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Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Freddy vs. Jason (Yu)
2. Too Late to Die Young (Sotomayer)
3. In the Mouth of Madness (Carpenter)
4. The Lady Eve (Sturges)
5. The Atomic Cafe (Loader/Rafferty/Rafferty)
6. The Rules of the Game (Renoir)
7. Stromboli (Rossellini)
8. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov)
9. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)
10. The Awful Truth (McCarey)

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Talking FRANKENSTEIN in Wilmette / RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at the Adirondack Film Fest

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I’ll be giving a talk about cinematic adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from the early sound era through the present day at the Wilmette Public Library next Sunday, October 7. Here’s the description I wrote for their website:

Mike at the Movies Presents: Frankenstein on Film
Sunday, October 7 at 2:00
In all of literature Frankenstein is one of the novels most frequently adapted into other mediums. In this special Halloween edition of “Mike at the movies,” filmmaker and scholar Michael Glover Smith will spotlight some of the most popular and enduring cinematic interpretations of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece – from James Whale’s iconic Boris Karloff vehicle from 1931 and Hammer’s lurid color version in 1958 to classic parodies such as Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.
The presentation will focus on how different filmmakers have managed to explore different aspects of the same well-known formula and, in the process, continually revive a story that refuses to die.
Auditorium; Free and Open to the Public – http://www.wilmettelibrary.info

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My new film Rendezvous in Chicago will be screening TWICE at the Adirondack Film Festival, which is hosting our World Premiere, in Glens Falls, New York next month. Both screenings will be preceded by Clare Cooney’s great short film Runner. The first show will be Friday, October 19 at 3:15pm, the second on Saturday, October 20 at 3:30pm. I will be there to introduce the screenings along with producer Layne Marie Williams and other members of the cast and crew. For more info, including the full festival schedule, ticket info and showtimes, check out the festival’s website: http://www.adkfilmfestival.org/


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Trailer

With less than a month until the World Premiere of my new film RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at the Adirondack Film Festival, I’ve posted our trailer to YouTube (it was previously available only as an exclusive at Daily Grindhouse). Check it out!


Emily Lape’s MERCY’S GIRL and Dustin Puehler’s IN A MOMENT

My reviews of Emily Lape’s Mercy’s Girl and Dustin Puehler’s In a Moment, both of which screen at the Middle Coast Film Festival this weekend, appeared at Time Out Chicago today. I’m reprinting them below.

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The most high profile event of the Middle Coast Film Festival, which kicks off at the Davis Theatre this Friday, September 21, will be an opening night anniversary screening of The Birdcage co-hosted by local drag queens Lucy Stoole and Kat Sass. While that should start the fest on an irreverently fun note (and if you haven’t yet seen the film, it’s worth checking out for Elaine May’s witty script and Gene Hackman’s layered performance), some of the other highlights are lesser-known new works by local independent filmmakers. In addition to a well-curated locally made shorts block, which presents another chance for Chicagoans to catch amazing short films like Maggie Scrantom’s Atoms of Ashes and Clare Cooney’s Runner, Middle Coast will also screen impressive micro-budget features like Mercy’s Girl and In a Moment.

Mercy’s Girl, an auspicious debut feature from veteran actress, but first-time writer and director, Emily Lape, centers on a young woman living on the North Side of Chicago whose alcoholism and closeted sexuality can both be traced to a fraught relationship with her religious, blue-collar parents. Mercy (Lape in a wonderfully understated performance) finds her world turned upside down when she engages in her first serious relationship with another woman: free-spirited college student Jesse (Alison Hixon). This ultra-realistic drama may toil in the same “flesh vs. spirit” thematic vineyard as Chicago filmmaker Stephen Cone (Princess Cyd) but Lape also has her own unique cinematic voice, one so attuned to the textures of everyday life in the Windy City that the accumulation of the smallest details in the production design and the subtlest gestures of performance eventually add up to a quietly devastating portrait of an ordinary life. Think of a female version of Mike Leigh (Naked) at his toughest and you’ll have some idea of what Lape is up to here.

In A Moment occupies Middle Coast’s sole late night slot and is a good example of how even the grungiest genre fare can be elevated by a creative approach. Writer and director Dustin Puehler juxtaposes two separate Michigan-set narratives—one involving a rural gay man’s search for love on the internet, the other a group of roving, drug-addled criminals on a home-invasion spree—then inexorably brings them together for a bloody B-movie climax. Working with limited resources and money clearly didn’t hold Puehler back from putting a lot of care into the stylized color cinematography, jagged editing rhythms and an almost Lynchian attention to sound design (where heightened sound effects are occasionally indistinguishable from Campfire’s atmospheric original score), creating an intense cinematic experience. This is the kind of gem that too often gets passed over by film festivals, so Middle Coast should be commended for programming it. Seeing it with a buzzed, late-night crowd should be fun.

For more information including ticket info and showtimes visit Middle Coast’s website


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Brief Encounter (Lean)
2. The More the Merrier (Stevens)
3. Prince of Darkness (Carpenter)
4. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov)
5. Good Manners (Dutra/Rojas)
6. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov)
7. Rendezvous in Chicago (Smith)
8. Casablanca (Curtiz)
9. Nosferatu (Murnau)
10. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene)


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO to World Premiere at the Adirondack Film Fest

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My third feature film, Rendezvous in Chicago, will have its World Premiere at the Adirondack Film Festival in Glens Falls, NY on Friday, October 19. It’s an honor to premiere at such an esteemed festival alongside so many exciting other titles (such as Serge Bozon’s Mrs. Hyde). I will be in attendance along with my producer Layne Marie Williams, production manager Armani Barron and executive producer/actor David McNulty. The exact showtime and venue are TBA but day passes are on sale now through the festival’s website.

The second festival screening will occur at the Strasburg Film Festival in Strasburg, Virginia on Sunday, November 11 at 10:30am. I will be present for a Q&A after the screening along with executive producer/actor David McNulty. The screening will take place at the Strasburg Town Hall – where laws are made! Tickets are on sale now through the festival’s website.

More screenings will be announced soon.


Interview with Middle Coast Film Festival Director Jess Levandoski

My interview with Jess Levandoski appeared at Time Out Chicago yesterday. I’m reproducing it here in its entirety.
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After four successful years in Bloomington, Indiana, the fifth annual Middle Coast Film Festival will move to Lincoln Square’s Davis Theatre later this month. The event promises local movie fans “loads of films, awesome parties and endless possibilities” between Friday, September 21 and Sunday, September 23. We recently spoke to festival director Jess Levandoski about what attendees can expect.

What exactly is the Middle Coast Film Fest? How would you describe its identity and mission?

Middle Coast’s goal is to provide an inclusive, uplifting, and affirming community to filmmakers and audience members alike. In other words, we like to say we’ve created a jerk-free zone. We want this festival to be the event in Chicago where filmmakers can let their hair down and just show us films that elicit emotions. This isn’t a fest where you’ll get a distribution deal, it’s a fest where you’ll get to have real talk about your projects and where audiences feel empowered to really connect with you. We want to build a huge family! Send us all your misfits and loners, you’ve got a spot right here next to the rest of us.

You’ve had four successful years in Bloomington already. What necessitated the move to Chicago and did you find it daunting to put on a film festival in a city that already has so many?

As the founder and director of the festival, I moved, so it had to move with me! We built a great fest in Bloomington, and it really is a special town, but we hit a limit with what we could do there (and plus all the staff members moved away) so I’m so thrilled to have the new home base in Chicago! And as far as the saturation level of fests here in Chicago, that just means there are that many cool people in the area, you know? Plenty of room at the table, and if there’s not, I know we can just add more seats.

You’ve said that you want to “take over Lincoln Square” for the weekend of the festival. What do you see as the relationship between the festival and the neighborhood?

When I was looking into venues, I searched high and low for the perfect neighborhood to place it in. I needed to find a venue that didn’t already have a film fest every other weekend, I needed a spot that had a strong arts community and folks who enjoy doing stuff. The area of Lincoln Square, Ravenswood and North Center was perfect for it—you can find single family homes and apartment dwellers, young professionals and families, loads of diversity. It’s not all completely gentrified yet and there’s room for growth. So finding the newly renovated Davis Theater with the gorgeous full service bar and restaurant, the Carbon Arc, attached to it was a real eureka moment for me. It felt like a home for the fest when I walked in. It’s run by an awesome group of dudes who want to see a film fest be anchored there, so their support has been a key to our success so far. We’ve partnered with both Wintrust Bank and the Dank Haus Cultural Center to expand the footprint of the festival, so our closing night party will be on the rooftop terrace that overlooks the city and it will just be this perfect ending to our first year in the neighborhood. I just have a great feeling about it!

Tell me about the lineup. I know you can’t pick favorites but what are some of the highlights that you might recommend to a first-time Middle Coast attendee?

We open Friday September 21, at 2pm with our first block of shorts called “PEOPLE ARE AWESOME.” The first 100 badge holders through the door get a free swag bag. That’s pretty cute, huh? Free stuff! We will also have live music on the sidewalk, mountains of Lacroix water and fun vendor booths, including an advice booth from our sponsor Hello Tushy, where you can get honest advice from a real asshole (Hello Tushy is a bidet company. See what we did there?). Friday night also hosts our anniversary screening of The Birdcage, presented in partnership with Wussy Mag. We’ll have costume lewks contest hosted by Chicago’s own Lucy Stoole and Kat Sass. Saturday we open the doors of the Davis to run programming in all three theaters, including a big surprise film. Our lounge in the Carbon Arc will be open all day, as well as our vendors and podcasting areas.

Our big headliner Saturday night is a Chicago premiere, The New Romantic, written and directed by Carly Stone and starring Jessica Barden (Netflix’s It’s the End of the F*cking World!). I’ve been describing it as “If Hunter S. Thompson wrote Pretty Woman.”

You’ve also scheduled some panel discussions. Who’s going to be on them and what will the discussion topics be?

Friday we have a panel called “Script to Screen & Everything In Between!,” which is just our cute way of saying our panelists are going to spill the tea about productions they’ve worked on where shit has gone way wrong, but with style and grace and lots of Google docs and begging for help they made it work. It’s gonna be spicy.

Saturday we have a panel called “Coastal Connections,” which is a discussion with the LA Women’s Film Collective and Chicago’s Women of the Now. Our panelists will discuss the challenges they face and the action steps for femme identifying filmmakers to think about and walk away with. We need more representation in the film world and they’re going to ignite the audience to walk away with ways to achieve that goal.

For more information visit the Middle Coast Film Festival’s website.


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