When I told a friend I was planning to revisit Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window at the Siskel Center this past Saturday, he made a joke about the movie's corny twist ending, which reveals the preceding narrative to have been dreamt by the main character, a middle-aged professor played by Edward G. Robinson. It's the sort of conclusion that feels tacked on, leading spectators to wonder if the filmmakers didn't know how else to end the story. I don't know if the makers of Woman in the Window actually suffered this problem, but ultimately that's a moot point—a great movie remains that way no matter how it ends, Michael Miner be damned. And so, I decided on Saturday to watch the movie in a generous state of mind (after all, Fritz Lang's films have given me so much), assuming that the twist ending was intentional and the movie is supposed to be Robinson's nightmare. Would the movie play differently if I viewed it not as a conventional thriller, but as the representation of a troubled subconscious?
When the media sink their teeth into a big and powerful institution, it loses control of its own narrative, in the revised script playing the part of crook or dupe or incompetent. The PR department scrambles to respond. New TV ads are hastily created that balance humility and vision; you might see the CEO himself in shirtsleeves looking dead center into the camera and musing, "Yes, we've come through a rough patch here at International Turpitude, but the future has never looked brighter. And that's because of something we will never let ourselves forget—it's all about the children." But reclaiming lost mojo is a slog.
Unless it isn't. Earlier this year the Tribune's Heather Gillers and Jason Grotto published a devastating series of articles on the Field Museum. Well, they looked pretty devastating to me. The Trib accused the Field of bad management, fiscal incompetence, and auto-dismemberment.
The current Key Ingredient challenge with Blackbird pastry chef Dana Cree marks the 100th installment in the Beard Award-winning series (the full archive's here), which has pitted chefs against some oddball (or innocuous) ingredient and then given them the chance to pose a challenge of their own to another chef. The feature started in December 2010, and along with giving readers and viewers a look into the thought processes of lots of known (Achatz, Virant, Hot Doug) and not-so-known (Gaytan, Berens, Nardulli) chefs, it's also served as one of the most comprehensive records of a city's contemporary dining scene ever. Based on the culinary anthropology captured in the series, graduate papers could be written on swoosh techniques alone!
The feature—which was suggested in outline by Mike Sula, given its name by then Reader editor Kiki Yablon (my suggestion was "Stick a Fork in It"), and worked out in practice by Julia Thiel and me—has proved to be pretty ideal in terms of being just enough game-show gimmick with occasional gross-out value to be showbiz, yet loose and realistic enough to let chefs be themselves and capture what they really do without artificial drama. In other words, there's no Padma to walk in and announce that they suddenly have to work Swanson chicken stock into their dessert course. Occasionally wacky ingredients aside, it's a pretty straightforward look at how chefs puzzle out what to make with something and how they think about how flavors work together to make a satisfying dish. For me it's been a great experience in terms of going inside the city's kitchens (which are all cramped, except the hotel ones) and observing the chefs, almost always without a minder present, at work.
Readers are welcome to submit their own nominations. I had a list of just two. It was basically the same scene in each movie, a scene in which a truculent tough guy reveals he's a good guy after all by flashing an out-of-character grin. My project was really just me nursing a pet peeve.
Sergeant Sefton is a loner and a cynic in 1953's Stalag 17. The other American POWs have him pegged as an informer until he reveals the real barracks spy at the end of the movie and volunteers to help Lieutenant Dunbar—hiding in the water tank—break out of the camp. "Just one more word," snarls Sefton, just before he disappears into the tunnel the POWs have dug under their barracks. "If I ever run into any of you bums on the street corner, let's just pretend we never met before."
Hey, did you read:
• That new discoveries show that we had far more prehistoric ancestors from different backgrounds than previously thought, and that hundreds of thousands of years ago, "Everybody was bonking everybody else." —Mick Dumke
Von Hausswolff is a Swedish singer—her father is the fearless experimental musician C.M. von Hausswolff—but until the release of her stunning second album, Ceremony (Other Music/Kning Disk), her music was pretty run-of-the-mill. Her 2010 debut album, Singing From the Grave, served up fairly innocuous, commonplace, breathy yet introspective pop. She didn't entirely ditch that template on Ceremony, but by surrounding her songs with massive chords played on the organ of the Annedal Church in her native Gothenberg, she radically altered the complexion of the music, giving it a severe intensity and sense of grandeur (drummer Christopher Cantillo also heightens the music's power with some heavy, reverb-drenched beats). According to press materials, the album was inspired by the death of von Hausswolff's grandfather three years ago, and there's certainly a deep sense of both gravity and solemnity to the music. Her singing was lovely in its delicate beauty on the first record, but here she really lets it rip, suggesting P.J. Harvey at her most operatic. That earlier record gave little indication of how powerful her voice could be. There's an impressive range to the album, so I've posted two tracks below to indicate two different sides of the record. The epic "Deathbed" captures von Hausswolff at her most extroverted on a stormy, episodic churn, while "Mountains Crave" is a pop song, more or less, although it's still pretty moody—it kind of reminds me of Julia Holter's "Goddess Eyes II." Monday's concert marks von Hausswolff's Chicago debut.
Tonight U.S. Girls open for the Kills at the Vic, and Anna Von Hausswolff and Noveller perform at Schubas. Tomorrow night White/Light's Face the Strange series returns to the MCA with performances from Peter Speer, Circuit des Yeux, and Jimmy Whispers, and Notes & Bolts' wraps up its holiday toy drive at Empty Bottle with Sister Crystals, Peekaboos, Coffin Ships, and the Iceberg. On Wednesday you can check out Queens of the Stone Age and Foals at Allstate Arena or Jan Terri at Reggie's Music Joint.
There are plenty of other concerts around town in the next few days—be sure to check out our Soundboard listings for more shows, and read on for a couple picks from Reader critics.