I arrived in lovely Urbana, Illinois late Wednesday night after being grounded by a thunderstorm and missing my connection in Chicago, but all is well now that I'm here for this lovely little fest. The heart and soul of Ebertfest, of course, is Roger Ebert, who is sadly absent this year due to fracturing his hip while doing physical therapy trying to get strong enough to be here.
Roger has written on his own blog about his sadness at not being able to be here to enjoy the films he programmed and to see his many friends. Those of us who are here for the fest feel his absence. Last year, he sat in the back row of the Virginia Theater, ensconced in the recliner brought in for him, where he sat flanked by his nurse on one side and wife Chaz on the other, and his warmth and enthusiasm radiated through the stately theater. This year, the chair sits empty, and though he is here in spirit, that gentle, humble presence and ever-ready smile are keenly missed, though everyone here, of course, is more concerned about his health than anything else.