Friday, September 23, 2016

Anthony Rapp discusses his double feature at the Reeling Film Festival

Posted By on 09.23.16 at 03:00 PM

Anthony Rapp in bwoy
  • Anthony Rapp in bwoy
Twenty years ago, Anthony Rapp played the role of Mark Cohen in the off-Broadway debut of the musical Rent, a cultural watershed that made the AIDS crisis resonate with a wider audience and, for many straight and queer people, offered the first glimpse at a loving, homosexual relationship. Rapp, now 44, has helped to sustain Rent's legacy, and not just by reprising his role onstage and onscreen in the 2005 film version—he's performed numerous nuanced portrayals of homosexual characters throughout his career. 

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The 48 Hour Film Project awards local films created in two days

Posted By on 09.14.16 at 08:00 AM

The 2016 Chicago 48 Hour Film Project - COURTESY MUSIC BOX
  • Courtesy Music Box
  • The 2016 Chicago 48 Hour Film Project
The 48 Hour Film Project, self-described as "the oldest and largest timed filmmaking competition in the world," celebrates its 12th anniversary at the Music Box Theatre this week with premieres of four-to-eight-minute short films that local filmmakers completed—i.e., wrote, shot, edited, and scored—in just two days. The winning short, to be announced at the Best of Chicago screening and award ceremony by a panel of local judges on Thursday, September 15, will go up against other 48HFP shorts from around the world at Filmapalooza 2017 in Seattle, Washington, for a chance at a grand prize and an opportunity to screen at the 2017 Cannes film festival.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A local Holocaust survivor tells his story in Ken Burns’s Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War

Posted By on 09.06.16 at 08:00 AM

Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War
  • Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War

In a 1988 Fresh Air interview, the late author Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, explained why he wrote Night, his memoir. "I knew I would have to bear witness," Wiesel said. "Others who are trying to speak about the subject occasionally are false witnesses. And I felt that I had to be a true witness." The new Ken Burns-produced documentary Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War tells a powerful story through the words of witnesses of the Holocaust. Peter Braunfeld is one of them: he's an 85-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor who immigrated to the United States in 1940, settled in Chicago, and currently resides in Champaign.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

John Legend, Tika Sumpter, and Parker Sawyers reflect on Southside With You

Posted By on 08.26.16 at 03:30 PM

Southside with You
  • Southside with You

In the late summer of 1989, Barack Obama drove from Hyde Park to South Shore in his rickety yellow Datsun hatchback to pick up Michelle Robinson, his colleague and adviser at the Loop law firm Sidley Austin, for what would become a historic first date. The short drive is the setting of the opening-credits sequence of Southside With You, an endearing dramatization of the First Couple's initial romantic outing that stretches, like Before Sunrise, across an eventful day and night.

Written and directed by Richard Tanne, the low-budget indie—filmed in and around Chicago last summer and opening today—counts musician John Legend as an executive producer and composer; his song, "Start," plays over the end credits. Actors Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter (who's also a producer on the film) portray 28-year-old Barack and 25-year-old Michelle, respectively.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Noir City cofounder Alan K. Rode describes Chicago as ‘a fount of noir’

Posted By on 08.19.16 at 12:30 PM

Noir City: Chicago
  • Noir City: Chicago

The Noir City: Chicago film festival—which starts tonight, Friday, August 19, and continues through Thursday, August 25, at the Music Box—will feature new 35-millimeter prints of several rare and little-seen noir titles, including the Frank Sinatra musical Meet Danny Wilson (1952), the Tony Curtis boxing drama Flesh and Fury (1952), and Humphrey Bogart's final film, The Harder They Fall (1956).

"And I have to tell you," says Alan K. Rode, one of the festival's founders and an effusive film-noir buff, "I don't know if that's going to be seen again." He's referring to how many major Hollywood studios are uninterested in making new prints of their classic films, due to the cost of such an endeavor.

"Film is going away," says Rode. "And people need to understand that."

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Patio Theater lights up its silver screen again

Posted By on 05.06.16 at 07:00 AM

  • Brian Jackson / Chicago Sun-Times

Classic-movie fans will be pleased to learn that Dennis Wolkowicz—president of the Silent Film Society of Chicago and, under the pseudonym Jay Warren, its resident organ accompanist—is now general manager of the Patio Theater in Portage Park, where he has launched a Tuesday-night revival series in addition to an irregular schedule of indie screenings and free community shows.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Does 70-millimeter film improve the moviegoing experience?

Posted By on 02.19.16 at 04:00 PM

Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is one of the films screening at the Music Box's 70-millimeter film festival.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is one of the films screening at the Music Box's 70-millimeter film festival.

The Music Box's 70-millimeter film festival (this year subtitled "The Ultimate Edition") begins tonight, right on the heels of the theater's installment of a new 41-foot screen and 7.1 channel sound system. These technological augmentations, which debuted right before the Music Box screened the "Special Roadshow Engagement" of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, don't register as significant improvements (speaking as someone who regularly sees movies at the venue). For one, the sound still bounced around the main theater in a tinny, movie-palace way. And the screen seemed a bit, well, small. When 46-inch displays are considered "small", and with manufacturers already talking past 4K TV models, it's hard to make a case for someone to leave the house to go to the movies when they can literally grab a six-pack from the fridge, pull up nearly any film in history on their phone, and play it through their affordable, gargantuan television.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Crimson Peak makes the most of the IMAX format

Posted By on 10.27.15 at 02:30 PM

Crimson Peak
  • Crimson Peak
If you haven't yet seen Crimson Peak, I strongly recommend checking it out in IMAX while it's still playing in that format. Guillermo del Toro's gothic horror film makes inspired use of the large screen, employing it to enhance the towering mise-en-scene and chilling atmosphere. Whereas many other films presented in IMAX use the format to present things like mountains and skyscrapers—which would appear gigantic regardless—the spectacle of Crimson Peak lies in the transformation of gothic architecture into something more imposing and spectacular. The crumbling manor where much of the action takes place is its own character, its mysteries as tantalizing as any secret harbored by the human subjects. Del Toro and cinematographer Dan Laustsen invite viewers to get lost in the surroundings, employing lots of low-angle shots that force viewers to look up at the high ceilings and cavernous rooms. This inspires empathy with the heroine (Mia Wasikowska), who comes to the manor about halfway through the film but doesn't discover its secrets until it's almost too late.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

How Sicario makes moral ambiguity palpable

Posted By on 10.16.15 at 01:30 PM

  • Sicario

, which is currently playing in general release, is one of the most formally accomplished things at the multiplexes, a triumph of cinematography, lighting, production, and sound design. Taken together, these qualities establish an unsettling atmosphere that goes a long way in giving the movie its power. Sicario tells the story of a group of federal agents who adopt questionable tactics to bring down a Mexican drug cartel. As director Denis Villeneuve puts it in a recent interview with American Cinematographer, the film is less about cartel violence than how the United States has responded to it, entering a moral gray zone that obscures any good intentions our country may have had in fighting the war on drugs. Sicario’s atmosphere makes that gray zone palpable—it evokes a state of queasiness that makes one uncertain of how to respond.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

J.J. Abrams's Star Trek gets the CSO treatment at Ravinia on Sunday

Posted By on 08.14.15 at 04:45 PM


We'd need to make a trip into the future before we could say with any certainty that there's a healthy place there for symphony orchestras and the music they play.

With fewer and fewer of us familiar with the classical repertoire, or playing instruments ourselves (and therefore attuned to what it takes for someone else to do it well),  it's not looking good.

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