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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rahm's mopless privatization deal has left the schools filthier than ever

Posted By on 04.10.18 at 06:00 AM

Drake Elementary, at 2710 S. Dearborn, failed pest and bathroom categories during a 2017 "blitz" inspection. - CPS
  • CPS
  • Drake Elementary, at 2710 S. Dearborn, failed pest and bathroom categories during a 2017 "blitz" inspection.

As I was reading the latest Sun-Times exposé on filthy Chicago Public Schools, my mind flashed back to a conversation I had in 2014 with Lenny, an old pal who’s worked as a CPS janitor for years.

“You wouldn’t believe this bullshit,” he told me. “They took away our mops.”

It was part of one of Mayor Rahm's privatization schemes. In this case, CPS let a bunch of janitors go and farmed out janitorial contracts to a couple of well-connected firms.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Smashing Pumpkins announce a tour with most of their original lineup, but they’re still the Billy Corgan show

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 12:42 PM

Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018 - COURTESY OF SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Courtesy of Sun-Times Media
  • Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018

Today Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins announced that three-fourths of their original lineup would reunite for a summer tour, a moment that Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and guitarist James Iha have been moving toward for a couple years. Corgan resuscitated the Pumpkins brand in 2007, after roughly seven years of dormancy, and since then he and a revolving-door crew of musicians (including Chamberlin on occasion) have released four albums of new material and toured extensively. In March 2016, on the LA stop of the band's acoustic tour with Liz Phair, Iha joined Corgan and Chamberlin for several songs, mostly from 1993's Siamese Dream. Soon after that show, Corgan began teasing a proper Pumpkins reunion—perhaps the closest he'll come to acknowledging that he can't reproduce the band's early-90s cachet on his own.

Since then Iha has contributed to Corgan's second solo album, October's Ogilala, and last month Corgan posted an Instagram shot of himself, Iha, and Chamberlin in front of a studio mixer. A couple weeks later he clarified in another Instagram caption: "We are currently in the studio with Rick Rubin." On Saturday, the Pumpkins' site debuted a countdown clock, which the band's Instagram feed promptly rendered pointless by hinting at performances in Chicago, LA, and New York. Of course, lots of us could tell the Pumpkins were trying to get the old band back together just from the public feuding this past week between Corgan and original bassist D'arcy Wretzky.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Friend Dahmer is a portrait of the mass murderer as a young man

Posted By on 11.14.17 at 01:21 PM

Ross Lynch (center) in My Friend Dahmer
  • Ross Lynch (center) in My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer
(which is now playing at Webster Place) takes place in 1978, and the movie evokes a certain type of filmmaking that flourished in the U.S. around that time—an improbable mixture of art house sensibilities and exploitation-movie content. Dahmer draws viewers in with a provocative title, which promises to reveal intimate secrets about serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, then refuses to deliver any details about his crimes. Rather, it's a portrait of the killer as a young man—the movie depicts Dahmer's senior year of high school and the events leading up to his first murder. Director Marc Meyers, adapting a graphic novel by Derf Backderf, exploits viewers' curiosity about Dahmer's gruesome actions to raise open-ended questions about what turns a human being into a monster.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The still-shocking Seven Beauties dares to look for humor in the atrocities of World War II

Posted By on 05.04.17 at 04:20 PM

Seven Beauties
  • Seven Beauties

This weekend the Gene Siskel Film Center kicks off a monthlong retrospective devoted to Italian writer-director Lina Wertmüller with the 1975 black comedy Seven Beauties. One of the most contentious films of its decade, Beauties is a picaresque tale of one man's survival through World War II; its most controversial passages take place in a realistically rendered Nazi concentration camp. Wertmüller gained her reputation as a provocateur with such international hits as Love & Anarchy and Swept Away, and Beauties is perhaps her most provocative film. It presents the protagonist's survival as a sick joke, and it invokes the commedia dell'arte tradition in its presentations of fascism, murder, and genocide. Remarkably the movie was one of Wertmüller's biggest successes, particularly in the U.S., where it was nominated for four Oscars, including best director. (Wertmüller was in fact the first woman to receive this distinction.) Seen today Beauties remains a problematic work, a compelling and offensive movie that invites viewers to laugh at some of the most troubling subjects.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Groupon's goofy 'clip-in man bun' goes viral

Posted By on 11.19.15 at 01:30 PM

Groupon's "Clip-in Man Bun"
  • Groupon's "Clip-in Man Bun"

Ashley Hamer expected the "clip-in man bun" to receive a few scattered guffaws when she wrote a Groupon ad for it last week.

Instead the puffy attachable-hairpiece sale went viral, inspiring a #Manbun hashtag on Twitter and countless memes, many of which involved photoshopping faux man buns on celebrities (Obama, Donald Trump, and NBA commentator Ernie Johnson, for example). Hundreds of media outlets—from CNN to GQ to the New York Post—quickly hopped on the bandwagon with incredulous "Can you believe this is a thing?" coverage.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The great Chicago Reader potato-chip-eating challenge, 2015 edition

Posted By on 10.08.15 at 12:30 PM

  • Brianna Wellen

If art is all about subverting the expected, then the people at Lay's are some of our most popular and profitable contemporary artists. Forget Jeff Koons: you can find Lay's experimental flavors in every goddamned grocery and convenience store in our fair nation. Every year, they give us the opportunity to appreciate their genius even more when they turn over new-potato-chip-flavor-devising duties to their loyal customers. Coming up with a new potato chip flavor isn't easy, y'all! If you have any doubts, just try it yourself.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Hard to Be a God—the bigger, demented brother of Mad Max: Fury Road—plays Chicago for one more night

Posted By on 06.08.15 at 01:00 PM

Hard to Be a God
  • Hard to Be a God
Tonight at 6:30 PM the Siskel Film Center presents the last Chicago screening of Aleksei German's Hard to Be a God (2013). It's perhaps the most important movie in town—an epic, philosophical work by one of Russia's most venerated directors, who worked on the film for over a decade and died during postproduction. In God every image—every sound effect, practically—reflects years of serious thought, although the filmmaking itself feels spontaneous. As in his previous features My Friend Ivan Lapshin (1984) and Khroustaliov, My Car! (1998), German's camera is almost always roving the scene (the Wellesian camera movements are breathtaking), creating the impression that the filmmaker is first discovering the setting—an alien planet that resembles medieval Europe—along with the audience. And given how densely realized the setting is, he achieves the effect with extraordinary ease. The narrative of God can be difficult to follow, since so many stray details are vying for one's attention, but the film's opacity is deliberate. Not only that, it's essential to German's artistic achievement: God is a meditation on humankind's propensity for barbarism, and German made this horrible aspect of our nature indigestible.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2 has a lot to say about degradation—and almost none of it's funny

Posted By on 12.01.14 at 01:30 PM

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses 2
  • Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses 2
Warning: This post contains spoilers.

In a pivotal sequence in Horrible Bosses 2, which opened commercially this week, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day)—a sort of white-collar Three Stooges—are plotting to kidnap the grown son of the ruthless CEO who has bankrupted their independent manufacturing business. Dale proposes they go to the dentist's office where he used to work and steal some laughing gas, which they'll use to knock their victim unconscious. They break into the office after hours, only to be interrupted by the dentist (Jennifer Aniston), who's about to use the waiting room for a session of her sex addicts' support group. Nick, unable to get away in time, gets mistaken for a new member while his friends hide in the bathroom. At first he thinks he's at an AA meeting, and when pressured to share his history (something that would never happen at a real support group), he delivers a vaguely worded "confession" that makes him sound like a gay S&M freak. (As far as we know, the straitlaced Nick is nothing of the sort, which makes the situation that much more embarrassing for him.) The dentist declares she likes trying to "turn" gay men, then promptly kicks out the rest of the group so she can bully Nick into sex. The dentist now preoccupied, Kurt and Dale fetch some laughing gas, then wait in the car and ponder whether Nick's confession was true.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Eminem and Marilyn Manson's boring rape fantasies

Posted By on 11.21.14 at 03:00 PM

Marilyn Manson performing in 2009
  • Rockman via Wikipedia
  • Marilyn Manson performing in 2009
UPDATE: The parts of a video mentioned in this post that depict Marilyn Manson were taken from his 2012 videos "No Reflection" and "Slo-Mo-Tion." They are not unreleased footage.

Someone leaked an unreleased Marilyn Manson video this week, or at least the embryo of one. A two-minute clip of dark but fairly rote horror scenes surfaced on YouTube and bounced around seemingly every music website before it was taken down on copyright grounds. Manson can clearly be seen holding a machine gun on a rooftop in one part of the video; in another, the video's alleged director, Eli Roth, appears as a man who rapes a woman played by Lana Del Rey. Manson's camp quickly denied involvement with the viral clip, though a 2013 interview with Roth reveals that he did film a video in which both Manson and Rey appear. Roth said the resulting footage was "so sick" he'd kept it locked up. The evidence suggests that all the scenes in the YouTube clip were intended for the same Manson project—that is, this probably isn't Manson footage collaged with unrelated Lana Del Rey footage by a fan, as a Manson spokesperson claims. But there is no proof.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

If you're looking for something weird, Gyorgy Palfi's film Free Fall shouldn't disappoint

Posted By on 10.10.14 at 12:30 PM

Free Fall screens three times at the Chicago International Film Festival.
  • Free Fall screens three times at the Chicago International Film Festival.
As usual several of the more interesting-sounding titles at this year's Chicago International Film Festival weren't made available for preview, and so, I can't say for certain that Gyorgy Palfi's Free Fall—screening at the festival today at 6:15 PM and tomorrowSunday at 2:45 PM, with Palfi in attendance for both shows—is any good. But based on my experience of the first two features by this Hungarian writer-director, I can say with some confidence that his latest should be eye-catching at the very least.

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