WBEZ | Chicago movies http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-movies Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 'City That Never Sleeps' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/city-never-sleeps-105574 <p><p>Academy Awards this Sunday! While we&rsquo;re in the movie mood, let&rsquo;s talk about a minor bit of Chicago <em>film-noir</em> called <em>City That Never Sleeps.&nbsp;</em></p><p>This 1953 movie opens with a tracking shot of the&nbsp;Chicago skyline at dusk. Then comes an echoing voice, seemingly from heaven: &ldquo;I am the city. Hub and Heart of America. Melting pot of every race, creed, color, and religion in humanity . . . .&rdquo; And so on.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-22-City.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 411px; float: left;" title="Hollywood looks at Chicago, 1953 (author's collection)" />This is the Voice of Chicago, courtesy of veteran actor Chill Wills. So the film begins with a major mystery&ndash;why did the producers hire someone with such an unmistakable Texas accent?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now we are introduced to the characters in the drama. Johnny Kelly (Gig Young) is an unhappy cop who wants to quit the force and dump his wife. He talks about running off to California with Angel Face (Mala Powers). She came to Chicago intending to be a ballerina, and wound up as a stripper.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">That&#39;s the recurring theme&ndash;everybody wants to be something else. A performance artist known as The Mechanical Man (Wally Cassell) wanted to be an actor. A thug (William Talman) wanted to be a magician. The thug&rsquo;s lady love (Marie Windsor) has achieved her ambition of becoming a trophy wife, but now is tired of the job.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">There is also Biddel (Edward Arnold), a corrupt lawyer. He&rsquo;s the only one who seems satisfied with his career path. But if the character Biddel is satisfied, I suspect that the real-life actor Edward Arnold wasn&rsquo;t. He was probably wishing he was back in Frank Capra&rsquo;s movies, where he got to play <em><u>big-time</u></em> corrupt characters.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><p><em>CTNS</em>&nbsp;takes place during a single night in Chicago, the last night on duty for Officer Kelly before he resigns. But Kelly&rsquo;s partner is sick and has been replaced by a cop known as Sergeant Joe. And once Sergeant Joe opens his mouth, you realize it&rsquo;s our Voice of Chicago, Texas Chill Wills. Now the movie does seem like Capra, namely <em>It&rsquo;s a Wonderful Life</em>.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-22-02.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 262px; float: right;" title="The Mechanical Man (author's collection)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The night moves on. The police radio crackles with the crimes of the city. Man beating a woman at 103rd and Avenue J . . . Supermarket burglary on Addison Street . . . Disturbance at Elston and Montrose . . . Mugging on Hyde Park Boulevard. . .&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Yet if you examine the scenery closely, you&rsquo;ll notice that most of the movie wasn&rsquo;t shot on location. It&rsquo;s actually soundstage, back lot, or the streets of L.A.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The running time is 90 minutes. The first hour or so is pretty slow. As the plot gradually unfolds, the major characters are thrown together.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The action picks up in the final 20 minutes. This part was clearly filmed in Chicago&ndash;hey, there&rsquo;s the Wrigley Building, all lit up! The grand climax is a foot chase in the dark along the &lsquo;L&rsquo; tracks.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Then the plot conflicts are resolved. Sun rises over the city. The Voice of Chicago returns to dispense final wisdom.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>CTNS</em> was made on a low budget by Republic Studios. It was never considered a classic. But Martin Scorcese has said the film is one of his favorites, and it has been enjoying a revival in popularity.&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">You make your own call. Only don&rsquo;t complain to me about the Voice of Chicago.&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/city-never-sleeps-105574 Movie-made Chicago: Gritty '70s- and '80s-era films define the city http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-04/movie-made-chicago-gritty-70s-and-80s-era-films-define-city-98124 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/120411%20cooley%20high_3.jpg" title="Set in 1964 but shot in the '70s, 'Cooley High' captures a particular kind of Chicago cool. "></div><p>Here's my most powerful Chicago movie moment: I was producing the Friday film forum for <em>Odyssey</em>, the now-defunct WBEZ "daily talk show of ideas." The topic: movies about serial killers. As preparation I decided to revisit the 1986 John McNaughton flick <em>Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer</em>. I didn't have a TV, so I headed over to my friend Chris Natali's house, at the corner of Wood Street and North Avenue. Now I'd seen the film before, as an undergrad. But I didn't remember - or hadn't noticed - it was a movie made in Chicago.</p><p>So there we were, nestled into the couch, namechecking some of the settings. The corner of Paulina and Milwaukee in Wicker Park, decked out in now mostly gone neon finery. The Picasso statue in Daley Plaza. The eerie, greenish space of Lower Wacker Drive. Then suddenly, a far-too-familiar landmark appeared: The (then) pink-tinged sign for the local exterminator shop, Rose Pest Solutions. The shop was literally a door or two down from the entrance to Chris' apartment. And as we pieced together what had looked like unknown terrain we realized that the apartment shared by Henry and his roommates, brother and sister Otis and Becky, must be just around the corner - literally behind - Chris' building. Talk about cinema vérité! The already creepy low budget thriller had become a gritty, quasi-documentary we just wanted to turn off.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">That's part of the power of movies shot in your hometown - they make you see everyday scenes in an entirely different (and not always flattering) light! Thanks to recent screenings and an imminent DVD release, many Chicagoans are now re-discovering <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-04/revisiting-stony-island-soulful-1970s-chicago-cult-film-hits-streets-again">the long-forgotten 1978 film <em>Stony Island</em></a>, shot on the South Side and directed by Andrew Davis of <em>Fugitive</em> fame. So it seems like a good opportunity to revisit some of my favorite made in Chicago movies. Though there are more recent Chicago films I really enjoy - from <em>The Break-up</em> to <em>The Dark Knight</em> - I'm going a bit old school with my picks. Educate me - add your favorite Chicago movies below!</p><p style="text-align: left; "><em>(A warning: This scene contains graphic violence)</em></p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/gPi-90Edozw" width="480"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left; ">1. <em>Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer</em>. Mid-1980s Chicago looks seedy but intriguing, still a work-a-day town full of low-rent pursuits of both the business and pleasure type. Henry introduces Otis to his killing ways after picking up a couple of ladies of the night on Clark Street, right in front of a #22 bus! After seeing this film again I'll never feel entirely safe on my short-cut through Lower Wacker Drive.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">On the other hand, I'll be very sad if the current rehabilitation of that thoroughfare erases its chilly, mysterious vibe, which derives at least in part from its appearance in <em>Henry</em> (it is somehow fitting that Daniel Burnham's utopian vision is an equally suitable setting for Henry's dystopic dreamworld). Other Chicago credentials: The film is directed by local John McNaughton (his film <em>Wild Things</em> is one of my not-too guilty pleasures) and was a big break for baby-faced actor Michael Rooker, who developed his acting chops here.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/o2XADAhBAwE" width="480"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left; "><em>The opening scenes of Cooley High</em></p><p style="text-align: left; ">2. <em>Cooley High</em>. I don't get why so many people don't like this movie. Sure it's got a fairly episodic structure - but I think that kind of reflects the mercurial, distracted and itching-to-be-adult mindset of its young protagonists. Set in 1964 but shot in the '70s, <em>Cooley High</em> captures that particular stance I think of as Chicago cool. Point guard Derrick Rose has got it. Our former Mayor Daley - for all his red-faced outbursts - has got it. Only here we're not talking about the players who inhabit the heights of Chicago power, but the sons and daughters living on one of the bottom rungs, in the now-defunct public housing project Cabrini-Green (the school was also razed and replaced by Near North Career High School). The director Michael Schultz hails from Milwaukee - and worked with many actors from the New York theatre scene (especially the Negro Ensemble Company). But Chicagoan Robert Townsend makes his film debut in Cooley (a very small cameo). And the city represents - from Lincoln Park Zoo (they hitch a ride there on the back of a CTA bus) to Burr Oak cemetery. As my friend Damon Locks notes, the only thing missing is a Chicago-centric soundtrack: Schultz went Motown when he could have featured Chicago soul music to great effect.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/CfetsPmDWAk" width="480"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left; "><em>The famous coffee shop scene, where James Caan makes Tuesday Weld an offer she can’t refuse</em></p><p style="text-align: left; ">3. <em>Thief.</em> Oh I could write about this movie for days. Truly great performances from Tuesday Weld and James Caan. The tragic narrative arc of the (somewhat) honorable thief, whose last big score proves to be a major bust. Like all my other choices, there's no happy ending on hand here. But this is a movie to swoon over. It is native son Michael Mann's feature debut and he deploys a quintessential but easily overlooked Chicago setting - a small car dealership along Western Avenue. Powerhouse local talents, including James Belushi, Dennis Farina and William Petersen appear, the latter as a bartender in the - yes, now-gone - north side club Katz &amp; Jammer. Mighty Joe Young and band plays in that scene. Thankfully Caan didn't <em>actually</em> blow up The Green Mill! Now, most of the music is as far from Chicago as you can get - the soundtrack is composed by German electronic group Tangerine Dream. And yet it works. Like <em>Henry </em>and <em>Cooley</em>, this is a highly influential and oft-referenced film. If you don't believe me, settle down for back-to-back viewings of <em>Thief </em>and last year's <em>Drive</em>, starring Ryan Gosling (the 21st century internet meme/poor-man's version of James Caan?). Oh, and if you're a fan of the Dream, their tour this summer includes a stop in Chicago - at the Vic on July 18.</p></p> Wed, 11 Apr 2012 08:12:23 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-04/movie-made-chicago-gritty-70s-and-80s-era-films-define-city-98124