New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 54th Chicago International Film Festival

  (Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival)

(Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival)

A slightly shortened Chicago International Film Festival graces the city for the next two weeks, bringing 123 feature films to its AMC River East hub downtown. Now in its 54th year, the festival may be three days and 23 films smaller than last year, but the curation and programming lead by artistic director Mimi Plauché always has striking and diverse films of interest and importance. Women in Cinema, Italy, and Comedy emerge as spotlight programs alongside the traditional Black Perspectives, Out-Look, City & State, World Cinema, Documentary, and New Directors fields.

For the fifth year in a row and the fourth with press credentials, I am proud to represent Every Movie Has a Lesson and Medium.com to cover the ambitious slate. No single critic can see it all, but I’ll take my swings to find some buried treasure and films to explore when they come to your city or streaming platforms at home down the road. Here below are my collected capsule reviews from the 54th Chicago International Film Festival, ranked in order of highest to lowest recommendation. Come back here often for updates.


BEAUTIFUL BOY

  (Image by Francois Duhamel and courtesy of Amazon Studios via EPK.tv)

(Image by Francois Duhamel and courtesy of Amazon Studios via EPK.tv)

The festival’s opening night gala presentation starts things off with towering heart. Felix Van Groeningen’s drama might be the best film about drug addiction that you’ll ever see. Skewing towards the more expansive arc of the father (Steve Carell) more than the repetitive failures of the son (Timothée Chalamet), Van Groeningen and his co-screenwriter, Lion Oscar nominee Luke Davies, have fashioned a touchingly stout drama that is braver than most films on the subject. Beautiful Boy is bracingly honest with its turns and barriers built by emotional wallup. The remarkable performances of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet deserve the credit for that impact. Continuing to improve since Foxcatcher, Carell maximizes his sorrowful eyes and morose posture to exude frustration and grief. Chalamet unravels and implodes with neurotic brilliance to prove he is not a one-and-a-half trick pony after Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. The many scenes they share together, like that diner clip the marketing keeps showing, absorb every minute with seared sentiment. You’ll be seeing that clip and more like them again on a certain awards show happening the night of February 24th next year. Every sparked argument, exasperated sigh, eye-to-eye conversation, bold-faced lie, shared hug, and shed tear is a heart-crusher in Beautiful Boy. (full review)

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION


A PRIVATE WAR

  (Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival)

(Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival)

Lauded documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts, Cartel Land) makes his narrative feature debut with a blistering biopic on the revered London war correspondent Marie Colvin. Gone Girl Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike modulates her voice register, dons the signature eye patch, and dodges the squibs to chronicle a woman that saw more first-hand war and death in her life than the most professional, experience, or decorated soldiers. Colvin carried the PTSD to prove as she strafed through war zones with little more than a notepad and a pen alongside her trusty cameraman Paul Conroy (Fifty Shades of Grey lead Jamie Dornan). Looking inside the subject, we learn the fears that resided inside the fearless. This is a phenomenal and ferocious lead performance from Pike, who deserves the second Oscar nomination of her career for this combination tenacity and honesty. From his documentarian’s eye, Heineman constructs a detailed and compelling examination of modern war, from Sri Lanka to Syria. The moving nucleus becomes how public perspectives were guided by the people who put themselves in danger so the rest of us wouldn’t have to in order to learn true human stories.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION


OLYMPIA

  (Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival)

(Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival)

One of my favorite programs of the annual Chicago International Film Festival is the City & State program highlighting worthy local and regional film efforts that get their chance to stand marque-to-marque on the same red carpet as the big studio-backed headliners and the esteemed foreign contenders. May Chicago always be a burgeoning home for cinematic artists and opportunity. One debuting filmmaker emerging from the short film world seizing that opportunity with his DePaul MFA thesis feature is Gregory Dixon and his film Olympia. The film is a spotlight for its writer MacKenzie Chinn playing the title character, a struggling artist making ends meet and juggling romance here in the Second City. She finds herself challenged to commit to her dedicated-yet-casual beau Felix (Charles Andrew Gardner) before he leaves for a new job in California. The open and mature honesty and the beautifully expressive creative wellsprings within these diverse characters call to mind another indie great born from Chicago, namely Theodore Witcher’s 1997 romance love jones. Olympia may not have that film’s level of sizzle and breadth to cover years, but the engaging frankness and flourish is all there. This is deserving hidden gem from this city and this festival.

HIGH RECOMMENDATION


COMING SOON: 

THE GOOD GIRLS, THE ETRUSCAN SMILE, TRANSIT, VOLCANO, AT WAR, FATHER THE FLAME, ART PAUL OF PLAYBOY, SIBEL, DIANE, and more

CIFF banner.png

  LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED

Permalink

from REVIEW BLOG – Every Movie Has a Lesson https://ift.tt/2NCRLGZ
via IFTTT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s