Friday, January 31, 2014

Hopscotching through A Life in Men

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 05:00 PM

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  • Algonquin Books
Last night I finished reading A Life in Men, a new novel by a Chicago writer named Gina Frangello. I felt compelled to read the whole thing, but I'm not sure how much I actually enjoyed it. Frangello builds suspense by playing with time and withholding information about past events that affect how characters behave in the present.

Here's where I confess that I'm not the sort of reader who does well with delayed gratification. I'm not above flipping to a book's last page to find out how it all works out—except with romance novels, which are soothing because their endings are a foregone conclusion. I ended up skipping ahead in A Life in Men a lot.

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This week's moviegoing dilemma: Katharine Hepburn or Nagisa Oshima?

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 04:02 PM

Death by Hanging
  • Death by Hanging
In her essay for the winter series "Early Katharine Hepburn," Doc Films programmer Ursula Wagner writes that "Hepburn's unconventional looks, intense personality, and ambiguous gender presentation all posed problems for the 30s film industry." Despite having won an Oscar in 1933, the actress was deemed "box office poison" for most of the decade. Several of her films which are considered classics today—including Holiday and Bringing Up Baby (both of which screen later in the series)—were flops upon first release. Sylvia Scarlett, which screens Monday at 7 PM, was one of Hepburn's most resounding commercial failures, perhaps because it exemplifies those alienating qualities that Wagner mentions. Hepburn plays a young woman whose con artist father disguises her as a boy after they escape from France to England—yet even as a boy, she ends up arousing the romantic interest of at least a couple of men.

Scarlett came to attract a serious critical following in the post-studio era, with some writers declaring it decades ahead of its time. "Genre shifts match gender shifts," Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in the Reader, "as the film disconcertingly changes tone every few minutes, from farce to tragedy to romance to crime thriller—rather like the French New Wave films that were to come a quarter century later."

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Street View 163: #MadeForInstagram

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 03:17 PM

Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.

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Artist and LVL3 director Vincent Uribe joined forces with Chelsea Culp to curate #figureandground, a backdrop gallery featuring the artwork of 30 School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni. Perfect for the Instagram generation: style your look, go to the party, pick a backdrop, strike a pose, and share the moment. This mutant piece was featured at Party, an event promoted by SAIC's Student Union Galleries, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. If you missed it, the After Party opening reception will be happening on February 17 from 4 to 6 PM. The current artworks will be on view until February 7. Oh, and about Vincent's look: what's not to love? Layers, textures, a well-executed print mix, and attention to detail—just check out those shoelaces after the jump.

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Mayor Rahmye (that's Rahm + Kanye) takes the stage

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 01:49 PM

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For the last two years Mayor Emanuel's been waging war on the students in Chicago public schools—or at least their teachers—with his cuts and closings.

So it's only fitting that some of these students are fighting back.

I'm talking about Cold Summer, a play about growing up in the age of Mayor Rahm that opens tonight at the Free Street Theater.

It's written by and stars the Young Fugitives, an ensemble of actors who know a thing or two about this topic, as most are CPS high school students.

Just so you know, the play is about more than Mayor Emanuel. It's also about teenage angst and anxiety and street violence in Chicago.

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About to be a household name: Mikaela Shiffrin

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 01:09 PM

Mikaela Shiffrin competing in Flachau, Austria earlier this month
  • Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Gerry Images Europe
  • Mikaela Shiffrin competed in Flachau, Austria, earlier this month
Four years ago, almost to the day, my back went out and I spent two weeks in bed. Those happened to be the two weeks of the winter Olympics. I've been grateful to my subconscious ever since.

Now the Olympics come again, and America will soon embrace a new galaxy of young phenoms that, as I write this, it has yet to hear of. Heading the list of stars about to burst across the firmament is the skier Mikaela Shiffrin. A recent profile in the New York Times described Mikaela, a mere 18, as a "princess of precision . . . the next Lindsay Vonn . . . the Mozart of ski racing . . . the odds-on favorite to win the slalom."

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12 O'Clock Track: Get smoky with Harsh Toke's "E Minor Jam"

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 12:00 PM

Harsh Toke
  • Harsh Toke
At last week's Earthless show a friend of mine suggested I check out another San Diego-based instrumental rock band, Harsh Toke, which I'm pretty sure is the best band name I've ever heard. Turns out Harsh Toke was an excellent recommendation, trading in Earthless's proggy influence for more of a stoney, Sabbath vibe. The two songs available on their Bandcamp page are 20-minute-long psych jams, stacked with shredding guitars, groovy drums, and wailing organ—you can practically smell the grass burning through your speakers. If you have most of your lunch break to spare, check out today's 12 O'Clock Track, Harsh Toke's "E Minor Jam," but be warned: you might be heading back to work with a contact high.

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Did you read about David Adjmi, for-profit colleges, and the confessions of a TSA agent?

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 11:43 AM

The TSA logo
  • Courtesy Wikicommons
  • The TSA logo
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• About playwright David Adjmi, who's been accused of copyright infringement for his parody of the old TV sitcom Three's Company? Tony Adler

• Or see these pieces of flip-flop art from Kenya? Ben Sachs

• About the year of the black quarterback? (For decades, black QBs were "denied the starting positions they deserved", Samuel G. Freedman writes, but a league-record nine black QBs started for the N.F.L.’s 32 teams some weeks this season.) Steve Bogira

• About the violinist who was mugged for his Stradivarius in a Milwaukee parking lot? Aimee Levitt

• About the dangers of for-profit college? Drew Hunt

• This interview with Sandra Bernhard on her role in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy? ("I think everybody knew how prescient the film was even then. It really kind of predicted . . . where we were heading culturally, and how much people would do to garner fame.") Drew Hunt

• The confessions of a TSA agent from Chicago who worked at O'Hare? (In addition to slamming the TSA he also accuses "hipsters [of] strumming back-porch Beatles sing-a-longs." Um, I think those are bros, dude.) Mara Shalhoup

• That snow in Georgia meant someone finally had occasion to write "dick" in really big letters on the roof of a building at UGA? Gwynedd Stuart

• That "cognitive video games" could soon be a job-interview standard? Brianna Wellen

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A new fish spot, a soon-to-be smokin' joint, and Super Bowl Sunday events

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 10:44 AM

Squid ink pasta
  • Kinmont Restaurant
  • Squid ink pasta at Kinmont

Element Collective has been promising us chicken forever, but it looks like we're getting fish first. The restaurant group behind Nellcote and Old Town Social keeps teasing us with Facebook pictures of the gay-friendly chicken sandwiches it's been promising since Leghorn was first announced and I talked to them about it here, more than a year and a half ago. But it seems like it was easier to open a fancy fish restaurant than a little chicken stand, as Kinmont will beat it to opening on Saturday at 419 W. Superior, the longtime Zealous space. The restaurant—focused on sustainable fish, and with a retro fly-fishing theme—will be helmed by Duncan Biddulph, who was a Key Ingredient cheftestant at Rootstock way back when, showing that he knew his way around a fish's private side even then. Here's the menu.

Also about to open is Brendan Sodikoff's barbecue joint (because after the tribulations of deli food, he needed a genre that doesn't get people all wound up), Green St. Smoked Meats. The Texas-barbecue-themed spot, on the side of the block that includes Nellcote, opens Tuesday; one photo of the interior has been released, and you'll be shocked to learn that a Sodikoff joint has a dark and moodily romantic look inside, albeit one with wooden benches and a sort of honky-tonk look. See it here at 312 Dining Diva; ramen is due next door later in the year.

But of course Sunday is the Super Bowl, so here's more stuff to do then if you don't already have your plans for either watching or avoiding the game.

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Oscar shorts out the wazoo, and the rest of this week's screenings

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 09:15 AM

Mr. Hublot (see The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated)
  • Mr. Hublot (see "The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated")
When I was a kid parked in front of the TV set, my father would say things to me like, "Too bad you can't get a job watching cartoons." Well, I guess I showed him: in this week's long review I consider the five animated shorts, screening at Landmark's Century Centre, that made the cut for the 2014 Academy Awards. We've also reviewed the nominated live-action shorts, screening at Landmark on a separate bill, and the nominated documentary shorts, showing at Music Box in two installments. Speaking of Music Box, this week it presents the first Chicago run of Hirokazu Kore-edu's Like Father, Like Son, which Ben Sachs counted among the best films of 2013 after it screened at the Chicago International Film Festival.

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Duck Soup, Charulata, and other Reader-recommended movies to watch online this week

Posted By on 01.31.14 at 08:35 AM

Charulata
  • Charulata
Each Friday, we recommend seven Old Movies to Watch Now, all of which come recommended by one of our critics and can currently be screened online. Read the review, watch the movie, feel accomplished.

The Man With the Golden Arm, Otto Preminger's adaptation of the Nelson Algren novel.

Odds Against Tomorrow, the classic heist thriller.

The Outlaw, "one of the weirdest westerns of all time," says Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Charulata, Satyajit Ray's early masterpiece.

Kansas City Confidential, Phil Karlson's noir.

The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson's portrait of a dysfunctional family.

Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers classic.

For even more selections, check out OMTWN, your go-to spot for streaming recommendations. Happy watching!

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March 24
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