In the early 2000s, Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign was an event I really looked forward to. Each year, over the course of a long weekend, I’d see a bunch of incredible movies, perfectly projected, in a beautiful theater.
I have memories that I’ll never forget from each year I attended. Ignoring the discomfort of my cramped balcony seat during a 70 mm screening of Lawrence of Arabia. Feeling sympathy for HAL, begging Dave to spare his life in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Being inspired by Mark Borchardt in American Movie to work harder and be more creative. Standing at a urinal next to Kris Kristofferson.
One of my greatest memories is seeing Bill Paxton at the festival to discuss his performance in A Simple Plan. An audience member asked a question about his role in Aliens and Paxton’s eyes lit up. Without prompting, he stood up from his seat and shouted his iconic line, “Game over man. Game over.” The room erupted in applause. This audience of erudite film fans, at the festival to see heady art films like 3 Women, foreign films like King of Masks, and silent classics like Noseratu, loved mainstream, sci-fi action movies, too. Bill Paxton knew it, and took the opportunity to give everyone what they wanted. It was exciting, sweet and, somehow moving.
Life got in the way and I haven’t been back to Ebertfest since 2004, but when I heard Bill Paxton died today, the first thing I did was check to see if I could get passes for this year’s festival. I hope I can make it. In the meantime, I’m just going to watch some of my favorite movies.
A Simple Plan
In the snowy Minnesota woods three men come across a downed plane with a rotting corpse inside & over $4 million stuffed inside a duffel bag.
Stranded in a crippled spacecraft 205,000 miles from Earth, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert fight a desperate battle to survive. Meanwhile, at Mission Control, astronaut Ken Mattingly, flight director Gene Kranz and the efforts of a heroic ground crew race against time – and the odds – to bring the men home.
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