No Mall Movies! (Chicago Cinema)
21 August 2014
Film: YOUNG AND INNOCENT (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1937, UK) 
Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm
Observations: The small theatre was packed for this screening. This film has long been a favorite of mine and my spouse’s, though it’s generally only been available in crummy, public-domain dupe prints. Hitchcock was refining his technique in this film, perfecting the first-person dolly shot that became a standard part of his films - and delivering a bravura crane shot that we’d later see revived in NOTORIOUS and UNDER CAPRICORN. Also a captivating cast, including principals Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney and Edward Rigby.

21 August 2014

Film: YOUNG AND INNOCENT (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1937, UK) 

Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm

Observations: The small theatre was packed for this screening. This film has long been a favorite of mine and my spouse’s, though it’s generally only been available in crummy, public-domain dupe prints. Hitchcock was refining his technique in this film, perfecting the first-person dolly shot that became a standard part of his films - and delivering a bravura crane shot that we’d later see revived in NOTORIOUS and UNDER CAPRICORN. Also a captivating cast, including principals Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney and Edward Rigby.

20 August 2014
Film: WHAT IF (d. Michael Dowse, 2014, Canada/Ireland) 
Forum: Landmark Century Cinema       Format: DCP
Observations: The story and dialogue are strictly Screenwriting 101 - but any comedy feature set in Toronto (not merely filmed there) has earned my hard-won affection.

20 August 2014

Film: WHAT IF (d. Michael Dowse, 2014, Canada/Ireland) 

Forum: Landmark Century Cinema       Format: DCP

Observations: The story and dialogue are strictly Screenwriting 101 - but any comedy feature set in Toronto (not merely filmed there) has earned my hard-won affection.

12 August 2014
Film: THE SKIN GAME (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1931, UK) 
Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm
Observations: The Film Center has been screening prints from Hitchcock’s British period, including some seldom-seen titles that fall outside the “thriller” category ordinarily associated with the master. This film was an adaptation of a John Galsworthy play about the conflict between old gentry and new money, fought over a country estate - ending in blackmail and remorse. Hitchcock makes the most of the material, experimenting with strategies in sound and depth of field. And the film itself turns out to be highly lively, belying its stage origins.

12 August 2014

Film: THE SKIN GAME (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1931, UK) 

Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm

Observations: The Film Center has been screening prints from Hitchcock’s British period, including some seldom-seen titles that fall outside the “thriller” category ordinarily associated with the master. This film was an adaptation of a John Galsworthy play about the conflict between old gentry and new money, fought over a country estate - ending in blackmail and remorse. Hitchcock makes the most of the material, experimenting with strategies in sound and depth of field. And the film itself turns out to be highly lively, belying its stage origins.

9 August 2014
Film: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (d. David Wain, 2001, USA) 
Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm
Observations: About 35 folks attended this funny satire of Hollywood youth sex farces, populated with a brigade of emerging stars: Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper among others. Everyone was in a fit of giggles.

9 August 2014

Film: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (d. David Wain, 2001, USA) 

Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm

Observations: About 35 folks attended this funny satire of Hollywood youth sex farces, populated with a brigade of emerging stars: Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper among others. Everyone was in a fit of giggles.

3 August 2014

Film: JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (d. Frank Pavich, 2013, USA) 

Forum: Doc Films       Format: DCP

Observations: A handful of folks showed up for this screening, a brisk talking-head documentary about an abandoned 1974 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. Alejandro Jodorowsky is a great raconteur, and the interviews with other creative figures (H.R. Giger, Chris Foss) are very absorbing. But as the film moved into its final act - where the participants and modern critics assay the artistic influence of the unfinished movie - I felt unmoved and even a bit resentful at the lily-gilding claims of Jodorowsky’s importance to cinema. 

2 August 2014
Film: DUNE (d. David Lynch, 1984, USA) 
Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm
Observations: Thank you, Doc Films, for bringing this notorious feature back (in 35mm) for 2014 reexamination. Perhaps 35 curiosity seekers in the audience altogether. Neither as terrible as its reputation suggests, nor exactly a hidden gem, this feature manages to pack in just enough moments of madness (Kenneth McMillan as The Baron Harkonnen in his floating suit, the floating head of Virginia Madsen, Dean Stockwell as Dr. Wellington Yueh intoning “The Tooth, The Tooth”) to make the film entertaining, even as the story was utterly bewildering. Great use of sound (a hallmark of the Lynchian style), but the film could have been vastly improved with a good symphonic score instead of the rock strains of Toto.

2 August 2014

Film: DUNE (d. David Lynch, 1984, USA) 

Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm

Observations: Thank you, Doc Films, for bringing this notorious feature back (in 35mm) for 2014 reexamination. Perhaps 35 curiosity seekers in the audience altogether. Neither as terrible as its reputation suggests, nor exactly a hidden gem, this feature manages to pack in just enough moments of madness (Kenneth McMillan as The Baron Harkonnen in his floating suit, the floating head of Virginia Madsen, Dean Stockwell as Dr. Wellington Yueh intoning “The Tooth, The Tooth”) to make the film entertaining, even as the story was utterly bewildering. Great use of sound (a hallmark of the Lynchian style), but the film could have been vastly improved with a good symphonic score instead of the rock strains of Toto.

1 August 2014
Film: FIND ME GUILTY (d. Sidney Lumet, 2006, USA)
Forum: Home       Format: DVD (home collection)
Observations: A worthy end-of-career companion to Lumet’s famous cinematic adaptation of TWELVE ANGRY MEN, here the story of the longest criminal jury trial in American legal history. Vin Diesel turns out to be a excellent focus to a story with many moving pieces, playing the one defendant who represented himself at trial. Much of the trial dialogue, really quite incredible, is said to have been adapted straight from the trial transcripts. Recommended as a lawyer film (which I seldom find myself enjoying - most law-themed films I find are pretty terrible).

1 August 2014

Film: FIND ME GUILTY (d. Sidney Lumet, 2006, USA)

Forum: Home       Format: DVD (home collection)

Observations: A worthy end-of-career companion to Lumet’s famous cinematic adaptation of TWELVE ANGRY MEN, here the story of the longest criminal jury trial in American legal history. Vin Diesel turns out to be a excellent focus to a story with many moving pieces, playing the one defendant who represented himself at trial. Much of the trial dialogue, really quite incredible, is said to have been adapted straight from the trial transcripts. Recommended as a lawyer film (which I seldom find myself enjoying - most law-themed films I find are pretty terrible).

27 July 2014
Film: BOYHOOD (d. Richard Linklater, 2014, USA)
Forum: River East 21       Format: DCP
Observations: Half-full theatre for this screening, in one of the larger screening rooms.  I’ve been anticipating this feature ever since I learned at one of the director’s personal appearances that he was filming it over a twelve-year period. A happy byproduct of this method is that he captures the actual feel of the period (starting at the beginning of the millennium) instead of trying to create it retrospectively. The film is warm and flows nicely, and is certainly very entertaining. A distinct disappointment is the failure of the filmmaker to develop any of the characters beyond the central pair of son and father. But this is certainly top-drawer Linklater, which is saying quite a lot.

27 July 2014

Film: BOYHOOD (d. Richard Linklater, 2014, USA)

Forum: River East 21       Format: DCP

Observations: Half-full theatre for this screening, in one of the larger screening rooms.  I’ve been anticipating this feature ever since I learned at one of the director’s personal appearances that he was filming it over a twelve-year period. A happy byproduct of this method is that he captures the actual feel of the period (starting at the beginning of the millennium) instead of trying to create it retrospectively. The film is warm and flows nicely, and is certainly very entertaining. A distinct disappointment is the failure of the filmmaker to develop any of the characters beyond the central pair of son and father. But this is certainly top-drawer Linklater, which is saying quite a lot.

25 July 2014

Film: BOTTLE ROCKET (d. Wes Anderson, 1996, USA) and RUSHMORE (d. Wes Anderson, 1998, USA)

Forum: UWisconsin Madison Marquee       Format: 35mm

Observations: Another trip to Madison and another visit to the Cinematheque, here for a free screening of Anderson’s first two features. Comedy is so hard to do well (a happy combination of framing, acting, cutting, pacing, sound and dialogue), that it is something of a wonder that Anderson’s debut feature is a fine as it is. Anderson’s technique seems rawer in BOTTLE ROCKET than subsequent features, yet many of the techniques he used in his later films (his use of text and other visual cues, two-head shots like above, the coaching of the actors) are all here. And the technique reaches its apex in his sophomore feature, RUSHMORE, to my tastes a flawless and very funny film, not one frame out of place. So fabulous to see them with a large and appreciative audience.

23 July 2014
Film: BRAINSTORM (d. Douglas Trumbull, 1983, USA) 
Forum: Music Box Theatre       Format: 70mm
Observations: This film features alternating 35mm and 70mm segments, and provided the small gathered crowd at the theatre (all hunched up in the front rows) laughs and thrills galore. Favorite laugh moment, in a film packed with product placements, was cross-cutting between a child traumatically exposed to the secrets of Operation Brainstorm and father (Christopher Walken) eating out of a conspicuous bag of Ruffles potato chips. Not likely to see this film again. Not a great film but a fun film-going experience.

23 July 2014

Film: BRAINSTORM (d. Douglas Trumbull, 1983, USA) 

Forum: Music Box Theatre       Format: 70mm

Observations: This film features alternating 35mm and 70mm segments, and provided the small gathered crowd at the theatre (all hunched up in the front rows) laughs and thrills galore. Favorite laugh moment, in a film packed with product placements, was cross-cutting between a child traumatically exposed to the secrets of Operation Brainstorm and father (Christopher Walken) eating out of a conspicuous bag of Ruffles potato chips. Not likely to see this film again. Not a great film but a fun film-going experience.

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