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Ebertfest 2017: Day Two, by Aaron Pinkston

21 Apr

When the Roger Ebert’s Film Festival was formed in 1999 it was specifically meant to shine a light on a number of films that the prolific film critic saw throughout his years that didn’t get the recognition he thought they deserved. The then-named “Overlooked Film Festival” used this thesis to span tiny indies like Henry Bromell’s Panic, internationally acclaimed but little seen at their release films like Songs from the Second Floor, and minor entries in big filmographies like Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. Over the years, that specific aim has shifted a bit, but there is always room in the schedule for a few underappreciated and overlooked—the second day of the 19th Ebertfest is a great example of this as it starts with two perfect examples of the festival’s spirit.

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A Quiet Passion: Without Feathers, by Aaron Pinkston

20 Apr

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A Quiet Passion could be the title of most Terence Davies films, so it is particularly fun that the film called A Quiet Passion is, at least at times, an outlier for the filmmaker. Chronicling the adult life of poet Emily Dickinson (from what I can tell, the first film to take on her life), A Quiet Passion is a surprising blend of subject and filmmaker. Primarily known for deep and silently emotional dramas that tell the stories of simple people and British communities, Davies has been on a recent role with The Deep Blue Sea and Sunset Song (released last year). Emily Dickinson is a fantastic subject for Davies as a strong, independent and opinionated woman. A Quiet Passion’s comedic sensibility, however, seems like new territory.

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Ebertfest 2017: Opening Night, by Aaron Pinkston

20 Apr

The 19th annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival is built on four key principles: empathy, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. Even if not as explicitly, this has always been the mission of the festival, as was true of its namesake. Each year in Champaign, Illinois, the home of the main campus of the University of Illinois, Ebert’s alma mater, film lovers flock to celebrate films and carry out the legacy of the greatest film critic. This is now my sixth straight year covering the festival and it has become a part of my life. I unfortunately never got to experience the festival with Roger as the key figure (by 2012 the effects of his cancer had taken his ability to speak, and with that, his role in leading the film introductions and Q&As), but I’ve seen it grow past the “Overlooked Film Festival” of its roots to championing Ebert’s spirit. Since he passed a few short weeks before the festival in 2013, Ebertfest has embodied the man’s legacy with love and through those four principles that he looked for in every film that he loved. This year’s slate is as interesting as any I’ve attended, a mix of classics ready for a reevaluation and contemporaries that carry on what Ebert looked for in a great film.

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The Chicago Rep-port: 3/14 to 3/20, by Aaron Pinkston

13 Apr

Repertoire screenings may not be as abundant in Chicago as they are in LA/NY, but when you look around, there are many theatergoing delights. The Chicago Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the Second City.

Per usual, the Music Box Theatre is a good place to kick off the Rep-port, as they have a widely diverse sampling of repertory screenings this week. Most prominent is their Easter weekend celebration of nostalgia classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971, 35mm). One of the best things about Easter is all the chocolate, so this is a perfect pairing. You can catch in on Saturday, April 14 at 2:00 pm.
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The Chicago Rep-port: 4/7 to 4/13, by Aaron Pinkston

6 Apr

Repertoire screenings may not be as abundant in Chicago as they are in LA/NY, but when you look around, there are many theatergoing delights. The Chicago Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the Second City.

Doc Films five film series all continue this week, including a Japanese cult classic and a down-and-dirty British crime flick. On Monday, April 10, “Heat and Sand: The Desert Film” goes with Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964, 35mm). Tuesday, April 11, “Stories from the New Land: Chronicles of the Migrant Experience” has the David Bax-approved The New Land (Jan Troell, 1972, Blu-ray), starring Max von Sydow. The Wednesday Robert Bresson series moves to one of the auteur’s less seen films, Une femme douce (Robert Bresson, 1969, DCP).

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The Chicago Rep-port: 3/31 to 4/6, by Aaron Pinkston

30 Mar

Repertory screenings may not be as abundant in Chicago as they are in LA/NY but when you look around, there are many theatergoing delights. The Chicago Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the Second City.

Now that the European Union Film Festival has wrapped, the Gene Siskel Film Center returns to its programming of limited engagements, special events, and rep screenings. One of my favorite things about the Siskel is its ongoing partnership with the School of the Art Institute to offer patrons to “audit” a class each semester—a film series screening plus a lecture from a local professor. Currently, the series is exploring the “New Sensory Cinema,” and on Tuesday, April 4, they will be screening one of the strangest films of the decade, The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin, 2015, DCP). Check back to this space as we continue to highlight the series as it runs through May.

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The Chicago Rep-port: 3/24 to 3/30, by Aaron Pinkston

23 Mar

Repertory screenings may not be as abundant in Chicago as they are in LA/NY, but when you look around, there are many theatergoing delights. The Chicago Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the Second City.

For over a decade, the Movieside Film Festival has put on fantastic marathons with the Massacre and Sci-Fi Spectacular, and this weekend they’ll fully venture into the fantasy genre for the first time. The Fantastic Fantasy Film Festival takes place on Saturday, March 25 from noon to 11 pm at the Brew & View at The Vic. The lineup includes:

The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982, format unknown)

Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980, format unknown)

Director’s cut of Legend (Ridley Scott, 1985, format unknown)

Masters of the Universe (Gary Goddard, 1987, format unknown)

Dune (David Lynch, 1984, format unknown)

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The Chicago Rep-port: 3/17 to 3/23, by Aaron Pinkston

16 Mar

Repertoire screenings may not be as abundant in Chicago as they are in LA/NY, but when you look around, there are many theatergoing delights. The Chicago Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the Second City.

The Music Box Theatre is always a good bet for rep screenings but this is a particularly good week. Kicking off the weekend are a pair of popular midnight screenings, with full audience participation encouraged: The Room (Tommy Wiseau, 2003, 35mm) on Friday and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975, 35mm) on Saturday. If you’ve never seen The Room or Rocky Horror at a sold-out screening at the Music Box, you haven’t seen ‘em.

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The Chicago Rep-port: 3/10 to 3/16, by Aaron Pinkston

9 Mar

Repertoire screenings may not be as abundant in Chicago as they are in LA/NY, but when you look around, there are many theatergoing delights. The Chicago Rep-port is a weekly(ish) series highlighting the best and most compelling repertory screenings in the Second City.

Though it isn’t exactly in the rep screening bucket, the theatergoing highlight this week (and throughout the month of March) is the Gene Siskel Film Center’s European Union Film Festival, which I’ve covered on this site for many years. This week’s offerings include films from Finland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Sweden, Malta, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Poland, Croatia, Germany, and Belgium—the best offerings are the Dardenne Brothers’ The Unknown Girl (March 12 and March 15) and Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay (March 11 and March 16). You can find the full EUFF schedule here.

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Aaron’s Top Ten of 2016

17 Jan

Another year, another top 10 list. I feel like every year around this time I say this was a particularly great year, that it was difficult to choose only ten films, yadda yadda yadda. It’s true and it always is. In most years, though, there is usually one film that stands out from the pack, speaks to me as an undeniable best film of the year. Less than a month after the conclusion of the year, 2016 doesn’t have that yet. Maybe more than any year I’ve put together a formal list, this list could be completely rearranged. That may be a negative aspect of the year in film, but it was also particularly deep and diverse. For example, it was one of the best recent years for animation with Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, Zootopia, and an unusual film that made my list. I love genre films, and aside from the films that are listed below, I adored 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Wailing, The Eyes of My Mother, The Love Witch, Under the Shadow, and many others. Yeah, the blockbusters were particularly bad in 2016, but c’mon, we’re not apart of the Battleship Pretension fleet by only judging the year on capes and cowls. Of the 1,003 eligible films from 2016, I saw a paltry 256. That may be more than most people, but this still produces wide gaps that prevent this list from being personally definitive in any way. For the films I haven’t yet seen at the time of this submission: Aquarius, Toni Erdmann, The Red Turtle, Train to Busan, Queen of Katwe, Julieta, and undoubtedly many more worthy of consideration. For those I have seen, let’s get to it.

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