Photo: Ray Pride
By Ray Pride
“Quality over quantity,” Roger Ebert wrote to me when he’d just signed onto Twitter, seeing how much I posted on any given day. But soon after, he was furnishing the Internet with his own personal, characteristic rivulet of riffs, reviews and retweets. His voice sounded in yet another form.
Last weekend, at the fifteenth annual Ebertfest in Champaign-Urbana, tributes were consistent in both quality and quantity. It was a living wake. But the programming, largely by his hand, served as a hyperarticulate last will and testament as well, the shape of which grew more and more emphatic as the five days and nights lengthened. The opening was a 35mm print of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” with hearty ninety-two-year-old co-cinematographer Haskell Wexler in attendance. Five of the fourteen films were 35mm prints, another sort of wake, for the form he had always celebrated, in the format he first found it, bright and nourishing in the communal dark. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo by Ray Pride.
By Ray Pride
All the movies here are about forgiveness and mortality, I message a friend in the midst of last week’s fourteenth edition of Ebertfest in Champaign-Urbana.
The quick, glib text in turn: “Isn’t that all movies, really?” Since I didn’t know I was going until a couple days ahead, I hadn’t looked over the list of twelve “overlooked” features that Roger Ebert and his festival staff had programmed. All I really knew was that no movies or presentations overlap, and ample time is slotted for lunch and dinner; that is, lots of gab.
On opening night, “Joe Vs. The Volcano” (1990), shown at the sold-out downtown 1,525-seat Virginia Theatre (built 1921), is about a white-collar worker who escapes “Brazil”-like drudgery when he’s told he has six months to live. John Patrick Shanley’s cracked romanticism ensues. Mortality of another stripe came to light afterwards, when cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt said a DCP digital copy of the film had been mastered especially for Ebert, and he thought it looked finer than it had ever looked in its photochemical form. Still, the sixty-seven-year-old cinematographer admitted, he’s yet to shoot a movie in any digital format. Read the rest of this entry »
As if a daylong lineup of films about music isn’t enough, The Chicago International Movies & Music Festival boasts a lineup of live music by night, inspired by the movies it screened earlier in the day. The festival, which takes place at various venues throughout Wicker Park and Logan Square, is all about highlighting the symbiotic relationship between music and film. For the organizers of the festival, one wouldn’t be what it is without the other.
Musician Josh Chicoine and film editor Ilko Davidov co-founded CIMMFest in 2009 when they met as neighbors at a housing co-op for artists and musicians in Bucktown. Read the rest of this entry »
In “Dracula,” the 1897 vampire tale by Bram Stoker—before “Twilight” and “True Blood”—Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing faced Dracula in order to save London and the life of Mina Harker. The Irishman has been credited with creating one of the best pieces of literary horror, a powerful invasion novel and the most iconic vampire novels of all time.
“Bram Stoker agus Dracula,” a documentary by director Keith O’Grady, is playing this Saturday at the Irish Film Festival. The film, which has been released close to the centenary anniversary of Stoker’s death on April 20, 1912, delves into the history of “Dracula” as an Irish novel and the entry of the vampire into the mass public. Read the rest of this entry »
Nitrate film, which movies used to be exhibited on, was flammable, explosive, prone to rot, unstable. 35mm celluloid as we still know it today is one of the most stable of preservation media. Yet the film industry is rapidly shifting to digital formats, much to its likely sooner-than-later regrets. Are you old enough to have a few three-and-a-half-inch floppies on a shelf in the closet? Eight-inch Wang floppies? Take just the quickest moment to think of how you might go about recovering the data and you’ve got an idea of what the film industry will face in coming years. Read the rest of this entry »
Ray Lambert and John Davies
Twenty years ago, John Davies got his first job as a producer working on Siskel and Ebert’s “Sneak Previews.” This month, his documentary “Phunny Business” will premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center, a fitting return to the Chicago film scene.
The documentary focuses on All Jokes Aside, a South Loop comedy club that helped launch the careers of celebrities like Jamie Foxx and Chris Rock. Davies first encountered the club when he visited Chicago to run a charity event at the venue and was invited to see the normal show by owner Raymond Lambert. “What I saw that night stuck with me,” he says. “It was a really interesting club doing a different kind of comedy.” Read the rest of this entry »
Catie Olson has always had a fascination with short films. She says they’re a bit like a one-liner. A quick, sometimes simple setup that, if done correctly, can have an enormous response. The 38-year-old artist says she watched several short-film festivals and screenings come and go in her sixteen years in Chicago before she began to consider doing one on her own.
In 2007, along with her husband, Erik Brown, Olson launched Spiderbug, a mobile festival that’s a mash-up of music and visual art drawn from a broader theme she provides. In the past, Spiderbug has called for filmmakers to submit their worst short film, or create one around the idea of pH (yes, as in the measurement of acidity in a liquid). A bit of a vague task, Olson admits, but it’s part of the fun.
“I really wanted to create a unique experience, something that went a little further beyond a normal film screening,” she says. Read the rest of this entry »
Sean Benjamin and Steven Mosqueda, like many Americans, love indulgence. The two members of the Neo Futurists theater collective have been letting their cups run over since 2002 with their passion project Drinking and Writing Theater, exploring the connection between creativity and alcohol.
Enter the Tied House Film Festival. The two are teaming up with Chicago Filmmakers on June 3 and 4 to present a series of short films exploring the five stages of intoxication: euphoria, excitement, confusion, stupor and coma. Inspired by the tied house pubs of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Chicago, the festival is devoted entirely to short films by local filmmakers.
Having developed live shows and opined on film, theater and craft beer on their radio show, Benjamin and Mosqueda began looking for a new way to further bring together their passions for craft beer and performance art. In 2010 the two were putting together a documentary and came up with the admittedly overzealous idea of a weeklong festival based entirely on drinking and writing. After getting in contact with Chicago Filmmakers, they settled on a two-day fest of shorts combining beer. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
I spent most of last week in the dark in Toronto, not thinking about Toronto.
Almost every crisp, aromatic spring day, whether misty or sun-bright, I burrowed into the dark, seeing as many films as possible at the nineteenth edition of North America’s largest documentary festival, trying not to think about the city outside or the numbers piling up around me: 200 filmmakers, 360 public screenings of 199 films on sixteen screens in locations stretching across Toronto, plus workshops, panels, conferences, conversations. A final attendance estimate of over 150,000, eleven percent higher than 2010.
The festival’s combination of industry networking and co-financing meetings and sheer good-willed hopefulness has always struck me: a perfect storm of art and ambition and productivity from the privileged perspective of a journalist who gets to see both sides of the event. While some panels are open to the public in venues around town, the fact that 168 of those screenings sold out after going to rush ticketing shows a local appetite for the programmers’ slate of local and international nonfiction. Read the rest of this entry »