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Friday, August 31, 2018

What to expect at the new Chicago Architecture Center

Posted By on 08.31.18 at 08:17 PM

The Chicago Architecture Center (formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation) opens in its new location on the river this weekend. - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • The Chicago Architecture Center (formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation) opens in its new location on the river this weekend.

The exhibits weren't fully installed when I dropped in to preview the new home of the Chicago Architecture Center (formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation) last week, but on a return visit this week everything was up and running.

The center, now in a two-story space in a riverfront Mies van der Rohe building at 111 E. Wacker, opened to the public this weekend, offering a museum experience along with its roster of 85 tours.

There's an entrance fee of $12 for adults, $8 for students, but if you take one of CAC's walking or bus tours, admission to the center's exhibits will be included.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find there:
CAC's new home boasts a jaw-dropping view of Chicago architecture. - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • CAC's new home boasts a jaw-dropping view of Chicago architecture.

Spectacular views outside, especially from the second-story Skyscraper Gallery, reached via a grand wooden staircase (or an elevator ride).  The center, a few steps east of Michigan Avenue on Wacker, looks north across the river, toward Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building. And the entrance to CAC's most famous tour, its River Cruise, is just across the street, where the First Lady docks. 
CAC's Skyscraper Gallery includes a scale model of Beijing's CCTV. - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • CAC's Skyscraper Gallery includes a scale model of Beijing's CCTV.
Inside, the Skyscraper Gallery offers large, white scale models of the world's tallest buildings, including Willis Tower, the still-under-construction Jeddah Tower (by the Chicago firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, which also designed this interior space for CAC), and  Beijing’s otherworldly CCTV Headquarters. Smaller, intricately detailed architects' models of other buildings—like Studio Gang's Vista Tower and Goettsch Partners's 150 W. Riverside—are displayed behind glass, along with explanatory wall text. 
The Chicago Model in the foreground; the city's history on film, behind - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • The Chicago Model in the foreground; the city's history on film, behind

CAC's expanded Chicago Model—a small-scale version of every building in the city's center—is the focal point of the other main exhibit area, the Chicago Gallery. The model now sits in front of a large screen and, thanks to a computerized light show, is more or less integrated into a seven-minute film about the city's growth. When the film (which starts its historical account with a brief mention of the treaties that forced Native Americans to move west) gets to the Great Chicago Fire, for example, orange-and-red lights play over the skyscrapers that now stand on the portion of the city that burned. 
The Great Chicago Fire strikes again. - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • The Great Chicago Fire strikes again.

In the breaks between film showings, visitors can light up parts of the city model themselves by using one of four touch screens that offer a menu of architectural topics to explore.

I was glad to see that the film—which is informative, necessarily concise, and unsurprisingly promotional (but would benefit from a more sophisticated score)—includes the James R. Thompson Center; maybe that'll help save this threatened postmodern masterpiece. 
CAC's Chicago architecture film includes the endangered Thompson Center. - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • CAC's Chicago architecture film includes the endangered Thompson Center.

You don't have to buy a ticket to see the tallest of the Skyscraper Gallery models—you can see it from the street through CAC's massive front windows.  And you can still get to the interesting gift shop without purchasing a ticket.

But a membership (they start at $80) will get you free entry to the exhibits, discounts on lectures and parking, and free tickets to what's still the best of what CAC has to offer—65 walking tours of the actual city.

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Join Blue Beginning as it sends the Democratic troops into the collar counties

Posted By on 08.31.18 at 09:04 AM

Some people in Chicago are dismissive toward folks in the outer burbs, writing them off as a bunch of squares in the boonies.

But from my perspective, people in the traditionally Republican collar counties of DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Lake, and Will are among the luckiest voters alive—'cause they get to take a meaningful stand against Trump in the coming November elections.

Oh, yes, Chicagoans may fume and fret and take to the street over the antics of the orange man in the White House. But folks outside of Cook County actually have the opportunity to be part of a "blue wave" that ousts enough congressional opportunists and rubber-stampers to take Congress back from the Republicans.

And let me tell you, the way Republican congressmen like Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren, and (to a far lesser extent) Adam Kinzinger bow and scrape before Trump, man, it makes our mayor-worshiping aldermen look like profiles in courage.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Five opera films that hit the high notes

Posted By on 08.29.18 at 08:00 AM

Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's Moses and Aaron
  • Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's Moses and Aaron
Inspired by the Gene Siskel Film Center's screenings this upcoming week of Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Fluteall part of the theater's extensive "Bergman 100" serieswe've selected five other opera films of note. If this list seems a bit highbrow, know that we would have listed Chuck Jones's great Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoon What's Opera Doc? in all five spots if we could have. But these are good too.

Carmen Jones
There's something contradictory in the notion of an Otto Preminger musical: his admirable rational/realist sensibility doesn't settle too well with the whims of the genre. But there are some fine Preminger moments in the midst of this 1954 film, an all-black pop version of Carmen—fine, that is, if you take the trouble to separate them from the clumsy segregationist context. Impeccably liberal in its time, the film has not aged gracefully, although Dorothy Dandridge's performance in the lead remains a testimony to a black cinema that might have been. In CinemaScope. 105 min. —Dave Kehr

Bluebeard's Castle
After the hostile reception to his 1960 masterpiece Peeping Tom, Michael Powell was virtually banished from English cinema, and most of his remaining oeuvre is a scattered assortment of TV commissions and Australian features. Made in 1963 for West German TV, this rarely seen one-hour adaptation of Béla Bartók's only opera, based on a libretto by Béla Balázs (later known as a film theorist and as screenwriter of Leni Riefenstahl's first feature), is a particular standout, especially for its vivid colors and semiabstract, neoprimitive decor (by Hein Heckroth, who also designed the sets for The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman). The two performers are producer Norman Foster (not to be confused with the Hollywood actor and director) in the title role and Anna Raquel Satre as Bluebeard's doomed wife, Judith. In accordance with Powell's wishes, the English subtitles briefly describe and clarify the action but don't translate the text. 60 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

Moses and Aaron
Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet have used Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone opera as the basis for a rigorous and fascinating exercise in elemental cinema (1975). A film about film—the meaning of long takes and short shots, of camera movement and static composition, of angles and perspectives. Schoenberg is Greek to me, but Straub and Huillet's investigation of the medium is an important experience for anyone interested in the way film represents reality—or fails to. In German with subtitles. 105 min. —Dave Kehr

Don Giovanni
Joseph Losey's film of Mozart's opera (1979) has redundant trappings of Freud and Marx, as if Losey felt the need to make the material more personal. He shouldn't have bothered, because it already plays straight to his concerns: Giovanni, with his self-destructive idealism, stands in the line of Losey heroes from The Boy With Green Hair to Mr. Klein. The visual context is ravishing, with a lighting scheme that builds from the understated and naturalistic to shocking contrasts of black and white. Meanwhile, the camera moves with a preternatural grace, drawing clean, curving lines through the romantic confusions. If the film has a fault, it is a common one in Losey: the absence of an emotional support for his piercing intellectual observations. 179 min. —Dave Kehr

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg has given us Wagnerian treatments of King Ludwig, Karl May, and Adolf Hitler; now, he gives us a Wagnerian treatment of Wagner, which seems somewhat redundant. Syberberg uses all the tricks of modern stagecraft—abstract settings, projected images, puppets, and doubled characters—to “expand” Wagner's Grail opera into man's eternal search for social perfection. But the meanings Syberberg tacks onto the piece are inherent in Wagner's work; his additions seem fussy, didactic, and often reductive. But Edith Clever, miming to the voice of Yvonne Minton as the witch Kundry, gives a performance of great passion and authority—a brilliantly effective revival of silent-film acting techniques. Reiner Goldberg supplies the voice of Parsifal; the other singers include Robert Loyd, Wolfgang Schöne, and Aage Haugland. 247 min. —Dave Kehr

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You might want to avoid the shallow end on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 08.29.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Ryan Duggan
SHOWS: Trouble in Paradise at the Empty Bottle from Thu 9/13 through Sat 9/15

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DJ Duane Powell follows his ‘inner-gy’

Posted By on 08.29.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Isa Giallorenzo
  • DJ Duane Powell

"It's African, it's Afrofuturism, it's house, it's jazz, it's ever-evolving"—that's how DJ Duane Powell talks about his style. On the day he was photographed—after playing a set in Avondale's Woodard Plaza at an event promoted by Elastic Arts, the Corner Project, and Activate Chicago—his look included a tall-brim hat custom-made by Esenshel, a T-shirt by local artist James Nelson, and a neoprene necklace by Rosanna Contadini purchased at the Silver Room. Powell has been "at it" for so long that his taste is remarkably authentic, but he acknowledges artists like Andre 3000, Maxwell and Erykah Badu are "from his tribe".

The self-described "musicologist" exudes panache and self-confidence, but he wasn't always like that. In high school he spent his hard-earned money on designer brands he couldn't afford, just to be able to fit in. "I hung out briefly with what we call 'label whores', but it didn't take long for me to realize that I was looking for some kind of validation, some sort of acceptance—as were they," the 41-year-old says. "It wasn't natural. It was a middle-class performance, and it wasn't me."

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rapper Vic Mensa: Chicago’s newest Black Panther?

Posted By on 08.28.18 at 02:35 PM

Vic Mensa helped give away 15,000 free shoes in Englewood on Sunday. - RICK MAJEWSKI/SUN-TIMES
  • Rick Majewski/Sun-Times
  • Vic Mensa helped give away 15,000 free shoes in Englewood on Sunday.

The timing of Vic Mensa's high-profile response this past weekend to a Chicago police sting operation was more than a little serendipitous.

Remnants of the old Black Panther Party gathered in Oakland on the same weekend of the young rapper's "anti-bait truck" event to mourn the recent death of Elbert "Big Man" Howard, one of the organization's founders. This week also marked the 50th anniversary of Bobby Seale's arrest in Chicago for his role in planning the anti-war protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old Mensa looked ready to assume the Black Panther mantle—and not just because he's got one tattooed on his shoulder accompanied by the words "Free Huey."

Among the many organizations and individuals involved in the giveaway were the New Black Panther Party of Chicago and Fred Hampton Jr., the son of slain Panthers leader Fred Hampton. And over the course of a 15-minute conversation inside a scorching-hot room at the West Englewood Community Center, Mensa quoted Angela Davis and Mao Zedong and dropped the name of Huey Newton. When asked what role he might personally play in police reform in Chicago, he said, "At the end of the day, what we're doing right here is an extension of what we learned from the Black Panther Party, to police the police."

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Soul singer Christian JaLon turns her love inward on the new If You Let Me

Posted By on 08.28.18 at 12:23 PM

  • Ray Abercrombie
  • Christian JaLon

Earlier this summer, Chicago soul artist Christian JaLon released "Getting to Know Vinyled Love," a short behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of her 2017 EP Vinyled Love. On that EP, she'd tried to convey what love means to her—though it was inspired by a specific relationship, she connected those feelings to her understanding of divine love, which has its roots in her connection to the church. But now that relationship is over, and on her latest EP, If You Let Me (released August 20), JaLon is ready to cleanse her musical mind of love—at least romantic love. It's the last project she has planned before her debut album, due in 2019.

"The content that I put into If You Let Me are really just residual feelings from Vinyled Love," she says. "They both came from the same place—I just wanted to get it all out. After this, I really won't have any more love songs in me for a while."

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Monday, August 27, 2018

An interview with Bing Liu about his powerful documentary Minding the Gap

Posted By on 08.27.18 at 09:00 AM

Liu (center) with Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan in Minding the Gap
  • Liu (center) with Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan in Minding the Gap
Opening this Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center for a two-week run, Minding the Gap is one of the strongest American documentaries to play Chicago this year. Director Bing Liu begins with a seemingly limited subject—skateboarders in their late teens and early 20s in Rockford, Illinois—and pursues it with such diligence and curiosity that the film ends up addressing a number of major issues. Minding the Gap is at once an elegy for urban, blue-collar America and a sobering meditation on domestic violence. Liu's principal subjects, a black teenage boy named Keire Johnson and a white man in his early 20s named Zack Mulligan, were both abused as children; so too was the director himself. Following Johnson and Mulligan as they enter adulthood while reflecting on his own family history, Liu explores the lasting effects of domestic violence and the ways that young men in particular cope with them. I recently spoke with the 29-year-old Liu about Minding the Gap, his evolution as a filmmaker, and what he learned about his hometown of Rockford by making a movie about it.

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Governor Rauner vetoes a tax break for Englewood while offering billions to Amazon

Posted By on 08.27.18 at 06:00 AM

The Gary Comer Youth Center helps to develop a former industrial property at 7270 S. Chicago Ave. into an urban farm. - JASMIN SHAH
  • Jasmin Shah
  • The Gary Comer Youth Center helps to develop a former industrial property at 7270 S. Chicago Ave. into an urban farm.

Back in July, Governor Rauner's pals from the National Black Chamber of Commerce gave him a lifetime achievement award for helping foster minority businesses.

I didn't think he deserved the award in the first place. But given Rauner's recent veto of state rep Sonya Harper's urban agricultural zone bill, I say the chamber should snatch it right back.

Because that veto shows the governor has a twisted double standard toward economic development when it comes to helping poor black communities as opposed to rich white ones.

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Heartbreak Hotel and more of the best things to do in Chicago this week

Posted By on 08.27.18 at 06:00 AM

Heartbreak Hotel - BRETT BEINER
  • Heartbreak Hotel

There are plenty of shows, films, and concerts happening this week. Here's some of what we recommend:

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