Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Breathless (Godard)
2. A Touch of Sin (Jia)
3. Results (Bujalski)
4. Unexpected (Swanberg)
5. Master of the House (Dreyer)
6. Audition (Miike)
7. Germany Year Zero (Rossellini)
8. Bernie (Linklater)
9. Starry Eyes (Kolsch/Widmyer)
10. Chungking Express (Wong)

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer at Cine-File / Cool Apocalypse on The Arts Section


I have a review of Pierfrancesco Diliberto’s The Mafia Only Kills in Summer at Cine-File (originally posted last Friday). I quite liked this popular Italian comedy even though I know its broad satire and sentimentality have made it a tough sell for a lot of American critics. The more one knows about the deadly seriousness of the Mafia problem in Palermo, however, the more I think one is likely to appreciate it (which is probably why it was so successful in Europe and in its home country in particular). It continues a weeklong run at Facets through Thursday. You can peep my review here:

Also, I was recently interviewed by Gary Zidek, host of WDCB’s great “Arts Section” program, about my film Cool Apocalypse in advance of its World Premiere this Saturday night at the Illinois International Film Festival in Aurora. You can listen to the 20 minute interview, which includes an audio clip from the film, here:


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Touch of Evil (Welles)
2. Black Book (Verhoeven)
3. The Mafia Only Kills in Summer (Diliberto)
4. The Babadook (Kent)
5. Paisan (Rossellini)
6. L’amore (Rossellini)
7. Rome, Open City (Rossellini)
8. The Shining (Kubrick)
9. Before Sunset (Linklater)
10. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 (Von Trier)

Once Upon a Savage Night at Time Out Chicago


Did you know that Robert Altman directed a serial-killer thriller in Chicago in 1964? He was still a neophyte director when he made Once Upon a Savage Night for an NBC television program titled “Kraft Suspense Theater.” Available to view on YouTube today (complete with all-Kraft commercial breaks!), it’s a genuine blast from the past. Read all about it in my latest post for Time Out Chicago:

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Cooley High (Schultz)
2. Throne of Blood (Kurosawa)
3. A Short Film About Killing (Kieslowski)
4. The House of Mystery (Volkoff)
5. The Ice Harvest (Ramis)
6. Nightmare in Chicago (Altman)
7. La Pointe Courte (Varda)
8. Cat People (Tourneur)
9. One Way Boogie Woogie (Benning)
10. Under the Skin (Glazer)

Chicago Latino Film Fest Week Two / Cool Apocalypse Screenings


My single favorite film at this year’s Chicago Latino Film Festival is Operation Zanahoria, a fact-based political thriller from Uruguay that recalls All The President’s Men in its story of journalists uncovering a potential political scandal but which puts its “procedural” thrust to very different and specifically Uruguayan ends. It’s the second feature of Enrique Buchichio who also helmed the formidable Leo’s Room. I will be posting an interview with Buchichio on this site soon. In the meantime, you can check out my review of Operation Zanahoria at Time Out Chicago here:

In other news, I’m pleased to report that my film Cool Apocalypse will be screening at two international Film Festivals next month. Our world premiere will take place at the Illinois International Film Festival in Aurora on Saturday, May 2nd at 7:30pm. Any of my students who attend the premiere will earn TWENTY POINTS extra credit towards their final grade (check your course website for more info). Our second screening will take place at the South Carolina Cultural Film Festival in North Charleston, SC, on Friday, May 8th at 7:40pm. More info about tickets, locations and complete festival lineups can be found on our official website:

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Days of Heaven (Malick)
2. Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
3. Time of the Gypsies (Kusturica)
4. While We’re Young (Baumbach)
5. Leo’s Room (Buchichio)
6. Office Space (Judge)
7. Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (Klinger)
8. The Strawberry Blonde (Walsh)
9. Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey)
10. Rope (Hitchcock)

Chicago Latino Film Fest Week One / Flickering Empire at Iwan Ries


The 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival opens tomorrow night and it’s provided me with the occasion for a new blog post at Time Out Chicago. I have a brief review of Fellipe Barbosa’s first feature Casa Grande, or the Ballad of Poor Jean, a socially conscious Brazilian drama that I quite liked and am calling your best bet for the fest’s first week. Peep the review here:

Also, next Tuesday, April 14, the Cigar Society of Chicago will host Adam Selzer and me at the Lounge in Iwan Ries for a book talk/signing of Flickering Empire. Cocktails at 5:30, talk starts at 6. I’m really looking forward to enjoying a good cigar during our book talk this time! More info here:

Manoel de Oliveira R.I.P. (1908 – 2015)


This one really hurts, folks: Manoel de Oliveira was one of the greats. He was also, of course, the world’s oldest active filmmaker and it is unlikely that any director will ever again be so active at such an advanced age. His 106 years on this earth spanned virtually the entire history of feature-length narrative cinema and his filmography spanned an astonishing 84 of those years — from the incredible “city symphony” film Labor on the Douro River in 1931, made when Oliveira was 22-years-old during what was still the silent-film era in Portugal, to the two shorts he made that premiered at last fall’s Venice International Film Festival (one of which was the festival’s official trailer), made when he was 105. All of which is to say that the old man wasn’t just a righteous soldier of cinema, he was the cinema. Oliveira was in many ways the last exemplar of — indeed he seemed to be synonymous with — a strain of now-extinct 1960s European art film in spite of the fact that he was barely active during that particular decade; Portugal’s then-fascist government had intentionally stymied his career, once even arresting him and interrogating him for 10 days because of a movie.

Oliveira had the last laugh, however, outliving Portugal’s “Estado Novo” era, and embarking on the prolific late phase of his career (and achieving his greatest successes) at an age when most other directors start to retire. His films were intellectually vigorous and deliberately slow, long before “slow cinema” became fashionable on the arthouse circuit, and he emphasized rather than downplayed their literary and theatrical origins. But he was also, in the best Bunuellian vein, a Surrealist prankster who included a shocking “throwing a cat” gag in his Madame Bovary adaptation Abraham’s Valley and pulled the rug out from under the audience completely with the full-blown insanity of the ending of his film-opera The Cannibals. One of the proudest moments of my professional career was presenting the belated Chicago theatrical premiere of the latter as a midnight movie at Facets Multimedia in 2013. The screening was well attended and when I polled the audience beforehand I was astonished to find that literally none of them had seen an Oliveira film before. The nocturnal creatures in attendance were clearly expecting a cult-horror movie about cannibalism and yet, when the screening ended, everyone seemed to have enjoyed it, with many remarking that it was far weirder than what they had anticipated.

Manoel de Oliveira was previously on my list of the 10 Best Living Directors (his place has since been taken by Claire Denis). Here is what I originally wrote about him there in January, 2011:


“At 102 years of age, Manoel de Oliveira is by far the oldest director on this list. Incredibly, unlike a lot of the other filmmakers cited here (many of whom have either officially or unofficially retired), Oliveira is not only still active but prolific, having made at least one feature a year since 1990. This recent spate of films constitutes more than half of his body of work, which is extremely impressive considering he started directing in the silent era. Oliveira’s style is not for everyone: his movies, made in conscious opposition to Hollywood conventions, tend to be slow, deliberately paced literary adaptations centered on the theme of doomed love. But if you can find yourself in tune with the rhythm of his unique brand of filmmaking, Oliveira’s best work – including Abraham’s Valley (by far the best film adaptation of Madame Bovary I know of) and the brilliant triptych Anxiety (Inquietude) — can be both intensely cinematic and soul-stirring.

Essential work: Abraham’s Valley (Vale Abraao) (1993), Anxiety (Inquietude) (1998), The Strange Case of Angelica (O Estranho Caso de Angélica) (2010)”

It is regrettable that Oliveira had trouble making features in the last few years of his life — not due to ill health but rather due to the difficulty of getting his films insured. He was not able to realize, for instance, his dream project of adapting Machado de Assis’s masterful short story “The Devil’s Church,” although one hopes that another filmmaker, perhaps a Portuguese director like Pedro Costa or Miguel Gomes, may end up inheriting Oliveira’s finished screenplay. Still, he was able to complete eight films after his 100th birthday and one can only hope that his death will bring renewed interest to this work. His final feature, the highly regarded Gebo and the Shadow from 2012, still hasn’t received a Chicago premiere.

The Strange Case of Angelica
, which saw the old master learning new tricks by employing CGI, was number one on my list of the best films of the 2011:

You can read a transcript of my introduction to the Chicago premiere of The Cannbials here:

Last but not least, you should watch this film of Oliveira dancing in public at the ripe old age of 99. It’s good for the soul:

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