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Category Archives: Chicago Movies

RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at the Strasburg Film Festival

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RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO had its second festival screening at the Strasburg Film Festival in Strasburg, Virginia on Sunday, November 11. The screening was held at the Box Office Brewery, a beautiful old movie theater that has been converted into a craft brewery. Representing the film were yours truly and stories co-author Jillian McKeown. Much to our delight we won the award for Best Comedy and were presented with a beautiful earthenware trophy during the Q&A following the screening. This was a big honor considering the festival received over 5,500 submissions from 100+ countries and we were very impressed by the quality of the other films being screened. Check out the full list of winners on the festival’s website here. Big thanks to the Strasburg Film Festival staff and everyone who came out to the screening, and congrats to the entire RENDEZVOUS cast and crew!
Our next screening will be the Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival in Des Plaines, IL on 11/29. Stay tuned for more info including 2019 screening dates!

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The 5th Annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival!

I am excited to announce that, after the success of the last four Oakton Pop-Up Film Festivals, I have programmed and will be hosting P.U.F.F. for the fifth consecutive year. The screenings of these acclaimed independent American films (three features and three shorts), spanning various genres and styles, will all take place at Oakton Community College’s Footlik Theater in Des Plaines, Illinois, from Tuesday, November 27 through Friday, November 30. The entire festival is FREE and open to the public and ALL screenings will be followed by live Q&A sessions with cast and crew members from the films. Any of my students who attend a screening will receive extra credit points towards his or her final grade (see the extra credit page of your course website for more information). Don’t you dare miss it!

Oakton Community College’s 4th Annual Pop-Up Film Festival!
Footlik Theatre, 1600 E. Golf Road, Des Plaines
Tuesday, Nov. 27 – Friday, Nov. 30 – FREE admission

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Tuesday, 11/27 at 2pm: Madeline’s Madeline + post-screening discussion with Tina Fakhrid-Deen and Michael Glover Smith
Madeline got the lead role in the play! Strangely, the character wears sweatpants like Madeline. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face… like Madeline is. An official selection of the Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals, Josephine Decker’s intense psychodrama is an indescribable masterpiece that has been acclaimed as “one of the freshest and most exciting films of the 21st century” by Indiewire.

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Wednesday, 11/28 at 12:30pm: Future Language: The Dimensions of Von LMO + live Q&A w/ director Lori Felker moderated by Shannon Sloan-Spice
This experimental documentary chronicles the life of Von LMO, a musician and self-proclaimed alien-hybrid who was part of the late 70s New York No Wave music scene. Between trips to his home planet Strazar, Von has spent some very real time in prison and on the streets of Earth. Challenged with translating his Future Language for audiences across the galaxy, Lori, our filmmaker and Von LMO fan, gets sucked into Von’s orbit and finds herself lost in his story. An official selection of the Chicago Underground Film Festival.

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Thursday, 11/29 at 2pm: Rendezvous in Chicago + live Q&A w/ director Michael Smith, cast members Clare Cooney, Rashaad Hall, Kevin Wehby, David McNulty and producer Layne Marie Williams moderated by Kathleen Sachs
RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO is a short, comedic feature film consisting of three vignettes that correspond to the beginning (“The Brothers Karamazov”), middle (“Cats and Dogs”) and end (“The End is the Beginning”) stages of a relationship. This love letter to the Windy City and its colorful inhabitants was an official selection of the 2018 Adirondack Film Festival.

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Friday, 11/30 at 12:30pm:
Experimental Shorts Program + live Q&A w/ directors Melika Bass, Maggie Scrantom and Haley McCormick moderated by Michael Smith
This program showcases acclaimed, wordless experimental short films that were all produced locally: CREATURE COMPANION (Bass), ASHES OF ATOMS (Scrantom) and DANCER (McCormick).

The film festival is sponsored by Oakton Community College’s Educational Foundation.


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!


Casey Puccini’s I DON’T CARE

The following review of Casey Puccini’s I Don’t Care appeared at Time Out Chicago today. 

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I Don’t Care, the sophomore feature of Chicago filmmaker Casey Puccini (Children Without Parents), will receive its local premiere at Chicago Filmmakers this Saturday, August 25. It’s a sharply made, acerbic comedy chronicling a pretentious filmmaker (played by Puccini himself in a performance that impresses for its stubborn refusal to elicit viewer sympathy) whose most recent micro-budget opus spirals out of control due to a combination of his own incompetence and unexamined hubris. Puccini has described the movie as not strictly autobiographical although, given that he’s also calling it a “cautionary tale,” it seems likely that both the central character and basic scenario arose from imagining his life having gone down a darker path.

If the selfish fictional character of “Casey Puccini” were the whole show, I Don’t Care might risk being a too-bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately, Puccini had the good sense to cast the soulful, Jeff-award winning actress Sasha Gioppo opposite him (as an actress named, you guessed it, Sasha), and much of this modest film’s comedic power results from waiting for her character—initially good-natured but unpaid and underfed—to crack under the guidance of her ungrateful and indecisive “auteur.” The tension between the two reaches a boiling point in this modest movie’s best scene, where a paranoid Gioppo accuses Puccini of stealing her necklace during the course of a particularly stressful shooting day. It’s a mini-masterpiece of cringe humor that should resonate with anyone familiar with the sometimes-harrowing process of artistic collaboration.

For more information about the Chicago Premiere of I Don’t Care visit the Chicago Filmmakers website.


Talking RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO on Playtime with Bill and Kerri

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I will be on the Playtime with Bill and Kerri radio show this Sunday from 1-3pm to talk all about my forthcoming feature RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO. Playtime with Bill and Kerri is a fantastic show dedicated solely to the arts and I cannot wait to discuss my film with the witty and erudite hosts! Also, I MAY just drop some info about some early RENDEZVOUS screenings… If you’re in Chicago, you can tune in and listen live at WCGO (that’s 1590AM on your radio dial). This should be the first of many media appearances about the film!

*UPDATE* – You can watch a Facebook Live video of the interview here (segment begins at 29:30).


The RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Official Soundtrack Album

Below are the liner notes I wrote to accompany the brilliant score that Anaphylaxis (aka Jason Coffman) provided for my new film RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO. The film will not premiere until this fall but you can listen to the entire soundtrack by streaming it (or, for a measly $3, downloading it!) at Bandcamp now. Enjoy!

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The music cues I wrote into the script for RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO describe the soundtrack as containing “dreamy and ethereal electronic pop.” As late as the film’s pre-production stage, in March of 2018, I still had no clue who I was going to approach about composing the original score when a funny thing happened: I heard the sensational new Anaphylaxis album DARK LOVE, DARK MAGIC. I instantly knew that it was the exact sound I had been looking for. The driving rhythm and shimmering synthesizer of “Blue Devil Suite” sounded custom-made for my planned opening-credits sequence featuring abstract shots of the guardrail on Lake Shore Drive. “To Burgundy and Back” — and its accompanying eerie “brushed bell” stem track — possessed a dark majesty that I knew would provide the necessary counterpoint to the rapid-fire screwball-comedy dialogue of my first scene between Clare Cooney and Kevin Wehby. I soon realized that I wouldn’t need a composer after all; digging through the Anaphylaxis back catalogue gave me such riches as “Lin Minmei,” a full-on house jam that proved the perfect accompaniment to our “strip literary trivia” sequence, and “Dr. Nera Vivaldi,” a minimalist, acoustic guitar-driven song that underscored the poignancy of the extended scene where Rashaad Hall and Matt Sherbach’s characters walk from their Rogers Park home to the lakeshore nearby.

There was only one problem: we had one day left to lock picture before the movie was due to move on to color correction and post-sound mixing when my editor, Eric Marsh, informed me that we needed an additional song — one that could play under a scene in which Nina Ganet’s character finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman. As if right on cue, I received an email from Jason Coffman, mastermind behind Anaphylaxis for the past quarter century, informing me he had just composed a new track for the film entitled “Midsummer Masque.” Although Jason had yet to watch any of the footage and I had not spoken with him about the kind of music we needed for the film’s third part, “Midsummer Masque” began with an ominous burst of electronica that seemed to emphasize Nina’s righteous anger with sublime aptness; it was as if Jason and I had been in telepathic communication when he composed the track. When I saw how Eric married this song to the galvanic moment of Nina slamming the front door to her character’s apartment I nearly wept with gratitude at the cosmic coincidence of what Jason had done. Then again I remembered an old saying about how there are no coincidences. The soundtrack album for RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO consists of the aforementioned tracks plus a 1923 recording of blues legend Eva Taylor singing “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” a then-new composition co-written by her husband Clarence Williams. The resulting compilation offers something old and something new, and serves as an ideal introduction to the wonderful sonic world of Anaphylaxis.

— Michael Glover Smith, June 2, 2018


The 25th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival

The following piece on my best bets for this year’s Chicago Underground Film Festival, which kicked off last night and runs through this Sunday, was posted at Time Out Chicago today.

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The Chicago Underground Film Festival reaches a significant milestone with this year’s 25th-anniversary edition, which runs from Wednesday, June 6 through Sunday, June 10. CUFF’s notion of what constitutes an “underground” film has always been admirably expansive and this year’s program is typically eclectic in its offering of narrative, documentary and experimental works. We picked one movie to see from each category.

Savage Youth is a fact-based crime drama set in Joliet that features half-a-dozen phenomenal performances by a cast of young adult actors. Will Brittain (Everybody Wants Some!!!) and Grace Victoria Cox (Twin Peaks) stand out as a budding horror-core rapper and a visual artist, respectively, whose lives veer inexorably into tragedy after they begin dabbling in drugs and petty crime. The film’s depiction of an economically depressed and racially divided small town milieu looks especially trenchant and disturbing in light of the current political climate (although it was shot before the 2016 election), but writer and director Michael Curtis Johnson allows his characters moments of tenderness worthy of early Nicholas Ray.

Lori Felker’s Future Language: The Dimensions of Von LMO is a fascinating documentary about an eccentric subject: a cult figure and pioneer of the No Wave music scene in New York City in the late 1970s who claims to be a “hybrid alien” from the “planet Strazar.” Felker’s film, eight years in the making, is an impressive work of both archaeology and craftsmanship that uses every stylistic trick in the book—from archival footage to animation—to chronicle Von LMO’s many rises and falls; but the director’s masterstroke was allowing the true subject of the movie to become her complicated friendship with this weirdo. Future Language is as much a thorny love letter from one eccentric artist to another as it is a warts-and-all portrait of a gifted musician haunted by demons of his own making.

DANCER is a wordless 8-minute experimental short that repurposes footage from Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 to exhilarating effect, taking a well-known scene of Christina Ricci tap dancing and “making it strange” by chopping it up, adding split screen and heavily distorting it all with a video synthesizer so that the fragmented and fuzzy images that result become a treatise on female beauty as well as the objectification of said beauty. Director Haley McCormick’s analog-painterly aesthetic is perfectly complemented by a gorgeous original score composed and performed by Heart of Palm (a side project of No Coast / No Hope operator Shea Hardacre).

For more information on the 25th Chicago Underground Film Festival, including ticket info and showtimes, visit the CUFF website.


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