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The CHIRP Blog

Entries categorized as “Movies” 75 results

KSanders writesThe 95th Annual Academy Awards - A Breakdown of Possible Winners

by Kyle Sanders

Have you ever seen the 1927 film Wings? Probably not, and no, unlike MASH, it was not a movie that spawned a long-running TV sitcom of the same name.

Wings is a romantic action-war motion picture from the Silent Era, about two World War I rival combat pilots who fall in love with the same woman. Notable for its realistic air combat sequences, risque use of nudity, and a hotly debated onscreen kiss between two men, it also won the very first Oscar for Best Picture at the inaugural Academy Awards ceremony.

Smash-cut to ninety-five years later, and who among us could say they're familiar with this movie? Unless you're a film aficionado (like yours truly), you're more likely unaware of its existence. Hell, there are other titles from that year that have resounded a lot longer than Wings' Best Picture win, such as The Jazz SingerMetropolis, and Sunrise (another Academy Award winner that year, receiving the now-defunct award for "Unique and Artistic Picture").

I guess you could say winning an Oscar doesn't always guarantee a film's greatness--only time can determine a film's longevity in the cinematic canon of artistic merit.

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Share March 10, 2023 Share on Facebook Tweet This!

Categorized: Movies

KSanders writesFight or Flight: A Review of “Women Talking”

by Kyle Sanders

Pardon my politics, but my feelings going into this year's Midterm elections were quite grim. I was so convinced of the prophesied "Red Wave" that I spiraled into theoretical fears of what those results could possibly unravel in this country.

I was angry. I was frustrated. But most of all, I felt completely powerless. I alone couldn't stop the inevitable. I alone couldn't change the course of history. Convincing those with polar opposite political beliefs was futile. The only thing I could do was cast my vote and avoid all Election Day coverage.

The next morning, the sun came up.

As it turned out, the Red Wave barely made a ripple. So many races were too close to call, and yet, the more results that came in, the more hope I was able to maintain. Those candidates who supported "anti-woke" legislation, fraudulent voting, and Fascist behaviors soon realized they were beside themselves.

For once, I actually felt good. Despite what the polls were predicting, the voters decided otherwise. I had witnessed democracy at work.

And it wouldn't be the first time, as just a few weeks prior, I witnessed the same process on the big screen, when I got the opportunity to see one of the Chicago International Film Festival's "Special Presentations" of Women Talking.

Adapted from Miriam Toews' profound 2018 novel, Women Talking is about a group of Mennonite women who conduct a secret meeting in a barn to decide--after realizing that the numerous sexual assaults they were enduring were committed by the men in their colony--whether or not to stay or leave. 

It's a complicated decision because, according to their faith, if they're unable to forgive these men, they will be denied God's salvation. But what is clearly presented is a group of women who, despite their personal beliefs, are able to effectively communicate their stances while allowing those in opposition to lament their own arguments. Through this collaborative process, the women not only question power, but harness their own.

The film features an ensemble of acclaimed actresses of varying years in the business. From recent Oscar nominees Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter) and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Carol) to Emmy-winning Claire Foy (The Crown), and veteran actresses like Oscar winner Frances McDormand (FargoNomadland) and Tony award-winning Judith Ivey ("Steaming," "Hurlyburly"), the cast's emotive faces fill every frame with expressions blistering with anger, frustration, and pain. They flow in and out of conversations that shift from unified to divided within seconds. The claustrophobic barn the women congregate in feels so intimate, it feels like you're watching a staged play on celluloid.

It's that kind of atmosphere director Sarah Polley and cinematographer Luc Montpellier specifically chose when bringing this story to the screen. When I attended the sneak preview back in October, the collaborating duo were in attendance to receive the festival's Visionary Award, and discussed the making of the film. Polley mentioned she wanted to tell this story as a heightened reality fable that feels like a grungy postcard from the past whose odor still lingers in the present. For Montpellier, he wanted to contrast the dark intimacy of the barn's space from the agrarian exteriors filled with light and color. It's an effectively subtle way to present these women deciding whether or not to stay within the confines of archaic customs, or plunge their way into the bewildering terrain of the unknown. 

The levels of saturation in the film trick you with the uncertainty of time; we're never fully aware of the year or decade in which the film takes place, or even where it takes place, which raises the stakes for both the women and the audience watching: neither group can assume what risks are out there, but surely it couldn't be worse than what dangers remain if they stay. Polley's potent direction and simmering script keep you engaged with the women's dilemma throughout the film's entirety. 

Only her third film (behind the Oscar-nominated Away from Her and Take This Waltz), Women Talking is Polley's most ambitious to date, presenting those "sticky questions" involving power and choice while keeping the spirited content of the novel alive through the performances of its all-star cast (already, the cast has been collecting year-end Best Ensemble awards).

By the film's conclusion, the choices have been provided, opinions have been heard, and a decision is made. Let Women Talking be considered a fine example of what a true democratic process looks like.

Women Talking will be released in theaters nationwide on December 23rd


Share December 20, 2022 Share on Facebook Tweet This!

Categorized: Movies

KSanders writesGods and Ghosts: A Review of “Babylon”

by Kyle Sanders

Back in college, I took a Film Studies course where we watched King Vidor's The Crowd. Released in 1928, The Crowd is a classic from the Silent Era and was one of the first films nominated for Best Picture (back then, the category was "Best Unique and Artistic Production") at the inaugural Academy Awards ceremony. It tells the story of a young couple struggling to maintain an existence within "Society," that massive, faceless entity referenced in the title.

A landmark in direction, Vidor's kaleidoscopic camerawork follows its protagonists as their beaming ambitions slowly submerge within a vast swarm of indifferent people all clamoring for a piece of the same thing. For a film that came out during the Great Depression, it was not what you'd call a "feel good" movie of the year.

The Crowd came to mind near the end of a new film that takes place during the same era. A dizzying camera pans out above a crowd of theatergoers, tilting down at the tops of their faceless heads watching a scene from Singin' in the Rain. One of the film's protagonists is also in the audience, but in this darkened crowd he nearly goes unnoticed.

The scene is from Damien Chazelle's latest film, Babylon, and it's just one of many scenes that reference important markers of cinema--those magical movie moments that have stirred the hearts of filmgoers for over a century, The Crowd included.

 If only Babylon could summon a new trick from up its overstuffed sleeve.

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Share December 19, 2022 Share on Facebook Tweet This!

Categorized: Movies

KSanders writesLast Looks: Final notes of the 58th Chicago International Film Festival (with Mentions of King of Kings, Rounding, and Runner)

written by Kyle Sanders, reporting from the 58th Chicago International Film Festival

Well folks, it's time to roll the red carpet back up and chuck it into its respective corner storage unit. The Chicago International Film Festival has said "Au revoir!" and turned off the marquee lights after two weeks of presenting us with 72 narrative films, 20 documentary features, and 56 short films from 53 countries. There was laughter, tears, and Agatha all along (thanks to a visit from Career Achievement Award winner Kathyrn Hahn)! 

Here's a wrap-up with a few more reviewed films included in the mix!:

This year CIFF kicked off its festival with a block party in front of the Music Box Theater. With the inclusion of local food vendors and a red-carpet runway, I hope they make this an annual event--I need the validation of winning their movie trivia game!

King of Kings: Chasing Edward Jones

The last documentary I had the chance to screen was King of Kings: Chasing Edward Jones. Directed by his granddaughter, Harriet Marin Jones, this doc details the life of one of the most powerful Chicagoans of the Twentieth Century: an African-American power broker who was the brawn and the brains behind Policy, an illegal racketeering syndicate that would evolve into what we now call the Lottery. This eye-opening film uncovered the remarkable life of an overlooked legend, who stood toe-to-toe with Al Capone and rubbed elbows with the likes of Josephine Baker and Duke Ellington.

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Share October 26, 2022 Share on Facebook Tweet This!

Categorized: Movies

Topics: chicago international film festival

KSanders writesFight or Flight: A Chicago International Film Festival Special Presentation of Women Talking

written by Kyle Sanders, reporting from the 58th Chicago International Film Festival

Aside from giving international filmmakers around the world a place to share their art, the Chicago International Film Festival also provides a series of "Special Presentations," or those highly anticipated films from celebrated filmmakers most likely to find their names on various short lists during Awards Season. This year, Chicagoans had the chance to catch sneak peeks of Darren Aronofsky's The Whale, Martin McDonagh's The Banshees of Inisherin, and Sam Mendes' Empire of Light. Standing toe-to-toe with those male Hollywood heavyweights, is actress/director Sarah Polley, who shared her latest work, Women Talking.

Polley and cinematographer Luc Montpellier received this year's Visionary Award from CIFF, and I got the chance to attend the event (held at the Music Box Theater) and see their latest (and third overall) collaboration. Women Talking is an engrossing drama about a group of women in an isolated Mennonite colony who gather to discuss what to do about the ongoing sexual assaults they've endured from the men of the community. It's adapted from Miriam Toews' best-selling novel, and couldn't be more prescient in a post-Roe v. Wade America.

Women Talking

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Share October 24, 2022 Share on Facebook Tweet This!

Categorized: Movies

Topics: chicago international film festival

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