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Watching Kane with Roger Ebert

  • Nov 19, 2004
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A few weeks ago I had the astounding honor of fulfilling one of my lifelong goals; I met Roger Ebert.

Me and my co-directing friend went to the Savannah Film festival with big cheezy grins on our faces. We were going to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to go through a shot-by-shot question and answer session with Roger Ebert. That in itself was incredible, and more than enough to keep this Alabama boy happy the rest of his days. I have spent the last decade reading his reviews, along with millions of other folks every week. He is arguably the number one personal source of information on Citizen Kane. So respected in fact, he was given the task to have an informative commentary track on the disk, which any fan of the film should listen to.

We had to throw around a few bargains, but finally we krept our way to the front row. In front of me, the stool in which he was going to sit on. Most excellent, right? Wrong, that's nothing - just the beginning. Behind me, a voice was heard amongst the others in the packed theater. "Thats where he sat last night." To my amazement he was pointing to the chair directly beside me. I choked as they brought in a microphone and placed it in front of the seat to my right. I was going to watch what the American Film Institute calls "the greatest movie of all time", with one of the most respected Critics of all time.

Sure enough, he came in and gave a brief bow. "Peter O' Toole was here wednesday, and let me tell you, he is a pro at taking applause. First he gracefully entered bowing then, once he had sat down, he noticed the balcony, so he stood once more with a surprised expression on his face as if he didn't deserve it. He is the master." Likewise he did so to the balcony.

Ebert was very nice, and if he were to stop reviewing, he would have no trouble finding work as a stand-up comedian. Popping the Citizen Kane disk out and placing it in the player, he kept the crowd rolling with anecdotes. Anything from why watching weekly citcoms is a sin, to the absurdity of yearly sports. He is anti-cycle. "Watching three episodes of Seinfield is a good thing. Watching every episode of seinfield is a waste of life. Watch a movie, listen to music, have a picnic, make love to your spouse... anything!"

Ofcourse there were some unhappy groans, but hey, he was honest and unpolitically correct, which anyone should give him credit for. Finally, "Lets get the movie going."

He sat down beside me. There was a brief exchange of nods as the lights went down. The rules to the question and answer session is, as the movie rolls if you have a comment or question you yell out "STOP!" And so he does, then the question is asked.

I was able to decifer some of the unintelligable questions for Ebert, because it was a packed house and some of the voices were very faint. One person caused a laughing riot when he compared the little monkey dolls in the wife's room with the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz; As if there was some intentional link between them. Ebert replied, "That is something you have to decide between you and your conspirator." The voice lashed out, "In this case, that would be you!" "Uh oh," Ebert laughed to himself.

There were many facts unearthed during the session. Some that even he, after over a hundred viewings, hadn't realized. Such as "the ranch" mentioned earlier in the film held the same name as the bar his wife is drinking in during her talk with the newspaper man. Also shot in which main characters are seen as the camera pulls back through a window. A hand is barely seen removing a chair from the way of the camera. Very neat information for fans. These discoveries led to applause towards the discovering audience members. Later these were put in his own essay about the festival.

"The sled in the film was purchased at auction by Steven Spielberg." I was shocked. I leaned over to him, "I was the one who sent you the e-mail about that when it happened." He was surprised, "Really?" Then he want back to the Q and A. I supposed he was just humoring me, because he is no doubt use to the crazies out there. So I left it at that.

Once the film ended and he had said his last words, the crowd stood up and raced towards him. To my surprise, he walked over to me, "So, you sent me that e-mail?" He really remembered. Out of all of the thousands of e-mails, he plucked from his memory, my letter. "Yes sir," I said. "Wow, and I replied right?" he asked. "Yes, you said 'thanks for the information'. That 'news about the sled interested you greatly'."

I knew the people standing around us were growing angry, but we continued to talk. After all was said and done, my friend and I received autograph's and a picture which you can see at hideawayfilms dot com. He gave us almost all the time he had, and for all of these things I am extremely grateful. I know it took an act of God to bring all of this together so perfectly, and to him I am forever in debt.

Watching Citizen Kane was an incredible experience that everyone should take part in atleast once. If you don't like it, that's fine, you know my opinion. Give the commentary a shot, it's a wealth of information that will help in your pursuit for film knowledge. Kane is the standard by which many filmakers, including myself, have set for themselves. It is a good measure. ~S.A.O.S.~

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review by . October 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Citizen Kane      "Rosebud..."       "Welles's accidental semi-autobiographical film stops trying to tell a good story, but tells a story perfectly."    Is this the greatest film of all time? Well to answer this question we have to understand the type of person who watches this film. When someone out of the blue decides to become a film critic, of course they rummage through various critic's lists and polls', …
review by . August 21, 2010
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I think Orson Welles was the greatest creative genius in film who never really reached his full potential.  Having said that, he remains one of the greatest creative figures in American cinema and radio!!!  Since Scotman has done an excellent review about the movie and the plot, I wanted this review to beprimarily about Orson Welles the creative genius and some information on the "back story" about the movie that made his reputation.      After creating a …
review by . August 05, 2009
There are lots of movies we can argue one must see in his lifetime.  Casablanca, Ben Hur, Star Wars, The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with Wind... just to name a few, but few stand as high on that list of "Movies you should see at least once," quite like Citizen Kane.  At the time of it's release in 1941, it was hailed as one of the movies which changed the industry.  The reasons why are all but forgotten now.  So all Citizen Kane has to stand on now is it's story, …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I think Orson Welles was the greatest creative genius in film who never really reached his full potential.  Having said that, he remains one of the greatest creative figures in American cinema and radio!!!  Since Scotman has done an excellent review about the movie and the plot, I wanted this review to beprimarily about Orson Welles the creative genius and some information on the "back story" about the movie that made his reputation.      After creating a …
Quick Tip by . July 25, 2010
A really classic picture, depicting the attitude of that decade.
review by . March 04, 2010
In 1941 actor/director/writer Orson Welles would release one of the most cherished films to ever hit the silver screen. Many have cited it as the greatest film of all time, and many more agree that Citizen Kane is the quintessential American movie. Like all great films it transcends traditional narrative to become something all its own. The movie almost holds a surreal feel as audiences are thrust into the luxurious, yet lonely life of Charles Foster Kane.     Citizen Kane is …
review by . February 15, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Best movie ever? It makes its case     Cons: Ending no longer a surprise twist - EVERYONE knows it     The Bottom Line: My favorite movies are still Goodfellas, Lord of the Rings, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.     Whenever some film organization gathers up the list of the best movies ever made, Citizen Kane is the perennial chart topper. It doesn't matter what other movies are on it - Battlefield Earth could rank number 2 and Citizen …
review by . September 23, 2007
And so we come to this, the pinacle of American film making. Often cited as one of the greatest films in movie history, and one that I saw for the first time only about three years ago. Does it live up to the hype?    God, yes.    Much is made, and rightly so, about the technical inovations in this movie. There are many and they are notable. The use of zooms before zoom lenses, the use of deep-focus, the appearance of ceilings, Greg Tolland's wonderful cinematography, …
review by . December 13, 2006
This movie is very over rated and if produced today, it would seem rather humdrum. I believe that this movie is as famous and/or popular as it is because of how the film was made, rather than content itself. Allow me to explain, Orson Welles had a heck of a time bringing his vision to the screen. He faced production problems and funding issues and other thorns in the side. Once he was able to finish the film and the end product was like nothing done before, it was and is placed on a pedestal. However …
review by . August 30, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
I'm not going to weigh in on the silly debates over the merits of this film. All I will say is that I've seen it several times before in theaters with decent to mediocre prints, but I just picked up a copy of the "two-disc special edition" and the transfer is stunning. I have to say that up until I saw it on this dvd I merely "appreciated" the film as important; this time I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the compositions that look so fine on this dvd. Whether or not you like the film, this is …
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Citizen Kane is a 1941 American dramatic film and the first feature film directed by Orson Welles, who also co-authored the screenplay. It was released by RKO Pictures. The story is a fictionalized pastiche of the life of William Randolph Hearst and Welles' own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. The film traces the life and career of Charles Foster Kane, a man whose career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is revealed through the research of a newspaper reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud."

Citizen Kane is often cited as being one of the most innovative works in the history of film. The American Film Institute placed it at number one in its list of the 100 greatest U.S. movies of all time in 1997 and again in the revised list of 2007. In a recent poll of film critics and directors conducted by the British Film Institute, Citizen Kane was ranked the number one best film of all time by both groups.

The film opens in a night setting on a vast palatial estate, on which the sign "No Trespassing" is posted. We are in Xanadu, and witness the last word spoken by enormously wealthy media magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). He utters the word "Rosebud" while holding a glass globe of a snow scene, which ...
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