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Author Archives: michaelgloversmith

About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor.

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov)
2. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Talbot)
3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene)
4. Mulholland Drive (Lynch)
5. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene)
6. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (Scorsese)
7. Our Hospitality (Keaton)
8. In the Mood for Love (Wong)
9. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton)
10. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (Scorsese)

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The Best Films of the Year So Far

All of these films first screened theatrically in Chicago in the first half of 2019. I’ve linked to my original reviews where applicable and offer new thoughts on my favorite film of the year (which I haven’t written about elsewhere). Enjoy.

20. Hail Satan? (Lane, USA)
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“With unfettered access to the leaders of the group’s various nationwide chapters, including charismatic church founder Lucien Greaves, director Penny Lane crafts a deceptively simple work of political commentary that ultimately sympathizes with the Satanists as a group of merry pranksters who see their movement as a counterbalance to the repressiveness of other organized religions.” My review at Time Out Chicago here.

19. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Talbot, USA)
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18. Infinite Football (Porumboiu, Romania)
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17. Her Smell (Perry, USA)
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16. 3 Faces (Panahi, Iran)
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15. The Nightingale (Kent, Australia)
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14. Asako I & II (Hamaguchi, Japan)
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13. Saint Frances (Thompson, USA)
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“This female-centric character study, which is shot through with compassion, insight and originality, speaks to our cultural moment in a way that other recent American movies do not.” My review for Time Out Chicago here.

12. The Wild Pear Tree (Ceylan, Turkey)
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10. (tie) Hotel By the River/Grass (Hong, S. Korea)gangbyun_hotel

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9. Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Ross, USA)Hale-County-This-Morning-This-Evening-1600x900-c-default

8. Pasolini (Ferrara, Italy/USA)
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7. Black Mother (Allah, USA/Jamaica)
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“As in the films of Pedro Costa, (Khalik) Allah gives a voice to the voiceless while solidifying his own unique cinematic language.” My review at Time Out Chicago here.

6. CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans (Dumont, France)
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5. The Souvenir (Hogg, UK)
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4. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Bi, China)
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3. High Life (Denis, France/Germany)
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2. The Image Book (Godard, France/Switzerland)
the-image-book-1600x900-c-defaultIn spite of what some of his detractors think, Godard still believes in the elemental power of cinema, which is why the mesmerizing IMAGE BOOK is a more accessible work than even many of its champions would have you believe.” My review at Cine-File Chicago here.

1. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (Scorsese, USA)
rollingthunderMartin Scorsese revisits one of Bob Dylan’s most celebrated tours, 1975’s Rolling Thunder Revue, repurposing footage from the Bard of Minnesota’s own wild, self-directed 1978 film Renaldo & Clara and turning it into a fantasia about, in poet Anne Waldman’s words, “America’s search for redemption” (most evident in the scenes involving Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and the Tuscarora Indian Reservation). An overwhelming sensorial and emotional experience and, for my money, Scorsese’s best film of the 21st century. Also, no offense, but if you felt “duped” by the (hilarious) fictional elements in this, you are an idiot.


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Pasolini (Ferrara)
2. Asako I & II (Hamaguchi)
3. Empty Metal (Khalil/Sweitzer)
4. The Souvenir (Hogg)
5. The Strange One (Garfein)
6. Pickup on South Street (Fuller)
7. Mercury in Retrograde (Smith)
8. Rendezvous in Chicago (Smith)
9. The Nightingale (Kent)
10. Bleed American (Manchester)


Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan’s SAINT FRANCES

I wrote the following review for Time Out Chicago where it should appear today or tomorrow.

Elevated Films Kicks Off Summer Series with SxSW Winner ‘Saint Frances’

Elevated Films, an outdoor independent film series that supports cinema and local youth arts programs in Chicago, will kick off its summer slate with a sneak preview of Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan’s Saint Frances on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel on Thursday, June 13. The event offers an excellent opportunity for Chicagoans to see the locally made dramedy before it opens theatrically later in 2019. Saint Frances recently won two awards at the South by Southwest Film Festival where it had its world premiere in March—a surprising feat for a first feature with no recognizable stars in the cast. A single viewing makes it immediately apparent why it resonated with judges and audiences: This female-centric character study, which is shot through with compassion, insight and originality, speaks to our cultural moment in a way that other recent American movies do not. Director Thompson will be on hand at the Ace Hotel screening with members of the cast, including writer and lead actress O’Sullivan, for a post-screening Q&A moderated by filmmaker Kris Swanberg.

RECOMMENDED: Where to see summer outdoor movies in Chicago

Saint Frances centers on Bridget (O’Sullivan in a remarkably naturalistic and winning performance), a 34-year-old Chicago woman with no “fancy job” (she’s a server), no boyfriend and no real direction in life. After she gets a job as a nanny for the film’s title character, the 6-year-old daughter of an interracial lesbian couple in Evanston, Bridget also unexpectedly finds herself pregnant in the wake of a one-night stand. This basic premise might feel reminiscent of other recent American indies, but the narrative takes a completely unexpected turn. It continually moves in gratifyingly unanticipated directions as it flips expectations about gender roles, includes some surprisingly edgy humor, and focuses primarily on the relationship between Bridget and Frances. In the process, Saint Frances ends up feeling less like other movies and more like a messy slice of real life. To give away more of the plot would be a crime, but the conclusion is admirable for the way it goes against the grain of how much a protagonist’s external circumstances are supposed to change over the course of a film. The changes that do occur are ultimately more of the interior—and more profound—variety.

The Elevated Films screening series continues throughout the summer on the Ace Hotel rooftop, with the Chicago premiere of Lynn Shelton’s Sword of Trust (starring comedian and podcaster Marc Maron) and the Sundance hit Greener Grass. These screenings will take place on yet-to-be-determined dates in July and September. For more information about the upcoming screening of Saint Frances and additional outdoor screenings at the Ace Hotel this summer, check out the Elevated Films website.


NYC Premieres of MERCURY IN RETROGRADE and RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at Spectacle Theater

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I couldn’t be happier to announce that the NYC Premieres of my most recent features, Mercury in Retrograde and Rendezvous in Chicago, will take place at Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn on the evening of Saturday, May 25! I’m a big fan of the programming at Spectacle and am honored that they wanted to show my work. Producer Kevin Wright will join me for the MERCURY Q&A and actor Rashaad Hall (Andy) will join me for the RENDEZVOUS Q&A. Tickets are on sale now and I expect both shows to sell out. Hope to see all my NYC-area friends there!


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Under the Silver Lake (Mitchell)
2. 35 Shots of Rum (Denis)
3. Burning (Lee)
4. The Wild Pear Tree (Ceylan)
5. Black Mother (Allah)
6. Wanda (Loden)
7. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong)
8. The Gleaners and I (Varda)
9. Boyhood (Linklater)
10. American Graffiti (Lucas)


Khalik Allah’s BLACK MOTHER

I have a review of Khalik Allah’s visionary Black Mother at Time Out Chicago. I’m reproducing it in its entirety below.

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Toward the end of his recent film The Image Book, director Jean-Luc Godard quotes Bertolt Brecht in saying: “In reality, only a fragment carries the mark of authenticity.” This is a fitting epitaph to a film, and a career, characterized by its radical, collage-like approach to juxtaposing image and sound. It would have been equally appropriate, though for very different reasons, for this quote to appear in Black Mother, a visually astonishing and deeply spiritual love letter to Jamaica made by the acclaimed American filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah. While The Image Book primarily uses clips from other films to illustrate the misrepresentation of the Arab world in the West, Black Mother uses fragments of footage Allah shot by himself in his mother’s home country of Jamaica, on a variety of film and video formats (Hi8, miniDV, Super 8, 16mm and high-definition digital) over a span of 20 years. Chicagoans will have a chance to see the kaleidoscopic result, which is best experienced on a large screen, when the film receives its local premiere run at the Facets Cinematheque from Friday, May 3 through Thursday, May 9.

Although Allah’s mother does appear in the film, the title is a reference to the notion of Jamaica as an ancestral homeland, a place the director has visited since the age of three and which he puts on screen in a captivating fashion. Black Mother is cleverly structured into three sections—referred to as “trimesters”—that speak volumes about both the history and present of Jamaica, including its painful legacy of colonialism. The film relentlessly avoids clichéd images of Jamaican culture (reggae, weed and Rastafarianism are barely acknowledged) and eschews the norms of documentary filmmaking. It’s a highly personal and visually dense cinematic essay in which sound and image are deliberately out of synch —only one shot in the film’s sublime final chapter, of Allah’s late Jamaican grandfather, features a subject speaking live on camera. An ambitious and dreamlike visual-aural fugue, it represents a clear evolution from Allah’s first feature, Field Niggas, in training a benevolent camera eye on a variety of dispossessed subjects, including sex workers. As in the films of Pedro Costa, Allah gives a voice to the voiceless while solidifying his own unique cinematic language.

For more information about Black Mother’s Chicago run, including ticket info and showtimes, visit Facets Multimedia’s website.

 


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