Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Point And Shoot

Documentary No Comments »

point and shoot

RECOMMENDED

Marshall Curry’s strange and beguiling “Point And Shoot” is a worthy addition to the observant documentarian’s work (after the political tagalong of “Street Fight” and the ecopolitics of “If A Tree Falls”). Everyday Baltimorean Matthew VanDyke is his subject—compulsive, seemingly borderline OCD from the start: an ordinary American narcissist who winds up traveling from Maryland to Africa on a four-year, 35,000-mile motorcycle jaunt, joining the battle against Muhammar Khadafi in Libya in 2011. He points, he shoots. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Happy Valley

Documentary No Comments »

HappyValley-2 copy

RECOMMENDED

Gifted, attentive documentarian Amir Bar-Lev takes the Jerry Sandusky child-molesting case as a cautionary tale against sports practiced as religion. The small town of State College, Pennsylvania, known locally as “Happy Valley,” is home to Penn State and beloved football coach Joe Paterno, fired after forty-six seasons for his complicity in covering up Sandusky’s history of sexual predation since at least 1998. Bar-Lev’s portrayal of the aftermath is judicious, especially of the fevered disappointment of devout fans and their rejection of the facts unearthed in media coverage. The portrait is as much of the town and the larger culture of American sports as of the criminal and his accomplices.

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Review: National Gallery

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national-gallery

RECOMMENDED

Three hours of Frederick Wiseman watching people watch art, restore art, revel in the possibilities of art: there’s serene poetry here. In “National Gallery,” as in most of his work of the past five decades, Wiseman takes a few weeks to capture what goes on at an institution, listens, observes, goes back to his edit suite and makes sense of it all. In this case, Wiseman spent twelve weeks in 2012, while there were major exhibits of J. M. W. Turner, Titian and Da Vinci. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Overnighters

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OVERNIGHTERS

RECOMMENDED

“Hopeless is a lie.” Jesse Moss’ specific yet elusive, moving observational portrait of a pastor in the fracking-wracked North Dakota oil boom town of Williston demonstrates the limits of community in the face of insurgent need: it’s nothing less than a nonfiction latter-day “The Grapes of Wrath” that’s both heartbreaking and urgently beautiful. “The Overnighters” is the name Lutheran pastor Jay Reinke gives the emigrants who arrive by the busload, broken yet driven men who change the face of the small prairie town. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Great Invisible

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4_TGI

RECOMMENDED

Nonfiction filmmaker Margaret Brown keeps her eyes open on the Deep South she’s from, moving from the personal portrait of her hometown of Mobile, Alabama in “The Order of Myths” to the larger canvas of “The Great Invisible.” Her sober, beautiful, infuriating and utterly essential film charts the ongoing cost to be paid from the devastating 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Brown seeks figures that range from Gulf Coast residents like oyster shuckers whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered, to workers describing the cost-cutting measures that contributed to the deadly accident, to unexpectedly candid oil executives. But Brown doesn’t neglect the larger picture. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

GlenCampbellIBeMe

RECOMMENDED

In the annals of films about male vanity-of-no-vanity, James Keach’s “Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me” is one for the ages. Following Campbell on a 2011 “Goodbye Tour” that extended to 151 sold-out shows, all concerned knew that the now-seventy-eight-year-old Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. While “I’ll Be Me” is upbeat, it’s also relatively unflinching in showing the symptoms of the onset of the disease, and Campbell and his family allow remarkably tough and candid and vulnerable scenes to be captured, including some of the worst of the singer’s “bad days.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bitter Honey

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Bitter Honey

RECOMMENDED

“When you’re in love, catshit tastes like chocolate” is but one explanation offered for the continuation of the ancient tradition of polygamy among about ten percent of marriages among Balinese. For the starkly candid, tear-streaked “Bitter Honey,” anthropologist and director Robert Lemelson spent seven years observing the lives of three polygamous families in Bali. Interviews with the families’ “co-wives” both fascinate and appall; oppression, economic exploitation and violence are presented as commonplace. (The men believe they grow stronger with each wife.) Read the rest of this entry »

Run Edward Run: “Citizenfour,” “E-Team” and the Politics of the Personal

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

1_CITIZENFOUR

By Ray Pride

A stream of light, or a strip of luminescence courses above our heads. It’s inexorable, driven, fated. It’s also mute, dumb, like a laser pointer, or a torrent of data racketing across the internet to destinations that we do not know.

That image recurs through the first third of Laura Poitras’ serene, masterful, understated “Citizenfour,” until it is revealed as the illumination in a tunnel beneath the sea, until we see that we have been beneath Hong Kong, where the filmmaker will spend more than a week in a hotel room with only-just-former NSA operative/contractor Edward Snowden, and two journalists who were with the Guardian then, including fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald.

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Review: Advanced Style

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

advanced style06

RECOMMENDED

Street style-blogger Ari Seth Cohen joined with documentarian Lina Plioplyte to create “Advanced Style,” an elaboration on his fixation on the style sense of women of a certain age in Manhattan, plying their couture without hauteur. These elders redefine style in each and every image of domesticated but still-dangerous divas of personal expression. The seven women range in age from sixty-two to ninety-five, and they’re unstoppable. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 20,000 Days on Earth

Biopic, Documentary, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

Nick_Typewriter_lowres

RECOMMENDED

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s “20,000 Days On Earth,” is stellar, a rich, luxuriant, calibrated auto-portrait of Nick Cave, not quite fact, not quite fiction, told as if it were taking place in a single day, in words, music, a first-time psychotherapy session, and personal hallucinations with former musical partners Kylie Minogue and Blixa Bargeld in his car as he drives alongside the sea near his Brighton, England home. It sounds like so much attenuated tosh, but this bold, unique gem is bright, funny, brooding, hopeful, momentarily visionary, a wounded beauty exploring the creative process in a fresh and oft-brilliant fashion. Read the rest of this entry »