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#419 November 9, 2021

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    By Entertainer

    Matt writes: After a prolonged hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Critics Film Festival finally returns to the Music Box Theatre from Friday, November 12th, through Sunday, November 14th. You can find the complete screening schedule here as well as in Brian Tallerico's detailed preview. I had the great privilege of interviewing "Wild at Heart" author Barry Gifford and acclaimed actor Lili Taylor prior to this Saturday's Windy City premiere of Rob Christopher's great documentary, "Roy's World: Barry Gifford's Chicago," with both Gifford and Christopher in attendance. You can read our full conversation here, and view a trailer for the film embedded below. The following three paragraphs are an excerpt of my chat with Gifford in which he shares a priceless story about Roger's longtime sparring partner, Gene Siskel...

    Gene Siskel and I were the same age, and he actually was a friend of mine. I met Gene in 1966 when for a very brief time, I decided, “St, I should go to college.” So I did a summer term at Cambridge University in England, and there were a number of Americans there, one of whom was Gene Siskel. I got to know him, and the funny thing was he had been from my neighborhood in Chicago. His parents were killed in a car wreck when he was a young kid, so he went to live with an aunt and uncle in Evanston, and that’s where he grew up. At Cambridge, he was the kind of character that people made fun of. He kept a diary every day and would address himself by a nickname he had created, “The Unit,” so he’d write things like, “The Unit put on his shoes at six in the morning.” Though he played goalie on our American soccer team there, he wasn’t quite a participant. If we would all be together getting high, he would be sitting off to the side taking notes on people’s behavior. 

    I never saw Siskel again after that until the Cannes Film Festival in 1990. “Wild at Heart” was going to screen for the first time just to us in the main theater at about one o’clock in the morning so that we could test whether the opticals and everything else had been completed after the week of work that had been done on the print in Paris. Gene Siskel and his wife had to leave the following day and wouldn’t be able to make the official screening, so Monty asked me if I’d meet them around midnight and bring them over to the theater. I didn’t say anything to Monty about the fact that I knew Siskel years before. I was having a drink with a documentary filmmaker from Paris I had befriended on the terrace of the Hotel Martinez, which is the spot where I said I would meet Siskel. When he appeared with his wife, he was walking like a giraffe with his nose in the air. He was tall and very recognizable, so as I sat on the edge of the bar, I said, “Hey Unit! Unit! Over here!” At first, there was no reaction. Then I said it a second or third time, and Siskel turned around and looked directly at me.

    He was standing practically in front of me, and he said, “You! It’s you! Of course!” He hadn’t put two and two together—Barry Gifford, “Wild at Heart”—and he was just gobsmacked. He was absolutely stunned. Then I took them to the theater, and I remember there were six or seven of us sitting in a row together. Before the film started, Gene just looked down at me, shook his head, smacked himself on the forehead and mouthed, “It’s you!” Because I always used to take the piss out of him in 1966, and he always took it well. He knew how funny he was, talking about how Eleanor Roosevelt stayed at their house in Evanston. Cut to 1990, and he’s now a well-known film critic, though he’s still the same pompous but funny guy that he was back then. He was just so amazed by this coincidence, and I remember a line in “Lost Highway” where one cop says to the other toward the end, “You know what I think? There’s no such thing as a bad coincidence.” Well, I have to tell you, this comes from my experience. I was very saddened when Gene died because he was a good guy. He was himself.

    ROY'S WORLD official trailer #1 from Rob Christopher on Vimeo.


    Benedetta (2021). Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Written by Paul Verhoeven and David Birke (based on the book by Judith C. Brown). Starring Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphne Patakia. Synopsis: A 17th-century nun in Italy suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair. Debuts in the US on December 3rd, 2021.

    A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks (2021). Directed by John Maggio. Synopsis: Follows Gordon Parks' stellar career from staff photographer for LIFE magazine, through his artistic development photographing everyday Americans, through his evolution as a novelist and groundbreaking filmmaker. Debuts on HBO Max on November 15th, 2021.

    A Journal for Jordan (2021). Directed by Denzel Washington. Written by Virgil Williams (based on the article by Dana Canedy). Starring Michael B. Jordan, Tamara Tunie, Robert Wisdom. Synopsis: 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King, before he is killed in action in Baghdad, authors a journal for his son intended to tell him how to live a decent life despite growing up without a father. Debuts in the US on December 25th, 2021.

    A Hero (2022). Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. Starring Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy. Synopsis: Rahim is in prison because of a debt he was unable to repay. During a two-day leave, he tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against the payment of part of the sum. But things don't go as planned. Debuts on Prime Video on January 7th, 2022.

    A Boy Called Christmas (2021). Directed by Gil Kenan. Written by Gil Kenan and Ol Parker (based on the book by Matt Haig). Starring Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Isabella O'Sullivan. Synopsis: In this origin story of Father Christmas, an ordinary boy (with a loyal pet mouse and a reindeer at his side) sets out on an extraordinary adventure to find his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of Elfhelm. Debuts on Netflix on November 24th, 2021.

    A House on the Bayou (2021). Written and directed by Alex McAulay. Starring Lia McHugh, Jacob LoflandAngela Sarafyan. Synopsis: Follows a troubled couple and their daughter who go on vacation to an isolated house in the Louisiana bayou to reconnect as a family. But when unexpected visitors arrive, the unity starts to unravel. Debuts in the US on November 19th, 2021.

    Drive My Car (2021). Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. Written by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe (based on the short story by Haruki Murakami). Starring Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tôko Miura, Reika Kirishima. Synopsis: Yûsuke is a stage actor and director happily married to his playwright wife. Then one day she disappears. Debuts in the US on November 24th, 2021.

    Swan Song (2021). Written and directed by Benjamin Cleary. Starring Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close. Synopsis: In the near future, Cameron Turner is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Presented with an experimental solution to shield his wife and son from grief, he grapples with altering their fate in this exploration of love, loss, and sacrifice. Debuts on Apple TV+ on December 17th, 2021.

    Moonfall (2022). Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by Roland Emmerich, Spenser Cohen and Harald Kloser. Starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, Michael Peña. Synopsis: A mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler is convinced she has the key to saving us all - but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman believe her. Debuts in the US on February 4th, 2022.

    The Last Son (2021). Directed by Tim Sutton. Written by Greg Johnson. Starring Thomas Jane, Sam Worthington, Heather Graham. Synopsis: An outlaw attempts to end his evil family line. Debuts in the US on December 10th, 2021.

    The Hating Game (2021). Directed by Peter Hutchings. Written by Christina Mengert (based on the novel by Sally Thorne). Starring Lucy Hale, Corbin Bernsen, Austin Stowell. Synopsis: Resolving to achieve professional success without compromising her ethics, Lucy embarks on a ruthless game of one-upmanship against cold and efficient nemesis Joshua, a rivalry that is complicated by her growing attraction to him. Debuts in the US on December 10th, 2021.

    The First Wave (2021). Directed by Matthew Heineman. Synopsis: A documentary following nurses, doctors, and administrators as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Debuts in the US on November 19th, 2021.

    Citizen Ashe (2021). Directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard. Synopsis: Explores the tennis career of Arthur Ashe and his impact on tennis and HIV activism. Debuts in the US on December 10th, 2021.

    14 Peaks (2021). Directed by Torquil Jones. Synopsis: Fearless Nepali mountaineer Nimsdai Purja embarks on a seemingly impossible quest to summit all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks in seven months. Debuts on Netflix on November 29th, 2021.

    8-Bit Christmas (2021). Directed by Michael Dowse. Written by Kevin Jakubowski. Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael. Synopsis: In 1980s Chicago, a ten-year-old sets out on a quest to get the Christmas gift of his generation - the latest and greatest video game system. Debuts on HBO Max on November 24th, 2021.

    The Power of the Dog (2021). Written and directed by Jane Campion (based on the novel by Thomas Savage). Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee. Synopsis: Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love. Debuts on Netflix on December 1st, 2021.

    House of Gucci (2021). Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna (based on the book by Sara Gay Forden). Starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Salma Hayek. Synopsis: When Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel their legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately...murder. Debuts in the US on November 24th, 2021.

    The Beach (2021). Directed by Warwick Thornton. Synopsis: Australia's acclaimed indigenous filmmaker retreats to a remote beach where he spends several months with no power and only the land to provide sustenance. Debuts in the A24 Screening Room on November 22nd, 2021.

    In Praise of "Passing"

    Matt writes: On the heels of winning the U.S. Narrative Feature Jury Award at the 33rd installment of NewFest, New York City's LGBTQ+ film festival, Rebecca Hall's directorial debut, "Passing," which was executive produced by publisher Chaz Ebert, will premiere on Netflix tomorrow, November 10th. Read Odie Henderson's review here and Isaac Feldberg's interview with Hall here.

    Shaking Up the Oscar Race

    Matt writes: Though plenty of Oscar-worthy pictures have already screened at festivals, there are still numerous upcoming titles guaranteed to shake up this year's awards season, including the latest coming of age romance from master filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, "Licorice Pizza." You can find Susan Wloszczyna's full list here.

    Free Movies

    The Whispering Shadow (1933). Directed by Colbert Clark and Albert Herman. Written by Barney A. Sarecky, George Morgan, Norman S. Hall, Colbert Clark and Wyndham Gittens. Starring Bela Lugosi, Viva Tattersall, Malcolm McGregor. Synopsis: A mysterious criminal known as The Whispering Shadow commits crimes by means of a gang he controls by television and radio rays. Jack Norton, whose brother was murdered by The Whispering Shadow, suspects that the eerie Professor Strang - whose ghostly wax museum contains figures far too lifelike - may be involved in the crimes.

    Watch "The Whispering Shadow"

    The Devil's Party (1938). Directed by Ray McCarey. Written by Roy Chanslor, Charles Grayson and A. Dorian Otvos (based on the novel by Borden Chase). Starring Victor McLaglen, William Gargan, Paul Kelly. Synopsis: Adults who grew up in the slum meet later in life, but murder disrupts their reunion.

    Watch "The Devil's Party"

    The Unholy Four (1954). Directed by Terence Fisher. Written by Michael Carreras (based on the novel by Leigh Brackett and George Sanders). Starring Paulette Goddard, William Sylvester, Patrick Holt. Synopsis: A man on a fishing trip with three of his friends receives a blow to the head that makes him lose his memory. Three years later it all comes back to him, but on the day it does one of the men who was on the trip with him turns up dead.

    Watch "The Unholy Four"

    By: Matt Fagerholm
    Posted: November 9, 2021, 3:57 pm


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