Monday, October 22, 2012

Carrie Rickey on Robert Zemeckis - PLUS Win Tickets to Their Talk

Philadelphia Inquirer film critic and BMFI board member Carrie Rickey will be interviewing Robert Zemeckis at the Perelman Theater at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, October 27 at 3:30 pm as part of her "Close Encounters" series of discussions with filmmakers.

Win Tickets: As a special benefit for BMFI patrons, we will be giving away two pairs of complimentary tickets to the event. Enter your name* and write your own tag line for your favorite Robert Zemeckis movie (eg. "No man is an island" for Cast Away, etc.) Our two favorite entries will win. Entries are due by Thursday, October 25 at noon. We’ll announce the winner right here on our blog.

On Robert Zemeckis
By Carrie Rickey, Film Critic and BMFI Board Member

A recurring image in Robert Zemeckis films is that of a solitary figure surprised and delighted by human connection.

There’s Kathleen Turner as the romance writer who lives out one of her literary adventures in Romancing the Stone (1984). There’s Michael J. Fox as the time-travelling teenager in Back to the Future (1985) who in better understanding his father’s adolescence improves his own. There’s Tom Hanks as the modern Robinson Crusoe in Cast Away (2000) who, denied human companionship, learns its blessings.

Robert Zemeckis on the set of Flight
And now there’s Denzel Washington as the high-flying airline pilot in Flight, a lone eagle who finds solace as one in the flock. Flight will close the Philadelphia Film Festival on October 27.

But before the PFF screening, Oscar-winning filmmaker Zemeckis will join me at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts to talk about his singular career, which includes Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and Contact.

A wizard who weds bleeding-edge technology to humanist narrative, Zemeckis films are as intriguing for their digital effects as they are for how he integrates them to tell primal stories. No matter how many times I watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), I always gasp at the seamlessness of the 3-D human world of private eye Bob Hoskins and the 2-D “toon town” where he investigates a crime that might be the sequel to Chinatown.

Because Zemeckis has always been an early-adopter of the newest technology (consider the special effects he employed in 1992’s Death Becomes Her or the motion-capture animation of 2004’s The Polar Express) he has, somewhat unfairly, been tagged as one more interested in effects than story. If you look at his films in sequence, as I have, you’ll be reminded that in them character comes first and that effects are used in the service of advancing the story.

Zemeckis favors long takes that inevitably put the moviegoer into the character’s shoes and a fluid camera that communicates the character’s context.

Jodie Foster stars in Contact
My favorite Zemeckis movie? Glad you asked. Contact (1997). Jodie Foster delivers one of her finest performances as the lonely radio astronomer, orphaned in her childhood. In this film that suggests the coexistence of science and faith, while listening and looking for signs of intelligent life in the universe Foster’s scientist receives a sign from a lost parent.

It’s in Contact that the filmmaker who first took us Back to the Future and then through the American Century in Forrest Gump takes us to the edge of the cosmos.

What’s your favorite Zemeckis film?

Carrie Rickey, longtime Inquirer movie critic, teaches at UPenn and writes for various publications, including The New York Times. Follow her at

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  1. Gina Brower: Death Becomes Her

    "Sometimes death is a life sentence!"

    1. You're a winner, Gina! Your tickets will be held at BMFI's box office starting tonight. The box office opens 30 minutes before the first show of the day. Call 610-527-4008 x105 with any questions (through Friday). Thanks for playing!

  2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit. New tagline: "There are a lot of sketchy characters in this town."

    1. You're a winner, Jake! Your tickets will be held at BMFI's box office starting tonight. The box office opens 30 minutes before the first show of the day. Call 610-527-4008 x105 with any questions (through Friday). Thanks for playing!

    2. One thing, Jake--would you please contact me with your last name? Thanks! -Devin Wachs, 610-527-4008 x105.

  3. I have to agree with Ms. Rickey - Contact is my favorite. I own it and watch it every once in a while. It is a very moving film, and I always well up when the dedication - "For Carl" - shows up at the end.