The 55th Chicago International Film Festival kicks off this week and it is a festival I love attending. Not only was this the first festival that I attended back in 2008, but it is a festival that highlights so many unique movies from all around the world and showcasing some of the best filmmakers working today. This year’s festival is no different, with a slew of movies from all genres from dozens of different countries. I plan on seeing over 20 films over the next ten days and here are the five that I am most excited for.
HONEY BOY (Alma Har’el)
CLEMENCY (Chinonye Chukwu)
- I’ve already seen both Honey Boy and Clemency at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was a big fan of both of them. Both films are powerful and expertly made with some stellar acting. Honey Boy, which was written by its star, Shia LeBeouf, looks at LeBeouf’s life growing up in the entertainment world with his abusive father. LeBeouf gives one of the very best performances of 2019 here. In Clemency, the great Alfred Woodard stars as a prison warden who’s death row executions begin to take a toll on her. Woodard could garner herself an Oscar nomination for this one, as should Aldis Hodge, who plays a death row inmate that gets close to the warden. Both films are great and I am excited to see them again.
5 – KNIVES AND SKIN (Jennifer Reeder)
- Knives and Skin sounds kind of like if Pretty Little Liars went full Twin Peaks. The film follows the disappearance of a local teenager in a small Illinois town and how it effects her friends, her parents, and the entire town. But the film describes itself as “mystical” which only makes me think that this isn’t your typical missing-girl film and I’m excited to see where Reeder takes this film. Shot locally in Illinois, Knives and Skin looks to be a fun, wild entry in the After Dark section of the festival.
4 – FORD V. FERRARI (James Mangold)
- James Mangold is a director who feels like he has been riding the cusp of greatness for almost two decades now. With films like Girl, Interrupted, Identity, 3:10 to Yuma, and Logan, Mangold is a director who has worked with a wide array of actors in a wide array of genres. Ford v Ferrari could be the film that puts Mangold over the edge and puts him on the awards trail. Starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari looks at American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Bale) as they battle corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. The film looks gorgeous and promises strong performances and a great story. This could be a big Oscar player at the end of the year.
3 – PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (Céline Sciamma)
- Since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Portrait of a Lady on Fire has been a movie I have been anticipating seeing. I have heard nothing but incredible things about this movie from some of my favorite critics, many of which have declared the film one of the very best of the year. Set in the 18th century France a young painter, Marianne, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse without her knowing, which brings the two closer as Héloïse’s big day approaches. I have avoided the trailer, all full-length reviews, and anything that might spoil this movies greatness. We might have the makings of a truly special film here.
2 – KNIVES OUT (Rian Johnson)
- Say what you will about The Last Jedi (I love it), but Rian Johnson is one hell of a filmmaker. Rocking the independent world back in 2005 with Brick and flipping the time travel genre on its head in 2012 with Looper, Johnson knows how to make unique genre films with great visual flourishes. Johnson’s latest is a classic whodunnit, as a detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. Johnson got a stellar cast for this one, with Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, LaKeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer starring in what is arguably one of the best ensembles of the year. I love whodunnit films, I love Rian Johnson as a director, and I love this cast.
1 – THE IRISHMAN (Martin Scorsese)
- Whenever Martin Scorsese has a movie coming out it’s almost guaranteed that film will be near or at the top of any “most anticipated” list. At a spry 77-years-old, my favorite director of all-time is still putting out interesting films that keep the directors visceral style while adapting new technology and the ever changing cinematic landscape. With The Irishman, Scorsese brings together an ensemble of cinematic icons, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel, to tell the story about hitman who tells his life story and his involvement in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. Thanks to Netflix’s gigantic budget ($140 million), the film is going hard on the de-aging technology, as De Niro, Pacino, and the rest of the legends are getting the treatment, as well as offering up a three-and-a-half-hour runtime, which sounds incredible. Early word is that this is another Scorsese classic and I am ecstatic that I get to see this movie on the big screen.
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