June 24, 2014
Having traveled over hill, dale, oceans, and international borders over the past couple years, I’ve become a very big fan of the film festival scene. However, this spring, The Doc didn’t have to travel any further than his own backyard to indulge in a special slice of pre-release big-screen cinematic goodness.
Created in 2013 by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), with a program that included Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, Emily Hagins’ Grow Up, Katie Aselton’s Black Rock, Jonathan Levine’s All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Jason Lapeyre & Robert Wilson’s I Declare War, James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, and the remastered director’s cut of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, theChicago Critics Film Festival offers a rich cornucopia of films comprised of recent festival favorites and as-yet-undistributed works from a wide variety of filmmakers. According to their website, the CCFF is the ONLY current example of a major film critics group hosting its own festival (Go Chicago!!!), showcasing works from around the globe and from all genres.
For horror fans, this year’s lineup featured some impressive Windy City debuts, including Housebound (which recently won the Audience Award at Scotland’s Dead By Dawn Festival), Bobcat Goldthwait’s found-footage Bigfoot flick Willow Creek, Tommy Wirkola’s follow-up to his 2009 Nazi zombie hit, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, and Elijah Drenner’s celebration of the life and career of one of Hollywood’s best-loved character actors, That Guy Dick Miller (shown as a double feature with Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood, one of Miller’s rare leading turns).
From May 9-15, the Chicago Critics Film Festival reigned supreme at the historic Music Box Theatre, and I soaked up as much as possible, taking in a dozen films all told. I was also lucky enough to meet Miller (and his charming wife Lainie) and Goldthwait in person, as well as rub elbows with several of my favorite Windy City scribes. It was a great time and I’ll definitely be back next year.
To learn more about the festival and to see the full lineup, visit http://chicagocriticsfilmfestival.com
Mystery Road (2013) d. Sen, Ivan (Australia) (1st viewing)
Terrific Aussie noir with western overtones that follows aborigine detective Aaron Pederson, back in his small town after a stint in Melbourne, whose investigation of a local girl’s murder runs up against interference and noncompliance from the community and his fellow officers. Slow-burn suspense yarn that culminates in one of the most original onscreen gunfights I’ve seen in, well, ever. Hugo Weaving is deliciously sinister as a corrupt cop, while veterans Jack Thompson and Bruce Spence lend authentic flavor and invaluable support.