Previewing the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival - Week Two

The 52nd Chicago International Film Festival comes to an end on October 27 with its Closing Night selection, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. It’s another significant grab for the festival, given the warm reception it’s received since debuting in Venice earlier in September. Other notable films screening during the festival’s second half include new works from Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden), Garth Davis (Lion),  Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), and Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake). 

The 52nd Chicago International Film Festival runs from Thursday, October 13 to Thursday, October 27. For a complete schedule of films and ticketing information, refer to the Chicago International Film Festival website here.

Previewing the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival – Week One

The 52nd Chicago International Film Festival begins on October 13 with its most prominent Opening Night selection in decades, Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-primed behemoth, La La Land. Call the selection, which originated when festival founder Michael Kutza and programming director Mimi Plauche settled on “Musicals” as a genre theme for the festival, a confluence of happenstance and dumb luck, but it’s a notable grab for a festival that has struggled for relevance in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Other notable films screening during the festival’s introductory week include new works from Terence Davies (A Quiet Passion), Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come), Jim Jarmusch (Paterson), Cristian Mungiu (Graduation), and Paul Verhoeven (Elle), in addition to numerous sidebars and panels including a restoration of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust.

The 52nd Chicago International Film Festival runs from Thursday, October 13 to Thursday, October 27. Check back next week for continued coverage on week two titles. For a complete schedule of films and ticketing information, refer to the Chicago International Film Festival website here.

Previewing Reeling 2016 – The 34th Chicago LGBTQ+ Film Festival

Fall programming in Chicago is tough business, where the cacophony of film coverage on a global (Venice, Toronto) and national (Telluride, New York City) level dominate local coverage. Yet the efforts of Reeling’s Brenda Webb, Richard Knight Jr., and Sarah M. Rubin display a clear-headed economy and consistency that makes their programming stick out even among the larger festivals. As the business of film festival programming becomes increasingly commercialized, Reeling’s expansions and adjustments over the decades feel less like a compromise and more like an organic statement on their growth. From increasing the number of venues highlighting the festival, to an earlier start date, these logistical alterations are complemented by the festival’s persistently keen eye for diverse programming. My small sampling of their programming yields this important result: Reeling remains adventurous. 

Reeling 2016 runs from September 22 through the 29, beginning with opening night celebrations at The Music Box Theatre with subsequent screenings at Landmark Century Cinema and Chicago Filmmakers. For a full schedule and ticketing information, click here.

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Previewing the 23rd Chicago Underground Film Festival

                         "Damn it, I came here to be in charge of this movie but look at it: it’s a bunch of junk”.                                                                  -       Tony Conrad, Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present

That happens to be the prevailing attitude of a certain kind of moviegoer, the pedantic viewer who more or less blames a film for his/her malentendu and confusion.  And it’s not as if this audience hauteur is contained to your philistine summer audience types; if anything, it’s just as rampant among quote unquote cinephiles, festival goers, and critics.

Yet the fictile viewer will find much to admire at the 23rd Chicago Underground Film Festival, hosted at the Logan Theatre from June 1st-5th.  The festival’s growing local and global presence has attracted numerous titles, from the recondite to the emerging American filmmakers, developing a reputation for being one of the more carefully curated festivals in the city. This, compounded by the multitude of panels and events occurring throughout the five-day festival, positions the festival as a distinctly unique response to the programming you’re used to in Chicago.

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Previewing the Chicago Critics Film Festival

Audiences lined up and packed the Music Box Theatre’s massive, 800-seat main auditorium to see David Wain’s They Came Together. You wouldn’t believe that this festival was only in its second year. You also wouldn’t believe how much it thrived from its first outing.

I was there for it. It took place in Rosemont, an outskirt suburb of Chicago, in one of the state’s largest multiplexes. Designed as a faux cathedral and enlaced with luxury, reclining seating fit for two human beings, it wasn’t the ideal setting for a festival designed to highlight independent cinema. The opening night film, Sarah Polley’s moving documentary, Stories We Tell, saw the director in attendance for a Q&A filled to 20% capacity. Same goes for James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, a major coup for the festival, that saw an even larger theater with fewer than 30 people in attendance for a post-film Q&A. 

But the films were there. Much like the Gene Siskel Film Center’s European Union Film Festival, you gather that the members of the Chicago Film Critics Association carefully curate the schedule, looking for the most intriguing festival titles of the year. In its fourth year, their third at the Music Box Theatre, the festival already feels like an institution, providing Chicago moviegoers with a unique festival setting of vetted and ambitious works. From its meager beginnings, the festival has surpassed any and all expectations, becoming an annual event that draws in the crowds – the few that were in attendance during those early screenings would’ve never anticipated this kind of growth. 

I’ll be covering the festival throughout its run from May 20 to the 26th. For a complete schedule of films and additional ticket information, please see the Chicago Film Critics Festival’s official site here. Below you'll find a selection of capsule reviews for films screened during the festival. 

Previewing the 19th Chicago European Union Film Festival

Some may prefer the mammoth Chicago International Film Festival. Others may take the more intimate, American-indie alternatives of the Chicago Film Critics Film Festival. And then there are niche Chicago institutions like Reeling or the Latino Film Festival. But as far as I’m concerned, Chicago’s finest bit of festival programming comes from the Gene Siskel Film Center’s European Union Film Festival. 

No other festival in the city is so acutely catered to my tastes as a cinephile, whereby programmers plunder an extensive well of festival darlings and promising, obscure pictures. With films like Terrence Davis’ Sunset Song, Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie, Mattaeo Garrone’s Tale of Tales, and Karoly Ujj Meszaros’ Liza, the Fox Fairy, the eclectic variety of what CEUFF offers is remarkable –from challenging auterist selections to arthouse curiosities to cult delights. If this year’s European Union Film Festival isn’t the Siskel’s best, then it certainly is its most ambitiously diverse. 

I’ll be covering the festival throughout its run from March 4 to the 31st. For a complete schedule of films and additional ticket information, please see the Gene Siskel Film Center's official site here. Below you'll find a selection of capsule reviews for films screened during the festival, updated regularly throughout the month.

Previewing the 51st Chicago International Film Festival

Having attended the Chicago International Film Festival for nearly a decade, I’ve more or less come to terms with the extenuating circumstances surrounding its programming. Following a disappointing semicentennial celebration that saw most of the festival’s resources allocated to questionable revivals, the festival returns for its 51st iteration with subdued stakes, thankfully centering its programming on the films themselves. Between well-traveled festival goliaths (The AssassinCemetery of Splendor, and Mountains May Depart) and austere awards contenders (Brooklyn, Carol, and Macbeth), the offerings are plentiful enough to appease even the most discerning of cinephiles.

Below is an ever-increasing list of films covered for the festival. Click on any of the images below for reviews. And check back regularly - more films will be added as the festival continues. For screening times and ticketing information, check out the Chicago International Film Festival website here

Thursday Ten - Your Best Bets at CIFF ‘15

The 51st Chicago International Film Festival begins next week on October 15 with Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre selected as the fest’s opening night film. Two weeks of diverse American and foreign, local and global filmmaking follow. Consider the following ten films as useful recommendations to highlight some of the festival’s eclectic offerings, though an overarching suggestion to keep in mind is: get out of your comfort zone. Utilitarian programming issues aside, there are diamonds in the rough that reward viewers willing to take risks. 

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Previewing Reeling 2015 – The 33rd LGBT+ International Film Festival

This Thursday marks the beginning of Reeling 33, Chicago’s LGBTQ+ film festival. Originally programmed to open in late October (just as the Chicago International Film Festival concludes), Reeling’s move to September is a smart one. It positions the festival as a venue for awards contenders (with the major inclusion of Peter Sollett’s Freeheld), large Hollywood productions (Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall), significant auteur imports (François Ozon’s The New Girlfriend), all while maintaining the integrity of its specialty programming. With nearly 40 features and 60 shorts scheduled to screen – many making their world premieres – Reeling has emerged as one of Chicago’s great autumnal festivals, developing with each iteration as increasingly vital. 

The following is a selection of films previewed for the festival. For showtimes and additional ticketing information, visit Reeling’s site here.