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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weekly Top Five: The best of New Hollywood

Posted By on 06.30.13 at 09:05 AM

Five Easy Pieces
  • Five Easy Pieces
This week Chicago moviegoers are serendipitously treated to a trio of notable works by New Hollywood directors. The Northbook Public Library has Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club, a successful rehashing of the themes he explored in his Godfather films; Philip Kaufman's adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff screens at the Gene Siskel Film Center; and Roman Polanski's famous Chinatown will be on the TVs at Delilah's. Sure, Chinatown is the only film that could be considered part of the New Hollywood period proper, but The Cotton Club and The Right Stuff both stand as strong middle-period works from directors who made a name for themselves in the late 60s and early 70s.

The occasion got me thinking about other films from the era, largely considered American cinema's renaissance following the decline of the traditional studio system. Not everything that emerged from the period was great (stuff like The Graduate and Easy Rider, considered radical at the time, now seem like nothing more than canonical nostalgia pieces), but much of it has lasted, thanks in no small part to the general public's desire (however brief) for smarter, more personal movies. This, of course, has a lot to do with the simultaneous golden age that was occurring in film criticism—the age of Sarris, Kael, Ebert, Shickel, and Canby. You can catch my five favorite New Hollywood films after the jump.

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Reader's Agenda Sun 6/30: Pride Parade, Bully.punk.riot, and Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II

Posted By on 06.30.13 at 06:08 AM

BONEdanse performers Cheryl Cornacchione and Nicole Scatchell
  • Carl Wiedemann
  • BONEdanse performers Cheryl Cornacchione and Nicole Scatchell
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

Pride Week culminates today with the Pride Parade in Boystown. There will be six-figure crowds, so find a sidewalk spot early. Then, Jane Beachy and Scott Cramer wrap up the hysteria with Burst! A Post Pride Parade Oasis at Berlin. Catch DJ sets by Teen Witch Fan Club and Baathaus, plus performances by Banjee Report, Precious Jewel, and more.

Tonight is the last night to see BONEdanse's Bully.punk.riot, an 80-minute dance abstract that uses mosh pit-rooted bodyslam techniques and punk music to riff on consumerism, herd violence, and group acceptance.

Courtesy of an ever-fruitful partnership with National Theatre Live and London's Royal National Theatre, the Music Box screens the live-stage performance of The Audience, featuring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II.

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

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reader's Agenda Sat 6/29: Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, International Masters of Mindreading, and edible art installations

Posted By on 06.29.13 at 06:05 AM

International Masters of Mindreading
  • International Masters of Mindreading
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

The Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival rages on today with All Tiny Creatures, Dumpster Babies, Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Tobacco, and more. If you can pull yourself from the stage to the storefronts, you'll find local musicians and labels hawking records and old gear all afternoon at Elastic.

Want to really know what your date is thinking? Take him or her to the Montrose Room tonight for the International Masters of Mindreading, where five of the world's best psychics perform.

Starving Artist 2013 pairs five local chefs and artists to collaborate and create an edible installation. Think Food Network Challenge, except you get to eat the end results. There's also a taco battle between Antique Taco and Big Star. Things could get ugly. And delicious.

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

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Friday, June 28, 2013

In praise of fat books: The Transylvanian Trilogy

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 03:50 PM

  • Random House
When my editor left the review copies of the new edition of Miklós Bánffy's Transylvanian Trilogy on my desk during my first week working here, I assumed it was some sort of joke or hazing ritual. ("Let's give the new writer the most bizarre and obscure-looking title from the unwanted books cabinet and see what she does!") Within a week, I was so deeply engrossed in Volume 1 that I was texting people things like, "Oh, major shit's going down in Transylvania now!"

That is really the beauty of really, really fat novels. They look intimidating, like they'll do serious damage if you drop them on your foot (even in the paperback editions), and they're not really the optimal size for reading on the el, particularly if you're on a crowded train and have to stand, but once you get into them, you never want to let them go.

While a shorter book is like a brief vacation to another world, with a fat book, you're moving in and settling down for a few weeks or months in real-life time or a few years or even a couple of generations in book time. You get to know the characters and the particular concerns and rituals of their world extremely well. Questions about who is going to marry whom are always of interest, but with a long book, you find yourself worrying about the legal and social implications of changing the method of running the family farm.

So. Bánffy and his Transylvanian Trilogy, which appears next week in America for the first time ever. The translation comes from a British edition from 2000, a collaboration between Bánffy's daughter Katalin Bánffy-Jellin and Patrick Thursfield. (For more about the books' history, check out the entry on the wonderful Neglected Books Page.)

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Former Thursday front man Geoff Rickly's unusual and moving antifolk EP

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 03:31 PM

It's an interesting time for emo, which has been going through several sea changes since the late aughts, when "emo" became divorced from much of the music it had represented and turned into a catch-all for histrionic whining and a cartoonish version of goth fashion that would make Tim Burton blush. Just this year two of the groups largely responsible for informing that popularized idea of emo—that'd be Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance—went through some major shifts. The superhero-obsessed dudes in My Chemical Romance parted ways at the end of March, which put a stop* to the band's streak of dropping grand rock-operas and briefly turned front man Gerard Way into a punk version of Watchmen's original Nite Owl as he went through the group's albums track by track on Twitter, dropping anecdotes and fond memories for any followers who cared to pay attention. A few weeks later Fall Out Boy returned from a short hiatus to drop Save Rock and Roll, an album that indulges the foursome's pop side, landed on top of the charts, and forced images of the band members' new looks upon the masses (the dudes have new haircuts, everyone). Although underground punk musicians around the globe have been reclaiming emo's old sounds and cranking out great tunes over the past half decade, the appearance of Save Rock and Roll has done more to convince mainstream music listeners that emo is flexible and liable to change than any of the exciting new groups have been able to thus far.

Fall Out Boy is hardly the only one changing things up. Last week Geoff Rickly, who fronted screamo standout Thursday till the band went on indefinite hiatus at the end of 2011, dropped his second "mixtape" of solo recordings, Darker Matter, and it bears only a slight resemblance to his work in Thursday and agitprop hardcore group United Nations. It's a searing and strange antifolk EP that shows Rickly running wild with his experimental side; not only does the dude pull off making a wobbly blues burner ("Crushed Penny") and a trip-hop tune made with what sounds like a church organ that also name-checks a jazz trumpeter ("Somewhere, Listening to Chet Baker Without Me . . . "), but he puts those songs side by side and makes the transition from each unusual song work.

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Are the Blackhawks Chicago's team?

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 02:48 PM

Dani Weadley, center left, of Fox Lake, and other Blackhawks fans at Harry Carays Restaurant in Rosemont early Tuesday morning
  • AP Photo/Daily Herald/Mark Welsh
  • Dani Weadley, center left, of Fox Lake, and other Blackhawks fans at Harry Caray's Restaurant in Rosemont early Tuesday morning
Is this a hockey town, or what?

No, it's not. Lake Forest and Wilmette, those are hockey towns. When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup Monday, they were dancing in the streets of Kenilworth. Or the residents had their servants go outside and do it for them.

Yes, there were drunken parties on Chicago's north side Monday night. Wrigleyville residents dashed outside, convinced the Cubs had just won the Stanley Cup. Meantime all was quiet in Englewood, Garfield Park, and Lawndale.

I'm happy the Blackhawks are NHL champs, but let's not get swept away with the idea that they're emblematic of Chicago. Let's realize that most of the city's residents don't give a flying puck about hockey. And with good reason. Chicago is almost two-thirds black and Hispanic, and hockey is still mainly for the white and affluent.

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Emma Watson in The Bling Ring: Acting as 3-D printing

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 02:30 PM

Emma Watson as Alexis Neiers
  • Emma Watson as Alexis Neiers
The Internet Movie Database informs us that Emma Watson prepared for her role in The Bling Ring—as real-life criminal turned reality TV star Alexis Neiers—by studying Neiers's body language as exhibited on her TV show. You get a sense of her process in the on-screen results. Watson's performance is a series of precise, concentrated gestures, which is never undermined by the sort of self-consciousness actors tend to exhibit when playing real people who are still alive. The movie's version of Neiers is, of course, extremely self-conscious—you can see that in the still to the left. Observe the regal smirk on Watson's face, the way she hides one eye behind her bangs and steers the other to the side, so as to avoid making direct eye contact with anyone. Watson's impersonation, one of refined superficiality, conveys that Neiers looks at the world from behind a mask.

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A bounty of brilliance from Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 02:00 PM

Habitués of this space probably know of my esteem for Boston pianist and composer Pandelis Karayorgis, a musician whose rigorous explorations of the less frequented corners of jazz history have consistently yielded deeply original and compelling new sounds. He's managed to revisit the work of pianists like Lennie Tristano, Herbie Nichols, Elmo Hope, Hassan, and early Cecil Taylor and bring back consistently fresh ideas in all sorts of contexts. Earlier this year he and Boston-based reedist Jorrit Dijkstra launched Driff Records—the label just added four new titles to its catalog, and they have me thinking that this might be the most exciting new jazz label in 2013.

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Mayor Rahm learns about the Blackhawks

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 12:10 PM

  • AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Mayor Emanuel's got himself in a lot of trouble with some hockey fans I know for prematurely killing off the greatest Blackhawks player, so to speak.

That would be Robert Marvin "Bobby" Hull, aka the Golden Jet, about whom Mayor Emanuel said: "Bobby Hull is looking down on this team with great admiration."

For the record, Bobby Hull is most definitely not looking down on anything, because he's very much alive—as the mayor will no doubt realize when Hull shows up for today's Stanley Cup celebration.

Mayor Emanuel made his comment on an ESPN radio sports-talk show Tuesday, the day after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup. Here's the link. (And, by the way, thank you, Matt Farmer, for sending it to me.)

In defense of the mayor, I think I can understand why he made that mistake, as egregious at it is. Obviously, the mayor doesn't give a hoot about sports.

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12 O'Clock Track: "Do the Night Train" is a creepy postpunk blast from Toupee

Posted By on 06.28.13 at 12:04 PM

Dinner Parties
  • Dinner Parties
This year's Best of Chicago issue featured Toupee, who was Steve "Plastic Crimewave" Krakow's pick for Best Band With a Front Woman Who Looks Hot Even in a Monster Mask. Toupee, who released their debut LP, Dinner Parties, this spring on Oozing Wound drummer Kyle Reynolds's Rotted Tooth Recordings label, has been a longtime local favorite of mine as well. In honor of their Best of Chicago pick—and in honor of them just being a killer band—today's 12 O'Clock Track is "Do the Night Train," off Dinner Parties. The band's Siouxsie & the Banshees-inspired postpunk has always shown a flair for the dramatic and theatrical, and this song showcases that perfectly, with front woman Whitney Allen transforming into some sort of terrifying monster, growling over the band's dizzying, eerie punk fury. You can listen to "Do the Night Train" after the jump.

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