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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Weekly Top Five: Debuts

Posted By on 09.30.12 at 04:00 PM

  • Shadows
I enjoy making top five lists. I realize this sort of thing comes off as hacky, but I've found that creating and sharing film lists with others opens up avenues of conversation that can deepen our understanding of one another as cinephiles. That said, I welcome readers to share their lists with me, discredit mine to their liking, and generally partake in the discussion. My list, or any list for that matter—including the much-lauded Sight and Sound Poll—is by no means some sort of final word. It's also not some garish attempt at canonization on my behalf. I'm just having fun here.

For this post, I decided on the theme of "Top Five Debut Films"—my favorite first features, thereby excluding short films. It also excludes first films that are also a director's only film, so no Night of the Hunter, for instance.

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Irvine Welsh on Skagboys, Trainspotting, and . . . Miami

Posted By on 09.30.12 at 10:00 AM

Irvine Welsh
  • Jeffrey Delannoy
  • Irvine Welsh
Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, who lives part-time in Chicago, has a new novel out. Skagboys (Norton) is a prequel to his best-selling 1993 debut, Trainspotting. Here's an edited transcript of a recent phone chat.

JL: About Skagboys: Why revisit these characters 20 years later? Were they just kind of stuck in your head? They had more to say?

IW: Yeah, I mean there was a lot of mileage in them. It's a sort of first love kind of thing. They're the first characters I wrote, really, and I kind of identify strongly with them, personally. I wanted to do something with it for a long time, but I just kept putting it off and going to other things and thinking about, you know, the 100,000 words at the beginning of it, which I thought was just a kind of a way of finding my way into the characters and all that. And I thought that it'd be interesting, and it never seemed the right time to do it, and then I thought, 'Well, if I don't do it now, I never will." And I just got this idea of doing the prequel, but making it about what happened to them in Trainspotting. You can't make a kind of "what happened," you have to kind of make it into a kind of "why did it happen?" You know, what happened to them, to make them into heroin addicts, what happened in their community, what happened in the families, what happened within them, you know, in the relationships that they had. So the question is about trying to find the answers, from the individuals looking outward in concentric zones to the families and the communities and the kind of society they were living in and the sort of changes they were experiencing.

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The Reader's Agenda: Sun 9/30

Posted By on 09.30.12 at 06:15 AM

Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

It's nearly October, which of course means Oktoberfest is nigh. Saint Alphonsus Church has the first celebration of the season, featuring authentic German food, music, and, of course, brews.

The fifth annual Chicago Gourmet, taking place this weekend in Millennium Park, features food from more than 100 restaurants and chefs, plus wine, spirits, and beer. Cooking demonstrations, seminars, tastings, and book signings are also part of the festivities.

The Randolph Street Market is one of the largest vintage shopping centers in the city. Everything from clothes to household wares is on sale.

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baseball prediction update

Posted By on 09.29.12 at 02:00 PM

Paul Konerkos midseason beaning at the hands of the Cubs Jeff Samardzija: an omen of what was to come.
  • Paul Boucher
  • Paul Konerko's midseason beaning at the hands of the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija: an omen of what was to come.
A lot is riding on the last week of the White Sox's season—most of all the pride I can take in my season-opening predictions.

Kind of like the Sox themselves, I was flying high for a while only to see my pursuit of the Golden BAT go up in smoke of late.

In the National League, I picked the San Francisco Giants to win the West. Then, I can boast that I picked the Washington Nationals to make the playoffs—although not even I was bold enough to say they'd win the East—and had them in one of the two expanded wild-card slots. Otherwise, though, I had the Milwaukee Brewers in the Central and the Los Angeles Dodgers as the other wild card. I never imagined Dusty Baker wouldn't find a way to screw up the Cincinnati Reds in the Central, and I never expected the Atlanta Braves to right themselves from last year's collapse to make the playoffs. So give me credit for two playoff teams, one in the right position, and I have the Giants to win the pennant, so I'm still alive for the bigger prize.

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The Reader's Agenda: Sat 9/29

Posted By on 09.29.12 at 06:04 AM

Building Stories
  • Building Stories
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

The ninth annual Chicago Horror Film Festival is in its second day at the Portage Theater. Independently produced horror flicks will screen all day, with appearances from the directors and actors who made them.

The legendary Mission of Burma, who penned the postpunk anthems "Academy Fight Song," and "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," stop by Lincoln Hall in support of their latest LP, Unsound, which Bill Meyer says "includes some of the trickiest and most complicated music Burma has ever played."

Cartoonist Chris Ware appears at Riverfront Theater to talk about his new graphic work, Building Stories, as part of Printers Row Live.

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Buzzfeed wants you to look cool

Posted By on 09.28.12 at 06:00 PM

buzzfeed emotional quotient lol
  • via Buzzfeed
It's got a huge audience, a recognizable style, and no banner ads. I've called Buzzfeed the New York Times of new media, in large part because Buzzfeed and its partners can rack up 300 million views in a month—some articles get clicked over a million times, while this post will be lucky to get 1,500—and it's doing it largely without being seen as trolling too much. Then again, it did just post video of a suicide caught on live TV (just don't click that) so that's clearly an open question, and a debate for another time. (Or at the end of this post.)

Anyway, I've been curious to know what they put in the water over there that they're doing so well, so I stopped in at a Social Week Chicago talk given Monday by the website's chief revenue officer, Andy Wiedlin, about how Buzzfeed tries to connect its advertisers with its audience. The site has a pretty plausible theory on the mechanics of article sharing on the Web, which every Internet user can probably learn from.

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Saturday: The uncivil noise of Australia's Slug Guts

Posted By on 09.28.12 at 05:22 PM

Slug Guts
  • Slug Guts
I can't pretend to be plugged into Australia's underground rock scene, but in the late 80s and early 90s I loved it—the Moodists, King Snake Roost, Lubricated Goat. And I'm not even counting influential precursors like the Birthday Party, Scientists, Radio Birdman, and of course the Saints. There's always seemed to be something in the water down under that makes its loud rock bands scuzzier, ruder, and more primitive than their counterparts anywhere else in the world. Australians seem to have the spirit of the Stooges in their blood.

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The rise of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Posted By on 09.28.12 at 04:13 PM

Miguel Zenon
  • Miguel Zenon
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival, founded in 2007, has never pretended to be comprehensive either geographically or stylistically (the majority of the performers play variations on postbop, which is "mainstream" to most ears), but it's always presented what might be the best single-day opportunity to brush up Chicago's jazz scene. The free multivenue event is consistently loaded with talent, but this year, under the hand of new director Kate Dumbleton, it's even better. The fest now spans two days, with five sets on Sunday in addition to well over 30 on Saturday; the bill also includes some relatively musically adventurous acts, as well as a number of local groups that live and (usually) work outside the south-side scene (among them Sun Rooms and the Zach Brock Trio). There are also a few nonlocals on the schedule, including superb trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, who leads a quintet on Sunday afternoon at 1 PM, and remarkable Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon, who plays a rare solo set on Saturday night at Rockefeller Chapel.

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This week in New German Cinema

Posted By on 09.28.12 at 03:36 PM

From Klaus Wybornys Studies for the Decay of the West
  • From Klaus Wyborny's Studies for the Decay of the West
Researching filmmaker Werner Schroeter in anticipation of Facets Multimedia's upcoming retrospective reminded me just how little American spectators have seen of the New German Cinema movement of the 1960s and '70s. Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder have become recognizable figures here, but other major directors—such as Schroeter, Peter Fleischmann, and Alexander Kluge—remain largely unknown in the States. Kluge, an author and public intellectual who practically spearheaded the movement, seems especially overlooked; some day, perhaps his work will receive a stateside retrospective too.

New German Cinema was as much an act of cultural intervention as an aesthetic breakthrough, confronting buried traumas in the national culture that included not only Nazism but social inequalities within the postwar Federal Republic. If you'd like to learn more about it, I'd recommend reading Candice Wirt's recent essay at, which explains the origins of the movement (incidentally, the Oberhausen Manifesto, which introduced its goals to the world, was written almost exactly 50 years ago this week). And on Sunday night the Nightingale will screen Studies for the Decay of the West, a 2010 work by Klaus Wyborny , another lesser-known member of the group.

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Good People and bad dads: new performing arts reviews

Posted By on 09.28.12 at 02:45 PM

The Reader recommends Woyzeck on the Highveld at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Handspring Puppet Theatre transposes George Buchner's tale of alienation and murder from 19th-century Germany to South Africa during the apartheid era, using artfully crafted puppets and resonant projected animations to create what Tony Adler calls "a mournful, gorgeous progress through the lumpen tragedy."

Meanwhile, Adler laments that the progress through Goodman Theatre's Sweet Bird of Youth can't be as satisfying. Director David Cromer seems to have been overwhelmed by Tennessee Williams's 1959 play, which leaves "no one and nothing" to rein in its "unmitigated, excessive Williamsishness." Adler finds Mary-Arrchie Theatre's Geography of a Horse Dreamer indulgent and I Love Lucy Live on Stage pointless.

David Lindsay-Abaire's new play, Good People, suggests that he may yet prove himself worthy of the Pulitzer Prize he won back in 2007, for the awful Rabbit Hole. Still, Justin Hayford says only the last half hour is truly gripping.

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Performing Arts
April 10
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