CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
The instant-response nature of our media has forced a bizarre question on nearly every minute of the Sundance Film Festival — “Is it a GOOD year?” Journalists and festival goers talk in hushed tones about the first time they saw beloved Sundance films like “Clerks,” “Bottle Rocket,” “Winter’s Bone,” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and wonder if there’s anything this year to compare. Personally, I had a spectacular year.
CHICAGO – As the excellent year in film winds to a close, I’m going to be writing a lot about a drama I saw almost ten months ago in Park City, Utah, and is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming services — the amazing “Before Midnight.” Building on the romantic foundation of “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, & Julie Delpy examine the truth of what happens after the grand gestures of romance we often see in cinema. It’s a masterpiece, a film that deserves comparison with the work of John Cassavetes in the way it captures pain, beauty, regret, and love in the same moment. There are a few weeks left but it’s still my choice for the best film of the year.
CHICAGO – Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” is one of the most important films of the ’90s. Appearing at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, this incredibly low-budget piece of work helped launch the indie film movement of the decade, teaching people that anyone could make a movie. Shot on 16MM for less than $25k, “Slacker” ushered in an era of DIY filmmaking. Kevin Smith has said that “Clerks” wouldn’t exist without it. And the ironic thing is that you can now watch one of the most influential low-budget films on the high-definition format of Blu-ray, courtesy of The Criterion Collection.
CHICAGO – We are at the tipping point of a technology that has been used for a hundred years to capture the moving image. Shooting on film is going away as more and more filmmakers use digital technology to tell their stories. How does this change the art form? Is it a creative new landscape or the death of something important?
CHICAGO – Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” is one of those unusual stories that is so bizarre that it has to be true. It is the saga of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a closeted, affable mortician who befriended an irascible, cranky woman named Majorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). After years of psychological abuse, he shot her in the back and stored her in the freezer in their garage. As he does with all of his projects, Linklater approaches this true story from a unique, entertaining angle. He’s simply one of our best living filmmakers and “Bernie” is merely further proof.
CHICAGO – Hulu, in addition to being a most enjoyable word to say while jumping out of a plane (Huluuuuuu!) is also one of the most popular websites on the internet for streaming video from television’s biggest channels. Featuring content from FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS and a litany of other networks, Hulu.com has essentially replaced the re-run in eyes of the American lexicon.
CHICAGO – Jack Black is a smart and interesting actor. Not content to ride on the modern day John Belushi-type roles that might have pigeonholed him, Black portrays “Bernie,” a convincing conniver in Texas, based on a true story. Veterans Matthew McConaughhey and Shirley MacLaine add spice to the brew.
CHICAGO – Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” is not just a fun comedy, not just a clever slice of nostalgia, and not just a stoner movie. It is, without question, one of the best films of the ’90s. It passes through nostalgia to something more like a time machine, in a way not that dissimilar to George Lucas’ “American Graffiti.” A deeply personal project from one of our best modern writer/directors, “Dazed and Confused,” recently released on Criterion Blu-ray and re-released on Criterion DVD, gets better with each passing year.
CHICAGO – In our latest drama edition of HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 50 admit-two passes up for grabs to the advance Chicago screening of “Me and Orson Welles” with Claire Danes and Zac Efron from director Richard Linklater of “School of Rock”!