I had only been gone a year (having skipped the 2011 version due to continuous business travel), but the Chicago International Film Festival suddenly feels like a true film festival. Thanks to the floor-length banners, the multiple information desks, the plentiful volunteer ushers, and the organized audience lines there is hardly any of the helter-skelter, madhouse frenzy of previous years. But I think it’s also because of the presence of numerous directors, actors, and producers introducing their films, holding talkbacks, and yes, attending screenings of other people’s films. I think, finally, world filmmakers are realizing that Chicago is not just a blip on the film festival circuit map between Telluride and Toronto. And Chicago audiences are the luckier for it. Here are my thoughts on the first set of films I saw during my first weekend at the festival.
For some people October is about going on long drives to see the changing of the leaves, while for others it is about spending weekends prancing around apple groves or pumpkin patches. For some, it’s the month of plotting to come up with the gayest, most outrageous, most bedazzling Halloween costume this side of RuPaul’s All-Star Drag Race. For me it’s the time of year when I can spend two glorious weeks in a darkened theater watching, for hours on end, the best (or at least the most intriguing and provocative) of world cinema during the essential, irreplaceable Chicago International Film Festival. I’ve gone to the Chicago filmfest since the late 1990s, and I’ve only missed it once, last year when I was on a grueling 5-days-a-week travel schedule, so if you’ve been around my blog woods for a while, you would have read my sometimes infuriated, sometimes awestruck reviews of the films, many of which do not get commercial runs in Chicago. The 2012 edition, which begins this Thursday, October 11 and runs till Thursday, October 25, seems slightly smaller than previous festivals with approximately 150 films from 50 countries, but it’s a very well-curated one (although I’m perturbed by the lack of Asian films from a festival that has historically had strong representation from them).
If you’ve been following my blog since 2007, you know how I love my Oscars – in the same way that the Manning brothers love Superbowl rings, Paula Deen loves lard, Elton John loves dissing Madonna, and Rick Santorum loves being the poster boy for ugly sweater vests. Last year was quite the year in film – Scorcese directed a children’s film, silence became hip and fab once again, dinosaurs showed up in a Terrence Malick movie, high-waist pants showed up on George Clooney (gasp!), scatological, uhmm, matter, popped up in two of the year’s biggest hits, Bridesmaids and The Help, and Jessica Chastain popped up everywhere including your corner neighborhood taqueria! And yes, I saw more than 90% of all Oscar-nominated movies! Here then are my predictions for all 24 categories, and discussion of the top 6. Don’t forget to tune into your local ABC station at 8 pm eastern/5 pm pacific on Sunday, February 26.
Tags: Academy Awards
I’m taking a break from my theater coverage to share my predictions for my other consuming passion – the Academy Awards! I’m quite dismayed by the lovefest that is greeting The King’s Speech, especially in a year that produced The Social Network, a masterpiece for the ages. But enough of the pontificating, here are my predicted winners for all categories at this Sunday’s Oscars.
Tags: Academy Awards
The Chicago International Film Festival ends another year tonight with its 7 pm screening of the The Debt, starring Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington. I ended my Film Festival experience earlier this week with the last of my dozen films – below are my impressions on the last four films I saw. See you all next year for another remarkable film-viewing experience!
I’ve seen some pretty heady, wacky, and at times, whacked-out stuff at the Chicago International Film Festival over the years. Christopher Honore’s Ma Mere, for one, in which Isabelle Huppert’s character has an affair with her son, played by Louis Garrell (who probably sets the cinematic record for male masturbation, including a jaw-dropping final scene when he does the deed while he looks over her dead body in the morgue, of all places). Or Kornél Mundruczó’s Johanna which re-tells the story of Joan of Arc as an opera-musical, set in a Hungarian hospital for the terminally-ill, where a drug-addicted Joan is martyred for trying to heal the patients by having sex with them. Or Kim Ki-duk’s Time about an obsessive woman who undergoes plastic surgery to get back her boyfriend, which contains a lengthy surreal coffee shop scene followed by a chase scene in which the actors are wearing white masks throughout. But this year’s Leap Year, the Mexican film from Australian transplant Michael Rowe, which caused quite the commotion at Cannes earlier this year and won the Camera D’Or prize for best first film, is up there with the outrageously memorable. It is audacious and envelope-pushing, not only because of its graphic sex scenes (an unsimulated hand job, asphyxiation during anal sex and “golden showers”, anyone?) and it’s ferociously brave performance from lead actress Monica del Carmen, but also because by having a laser-sharp focus on the mundane, routinary aspects of a person’s daily life, it is able to paint a vivid, tragic, universal portrait of contemporary urban living. It is breathtaking. Here are my thoughts on Leap Year and other films I saw this week at the Festival, all of them coming to us from Cannes: