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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind remains an uncanny mix of globalist optimism and private horror

Posted By on 09.05.17 at 03:27 PM

Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Given the cynicism and ugliness of the recent box-office hits The Hitman's Bodyguard, Annabelle: Creation, and Wind River, the current rerelease of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) feels like a welcome breath of fresh air. Justly celebrated for its warmth and sincerity, Close Encounters shames most contemporary blockbusters for their lack of heart and imagination. The film envisions human contact with extraterrestrial life as a celebratory event; the characters' efforts to understand the strange life-forms—through scientific inquiry, culture, and curiosity—represent the best of humankind. Close Encounters also reflects a globalist optimism, showing people from different countries working together to figure out how they might communicate with the alien visitors.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

As Evanston moves to fire ‘Cranky Librarian,’ e-mails reveal longtime board plan to get rid of her

Posted By on 06.07.17 at 02:14 PM

Lesley Williams, with supporters, before her termination hearing on June 2 - MICHAEL DEHEEGER
  • Michael Deheeger
  • Lesley Williams, with supporters, before her termination hearing on June 2
Evanston library's "Cranky Librarian" problem blew up in a major way during the last week. As the library's board initiated abrupt termination proceedings for Lesley Williams (aka "Cranky"), e-mails surfaced revealing that board members and the library's director had been conspiring to get rid of her for several years.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters lost at sea—literally [UPDATED]

Posted By on 10.27.16 at 09:06 AM

  • courtesy Fantagraphics

This week we were supposed to run a review of My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, a graphic novel by Chicagoan Emil Ferris about a precocious ten-year-old who becomes embroiled in the political turbulence of late 1960s Chicago as she tries to investigate the murder of her Holocaust-survivor upstairs neighbor. The reason we are not is because Fantagraphics, Ferris's publisher, informed us last week that the entire print run of the book, 10,000 copies, is stranded on a cargo ship that has been seized at the Panama Canal.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The new VICE Guide to Chicago is basic as hell

Posted By on 02.04.16 at 12:30 PM

Quoth VICE: "Burgers are a national pastime and Chicago is no exception to this rule." Sigh.
  • Quoth VICE: "Burgers are a national pastime and Chicago is no exception to this rule." Sigh.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I wrote one story for VICE in 2013.

you know, that Brooklyn-based publication founded by Canadians—published its most recent "Guide to Chicago" yesterday. The rundown of local restaurants, bars, and shops is markedly different in tone from the more crass early-2000s version, in which the author wondered why the city's streets seemed vacant. (Um, maybe because Chicago is not Manhattan.) But even as it gave Chicago backhanded compliments, the old guide was at least an entertaining read, even though it was basically useless. The latest one comes across as just plain basic. And in the irreverent-to-a-fault world of VICE, basic is not a DO. It's a distinct DON'T. Long ago VICE positioned itself as the docent to the seedier side of life; in the words of onetime editor Gavin McInnes, the publication did "stupid in a smart way and smart in a stupid way." This new "Guide to Chicago" is merely the kind of pamphlet tourists pick up at a downtown Hilton, but shrouded in a fake patois of youthful profanity—and a poor imitation of VICE-ese at that. Though credited to VICE Travel Staff, the piece was written by an actual Chicagoan, Caroline Thompson, a Medill grad who has lived in the city a few years.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue remains a powerful depiction of teen delinquency

Posted By on 09.29.15 at 01:30 PM

Linda Manz in Out of the Blue
  • Linda Manz in Out of the Blue

Tomorrow at 7 PM, Northwest Chicago Film Society will present a 35-millimeter print of Out of the Blue (1980), Dennis Hopper's third directorial effort, at Northeastern University. Hopper described Blue as a follow-up to Easy Rider, even though it contains none of the same characters or that film's fascination with motorcycle culture; rather, the connection is spiritual and stylistic. As Reader emeritus Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote, the movie is defined by "the Hopper flavor: relentlessly raunchy and downbeat, and informed throughout by the kind of generational anguish and sense of doom that characterizes both of his earlier films [Rider and The Last Movie]." It's unmistakably a downer, beginning and ending with scenes of violent death and featuring numerous depictions of drug abuse and emotional violence along the way. It's also a haunting portrait of juvenile delinquency that ranks among the most powerful in American cinema.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me grapples with ugly truths about race in America

Posted By on 07.21.15 at 11:02 AM

Ta-Nehisi Coates's latest book, Between the World and Me, is not an easy read, nor should it be. Presented as a letter to Samori, his 15-year-old son, Coates's brutally honest diagnosis of the current state of affairs for the black male in America reads as a searing rejoinder to anyone convinced that progress is at hand.

In his essays for the Atlantic, Coates established himself as a necessary voice that shot down any fantasies of a postracial society well before the events in Ferguson and Baltimore proved that dream wrong. In this book, he doesn’t use a litany of facts and figures to make his case. Instead, it’s the pain of personal experience that animates the writing: Coates knows that he cannot protect his son from the possibility of imminent harm in a world that views black bodies as inferior, and that feeling terrifies him.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

The dog flu news gets worse for Chicago pets

Posted By on 04.13.15 at 02:30 PM

A dog desperate for a trip to the dog park and canine companionship
  • Aimee Levitt
  • A dog desperate for a trip to the dog park and canine companionship
Just in time for fine spring dog-walking weather, vets at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin teamed up to drop some more crappy news on the dogs of Chicago: the outbreak of K9 flu, which has infected more than 1,000 dogs, emptied dog parks and doggy day cares, and given even the most innocent sidewalk butt-sniff the feel of a criminal activity, is even worse than we thought.

The dog flu currently circulating throughout Chicago is not the more common H3N8 strain. Instead, the Cornell and Wisconsin vets informed the world on Saturday, it's H3N2, previously unknown outside Asia.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Smith Westerns break up: An exclusive interview with front man Cullen Omori

Posted By on 12.19.14 at 10:00 AM

Max Kakacek, Cullen Omori, and Cameron Omori of Smith Westerns
  • jaein lee
  • Max Kakacek, Cullen Omori, and Cameron Omori of Smith Westerns

Things always moved fast and furious for Smith Westerns. Not long after their 2009 self-titled debut—an adrenaline shot of glam rock—the three teenage Chicagoans were thrust into the indie-rock stratosphere. By 2011's Dye It Blonde, they were a full-throttle, undeniably confident touring force that, for better or worse, ranked among the buzziest of buzz bands. That they've seemingly out of nowhere decided to call it quits isn't entirely shocking—bands that burn so hard tend to flame out quickly. Judging from the seemingly tossed-off tweets that front man Cullen Omori made last week, in which he announced that the band was going on "indefinite hiatus," the end arrived abruptly. The band, which includes bassist Cameron Omori (Cullen's brother) and guitarist Max Kakacek, will play one final Chicago gig, sans Kakacek, on Tue 12/23 at Lincoln Hall.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

More than a dozen concertgoers were hospitalized at Skrillex's Navy Pier show last weekend

Posted By on 10.24.14 at 10:15 AM

Skrillex performing in Ottawa
  • Brennan Schnell via Wikipedia
  • Skrillex performing in Ottawa

Last Saturday, October 18, dubstep auteur Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) took the stage at Navy Pier for a crowd of thousands; now a spokesman for the pier has confirmed that 16 attendees were transported from the concert to nearby hospitals. Skrillex's show is the latest incident in a trend of EDM concerts that have raised concerns about drug and alcohol abuse. The popular Swedish producer Avicii has seen dozens of hospitalizations at his U.S. shows, with nearly 40 people leaving his Boston concert in ambulances last summer. Two deaths were reported after this year's Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, while Miami's mayor called for an end to Ultra Music Festival after 118 participants sought medical attention.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Another year, another crop of good-looking disappointments at the Chicago International Film Festival

Posted By on 10.09.14 at 02:38 PM

The Mexican art film La Tirisia screens three times next week at the Chicago International Film Festival.
  • The Mexican art film La Tirisia screens three times next week at the Chicago International Film Festival.
The other day, I wrote about the thrill of watching filmmakers fail spectacularly—a post inspired by the recent revival of Nagisa Oshima's Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, as well as the half-dozen unspectacular failures I've previewed for this year's Chicago International Film Festival. Thinking about Oshima made me feel so good that I refrained from writing about the latter category, which would have reminded me of the disappointment I'd been trying to shake for the past couple weeks. As I've written before, CIFF has always been a grab bag, with many of the films arriving here with little fanfare and returning to obscurity once the festival ends. That programming strategy might have yielded eye-opening discoveries in past, when there were more discrete national filmmaking movements. But today the festival film is practically a genre unto itself, and movies on the international festival circuit tend to resemble each other as often (if not more so) than they resemble other movies from their native countries.

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