CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
CHICAGO – “Spotlight” held off all challengers at the 88th Academy Awards, as the film won Best Picture, after Alejandro González Iñárrittu had won Best Director for the second year in a row for “The Revenant.” Chris Rock held steady as the host, acknowledging Oscar’s diversity problems with a series of comedy bits.
CHICAGO – The best of 2015 in film and TV was celebrated at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards on January 10th, 2016. Hosted with the usual sass by Ricky Gervais, the Globes honored “The Revenant” (Drama) and “The Martian” (Comedy) as Best Pictures, and surprised in TV Best categories with “Mr Robot” (Drama) on the USA Network and “Mozart in the Jungle” (Comedy) on Amazon Video.
CHICAGO – “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the hyper-driven artistic achievement by director George Miller, was designated Best Picture of 2015 by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), at a ceremony on December 16th. George Miller was also honored as Best Director, and “Mad Max” received five total honors.
CHICAGO – Actor Jake Johnson is expanding his presence in movies, and much of that has to do with his collaboration with director – and Chicago native – Joe Swanberg. Johnson and Swanberg have teamed up for their second film, after the success of 2013’s “Drinking Buddies, and are listed as co-writers in “Digging for Fire.”
CHICAGO – Browsing Dostoyevsky titles with consideration for proper roles for Mark Wahlberg, one might expect the Beantown hero to take on an adaptation of “The Idiot” before anything like “The Gambler.” After all, while Wahlberg has proven to be a diverse screen force - one who has well-grown past his Funky Bunch days - he often leans towards goofy men, or at least goofy men in goofy movies.
PARK CITY, Utah – There are still some films to be discussed in my Sundance coverage. Here’s write-ups of “Digging for Fire,” “Entertainment,” and “Results,” which featured the return of festival-approved directors, albeit heading in different directions.
CHICAGO – Gritty, funky and quote-worthy, this re-imagining of “The Gambler” – from a 1970s source film – is one of Mark Wahlberg’s best performances. His addicted-to-gaming soul has roots in other frustrations, and the actor is willing to communicate the whole range of emotions.
CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 100 pairs of advance-screening SUBURBAN CHICAGO movie passes up for grabs to the new film “The Gambler” starring Mark Wahlberg!
We are surrounded by fiction about teenagers that treats both its subjects and its target audience like idiots. So few filmmakers understand the problems and emotions of young people that when a film as great as “The Spectacular Now” comes along (my #13 of 2013), it’s a small miracle. Reminiscent of the best of Cameron Crowe, James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel (from a script robbed of an Oscar nod by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber) is a fantastic drama about a kid realizing that he may be peaking in high school. The Blu-ray is well-accompanied by a fantastic commentary from Ponsoldt, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and featurettes.
“Short Term 12” is a special film. If through some true miracle, Brie Larson’s name is announced on Oscar nominations morning, that sound you hear is me screaming in childish glee. She certainly deserves it for this daring, honest piece of work, one that dares to suggest that there are numerous ways to stop the emotional bleeding. It could be rap, it could be art, it could be taking a bat to a car, or it could be love. Destin Cretton won the Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Filmmaker and it was one of this year’s winners of which I was most proud we were recognizing. This is a special movie.