Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Film 50 2014: Chicago’s Screen Gems

Film 50 3 Comments »

joe-mazza-bave-lux-chicago-new-3572675373-O
“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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Chicago Artists, Festivals, News and Dish No Comments »

Brenda-Webb

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

News and Dish No Comments »

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

Top 5 Foreign Films of 2013
“The Grandmaster” (China cut)
“Bastards”
“Something In The Air”
“The Great Beauty”
“Gloria”
—Ray Pride Read the rest of this entry »

Film 50: Chicago’s Screen Gems 2013

Chicago Artists, Film 50 No Comments »

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 »

Moments for Lifetimes: Ebertfest Without Ebert

Chicago Artists, Events, Festivals, News and Dish, The State of Cinema No Comments »

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 »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2012: Film

News and Dish No Comments »

Top 5 Domestic Films of 2012
“Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow
“Moonrise Kingdom,” Wes Anderson
“Looper,” Rian Johnson
“The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“Magic Mike,” Steven Soderbergh
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films of 2012
“Oslo, August 31,” Joachim Trier (tie)
“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan (tie)
“Amour,” Michael Haneke
“Life Without Principle,” Johnnie To
“The Turin Horse,” Béla Tarr
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Films of 2012 in Alphabetical Order
“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin
“The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“Prometheus,” Ridley Scott
“Room 237,” Rodney Ascher
“Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow
—Bill Stamets Read the rest of this entry »

Film Strip? Gorilla Tango Expands From Burlesque Shows to the Silver Screen

Chicago Artists, News and Dish No Comments »

Gorilla Tango Theatre, best known for its nerdy burlesque shows, is expanding beyond the stage with a new film branch, Gorilla Tango Motion Pictures (GTMP). Gorilla Tango also recently purchased Skokie Theatre, where the company plans to both screen its films and add more showings of its theater performances. 

“We have these shows that are a big success, but a tour is very difficult and cost-wise it doesn’t always make sense,” says Gorilla Tango founder Dan Abbate. Film was an appealing option, he says, because it is “inherently distributable.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Top 5 of Everything 2011: Film

News and Dish No Comments »

Margaret

Top 5 American Films
“Margaret”
“Drive”
“Tree Of Life”/”Take Shelter”
“Martha Marcy May Marlene”
“Road to Nowhere”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films
“Melancholia”
“Shame”
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
“Incendies”
“Aurora”
—Ray Pride Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Forward: A Guide to the New Season 2011

News and Dish No Comments »

Summer’s over, kids. Sure, temperatures might still be in the nineties, and we’re going to enjoy one last hurrah this Labor Day weekend, but weather or not, fall is here. How do we know? The arts calendar, in hibernation these last couple of months, is on the verge of awakening with an explosion of activity. And as we do every year at this time, we’ve distilled it to a short list of highlights in order to help you put you personal fall calendar together.

Start out with our “big eleven” events for fall and then explore these links to the various fall previews we’ve created:

Fall Art Preview
Fall Dance Preview
Fall Film Preview
Fall Music Preview

Fall Resto Preview
Fall Stage Preview

Rock Capital: Getting to the heart of “Parallax Sounds,” a documentary-in-progress about Chicago post-rock in the nineties

Chicago Artists, Documentary, News and Dish No Comments »

The debate over which part of the country has the best music has been teetering back and forth since vinyl was first mass-produced and sold in record stores across the country.

So it’s natural to think a film about the nineties post-rock scene in Chicago would be a sprawling treatise on how the quality of music here regularly trumped that of the grunge marketing machine in the Northwest. That’s not the case with “Parallax Sounds.” While the still-in-progress documentary by Italian director Augusto Contento focuses on that unique movement, it’s more about discovering how the landscape of a city affects the art created there from an outsider’s perspective. Damon Locks, Ken Vandermark and Steve Albini have already participated.

“It’s not really a documentary about post-rock, or music,” says the film’s assistant director Kenya Zanatta, who worked with Contento on his last documentary, “Tramas,” about life in São Paulo, Brazil. “It’s more general, about Chicago, creation and the spirit of the city, and how that spirit is embodied in the art here. Read the rest of this entry »