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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

‘The Lubitsch touch’ on FilmStruck this week

Posted By on 09.12.18 at 06:00 AM

Ernst Lubitsch's The Oyster Princess
  • Ernst Lubitsch's The Oyster Princess
The great German, then American, director Ernst Lubitsch is currently featured as FilmStruck's "director of the week," and they have a generous selection of his films spanning most of his career. A master of deft and witty romantic comedies, his legendary "Lubitsch touch" began in the teens and graced a wider range of films than his celebrated comedy films.

The Oyster Princess
Lubitsch's first feature-length comedy (1919), about an American millionaire trying to acquire a noble title for his daughter by marrying her off to a Prussian prince, is an unalloyed delight—a perfect rejoinder to those critics who maintain that the director only found "the Lubitsch touch" after moving to Hollywood in the 1920s. The satire is sharp, and the visual settings are sumptuous and gracefully handled. With Ossi Owalda, Harry Liedtke, and Victor Janson. 60 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

Sumurun
One of a series of historical epics that the young German director Lubitsch concocted for star Pola Negri—a series that eventually landed Hollywood contracts for both. This 1920 film is an adaptation of Max Reinhardt's stage production Sumurun, with Negri as an ambitious dancing girl courted by a lascivious sheikh and the pathetic hunchback (played by Lubitsch himself) who is the leader of her troupe. 75 min.
Dave Kehr

The Merry Widow
The last and finest of Lubitsch's musicals (1934), based on the Franz Lehar operetta and retooled with lyrics by Lorenz Hart. Maurice Chevalier, in his last good role, is the prince; Jeanette MacDonald, on the brink of her fateful meeting with Nelson Eddy, is the widow. MGM hired the Lubitsch-Chevalier-MacDonald team away from Paramount, and apparently went all-out on this production to show up the competition. Lubitsch brilliantly exploits Cedric Gibbons's opulent sets, but his genius is most evident in the film's final poignancy—a farewell to the genre he helped to create. Also known as The Lady Dances. 99 min. —Dave Kehr

The Shop Around the Corner
There are no art deco nightclubs, shimmering silk gowns, or slamming bedroom doors to be seen, but this 1940 film is one of Lubitsch's finest and most enduring works, a romantic comedy of dazzling range that takes place almost entirely within the four walls of a leather-goods store in prewar Budapest. James Stewart is the earnest, slightly awkward young manager; Margaret Sullavan is the new sales clerk who gets on his nerves—and neither realizes that they are partners in a passionate romance being carried out through the mails. Interwoven with subplots centered on the other members of the shop's little family, the romance proceeds through Lubitsch's brilliant deployment of point of view, allowing the audience to enter the perceptions of each individual character at exactly the right moment to develop maximum sympathy and suspense. With Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, and Felix Bressart. 97 min. —Dave Kehr

Heaven Can Wait
Lubitsch's only completed film in Technicolor (1943), the greatest of his late films, offers a rosy, meditative, and often very funny view of an irrepressible ladies' man (Don Ameche in his prime) presenting his life in retrospect to the devil (Laird Cregar). Like a good deal of Lubitsch from The Merry Widow on, it's about death as well as personal style, but rarely has the subject been treated with such affection for the human condition. Samson Raphaelson's script is very close to perfection, the sumptuous period sets are a delight, and the secondary cast—Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Pallette, and Spring Byington—is wonderful. In many respects, this is Lubitsch's testament, full of grace, wisdom, and romance. 112 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Friday, March 30, 2018

How are these seders different from all other seders?

Posted By on 03.30.18 at 06:00 AM

STEVE JACOBS
  • Steve Jacobs

A few years ago, some friends joined me in writing a Passover Haggadah that borrowed the tunes of Beatles songs. We named it "You Say Shalom, And I Say Shalom." None of us is particularly observant (we're more Jew-ish), but we longed for the days when matzo was a delicacy and grandpa chugged the glass of wine left out for Elijah—the prophet who is said to attend seders in spirit form, thirsty for that sweet, sweet Manischewitz—when nobody was looking. Plus, it was a fun way to include our non-Jewish friends and sing as if we were camping out around a proverbial burning bush.

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Remembering the most exclusive restaurant ever to grace a water intake crib

Posted By on 03.30.18 at 06:00 AM

The exterior of Crib - RICHARD C. DREW
  • Richard C. Drew
  • The exterior of Crib

The
Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

This Sunday, April 1, marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of Crib, the most exclusive restaurant that ever existed in Chicago. Located in the Carter H. Harrison Water Intake Crib two miles off the Oak Street Beach, Crib had just 26 seats, and when restaurant critic Mike Sula paid a visit the week before opening, it was already booked for the next two months. Owner-chef Albert D'Angelo refused to take any calls from a local area code.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Millennials are tickled by ‘millennial pink,’ says millennial

Posted By on 03.28.17 at 09:45 AM

NATE BOLT
  • Nate Bolt

New York magazine last week declared the latest fashion trend brought in by millennials, and millennials only: the color pink. It was in 2012, the article states, that the color first started showing up everywhere. By 2016 it existed in multiple shades and was given the name "millennial pink."

The author of the piece—who, by the way, is 25 years old—does acknowledge that perhaps the color's popularity had been a long time coming. A time line charts the appearance of a rosy hue in a painting from 1767, then jumps straight to 1968 and in no short order to the 2000s as Paris Hilton is credited for being a pioneer who "created a lifestyle out of pink."

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Everything is terrible, so here are some classic Chicago TV commercials

Posted By on 12.09.16 at 03:30 PM

For no reason other than that everything sucks right now, why not indulge in some nostalgia?

Eagle Insurance

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Thanksgiving conversation that isn’t about Donald Trump

Posted By on 11.23.16 at 01:30 PM

ARIWASABI/THINKSTOCK
  • ariwasabi/Thinkstock

The Bears really suck this year. Every other team is better than the Bears. What can we do to make the Bears great—sorry, make sure the Bears don't suck anymore? Also, after today's game, whom do we hate more, the Vikings or the Lions? There are some subtle differences between them. Like, the Vikings are from Minnesota and the Lions are from Michigan. Both of which went to Trump. Um, never mind.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

A primer on the shiny new Illinois budget

Posted By on 07.01.16 at 03:45 PM

Governor Bruce Rauner and lawmakers announce a stopgap budget deal in Springfield Thursday. - AP PHOTO/SETH PERLMAN
  • AP Photo/Seth Perlman
  • Governor Bruce Rauner and lawmakers announce a stopgap budget deal in Springfield Thursday.
Why is it called a stopgap budget?

It sounds more dignified than "pit-stop budget" or "bullshit budget."

Why is it a six-month budget?

Because the governor and legislators knew a six-minute budget would be irresponsible.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Batman v. Superman: An exclusive interview with billionaire Bruce Wayne

Posted By on 03.24.16 at 11:00 AM

Ben Affleck as billionaire Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Mr. Wayne declined to be photographed for this story.
  • Ben Affleck as billionaire Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Mr. Wayne declined to be photographed for this story.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the first big blockbuster of 2016, opens this Easter weekend, and a giant, sustained promotional push seems to guarantee that it will clean up at the box office. Having successfully revived the Superman franchise with Man of Steel (2013), director Zack Snyder turns his attention to the more recent superhero conflict between Superman and Batman. I have a big problem with movies that fictionalize actual events, because inevitably things are distorted to make them more dramatic. So earlier this year, as ads for the movie began to appear, I decided to get the real story by landing an interview with billionaire investor Bruce Wayne, who rarely speaks to the press and whose long career as a nocturnal crime fighter is well documented on film.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An amazing idea for an amazing opera about me, Donald Trump

Posted By on 03.08.16 at 12:42 PM

"Do I have an aria for you!" - AP PHOTO/BRYNN ANDERSON
  • AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
  • "Do I have an aria for you!"

Dear John Adams:

This might come as a surprise—as if anyone, anywhere could still be surprised by anything I do—but I am reaching out to let you know about a tremendous idea that popped into my head while I was participating in the last Republican debate.

This absolutely amazing idea, and you're gonna love it, is—are you ready?—Trump, the Opera.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas: You're doing it wrong

Posted By on 12.23.15 at 12:30 PM

As we learn from watching Miracle on 34th Street, Santa knows everything. - AP PHOTO/FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT
  • AP Photo/Fox Home Entertainment
  • As we learn from watching Miracle on 34th Street, Santa knows everything.

Sometimes I think Christmas is wasted on the wrong people. On account of being Jewish, I have never gotten to celebrate a whole Christmas from start to finish—though I've gotten bits and pieces, thanks to friends and roommates and my boyfriend's mother who one year gave me my very own stocking—but because of years of exposure to movies and popular songs I know all about it. And if you do it wrong, I will judge you. I do this out of love. If Christmas is the best thing that has ever happened to humanity (and, having never celebrated it myself, I have no reason to doubt this is true), it should be done right! Here is a definitive list of how you should celebrate Christmas, with sources.

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