Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Where To Invade Next

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mooreisless

In the six years since his commercially unsuccessful, turgid magazine-style film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Michael Moore hasn’t gotten soft so much as giddily optimistic, couching his hope for the United States as a society in what can be drawn from other cultures. But fluffy Mike is not as effective as bristling Mike, and “Where To Invade Next,” his well-meaning comedy of straw men and false equivalencies stays on the surface, a likable, intermittently annoying personality-driven essay that lacks the pinch and punch of his earlier work. The range of stunts, including waving an oversized U.S. flag while surveying the economic safety nets in other countries like France, Norway, Italy, rely too heavily on being charmed by his cuddly-bully persona. Nothing wrong with the politics or the examples, just a consistently annoying tone. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

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Peggy Guggenheim seen through a sculpture, from "Peggy Guggenheim - Art Addict." (photo: Roloff Beny)

RECOMMENDED

Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s second art-doc after “Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel” is an eyeful and an earful. “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” is a brisk, neatly constructed look behind the life of the late heiress who became one of the twentieth century’s most proficient wheelers and dealers at the top end of the art market, collecting art, but also artists along the way. And slept her way, gainfully and gleefully, through a teeming scene of Surrealists and Dadaists that included Man Ray, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brâncusi  and Sam Beckett. Her independence may be more impressive than the many hundreds of millions of dollars her collection is worth today. Long-lost audio recordings of Guggenheim describing her travels and travails, made the year before her death in 1979 at the age of eighty-one, enhance the telling: “I was the midwife to modern art,” she says, and in her own way, a mistress and matriarch as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Extending the Conversation: Kent Jones on “Hitchcock/Truffaut” and the Others

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By Ray Pride

Kent Jones is one of the finest American film critics, a 2012 Guggenheim fellow, a longtime collaborator with Martin Scorsese on documentaries about film history, as well as the director of the New York Film Festival. “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” his sweet, even joyous ode to the making of art begins with audiotapes of Francois Truffaut’s weeklong interviews in 1962 with Hitchcock that became the influential book of the same name, then blends relevant scenes from Hitchcock’s films with astute observations by latter-day directors like Scorsese, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, Richard Linklater and James Gray. Here’s a small part of a long, discursive talk we had during the Chicago International Film Festival. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Noma, My Perfect Storm

Documentary, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

NOMA 5

RECOMMENDED

Slick but always sharp in the best contemporary European nonfiction fashion, French-born, Britain-based Pierre Deschamps’ three-years-in-the-making portrait of Copenhagen chef René Redzepi is based in part on Redzepi’s books, “Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine,” and “René Redzepi: A Work in Progress”. But Deschamps also gets into the kitchen and in the fields where the restless chef forages for local produce for his Noma restaurant, named “The Best Restaurant in the World” 2010-12 and 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Almost There

Chicago Artists, Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

PeterAntonAlmostThere1

RECOMMENDED

I’ve seen “Almost There,” Aaron Wickenden and Dan Rybicky’s splendid, elusive minor miracle of northwest Indiana nonfiction a few times, and I’m still not sure why it’s so powerful. That it’s specific yet elusive, its dense range of fear and hope? There’s much to consider about outsider art, loneliness, mental illness and brightly colored graphomania in its innerworldly portrait of now-eighty-three-year-old Peter Anton, an elderly artist living in squalor in the wet, fetid basement of his parents’ house, moldering atop his art-stuffed living-dying quarters. As I wrote in January when it debuted at Siskel (its theatrical run begins now): “There’s a delicate and beautiful dance in ‘Almost There,’ a seven-years-in-the-making engagement with an elderly Northwest Indiana outsider artist, Peter Anton (whose work was shown at Chicago’s Intuit Gallery in 2010). The movie transforms before our eyes, as it did for the filmmakers. One of the most luminous, evocative choices made was to incorporate images not only of Anton amid his art inside his moldering dump, but of the surrounding landscape, often industrial, at all hours of day and night (captured by photographer David Schalliol). But primarily, it’s a dance between a willful subject and filmmakers who intend not to stray too close but ultimately can’t help themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gabo: The Creation Of Gabriel García Márquez

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Gabo_RegRECOMMENDED

(Gabo, la magia de lo real) Justin Webster’s bio-doc, “Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez” traces the evolution of the Colombian Nobelist’s politics, his origins in journalism and his invaluable excursion into the magic-realist novel. Still, it’s more informative than innovative, with the genteel mix of interviews, archival footage and readings from his work making for earnest, dutiful going. With writers Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Enrique Santos, María Jimena Duzán and Xavi Ayén; the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson; biographer Gerald Martin and his sister and brother, Aída and Jaime García Márquez. 90m. (Ray Pride)

“Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel García Márquez” plays Friday, December 11, December 13-14 and 16 at Siskel. The trailer is below.

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Review: Janis Little Girl Blue

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RECOMMENDED

Amy Adams is the most recent actress hoping to portray Janis Joplin in a biopic, but Amy Berg’s splendid “Janis: Little Girl Blue” (co-produced with PBS’ “American Masters,” Sony Music Entertainment and Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions) shows what folly any such movie might be, especially in the face of the talent and sheer charisma in archival and concert footage. “I’d like ya to feel like standin’ up and jumpin’ up and down in time to the music, gettin’ sweaty, just goin’ with the music, just goin’: Rock ‘n’ roll’s very rhythmic. That’s what it’s all about, y’know. One-two-three-four—” Joplin says over the main credits, with a smash cut to drop-dead magnetic Joplin in full close-up, full glory, turning her head as she hits a note, another, her shoulder-length hair filleted with red feathers asway. That one shot, even before the rest of the movie’s magical footage, or the strains of her powerful voice blows any need for fiction out of the atmosphere. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In Jackson Heights

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injacksonheights-1

RECOMMENDED

Obstinate, observant, a sculptor of modest cathedrals from the simplest materials—humans in their interactions—eighty-five-year-old Frederick Wiseman has fashioned another lilting, longitudinal look at community. The community, in this case, is the multi-multicultural community “In Jackson Heights,” in New York City, an agglomeration, it’s estimated, of at least 167 languages (of which English, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi are represented onscreen). The New Yorker’s Richard Brody assumed a limb and climbed upon it earlier this month when he wrote, “if the end-of-year lists were to be made today, ‘In Jackson Heights’ would be a contender for Best Screenplay. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Takin’ Place

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Recommended No Comments »

takinplace

RECOMMENDED

South Side camera-eye Cyrus Dowlatshahi trains his traveled gaze on the Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods in the documentary “Takin’ Place.” Along the streets, on sidewalks, backyards, in homes and in cars, Dowlatshahi listens with a sensitive ear and watches with a highly talented post-vérité gaze. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Poem Is A Naked Person

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

apoem_0RECOMMENDED

Lost films rediscovered: the very concept makes me shiver about the future of documentary and narrative movies being made today. There will be no lost films rediscovered; all but the most well tended digital materials will be technically illegible in years. So a separate reason to celebrate the worthiness of a “lost” Les Blank film, the loving doodle of “A Poem Is A Naked Person,” a 1974 documentary of sorts about the music of Leon Russell. Russell didn’t like the free-associative free-for-all Blank had made of his music and the moment and held the film back for four decades. But now, after Blank’s 2013 passing, we’ve got the weird and wondrous artifact at hand. Shot while hanging out with Russell across two years, “Poem” wriggles with weirdness and smells to high heaven of its 1970s roots. (Russell handily out-weirds fellow Oklahoma troubadour Wayne Coyne at most turns.) Read the rest of this entry »