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 – I’m not a gamer, but of course I’ve heard about “Assassin’s Creed.” The film based on the video game is a wild and undisciplined attempt to expand that particular universe, but does succeed in creating an oddball science fiction that has implications in geo-religious power and control.
CHICAGO – There is something incredibly special when two old pros – in this case actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay – interpret an amazing exploration of a long relationship with a preciseness that creates life affirmation, despite the sorrows. There is truth in this film.
CHICAGO – “Young & Beautiful” may have people rethinking the phrase, “Oh, to be young and beautiful again.” Well, maybe the “young” part, since we seldom don’t hear lamentations of the loss of beauty. Here’s a film that reminds us that wisdom not only comes with age, but also with mistakes.
CHICAGO – The start of the eighth and final season of “Dexter” feels like a comeback album from a band that you used to love. There’s a blend of true happiness that this show looks, after four episodes, that it will end on a strong note, but also a bit of anger at the weak storytelling and stupid decisions that led us here.
CHICAGO – Lars Von Trier’s incredible “Melancholia” gets better both in memory and on repeat viewing, especially with a pristine, jaw-dropping transfer like the one granted it by Magnolia on their recently-released Blu-ray. It may have been left out of all Academy Award categories but this was easily one of the best movies of last year. And the few before that as well. Most people missed it in theaters. Catch up on Blu-ray.
CHICAGO – As an aesthetically exquisite experiment, Lech Majewski’s “The Mill & the Cross” is a nearly unparalleled achievement. Though other pictures, such as Peter Greenaway’s highly entertaining “Rembrandt’s J’Accuse,” have deconstructed paintings through cinematic essays built primarily on re-enactments, none have had the hypnotic tone and majesty of this picture.
CHICAGO – Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia” is a mesmerizing, haunting portrayal of the world-shattering force of depression from a filmmaker who has first-hand knowledge of the debilitating disease. With career-best work by Kirsten Dunst and some of the most confident filmmaking from its controversial director, this is one of the best films of 2011, a stunningly original examination of that which is completely out of our control.
CHICAGO – The Criterion deal with IFC Films has led to some very interesting additions to their collection including some controversial choices. The universally-acclaimed and upcoming “Carlos” may be understandable but do “Everlasting Moments” and “Revanche” deserve the standing that comes with the Criterion label? I’m torn and no more so than with the release of “Life During Wartime,” a decent and interesting flick that nonetheless would be FAR down the list of movies I would choose for induction into the most important club in DVD history.
CHICAGO – Three of the best young living actors turn Mark Romanek’s adaptation of the highly-acclaimed novel “Never Let Me Go” into one of the more lingering films of 2010, and now released on Blu-ray and DVD from Fox. You know how some films dissipate on the ride home, so much so that you barely remember the plot? The opposite are those movies that burrow their way into your memory and grow with time. “Never Let Me Go” is definitely one of those.
CHICAGO – With his unique and sometimes divisive career, writer/director Todd Solondz is something of a controversial figure in the world of independent cinema. Some people love him, others hate him, and very few fall in the middle. His new film, “Life During Wartime,” is unlikely to change his polarizing reputation.