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[Welcome to the Fourth Wall, CHIRP's weekly e-conversation on cinema. This week's subject is the Adam McKay film The Big Short. This edition is written by CHIRP Radio volunteers Kevin Fullam and Clarence Ewing.]
Clarence: Kevin, I watched The Big Short twice. In trying to form an opinion of it, I had to look up the word “ambivalent” to make sure I was using it correctly. Turns out I was. I am deeply ambivalent about this movie, and I can’t figure out exactly why.
A brief synopsis: The movie, based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, dramatizes events leading up to and immediately following the 2007-08 U.S. financial crisis where the housing market, once considered a bedrock of the economy, blew the F up as a result of Wall Street greed and incompetence.
Three separate groups of hedge fund managers (portrayed by a group of actors that includes Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling) see the disaster coming and try to position themselves to make a ton of money by shorting (betting against) the value of the financial instruments they are convinced will soon be in the toilet. The story follows them as they encounter skepticism and ridicule from colleagues while discovering just how far the rot goes when it comes to high finance in the USA.
[Welcome to the Fourth Wall, CHIRP's weekly e-conversation on cinema. This week's subject is the recent smash Get Out. This edition is written by CHIRP Radio volunteers Kevin Fullam and Clarence Ewing.]
Kevin: At some point in the future, Clarence, we'll have to hold a larger discussion on the topic of horror as a whole? I'm a fan of the genre, but horror is often hamstrung by its own financial success. Studios know that there's a sizable chunk of young moviegoers (and let's be honest, they're the ones who drive box-office receipts) who will plunk down their dollars for any film inhabiting this world, and so we're often treated to lots of schlock as a result.
Get Out, however, is novel, and actually has some rather pertinent societal commentary to offer. In fact, it's a testament to the brilliant premise of the film that I walked out feeling a bit disappointed? But first, a quick, spoiler-free summary:
[Introducing Fourth Wall, a new CHIRP Radio series featuring discussions about movies and other things worth talking about. The first conversation is by CHIRP Radio volunteers Clarence Ewing (listen to his radio show on Sundays form 2pm-4pm Central Time) and Kevin Fullam (film blogger and podcaster extraordinarie).]
CE: Hello, Kevin! Here it is, our new series where we’re going to talk about the movies. Many thanks for conceiving of this idea. I feel like, in our own small way, we can carry on in the Chicago tradition of Siskel and Ebert and, through conversation and kicking around ideas, gain some insight into a subject we enjoy.
I thought we could start things off by talking about movies in general. There was a time when I was almost as obsessed with movies as I was (and still am) with music. I even got THIS CLOSE to getting my own film production company off the ground a bunch of years ago. It fell apart like most startups with no money tend to do, but I learned some valuable lessons from the experience, as well as an appreciation for how hard it is to finance and make even the smallest, lowest-budget project.
by Kyle Sanders
Every year, it's a guessing game. Those eyes--those wide, darkened pupils--belong to someone but I can't figure it out who. Do they belong to Bridgette Bardot? Catherine Deneuve? Marlene Dietrich? Or how about Jeanne Moreau? Giuletta Masina? Anna Magnani? The longer I stare, the more impatient my questions become: WHO'S EYES DO YOU BELONG TO? WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN? WHAT STORIES CAN YOU TELL?!
In case I've completely lost you, I'm referring to the eyes that have become synonymous with the Chicago International Film Festival, an annual celebration of foreign film that was held at the AMC River East Theater in downtown Chicago October 17th through the 27th. The festival's alluring logo features a set of soft, mesmerizing eyes belonging to a feminine black and white shape.
This set of eyes suggests to hold plenty of life experiences, such as love, hope, and desire, much like my own eyes or even yours. It's why I come to this event every year--to see these familiar stories told from another set of eyes in a different world unlike my own.
I have seen a lot of movies, more so than the average movie enthusiast. I own a book entitled 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and so far I've seen 700 of those titles (plus hundreds of others not included on that list), and at least half of them have been foreign films. Within the past ten years, I've become comfortably acquainted with the likes of Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Michael Powell, Satyajit Ray, Agnes Varda, Peter Weir, Andrei Tarkovsky, Pedro Almodovar, Michelangelo Antonioni, Yasujiro Ozu, Jean-Luc Godard, and countless others.
While I feel like I've reached the point of desensitization, I still yearn to find a film that will enthrall me, leave me motionless in my seat as the end credits roll, numb to the visceral feeling I've just experienced. The CIFF is where I come to fulfill such hopes, and more often than not, that mission is accomplished. The best part about the CIFF is the audience: film lovers young and old (mostly old) who talk about nothing other than their love of film, conversations that rattle on 450 words per minute. Yes, the extensive ramblings of the film lover can sometimes be tedious and annoying, but one thing is for certain: they know to shut the hell up once the movie starts rolling, and remain silent until the lights go up.
[The CHIRP Radio Movie Collection documents great movies that feature musicians or the use of music in storytelling.]
The Plot: The rise and fall of Factory Records, told through the eyes of label founder, Manchester booster, and (depending on who you ask) overall scoundrel Tony Wilson
There’s a story about the history of Rock music that’s almost certainly apocryphal but is too good to not use: Only a couple of hundred people ever saw the Velvet Underground perform live, but every single one of them went on to form their own bands. This brief anecdote highlights the power music has over people, a power that remains explainable more by magic than science.
It’s this magic of discovery and creation and being part of a scene that’s captured brilliantly in 24 Hour Party People, the story of how local TV presenter Tony Wilson helped briefly turn the city of Manchester into the center of the music world with his label Factory Records. Director Michael Winterbottom starts the film with a VU-eque sequence - in this case, a late ‘70s Sex Pistols show with about a dozen people in the audience. Wilson, the narrator, scans the room and points out a few of the not-yet-known individuals in attendance: The young woman over there with the wild hair would soon be known as Siouxie Sioux of Siouxie and the Banshees. The curly-haired dude off to the side would become the lead singer for Simply Red. And the three intense-looking young men in the back? They would start a band called Joy Division, and in doing so change the course of music history.