Subscribe: RogerEbert Headlines
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
director  exhibit  festival  film  films  he’s  it’s  made  movie  much  people  pixar  science  time  “the   
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: RogerEbert Headlines

All Content

Updated: 2016-10-28T09:56:00-05:00


Into the Inferno


The documentary "Into the Inferno" sums itself up in its opening moments. A gliding helicopter shot takes us across the Vanatu Archipelago in the Galapagos, over waves of solid ground that resemble black pudding until we see a group of tiny figures on the crest of a mountain. The camera draws close to them, eventually peering over their shoulders to reveal what they're looking at: a gigantic pool of magma. Then comes a succession of long shots of the magma. The film is hypnotized by it. So are all of the people profiled in this movie, which is directed by Werner Herzog but credited as "A film by Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer." Oppenheimer is a Cambridge volcano expert, or volcanologist, a slim man with a kind face and voice. He serves as the on-camera guide for Herzog, interviewing fellow volcanologists as well as people who spend most of their lives living living or working within unsafe distance of volcanoes, including a woman who works at a monitoring station and a group of archeologists digging up shards of bone preserved by cooled magma. ("Every single piece of bone is a keeper," Herzog intones over footage of a dig site, one of many phrases that sounds much funnier when he says it.)Volcanoes are an ideal Herzog subject. His great theme is obsession. His filmography is filled with people who are so obsessed with realizing a goal, learning all they can about a subject, or getting to the heart of a mystery. Not only to they seem not to care if their obsession destroys them, their obsessiveness is the point of their existence. At one point Herzog's detours to give us older documentary footage of Katia and Maurice Krafft, a married team of volcanologists, doing what they love; the sequence ends by informing us that they were killed by a fiery avalanche. This information is presented neutrally, with respect, as well it should be: they died doing what they loved.The repeated, often very long shots of erupting volcanoes and pools of magma in "Into the Inferno" soon become metaphors not just for the obsession of people whose lives revolve around volcanoes, but for Herzog's obsession with those same people, and his obsessive personality generally, which would be unbearably self-regarding if he weren't such a witty and self-deprecating guide and storyteller. But these same shots are also beautiful on their own terms, as spectacle. A big part of the appeal of films, fiction and nonfiction alike, is the chance to gawk for long periods of time at amazing things, in particular amazing things that might destroy us were we to encounter them in real life. Most people will see "Into the Inferno" as I did, on a small screen; I envy those who will see it on a movie screen, especially a big one, because this is a movie where scale really makes a difference. Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger's camera always seems to be in just the right place, whether he's capturing volcanoes themselves or people talking about volcanoes while lava spews in the background behind them. Early in the film, Mael Moses, chief of a tribe that lives in a village the base of the volcano we saw in that opening sequence, tells Oppenheimer that their entire religion revolves around "how powerful that fire is," and says "the fire expresses the anger of the gods who live in the volcano." The next group of people we meet in the film are, per Herzog's narration, "a strange and wonderful tribe of volcanologists, some of them overcome by altitude sickness"—the first shots of the scientists show them splayed out in a camp near the lip of the volcano, resting. Like the people of the village, this "tribe" respects the awesome power of the volcano but isn't scared of it. One of them tells us that balls of magma sometimes erupt high into the air and come down near them, but it's possible to evade them by following their arc up into the sky, judging where they'll probably come down, and stepping a little bit this way or that way. "Keep your attention toward the lava," one says, "look up, and move away." This is a key movie in Herzog's late phase as a filmmaker. In[...]

Gimme Danger


In a sense, the weirdest thing about “Gimme Danger” is how not weird it is. Its subject, James Osterberg, also known as Iggy Pop, also known as Iggy Stooge, is not just a rock and roll survivor (so to speak) of the first stripe. He’s also, like it or not, one of the maverick eccentrics of the form and the lively arts in general. He’s a rock classic, but if your idea of Classic Rock is Boston, he’s also a major weirdo. Similarly, Jim Jarmusch, the director of this documentary, is a filmmaker whose work is arguably not inaccessible but whose aesthetic lies pretty far outside of what we know as the mainstream. “Gimme Danger” is by far the most conventional film he’s ever made. I think that’s a very purposeful feature of the film. “Gimme Danger” is subtitled “Story of The Stooges” and that’s important—the movie doesn’t give much play to Iggy’s long and varied solo career, which at many points was far more commercially successful than that of the band he co-founded and fronted in the late ‘60s. Jim Jarmusch has described it as a “love letter” to the Stooges, but it is also a kind of brief for the band. Its accessible form, in which the normally more minimalist Jarmusch resorts to a lot of the standard tropes of the contemporary documentary—talking head style (more or less) interviews, far-reaching archival footage, even animated recreations of events described by the participants—seems to me as an attempt to reach the skeptics in the audience, and convince them that Jarmusch may be right when he calls The Stooges “The greatest rock and roll band ever.” This viewer did not need much convincing, I admit. The 60's and 70's Stooges only pulled off one album that I would call “perfect,” which is 1970’s “Fun House,” and the reason I am able to call it perfect is that I have a higher tolerance for horrible noise (which is what that record’s final cut “L.A. Blues” is mostly made of) than many others. Considered without “L.A. Blues,” though, “Fun House” is such a tensile model of ultra-aggressive rock and roll as to be considered miraculous. How did they do it? Iggy has an interesting answer: having assembled the right three partners in musical crime—brother Ron and Scott Asheton on guitar and drums respectively, with Dave Alexander on bass—singer and rhythm technician (trained as a drummer, he collaborated with Scott on the group’s beats) Iggy recalls, “I just started jumping up and down like baboons do when they’re about to fight,” which provoked his bandmates into a sort of frenzy. And the rest is “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and more. Both Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton have died in recent years, but not before reuniting with Pop for a Stooges revival in the early 21st century. Jarmusch has been working on this project for some time, and so was fortunate enough to log good, informative interviews with the relatively taciturn Ashetons for the movie. They come across as salt-of-the-earth Ann Arbor guys. Ron explains his penchant for wearing Nazi regalia on stage in the early days by talking about his veteran dad’s willy-nilly memorabilia collecting habits. “It wasn’t anything political,” he says, and probably was not, but it was still a crummy idea and Asheton seems to realize it while also believing it might not be very rock and roll to admit it. James Williamson, the “Raw Power” guitarist memorialized in Pop’s solo song “Dum Dum Boys” as the Stooge who’s “gone straight” (and indeed he had a prosperous career in software development at Sony after he got out of music for a while), brings a somewhat more plainly objective perspective to bear when considering the drug-fueled anarchy of some Stooges gigs and tours. Pop himself recalls “upsetting people wherever we went.” In an often-seen clip from the Dinah Shore talk show of the ‘70s, he boasts, “I think I helped wipe out the '60s.” And what a way to go. Jarmusch lays out the Stooges story in a coherent, linear fashion. Fans like [...]

By Sidney Lumet


Sidney Lumet made 44 films in 50 years. That kind of prodigious output would be impressive even if he was merely turning out for-hire studio work, but any film buff worth a conversation knows that’s not the case with Lumet, who not only made films for five decades but made films that mattered. Famous for a social conscience reflected in films like “12 Angry Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Running on Empty,” Lumet was also a consummate “actor’s director” and an underrated craftsman. I was honored to be asked to appear on the Director’s Club podcast earlier this year in an episode devoted to the man, which allowed for a marathon of rewatches of a dozen or so of Lumet’s films, and the scope of his talent remains breathtaking, from his first film to his last. So how could a movie possibly capture that vast of a career in only 100 minutes? Nancy Buirski’s “By Sidney Lumet” is a gift to fans of the art of film directing. It is beautifully constructed, not as a chronological biography of a directorial legend but as a thematic exploration of his work. Comprised mostly of an interview conducted just a few years before his death, “By Sidney Lumet” won’t just make you want to revisit his works but reappreciate the role of a great director in cinema. Given the breadth of his accomplishments, it may come as a surprise how often a very humble Lumet speaks of luck. He recognizes how much of his best work came about because of the right contributions from the right people at the right time. All art has a degree of blessed coincidence, and it’s surprising how much Lumet begins the film discussing this element of his career, such as when he was tapped to direct “12 Angry Men.” He also speaks at length about his upbringing in Yiddish theater, and a strict father, who was also an actor. Buirski works thematically in the construction of her film—for example, she’ll go from a story about Lumet’s father to a scene from “Daniel” or “Running on Empty,” illustrating how Lumet’s life experience influenced his filmography. By avoiding the so-typical construction of chronological biography, Buirski gets at something much deeper: the “chapter” of Lumet’s life about his father didn’t end when his dad passed but was reflected throughout his career, all the way to the dynamic between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” “By Sidney Lumet” doesn’t skimp on technical or filmmaking anecdotes as well. One of my favorite films of all time, “Dog Day Afternoon,” sparks a discussion of color palettes, and how he purposefully didn’t use one in that movie to keep it as realistic as possible. As he says, the worst-case scenario would be for the audience to not identify with Al Pacino’s character because he was gay, so he had to ground the film as realistically as possible visually to amplify the commonality. To that end, there was no costume design. Everyone wore their own clothes. Buirski also doesn’t shy away from showing extended clips, including a scene with Pacino to serve as an example of the truth of his performance, one of my favorites of all time. Clearly, I’m a Lumet fan, so here’s where I have to step back and wonder if “By Sidney Lumet” would work for those who aren’t. While the thematic assembly is invigorating for those of us who know his career and biography chronologically, it may be off-putting or even frustrating for more casual fans. And sometimes it does feel like the balance can be slightly out of whack. It’s well over an hour before we get to anything related to “Network,” “Prince of the City” or “The Verdict,” and one could easily do a full documentary on those three films alone. For non-Lumet fans, it may be too much of one thing. For Lumet fans, it may be not enough of his best work. It’s impossible to capture every facet of a career as vast and influential as Lumet’s in one interview documentary, and I would argue th[...]

The Unspoken


Your indie horror movie loses its underdog credibility when a random cat is used as a jump scare, twice. That’s an unwritten rule I hadn’t realized until “The Unspoken,” an anti-thrilling horror movie that scapegoats its narrower production means to rely on even slimmer narrative imagination. That the story is never scary is the least of its problems, as the production itself brings to question intent, aside from giving select audiences and VOD another title to chew on over Halloween weekend. But with that comparison, “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” made me more anxious than anything here.  “The Unspoken” indirectly recalls the parodic films of the Wayans brothers, in that their serious intentions extend to merely representing the genres, while fulfilling character or narrative is second priority. To the fault of co-writer/director Sheldon Wilson’s lack of ideas, “The Unspoken” treats that attitude as the standard, and the results are much less funny—instead it’s a stone serious, desaturated-as-hell story about an infamous, possibly haunted house, an overly nice mother (Pascale Hutton’s Jeanie) who moves into it with her mute young son (Sunny Suljic’s Adrian), and the young woman (Jodelle Ferland’s Angela) who finds herself in the worst babysitting gig in town. While dealing with the odd bumps-in-the-daytime inside the infamous Briar House—the setting for dead bodies and blood 17 years prior—a group of comically aggressive, Disney Channel-ready young male ruffians (led by Anthony Konechny’s Luther) want to attack the house and take the “stash” they left in the basement when the house was abandoned for so long. To put it nicely, “The Unspoken” is an ad-lib horror script, with the most original idea being a character named “Pandy.”  With that low standard of assembly and representation, there’s a huge sense of disingenuous artifice throughout “The Unspoken.” If a horror film is so resigned to cliches, it should at least help viewers forget they’re watching a screen, or worse, a series of shots and sets. But every time “The Unspoken” uses a cheap jump scare or fake-out that ends with Angela waking up from a ghostly nightmare, the cheapness is ever present. Characters are treated similarly, represented by across-the-board with lifeless performances that speak primarily in exposition (often repeating the obvious) and never create that essential core of anxiety. It’s all inconsequential, from the throwaway lesbian relationship between Angela and her female friend Pandy (they share a kiss in two instances, the script has no clue how else to articulate sexual curiosity) to the final shot that nods at a famous New York town that’s the setting of a different, much better horror movie.  There’s something dispiriting in watching a horror movie, one without the same pressures of a mainstream project, resist any chances. You can get characters who freak each other out by simply not announcing their presence in the room—or houses where supernatural spirits like to make random noises and hold doors closed—seemingly anywhere. Creepy kids, Satanic backstories, ominous tree swings are wholesale. “The Unspoken” has a very boring wish to be a generic mainstream horror film, and watching it deflate any indie horror goodwill scene-by-scene is miserable.  Through the smog of laziness, there are a few committed (however minor) details from the production, like the visual of an ominous marble neatly rolling right down the middle of a thin ray of light on the floor, or getting a character to look like he’s fallen face-first into a bed of nails. But these images are nothing more than technical feats, giving “The Unspoken” an idea of how much effort went into something that ultimately achieves zero narrative tension. I can vividly imagine my filmmaker friends telling me about working on a project exactly like this, how long it took to achieve a pivo[...]

King Cobra


A bit more than halfway through Justin Kelly’s “King Cobra” there’s a scene where Brent Corrigan (Garrett Clayton), the nom-de-screen of a young gay porn performer, tells another actor that he’s about to realize his dream of becoming a filmmaker. But, he allows, he’ll still being doing porn. “Oh,” the other boy says, clearly disappointed, “I thought you meant real films.” It’s a distinction worth raising about “King Cobra” itself. Is it a real film, or a feature that uses the porn milieu to turn out a piece of softcore titillation that’s halfway between porn and actual drama? No doubt some of the film’s makers and defenders would argue for the former. Most of the world, though, almost surely would consider it the latter—irrespective of whether that makes it sound more or less appealing. Involving softcore prurience in the areas of both sex and violence, “King Cobra” is a type of film that’s been around at least since content restrictions on movies were relaxed in the late ‘60s. In that era, they played mainly in grindhouses. It was in the ‘80s that they really took off; though fewer played theaters, legions were prime grist for the mills of cable and home video. Apart from the occasional sensationalistic curiosity like William Friedkin’s “Cruising,” few involved studios, big budgets or stars. As an example of today’s variety, “King Cobra” smells more like business plan than a movie. It’s hard to get feature films made at any time, but with the enormous changes the film/TV world is going through currently, it’s unusually tough now. For a low-budget filmmaker, having a steamy script is one asset. But even better is using that to attract actors who probably wouldn’t have considered such a project in decades past. Kelly’s film has four name actors in its cast. Three of those—Christian Slater, Molly Ringwald and Alicia Silverstone —once had big Hollywood careers going. Not too many years ago, all might have been visible presences even after their stars had dimmed. But at a time when Hollywood makes few movies besides big cartoon franchises, an actor’s options are fewer and fewer, to the point that even a “King Cobra” is worth considering. The other name in the cast, James Franco, is almost de rigueur in a film like this. Though the talented, multi-faceted, incredibly busy actor has built his brand on many different kinds of roles and films, he’s given so much attention to gay themes and subject matter as to suggest that he’s positioning himself to be named the United Nations Roving Ambassador of Transgressive Studies. In “King Cobra,” he plays a sleazy porn producer who gets anally plowed and shouts out his pleasure just like actors in a porn film—even when the camera’s not rolling. The story here centers on Stephen (Christian Slater), a drab middle-aged guy who makes gay porn in the basement of his suburban house. One day he auditions a new kid whom he names Brent Corrigan. The boy, who says he’s 18, is all dewy blond perfection, and lecherous old Stephen is into him both sexually and as a potential cash cow. After “Brent” disrobes and starts touching himself for the camera, Stephen persuades him to stay at his house and begin churning out porn films in earnest. Soon enough, the kid’s an internet sensation and Stephen rakes in enough dough to buy a Maserati. Meanwhile across town, there’s a relationship underway that recalls the days when gay people in movies were all portrayed as dangerous psychos. Leather-clad Joe (James Franco) says he’s in love with chiseled boy toy Harlow (Keegan Allen) but treats him more like a slave. He prostitutes the boy to other men but goes wild if his kisses seem too passionate. Jealous to a fault, Joe threatens ultimate destruction if Harlow ever went off with anyone else. The two are also in the porn biz and get to the point when they know they need a new star. That’s how they fatef[...]

“The Science Behind Pixar” Exhibit Explores the Physics in Animation


When you think of Pixar, you might not immediately think science. Yet a lot of math and physics goes into each Pixar film and that's what the interactive exhibit "The Science Behind Pixar" is all about. The exhibit originally opened in Boston at the Museum of Science in June of 2015 and then stopped in Philadelphia at The Franklin Institute. "The Science Behind Pixar" is currently in Los Angeles at the California Science Center until April 9, 2017.The exhibit begins with a five-minute video where Pixar technical artist Fran Kalal and story artist Alex Woo explain the basic process of Pixar's animation features. Inside, the production pipeline is further explained by 40 exhibits divided into eight sections: modeling, rigging, surfaces, sets and cameras, animation, simulation, lighting and rendering.Behind the scenes at the Emeryville, California-based Pixar, various teams have used algebra, trigonometry, geometry, calculus and physics for 30 years to resolve 3D computer animation problems in features ranging from 1995's “Toy Story” to the recent “Finding Dory.” According to Tony DeRose, senior scientist at Pixar and Research Group Lead, a team of six to seven Ph.D.-level scientists continue to develop new techniques for future films. In the 2012 Disney-Pixar feature "Brave," the spirited Scottish princess Merida had expressive masses of wild corkscrew curling red hair. The exhibit's "Pixar's Simulation Challenge" explains the problem and the solution for animating each tress. Merida has more than 1,500 individually sculpted, curly red strands that generate about 111,700 total hairs. That simulation is Pixar VP of Production Thomas Porter's favorite part of the exhibit. “Springs are an introductory physics problem,” he explained.Porter was part of the original group computer tech group at Lucasfilm’s Computer Division that eventually left and formed Pixar. As part of different Pixar teams, Porter shares three Academy Awards for Scientific and Engineering: for developing RenderMan software in 1993, for more pioneering inventions in digital image compositing in 1996 and for pioneering efforts in the development of digital paint systems used in motion picture productions in 1998.Something as simple as making grass in a field requires mathematical calculations. A simulation from “A Bug’s Life” shows how a blade of grass (a parabola) is made and replicated. Then a few alterations can result in a different scene and mood. The exhibit also includes simulations of mood lighting in a room or, as in the case of "Finding Dory," underwater. DeRose’s favorite simulation in this exhibit shows how changing variables can alter the behavior of schools of fish swimming.DeRose got his BS in physics from UC, Davis and then received his Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley. If you want to excite kids about the potential of science, he recommends coming to the exhibit where Pixar is "really trying to pull back the covers on different creative challenges."DeRose was one of the two science advisers from Pixar for this exhibit. "We don't know how to design museum museum exhibits. They (Boston’s Museum of Science) knew how to deliver ideas and concepts in a way that would be engaging to visitors." He's really proud of the high quality of the interactions, and that science and math are explained in a way "that is really accessible." He commented, "It's all authentic, not dumbed down."Each Pixar movie has a challenge. "In the early films, there were lots of challenges. I started around the time of 'A Bug's Life' and 'Monster's Inc.'" DeRose explained. "We didn't know how to tell a story with humans. The humans in 'Toy Story' weren't nearly as effective on screen as the toys. The skin didn't look right. We had to develop the technology to make skin soft and squishy." DeRose added, "You might have noticed that more recently, the imagery [...]



In 2006, “The Da Vinci Code” made people angry before they’d even seen it: Catholics, albinos, fans of the Dan Brown airport novel who were preemptively riled up in expectation of Ron Howard’s film version not doing it justice. The 2009 follow-up, “Angels & Demons,” made people angry simply because it wasn’t as good as “The Da Vinci Code”—even though it managed to be more entertaining and less self-serious than its predecessor.All these years later, whether or not you were hankering for Brown’s particular brand of hokum, Howard has adapted yet another bestseller in the author’s series: “Inferno.” It’ll probably annoy people more than anger them, though, because it’s just so silly and scattered. Howard and “Angels & Demons” screenwriter David Koepp are all business when it comes to delivering the doom and gloom, which is of the literary rather than the religious variety this time. But the multiple twists, double-crosses and leaps in logic are more likely to prompt giggles than gasps, despite the impressive production values and the earnest efforts of an A-list cast.Tom Hanks is back once again as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, the understated hero of the series. Hanks’ performance is a prime example of what he does so well: He establishes that Langdon is the smartest man in the room at all times, but still manages to make the character an accessible everyman. It’s easy to take for granted what a tricky balancing act this is, simply because Hanks makes it look so effortless. By now, it’s his bread and butter. If only it were in the service of better material.At the film’s start, Langdon has awakened in an Italian hospital room, not knowing where he is or he how he got there. Sweating and panicking, he suffers from excruciating headaches and the disturbing images that flash through his mind: hellish visions of twisted bodies burning and writhing in pain and surging rivers of blood. Soon enough, though, he’s on the run alongside the emergency room doctor who’s been treating him: the brilliant prodigy Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones).Various factions with conflicting agendas are after him because he’s in possession of an object that’s crucial to solving the mystery of where a global plague is about to be unleashed. Before plunging to his death, Dante-obsessed billionaire madman Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) had warned that overpopulation would spell humanity’s demise, and argued that killing untold millions with a high-tech disease would be the only way to preserve the planet for the greater good. Langdon is the only man who can stop the devastation … by deciphering anagrams, of course. It’s all as insane and convoluted as it sounds. At the same time, Hanks is stuck with really obvious, explanatory dialogue like: "This map is a trail he left so that someone can find it." Howard’s pacing is anxious and breathless, punctuated by shrieky sound design and Hans Zimmer’s insistent score, as Langdon and Brooks travel from Florence to Venice and Istanbul. Together, they piece together complicated clues with dizzying speed, trade tidbits of Dante arcana and try to stay a step ahead of the bad and/or good guys who are after them. These include an assassin posing as a motorcycle cop with the tenacity of the T-1000 and some shockingly well-armed agents from the World Health Organization. Omar Sy brings a dash of class and mystery as one of the prime pursuers and Sidse Babett Knudsen, as a WHO executive, creates the rare character here who not only feels like a real person but a grown-up amid all the madness. (The romance between her character and Hanks’, however, feels half-baked, despite how pleasing the two actors are together.)Foster isn’t on screen long enough to function as much more than a concept as he spouts ominous lines like: “Humanity is the disease. Inferno is the c[...]

Eye Protein: The Beauty of Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro


Guillermo del Toro has a habit of correcting people who claim that his films are merely eye candy—they’re eye protein. Yes, they look beautiful, with elements so carefully considered that each scene can be dissected and analyzed, but to dismiss them as hollow exercises in style is to misunderstand them. Del Toro is one of our most confident and talented craftsmen, someone who recognizes the fact that film has always been and always will be a visual medium. He is a true artist, and Criterion’s release of three of his best films—“Cronos,” “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”—in a single box set titled “Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro” is one of the Blu-ray events of the year. Not only have the films been beautifully remastered under del Toro’s perfectionist eye, but each film comes with hours of special features. There is a commentary track from GdT on every film, and those audio recordings alone make this a must-purchase. You could learn more from del Toro’s audio commentaries than you can from most film classes.  While they weren’t made consecutively and don’t comprise a literal trilogy, these three films share enough cinematic DNA that appreciating them in one box set makes perfect sense. Each film is a story of childhood in troubled times; each features the fantastic co-existing with the real; each has Gothic sensibilities along with autobiographical details. Like the eye candy refrain, some may dismiss them as fairy tales, but as del Toro says in one of the special features, “There is more of the essential reality in fairy tales.” In a sense, these films feel like del Toro’s most personal, and even grounded films; they may be stories of vampires and ghosts, but they are also stories of loss, pain, and innocence. And they are films, like all of del Toro’s, that improve with each viewing, especially after listening to the commentaries and watching the bonus material, in which the filmmaker serves as a guide through his art. For example, the audio commentary on “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the new release in this trilogy as the other two films had been previously released by Criterion, reveals how that movie very purposefully echoes “The Devil’s Backbone,” not just in theme but in structure and narrative. Del Toro also reveals how the film was altered, as all films arguably were, by 9/11—the world became a much more dangerous place, and what is “Pan’s Labyrinth” about if not the danger of the adult world? On the same track, del Toro discusses one of his greatest strengths—his ability to merge the world of fantasy with a very stark reality. Even the close-up of the insect that Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) meets as she first arrives is very purposefully treated matter-of-factly instead of with a fantastical score and over-use of CGI. Instantly, the fantastic lives next to the real. Even more fascinating is del Toro’s discussion of color and shape—he uses circles in heroine Ofelia’s scenes and sharp lines in villain Vidal’s (Sergi Lopez), and distinguishes color palettes of the real and fantasy worlds in the first act and then purposefully has them bleed into each other as Ofelia goes deeper down the rabbit hole. There is no choice in a del Toro film that has not been carefully considered from the space around the frog in “Pan’s Labyrinth” to the amount of blood trickling from a wound in “Devil’s Backbone.” Hearing him discuss how and why he makes these choices while watching his films allows for a deeper understanding not just of del Toro’s work but other filmmakers and even art in other forms like fairy tales and Gothic romance. You can appreciate all films more completely by analyzing del Toro's. Like so many great artists, it doesn’t feel like del Toro is being adequately appreciated in his time. There’s a reason he was the openi[...]

CIFF 2016: "Sieranevada," "Olli Mäki" are Festival Favorities


The Chicago International Film Festival is more than just an occasion for one of the largest and longest running North American fests to display its latest discoveries. It's also an event where audiences and jury members alike dive into a pool of endless cinematic ideas and leave with some unexpected favorites. (To see some of ours, all of our CIFF 2016 coverage can be found here.)The festival started on October 13 with a screening of Damien Chazelle's widely-adored "La La Land," which brought Chazelle back to the city along with supporting actress Rosemarie Dewitt (who shared that it was her first time in Chicago). The two spoke at a pre-screening cocktail reception and then introduced a screening on the film, setting a strong precedent for the quality that was to come, projects made around the world by many filmmakers due to receive a warm Chicago movie-lover response.Throughout its two weeks the festival's schedule has been loaded with filmmaker appearances and important events, whether presentations about huge film personalities like Geraldine Chaplin, honored in a tribute on October 15, or a conversation with "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen on October 22. Director Peter Bogdanovich came to the festival on October 16 to receive a tribute, and then presented a screening the next day of his 1981 film, "They All Laughed." Danny Glover accepted the Visionary Award on October 20 while also in town to promote his new film, the Nigerian Ebola drama "93 Days." On Sunday, October 23, Taraji P. Henson joined the festival to discuss her latest project, the heavily anticipated "Hidden Figures" in a conversation with Regina Taylor. That same day, director Julie Dash appeared at the festival to present a new restoration of her 1991 film, "Daughters of the Dust."A great facet of CIFF is that it runs full speed until the very end. Tonight even features a screening of the highly-acclaimed drama "Moonlight," with director Barry Jenkins, writer Tarell Alvin McCraney and stars Andre Holland and Naomie Harris scheduled to attend. And of course, there's the "Best of the Fest" line-up, shared below, to see award winners before the festival wraps up. The festival will end on a fittingly big note tomorrow night with a closing ceremony screening of "Arrival," the new sci-fi drama from director Denis Villeneuve that features a highly-acclaimed performance by Amy Adams. For a festival with numerous essential events, the awards ceremony on October 22 was certainly a potent designation of the strong narratives and documentaries, features and shorts that the occasion had to offer. The International Competition Jury included filmmakers and actors from around the world, as led by Geraldine Chaplin. Their pick for the Gold Hugo was family drama "Sieranevada" by Cristi Puiu [pictured above], who gave back to the festival with a hilarious acceptance video that featured him sitting, mostly in silence, sometimes ruminating on whether he should continue directing or take up painting. It was a perfect blend of dry comedy and full character that, along with the Best Director award given to Puiu, made "Sieranevada" shoot to the top of my must-see list. ["Sieranevada" screens one more time on Thursday, October 27 at 7:45pm. To order your tickets, click here.]A Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize was given to Asghar Farhadi's "The Salesman," while other films were recognized for their achievement in specific categories. Adrian Titieni received the Best Actor award for writer/director Cristian Mungiu's "Graduation," while Rebecca Hall was given the Best Actress designation for her work as Christine Chubbuck in Antonio Campos' new film, "Christine." Mungiu himself won the Best Screenplay honor for "Graduation." Recognition for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction went to "The Last Family," a particular favorit[...]

CIFF 2016: Table of Contents


The following Table of Contents includes our complete coverage of the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival, as written by Brian Tallerico, Matt Fagerholm, Peter Sobczynski and Omer M. Mozaffar.BRIAN TALLERICO"Neruda""Paterson""The Salesman"MATT FAGERHOLMSteve McQueen Honored at Chicago International Film Festival"24 Weeks""A Mere Breath""Among Wolves""Bright Lights""I, Daniel Blake""Imperfections""Miles""Raw""The Student""The View from Tall"NICK ALLENCIFF 2016: "Sieranevada," "Olli Mäki" are Festival FavoritesPETER SOBCZYNSKI CIFF 2016: 35 Films to SeeInterview: Peter Bogdanovich on "They All Laughed""The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography""Elle""The Handmaiden""The King of Jazz""The Salesman"OMER M. MOZAFFAR "Destined" [...]