Everywhere Everything All At Once tops Oscar nominations

 

Oscar Nominees announced. (Photo of Oscars courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for news sites.)
Oscar Nominees announced. (Photo of Oscars courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for news sites.)

 

If tuning in to Good Morning America at 7:30 a.m.Jan.24 or watching GMAlivestream, you heard the 95th Academy Awards nominations for movies released in 2022.

There are 23 categories ranging from Best Picture and Best Actress to Best Costume Design and Best Original Score. Oscar winners will be announced March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

 

 But if you watched the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Global Awards Winners & Nominees 2023 | Golden Globes earlier in January which often reflected what the Oscars would look like, you might not be surprised that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” led Academy Awards announcement with 11 nominations and “The Banishees of Inisherin” followed with 9 as did “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

To sort of understand “Everything Everywhere,” think of the world, our universe, as a unified entity, then think of what it might be if it were a multiverse made up of parallel universes. Conceived and directed as a drama-com by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and produced by them with Anthony and Joe Russo, the center figure is an elderly Chinese American immigrant (Michelle Yeoh) who has to connect to her multiverse selves.

 

Here are some of the category nominees that propelled “Everything Everywhere” and “The Banishees.”

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau, The Whale
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Original Score

Volker Bertelmann, All Quiet on the Western Front
Carter Burwell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Justin Hurwitz, Babylon
Son Lux, Everything Everywhere All at Once
John Williams, The Fabelmans

Best Costume Design

Jenny Beavan, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Ruth Carter, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Catherine Martin, Elvis
Mary Zophres, Babylon
Shirley Kurata, Everything Everywhere All at Once

For more information visit Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For the entire list of nominations visit 2023 | Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Jodie Jacobs

Winter months are more than the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day

 

What if your team doesn’t make Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12. Or you crave a fun event to brighten winter. Around Chicago found four events. At least one should appeal.

 

Chinatown celebrates Lunar New Year with a parade at it Gateway. (Photo courtesy of Chinatown Community.)
Chinatown celebrates Lunar New Year with a parade at its Gateway. (Photo courtesy of Chinatown Community.)

Celebrate Chinese New Year

Also called the Spring Festival and a celebration of the Lunar New Year, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit and goes from Jan. 22 through Feb. 5.

 Chicago’s Chinatown and Uptown (Argyle) neighborhoods hold lion and dragon dances, parades and other Lunar New Year events.

Uptown celebrates Jan. 28 from noon to 4 p.m. with the parade stepping off at 1 p.m. from Argyle Street and Winthrop Avenue. For details visit Argyle Lunar New YearChinatown’s parade is Jan. 29, 1 p.m. at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue. See details at Chinatown Community Lunar New Year.  

Or celebrate with dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Most decorate in red and some hand out red envelopes.

 February starts with a fun, fanciful forecast in Woodstock, IL, northwest of Chicago. “Groundhog Day,” a movie that celebrates a rodent’s telling when Spring will come, was mostly made in Woodstock, IL. The town subbed, sorta, for Punxsutawney, PA. The month continues with the country’s largest auto show, followed by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s famed Orchid Show.

 

committee asks Woodstock Willie his forecast of when Spring will come. (J Jacobs photo
A member of Woodstock’s groundhog committee holds Woodstock Willie and asks his forecast of when Spring will come. (J Jacobs photo)

Go to Woodstock for Groundhog Day

The tiny town of Woodstock celebrates its “Groundhog” film locations and continually show the movie beginning Feb. 1, 2023. But the main event is early morning Feb. 2, when their groundhog, Woodstock Willie, forecasts the coming of Spring.

Released in 1993, the movie reappears every year similar to its theme of caught in a time warp. Directed by Harold Ramis with screenplay by Ramis and Danny Rubin it stars Bill Murray as cynical weatherman Phil Conners and Andie MacDowell as local TV producer Rita Hanson who wants “world peace.” 

Woodstock celebrates every year with do-it-yourself tours, film showings and other events through Feb. 5. For the full schedule and directions visit Woodstock Groundhog Days.  For info on the Punxsutawney Phil groundhog in Pennsylvania visit  Home | The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

 

Guests view an unveiling in 2020. (Photo courtey of CAS)
Guests view an unveiling in 2020. (Photo courtey of CAS)

Check out the Chicago Auto Show

Take a look at today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles from SUV’s to concept cars. Use the simulators. Eat and just have fun. Held at McCormick Place, Chicago’s huge convention center, 2301. S. King Dr, Chicago, the show runs Feb. 11- 20, 2023. For the schedule, pricing and list of things to do visit About the Show | Chicago Auto Show and its links.

 

Chicago Botanic Garden put on a colorful orchid show in 2022. (J Jacobs photo)
Chicago Botanic Garden put on a colorful orchid show in 2022. (J Jacobs photo)

Discover beautiful, even bold, colors at the Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show

Stroll through CBG’s Greenhouses, Feb 11 through March 25, 2023 to see different sizes and colors of orchids. Garden notes predict 2023 will have even more color than 2022. In addition, orchid specialists and vendors will be on hand to answer questions and sales. The Illinois Orchid Society will also be there March 11-12.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, east of Edens Expressway. For more information, tickets and hours visit The Orchid Show | Chicago Botanic Garden.

Jodie Jacobs

Around town: From food to film and crafts to contemporary art April beckons

eateries participating in Chicago Restaurant Week. Photo courtesy of Avec River North
Avec River North, a popular upscale restaurant, is participating in Chicago Restaurant Week. (Photo courtesy of Avec River North)

After surviving a winter of ordering out and shopping and seeing shows virtually, it’s nice to find a few fun, in-person options filling the April calendar.

Chicago Restaurant Week

Now through April 10, diners have a chance to try a new on the city’s food scene or popular but pricey upscale eatery at a more pocket-friendly level.

Menus are multi-course, prix fixe at $25 for lunch or brunch and $29 and/or $55 for dinner. Experience can be dine-in or takeout/delivery. (Price excludes beverages, tax, gratuity, and delivery fees). Find restaurants and menus at Chicago Restaurant Week Participating Restaurants | Choose Chicago

 

Rhino Fest returns in April 2022 (Photo courtesy of Pride Arts)
Rhino Fest returns in April 2022 (Photo courtesy of Pride Arts)

Pride Arts and Rhinofest

After missing 2021 due to COVID, Hint of Rhino: Rhinoceros Theater Festival 2022 , will be April 1 through May 7, 2022. Presented by The Curious Theatre Branch in association with the Pride Arts Center and Jimmy Beans Cabaret, Prop Thtr and Labyrinth Arts, shows will run Thursday through Sunday at Jimmy Beans Coffee (2553 W. Fullerton Ave, second floor) in Logan Square and at the Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center (4139 N Broadway Ave) in Uptown.

Tickets to all events are $20 or pay-what-you-can. Proof of vaccination will be required at the door, and audience members and crew will remain masked inside venues. For ticket, show and other information visit  rhinofest.com.

Maxwell Street Market

Known for its crafts, clothes, music, street food and family fun, the historic Maxwell Street Market reopens April 3. Hours are Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For directions and more information visit City of Chicago :: Maxwell Street Market.

 

Maxwell Street Market reopens. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
Maxwell Street Market reopens. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

 

Expo Chicago

Among the world’s leading art exhibition and programing, Expo Chicago will be at Navy Pier April 7 through April 10, 2022.

Expect to see more than 140 leading galleries from 25 countries ranging from Argentina, Ireland and Israel to Italy, Japan and Spain. For more information visit EXPO CHICAGO – Chicago’s International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art.

 

Latino Film Fest

Coming in the second half of April, the Latino film Fest runs April 21 through May 1, 2022. For locations and more information visit CLFF – Chicago Latino Film Festival.

One of a Kind Show

Also end of April the spring version of the popular holiday art, crats and food exhibition at The Mart will be April 29 through May 1, 2022. For information visit One of a Kind Show | Welcome (oneofakindshowchicago.com).

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Film Festival News: Russian film boycotts plus Jewish Film Festival month

 

Ukranian flag (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)
Ukranian flag (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

 

Film Festival boycotts

In step with boycotts of anything Russian, the prevailing film festival sentiment including the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals is to not accept Russian filmmakers or films with ties to the Putin regime.

Festival de Cannes released a statement saying it would ban Russian delegations at its 75th edition in May. The statement read: As the world has been hit by a heavy crisis in which a part of Europe finds itself in a state of war, the Festival de Cannes wishes to extend all its support to the people of Ukraine and all those who are in its territory.” The statement continued with “However modest as it is, we join our voices with those who oppose this unacceptable situation and denounce the attitude of Russia and its leaders.”

To clarify, the statement added, “During this winter of 2022 the Festival de Cannes has entered its preparation phase. Unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people, it has been decided that we will not welcome official Russian delegations nor accept the presence of anyone linked to the Russian government.”

The Venice Biennale which oversees the Venice Film Festival also issued a statement that said it would ban Russian delegations and people connected to the government but added that it would not ban Russian artists who are independent and speak against the Vladmir Putin regime. Their statement said the festival would “therefore not accept the presence at any of its events any official delegations, institutions or persons tied in any capacity to the Russian government.”

 

Jewish Film Festival (Photo courtesy of JCC)
Jewish Film Festival (Photo courtesy of JCC)

Jewish Film Festival in March

The JCC Film Festival will stream and hold in-person showings of 18 films from March 10 through March 27, 2022. The in-person showings will be at three successive Sundays, March 13, 20 and 27, but at four different theaters.

March 13 is at Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie.

March 20 is at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N Southport Ave, Chicago and the Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema 1850 2nd. St., Highland Park

March 27 is at the Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Ave. Wilmette.

Find ticket and more information at JCC Chicago Jewish film Festival.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Academy Award nominations announced

 

 

 Oscars will be handed out at the 94th Academy Awards , March 27, 2022, at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo taken by J Jacobs)
Oscars will be handed out at the 94th Academy Awards , (Photo taken by J Jacobs)

Movie goers had second, third and fourth thoughts about sitting in theaters for even such highly hyped and highly rated films as the remake of “West Side Story.” But even with a poor box-office showing, the newly done tragic musical and other well-done films, plus their directors, actors and the behind-the scenes components will be recognized at the 94th Academy Awards March 27 at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

Nominations in 23 categories for films released between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2021 , were announced at 5:18 PST Feb 8, 2022 by actor/comedian Leslie Jordan and actor, CEO and producer Tracee Ellis Ross plus special guests from California to New York City via a global live stream on the Academy’s digital platforms. Nominations are made by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members in their own categories – actors choosing actors. For the full list see the nominations at Oscar.com and Oscars.org.

Best Picture nominations:  Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story.

Best Actor: Javier Bardem in “Being the Riccardos,”  Benedict Cumberbatch  in “The Power of the Dog,” Andrew Garfield in “Tic, Tick…Boom,” Will Smith in “King Richard” and Denzel Washington  in “The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ” The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter,” Penélope Cruz in “Parallel Mothers, Nicole Kidman in “Being the Ricardos” and Kristen Stewart in “Spencer.”

The surprise was that Lady Gaga was not nominated as best actress for “House of Gucci.”

Nominations are made by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members in their own categories – actors choosing actors. For the full list see the nominations at Oscar.com and Oscars.org.

Active members of the Academy are eligible to vote for the winners in all 23 categories beginning Thursday, March 17, through Tuesday, March 22.

Jodie Jacobs

Where to check for the Groundhog Day movie and predictions

 

Woodstock square and bandstand in the Groundhog Day movie. (J Jacobs photo)
Woodstock square and bandstand in the Groundhog Day movie. (J Jacobs photo)

Snow just blanketed the Northeast and a blizzard is predicted for midweek in the Midwest. But maybe, just maybe, spring is on the way.

Two famed groundhogs (furry woodchucks), Punxsutawney Phil in in Punxsutawney, PA and Woodstock Willie in Woodstock, IL, will be predicting six more weeks of winter if they see their shadow and go back to sleep on Feb. 2. Or, if it’s cloudy in their area their behavior may say spring is coming soon.

The date, Feb. 2, is known in the U.S. as Groundhog Day because, European agriculture folklore has it that the critters’ behavior can be a weather indicator for planting.

Viewed from the creative minds of writer/director Harold Ramis and writer Danny Rubin the idea that a rodent can predict the weather, is a concept fit for a romcom movie with a disagreeable, cynical weatherman as its protagonist.

But instead of filming only in Punxsutawney, PA, Ramis wanted an appropriate (cute and quaint) site near his North Shore home.

Thus Woodstock, with its scenic, old-fashioned square, is where most of the filming took place. Released in 1993, Woodstock, IL is now the town “Groundhog Day” movie fans visit for a few days of free tours of the film’s sites, free movie showings, and, if the weather cooperates, a visit on Feb. 2 when Woodstock Willie does his early morning prediction about spring.

Fans relive the movie by following in TV Weatherman Phil Conners’s (Bill Murray) footsteps including where Murray steps into a puddle and where he and TV producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), the love interest, have their snowball fight in the town square.

For Woodstock, IL Groundhog events visit Woodstock Groundhog. For the movie trailer see Groundhog Day Movie clips. For Punxsutawney Phil visit Groundhog Day Club.

Jodie Jacobs

Lovison reviews two ‘Robust’ movies at Chicago International Film Festival

 

'Robust' at Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
‘Robust’ at Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

4 stars

“Robust”

In “Robust,” Gerard Depardieu portrays a lonely, bored, aging actor, Georges, unwilling or uninterested in going through the same old motions.

When his regular driver/security guard is temporarily called out of town, Georges creates a new alliance with his replacement, Aissa, brilliantly played by Déborah Lukumuena. She turns out to be the equal of both the character, Georges, and Depardieu, himself. Every scene between the two is a mesmerizing lesson in restraint and underlying tension.

The film is not a thriller with over the top special effects or chase sequences. There is no great plot or cinematic triumph. “Robust” is basically a quiet character study directed by Constance Meyer and written by Meyer with Marcia Romano providing very believable situations.

The tension is created between the male/female and employer/employee relationship specifically since Georges has personal boundary issues.

But this is not a “me too” theme. Instead, though there is an underlying subtle desire, this is more of a paternal relationship between two people trying to deal with their loneliness in spite of their busy professional lives.

In the end, as with any intense relationship between people in close proximity over a period of time, they learn something about each other and about themselves.

“Robust” is produced by Isabelle Madelaine. She apparently has produced a number of short subjects which explains her attraction to this piece that is a kind of expanded short subject.

Kudos to casting director Judith Chalier for putting together such an interesting and talented team. Even the performances of the secondary characters, regardless of the size of their roles, were delivered with sincere perfection.

Cinematographer Simon Beaufils treated us to a number of beautiful close-up portraits that amplified the inner tensions and intimacy. Likewise production designer Julia Lemaire provided an array of interesting, mostly interior, settings that provided subtle insight into the characters and their situations.

“Robust” is much like a warm bath. Just sit back and soak it in. Then when it is over feel refreshed and satisfied.

I highly recommend this film because you will be happy to see Depardieu work his magic. But more importantly, you will be very glad that you got to see an interesting performance by rising star Lukumuena.

This is a North American premiere as part of the Chicago International Film Festival with two live screenings at the AMC River East 10/18 and 10/22 and limited online streaming Oct 14, 2021 to Oct 24, 2021 in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. For detailed information visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com

Language: French with English subtitles. Running time:  95 minutes.

 

Hit the Road at Chicago International Film Festival. 'Robust' at Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
Hit the Road at Chicago International Film Festival. ‘Robust’ at Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

4 stars

“Hit the Road”

“Hit the Road” by director Panah Panahi is a story of an Iranian family road trip with overtones of “Little Miss Sunshine” or “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Lest you think Iranian families are very different than yours, this family will dispel that myth.

It is an odd sort of setup that begins with the father,  (Hassan Madjouni) sitting in the back seat with a cast on his leg that is being decorated by his younger 6 year-old son (Rayan Sarlak).

Mom (Pantea Panahiha), a rather attractive forty something wearing a hijab that fashionably reveals her stylish gray hair, is in the front seat, while the elder, twenty-something son (Amin Simiar), is the driver.

You can’t help but to ask, “Who are these people, where are they going and why does he have a broken leg?” For most of the trip the purpose of the journey is unclear.

In the first half of the film, we get to know the quirky characters as they quibble and banter back and forth. Most of the action is directed by the younger son referred to as “the kid” who is full of non-stop energy, curiosity and downright obnoxious silliness.  The Spiderman and Batman obsessed “kid” restlessly tumbles and falls relentlessly next to, and on the lap of, the father who willingly partakes in all of the activity, even encouraging him.  Mom does little to intercede and indeed encourages him while the older son silently keeps his eyes on the road.

Through the course of their day-long travel they make a few rest stops and we begin to get a better, but still fairly unclear, idea of their destination. This is best described as a dramedy with the characters using the antics of “the kid” to interject some humor and provide distraction for their more serious task at hand.

If you’ve been cooped up due to COVID, “Hit the Road” will give you a chance to take a little family adventure while enjoying the beautiful rugged Iranian landscape. Much like one of those 500 piece picture puzzles you might have been working on this past year, the film’s director doles out small colorful pieces that fit together and begin to make sense amid the chaos of “the kid’s” antics.

Incidentally, this is a debut film by Panah Panahi whose father’s directorial feature film debut was the Iranian classic “White Balloon” (Jafar Panahi 1995). It is the humanistic style of both of these films with their subtle criticisms that somehow manages to exist within the country’s authoritarian regime that I find very interesting.

“Hit the Road,” presented as part of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival, is available to stream Oct 14 to Oct 24, 2021 in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

LANGUAGE : Farsi with English subtitles. Running time: 94 minutes

 

Reno Lovison

 

‘The Last Shelter’ a must see at Chicago International Film Festival

 

The Last Shelter at Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
The Last Shelter at Chicago International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

4 stars

A group of random migrants from West Africa destined for Europe stop at “The Last Shelter” on the edge of the Sahel Desert (that transitions into the Sahara) before continuing their journey toward a better life.

Here at “La Maison du Migrants” in Mali they are confronted by a kindly social worker who urges them to return home, explaining that it is admirable that they had gotten this far but many die in the harsh desert conditions beyond. His agency promises them a bus ride back home.

While counseling two sixteen year-old girls from Burkina Faso he pleads with them to reconsider by explaining that even if they do get to Algeria they will likely find no employment and will be forced into prostitution. In a meeting with the others he tells them of his own experience of being cheated of his wages and treated with contempt.

One of the girls reveals how Facebook (and certainly other social media) fuel discontent and spur the hopes of young migrants who see friends and acquaintances who have successfully made the journey. For fifteen or twenty year-olds who hate their life, hardship and even death are abstract ideas that do little to dissuade them.

This is an all too common tale taking place around the world as young people seek a better life, freedom and more opportunity. This story could be told not only in Africa but in nearly any country throughout the Middle-East and South or Central America as well as Mexico.  For many, Europe is a fine destination, but their hope is the ultimate lottery win of reaching the United States.

“The Last Shelter” focuses primarily on the two young girls. Ester says she had hopes of acting, singing or boxing. She chose the latter because she admits having a lot of anger and feels boxing would be a way to release her frustrations.  Her friend expresses hopes of being a teacher or doctor because she wants to help people. During their respite in the shelter she is the one who encourages Ester to study English as they work on simple phrases.

The film is sensitively photographed by director/cinematographer Ousmane Samassekou and Amath Niane. It shines with intimate close-ups and beautiful b-roll of the desert sunrise and evocative cutaways of the shelter’s inspiring blue painted interior. The shots are reminiscent of a beach cabana that belies otherwise minimal accommodations and the hot, dry reality outside its doors.

The story is expertly constructed by Samassekou with editor Céline Ducreux to tell a compelling, important and compassionate human story that sheds light on the motivations and desires of migrating individuals.

The Last Shelter is a U.S. Premier presented as part of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival. Online viewing is available. Visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com for more information.

LANGUAGE : Bambara, French, Fula, Hausa, Mooré, Susu, Waama with English subtitles

Reno Lovison

A look at more Chicago International Film Festival offerings

Reviewer Reno Lovison picks two more shows currently offered by the Chicago International Film Festival worthy of three star ratings. They are either based in Chicago or have Chicago themes or subjects.

The films have limited in-person options but can be viewed virtually  October 14 through October 24, 2021. Check back at CTAA for more International Film Fest reviews. For specific information visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com.

 

'On the Edge of Victory' showing at the Chicago Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
‘On the Edge of Victory’ showing at the Chicago Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

3 stars

On the Edge of Victory

How soon we forget. This intimate behind the scenes documentary “Mayor Pete,” follows his bootstrap campaign for the presidency from its nascent beginnings to the edge of victory.

Sure Pete Buttigieg, (pronounced boot-edge-edge)  mayor of a small Midwestern city, speaks eight languages, is a Rhode Scholar and retired lieutenant in the Navy Reserves who served in Afghanistan; but that didn’t stop this over achiever from being the first openly gay presidential candidate, with an odd name, from soaring from unknown candidate to winner of the Iowa caucuses, primarily by being extremely intelligent and being his authentic self.

Like many documentaries, “Mayor Pete” by Jesse Moss simply follows the action. Since it starts at the beginning of the campaign the filmmaker has no idea how it will end. Very often in these situations you know you have an interesting subject but you don’t really know what the story will be.

In this case you have someone who many might consider a nontraditional candidate with a same-sex partner running for the highest office in the land. But the mundaneness of his relationship with husband Chasten and the “regular guy” laid back attitude of Pete himself kinda shouts, “There’s nothing to see here folks,” illustrating that those who we might consider as being “other” really have more in common with us than our perceived differences suggest.

“Mayor Pete,” will certainly appeal to political wonks and historians, though it doesn’t really offer much strategic insight other than some interesting preparation for his debates and appearances. At its core it is an inspirational story of authenticity, personal growth, love and victory; even if that victory is not exactly what you had expected.

Running time: 96 minutes. Visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com for more information.

 

Harlem Renaissance Man (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
Harlem Renaissance Man (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

3 stars

A Harlem Renaissance Man

The small city of Metropolis sits on the southern-most border of Illinois and is best known for its self-described claim to fame as being the “birthplace” of the fictional comic book hero Superman. However the town’s real life native son is author and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

Oscar was born in 1884 to former slaves Calvin and Belle Michaux who travelled out of Kentucky over the Ohio River establishing a homestead where the boy spent his early years farming. Eventually he made his way to Chicago getting a very prestigious job as a Pullman porter. This experience no doubt contributed to a wider understanding of the world and introduced him to a more diverse social strata.

Within a short period of time Micheaux was able to obtain a small piece of land in South Dakota. However the harsh winters put his mind to other interests and after a few years he wrote a book about his life experiences and escapades that he self-published then sold door-to-door apparently rather successfully within Black communities.

After gaining some notoriety Micheaux turned down an offer to make one of his stories into a moving picture. Instead in 1919 he opted to buy some equipment, gather some people and do it himself, putting him on the road that would ultimately establish him as the first major Black filmmaker, going on to produce 42 feature films.

Micheaux’s filmmaking business brought him to Harlem, the undisputed Black Capitol of segregated America, at the very dawn of what would become known as the Harlem Renaissance no doubt putting him in contact with some of the most notable cultural icons of that era.  Micheaux is in fact credited with hiring Paul Robeson before the actor became an international superstar.

It seems that aside from promoting his own written works Micheaux had a desire to use his early silent films and later talkies to project a more wholesome and authentic view of African-American life presumably to counteract the negative stereotypes that were being portrayed in  White cinema, most notably in films like D.W. Griffith’s (1915) “Birth of a Nation.”

At least from my perspective Micheaux’s story is as much about his entrepreneurial spirit as it is about his filmmaking. Not only did he write and produce film but often appeared in small roles and set up his own distribution scheme to insure that his films would be screened and seen in African American communities nationwide. It seems he was one of those people who was  going to create a place for himself in this world somehow.

“Oscar Micheaux – The Superhero of Black Cinema” had its North American premiere as part of the 2021 Chicago International Film Festival.  Directed by Francesco Zippel, it is a sort of meandering biographical documentary that gets this important story told through a number of expert interviews and original film clips.

The importance of this documentary is perhaps to illustrate to younger generations that in the early nineteen hundreds there were a number of African American entrepreneurs who stepped in to fill a void created by segregation.

They operated their professions and crafts parallel to the more influential white power structure by exploiting opportunities to serve a market that was otherwise being neglected.

As a result of America’s unofficial apartheid system these early industrial pioneers rarely were recognized by the wider society for the contributions they made.

“Oscar Micheaux -The Superhero of Black Film Making” is a useful contribution to the library of Black History subjects placing Micheaux into the pantheon of individuals who contributed to the rise of twentieth century African American culture and ultimately, in a more “woke” sense, to the fabric of American culture as a whole.

Running time: 80 minutes. Visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com for more information.

Reno Lovison

 

 

Chicago related films now showing at the Chicago Film Festival

 

Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 13-24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 13-24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

A resounding political battle

4 stars

Before Obama there was Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor who in 1983 challenged the status quo, took on “The Machine,” and ultimately won the hearts of the majority of the city to build the first truly diverse political coalition in the history of Chicago.

A brutal racially divided campaign culminated in what came to be dubbed “council wars” as the majority white opposition maintained control of the city’s legislative body even after Washington’s election.

Strategies employed in this era of Chicago politics would write the playbook for political opposition that continues to resound on the national scene to this day. Alternately the strategies employed by Harold Washington have written the playbook for many successful minority campaigns nationwide for nearly 40 years and likely well into the future.

“Punch 9 for Harold Washington” a Chicago International Film Festival 2021 world premiere  documentary by director Joe Winston, comprised largely of archival footage and interviews, is a sober reminder to those of us who lived through the era and a fitting tribute to one of Chicago’s unique and transformative political figures.

“Punch 9 for Harold Washington”  Run time: 104 minutes

 

Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 13-24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)
Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 13-24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of film fest presenter Cinema/Chicago)

4 stars

“SHORTS 1” is an eclectic showcase of eight short subjects from a variety of filmmakers with ties to Chicago.  Each film runs about 10 minutes or less and one ticket at the festival will provide access to the entire collection.

Four of the shorts have immigrant related themes and four have generational or age related themes. Though they each are very personal stories I would describe only one of them as being specifically documentary. Two are essentially art films, one of which is specifically in the genre of horror.

There is a little bit here for everyone, but clearly these folks know how to tell stories and make them look beautiful.

“Sink” is a brilliantly disturbing film shot entirely as an overhead shot of a bathroom sink with the only character a pair of hands and the occasional top of the head of a man, written, performed, and edited by Curtis Matzke with interesting music and great sound effects that really heightened the experience.

In “Close Ties to Home Country,” written, directed and outstandingly performed by Akanksha Cruczynski, an immigrant dog walker pines for home while having a weird connection to the animal she cares for.

“Winning in America,” produced by Amrita Singh, explores the relationship of an immigrant father and daughter as they prepare for the state regional competition of the National Spelling Bee.

“Get well soon” is another terrifically performed visually attractive vignette piece that focuses on the emotions of a young woman dealing with the illness of her father, written and directed by Ashley Thompson.

Similarly, “By the time I reach him” by Meg Walsh, uses black and white imagery with voiceover to portray an intimate voyeuristic conversation between a daughter and her Alzheimer afflicted father.

“Speck of Dust” is also a voiceover driven, introspective narrative film. Produced by Moroccan-American, Chicago-based filmmaker Simo Ezoubeiri, it has a vintage vibe that speaks to themes of loneliness and existence from the point-of-view of an elderly man.

“The Year I Went Looking for Birds” is kind of a video gallery of Danny Carroll that illustrates his ability to find interesting images, but it is more of a demo reel than a fully conceived production.

Virginia R. Matos produced “Monochromatic Dreams” which has a lovely musical score by Natalia Perez. It is the most straightforward documentary in the group offering insight into the work of Latinx media installation artist Yvette Mayorga.

“Shorts 1”  – Run time 76 minutes

Reno Lovison