Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Goodbye To Language

3-D, Action, Documentary, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »

Goodbye Roxie Mieville
RECOMMENDED

(Adieu au langage 3D) Roxy Miéville: superstar. With querulous, dark, liquid eyes, and a torso that extends from the back of the screen and a long, aquiline nose that juts out over the audience and nearly to your fingertips to be petted, the sleek, sniffulous mutt owned by Jean-Luc Godard is the most lustrous of special effects in his hectic, cryptic 3D provocation, “Farewell to Language.” Working with cinematographer Fabrice D’Aragno over the course of four years, the now-eighty-four-year-old Godard wreaks multidimensional effects other filmmakers wouldn’t dare, often created with only a couple of small consumer cameras strapped together and wielded by the filmmaker himself. Read the rest of this entry »

“I’m Not Your Subject, I’m Your Friend”: Getting To “Almost There”

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

PeterAntonAlmostThere1

By Ray Pride

There’s a delicate and beautiful dance in Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden’s “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, a dance between a willful subject and filmmakers who intend not to stray too close but ultimately can’t help themselves. Anton lives not only in poverty, but also in squalor, in a falling-down house left him by his parents, and the ethical question of how involved the filmmakers ought to be, in light of his circumstances, grows uneasy. “I’m not your subject,” Anton bursts out at one point, “I thought you were my friend.” “Almost There” has its Chicago debut at Siskel this week, and I’ll write more about its innerworldly kick when the Kartemquin-ITVS co-production is released theatrically. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Remote Area Medical

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

Remote-Area-Images4

RECOMMENDED

Why is universal healthcare considered radical, even un-American in some quarters? That’s not the subject of Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman’s quietly urgent, painfully of-the-moment “Remote Area Medical,” an observational documentary that leans into three days of the title organization’s encampment at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway. There’s no preaching here, only a selection of the amassing figures. Thousands of nearby citizens line up from the darkest hours of the morning to receive the most basic of medical and dental attention. “We don’t have jobs here, and the jobs that are available aren’t paying living wages,” we hear. Are we in a third-world country? (RAM began its activities aiding the dispossessed of other nations.) No, just the greater mid-South: America. The structuring of incident and character sneaks up on you: this is one of the most Altmanesque of large-cast nonfiction films, yet infused with a tenderness, a quiet dismay that Altman never cared for. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Pelican Dreams

Documentary No Comments »

CA brown pelicans flyingRECOMMENDED

Documentarian Judy Irving follows up her 2003 documentary hit, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” with another gentle avian adventure by the Bay, the charming, affectionate “Pelican Dreams.” “Gigi” is a California brown pelican that’s found on the Golden Gate Bridge, and Irving illuminates the lives of pelicans along the Pacific Coast through her patient observation and lush, loving photography of Gigi and her fellow pelicans’ charm Read the rest of this entry »

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

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

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

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

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

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

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 »