Many layers surrounding a horrific occurrence in Chicago history are dissected in an educational, often confrontational manner in Cooked: Survival by Zip Code. The title itself has layers since Chicago is a part of Cook County, but the word cooked can also be viewed as an informal adjective, meaning “altered dishonestly.” Residents certainly should expect support, check-ins from city workers, and a whole lot more during this particular summer, but the city let them down in a way that cost hundreds of lives along with continuing inquiries as to how this even happened.
As usual, the CFCA has put together a very strong group of films, many of which have taken home awards and nominations from prestigious festivals such as SXSW and Sundance. Collin Souter always puts together a terrific short film collection that I can’t recommend enough. As usual, there will be enveloping dramas, insightful documentaries, creepy horror features and so much more on the docket.
This might be the ultimate unsubtle existential nightmare for our modern times, while simultaneously having a surreal self-awareness and absurd sense of humor that I found engaging while many may find it indulgent and gross. It’s also kind of poking fun of Room 237 theorists while saying pop culture does in fact contain hidden meaning. Probably why weirdos like me might gravitate towards this. Make no mistake, Mitchell is constantly playing with the viewer in ways that are frustrating but compelling, while never neglecting graceful camerawork, oddly original detours, another triumphant Disasterpeace score, and several details that simply don’t make sense. Now to go back to listening to pop music and playing Super Mario Bros. Oh and trying to figure out what it all means, only to discover that it may not really mean anything.
Regardless, there’s a strong balance of pathos and empathy throughout the proceedings, that is almost audacious in of itself to not go too gory or too “depraved” as things progress. Depraved is an incredibly thoughtful horror parable with a strong sense of morality and compassion that is rare these days. This one has definitely made me curious about Fessenden as a writer/director, since I imagine certain themes showcased here resonate throughout his career. For this particular film, I was consistently impressed by the confidence behind the camera, the ability to get consistent, well-tuned performances, and to take a familiar dish while also giving its own distinct flavor and seasoning.
Last year, this terrific new film festival devoted to genre cinema out in NYC showcased several titles that wound up among many critics’ favorite films of 2019, including Revenge and The Endless. This year, more interesting showcases and films will emerge starting March 20th. I wanted to highlight a few of those for everyone out on the East Coast, in anticipation for their eventual release nationwide!
Granger and O’Donnell is the main reason for why the film works and what makes it essential for me. It’s a love story that I was fully invested in right from the start. Their entire relationship feels very forward thinking in that it’s self-aware, open to awkwardness and to the moments where sexuality in a relationship is not yet understood. Ray’s film allows these two to just “be together” in several scenes that presage the dynamics that would be explored in the French New Wave films like BREATHLESS. Ray also allows for an identification with a certain feeling of disenchantment, as both of these two are outsiders looking for some sort of comfort to hold on to.
PHANTOM THREAD is a movie about a fractured relationship that probably was never meant to be healthy. And yet that’s okay with them. In fact they laugh through the sickness. However, through that realization, comes acceptance. There’s a moment involving the manifestation of a parent who has passed away, and soon thereafter, our protagonist is changed due to that interaction. Nothing is spelled out to the audience, but there is familiarity in the idea of “needing someone.” And well, what if that neediness becomes co-dependence? Paul Thomas Anderson explored more of the fantastical, darkly comedic version that was completely his own when he penned PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE
There are still some reviews to come, but now that it’s come to a close, I wanted to showcase some of the winners and awards presented from another terrific year of the Chicago International Film Festival, an event I’ve been attending for over a decade, and look forward to seeing what’s in store for their 55th in 2019.
What really worked for me was the intense emotional expression whether internal or external, portrayed with unwavering cruelty at times by one of my favorite actresses working today. From the moment I saw Carey Mulligan in An Education, I knew she would continue to go on to accomplish great performances consistently. She exhibited so much talent with another complicated character for her debut and now has worked even more majestically as a distraught, unhinged mother. She seems to have good intentions but also neglects her son’s wants and desires to the point of being oblivious. One has to commend the screenwriters for not letting her off easy or too sympathetic.