Chicago filmmaker Frank V. Ross’ “Tiger Tail In Blue,” which hasn’t made the festival circuit, is his sixth feature. While it’s a shame the Downers Grove resident hasn’t gotten more attention for his work, the keenly observant “Tiger Tail,” demonstrates well the gently idiosyncratic voice heard in earlier films like “Audrey the Trainwreck” (2010). It’s an earnest depiction of drifting young married life, telling the story of Christopher (Ross) and Melody (Rebecca Spence), their schedule-juggling lives. He’s writing a first novel and working as a waiter, where he’s distracted by a co-worker, Brandy (Megan Mercier). Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago filmmaker Todd Looby world-premieres his second feature, “Be Good,” an anecdote about the stress and aggravation of young parenthood after mom Mary (Amy Seimetz) returns to an office job while stay-at-home dad Paul (Thomas Madden) types away at screenplays with Latino characters like “El Flaco” threatening each other with guns that look like the basest, unmarketable trash. Baby’s a troublemaker and the family retriever’s a bounder; household rubble and rubbish tumble in their wake. Characteristic Chicago apartments, decks and side streets co-star. Finding a profile of local filmmaker and father Joe Swanberg in an online “DIY Director” publication, “Get the fuck out of here” is Paul’s immediate response to reading that Swanberg was (as in real life) finishing his eighth or so short feature of the year. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Nate & Margaret” are unlikely bosom buddies in the first feature by Chicago filmmaker Nathan Adloff, a buddy movie that pairs a nineteen-year-old gay film student (Tyler Ross) and a woman in her fifties, a Rogers Park café waitress, who has hopes of becoming a stand-up comedian with material inspired by her parents’ abusive relationship as well as her own indifferent fortune. Natalie West shuffles amiably; Margaret’s confidence grows as a performer the more open she is about the damage. As does Nate’s, as he meets someone his own age who happens to like him, and to be of the same sex as well. Ah! A first boyfriend. It’s a gentle geek fable with a light, platonic “Harold and Maude” vibe; dramatic complications involve any number of cruel words spoken in anger. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
When does work become a “work”?
Almost as fascinating as the cool, perfectionist sheen of David Fincher’s version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is the tattoo of tales of the making of the movie. Collaborators seem to go to special lengths to point out that the painstaking focus Fincher applies to his work is just what he does: his splendid perfectionism isn’t workaholism, it’s work, the work. He’s Lisbeth Salander in his own immodest analytical skills. As the film industry transforms in so many ways, in every way, from distribution to projection to production, the directors who’ve unapologetically forged their own way are often as fascinating behind-the-scenes as they are on screen. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
No matter even if you truly wanted to, there’s no way a single viewer could give you an overview of an international film festival with more than a hundred events: you can surmise all you want, based on what festival films have played or have been reviewed at already, or the filmmakers’ reputation. Even festival programmers miss out on sections they’re not part of. I’ll be curious to see statistics after this year’s CIFF to see how many programs the average, but dedicated moviegoer, is able to attend. It’s tough even if you’ve been to a few prior festivals, seen a fistful of advance screeners, availed yourself of advance screenings. But, as luck, fortune or programming may have it, Chicago International has more programs of note in its second week, and a growing number of them have further distribution in the near future. (Disclosure: I was a program consultant for this year’s Docufest section.) Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
A man, a woman, a cellphone. A man, a woman, some penis pills. A woman, a man, her hand. A man, a pregnant woman, a woman. A man, a woman, some errant intimate AVI files.
That’s as simple as a movie gets outside of landscape studies and outright porn these days, and it comprises much of the dramatis personae of Adam Wingard and Joe Swanberg’s four-episode sex-on-the-West-Side-of-Chicago sketch film “Autoerotic.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
They come to the city on the hill, by air, by roads, seekers of wisdom headed west into the wilderness, into the mountains, beneath crystal blue skies, among dreamers and ideas in thin bracing air, amid Starbucks and Stella Artois, among official sponsors and “riff-raff” brands to the side, ten days formally kicked off with Robert Redford’s annual, perennial peroration of what independent cinema is and will be for the immediate future, foreseeable budgets and attention spans.
Sundance. Films and filmmakers, press agents and sales agents, and agents galore, shuttles shuttling the small hamlet of Park City, engorging its paths and runnels from its year-round resort-town population of under 10,000 to a figure estimated as high as fourteen million. Actually, it only seems that packed on opening weekend: 120,000 was one of the highest estimates, and it’s plausible—the traffic is worse than cross-town Manhattan even in the middle of the day, or Chicago when there’s a compelling multiple-car pileup on the side of the Kennedy. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
The moment is past but the moment is now: In 2009 Williamsburg, Shelly, a woman of 23 or so, (Stella Schnabel) contends with intense desires, average expectations, quotidian disappointments. Shelly’s inner life is suggested by a voice-over that’s as much interior monologue as it is diary entry or recitation to a therapist, as well as a visual style fashioned in multiple bold formats. There’s an intermittent score by Will Bates as well that uses a percussive tattoo like an accelerated heartbeat, shared by Stella and the film itself, in the same fashion Jon Brion did with his music for “Punch-Drunk Love.” Ry Russo-Young’s second feature, “You Wont Miss Me” (sic), at first glance resembles other contemporary low-budget, digital video idioms, but in fact, it’s a quietly constructed, sharply observed, unsentimental of-the-minute “Alice in Wonderland.” Read the rest of this entry »