Posts in Independent Film
MOVIE REVIEW: The Goldfinch

Normally, the book vs. movie argument centers around missed opportunities. The majority lament becomes about the necessary condensing and trimming executed by writers and filmmakers that shaves too much of the nuanced essence from the sprawling story of the written page. With The Goldfinch, a different effect occurs. Given a longer running time than most movies already and all the patience in the world, any additions of extra depth and detail to the film adaptation would not help. What is already present is bloated, sluggish, and ineffectual. That’s an odd circumstance to say the least. Talk about a movie that should have stayed a book.

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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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MOVIE REVIEW: Official Secrets

Most cinematic eras have their overuse of dramatic varnish in historical retellings as a means of painted shine for grabbing attention and producing supposedly heightened value. This writer will always contend that if a chosen story needs too much of that glitz, where it cannot compel or entertain with its own facts, it should not be made into a movie in the first place. Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets gives righteous treatment to such a worthy story and builds a stoic thriller by layering its merits with an eye for accuracy.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on August 26, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What is the best movie of this summer?

To end the month, David Ehrlich went for the season-ending trophy designation. He called upon us writers, podcasters, and more to tell us which film was the best of the summer. Personally, I think it was a substandard and lemon-filled summer comapred to years past. Redemption came in the form is several late-breaking exemplars that landed in July and early August. I repped one of those little guys as my pick for this week.

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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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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on August 19, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What is the best performance in a Richard Linklater movie?

After a small pause in early August, the IndieWire Critics Survey returned in time for the the release of Where’d You Go, Bernadette from renowned Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater. I count as a very positive fan of his work with the Before Trilogy and Boyhood on the drama side and Everybody Wants Some!! and School of Rock on the comedy end. When it comes to the best, I pick the biggest transformation of range that came from Jack Black in Bernie. What a stunner of a character shift from an actor compared to his usual.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Neurotically charming, yet misshapen in many ways, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is wholly unique from the Texan and Hollywood outsider. The movie has the equal ability to disarm and disgust depending on your perspective or experience with the Maria Semple source material. Non-readers will float with the staccato blustering and the Antarctic kayak currents of fancy. Ardent fans will wonder where all the scintillating mystery went that gave merit to all the haphazard happenings.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon doesn’t just tell a good story. It tells a great one worthy of attention, praise, and undying appreciation. The purifying freedom that churns throughout this movie could cultivate even the most barren heart. This little lovable film, winner of the Narrative Spotlight Audience Award from the SXSW Film Festival, is the kind of experience that makes one rethink how their own story is going. That is a mighty, motivating accomplishment for something that couldn’t stand out more from the usual summer blockbuster fare.

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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: Luce

The enigmas revealed by the spiraling escalation of manipulative confrontations are incredible in Luce. Through the masterful mystery of folding facades written by director Julius Onah and playwright/writer J.C. Lee of How to Get Away With Murder, there is a feverish anticipation of who’s going to turn, who’s going to crack, who’s going to fall, and who’s going to rise. The tension present is unpredictable and captivating.

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VINTAGE REVIEW: Medium Cool

When Medium Cool reaches its history-witnessing climax at the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, two crowd chants take over the urban soundscape. The first is a defiant “Hell no! We won’t go!” and the second is “The world is watching.” The observant cameras and microphones used by filmmaker Haskell Wexler preserved that spirited defiance for cinematic immortality. Fifty years after its release, the echoes of those unified shouts in Medium Cool still ring with relevance and importance today.  We’re not going anywhere, and people still fix their eyes on this film with shock and awe.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Surviving Confession

Now imagine you’re the priest in this exchange. You have to both witness and share this wrenching process and ordeal repeatedly, with every visitor on every occasion, and remain unflappable and restrained in doing so. Who has it harder now? Breaking the fourth wall and spilling waterfalls of internal monologue, Surviving Confession pokes and prods the person who is supposed to be the pillar of strength. The film debuted July 30th on VOD platforms.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on July 29, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What is the best Quentin Tarantino movie and why?

Friends and followers of my work and opinions on social media know that I differentiate “favorite” from “best.” Favorites are personal and very subjective. The things that are best tend to have a few more objective qualities and victories going for them. Sometimes a movie is both. For Quentin Tarantino, that’s not the case for me, but it’s close. My personal favorite is Jackie Brown. I love seeing what QT does within the boundaries of material that’s not his own, which, for me, shows more range that his absolute best self-made stuff. The best-of-the-best, though, is still an easy pick.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Astronaut

Through the niches and comely library aisles of off-label modest independent cinema, talent can elevate material. Sometimes the material isn’t the best at this level. A high class performer can come in and buoyantly lift an effort that wouldn’t have a chance to register or resonate with less. Little movies like that are easy to root for and even better to discover and appreciate. Richard Dreyfus bringing his talented capacity to Astronaut is exactly one of those exemplars.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on July 22, 2019

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: What is the best ever horror performance and how did it leverage the genre to accomplish something that might not have been possible in a more grounded type of film?

Horror is not my cup of tea, coffee, cocktail, or even water, and I didn’t see Midsommar which inspired this week’s survey question, but I have dipped my toe in enough good and classic horror to pick out a great performance or two. I’ve seen no one unravel under the fictional stresses better than Mia Farrow in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Into the Ashes

Restraint is not a common artistic or narrative characteristic in revenge films nowadays. We live in an explicit world where the louder and more outlandish outpourings of violence are what grab attention and audiences. The stern and sullen are taken as dull and tedious. Like its title, Into the Ashes resides in the crackling smolder instead of the bright flames. There is plenty of heat to burn and brand from that calmer temperature of cinematic coals. The movie debuts on July 19th in limited theatrical release and VOD outlets.

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