." He talked a bit about the premeire of the film. Soon after, the film started.

Pitch black screen -- incredible sounds. I was absolutely awed by the title sequence. Compared to seeing it on television, well, there is no comparison. As the Ascent of Man started, I was taken in by the lush details of every shot.

Usually, the transition scene is described as a bone turning into a spaceship. ( It's actually an orbiting bomb.) The vision of 2000 (the year in that scene) seemed incredible. There was an audible gasped from the audience as Heywood Floyd asked his daughter what she wanted for her birthday. "A bush baby." Prophecy?

Zarathustra never spake so well. Soon, HAL was introduced. Fascinating, fascinating. I noticed they watched their interview on an IBM ThinkPad. I was surprised by how pleasurable it all was to watch.

Zero-gravity was done convincingly. Keir Dullea (who portrayed astronaut David Bowman) explained how he did one of the stunts for the film -- the pod bay hatch. He jumped straight down at the camera from the equivalent height of a three story building. Attached to his back was a rope that went up into the pod, then off to the left where a Circus Roustabout was waiting with gloved hands. Right as the rope reached a certain knot, the roustabout jumped off a platform, causing Keir to reel back towards the top. Right as the roustabout's feet touched the floor, he let go of the rope, letting Keir drop again. The roustabout grabbed the rope as a second knot whipped into his hands.

Later, the credits were rolling. Applause was given to many things -- Keir Dullea ... Strauss .... Super Panavision. Distributed by Warner Brothers added at the end. There was buzz everywhere about how spectacular the film looked. Everyone who had seen the film in 1968 told me that they don't remember the film looking so good.

Ebert, Keir Dullea, Frederick Ordway, and Arthur C Clarke (by phone, via satellite (who he thought up)) took the stage to have a discussion and to answer question. First off was how STUNNING the film looked. Ebert was still tingling from it, and tried to describe his "feelings of intense excitement." Keir talked about the last time he'd been with Arthur Clarke -- the two of them were meant to be news filler before the first moonwalk. But the "small step for man" happened a bit early, so they were rushed to the control room to watch it. A. Clarke had very damp eyes, according to Keir.

"Do you have any other movies coming out?" was asked. Arthur Clarke mentioned the Rendezvous With Rama project, then mentioned another. "I've recently been in discussions with a struggling young director -- James Cameron. Perhaps you've heard of him." He also mentioned two websites he'd recently acquired for large project. One of the websites was (I think) HAL9000BRIT.COM .

One person asked what his inspiration was. "A huge green monolith with dollar signs." He also explained the reason why Hal was born in Urbana. His favorite math professor at college, George MacFifi (sp?), was from Urbana. HAL's birthplace was in honor of him.

Then Keir Dullea took center stage. He's a very funny guy, which seems surprising after watching him as David Bowman. "We all had background stories, we knew the double PhD's our characters had. It was thought that the astronauts of the future would be carefully picked by their psychological profiles. Specifically, they would need to be the type that would remain calm in situations that would cause most of us to run away screaming. Completely unflappable."

Ebert had a few final words. "Today, there isn't a studio around that would green light this picture. The whole film is filled with long takes. In a more recent movie, the average take lasted four seconds." I suppose I've gotten jaded by cheezy digital effects. This effects seemed new and fresh to me, and I was completely blown away by them. The whole crowd seemed awed and delighted. I *HIGHLY* recommend seeing this film when the remastered version is released.

You may call me HAL 9006.

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