PANELISTS & SPECIAL GUESTS 2015
DAN ARONSON has been at the forefront of technology since the 1980s, when he began building supercomputers at Thinking Machines Corporation. Dan co-founded Fandor, a subscription-based streaming site for independent and foreign cinema, to take advantage of the distribution opportunities of the internet as a platform to better connect great films with people who want to see them. Prior to founding Fandor, he was an early employee at WAIS, the first internet search engine company, and went on to help manage AOL’s servers following its acquisition of WAIS. Dan co-founded anti-spam company Brightmail and internet incubator Campsix. He has served on the boards of City Car Share and networked music player company Slim Devices.
MICHAEL BARKER, as Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics (with Tom Bernard), which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012, has distributed (and quite often produced), some of the finest independent movies over the past 30 years. Previously he was an executive at United Artists (1980-1983) and went on to co-found Orion Classics (1983-1991) and Sony Pictures Classics.
Over the span of his career, Barker’s films have received 158 Academy Award® nominations including several for Best Picture: Whiplash, Amour; Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s most successful film of all time; An Education; Capote, for which Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Academy Award® for Best Actor; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, recognized as the highest grossing foreign film of all time in North America; and Howards End. His company’s Academy Award® nominations resulted in 36 wins (most recently Julianne Moore for Best Actress for Still Alice, and J.K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash), including five for Best Documentary Feature, most recently for Searching For Sugarman, Inside Job and Fog Of War, and 12 for Best Foreign Language Film, which include Babette’s Feast, All About My Mother, The Lives Of Others, A Separation and Amour. Other notable award wins include 41 Independent Spirit Awards and 22 Golden Globe® Awards.
Barker has collaborated with some of the world’s finest filmmakers, including Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Louis Malle, and Zhang Yimou, all of whom he’s worked with on multiple occasions, as well as Robert Altman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Suzanne Bier, Ingmar Bergman, Francis Coppola, David Cronenberg, Guillermo del Toro, the Dardenne brothers, Jonathan Demme, R W Fassbinder, Michael Haneke, Nicole Holofcener, Akira Kurosawa, Norman Jewison, Ang Lee, Richard Linklater, David Mamet, Errol Morris, Roman Polanski, Sally Potter, Francois Truffaut and Wim Wenders.
Over the years, Barker has released features from American masters (Only Lovers Left Alive, Rachel Getting Married, Sweet And Lowdown) and new American filmmakers (Take Shelter, Pollock, Slacker, Welcome To The Dollhouse, Frozen River); cutting edge films (Kung Fu Hustle, Moon, Orlando, Run Lola Run, The Raid); animated features (The Triplets Of Bellville, Persepolis, Waltz With Bashir); feature documentaries (Dogtown And The Z Boys, Crumb, Winged Migration, It Might Get Loud, The Gateeepers, Tim’s Vermeer, The Armstrong Lie) and foreign films (Ran, A Prophet, White Ribbon, Talk To Her, Central Station, Wings Of Desire).
He and his colleagues have also restored and theatrically reissued some of the great films of the past, including The Passenger, The Garden Of The Finzi Continis, Murmur Of The Heart, and the classic films by Indian master Satyajit Ray.
Sony Pictures Classics most recently released Still Alice (Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland), Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh), Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev), Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller), Whiplash (Damien Chazelle), Red Army (Gabe Polsky) and Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón).
JASON BRETT is a creative entrepreneur whose career spans theater, film, TV and technology. He founded Chicago’s famed Apollo Theater, home to Chicago’s longest running hit musical, Million Dollar Quartet, and has produced dozens of theatrical productions featuring John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Jim Belushi, William H. Macy, Laurie Metcalfe, Gary Sinise, Jeff Perry, Megan Mullalley and William Peterson. He has created and written dozens of TV series and produced the classic film comedy, About Last Night.
As an entertainment executive, Jason launched the scripted series division of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Television, and headed up the film and TV division of America’s legendary comedy theater, The Second City. Moving into technology, Jason founded MashPlant, a multi-media sharing platform that builds community around learning, now used in hundreds of classrooms worldwide.Jason holds a BFA in Theater from the University of Illinois, is an avid pilot and a lifelong musician. He is married to physician and author, Dr. Lauren Streicher.
SCOTT FOUNDAS is the Chief Film Critic for Variety. Prior to joining Variety, he was Chief Film Critic for the LA Weekly and The Village Voice, in addition to which his writing on film has appeared in the DGA Quarterly, Film Comment, Slate and The New York Times. In 2010, he was named Critic of the Year at the LA Press Club's National Entertainment Journalism Awards. In 2013, a Spanish-language collection of his writing entitled Time Stopped was published by the Mar Del Plata Film Festival in Argentina. As a programmer, Foundas spent 6 years as a member of the New York Film Festival selection committee and three years as Associate Program Director for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In addition, he has been a programming consultant to the Cannes and Telluride film festivals and the film department of the Walker Art Center.
SAM FRAGOSO, a native of Chicago, currently lives and works in San Francisco as a journalist and student at SF State University. He's the founder of Movie Mezzanine, a regular contributor at Forbes, and a member of the SFFCC. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Playboy, The Daily Beast, Vulture, The Dissolve, Interview Magazine, VICE and, of course, RogerEbert.com
GLENN KENNY is the editor of A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers and Artists On 25 Years of ‘Star Wars’ and the author of Robert De Niro: Anatomy of An Actor. His writings on the arts have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly and Humanities. From the mid-1990s to the magazine’s 2007 folding, he was a senior editor and the chief film critic for Premiere. There he commissioned and edited pieces by David Foster Wallace, Tony Kushner, Martin Amis, William Prochnau and other well-regarded writers. He also wrote early features on such soon-to-be-prominent motion picture figures as Paul Thomas Anderson and Billy Bob Thornton. He currently contributes film reviews and essays to RogerEbert.com and to Vanity Fair Online, Decider, the Criterion Collection website, and other outlets. He has made numerous TV and radio appearances and appears as an actor in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, (2009) and Preston Miller’s God’s Land (2010). He was born in Fort Lee, New Jersey and has been a resident of Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife, since 1990.
LEONARD MALTIN is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, as well as his 30-year run on TV’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on the Reelz Channel.
His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia.
He served two terms as President of the LA Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation.
He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has received numerous awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?)He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies with Baron Vaughn.
NELL MINOW began reviewing movies for her high school and college newspapers and has been writing reviews online as the Movie Mom since 1995. Her website Movie Mom includes reviews of theatrical and DVD/Blu-Ray releases as well as features, interviews, and contests, and she appears each week on radio stations across the country and Huffington Post to talk about new releases. Her writing about movies and popular culture has appeared in many outlets, including RogerEbert.com, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Kansas City Star, and the Motion Picture Association's thecredits.org. Her books include The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies, 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and the 50 Must-See Movies series.
OMER MOZAFFAR is the Muslim Chaplain at Loyola University. A scholar of religion, he received an "Excellence in Teaching Award in the Humanities, Arts, and Sciences" in 2011 from the University of Chicago's Graham School. He also teaches at DePaul and other Chicago area institutions, academic and confessional. In 2009, Roger named him as one of his Far Flung Correspondents. Omer misses Roger tremendously.
SHEILA O'MALLEY received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's in Acting from the Actors Studio MFA Program. She is a regular film critic for RogerEbert.com, and has also contributed reviews and essays to The Dissolve, Fandor, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Capital New York, Movie Mezzanine, The Sewanee Review and Press Play. Her video essay on the work of Gena Rowlands was included in the Criterion Collection's release of John Cassavetes' Love Streams. Her script July and Half of August was recently shot as a short film, starring Annika Marks and Robert Baker. O'Malley writes about actors, movies, books, and Elvis Presley at her personal site, The Sheila Variations.
MICHAEL PHILLIPS is the Chicago Tribune film critic. He cohosted 100 or so episodes of the long-running nationally syndicated At the Movies, first opposite Richard Roeper, then A.O. Scott. He reviewed Taxi Driver for his high school paper, The Shield. He went on to write about movies for the Twin Cities weekly City Pages. He served as theater critic of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Dallas Times-Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He came to the Tribune as its drama critic in 2002 before being named film critic in 2006. He has hosted programming for Turner Classic Movies. He lives in Logan Square with his wife, Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens, and their three children. He’s also happy and honored to be back at Ebertfest.
ERIC PIERSON is an associate professor and former chair of the Communication Studies Department at the University of San Diego. His work on black images and audiences has appeared the Encyclopedia of African American Business History, Screening Noir, the Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration, Journal of Mass Media Ethics and Watching While Black: Centering the Television of Black Audiences. His most recent work, “The Clinton 12” and “Prom Night in Mississippi: Conversations in Integration,” appears in the collection of essays, Documenting the Black Experience. Eric can also be seen in the documentary Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat By The Door.Eric holds two degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a BFA in Fine Arts and a PhD from the Institute for Communications Research.
ZAK PIPER is an Emmy®-winning producer who previously served as Director of Production at Kartemquin Films for more than a decade.
Zak produced the critically acclaimed documentary Life Itself, which premiered at Sundance 2014 and was an official selection of Cannes 2015. Life Itself was named Best Documentary of the year by over 12 critics associations, The Critic’s Choice Awards and The National Board of Review. Zak also received an the Producer's Guild award for Outstanding Producer of a Documentary.
Previously, Zak co-produced The Interrupters, which premiered at Sundance and was released in the US, Canada and the UK, culminating in TV broadcasts on PBS Frontline, BBC Storyville, Canal+, and the CBC. The film received a 2012 Spirit Award for Best Documentary and was awarded Best Documentary by the Chicago Film Critics Association. The New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, and LA Times all hailed The Interrupters as one of the year’s best films.He is currently directing his first feature documentary, set for completion in 2017
TODD RENDLEMAN is Professor of Communication Studies at Seattle Pacific University, where he teaches film art, history, and criticism. He is the author of Rule of Thumb: Ebert at the Movies (Bloomsbury, 2012) and he lives in Seattle
RICHARD ROEPER is a columnist and film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. His reviews are syndicated to more than 100 newspapers in the United States. He has hosted radio shows on WLUP-FM, WLS-FM and WLS-AM. He is the author of 8 books, with two more scheduled for publication in the next year.
Richard has been an on-air contributor to CBS-2, Fox and WLS-TV in Chicago. He is currently a regular on Windy City Live on ABC-7. He also reviews films for the Reelz Channel.
For nine years, Richard was the co-host of Ebert & Roeper. He has appeared as a guest on Oprah, Nightline, The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Top Chef, The Conan O'Brien Show, Entourage and many other national programs.All of Richard's reviews can be found at richardroeper.com and on the Richard Roeper app.
REBECCA THEODORE-VACHON is a contributor to RogerEbert.com. Her work has also been published at TheUrbanDaily.com, Forbes.com, and NYTimes.com. She also runs her own blog FilmFataleNYC.blogspot.com and co-hosts "Cinema in Noir" podcast on Sundays on BlogTalkRadio.
PETER SOBSYNSKI saw his very first film, Dumbo, when he was 3 and has not stopped talking about them since then. Currently, he is a proud contributor to RogerEbert.com and also reviews films for eFilmcritic.com and for Magills Cinema Annual. He is also a programming advisor for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, an annual festival of upcoming film put together entirely by Chicago-based film critics. He is excited to be attending Ebertfest again this year and, while he cannot promise that he will participate in any karaoke competitions with his colleagues, he says that, if he does, Taylor Swift will be his jam. He currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago, is eagerly awaiting Fury Road and would like to have a few words with Tim Burton about this Dumbo remake he is supposedly doing.
BRIAN TALLERICO has covered TV, film, video games, Blu-ray/DVD, interviews and entertainment news for over a decade online, on radio and in print. Tallerico is the managing editor of RogerEbert.com. In addition, he is the editor of Magill's Cinema Annual, a regular guest on Chicago radio, writes the PlayStation Guide for About.com and freelances for Videohound. He also serves as vice president of the Chicago Film Critics Association and co-produces the Chicago Critics Film Festival. None of it is possible and none of it is worthwhile without the support of his wife Lauren and 3 boys: Lucas, Miles, and Noah.
SUSAN WLOSZCZYNA spent much of her nearly 30 years at USA Today as a senior entertainment reporter doing her dream job: visiting the New Zealand film set of The Lord of the Rings, being a zombie extra in George Romero’s Land of the Dead and interviewing countless show biz figures including icons (Vincent Price, Shirley Temple, Peter O’Toole, Mr. Rogers), A-list stars (George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Sandra Bullock, Denzel Washington) and big-name filmmakers (Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Jane Campion, Nancy Meyers, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne).
Her positions at the newspaper included being a film reviewer for 12 years as well as the Life section copy desk chief. Now unchained from the grind of daily journalism, she is ready to view the world of movies with fresh eyes.
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ is the Editor-in-Chief of RogerEbert.com. He is also the TV critic for New York Magazine & Vulture.com and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.
A Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker, Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over 100 hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image and The L Magazine, among other outlets. His 5-part 2009 video essay Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style was later spun off into the hardcover book The Wes Anderson Collection. Seitz is the founder and original editor of The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine, and the publisher of Press Play, a blog of film and TV criticism and video essays. He is the director of the 2005 romantic comedy Home and the forthcoming sci-fi epic Rabbit of the Sith. He is currently writing a memoir titled All the Things that Remind Me of Her.