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Monday, April 29, 2013

Orson Welles, Terrence Malick, and Michael Bay: Three feet high and rising

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 05:16 PM

Welles in Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report)
  • Welles in Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report)
It's a good time to be looking up at the movies. Two high-profile recent releases, Michael Bay's Pain & Gain and Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, employ the low-angle shot like it's going out of style; and the Music Box Theatre is in the middle of an ongoing series devoted to Orson Welles, the filmmaker most commonly associated with that device. Welles is the king of the low-angle shot, in part because the device fits so well with his theatrical aesthetic—it makes an impression similar to looking up at a stage from the orchestra pit. It also adds to the monumentality of his bigger-than-life characters who appear in all his films; in fact, the low-angles of Mr. Arkadin, which screened at the Music Box this weekend in the original European release version titled Confidential Report, are one of the reasons why the film feels mythic in spite of its obvious low budget.

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Artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano leaves Luna Negra Dance Theater

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 03:50 PM

Gustavo Ramirez Sansano
On the cusp of its 15th season, Luna Negra Dance Theater has announced that current artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, who moved here from Spain to take over the reins from founder Eduardo Vilaro in 2010, has resigned and will return to Spain tomorrow. His longtime friend, Monica Cervantes—the acclaimed LNDT dancer and budding choreographer who arrived in Chicago with him three years ago—has already gone back to Spain, and probably won't return to this country. Another LNDT signature dancer, tiny powerhouse Eduardo Zuniga, has already left for his native Chile. A company spokesman says that LN management hopes he'll return.

According to that spokesman, the troupe is "going through some financial restructuring . . . as it continues to cope with a challenging economy." Sansano's departure is "his own decision," and he has said he'd like to continue choreographing for LNDT on a project-by-project basis. Executive director Esther Jeles says she is "pleased to have Gustavo remain a part of Luna Negra."

Still, all this is sad news for anyone who cares about LNDT—a prominent institution unique in Chicago for its blend of Latin sensibility and contemporary dance—as well as the health of the dance world generally. At times, Sansano challenged audiences in a way that the old LNDT would not have done. Let's hope that safe choices won't be made as a search committee convenes this May to find a new artistic director.

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Dark Lord Day spreads out and levels up for 2013

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 02:00 PM

Old Dark Lord (2008), new Dark Lord (2013)
  • Old Dark Lord (2008) on the left, new Dark Lord (2013) on the right
This year Dark Lord Day, the annual beer and metal festival that's also the only place (and the only day) that Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana, sells its famous Dark Lord Russian imperial stout, fell on Saturday, April 27. I've been going since 2008 (though I missed 2012), and in that time the brewery has made several changes in an attempt to control overcrowding, scalping, line jumping, and other bad behaviors that proliferate wherever demand exceeds supply.

Beginning in 2009 attendees had to buy Golden Tickets in advance in order to score their allotted bottles of Dark Lord. Beginning in 2011, to get a Golden Ticket you had to purchase an admission ticket, which restricted entrance to the grounds to patrons willing to pay up front (and able to pounce on the online sales page within minutes). Tickets have steadily increased in price, and cost $30 plus service fees in 2013. Three Floyds diverts money from ticket sales to charity, in part to blunt criticism that the brewery exploits the hype over Dark Lord to fleece its most dedicated customers: the event's FAQ page says, "We are donating a portion of the proceeds to three charities that support Veterans, Literacy and the Humane Society."

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Red-flannel hash redux, from Leo's Lunchroom

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 12:40 PM

Eric Mays red flannel hash
On Saturday, Friend of the Food Chain Eric May threw a pop-up tribute to Leo's Lunchroom at the Piranha Club. Through the late 80s and early 90s, the Wicker Park diner was pretty much the only place you could eat in its immediate surroundings on Division. But it was much more than that. A hangout for artists, musicians, and assorted neighborhood weirdos in the heady days of pre- and mid-gentrification Wicker Park, it served an eclectic and mostly delicious pan-global assortment of budget-friendly food, cooked by Donna Knezek, who went on to Bite and Feed, and has since relocated to Albuquerque.

May got in touch with Knezek, former owner Sheila McCoy, and a few other staffers for recipes, and reverse engineered a few more with the help of some crowd sourcing among old regulars. He served brunch, lunch, and dinner, and turned out some amazingly faithful renditions of the biscuits and mushroom gravy, the veggie chili, the sweet-potato burrito, samosas, pecan-crusted catfish with mustard pan sauce, and more. The Reuben, griddled by Tom Harrington and served with potato salad, brought a Proustian tear to my eye.

May shared the simple recipe for the arresting red-flannel hash, and there are a few more shots of other dishes after the jump.

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12 O'Clock Track: The minimalism of Eluvium's "Entendre"

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 12:00 PM

Made only of piano, today's 12 O'Clock Track is "Entendre," from the upcoming Eluvium album, Nightmare Ending (out May 14 on Temporary Residence). On the instrumental composition, Eluvium (aka Matthew Cooper) keeps the minimal piano lines stark and choppy, appearing to occasionally make the ascending-and-descending notes fall out of rhythm with one another—which in turn makes the track seem that much more delicate and carefully stitched together. This is what truly lonesome music sounds like—the kind that makes you wish there was a dog around to pay you the slightest bit of attention.

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Did you read about Afghanistan, Wall Street tweets, and Michael Pollan?

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 11:33 AM

Michael Pollan
  • Ragesoss/Wikimedia Commons
  • Michael Pollan
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That "'the biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,' one American official said, 'was the United States.'" Tal Rosenberg

• About the tweet that briefly cost Wall Street $136 billion? Tony Adler

• That while New York's stop-and-frisk policy is challenged in court as illegally race based, its effectiveness is also unclear? Mick Dumke

• That marriage is a crock, er, status symbol? Aimee Levitt

• That in the mind of one reviewer, Mary Roach's trip down the gullet in her latest book, Gulp, is sometimes so tedious "I found myself wondering how many more pages until I reached the colon and the excrement"? Steve Bogira

• The bizarre New York Times review of food writer Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked, that seems to want to turn it into a different—and more boring—thing entirely? ("You might expect that 'Cooked' would examine how to get more people to change their habits. . . . But instead of considering ways to make cooking easier to fit into time-pressed lives, [Pollan] sets off on a personal quest.") Kate Schmidt

• That Lil Reese was arrested and charged with criminal trespass, mob action, and battery? Leor Galil

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Best shows to see: Fielded, Marriage, Eighth Blackbird, and Big Boi

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 10:56 AM

  • Benjy Russell
  • Fielded
You know about that Boards of Canada mystery release thing I blogged about recently? It looks like it's finally wrapping up, and as expected it's pointing toward there being a new BoC album out soon, which probably has their small but scarily fervent cult of fans twitching with delight right now.

In other news, it is a new week with a new schedule of live music just waiting to be dipped into. Local soul scene fixture Lynne Jordan plays at City Winery tonight. Tomorrow night the Milk Carton Kids play Schubas, Raw Power tops a bill of hardcore punk at Reggie's, and Freakwater plays the Hideout. And on Wednesday, Neutral Milk Hotel-affiliated project Music Tapes is at Bottom Lounge, while NYC dream poppers Beach Fossils play Subterranean with local buzz band Twin Peaks.

Hit the jump for more recommendations.

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Ben Schiller leaving Boka Restaurant Group

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 10:01 AM

Ben Schiller
  • Ben Schiller
On Saturday, barman Ben Schiller put in notice with the Boka Restaurant Group, for whom he's overseen the cocktails at the flagship, GT Fish & Oyster, and Girl & the Goat since 2009, after making his name at In Fine Spirits. He's signed on with the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group as a partner in the Berkshire Room, the forthcoming craft cocktail lounge in the new Acme Hotel, in River North, and will be helping out at Homestead, the farm-to-table restaurant above Roots Handmade Pizza.

But that's not all—Schiller and a few other partners are actively looking for a space to open their own bar concept, which he describes as "essentially like an old-man bar. There aren't a lot of places you can get an amazing cutting-edge cocktail and bring your uncle from Wisconsin who's a welder . . . a place where, if you want a shot and a beer and to wear dirty jeans, you won't feel bad about it. Scofflaw and Bar DeVille are close, but not at the level I want to take it."

Schiller's last day at Boka is May 11.

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Reader's Agenda Mon 4/29: Vaginal Davis, Fielded, and Rebecca Skloot & Mary Roach

Posted By on 04.29.13 at 06:15 AM

Vaginal Davis
  • Joe Gibb
  • Vaginal Davis
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

It's almost impossible to categorize the "terrorist drag" artist Vaginal Davis. (That's her term, by the way.) She not only straddles the boundaries of gender and of art, music, writing, and video, she also pushes them—maybe further than you thought they'd go. She'll speak tonight at the School of the Art Institute—check out Sam Worley's feature for more info.

"Onetime Chicagoan Lindsay Powell, former vocalist for Ga’an, can hypnotize by doing very little," writes Leor Galil in Soundboard. "Many of the tracks she’s released as Fielded are so minimalist that the only thing holding the eerie synths together is Powell’s powerful, sometimes anguished voice." Catch Fielded's set at the Burlington.

At Harold Washington Library, science writers Mary Roach and Rebecca Skloot discuss Roach's book Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. Copresented by the Illinois Science Council.

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

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekly Top Five: The best of John Ford

Posted By on 04.28.13 at 09:00 AM

The Quiet Man
  • The Quiet Man
Last week's top five was inspired by the Northwest Chicago Film Society's final installment of its winter series, so I figured it would be appropriate for this week's to pay tribute to the first installment of its new one. At the Portage on Wed 5/1, the NWCFS screens The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the classic John Ford western, which is famous—among many other reasons—for its telling closing line: "This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

I doubt I need to sell anyone on the merits of John Ford—at least I hope I don't need to—so let's just move on to my five favorite Ford films, after the jump.

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