Posts in Chicago Film Festival
FESTIVAL PREVIEW: The 10 best special presentations at the upcoming 55th Chicago International Film Festival

For the 55th year, the excellent and eclectic of national and international cinematic art descends on the Windy City for a fall conclave. The 55th Chicago International Film Festival begins on Wednesday, October 16th with the Opening Night bow of Edward Norton’s period crime drama Motherless Child and continues until October 27th with the Closing Night documentary premiere of The Torch chronicling the life of blues legend Buddy Guy. Norton’s film leads an eleven-day showcase of 21 different themed programs containing over 120 films.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Loyalty

As a school teacher by day beyond this role as a film critic, let me say that there can never be enough messages sent about the troubling epidemic of bullying. All are necessary. All are helpful. We need every personal testimonial. We need every pamphlet. We need every artistic measure of expression that can gather attention, provoke thoughts, and change a few hearts. The Chicago-made short film Loyalty from filmmaker Ira Childs is one of those necessary contributions. The short recently played at the 25th Black Harvest Film Festival at the Siskel Center.

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REVIEW COLLECTION: 5th annual Irish American Movie Hooley

As an Chicagoan of strong Irish descent myself, let me step in and play the part of “good authority.” I have it on good authority that the annual Irish American Movie Hooley is a boisterous event with a trio of buried treasure movies that normally wouldn’t grace American screens. Just as the event’s name translates: “When a party gets rowdy, the Irish call it a ‘hooley.’” You need to join the 5th edition of this artistic autumnal party at The Gene Siskel Film Center over the weekend of September 27–29. Come for the scene. Consume some friendly and fascinating culture. Here are my capsule reviews!

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Quoted in Reel Chicago for the short film "A Sisterhood of Signatures"

I’ve know film critic and now filmmaker Okema “Seven” Gunn for a few years now. She is someone I recruited into the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle for a time. When she tabled her review writing to work on her passion project of making a film, I told her I would first in line to give her work a proper review. Her film, A Sisterhood of Signatures, premiered at the Black Harvest Film Festival and recently had another showing at the Oak Park International Film Festival. I’m happy it’s getting itself out there, and I’m glad the words of my positive review could be a benefit for the film, as seen in recent coverage featured in Reel Chicago written by Daniel Patton:

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EVENT: The upcoming 5th annual Irish American Movie Hooley in Chicago

As an Chicagoan of strong Irish descent myself, let me step in and play the part of “good authority.” I have it on good authority that the annual Irish American Movie Hooley is a boisterous event with a trio of buried treasure movies that normally wouldn’t grace American screens. Just as the event’s name translates: “When a party gets rowdy, the Irish call it a ‘hooley.’” You need to join the 5th edition of this artistic autumnal party at The Gene Siskel Film Center over the weekend of September 27–29. Come for the scene. Consume some friendly and fascinating culture.

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EVENT: Season 9 of Asian Pop-Up Cinema in Chicago

Musicals, dramas, comedies, and thrillers are just some of the genres coming Chicago’s way from overseas during the ninth season of Asian Pop-Up Cinemas. For another month between September 10th to October 10th, the non-profit Sophie’s Choice film organization has brought another eclectic slate to the Windy City. Each season, Asian Pop-Up Cinema is the film series that cultivates American interest and understanding of Asian culture through movie storytelling.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: A Sisterhood of Signatures

One does not need millions of dollars to create an expression of personal passion. They need patience to see their vision through, a dedication to the project shared all involved, and the courage to put their work and themselves out there. Filmmaker Okema “Seven” Gunn harnessed all three of those values to make her short film A Sisterhood of Signatures and put them right back into the finished piece. She will proudly display her effort alongside the works of her inspirations and contemporaries as part of Chicago’s 25th Black Harvest Film Festival hosted by the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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EVENT: Special 90th anniversary festivities for the Music Box Theatre

Chicago’s famed Music Box Theatre, located near Wrigley Field in the Lakeview neighborhood, is nearly as old as its nearby ballpark neighbor. The historic venue opened its curtains on August 22, 1929 as the city’s first dedicated “talkie house.” The Southport Avenue gem is celebrating its 90th birthday this week with a special slate of outstanding programming that highlights both the rich history of film and the charm of the theater. Saying there’s something for everyone, from the casual fan to devout cinephile, would be an understatement. Follow the embedded links in this article for information and tickets.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blinded by the Light

Hell no, you don’t have to be a superfan of Springsteen to enjoy Blinded by the Light, but it sure helps. Even if The Boss is not your ideal vibe, the sprightly emotions on-screen cannot help but target and trigger your own matching passionate feelings for whatever you revere that answers the questions of Lesson #1. Following the affable and lovingly-composed musical worship recently achieved by Yesterday earlier this summer, welcome to your next toe-tapping crowd pleaser to close the summer of 2019.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Farewell

Even with this divisive indigenous practice happening to challenge the sensitivity of audiences, the universal human condition feels are extremely strong in one of the most entertaining and freeing film experiences of recent memory. The writer and director herself attests there is “not a wrong moment to laugh.” Lulu Wang is right. The catharsis, the grief, or both are intensely relatable. With that humorous dread and paralyzing poise, this distinct film carries poignant spirit. There is room in any season for an unexpected film to surround and heal one’s self in the difficult or awkward stakes of familial love and loss.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wild Rose

Tattooed on the right forearm of Jessie Buckley’s Rose-Lynn Harlan character from Tom Harper’s Wild Rose is the phrase “three chords and the truth.” It is an homage (and clear naming inspiration) to the quintessential description and motto of country music coined by 1950s era songwriter Harlan Howard. In spite of that mainstream majority, we’ve got a girl from Glasgow, Scotland behind bars with those historic words permanently etched into her skin. Foreign soil be damned, the honesty and harmony of hardscrabble is alive and well in Wild Rose. Shouts of anger and tirades of tears fuel the fights and the vocals churning from Jessie Buckley in what will stand as one of the finest performances of the year.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Yesterday

t takes quite a unique movie, dare I say even a special one, to take an absolutely preposterous concept and make it wholeheartedly joyful with extra whimsy. Know ahead that it is pure farce and fantasy, right there with something like Penny Marshall’s Big. Brush off the eye-rolling salt and you will find beaming smiles of sugar. That is the kind of serendipitous territory this movie zips through for the love letter of love letters to great music and the connecting pop culture we cherish.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival began May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre.  Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival in the country curated by film critics. For the third year in a row, Every Movie Has a Lesson will be credentialed to cover this fine spread of movie offerings.  Ranked in order of recommendation, here are my capsule reviews. Full pieces coming later when the respective films have their proper release:

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SPECIAL: Previewing the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

For the seventh consecutive year, many of the best domestic and international films on the festival circuit come to Chicago thanks to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival opens May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre in the northside Lakeview neighborhood. Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival curated by film critics in the nation. This year, 25 feature films and two short film programs comprise their rich and ambitious offering slate

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SPECIAL: See “Roma” in 70mm this week at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre

Chicago’s 90-year-old premiere arthouse venue will be exclusively presenting Alfonso Cuaron’s highly regarded Oscar contender Roma in widescreen 70mm. The Spanish-language film from Mexico will play on their main screen over the course of five days and fifteen showings between Wednesday, January 9th and Sunday the 13th. Tickets for Roma are $15 ($12 for Music Box members) and available now at their box office or online.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Favourite

The Favourite has a wider scope and warmer temperature than Lanthimos’ previous two films. His aim for deadpan delivery highly on display last year in The Killing of the Sacred Deer bends to occasionally include pulse-quickening emotions and diaphragm-shaking chuckles. The Favourite says that “love has limits.” The same can be said for Lanthimos. He is the exact definition of an acquired taste. The brilliance is there, with much to love and plenty still to rebuke.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Roma

That unfortunate fate could not be farther away from a film like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. For all of those possible extrapolations of commitment and dedication taking place within the craft of filmmaking, you may never, not this year and maybe several more after, see a more intimate artistic expression than this powerful and personal film. To the man making Roma, this film is special. To those viewing it, this film is important. To the art it serves, this film could be a potential masterpiece.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Rendezvous in Chicago

Michael Glover Smith’s third feature film channels Éric Rohmer to present three collisions of love occurring in the writer-director’s own beloved Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Smith’s canny talent to pen and juggle a triptych is not what impresses the most. Rather, what is greater, quite simply, is his sense of feel as a storyteller and filmmaker.

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