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Entries categorized as “Movies” 62 results

KSanders writesThis Woman’s Work: Female Perspectives at the Chicago International Film Festival

by Kyle Sanders

The "Women's Picture" is universal, yet I often question if Hollywood is really progressing in its depictions of female characters.

It's not just the lack of films featuring women over 30 or leading lady action stars (though that seems to be changing thanks to Marvel and the like), but there's often very little support behind films involving complex women in the spotlight: those "women of a certain age" who aren't just the vapid love interest or the villainous bitch, but have complicated dimensions that can inspire sympathy and disdain at the same time. That's why it's always refreshing to see several titles at the Chicago International Film Festival that center around women.

This year the festival mixes high profile titles like Spencer (an account of the tragic life of Princess Di) and Julia (a documentary about legendary cookbook author and TV personality Julia Child) with smaller fare like Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (a social satire about a female Bucharest school teacher whose graphic sex tape goes viral) and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (a trio of charming vignettes from Japan focused on three very different women). There are nearly 30 films at this year's fest about women, and all are worth our undivided attention.

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Categorized: Movies

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KSanders writesMidnight Madness!: The Chicago International Film Festival Gets Freaky After Dark

by Kyle Sanders

This year, I decided to switch things up a bit for my coverage of Chicago's International Film Festival. For as many times as I've attended, I've not once checked out their After Dark series, a collection of "shock-filled, spine-tingling, and wildly strange visions" made to keep you up late into the night.

Was I previously too scared to sit through any of the titles? Not at all. But this year's slate of movies had some too-good-to-miss contenders, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to shiver on the edge of my seat!

One of opening night's presentations included the highly anticipated Halloween Kills, but I preferred fare less familiar, that also didn't come attached to a highly successful horror franchise. Mythic creatures and mysterious real life events are what I was interested in seeing, and I got my fair share!

An upcoming American release, Antlers, delivered on the mythic creature feature, providing monster thrills from the Pacific Northwest. Set in a small coastal town in Oregon, an enigmatic boy's dark secrets lead his concerned school teacher (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother (Jesse Plemons) to encounter a terrifying ancestral creature.

Produced by monster maestro Guillermo Del Toro, Antlers is based on a short story that draws from the Wendigo myths found in Native American Folklore (look for my full review when the film is released nationwide on October 29th). 

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KSanders writesKyle Sanders Goes to the 57th Annual Chicago International Film Festival

by Kyle Sanders

There I was, sitting in an AMC theater surrounded by my fellow film nerds--er, um, critics--settling down, getting comfortable, offering up some friendly chit-chat, when a moment we were all too familiar with took place: the dimming of the lights.

We were quickly advised to turn off our cell phones as the large screen lit up before us, large letters foreshadowing the table of contents of a made up magazine.

The distinctive voice of Oscar-winning actress Anjelica Huston boomed through the theater, relaying to us the history behind The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. It's sole mission: to "bring the world to Kansas."

The critics around me chuckled at a montage of distinctively edited clips gussied up in Wes Anderson fashion, no doubt familiar with the inner workings of a professional yet frenzied publication. It dawned on me just what a perfect start this was to the next two weeks of my life: The French Dispatch brings the world to Kansas, and the Chicago International Film Festival brings the world of cinema to me.

And so begins the 57th Annual Chicago International Film Festival! This is my eighth year attending, and it's always exciting to see what new titles from around the globe are competing for international acclaim and attention.

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Clarence Ewing: The Million Year Trip writesIn the Shadow of Woodstock: “Summer of Soul” and “Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage”

by Clarence Ewing

What’s the point of a music festival? The answer depends on who you ask: To make money; To perform your art in front of crowds while also getting paid; To see bands, hang out with friends, enjoy the weather, and maybe have a transformative experience..

The festival that still stands out in history is the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. It’s not just a touchstone in American music, but American culture. The electrifying performances and peaceful gathering of hundreds of thousands of fans remain an ideal image of what festivals can be.

Two new documentaries highlight two other major milestones in music festival lore, one of them lost to history until now, the other one something a lot of people would rather forget.

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Categorized: Movies

Clarence Ewing: The Million Year Trip writesYour Favorite Band’s Favorite Band: The Story of Sparks

by Clarence Ewing

As a group of English New Wavers once put it, "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it." In Pop music, monetary success and flash-in-the-pan stardom is easy. Becoming an influence, not just on other artists but on an entire era, has far more lasting rewards that can’t be measured in dollars.

Very few can make a claim to being an influence in the music galaxy, to being a “musician’s musician.” One undisputed example of this is the band Sparks.

Born and raised in California and originally performing under the name Half Nelson, Russell and Ron Mael knew they would spend their lives in music. An early and beneficial encounter with legendary producer Todd Rundgren focused their sound and gave them the best kind of start to their careers.

Russell handles the vocals, Ron plays the keys and wears the mustache. Despite the vibrant '70s California music scene, the brothers would have to go to Europe to hit their stride, a move that would land them in a bristling stew of Punk, Electronica, New Wave, Post-Punk, and Classical influences.

Through the ensuing decades, using a number of backing musicians, the duo adopted a steady, workmanlike approach to their creativity while remaining consistently inconsistent in the styles of music they created. Having managed to avoid the hedonistic traps and self-destructive pitfalls that doom so many other bands on their journey, Sparks have kept their focus squarely on their music, and that has carried them through over 40 years of collaboration.

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