Preview: Chicago Critics Film Festival

Though the heyday of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel has passed, Chicago boasts a strong showing in film criticism these days. The guys (because it’s mainly guys) who make up the Chicago Film Critics Association work hard across outlets to cover film releases and happenings around the city.

On Friday, their fifth annual Chicago Critics Film Festival kicks off a week of screenings at Chicago’s classic Music Box Theater. A small festival by any measure – no galas, no panels, no frills – it’s big where it matters: the movies. More than twenty features will screen over the course of a week, and for those of us keeping track of these kinds of things, they’re two dozen great films.

With such a fantastic line-up heading to a theater within walking distance (a long walk, but still), my plans include at least one film a day (and one day with three!). Here’s what I’ll be seeing: Continue reading “Preview: Chicago Critics Film Festival”

Watch This: Chicago’s DOC10 Film Festival

Next week, Chicago Media Project presents DOC10, an annual film festival that presents the most compelling documentary films of the year over the course of a few days. This year, organizers have partnered with the newly-revamped Davis Theater in Lincoln Square to showcase films covering subject matter from music and film to social justice and true crime.

Much as I’d love to, I can’t fit in all eleven films in four days. But I am going to catch a few, which I’m highlighting here. Join me!

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Watch This: Get Out

Last month, Film Twitter went all a-twitter when it was revealed that this year’s Sundance Film Festival secret screening was comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out (he also wrote the original screenplay). Early buzz was effusive, a promising reception after a work-in-progress Keanu, which he co-wrote, failed to blow audiences away at SXSW last year.

The team at Universal was smart to launch the film, the story of a young black photographer whose weekend visit to meet his white girlfriend’s family goes terribly wrong, at the January festival in advance of a February theatrical release. In doing so, they’ve carved out a fairly rare slice of positive momentum in an otherwise barren release slate, and when so many audiences are distracted by finishing up their Oscars viewing.

The crafty release strategy is helped, of course, by the fact that Get Out is a really, really great film. Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) stars as Chris Washington, an unassuming photographer living in the city and dating girl-next-door Rose Armitage (Allison Williams in what I hear is her first film role, though given all that Girls exposure, you know who she is). The movie, a tightly-scripted hour and forty minutes of social commentary wrapped up in of-the-moment sensibility, opens as Rose and Chris are heading out to visit her parents at their secluded country estate. The two have a comfortable rapport, a young couple newly in love; they know each other’s friends, for example, but until he asks her directly, Chris isn’t sure if Rose’s parents know she’s bringing a black guy home.

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