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Entries categorized as “Movies” 63 results

KSanders writesScenes from the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival

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.

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Clarence Ewing: The Million Year Trip writesCHIRP Radio Movie Collection: 24 Hour Party People (2002)

[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.

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William Lennon writesCHIRP Radio Movie Collection: It Follows (2014)

[The CHIRP Radio Movie Collection documents great movies that feature musicians or the use of music in storytelling.]

The Plot: After being drugged and assaulted, a young woman is stalked by a shape shifting killer.

The story is simple by design. A mild-mannered community college student (Jay, brought to life by Maika Monroe in an exquisitely understated performance) goes out on a date. She’s drugged, and wakes up bound to a chair in an old parking garage. Her date, now her captor, informs her that she’s been infected-from now on, she’ll be hunted by an unknown, malicious force.

The only cure is to extend the chain of betrayal a step further and pass the infection on to someone else. Her pursuer (who we’ll call “The Follower”) is amorphous-it can look like anyone, so despite the fact that it takes several actors to portray its many faces, the one who brings it to life the most memorably and consistently is the composer, Rich Vreeland, AKA Disasterpiece.

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William Lennon writesCHIRP Radio Movie Collection: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

[The CHIRP Radio Movie Collection documents great movies that feature musicians or the use of music in storytelling.]

The Plot: In the cosmic depths of the Marvel Universe, a human scrapper assembles a team of thieves and bounty hunters to recover a weapon capable of destroying the galaxy.

[VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD]

Look at it in the right light and Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie about the dark side of wish fulfillment. After all, what red-blooded American twelve-year-old doesn’t dream of taking to the stars and becoming a Flash Gordon-by-way-of-Han Solo style vagabond?

That’s just what happens to Peter Quill (who takes the name Star Lord to celebrate his transition from middle-schooler to space pirate) and, while he seems to enjoy gallivanting across the cosmos, he never manages to sever the connection between himself and what made the earth special to him: his family.

Guardians is a movie with two MacGuffins. First, there’s The Orb, known as the Power Stone to the greater Marvel Universe, a standard sci-fi plot device described as being able to “mow down entire civilizations like wheat in a field.” It does a fine job of moving the story forward and it makes some seriously cool purple sparks when it’s activated, but beyond that The Orb is not all that interesting. Swap it out with, say, The Tesseract from Guardians’ sister film The Avengers and nothing really changes. Quill even breaks the fourth wall a bit mid-movie, mentioning that The Orb has a “Maltese Falcon, Arc of the Covenant vibe.” See also: The Holy Grail, the Death Star Plans, the One Ring.

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Clarence Ewing: The Million Year Trip writesCHIRP Radio Movie Collection: Trainspotting (1996)

[The CHIRP Radio Movie Collection documents great movies that feature music or musicians.]

Trainspotting (1996)

The Plot: A group of heroin addicts in Scotland tries to make their way in an economically depressed late 1980s UK.

For a few years in the 1990s, “heroin chic” was a thing. The pale, hollow-cheeked look that came from riding the white horse was, in certain circles, considered a desirable image. It represented decadence and fun, regardless of the danger that’s always close behind.

The cinematic expression of this idea is Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, a film based on a novel by Irvine Welsh. Released two years after Quentin Tarantino’s landmark movie Pulp Fiction, Boyle’s work is similar in its highly stylized mise-en-scène and the characters’ ironic detachment from realities that would be quite different were this a documentary instead of a work of make-believe. Sure, being hooked on smack is bad, but it certainly doesn’t keep the main protagonist (played by Ewan McGregor) from saying a lot of clever things or fooling around with hot young teenagers. Four years after this film’s release, Darren Aronovsky’s Requiem for a Dream, using even more visual flair, would indirectly indict the “addiction as entertainment” sub-genre by presenting drug addiction as closer to what it actually is - terrifying, depressing, and gross without the movie-star chic or uplifting ending.

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