Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, August 18-24, 2023
A poetic first feature, Morrisa Maltz’s “The Unknown Country” is a splendid showcase for Lily Gladstone, seen in Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” and soon in a lead role in Martin Scorsese’s epic “Killers Of The Flower Moon.” Small, sketched in, sometimes documentary in affect, the modest yet specific details of the filmmaking on a road trip on passage from the Midwest to the border with Texas and Mexico are pieced together with powerful impact through the gravity and luminousness of Gladstone’s performance. Maltz comes from documentary, but her eye captures the lyrical. Opens Friday, August 18 at Siskel.
Smash hit “Oppenheimer” loses IMAX and premium large screens this week for the latest origin story from Warner Bros. Discovery-DC, “Blue Beetle.” The Los Angeles Times’ Katie Walsh got to see it: “In what feels like a watershed, a movie showcases a Latino superhero centrally and fully, along with his culture, family, food and, subversively, politics.”
It’s the day of damn dirty dogs in the R-rated “Strays,” from the director Josh Greenbaum (“Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar”). The studio synopsis: “When Reggie (Will Ferrell), a naïve, relentlessly optimistic Border Terrier, is abandoned on the mean city streets by his lowlife owner, Doug (Will Forte), Reggie is certain that his beloved owner would never leave him on purpose. But once Reggie falls in with a fast-talking, foul-mouthed Boston Terrier named Bug (Oscar winner Jamie Foxx), a stray who loves his freedom and believes that owners are for suckers, Reggie finally realizes he was in a toxic relationship and begins to see Doug for the heartless sleazeball that he is.” With Josh Gad, Harvey Guillén, Rob Riggle, Brett Gelman, Jamie Demetriou and Sofia Vergara. Opens Friday in theaters.
Talking family in Dustin Guy Defa’s “The Adults“: “Eric (Michael Cera) returns home to visit his sisters Maggie (Sophia Lillis) and Rachel (Hannah Gross).” Opens Friday, August 18 at Siskel.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
This week’s attractions include the hustle and bustle of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (Second City Film School at Music Box, Monday, August 21, 7pm); memorial screenings of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure“(Landmark Century, Saturday, 7pm; Sunday, 12:45pm) and the clockwork mayhem of Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy,” in a restored, 4K digital edition (in the big house at the Music Box, Friday-Monday, August 18-21).
And below, “Where The Wild Things Are“; “Titanic” and Lars von Trier presents the shortest Dogme 95 film of them all.
“The Root and the Harvest” is a collection of short works from Mexico and Chicago in conversation with each other through “found footage, animation, and personal videos… using identity as a way of expanding time, connecting desperate times with images, and opposing the immobility of the past. The program highlights both countries and how they use the medium to talk about past events and the ways they affect the present… These works are a visually pleasing, humorous hallucinatory montage consisting of concrete realities reminiscent of formal precision and tenderness.” Programmed for Nightingale Projects by Raul Benitez and Tzutzu Matzin. Siskel, Monday, August 21, 6pm.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
Adaptation is translation, reducing, expanding, conflating, destructing, reconstructing, smashing, dashing, bowling, bawling, making personal what already was, what always was. In a brief ninety minutes or so, if you discount the end credits, Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers’ 2009 “Where The Wild Things Are,” their adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s nine-sentence 1963 illustrated children’s book, captures the sensation of a child’s head, buzzing as with bees, filled with parts yet to be connected and potential yet to be explored and acted upon and lived up to. It’s the opposite of the usual studio-film obstacle of attempting to compress a 500-page novel into the confines of a traditional feature film length. The result is a “wild rumpus” throughout, to use a phrase from the story. The events are episodic, resulting in an elliptical character, a scattiness, that’s slightly disconcerting in the theater, yet the morning-after taste that’s left is rich with the sensation of febrile, pre-hormonal surges of imagination yet to find its flowering. The movie is largely handheld, and shot in Jonze and cinematographer Lance Acord’s favorite glumboat colors, blue, gray and grayer. The music, by Karen O and Carter Burwell, is iPod-pop amid rumbles of thunder, bursts of minor-chord sad songs of strum, hum or murmur. This is a melancholy beast. The monsters, huge and strange, are all quivering components of the boy’s own emotions. The largest and angriest, Carol, is voiced by James Gandolfini, and is banded with a striped “shirt” of fur, accentuating him as the biggest pouty boy on the reservation. “Kid-friendly” screening, Drafthouse, Friday, August 18, 11am.
So quaint, so long ago, in setting and in its world of first release, “Titanic.” Here’s the opening of our review from that time, decades and a few billion dollars ago. “Time is James Cameron’s great hiccup. His worlds warp the future with the past, and several movies he’s made, such as ‘Terminator 2’ and ‘True Lies,” have also suffered from breathless hurry to meet studio release dates. Pre-release buzz on the multi-hundred-million-budgeted ‘Titanic’ dwelt on the cash invested by a pair of media conglomerates. But now that ‘Titanic’ is on the horizon, you can see for yourself that it’s probably Cameron’s best movie, and certainly one of the best of the year. While as a driven storyteller, Cameron not only tries to raise the level of commercial moviemaking standards, he also erects dauntingly colossal challenges to himself as a filmmaker. And as with the ‘Terminator’ movies, time and memory remain his fixation. Cameron dares to combine his knack for spectacle with the intimate details of a sweetly corny, D.W. Griffith-simple love story between the privileged, but trapped young socialite, Rose (Kate Winslet) and the dead-broke, spirited artist Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Then he provides a contemporary set of bookends, unfolding the story through a 101-year-old survivor’s recounting the story to a crew of techno-buccaneers who intend to salvage valuables from the long-dead wreck. While Cameron’s dialogue never rises to literature, his storytelling verve, in details large and small, again demonstrates his grand range of skills.” 194m. A version of our complete interview with James Cameron from when “Titanic” was released is here. Chicago Film Society is showing its own 35mm print. In the Music Box big house, Wednesday, August 23, 7pm.
In under two minutes, Lars von Trier’s Dogma #36 is a stone masterpiece, the Danish imp in dotage, captured in a few naked seconds and a big, naked appeal. Consider the sixty-seven-year-old auteur confessing to “Parkinson’s disease, OCD, controlled alcoholism, somewhat charming company on a good day.”
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