As we continue to wrap up our coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival, it's important to take a look at some of the smaller stuff that came out of the fest, especially those set in the city the festival calls home. Gregory Dixon's vibrant, energetic indie coming-of-age dramedy Olympia is a rather fun breath of fresh air - the tale of a conflicted thirtysomething (writer/star McKenzie Chinn) struggling to make ends meet at a dead-end job, dealing with a dying mother in the hospital, and fighting with her boyfriend (Charles Andrew Gardner) about whether Chicago is really the right place for her.
Chinn's script is relaxed and acerbic, the performances are naturalistic and witty, and Dixon's stylized approach captures the verve of Chicago alongside the jazzy, pop-infused score from Josh Coffey and Otto Sharp. (You can read our capsule review from our CIFF dispatches here.)
While at the festival, I got the chance to sit down with Chinn, Dixon and Gardner to talk about the struggles of getting the film made, Chicago as an vital artistic resource, and the importance for women of color to tell their own stories.
Howdy, listeners! Today we're saddling up and sucking back some moonshine to an old Western classic, 1969's True Grit! (NOTE: I have used my pun quota for this episode; the rest of this post is safe for consumption).
Along with guest panelist Gavin, Jared and Clint tackle the impertinence of Mattie Ross, a little history of Oklahoma, and the nuances of a John Wayne performance, as they provide their signature drinking rules for this film.
Happy Alcohol-loween! We close out our Seven Deadly Sins edition of Horror Octorbor by going old-school for Wrath - the vengeance-filled slasher Friday the 13th!
Sure, this is the one that doesn't have Jason in it - see our Freddy vs. Jason episode for our thoughts on the hockey-mashed butcher - but Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) still has some bloody fates in store for the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. From Kevin Bacon's horny teen to, well, the less-famous fodder around him, Sean S. Cunningham's inaugural effort in the long running franchise serves up plenty of arrow piercings, machete decapitations, and more.
But is it enough? Can we go back to a franchise almost forty years old and see the strengths of a straightforward slasher that was innovative at the time? Or do the kills and stripped-down simplicity seem quaint in today's world of horror pastiches and self-aware tropes? Let's find out - check out our podcast and drinking game!
While dysfunctional family dramas are arguably a dime a dozen, Elizabeth Chomko's Chicago-centric debut What They Had stands out substantially from the pack. A touching, heartfelt tale of a woman (Hilary Swank) who returns home to help her brother (Michael Shannon) and father (Robert Forster) care for her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother (Blythe Danner), What They Had is refreshingly nuanced, filled with strong, witty dialogue and incredible performances from its lead cast.
While at the Chicago International Film Festival, we sat down with Chomko for a roundtable discussion (along with Pat McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com and Al and Linda Lerner of MoviesandShakers.com) - with Forster popping in as a late-interview surprise. Check out our roundtable, along with that wonderful cameo, in our podcast below.
The world of contemporary art is a wild, wild thing - millionaires bidding incredible amounts of money to collect works from modern artists based on reputation, potential future valuation, or even (on occasion) the actual aesthetic value of the piece. In his upcoming HBO documentary The Price of Everything, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect) takes an in-depth look at this strange mix of art and commerce, getting unfettered access to art collectors and the artists who themselves toe a precarious line between artistic statement and financial solvency.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Kahn himself to talk about the film, these issues, and the value of artistic merit in an increasingly commodified art world. Check out our podcast minisode featuring the interview here, and read the edited transcript below.
Horror Octorbor keeps a-chuggin' along this month, as we continue to break down the seven deadly sins! This week, we take a look at Envy in the context of 1992's erotic psychological thriller Single White Female!
In the vein of other 90s domestic horror films like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Unlawful Entry, Single White Female explores the kind of dangers that could happen even in the safety of your home. Here, that's manifested in Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the mousy new roommate of recently-separated fashion designer Allie (Bridget Fonda). The more time Hedy spends with Allie, though, the more she affects Allie's speech, mannerisms and appearance - right down to making moves on her estranged husband Sam (Steven Weber).
Does she want to be like Allie? Does she want to become Allie? The answers are surprisingly grotesque, and more than a little complicated - rooted in some clumsy, but well-intentioned, queer subtexts and a couple of deliciously arch performances from Fonda and Leigh, directed with a certain lurid sensibility by Barbet Schroeder.
Check out what we thought about this ominous tale of female sexuality and psychological desire, along with our custom drinking game!
DRINKING RULES FOR SINGLE WHITE FEMALE:
- Any time you see a red flag (Hedy adopts another Allie-ism)
- Every time you see a scene outside the apartment
- Whenever you see nudity (this is an *erotic* thriller, after all)
FINISH YOUR DRINK WHEN:
Hedy looks into a mirror and says, "I love myself like this."
Join us next week as we conclude our Seven Deadly Sins edition of Horror Octorbor with Greed - best personified by Michael Mann's bat-nuts crazy 1983 film The Keep!
Beautiful Boy is the latest brick in Amazon Studios' foundation of establishing itself as the new Miramax - the home of middlebrow American indies featuring sad white people going about their lives. Sometimes they're great, like Jim Jarmusch's Paterson; other times, well, it's Woody Allen's latest thing or Life Itself. Beautiful Boy is closer to the Paterson end of the spectrum, a handsomely-made actors' showcase telling the real-life story of David (Steve Carell) and Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet), a father and son dealing with the latter's addiction to hard drugs, including crystal meth.
Director Felix van Groeningen (Broken Circle Breakdown) presents a handsomely tragic look at drug addiction, Nic's addiction coming in cycles of hope and despair while David tries desperately to save his son, before realizing that maybe that's not his job. While van Groeningen's direction is intriguing, structuring the film around elliptical flashbacks detailing the moments that punctuate Nic's relationship to drugs, the real meat and potatoes is seeing Carell and Chalamet's wounded, authentic performances. Carell's a master at this kind of anguished, darkly comic pathos by now - hell, he's about to do it again in Welcome to Marwen - but Chalamet continues to be one of cinema's greatest new discoveries. As Nic, he displays the kind of deeply felt pain and adolescent ennui of James Dean in his prime, his yearning eyes and squirming vulnerability as he runs through cycles of dependency and hope about drugs. It's not a perfect film by any means, and it certainly wastes fine actresses in Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan, but as a heartfelt two-hander about addiction, it's one to watch.
I actually got the chance to sit down with van Groeningen around the time of opening night for a roundtable discussion with fellow critics Leo Brady of AMovieGuy.com and Lee Shoquist of ChicagoFilm.com - together, we talked about everything from adapting a book from two memoirs and working with such esteemed actors at the top of their game. Take a listen to the On Tap podcast below. (Thanks to our sponsor Overcast as part of the Chicago Podcast Coop!)