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 – There are rock stars, and then there are the women of “The Runaways.” The girl group that spawned Joan Jett was also notable for proving that punk rock was not just reserved for dudes. Lita Ford, the lead guitarist, has just written a memoir of those heady days – “Living Like a Runaway” – and appeared recently at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., at an event sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop.
CHICAGO – He may be Dwight Schrute of “The Office” forever in reruns, but he is also – according to his new memoir – “The Bassoon King.” Rainn Dietrich Wilson created the offbeat Schrute, and has had a diverse and high profile career. He was at the Yellow Box Theater in Naperville, Ill., recently, being interview by Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick, in an event sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop.
I’ve only seen three movies since my last dispatch — Sundance is about finding the time to write whenever you have it and it just comes earlier today than it did yesterday — but one was a true gem. So I’ll be brief.
CHICAGO – Very few 2011 programs were as hit-and-miss as NBC’s “The Office.” I don’t think anyone involved with the program would argue that it was this sometimes-great comedy’s best year but there were still great moments throughout and Steve Carell’s departure from the program that turned him into a superstar was handled with incredible humor and grace. The season may not have been the show’s best, but it was still one of the better comedies on TV. See for yourself with the seventh season, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD.
CHICAGO – Anyone who’s witnessed the wonderfully incoherent trailers for “Hesher” is bound to be curious about the film’s true nature. Why does Joseph Gordon-Levitt have a raised middle finger tattooed on his back and why is he jumping off a flaming diving board half-naked? Is this all part of a tongue-in-cheek stunt or do the filmmakers actually harbor serious intentions?
CHICAGO – “I thought it would be interesting to write the story of the superhero who wasn’t super at all,” says writer/director James Gunn on his behind-the-scenes featurette on the underrated “Super,” an imperfect film with more than enough interesting ideas and strong performances to justify a look now that it’s on Blu-ray and DVD.
CHICAGO – “Peep World” plays like the pilot for a failed sitcom that will never end. The running time clocks in at a mere 79 minutes, but the ordeal feels so much longer. One can imagine the canned laughter on TV Land appreciating these gags, which are embarrassingly lame. It’s not long before the miserable, ashen-faced characters begin to mirror the audience.
CHICAGO – “Hesher” ends with a middle finger and I shot one right back to the screen. Rarely has a film so completely misunderstood the grieving process and played faux tough in an attempt to be edgy instead of heartfelt. Like a knock-off of Chuck Palahniuk produced by people raised only on Sundance films, “Hesher” is a mess.
CHICAGO – Michael Rooker, who grew up in Chicago as a developing actor and had his first breakout role in the locally filmed “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” is currently featured in the audacious new film “Super,” starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page.
CHICAGO – A much darker cousin of Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” by way of “Taxi Driver,” James Gunn’s “Super” is a tonally inconsistent comedy that nevertheless features one of my absolute favorite performances of the year so far and enough interesting ideas to warrant a look. If only those ideas were shaped into something a bit more coherent. “Super” could have lived up to its title.