Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

News: Nicole Bernardi Reis On Revitalizing IFP/Chicago

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joe-mazza-bave-lux-chicago-new-3572676260-OIFP/Chicago, one of the city’s oldest organizations to support independent filmmakers, has kept a low profile for several years, but is about to launch an ambitious roster of programs, inspired in part by the success of May’s Chicago Underground Film Festival, presently one of the Independent Filmmaker Project’s most prominent enterprises. Other support programs and networking events have grown up around the city since their founding, such as the long-running first-Tuesdays Midwest Film Festival and more recently, the new sip-and-grip comradeship CCCP, the Chicago Creatives Cocktail Party, which IFP co-sponsors.

After three years or so of dormancy, Nicole Bernardi-Reis, an independent producer and president of the board of directors (and 2014 Film 50 subject) sees now as a time for IFP to bloom. “The community changed a lot during that time, as did the resources available to filmmakers,” she says. “Currently, the film and television industry is seeing an influx of productions and revenue due to the Illinois Film Tax Credit. Hollywood is back in Chicago. Business is booming, again. Outside productions have always been an important part of sustaining the film community in the Midwest, but they are just a part.”

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News: Justine Nagan Leaving Kartemquin for American Documentary/POV

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JN 2007 color

Chicago documentary production company Kartemquin Films announced Tuesday the departure of executive director and producer Justine Nagan.

Starting full-time in January, Nagan will serve as the executive director of American Documentary, Inc. and executive producer of POV, the flagship PBS documentary series. She will divide her time between the two organizations this fall to ease the transition before relocating to New York with her family in December.

“I’m excited to join this team that I have immense respect for, and really dig in and think about what the future for this really important organization in the field is and help make it happen,” Nagan says. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Block Museum Names Michelle Puetz New Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts

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Michelle Puetz

Another major move in Chicago film programming was announced Monday, with Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art naming a replacement for longtime curator Mimi Brody. Michelle Puetz takes the title of Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts on July 13, moving over from the MCA, where she’s curated mixed-media exhibits working with video and other time-based media.

At the Block, Puetz will oversee programming for the Block Cinema, as well as continue to curate exhibitions involving video. She was selected by a committee of eleven Block staff, Northwestern faculty members and students through what Kathleen Bickford Berzock, committee member and Block’s associate director of curatorial affairs, described as a “very, very rigorous process.” Berzock said she felt Puetz was uniquely qualified for the position, especially in establishing a greater presence of time-based media in the Block’s galleries. “What was so remarkable about Michelle Puetz as a candidate for this position is that a media arts specialist is already a rare thing,” Berzock said. “What [she] has that’s even more unique is this crossover of experience where she is equally experienced as a programmer and historian as she is as a curator in a gallery space.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Music Box Theatre Imports Ryan Oestreich as GM from Denver

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Ryan OestreichComing on the heels of a recent boom in programming and space, including a lounge complete with a full bar, the Music Box Theatre named a new general manager on June 15. Ryan Oestreich arrives from Denver, where he currently serves as director of the Sie FilmCenter, home to the nonprofit Denver Film Society. Previously, Oestreich managed operations and programming for the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul. “Ryan’s strong experience in the venue management space, both in for-profit and nonprofit organizations, prove he’s capable of ushering Music Box Theatre into a next phase of growth,” William Schopf, president of the Southport Music Box Corporation said in a statement. “We anticipate exciting programming and audience development progress with Ryan at the helm.”

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Film 50 Follow: Jerzy Rose & Halle Butler and Thomas Comerford’s “How To”

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In the first of a series of updates on Film 50 subjects, Newcity Film premieres the gently disturbing video for filmmaker-musician Thomas Comerford’s “How To,” directed by Jerzy Rose and Halle Butler. (Their 2014 Film 50 profile is here.) Comerford will perform with Luke Redfield and Dust Bunnies at the Flatiron Arts Building, 1579 North Milwaukee, third floor, on Wednesday, January 14 at 9pm.

RAY PRIDE: What led to this collaboration?

THOMAS COMERFORD: Jerzy is a former student of mine, as well as a friend in the community of artists and musicians I see around town on a regular basis. When preparing to release my new LP, I approached an array of friends from this group, which also included, as you know, Carolyn Faber and Chris Sullivan. The idea was to find people who were into the music and have them create a kind of motion picture “response” to the music. It was left completely open as to how anyone might approach it.

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Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2014: Film

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Top 5 American Films of 2014
“Gone Girl”
“The Immigrant”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Love Is Strange”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films of 2014
“We Are The Best!”
“Winter Sleep”
“Force Majeure”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Actors of 2014
Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory Of Everything”
Tom Hardy, “Locke”
Guy Pearce, “The Rover”
Ben Affleck, “Gone Girl”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Actresses of 2014
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night” and “The Immigrant”
Agata Kulesza, “Ida”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory Of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Supporting Actors of 2014
J. K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”
Ben Mendelsohn, “Starred Up,” “Exodus”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Supporting Actresses of 2014
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Nina Foss, “A Most Wanted Man”
Andrea Riseborough, “Birdman”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Elisabeth Moss, “Listen Up Philip”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Directors of 2014
David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida”
Jonathan Glazer, “Under The Skin”
Steven Knight, “Locke”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Cinematography of 2014
Jeff Cronenweth, “Gone Girl”
Robert Elswit, “Inherent Vice,” “Nightcrawler”
Radoslaw Ladczuk, “The Babadook”
Greig Fraser, “Foxcatcher”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Screenplays of 2014
“Top Five”
“The LEGO Movie”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Inherent Vice”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Documentaries of 2014
“Life Itself”
“The Overnighters”
“20,000 Days On Earth”
“Last Days Of Vietnam”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Chillers of 2014
“The Babadook”
“Blue Ruin”
“Cheap Thrills”
“The Honeymoon”
“The Guest”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Films You Can’t See Yet
“Farewell to Language”
“The Duke of Burgundy”
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
“The Strange Little Cat”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Soundtracks or Scores of 2014
“Under The Skin,” Mica Levi
“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Alexandre Desplat
“Gone Girl,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
“Inherent Vice,” Jonny Greenwood
“Only Lovers Left Alive,” SQÜRL
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Overlooked Films of 2014
“Blue Ruin”
“The Rover”
“Starred Up”
“Listen Up Philip”
—Ray Pride

Film 50 2014: Chicago’s Screen Gems

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“Nobody knows anything” is how screenwriter William Goldman describes how the Hollywood studio system works. “Nobody knows what’s coming next” would be an apt motto for the film industry at large, as well as the many aspects of the booming, burgeoning city of cinema called Chicago. Big-budget movies and television are shooting in Chicago at a rate not seen since the glory days of the 1990s, the same economics that are crunching the film industry are making it possible for so much more small, strange or lovely new work to make its way into the world, and gifted artists are staying in Chicago for all the reasons we’re sure you’re still in Chicago.

There’s a much larger pool of talent in Chicago than a list of fifty can do more than indicate. While last year’s debut list was more about the behind-the-scenes players, this year we’re focusing just on artists. And there are many ways we’re defining the word “artist” in our choices. In pulling together this pool of creative people, we looked for paragons in whom we could all find inspiration—whether it’s zen everyman Bill Murray, or indelibly young filmmakers you haven’t heard of yet—people who do the Chicago name proud, whether on the big screen, on cable or online.  Many of these individuals take part of the larger weave of how films get made—“below-the-line” as the jargon goes—and others are exemplars of the multi-hyphenate talents who seem to be around every corner, protean prodigies who aren’t juggling multiple careers, but living them as full, admirable, even enviable creative lives.

Chicago is a storytelling city, and we’ve let the Film 50 tell a few about who they are and what they do. It’s like a busy, buzzing party where you’re content to listen in on other conversations with a strong drink in your hand, nodding your head in agreement more times than you realize. It’s an indication what a great film town this is when everyone’s ready to talk about how they love to work in Chicago, and how grateful they are to be part of an ever-expanding, ever-more-prolific community at large. Here’s betting that these conversations are only the tip of the ice cream. These people know something. (Ray Pride)

Film 50 was written by Ray Pride, with additional contributions by Brian Hieggelke

All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at Lagunitas Brewing Company.

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Rocking and Reeling: Chicago Filmmakers’ Brenda Webb Looks Back and Forward at an Organization in Motion

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By Brian Hieggelke and Brandie Rae Madrid

Forty-one-year-old media arts organization Chicago Filmmakers is soon pulling up stakes from their rented space in Andersonville and moving to their very own firehouse on Ridge Avenue. Brenda Webb, the organization’s longtime executive director and founder of its centerpiece event, Reeling: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival, explains how the organization is able to focus more on their mission and building ties in the community by having her scale back her role in Reeling. In our conversation, she explains how the new space will allow for a more diverse programming, addressing the needs of its surrounding community. As the Reeling Film Festival approaches next week, Webb tells about the genesis of that endeavor and the changes it has undergone in the last few years, including its return to the Lakeview neighborhood after a brief run in Logan Square.

Were you there at the beginning of Chicago Filmmakers? 
I was friends with one of the founders. She and I were roommates when we were students at Columbia. There were five founding members, although Chicago Filmmakers was really started by Bill Brand and another person. It was founded because they were students at the School of the Art Institute and they wanted to show their work outside the university setting. As artists are wont to do, they become validated by not just showing their work within a college or university, but by having a legitimate place where they can show their work. If you’re a painter, there are any number of galleries you might approach. But for filmmakers [in that era], there was no place to go. They essentially created Chicago Filmmakers as a place to show their work and other work by filmmakers like them, as well as to invite experimental filmmakers. The roots of the organization are in experimental film. I just started coming to screenings because my roommate was one of the founders, and she was there every Saturday night tearing tickets and doing that whole thing. That was my first exposure to experimental film, which for me was a real eye-opener. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2013: Film

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Top 5 American Films of 2013
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Before Midnight”
“12 Years A Slave”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films of 2013
“The Grandmaster” (China cut)
“Something In The Air”
“The Great Beauty”
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Film 50: Chicago’s Screen Gems 2013

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10.3.13 Film50What is film?

Or more appropriately in our age of image making by everyone, what is “film”? YouTube claims 144,000 hours of video are posted every single day. (A woman who reaches the age of eighty has lived 701, 280 hours: hardly even five YouTubeDays.) And how many hours in a life are there to produce, consume, examine, remember film? (One definition, esthetically, could be: looks like life, feels like a dream.)

Chicago’s film profile was elevated from the 1980s forward by movies like “Hoop Dreams,” “Risky Business,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Fugitive,” “The Dark Knight” and decades of great documentaries and experimental work by many important figures whose history is still being written. But the link between Chicago and film is more expansive than that, starting with the movie industry: who shoots them, who finances them, who writes them, who finds locations. Then there is the increasingly large number of students in the city, studying some form of film or television or media. The number of students specializing in some kind of media studies or media production at Chicago’s many universities is enormous, from Columbia College, Northwestern, the School of the Art Institute, the University Of Chicago, DePaul, Tribeca Flashpoint, and so on—a shocking number next to the number of films of any shape or size that even the most devoted of us are about to enjoy in any given year. “Film”? It used to be just something you loved seeing on the big screen with the smell of fresh popcorn in the darkness. Even universities are changing the names of their programs in fast-changing times: DePaul, for instance has its “School of Cinema and Interactive Media.” Then there’s “transmedia” and the selling: What stories do we have to tell about the stories we have to tell?

The work goes on. But what is the “work” in a time of “creative destruction” when all models for financial return have gone out the window? In the lists we compiled, we were looking for people who aren’t isolated or cloistered, but who are working, and putting work out into the world. This list is in no way exhaustive nor is it a list of up-and-comers—a groundbreaking image, narrative, economic model could be hatched tonight and launched tomorrow, gone viral quicker than flu itself—but it’s more of a list of those who have found ways to continue their practice, exert their personalities and offer a few examples, both young and long-lived, for the world in ways that are impeccably Chicagoan: rough and ready, come what may. (Ray Pride)

Film 50 was written by Ray Pride and Brian Hieggelke Read the rest of this entry »