The Logan Theatre and Various Multiplexes – Check Venue websites for showtimes
If RICHARD JEWELL (2019) was Clint Eastwood’s FRENZY—a dark, angry movie that revisited some of the director’s pet themes in a more disturbing fashion than ever before—then CRY MACHO is his FAMILY PLOT—a surprisingly sweet and gentle about-face that feels like a career summation while showing the old master has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Like MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) and GRAN TORINO (2008), CRY MACHO tells the story of an older man haunted by his past who finds redemption in becoming a surrogate father to a wounded younger person. The relationship unfolds on a picaresque road trip similar to the ones in BRONCO BILLY (1980), HONKYTONK MAN (1982) and THE MULE (2018), and Eastwood also throws in a cross-generational romance (a la BREEZY  and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY ) for good measure. Most of all, CRY MACHO is quintessentially Eastwoodian for how the filmmaker finds new ways to interrogate and subvert his own macho persona as an actor, even though (or perhaps precisely because) he was a physically frail 90-year-old at the time it was shot. Jonathan Rosenbaum once balked at the reception of Manoel de Oliveira’s CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS – THE ENIGMA (2007) because he was convinced that some fans of the then-98-year-old director valued the film only because Oliveira could be seen in it driving a car. There will no doubt be similar skepticism in some quarters towards the neo-western CRY MACHO for containing images of the now-ancient Eastwood riding a horse, punching someone in the face, and dancing with a much-younger señora (the wonderful Natalia Traven). But Eastwood’s performance here is genuinely and subtly moving: there’s a scene where his character, a retired rodeo star, cries while talking about mistakes he’s made, and it’s filmed in such a daringly offhanded manner, with the actor’s cowboy hat slung low over his eyes, that many viewers likely won’t even notice the single tear that streams down his face while he’s reminiscing. The low-key, no-fuss approach is characteristic of both the director and the movie as a whole. CRY MACHO features perhaps the most beautiful widescreen landscape shots that Eastwood has ever composed (with New Mexico credibly standing in for Mexico), even though, typical for a director famed for his visual economy, he refuses to linger on any of them for a second longer than necessary. A small masterpiece that deserves to be seen on the big screen. (2021, 104 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]
I reviewed Fellini’s 8 1/2 forCine-File Chicagoahead of a couple of revival screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center this weekend.
Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (Italy) Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm and Sunday, 6:30pm Life imitates art and art imitates life in Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece, a thinly disguised autobiographical study of an Italian filmmaker, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni, naturally), fighting director’s block while making a science-fiction epic. 8 1/2 proved to be exactly the right movie for its cultural moment, as cinematic new waves were cropping up all over the world and the auteurist notion that a film could be (and indeed should be) seen as the personal expression of a single individual was filtering down from critics to the general moviegoing public. Of course, an intuitive director like Fellini wasn’t consciously trying to capture the zeitgeist but merely throwing his own confusion about life, love, and art up on the screen (the film’s original title, THE BEAUTIFUL CONFUSION, would have been apt). Fellini also had no way of knowing that the innovative way he showed the collision of his protagonist’s fantasies, dreams, and childhood memories—most of which pertain to Guido’s struggles with religion and/or the women in his life—would exert such a massive influence on future filmmakers. Everyone from Woody Allen (STARDUST MEMORIES) to Bob Fosse (ALL THAT JAZZ) to Paul Mazursky (ALEX IN WONDERLAND and THE PICKLE) unofficially remade it (while, ironically, the official remake, the Hollywood musical NINE, proved to be an impersonal work-for-hire for director Rob Marshall). As Dave Kehr perceptively noted, “There’s something about the concept (stuck for an idea for his new movie, a director takes a long, hard look at his own life) that appeals irresistibly to the ego of the professional filmmaker. For directors frustrated by the eternal obscurity of life behind the camera, the 8 1/2 formula gives them a way to step forward and grab the spotlight they’ve trained so long on others.” Fellini may never again have ascended to the level of greatness he displayed here, even though he repeatedly mined similar subject matter, but 8 1/2 remains a dizzying career high. (1963, 138 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]
1. The Card Counter* (Schrader) – A- 2. Short Cuts (Altman) – B+ 3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene) – A 4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene) – A 5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Lynch) – A 6. Our Hospitality (Keaton) – A+ 7. Our Hospitality (Keaton) – A+ 8. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton) – A+ 9. Candyman* (DaCosta) – C 10. Housekeeping* (Forsyth) – A
I am excited to unveil the poster for my fourth feature film, RELATIVE, here and across all social media platforms. The poster was designed by the multitalented Armani Barron using a still from the film originally captured by killer DP Olivia Aquilina. The actors depicted are Wendy Robie, Francis Guinan, Cameron Scott Roberts, Clare Cooney, Keith D. Gallagher, Emily Lape, Melissa DuPrey and Arielle Gonzalez. The World Premiere will likely be late this year or in early 2022. Stay tuned for more info!
1. Summer of Sam* (Lee) – C 2. Oh! My Dear Desire* (Ross) – C+ 3. Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser* (Zwerin) – A- 4. Glen and Randa* (McBride) – B+ 5. Annette* (Carax) – A 6. After Dark My Sweet* (Foley) – B- 7. Whirlybird* (Yoka) – B 8. Hard to Handle (Armstrong) – A- 9. Pig* (Sarnoski) – C+ 10. Dr. T & the Women* (Altman) – B+
I reviewed Matt Yoka’s WHIRLYBIRD for Cine-file Chicago. It begins a (live!) run at the Gene Siskel Film Center beginning tonight.
Matt Yoka’s WHIRLYBIRD (US/Documentary) WHIRLYBIRD, Matt Yoka’s documentary feature debut, is a tale of two movies. It’s a portrait of the complicated, occasionally toxic marriage between journalists Zoey Tur (then known as Bob) and Marika Gerrard; it also serves as an informal history of “newscopter” journalism in Los Angeles during the 1980s and 90s. With its plethora of manicured lawns and backyard swimming pools, LA has always been an exceptionally interesting city when seen from a bird’s-eye view, and Yoka’s use of archival aerial footage is frequently stunning (even in 2021, when unnecessary drone shots have become overused by filmmakers intent on showing off “production value”). Anyone who lived through this era might be surprised to realize how many familiar images from the national news were captured by Tur and Gerrard’s video cameras: Michael Jackson being admitted to the hospital after suffering severe burns while filming a Pepsi ad; the riots that followed the exoneration of the police officers responsible for beating Rodney King; the infamous O.J. Simpson “white Bronco chase.” In each instance, Tur and Gerrard were there first, adrenaline junkies determined to capture the latest breaking news. But the film is more arresting on the micro level, primarily as it examines Tur, who’s now retired and living quietly in rural northern California. In a series of compelling interviews, she visibly wallows in regret over her hectic, often rage-filled former life, which she alternately blames on the testosterone then flowing through her body and the fact that she was physically abused as a child by her father, a person she hated but who nonetheless fears she’s turned into. The way Yoka offers a subtly empathetic look at this ambitious but deeply flawed individual (and in the latter stages of the film in particular) may sneak up on you. (2021, 103 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]
I do not want to turn this website into the kind of joint where all I do is link to interviews that I’m giving to other publications. And one day soon, perhaps when I am done editing RELATIVE, I promise I will get back to writing about other people’s movies — something that I genuinely miss doing. In the meantime, I would be remiss if I didn’t link to this interview David Hanley conducted with me for the great Canadian film journal Offscreen. This is the longest and most in-depth interview I’ve ever done. It encompasses my entire career as a filmmaker to date:
Pat “Uber Critic” McDonald interviewed me about my forthcoming feature, RELATIVE, at http://HollywoodChicago.com. He also gave me the chance to talk about some of my favorite artists including Agnes Varda and Bob Dylan. It’s always a pleasure talking to Pat! Listen to our two part podtalk interview below:
1. The Campus Corpse* (Curtis) – C- 2. The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant* (Finn) 3. Heat (Mann) – A 4. The Most Popular Things in the World to Do* (Higgins) 5. Kitâb al-Isfâr: The Book of the Journey* (Hillman) 6. Topology of Sirens* (Davies) 7. Her Name Was Europa* (Dornieden/Monroy) 8. Bloodshot Heart* (Malfitano) 9. Patching Topias* (Deltrieux) 10. Skagit* (Thompson)
* – First-time watch
Most of the titles on this list are submissions that I previewed for an upcoming film festival and I’m therefore not assigning them letter grades. I have made no secret of my fondness for Topology of Sirens, however, a film I consider to be one of the year’s best. You can read my review at Letterboxd here.
We are deep into post-production on RELATIVE and every time I see the footage, I couldn’t feel more proud of the work put in by our tremendous cast and crew. I anticipate a World Premiere in early 2022. In the meantime, Screen Magazine published a second article to coincide with the wrap of our shoot that you might be interested in checking out. It features new quotes from me and producer/actress Clare Cooney about the making of the film: