Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Chicago International Film Festival

The Music Box Theater.

“Dream Scenario:” Hilarious and Nicolas Cage Is Brilliant In It


Hapless family man Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) finds his life turned upside down when millions of strangers suddenly start seeing him in their dreams in this blackly comic film from Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli. Making his English-language debut, Oslo-born writer-director Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself) follows the rise and fall of one man’s fifteen minutes of fame, a mordantly funny and playfully twisted take on the collective consciousness of modern life, where just about anyone can suddenly become a strange kind of celebrity, and fall back into obscurity or infamy just as quickly. It was Borgli’s film “Drib” that screened at SXSW in 2017 where I saw it as Press that alerted the L.A. executives that this young man had a very unusual point-of-view and the skills to translate his vision(s) to the screen.

The 38-year-old appeared with his film at the Music Box Theater on Saturday, October 15, 2023, as part of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.  Of this amazingly hilarious and original film and his burgeoning career, Kristoffer said, “They picked me up from the streets. I was like a nobody.”

That might be exaggerating a bit, as Kristoffer moved from working in a video store, to trying to write screenplays, to the visual side by producing skateboard videos, music videos and, later, commercials. What makes this film so good, however, is his very unique view of life and a satirical sense of style that has been cultivated by viewing things like Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” as well as by his life experiences.

“It was one of the best scripts I’ve read, quite frankly, and I think it’s my best performance and probably the best movie I’ve ever made,” says Cage, who has appeared in more than 100 films. Cage actually called up A24 executives to convince them he was the right person to play this character.


Kristoffer Borgli

Kristoffer Borgli, Director of “Dream Scenario” on October 14 at the Music Box Theater in Chicago.

Paul Matthews is completely unmemorable. In fact, Nicolas Cage, bearded and with a bald pate, looks more like F. Murray Abraham than Nicolas Cage. Cage has been doing some interesting films lately and having a career resurgence of sorts, with a much-praised performance in “Pig” as well as “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” and “Renfield.” This film will add to Cage’s upward trajectory, as it is enjoyable, hilarious, unique, and blackly comic, all while examining the entire idea of cancel culture and identity politics.

Borgli, when asked about the sudden fame that is thrust upon his main character and his own thoughts on fame, said, “You’re not allowed to be famous in Norway.  Nobody acts like they’re better than anyone else.” [My Norwegian Grandfather Ole Monson would agree with that.]

Paul Matthews is initially quite happy to be temporarily famous. Everyone is seeing this nebbishy professor in their dreams, where he is generally doing nothing. In fact, his doing nothing is a point of discussion. The film opens with a sequence where Paul’s daughter Sophie (Lily Bird) is imperiled while sitting poolside. Paul does nothing, but continues raking leaves by their pool. (“You don’t do anything. You’re just there.”) After a particularly frightening incident where an intruder threatens Paul and Janet with a knife, the authorities comment, “It seems like you were pretty helpless in this situation.”

When his students start asking him “How does it feel to go viral?” Paul responds, “I actually enjoy my anonymity.”


Paul’s wife, Janet, played by Julianne Nicholson (“Mare of Easttown,” “Boardwalk Empire”) is concerned that Paul’s new-found fame might cause difficulty from the very beginning, but Paul—who has always talked about publishing in his field, but hasn’t written that book yet—thinks that perhaps his 15 minutes of fame will open doors for him with a publisher. At this point, the dreams that Paul has appeared in have been completely boring and un-memorable. He seems to be an inadequate loser, merely walking through the lives of the dreamers.

Unfortunately, the dreams go South Big-time. Some of the dreams become actual nightmares, with Paul murdering students and others. Some of the dreams become sexual. One of the most hilarious scenes occurs when Molly (Dylan Gelula of “Hacks,” “Shameless,” “Casual”) tries to get Paul to re-enact the dream sequence she had, which was sexual. She makes Paul stand in the corner and tells him, “Please don’t speak. Just do the dream.” The sex is awkward, weird and hilarious—(just like real sex). The director singled this out as one of his favorite scenes, but also mourned the loss of a scene set in Paris where a woman is affixed to a wall, surrounded by baguettes and being tortured. Said Borgli, “How do you tape her to the wall? We had to cut the scene for a variety of reasons.”

At some point, Paul is dubbed “Paultergeist” and a texted message says, “I kinda’ don’t like going to bed now.” It’s a big change for Paul’s weird ability to enter the subconscious of dreaming subjects; it will lead nowhere good.


Kristoffer Borgli

Director Kristoffer Borgli of “Dream Scenario” at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.

Enter Mary (Kate Berlant) and Trent (Michael Cena of “Barbie,” “Superbad” and “Life & Beth”). They have a company that holistically pairs brands with unconventional celebrities. Calling Paul “The most interesting person in the world” the duo tell him they can get him a 6-figure deal to sell the rights to his life. The interested corporation would like him to do “Sprite” ads.

Paul, who went to the interview with “Thoughts” thinking that his book might become a reality finally, says, “I don’t want my Wikipedia page to  be about that.” He explains that he is an evolutionary biologist with a PhD. We have also heard his lecture about zebras and their stripes and how the purpose of the stripes is not to stand out, but to help each individual zebra stay hidden in the herd, so that predators do not attack the individual.

When Paul’s “fame” becomes negative fame, Thought attempts to pivot the deal they had been planning (Sprite or a tie-in with Obama) to less wholesome buyers, like “Rue Morgue Magazine.” It’s all about the Benjamins. “Thoughts” wants to cash in on Paul’s fame. Therefore, Paul’s book becomes very short. It is now named “Je Suis Un Cauchemar” (I Am A Nightmare).


A company called Norio, whose CEO is Cousin Greg from “Succession” (Nicholas Braun), sees the potential in marketing a bracelet that will let companies intrude on people’s dreams to “pitch” various products. (Imagine the  pharmaceutical companies that would leap at that opportunity!) They guarantee “no nightmares” and an entire industry springs up because of the phenomenon of Paul’s Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame as a mass dream subject.

The implications are mind-boggling. The entire subject of someone who has done nothing being drummed from the corps is interesting to ponder. Cancel culture, as it is known, has come down recently on Russell Brand and, previously, on Kevin Spacey. True, those individuals may have stepped outside society’s boundaries. Perhaps they deserved the Amish shunning they received.

But there are innocent people who suffer such a fate, when they were NOT guilty of anything. I thought of the Atlanta bombing incident at the 1996 Olympics, which was the subject of the movie “Richard Jewell.”  Richard Jewell became suspected of being the bomber after an FBI leak, when Jewell actually had helped avert the tragedy. I can think of three incidents in my own life, where I was “exiled-when-innnocent.” They still trouble me. No, there was never any retribution or any apologies for the injustice(s). I think many of you will be able to relate to the hapless Paul, who even goes on television to say, “I’m the biggest victim in the whole phenomenon.” He apologizes to the world for the brutal nightmares dreamers are unwittingly experiencing.

Wife Janet, hearing Paul on TV is not amused. She tells him it is “embarrassing to be married to you right now.” Having just seen another Norwegian film about being embarrassed by one’s significant other (“The Hypnotism,” also a comedy) I wondered, “What makes Norwegians so prone to dark thoughts and black comedy?” Maybe it’s the weather? Too late to ask my Norwegian grandfather or my Dutch grandmother.


Kristoffer Borgli

Q&A after the screening of Borgli’s film “Dream Scenario” at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.

Asked about happy endings during the Q&A, Writer/Director Borgli said, “In a way, I think happy endings make you less resilient to life’s ups and downs. We need to be more truthful. For me, comedy is the way to counteract life’s difficulties.”

He went on, “A version of you lives inside people’s heads, and they build a vision of you, based on that.” In interviews, Borgli has said, “I’m drawn to stubborn characters, who live and die by their own unattainable principles.” This is certainly true of Paul who says of his class (they all claim to have been traumatized and there is a hilarious scene where they are being treated for their trauma as a class): “Trauma is a joke. They need to grow up.” Paul also refuses to leave a restaurant when asked to do so and suffers a beating. He shows up at his daughter’s recital, which causes even more grief.


A special nod should go to casting director Ellen Lewis, a Chicago native, who worked for 34 years with Martin Scorsese and has done a great job of putting the right actor in each part. Dylan Baker (“Happiness,” “Revolutionary Road,” “The Good Wife”) plays the host of the dinner party from hell. Tim Meadows, who spent 10 seasons on “Saturday Night Live” and has appeared on “Poker Face” has a small part that he makes the most of, especially when he lets Paul sleep in his basement, but the overhead light buzzes and cannot be shut off.*

Costumer Natalie Bronfman (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) who supervised the clothing and shoes that Paul wears also did a superb job. The David Byrne suit from “Stop Making Sense” was a huge hit with the audience!


This film premiered in Toronto. Make sure you mark it down when it streams or plays theaters. It is a comic jewel, but also has some great observations. To quote Paul Matthews, “I don’t want to be some culture war person.” The “Thoughts” people, still trying to make a buck from Paul’s bad luck, tell him they think they can get him on Tucker Carlson and that they love him in France.

Did you smile? You’ll laugh outright at this movie, and Nicolas Cage is great in it!


(*Totally unrelated aside: At a memorable Book Expo America conference in New York City that I attended, we stayed at the Hyatt hotel that is connected to Grand Central Station. It was a Trump hotel, originally, which seems about right. The light switches in the rooms were very weird. They were not normal light switches, but modernistic, and they did not work well. In fact, nothing in that room worked well. The exact thing depicted in the film happened to me at the Trump Commodore-cum- Hyatt (or whatever its name was.) I could not shut the lights off and had to sleep with a pillow over my head. Also, the water in the bathtub barely came out and never got hot. Later that night, I got a finger stuck in the pop machine, which was very painful. Maybe there is something special about Norwegians that sets us up for this stuff to seem funny later, because I did and do see the humor in that horrible hotel—although I never went back to another conference if it was being held in that location.)

“Pfiaff” Has U.S. Premiere at 58th Chicago International Film Festival

When her sibling Zara suffers a nervous breakdown, the introverted Eva is forced to take on Zara’s job as a Foley artist. She struggles to create sounds for a commercial featuring a horse. The commercial is for a mood stabilizer known as Equili, which, among other side effects, can lead to high blood sugar inducing coma and death.

The title “Pfiaffe” derives from a diagonal dressage movement and from the French verb “to strut” or “to paw the ground”.  The film is German, with subtitles and was shot in Berlin.

“Pfiaff” director Ann Oren.

“Pfiaffe” won the Best International Feature at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Junior Jury Award at the Locarno International Film Festival. Here in Chicago, the film was nominated for the Gold Hugo New Directors Competition. Its showing on October 20th was its United States premiere.

When a ridiculously coiffed director tells Eva that her sound work for the Equili commercial is not up to snuff, he suggests to her that she actually go out and learn what a horse sounds like. Eva does so and seems quite smitten with horses, in general.

The director explained that, as in the beginning of the film “Nope,” this was related to the few minutes of film thought to be the very first moving picture image ever captured. The short piece of film was captured by 19th century inventor and adventurer Eadweard Muybridge in 1878. Muybridge had been commissioned to study the movement of a galloping horse.

Then, a horsetail starts growing out of Eva’s body. Empowered by her tail, she lures a botanist into an affair through a game of submission. Lots of erotic imagery, including Eva swallowing an entire rose, stem and all.

PIAFFE is a visceral journey into control, gender, and artifice. It is sexy and proves that men always want to get a little tail. (small joke there).

But, seriously, the horse tail really works for Eva (Simone Bucio). She commences the strange affair with the botanist  and dances with abandon at a night club. We also learn a lot about how ferns are self-fertilizing hermaphrodites.

Piaffe is Ann Oren’s first feature after a decade of working as an artist. The director said, “The film began, for me, with images.” She called the film “a playful drama with comic interludes.”

She also described the lead actor having to rehearse via zoom from Switzerland, because it was shot during Covid.

Director Ann Oren of “Pfiaff.”

Asked about the choice of Simone Bucio to portray Eva, Director Oren said, “Some actresses just didn’t get the voyage of the character.”

Of Bucio’s audition, Oren said, “I saw something very special in her. Every one of her takes was so powerful.”

Director Ann Oren was present at the screening on October 20th and said, “I don’t know what to compare it to. It’s its own thing.” The film opens wide in the U.S. on November 3rd.



Silver Hugo: October 21, 2022
PIAFFE (Germany)
Dir. Ann Oren
The audacious, unconventional PIAFFE’s emphasis on the texture and process of cinema can be seen both in its aesthetic and its engaging characters. Ann Oren’s work is a sensual journey into the erotic and unpredictable. The extraordinary sound design and use of overexposure in particular encourage a new faith in the power of cinema.



“The Natural History of Destruction” at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival

“Babi Yar. Context” (AP 1944 Photo)


Perhaps the most succinct thing that can be said about “The Natural History of Destruction,” a film that screened at Cannes by Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, is that there is nothing “natural” in destroying what has taken civilization centuries to build. There is nothing “natural” about massive civilian loss of life. This screening was the North American Premiere of the film.

On October 22nd, the film was awarded the Silver Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival, with the following comments:

Silver Hugo
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF DESTRUCTION (Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands)
Dir. Sergei Loznitsa
Sergei Loznitsa has accomplished a pure cinematic experience which displaces our political positions, and compels us to empathize with the German citizens living through the war they instigated. By means of meticulous and slow editing, a complex array of scenes, rich with nuanced sonic detail, unfold in front us. The archival black and white images are breathless and relentless: they confront us without buffer with the horror of the war machine, to which there are no winners and everyone is a victim. The rare and strategic placement of speeches, as well as the occasional leak of color into the scenes, punctuate the otherwise non verbal stretches of accumulating horror: we witness war from all angles – from above and below, from close up and from afar, from within the machine performing the wreckage, from the factory assembling its parts, and from the bottom of the ruins it leaves behind.

This 1 hour and 52 minute film is based on the book by German writer  W.G. Sebald, “Air War and Literature.” It has no narration, as such, and consists solely of archival material of bombs being made. Bombs being loaded  onto war planes. Planes dropping bombs. Bombs exploding. Dead bodies on the ground. Civilians suffering the after-effects of the bombings.

There is, however a prelude of sorts where we see the happy civilian populace of a variety of cities—mostly in Germany, it appears, from the blimp flying overhead (OL-2129) with the German swastika on its tail. The people are enjoying life, unaware of the tragedy that is about to befall them.

Most of the footage is black-and-white, but it lapses into color periodically. What we see of the unnamed cities are bombed-out craters, buildings on fire, and complete rubble. In other words, it looks a lot like the Ukrainian cities that are being bombed by the Russians now, or like the remains of Naples, Florida after Hurricane Ian.

What little narration there is may be mumbled voices saying things like: “I’ve never seen anything like this.” “Neither have I.” “4,000 pounds just went up.” “Good show!”

The use of “Good show” pins down the bombers as being the RAF (British Royal Air Force), but the Luftwaffe is also involved in a variety of dogfights, and we hear other speakers (Churchill, Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, Field Marshal Mongtomery) talking about the entrance into the war of the United States: “Now we are no longer alone.  We have powerful allies.  Many tonnage of explosives can be carried into Germany.” Prime Minister Winston Churchill is shown being applauded by crowds in the streets and saying  the British shall “stride forward into the unknown.”

Churchill is also heard saying:  “We shall drive on to the end and do our duty, win or die. God helping us,  we can do no other.”  Churchill also urges German civilians to flee the cities where munitions are being made and watch their country burn from afar (or something else remarkably uncharitable).

A German voice, unidentified, decries the “shameful bloody campaign of today” and vows to fight on using counter-terrorism. You get the feeling that the director simply wants to make the point that killing innocent civilians of ANY country is unjustified, but the lack of identification of cities or speakers or air forces leaves one adrift. Are we looking at the ruins of Germany or of England? It probably doesn’t matter to the director, who simply wants to make the point that this sort of wanton destruction is wrong, no matter what.

British officer Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris is heard saying, “There are a lot of people saying bombing can never win a war. So, then, I say, we shall see. Germany will make a most interesting initial experiment.”

I live near Arsenal Island in Rock Island County, Illinois. The island has been involved in making munitions for the U.S. Army for a very long time—at least back to the Civil War, when it also served as a POW camp for captured Confederate soldiers.  In the event of a nuclear Armageddon, which seems more and more likely with leaders like Vladimir Putin on the loose, we will have a big target on our backs as the enemy attempts to wipe out the capabilities of this large government installation.

I hope this Ukrainian filmmaker’s plea that people wake up and quit wreaking destruction on peaceful civilians in such horrible ways  finds an audience of sane leaders, but it seems less likely with every passing day. “The Natural History of Destruction” opens on October 17, 2022.

58th Chicago International Film Festival (Oct. 12-23) & Austin Film Festival (Oct. 27-Nov. 3) Next

Kenneth Branaugh on October 21, 2021, with his Lifetime Achievement Award fro the Chicago International Film Festival.

If you were mourning the loss of the Nashville Film Festival, which ended yesterday, stay tuned for the beginning of the 58th Chicago International Film Festival, beginning next week. Technically, it will kick off Oct. 12 and run through the 2rd.


Then it will be the Austin Film Festival, Oct. 27-Nov. 3, which may (or may not) be followed by the Denver Film Festival (streaming).

So, keep checking for upcoming reviews of the very newest of features, documentaries and shorts.

Watch All the Originals: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu & Now Apple

The battle for viewers is ramping up on streaming services, with Apple’s entry into the field, competing with the more established Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and—also—with channels such as the Sundance Channel. Add to that services like Showtime and HBO and the competition for viewers becomes even more fierce.

A recent entry on Netflix, which began streaming on Friday (November 1, 2019) was the second season of “Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski. I watched season one, which was set in the Middle East. While it was well-done, I am enjoying season two, set in Venezuela more. Perhaps that is because I have actually visited Caracas, whereas I have not visited the Middle East and don’t expect to any time soon. I say that while realizing that shooting probably did not take place in that currently chaotic country, but there definitely was on-location shooting for the series. It looks expensive to film.

I’ve been enjoying the series “Castle Rock” on Hulu. It’s related to the genre in which I have published, with 3 novels in “The Color of Evil” series and 3 books in “Hellfire & Damnation.” Watching the pre-cursor of Kathy Bates’ “Misery” character, played by Lizzie Caplan (previously of “Masters & Johnson”) was interesting. The writing and execution, with talents like Scott Glenn, Frances Conroy and Sissie Spacek involved in various stories, has been well above par. Hulu also has another season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to entertain, which we haven’t gotten to yet. Meanwhile, there is the “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the much-acclaimed comedy series with Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein and Tony Shaloub. It has garnered numerous Emmy awards for its stars. I’m also eagerly anticipating friend Jonathan Maberry’s vampire series, filmed in Canada, which premieres in early December with star Ian Somerhalder.

Then there are the “Don’t Miss” movies of the season as the race heats up heading towards Oscar season. Films like “The Irishman,” which Netflix bankrolled to the tune of $150 to $200 million, are being shown in theaters in select cities to qualify for the Oscar race, after which “The Irishman” will premiere on Netflix—all 3 hours and 20 minutes of it—-on November 27th.

I just returned from the Chicago International Film Festival. I am still reviewing film(s) from the Denver Film Festival, long distance. It is impossible to watch ALL of the films offered, but I managed to squeeze 42 films into a brief 2-week span. The day that I attended “The Torch” at 10 a.m. (a Buddy Guy documentary), followed by “Seberg” (Kirstin Stewart and Jack McConnell) for over 2 hours, followed by “The Irishman” for 3 hours and 20 minutes, followed by the late-night showing of “Into the Vast,” (a sci-fi epic about strange noises coming over the radio in a small town that set the town’s DJ and friends off on a search for the origin of the noises can best be summed up by these script lines, “They’re here. They’re really here.”) was a l-o-o-o-n-g day.

Of all the 42 films and documentaries that I took in between October 13-27, the two that are Don’t Miss are “Ford v. Ferrari,” with Christian Bale and Matt Damon, and Martin Scorsese’s epic “The Irishman,” with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano and a host of others. It is definitely a worthy and classic film in the Scorsese cannon. I highly recommend it if you have enjoyed Scorsese gangster films (“Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas”) over the years.


Greta Fernandez Makes Sara Sensational in “A Thief’s Daughter” at CIFF

Living in public housing with her infant son, Joel, in tow, Sara hustles to string together enough part-time work in menial jobs to move out. The 22-year-old is determined to make a better life for herself and her child and to rescue her kid brother, Martin, who is crippled and living in a social services group home.

Sara’s love interest, Dani (Alex Monner) is supportive of young Joel, but is unwilling to commit. Sara also has a hearing loss and wears a hearing aid. Just as things are starting to look up and a new job in a food service firm that makes 800 meals a day offers her a permanent contract, her ex-convict father Manuel turns up.

Greta Fernandez in “A Thief’s Daughter” Q&A on October 21st at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival.

A First Communion party for Martin is a turning point in the film. Young Martin locks himself in the bathroom, asking his older sister to call their father to come to the party. Although Sara had made up her mind to challenge Manuel in court for custody of Martin and resist Martin’s suggestion, she finally relents in the face of the young boy’s desire to see his father. That lets trouble back into Sara’s life.

Greta Fernandez, Spanish actress and star of “A Thief’s Daughter,” at the Chicago International Film Festival.

The ending, where Sara is in court, after all the troubles she has endured, reminded me, in tone and intensity, of the gut-wrenching scenes in “Monster’s Ball” that ultimately won Halle Berry an Oscar. Beautifully acted by Greta Fernandez (her acting was recognized by the San Sebastian Film Festival) the part of her father, Manuel, is well-played by Greta’s actual real-life father, Eduard Fernandez, who is a big star in Spain. (33 wins; 38 nominations).

In the Q&A following this Spanish-language film, Greta shared with us that not only was her father playing her father, but the young man playing her love interest Dani , Alex Monner, is her best friend. Director Belan Fumes worked on the script for the film (with Marcel Cebrian) for two years. Shooting, as is customary in Spanish language productions, took about 2 weeks. (She shared with us that her work on a Netflix film, by contrast, was over 4 weeks.) Neus Olle handled the cinematography quite well, for the most part (especially in the final scene), but it is Greta Fernandez who shines through in her part as the strong yet sensitive young woman who has been kept down by society for far too long and is struggling mightily to rise up.

“Ford v. Ferrari” and “Girl on the Third Floor” in Chicago

“Ford v Ferrari” – In what is sure to be one of the best movies of the year, Christian Bale and Matt Damon recreate the face-off between Ford Motor Company and Ferrari at the 24 Hour of LeMans in 1966.  Everything about the movie is top-notch, including the performances, the cinematography, and the music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.  Besides that, it’s a true story of legendary racer and sports car designer Carroll Shelby and ace driver Ken Miles. Originally titled “Go Like Hell” with rumors of Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise to star, the casting is great and it’s a truly entertaining film. (Releases Nov. 15th)

“Girl on the Third Floor” – Producer-turned-Director Travis Stevens shepherds a Chicago cast through a haunted house in Frankfurt, Illinois on the outskirts of the windy city. Queensbury Productions cast WWE fighter C.M. Punk (Don Koch as Phil Brooks) as the expectant father fixing up the house so that he and his pregnant wife can move to the burbs. The house has a different agenda for the couple, who are trying to rebuild their lives together after the tattooed husband ripped off the retirement funds of his clients in the investment business (and cheated on the Mrs.). Two months of shooting produced electrical outlets that ooze, gallons of gushing blood, marbles that mysteriously roll about on their own and a totally chill German Shepherd called Cooper in the film. In real life, Ryker, the German Shepherd, died before the film was released, which is too bad, because he was the best thing in it. Able support from Travis Delgado as black friend Milo Stone and music by Steve Albini. (Streaming on October 25th and in select theaters.).

55th Chicago International Film Festival Begins October 16th

The 55th Chicago International Film Festival starts Wednesday, October 16th, opening with Edward Norton directing and starring in the film adaptation of “Motherless Brooklyn” (with Bruce Willis co-starring). The book, by Jonathan Lethem, won the New York Book Circle Award some years back and it has been a long time coming to the screen. “Motherless Brooklyn” will open the 55th year for America’s longest-running film competition, which runs from October 16th through October 27th.

It hasn’t opened to the public yet, but critics have already had the opportunity to see the new film from Corneliu Porumboiu, “The Whistlers,” which will be the Czech Republic’s entry for the Academy Awards. The involved noir tale follows the adventures of a corrupt, middle-aged policeman named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) who travels from Bucharest to the Canary islands to study the ancient Aboriginal whistling language, which allows criminals to communicate clandestinely. Director Porumboiu, in interviews from Cannes, says he became interested in this authentic language after seeing a piece on television describing it. There’s a femme fatale named Gilad (homage to Rita Hayworth intentional), quick clips of “The Searchers” (which is one reason the original title, “La Gomera,” was changed to “The Whistlers”) and a gorgeous opportunity to see lighted garden display in Singapore, which runs 12 minutes and shows two times a night. It’s a complicated caper plot. When asked about the finale Hong Kong Gardens light show and how he knew about it, Porumboiu said, “YouTube.” (Romanian English with subtitles, 97 minutes).

This film from director Harold Holscher has a wonderfully moody, menacing, supernatural plot and the South African cinematography is gorgeous. It revolves around a black man named Lazarus (aptly named) and his interaction with a South African family returning to their family farm after many years. A little girl named Mary will be the focus of the film and the spine-tingling, creepy, well-acted central performance by Tahamano Sebe as Lazarus holds the film together. The female performances, especially the ingenue, Mary, are not as impressive, but there are visceral scares and a heartbreaking plot. (98 minutes)

This documentary traces the life and achievements of Milos Forman, who won Oscars for directing both “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975 and “Amadeus” in 1984. There are a multitude of film clips of young Milos, his parents, Prague where he grew up, and some personal shots from his widow. Forman died on April 13, 2018, and this documentary about his life, directed by Helena Trestikova and Jakub Hejna is a treasure trove of archival footage that traces Forman’s life and career. Both of Forman’s parents are taken away to concentration camps when he was young, leaving him feeling like an outsider in the world. (His mother died in Auschwitz and his father in Buchenwald.) It’s well worth a look. (78 minutes)

JUST 6.5
Saving the best of those I’ve seen so far for last, from Iran comes this riveting story of detective Samad (Peyman Maadi, of “A Separation”), whose mission is to bring down powerful drug kingpin Nasser Khakzad. The first 8 minutes of this film is as riveting and intense as the opening of “Shallow Grave.” There is a foot chase through winding alleyways that forces the runner over a fence and (inadvertently) into a deep hole where he is buried alive. The film was a hit in its native land and it’s easy to see why. It’s a high-octane look at the drug trade and the criminal justice system in Iran. (Farsi with subtitles, 135 minutes)

“A Moon of Nickel and Ice” from Canadian Director Francois Jacob: Grim

Director Francois Jacob of “A Moon of Nickel and Ice” (Canada).

In the ice Russian mining city of Norilsk, residents endure sub-zero temperatures and the weight of a dark history: Once a Soviet labor camp in the 1930’s and 1940’s, tens of thousands of political prisoners died while extracting nickel ore from beneath the tundra.

In this visually striking and haunting documentary, local inhabitants, including a wry theater director, patriotic miners, cynical students and a rebellious historian, confront both past and present.

My companion and I first saw “Thoroughbreds” and we were mightily entertained and impressed. I promised him that if the first 15 minutes didn’t “grab” us, we could leave.

A sweaty Russian miner explained why he doesn’t like jobs where he has to supervise others. His working conditions looked like a prison camp, because it WAS (IS?) a prison camp. Everything looked like the Swedish film about the snowplow murders that I recently saw and liked (which is now being made into an American version starring Liam Neeson.)

I glanced over after 15 minutes. My companion, an AFI (American Film Institute) graduate was sound asleep. We left.

“Blueprint” Film at Chicago International Film Festival Examines Gun Violence on Chicago’s South Side

[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” /][/contact-form]“Blueprint”, directed by Daryl Wein, and co-written by Daryl Wein and the film’s star, Jerod Haynes, is a close look at the issue of gun violence in Chicago—specifically, Chicago’s South Side. The film includes a citing of the May total of 486 shooting that resulted in 52 deaths. (*Note: WGN news of 10/1/2017 did report a recent decrease in such mayhem.)

The film is told through the point-of-view of Jerod Haynes’ character (also named Jerod). He is struggling to find a job to support a young daughter and the child’s mother (it’s never very clear if they are officially married or simply parents to the child together). Haynes is a talented, young African American Chicago actor who had roles in “Southside with You” (2016) and television’s “Empire” (2015) and he does a fine job playing this role.

The film focuses on the death of Jerod’s best friend Reggie, who was a star basketball player and one of “the good guys that represented peace.”
It opens with the two old buddies shooting hoops, but we soon learn that the unarmed Reggie was shot in the back by a policeman, while running away. Reggie’s death is yet another shock to the black community. (One dedication at film’s end to 33-year-old Curtis Posey, who acted in the film in a small role and was killed by violence on 6/27/1.7 was but one of 3 similar incidents that affected cast members since the beginning of the film.)

After that dismal news, Jerod begins to drink heavily and his relationship with the mother of his young daughter suffers. They were already on the outs; Jerod was living in his mother’s house.

Reggie’s friends and relatives on the South Side are both angry and anguished at his senseless killing.
They aren’t buying any accounts that try to say Reggie was packing heat and the best line describing how they feel is uttered by Reggie’s mother, who says, “Reggie got shot because they didn’t see him as a human being. We can’t have that luxury of thinking it won’t happen to us, because, every other day, it’s somebody else.”

With the recent Trump Twitter storm about NFL athletes who take a knee during the National Anthem, it is easy to see that this is a timely and topical film, and with the shooting deaths tonight of 58 concert-goers in Las Vegas attending a Jason Aldean concert, it’s easy to also say that it’s about time we had a serious discussion about gun violence in America that doesn’t cave to NRA lobbyists.

Tai, the mother of Shanesia, wants Jerod to step up and be a man, act like a man, be responsible
. In a Black Lives Matter gathering following Reggie’s death, Jerod says, “We don’t have fathers. We don’t have the blueprint. The women are holding us together.” This, of course, is a true allusion to the fact that black families are often matriarchies where the women do hold the family together.

In the aftermath of Reggie’s slaying, various factions meet to discuss what can be done to stop this violence. The pastor in the film quotes the Bible, saying, “The Bible says, ‘Be angry, but sin not.” An opposing point of view is voiced by a young black man who says, “It’s not what we can’t do. It’s gonna’ be what we will do. We can’t allow them to do us like this.” He hands Jerod a gun, saying, “This is life and death right here,” and urging Jerod to defend himself, if necessary. Nevertheless, the feeling articulated in the film is: “It’s a cycle. It’s a continuum.” And, notes Jerod, “Everybody I get close to I lose.”

Later in the film, we will see Jerod throw the gun in a trash bin (symbolic screenwriting 101)
. I am sure I am not the only audience member who was thinking, “He should wipe that thing clean of his fingerprints before he rejects violence and discards it. Otherwise, he risks being framed for another murder!” Nor am I the only one who noticed that the hero and “good guy” was driving drunk after the funeral of his best friend.

Another plot point that three critics near me argued about after the film finished was whether or not Jerod qualifies as a hero
when he is drinking heavily, is still unemployed, and is still living at home and, according to girlfriend/wife/soulmate Tai (Tai Davis) has been sneaking around with another woman.

Regardless of Jerod’s heroic goodness (or lack thereof), the actor playing him, as well as the supporting players, do a fine job. The issue of gun violence is certainly relevant. The young girl playing Jerod’s daughter (Shanesia Davis-Williams) is very natural and delivers her lines like a true pro, especially this one: “Do our lives matter, or is it that white people’s lives matter more?”

The racism issue is complex and the answer is lost in the eternal ongoing dispute over gun rights versus gun control.
Nevermind that other countries like Australia found a way to curb senseless gun deaths. We don’t seem to have a handle on the problem, even after Sandy Hook and the tragic murder of entire classrooms of elementary school children. (Some of the more radical GOP talking radio hosts even insist that the poor children of Sandy Hook never died; it was all a hoax, just like the moon landing in 1969.)

One somewhat lame line was: “One day—I don’t know when—it’ll get better.” (To which I muttered, under my breath, not while Donald Trump is allowed to run roughshod over the Constitution and sully the Presidency.)

The movie is well-acted and it is also well-photographed by cinematographer Toshihiko Kizu, who makes the South Side and settings like the Shedd Aquarium, plus the many bridges in the city, come to life as near-characters in their own right(s). There is also original music by Jukebox and one with the refrain “Fall in love with the magic girl.” (That, apparently, will solve all the problems the film presents.)

I did not like the upbeat happy ending. It begs the question of, “What ARE we going to do about these senseless killings? One character says, “What can we do? I dunno. That’s the problem. We’ve got to figure out what to do.” Isn’t that generally the issue with ANY problem? And do any of these issues seem to be getting better (or, indeed, any attention) under the current federal administration?

There is even a line that says, “We’re seeing social injustice all around the world.” NEWS FLASH: we all know that. What does this film propose be done about it? I did not see it come down on the side of violence (Malcolm X, the Black Panthers) or the side of peaceful nonviolence (Martin Luther King). It just sort of straddles the fence in presenting the modern-day horror of life in the ‘hood.

I grew up in the 60’s. I remember Tommy Smith and Juan Carlos’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics and the Symbionese Liberation Army and Bobby Seales and Huey P. Newton founding the Black Panther movement and all the rest of it (Watts, etc.). I was in France when the French newspapers trumpeted: “America At the Edge of the Abyss.”

We’re there again, folks. Happy endings are looking pretty scarce, and we DO need to figure out what to do about it.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén