• City Stories

    Summer Adventures

    The radiators in my apartment kicked in for the first time this season just the other day, and as excited as I am for sweater weather, it got me nostalgic for all the adventures I managed to pack in over the summer. It’s no secret that Chicago loooves summer, those fleeting three months in the middle of the year where we can come out of hibernation and enjoy all the city has to offer. And oh boy, does it have a lot to offer. Just a quick rewind on my Instagram account offers a photographic recap of some serious summer celebrating, and I’m not even counting my trip to Europe…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: First Man

    First Man

    Damien Chazelle has come a long way from his first feature film, the no-budget hipster indie musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (it’s in black and white, for Pete’s sake). Like Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio, he’s also struck up a bit of a creative partnership (and one imagines a friendship) with Ryan Gosling, who sang and danced his way through La La Land, the musical perhaps best known for losing Best Picture to Moonlight. Chazelle, however, did win Best Director that year, and with each new film he puts his name on, we’re witness to an artistic evolution of a filmmaker gaining both confidence and skill as he goes. First Man, based…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: A Star Is Born

    star is born

    I first saw the 1954 version of A Star Is Born on the big screen; I got to see it as part of a sidebar program at the Chicago International Film Festival several years ago, and despite its length (the restored cut is just 4 minutes shy of three hours long), I was riveted. Judy Garland’s Vicki Lester is so complex, so multifaceted; it’s clear this role is a sort of accomplishment for a woman who’d been on screen since the age of 14, and Garland’s ability to carry the character from ingenue to stardom to desperation is, in a word, striking. The story—an aging, veteran entertainer discovers an up-and-comer only to…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Blaze

    Blaze

    Ethan Hawke has been nominated for an Oscar four times, twice for writing and twice for acting. This year, he may just add another for his spellbinding performance in Paul Schrader’s gut-wrenching First Reformed. Though not recognized to the same degree, Hawke has also spent his fair share of time behind the camera, from 2001’s ensemble piece Chelsea Walls to the 2014 documentary Seymour: An Introduction. Hawke returns to the helm with his latest film, Blaze, a biopic about Austin-based musician Blaze Foley (nee Mike Fuller).  Blaze combines a lot of what Hawke (who makes a small cameo in the film) loves, including Texas, music and Richard Linklater. With an indulgent 127 minute…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: White Boy Rick

    This is a crosspost with Third Coast Review. The most compelling part of White Boy Rick, the true story of a Detroit teenager who became a hustler, an FBI informant and a drug kingpin all before the age of 16, comes at the very end of the film, when a brief epilogue addresses Rick Wershe, Jr.’s fate after the same enforcement officers he’d informed for desert him when he becomes a defendant. In an instant, an already multi-layered drama about the strength of family ties, coming of age in a crime-riddled city and the choices we make when we’re painted into the proverbial corner manages an even more meaningful depth as an…

  • Just This

    Wedding by the Lake

    When you grow up in the Midwest, it’s not uncommon to ask friends or even extended family what they’re up to for the weekend and get in response something to do with “heading to the lake house.” Whether it’s Michigan or Wisconsin, having a lake house (or regular access to one) in a neighboring state is Chicago’s version of a place in the Hamptons. Hate to disappoint, but I did not grow up with, nor do I have as an adult, a lake house.  So when I was invited to a late-summer wedding complete with an extra bed at a lake house the bride and groom had rented for the…