The relationship of movie star to critic isn’t always as parasitic and fraught as you might imagine. Witness Tilda Swinton bouncing around the Virginia Theater in Champaign Illinois, urging audience members to get up and dance in honor of the late Roger Ebert. (He gave high praise to Swinton’s 2009 film Julia, one of the offerings in this year’s Ebertfest.)
Prior to leaping into the audience to the strains of Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything”, the actress decreed participation was mandatory, no voyeurism allowed. With Ebert’s widow, Chaz, busting some serious moves in support, most of the 1500 attendees seemed content to split the difference, cheerfully clapping along in their seats (though check out the grim “how long ’til we’re released from this hell” faces of the couple in the balcony at the 4:10 mark).
Remember White Men Can’t Jump? One is tempted to tack on “or dance,” watching the few game souls who truly threw themselves into the spirit of the thing. No shame in that. It was, in Swinton’s words, a “spiritual service”, not a talent contest. Surely the biggest winners are the ones beaming breathlessly from the stage at song’s end. (Honorable mention to anyone who’s inspired to never again let a fear of embarrassment lead to inaction.)
Life is beautiful. Life is short.
– Ayun Halliday wishes she had been there, for sure. Follow her @AyunHalliday