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 – The incredibly talented men and women who make up the cast of “A.C.O.D.” make the relative failure of its script easier to bear. Just hearing brilliant actors like Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara at each other’s throats or watching remarkably likable stars like Adam Scott and Mary Elizabeth Winstead figure out their relationship has enough charm to get one from lights down to credits roll. And the first hour of “A.C.O.D.” is pretty damn funny, allowing one to hope that it will develop into something truly memorable. For some reason, the theme of Sundance comedies this year (“In a World…,” “Afternoon Delight,” and this one) is non-endings as “A.C.O.D.” can’t follow through on its clever set-up.
CHICAGO – When “Killers” didn’t screen for critics, we assumed that it was because it was an insipid, horrid mess and that Lionsgate didn’t want to let audiences in on that fact before stealing their hard-earned cash. Watching it on Blu-ray, I was surprised that it didn’t screen because it’s not “Marmaduke”- or “Macgruber”-bad. It’s just shockingly boring.
CHICAGO – Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” is a beautiful, moving, daring, complex, gorgeous piece of filmmaking that was underappreciated during its theatrical release but that I can guarantee you will have a long, beloved life on Blu-ray and DVD. With well over 200 films seen in 2009, “Where the Wild Things Are” rose to the top for this critic. It may not win any Oscars on Sunday, but history will regard it as the best film of last year.
CHICAGO – Filmmaker Sam Mendes has always been drawn to telling stories set in a dysfunctional America where the sanctity of marriage is anything but “sanct.” For the past decade, he has specialized in brutally frank social satires about the deterioration of the American family. His work is nearly always riveting, but could never be described as “feel good”…until now.
CHICAGO – Has life always been this difficult? Doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore? Have the pressures of modern times turned the majority of us into screw-ups?