WBEZ | Film http://www.wbez.org/sections/film Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Aaliyah deserves better than her Lifetime biopic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/aaliyah-deserves-better-her-lifetime-biopic-111082 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mgid_uma_video_mtv.com_1097146.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah with Clé Bennett as R. Kelly (Lifetime)." /></div><p>We might expect a considerable number of flaws from an unauthorized biopic crafted on the cheap for Lifetime, the Hearst- and Disney-owned cable TV channel that once branded itself as &ldquo;Television for Women.&rdquo;</p><p>But Aaliyah Dana Haughton, one of the most distinctive voices in R&amp;B in the last two decades, deserves much better than bargain-basement production values, wooden acting, a dismal soundtrack faking tunes that are no substitute for her own music, and a script that ignores many of the key facts in her story.</p><p>Most importantly, the many fans for whom she was and is a role model for self-empowerment deserve better than the sanitized, soft-pedaled version of her disturbing sexual relationship with Chicago producer R. Kelly when she was 14 and he was 27&mdash;a coupling that court documents annulling their brief and illegal marriage and interviews with people close to the ingénue portray as one of abuse and victimization, far from the &ldquo;puppy love&rdquo; seen in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B</em>.</p><p>The Lifetime film, which debuts on Saturday, has been controversial from the beginning. Aaliyah&rsquo;s family never gave the project its blessing (they&rsquo;re planning an alternate big-screen take), and the first actress cast for the starring role, the Disney Channel star Zendaya, dropped out of what <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2014/07/zendaya-coleman-explains-exit-from-aalyiah-biopic/">she called a shoddy production</a>. The movie&rsquo;s future was in question until Alexandra Shipp (<em>House of Anubis</em>) signed on as Aaliyah and gossipy talk-show host Wendy Williams joined as executive producer, shepherding the movie to completion.</p><p>Williams spent a lot of time jawing about the Aaliyah/Kelly controversy in her days on talk radio, and <a>she has said she pushed for the &ldquo;true&rdquo; story to be told in the film</a>: &ldquo;The Aaliyah movie was already being produced and&hellip; they were doing things wrong. I was like, &lsquo;Look, if you&rsquo;re going to make this Aaliyah movie, you gotta get it right, Lifetime. I love you, you&rsquo;re good at wives who stab their husbands movies, but you gotta get this Aaliyah movie right.&rsquo; I was very popular on the radio for Aaliyah&rsquo;s rise and untimely death. I want to hear about R. Kelly&hellip; Don&rsquo;t skate over it. This needs to be a big plot line.&rdquo;</p><p>The film doesn&rsquo;t &ldquo;skate over&rdquo; relations between the &ldquo;street but sweet&rdquo; young singer and the self-proclaimed &ldquo;Pied Pier of R&amp;B&rdquo;; it spends half its length taking Aaliyah from Catholic grammar school girl, to ambitious student at Detroit&rsquo;s High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, to stardom and platinum success following her 1994 Kelly-produced debut<em>.</em> (That ascension is overseen by her uncle and Kelly&rsquo;s manager Barry Hankerson, played by Lyriq Bent, a veteran of several <em>Saw </em>films.) But the well-established truth of what happened between Kelly and Aaliyah is almost entirely missing on screen.</p><p>Working from the flimsy 2002 book <em>Aaliyah: More Than a Woman </em>by Christopher John Farley, Williams, screenwriter Michael Elliot (<em>Brown Sugar</em>), and director Bradley Walsh (whose credits include episodes of<em> Beauty and the Beast </em>and <em>The Listener</em>) give us a guileless ingénue in Shipp as Aaliyah, and she promptly develops a schoolgirl crush on her producer. For his part, Clé Bennett (<em>Rookie Blue</em>) plays Kelly as an innocent charmer from humble beginnings who falls deeply in love with his earnest young protégé, perhaps because he sees something of his beloved mother in her when they share a Chicago-style pizza after recording.</p><p>The fictionalized couple secretly marries, but when they travel to Detroit to break the news to Aaliyah&rsquo;s parents in her childhood home, her father&mdash;Sterling Jarvis playing the kind of dad who takes a sugary soft drink out of his kid&rsquo;s hand and proffers an apple instead&mdash;says they must annul the union immediately, lest he ask the police to charge Kelly with statutory rape. (At the time of the marriage, she was still 15, nearly half Kelly&rsquo;s age). With heavy hearts, the couple separates, never to speak again, while Aaliyah pouts for more than five years about the loss of her first &ldquo;true love.&rdquo;</p><p>The artistic triumph of Aaliyah&rsquo;s second, Timbaland and Missy Elliott-produced album and the promising start of an acting career that would have seen her appear in the two sequels to <em>The</em> <em>Matrix </em>barely lift her spirits. She&rsquo;s finally buoyed a bit when she begins dating hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash. Then, tragically, she dies at age 22 in a plane crash in the Bahamas, on Aug. 25, 2001.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Aaliyah-r-kelly.jpg" title="The real Aaliyah with R. Kelly (WBEZ file)." /></div><p>This version of events with Kelly at the center of the film is deeply offensive not only as a hoary &ldquo;frustrated lovers&rdquo;/Romeo and Juliet cliché, but as a flagrant whitewashing of criminal sexual abuse. As Abdon M. Pallasch and I laid out in a series of unchallenged investigative reports for <em>The Chicago Sun-Times </em>spanning several years, and as I recounted in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/timeline-life-and-career-r-kelly-107973">a much-cited timeline of Kelly&rsquo;s crimes for WBEZ.org in July 2013</a>, these are the facts:</p><ul><li>When Kelly first met Aaliyah, she was 12, and he already was widely rumored in the music industry to &ldquo;like them young,&rdquo; abusing his position of wealth and fame to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls.</li><li>According to a civil lawsuit filed in 1996, which he eventually settled with a cash payment, Kelly had already had at least two sexual relationships with underage girls, one 15 and the other 16, in the years before he met Aaliyah. One of those girls slit her wrists when Kelly ended the relationship and began sleeping with the then-14-year-old Aaliyah, as well as writing and producing her debut album, which he titled <em>Age Ain&rsquo;t Nothing But A Number</em>.</li><li>Shortly after the album&rsquo;s completion, on Aug. 31, 1994, Kelly married the now-15-year-old Aaliyah at the Sheraton Gateway Suites in suburban Rosemont, having procured a falsified Cook County marriage certificate listing her age as 18. Some sources have said Aaliyah was pregnant. The singer&rsquo;s family, including a furious Hankerson, separated the couple as soon as they stepped off a plane in Florida for their honeymoon, and Kelly and Aaliyah never spoke again. (Aaliyah did not have a child.)</li><li>In October 1994, the marriage was annulled in Detroit and lawyers for both sides reached a settlement that was sealed in Wayne County Circuit Court, though a copy was obtained by the<em> Sun-Times</em>. The court documents provided a nominal payment of $100 from Kelly to Aaliyah, with Aaliyah promising not to pursue further legal action because of <strong>&ldquo;emotional distress caused by any aspect of her business or personal relationship with Robert&rdquo;</strong> or <strong>&ldquo;physical injury or emotional pain and suffering arising from any assault or battery perpetrated by Robert against her person.&rdquo;</strong></li></ul><p>That language alone indicates that the relationship was far from innocent, but years later, Aaliyah&rsquo;s mother told the <em>Sun-Times</em>: &ldquo;Everything that went wrong in her life began then [with the relationship with Kelly].&rdquo; And while Hankerson did not split with Kelly until more than five years after the marriage, and he&rsquo;s never spoken about what happened between his niece and Kelly on the record, his attorney did share with the <em>Sun-Times </em>a letter that he sent to Kelly&rsquo;s attorney. In it, Hankerson stated that he believed Kelly needed psychiatric help for a compulsion to pursue underage girls, and that Hankerson was in denial about that even after Kelly seduced Aaliyah because he didn&rsquo;t want to believe the worst and Kelly was a master manipulator.</p><p>None of the facts above appear in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B, </em>nor is there any hint that Kelly became the subject of dozens of legal claims from underage girls just like Aaliyah charging that they had been hurt by illegal sexual relationships with him. Also missing: The fact that Kelly was tried and acquitted in 2008 on charges of making child pornography in a notorious video that allegedly depicts him having sex with and urinating on a girl who was 14 or 15 at the time.</p><p>To be certain, many of the specifics of the Kelly/Aaliyah relationship remain a mystery, and neither side is eager to address them. But the facts that <em>have</em> been well-reported make the story even more dramatic: Aaliyah had the strength and the support system to recover from her relationship with Kelly and record two more brilliant albums (<em>One in a Million </em>in 1996 and the self-titled <em>Aaliyah </em>in 2001), as well as making significant inroads as a leading woman on screen even in the face of Hollywood&rsquo;s aversion to African-American leads.</p><p>More significantly, with the false and phony version of the relationship presented in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B</em>, Lifetime, Williams, and everyone involved with the film missed the opportunity to provide a stark example and a cautionary tale of how even smart, strong, and self-assured young girls can be victimized by older sexual predators, especially if those men are rich and famous.</p><p>In this way, the cycle of sexual predation is perpetuated, and it&rsquo;s hard to imagine a greater insult to Aaliyah&rsquo;s legacy than that.</p><div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"><div style="padding: 4px; text-align: justify;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="288" scrolling="no" src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:uma:video:vh1.com:1097146/cp~id%3D1732368%26vid%3D1097146%26uri%3Dmgid%3Auma%3Avideo%3Avh1.com%3A1097146" width="512"></iframe></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/aaliyah-deserves-better-her-lifetime-biopic-111082 Lucas chooses Chicago for his art, memorabilia museum http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lucas-chooses-chicago-his-art-memorabilia-museum-110405 <p><p>Get your lightsabers ready: The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is coming to Chicago.</p><p>George Lucas and the museum board announced Tuesday they had chosen Chicago as the home for the museum, beating out San Francisco and Los Angeles.</p><p>It all started more than four years ago, in a galaxy far, far away -- also known as George Lucas&rsquo; home of San Francisco. Lucas&rsquo; originally wanted to build his museum for art and movie memorabilia at Crissy Field, land owned by the Presidio Trust. But when his plans were rejected earlier this year, he began looking into other options.</p><p>In a statement, the Lucas Museum board says Chicago&rsquo;s proposed site by Soldier Field was &ldquo;significantly larger&rdquo; and closer to public transportation than the sites San Francisco was offering. The board also lauded Chicago&rsquo;s museum campus - the proposed site for the museum - as &ldquo;vibrant,&rdquo; and &ldquo;centrally located in a city renowned for its love of art and architecture.&rdquo;</p><p>Though he&rsquo;s from California, Lucas has his own personal connections to Chicago. Lucas&rsquo; wife, Mellody Hobson, is a prominent businesswoman from Chicago. The couple celebrated their wedding at Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore. The city closed down the entire park for the event.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been lobbying for major cultural institutions to move to or take root in Chicago. A mayoral-appointed task force last month recommended the Lucas museum be built along the lakefront, in the now-parking lots between Soldier Field and McCormick Place</p><p>Emanuel called landing the Lucas Museum a &ldquo;tremendous opportunity&rdquo; for the city. He&rsquo;s said in the past taxpayers wouldn&rsquo;t be footing the bill for the billion-dollar investment.</p><p>The mayor has also attempted to assure Bears fans that the Lucas museum won&rsquo;t keep them from tailgating before home games. Last month, he told reporters at an unrelated event that &ldquo;there&rsquo;s going to be tailgating. Full stop.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t thank George and Mellody enough,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;No other major American city has these type of cultural education institutions, with a great Northerly Island creating a vibrant, green museum campus - unparalleled in the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>In a statement, George Lucas says Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but the Bay area will always be his home.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian"><em>@laurenchooljian</em></a></p></p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/lucas-chooses-chicago-his-art-memorabilia-museum-110405 Long-forgotten landscape architect helped save the Indiana Dunes http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/long-forgotten-landscape-architect-helped-save-indiana-dunes-110378 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jens%20Jensen%201.jpg" style="float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Danish-born Jens Jensen helped develop Chicago’s park system. He’s also credited with helping preserve much of the Indiana Dunes. (Photo provided by Carey Lundin)" />As the temperature rises, thousands will be flocking to the <a href="http://www.indianadunes.com/" target="_blank">Indiana Dunes</a> this summer. But if it weren&rsquo;t for a little-known landscape architect, the miles of beaches along southern Lake Michigan might not exist today.</p><p>Jens Jensen first became known for his pioneering work on Chicago&rsquo;s park system a century ago. The new documentary <a href="http://www.jensjensenthelivinggreen.org/" target="_blank"><em>Jens Jensen, the Living Green</em></a> also shows his role in saving the Indiana Dunes from industrial destruction.&nbsp;</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente recently sat down with the film&rsquo;s director Carey Lundin. She began by talking about how the Danish-born Jensen first ended up in Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jens Jensen 2.jpg" style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; height: 496px; width: 620px;" title="Carey Lundin (middle) on location shooting the documentary Jens Jensen The Living Green. (Photo provided by Carey Lundin)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Carey Lundin (middle) on location shooting the documentary Jens Jensen The Living Green. (Photo provided by Carey Lundin)</em></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/long-forgotten-landscape-architect-helped-save-indiana-dunes-110378 Cinespace Chicago: Hollywood of the Midwest? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/cinespace-chicago-hollywood-midwest-109789 <p><p>Life on a television soundstage is a mixture of glamor and grit. Or at least that&rsquo;s the case with Chicago Fire, an NBC series that&rsquo;s been shooting in Chicago the past two years.</p><p>The day I visit, the cast and crew are shooting a scene for an episode that will likely air in March. The set&rsquo;s designed to look like a firehouse break room.</p><p>Actors like Eamonn Walker and David Eigenberg stroll by, impeccably made up for their scene.</p><p>But they also jostle and joke around with the crew. Eigenberg (who played Steve, the sweet and mild love interest of Miranda on Sex and the City) swears a blue streak.</p><p>Director Sanford Bookstaver, after some prodding from his assistant director, calls &ldquo;Action!&rdquo; Everyone hits their marks, again and again.</p><p>Other than some barely contained hilarity around a prop (which I can&rsquo;t reveal: this episode hasn&rsquo;t aired so no spoilers allowed), it&rsquo;s all business.</p><p>Chicago Fire itself has apparently been good business for our local film economy.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn said the series is a big reason that local media production has broken records over the past two years.</p><p>Bookstaver predicts even bigger revenues. The L.A.-based director has been here 4 times recently, to direct episodes of Chicago Fire and the spin-off series Chicago PD. He said film could be a trigger for economic growth in Chicago. New production facilities, followed by hotels. A whole Hollywood scene, like the kind that grew in Vancouver.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it would be very nice to have a Hollywood Midwest as well,&rdquo; said Bookstaver, &ldquo;Why not?&rdquo;</p><p>Why not?</p><p>Well, for starters, Illinois&rsquo; film economy is still pretty small. The state estimates total spending in 2013 was around $350 million. Some of that is the result of a tax credit the state legislature approved back in 2004.</p><p>Back then a good year was about $23 million. Now producers shooting here can earn up to 30 percent &nbsp;in tax credits for money they spend locally - to buy goods and services or to hire crew.</p><p>The credits, plus Chicago&rsquo;s reputation for authentic locations, plus talented crews, brought more business. But it wasn&rsquo;t enough. What we needed was a place - somewhere film producers could call home. That turned out to be <a href="http://www.chicagofilmstudios.com/">Cinespace Chicago Film Studios</a> &nbsp;in Chicago&rsquo;s North Lawndale neighborhood.</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/photo3_web.jpg" style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" title="Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. The state of Illinois ponied up $5 million to turn an old steel plant into a huge soundstage facility. (WBEZ/Alison Cuddy)" /></div><p>Alex Pissios is a Chicago native and president of Cinespace Chicago.</p><p>He gave me a tour of his massive facility, which sprawls across almost 50 acres on the city&rsquo;s West Side. The space is cavernous, with 45-foot-high ceilings.</p><p>Right now it houses 18 stages, including two used by Chicago Fire. Other productions that are filming or have filmed there include television shows like Chicago PD, Mind Games, Crisis as well as big films like Transformers 4 and Divergent.</p><p>Pissios says they have plans to build 12 more sound stages, including a water stage that will be constructed this spring.</p><p>Cinespace Chicago was originally developed by Pissios&rsquo; uncle Nick Mirkopolous, who died late last year.</p><p>Mirkopolous, a Greek-Canadian, had a track record building sound stages in Toronto and elsewhere. But Pissios said the way his uncle got locals, like former Mayor Richard M. Daley, on board was by being blunt.</p><p>&ldquo;He said LA is prostituting your city,&rdquo; recalled Pissios. &ldquo;They come in, shoot your beautiful location, then they leave and spend the real money in other cities.&rdquo;</p><p>Apparently that message hit home. The state gave Cinespace $5 million to get started. <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/provdrs/ec_dev/news/2013/sep/tax_incentive_wouldsupportsouthwestsidefilmproductionstudio.html">And the city ponied up a property tax break</a>, estimated to be worth $3.5 million over the next 12 years.</p><p>Pissios says that&rsquo;s public money well spent. Business follows it, like television series and commercial work. The day I toured, a Chevy ad starring Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was shooting.</p><p>And the producers from L.A. keep coming.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re like cockroaches, they find space, they love the space,&rdquo; said Pissios. &ldquo;A lot of location shooting is done on the 50 acres, and that&rsquo;s a big, big thing for them, because that means they don&rsquo;t have to go somewhere, close a street down, move their caterers, move their Teamsters, move their workers, move their actors.&rdquo;</p><p>Pissios wouldn&rsquo;t say whether Cinespace Chicago is making a profit yet. And trying to figure out if the state has seen a return on its investment is complicated.</p><p>Dave Roeder, a spokesperson for the <a href="http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/default.aspx">Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity</a> (which includes the Illinois Film Office) says the film industry generated $1.3 billion in spending between 2005-2008. Over that same time, the state gave out $201 million in tax credits, although that figure could be higher by as much as $100 million, since production companies have two years to claim their credits.</p><p>When I asked how much of that spending actually flows into state coffers, Roeder did not have a ready answer. Like other state officials I spoke with, he stressed that without a tax credit, Illinois would likely have seen far less film production over the past decade.</p><p>As for how the state makes up the potential loss of hundreds of millions in tax revenue due to the film production credit, Roeder said &nbsp;it would be &ldquo;made up elsewhere, by any other revenue generating items.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://evanston.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/illinois-film-tax-credits-bought-by-producers-paid-for-by-taxpayers">Complicating this scenario is who actually winds up getting the tax credit</a>. Film productions don&rsquo;t necessarily rack up a big tax liability when shooting. No loss - they can sell their credits - legally - to other corporate entities. And according to Roeder &ldquo;a great many do,&rdquo; often to big retailers.</p><p>&ldquo;To us, it&rsquo;s immaterial, it doesn&rsquo;t increase the liability,&rdquo; said Roeder. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a private market transaction.&rdquo;</p><p>But many critics say there is a long-term liability to states, even if they don&rsquo;t realize it.</p><p>Robert Tannenwald is an economist based in Boston, who has spent close to 30 years looking at local incentives for film. He says tax credits don&rsquo;t work. They don&rsquo;t generate enough economic activity to offset their cost. And they don&rsquo;t always work to sustain a film industry.</p><p>&ldquo;The film industry is so footloose and in need of such subsidization because it&rsquo;s so risky,&rdquo; said Tannenwalk. &ldquo;So it will simply go where it can get the biggest subsidy. Lots of states have sound studios and subsidies &ndash; <a href="http://variety.com/2012/film/news/new-mexico-film-hot-spot-on-the-mend-1118057060/">they weren&rsquo;t enough to hold the industry.&rdquo;</a></p><p>And - helping out the film industry usually leads to short changes in other sectors. Maybe education gets less aid. Teachers get laid off. Then, they stop spending money.</p><p>So given those odds, why would a state subsidize &nbsp;the film industry?</p><p>Tannenwald says <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/fiscal-policy/state-film-production-incentives-and-programs.aspx">because all the other states do.</a> But following suit puts them in what he calls competitive purgatory.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I think that the idea of creating a media cluster, a Hollywood Midwest is a really long-shot bet,&rdquo; said Tannenwald. &ldquo;And in my opinion, though I&rsquo;m not a resident or a voter in Illinois, I wouldn&rsquo;t be taking those bets right now.&rdquo;</p><p>Tannenwald says the best measures for whether or not tax incentives work is to analyze them - the way the Massachusetts Department of Revenue does its state film tax incentives.</p><p>Another measure is to ask how many jobs are created. Again, that&rsquo;s hard to assess. Jobs in the film industry are contract-based - people work as long as films or series or commercials are shooting. The state calls them &nbsp;&ldquo;full time equivalent&rdquo; or FTE jobs because they&rsquo;re union gigs that come with good pay and benefits. But the county varies from year to year, from more than 8,000 hires in 2010 to 4,200 last year.</p><p><a href="https://www.worldbusinesschicago.com/news/hollywood-in-the-midwest">If Chicago is intent on becoming the Hollywood of the Midwest</a> it wouldn&rsquo;t be the first. Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin - even Kankakee in downstate Illinois - have all set their sights on building a film industry. And some have failed, spectacularly.</p><p>But all of these questions and concerns around the economics of film don&rsquo;t deters Alex Pissios.</p><p>Back at Cinespace, he&rsquo;s hatching big plans. He wants to turn his campus into an enclosed backlot, along the lines of Universal Studios. He&rsquo;ll have architects create facades that replicate streets and buildings in New York or London. He thinks that will make Chicago even more attractive to film producers.</p><p>And the payoff?</p><p>&ldquo;How many businesses come in with a suitcase of 50, 60 million dollars and say&lsquo;&rsquo;We&rsquo;re going to spend this in your state-- now. It&rsquo;s going to be impacted-- now,&rdquo; said Pissios. &ldquo;Not six years down the line. People don&rsquo;t realize the amount of money being spent when these productions come in.. It&rsquo;s unbelievable.&rdquo;</p><p>And right now, at least in Illinois, those short term gains are winning out.<a name="playlist"></a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/25080645&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><div><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/acuddy-0">Alison Cuddy</a> is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">Twitter</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison">Facebook</a> and&nbsp;<a href="http://http://instagram.com/cuddyreport">Instagram</a>.</em></div></p> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 09:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/cinespace-chicago-hollywood-midwest-109789 Chicago actor, writer Harold Ramis dies at 69 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-actor-writer-harold-ramis-dies-69-109759 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP586298606276.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&quot;Caddyshack.&quot; &#39;&#39;National Lampoon&#39;s Animal House.&quot; &#39;&#39;Ghostbusters.&quot; &#39;&#39;Groundhog Day.&quot; &#39;&#39;Stripes.&quot;</p><p>Those titles are some of the most beloved and widely quoted comedy classics of the last 30 years. They&#39;re also Harold Ramis&#39; filmography.</p><p>Ramis, the writer-director-actor who quietly and often off-screen created an unparalleled and hugely influential body of laughs, died Monday. He was 69.</p><p>He suffered for several years from an autoimmune disease that caused inflammation and damage to his blood vessels, and died at his home in the Chicago suburbs, surrounded by family and friends, his talent agency said.</p><p>His death rattled a modern comedy world Ramis helped build. His legacy as a father figure to generations of comedians was appropriately captured in Judd Apatow&#39;s &quot;Knocked Up,&quot; in which Ramis was cast as Seth Rogen&#39;s father, Apatow said, &quot;because we all saw him as the dream dad.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Harold Ramis made almost every movie which made me want to become a comedy director,&quot; Apatow said. &quot;These films are the touchstones of our lives.&quot;</p><p>Chevy Chase, whom Ramis directed in &quot;Caddyshack&quot; and &quot;National Lampoon&#39;s Vacation,&quot; called him &quot;a great man who shunned unnecessary Hollywood-type publicity.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It was Harold who acted out and gave me the inspiration for the character of Clark Griswold,&quot; Chase said Monday. &quot;I was really copying Harold&#39;s impression of Clark.&quot;</p><p>Admittedly lacking the dashing leading-man looks of some of his peers, Ramis was memorably nebbish: curly haired, gangly and bespectacled. He played Ghostbuster scientist Egon Spengler (naturally, the brainy one with all the ideas), and Bill Murray&#39;s Army recruit buddy in &quot;Stripes.&quot;</p><p>But the Chicago native and early member of the improv comedy troupe Second City was a far larger force behind the camera. The intellectual Ramis was the Zen master to a wild, improvising comic storm that included Murray, John Belushi, Chase and Dan Aykroyd.</p><p>He co-wrote and directed &quot;Caddyshack,&quot; &#39;&#39;Groundhog Day,&quot; and &quot;Analyze This.&quot; He helped pen &quot;Meatballs,&quot; &#39;&#39;Stripes&quot; and &quot;Ghostbusters.&quot;</p><p>Ramis could be reasonably credited with making more people roll in the aisles from the late &#39;70s to the early &#39;90s than most anyone else. &quot;He earned his keep on this planet,&quot; Murray said in a statement.</p><p>With a Baby Boomer countercultural bent, Ramis &mdash; who escaped Vietnam service, he claimed, by checking every box on the medical history form &mdash; pushed against institutions: the college dean of &quot;Animal House,&quot; the country club members of &quot;Caddyshack,&quot; the drill sergeant of &quot;Stripes.&quot;</p><p>Ramis, who became a Buddhist in midlife, was known to have a spiritual pull, on full display in the wry but earnest existentialism of &quot;Groundhog Day&quot; (1993), in which Murray re-lives a day until he finally gets it right. His &quot;Ghostbusters&quot; co-star and Second City mate Aykroyd said: &quot;May he now get the answers he was always seeking.&quot;</p><p>The son of Chicago shopkeepers, Ramis was born Nov. 21, 1944, in Chicago. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, he briefly worked in a mental institution. He often said, seriously, that the experience helped prepare him for working with actors.</p><p>Ramis would help recalibrate the epicenter of American comedy at Second City, which he joined in 1969. He was soon followed by many of his later collaborators: Belushi (&quot;Animal House&quot;), Murray and Aykroyd. In 1976, he became head writer for the Canadian-based comedy show Second City Television, or SCTV.</p><p>Chicago, he later said in the book of interviews &quot;And Here&#39;s the Kicker,&quot; conditioned him to living &quot;slightly on the outside of the mainstream.&quot;</p><p>&quot;New York and L.A. were the real centers of culture in America, and we were kind of a sideshow,&quot; Ramis said. &quot;There&#39;s always more comedy in being alienated than in fitting in.&quot;</p><p>He soon moved on to bigger projects &mdash; the legendary 1978 comedy &quot;National Lampoon&#39;s Animal House,&quot; which he wrote with National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney. Their motto was &quot;broad comedy is not necessarily dumb comedy.&quot;</p><p>With Murray as the comic lead, the Second City alums paired up for numerous projects: 1979&#39;s &quot;Meatballs,&quot; 1980&#39;s &quot;Caddyshack&quot; and 1981&#39;s &quot;Stripes.&quot; The &quot;Cinderella story&quot; scene in &quot;Caddyshack&quot; came from Ramis suggesting Murray talk to himself like a sports announcer.</p><p>Though Ramis had once harbored lead actor dreams, he realized his better fit was as a straight man or a director of more uninhibited talents like Belushi or Murray. &quot;As a person of intellect, I could complement John or Bill, who were people of instinct; I could help guide and deploy that instinct,&quot; he told The New Yorker in 2004.</p><p>Perhaps the most well-known of their collaborations was &quot;Ghostbusters.&quot; Ramis helped write the 1984 movie, in which he stars as the commonsense member of a group of parapsychologists who try to catch ghosts.</p><p>&quot;The best comedy touches something that&#39;s timeless and universal in people,&quot; Ramis told The Associated Press in a 2009 story about the 50th anniversary of Second City. &quot;When you hit it right, those things last.&quot;</p><p>After &quot;Groundhog Day,&quot; Ramis and Murray fell out and didn&#39;t speak for years. The cause of the rupture between the pair, one of the most storied actor-director teams in comedy, isn&#39;t widely known, as neither has ever spoken much publicly about it. The Chicago Tribune reported that Murray visited Ramis during his illness.</p><p>Ramis&#39; last hit was &quot;Analyze This,&quot; the therapist comedy starring Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro. Like many of his later films (1996&#39;s &quot;Multiplicity,&quot; 1995&#39;s &quot;Stuart Saves His Family&quot;), it hinged on a story of personal redemption.</p><p>Some of his last efforts (2000&#39;s &quot;Bedazzled,&quot; 2009&#39;s &quot;Year One&quot;) were notable flops. &quot;The Ice Harvest,&quot; a 2005 comedy starring John Cusack, was one of the darkest comedies for Ramis, whose humor &mdash; however full of rebellion and absurdity &mdash; was nearly always optimistic. A third &quot;Ghostbusters&quot; with director Ivan Reitman has long been rumored, but is yet to materialize in any substantial way.</p><p>Ramis is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter Violet; and two grandchildren.</p></p> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-actor-writer-harold-ramis-dies-69-109759 Oscar All-Stars: And the winners are... http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/oscar-all-stars-and-winners-are-109678 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/oscarpoll.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>In anticipation of this year&rsquo;s Academy Awards, WBEZ asked you to weigh in on the &ldquo;Best of the Best.&rdquo; We compiled Oscar winners from the last ten years in the major categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.</p><p>You voted and the results are in!</p><p><strong>WINNERS</strong><br /><strong>Best Picture:</strong> No Country for Old Men (2007)<br /><strong>Best Director:</strong> Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men (2007)<br /><strong>Best Actor:</strong> Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (2007)<br /><strong>Best Actress:</strong> Charlize Theron, Monster (2003)<br /><strong>Best Supporting Actor:</strong> Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008)<br /><strong>Best Supporting Actress: </strong>Mo&rsquo;Nique, Precious (2009)</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/134863986&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>VOTE RESULTS (number of votes received listed on the left)</p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Am5Rt8H_U2b1dHNkSEFoV0NpaWo1N1hTRTI5YTlYUHc&transpose=0&headers=0&range=A1%3AB10&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"bold":true,"color":"#000","fontSize":16},"pieHole":0,"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Best Picture","colors":["#3366CC","#DC3912","#FF9900","#109618","#990099","#0099C6","#DD4477","#66AA00","#B82E2E","#316395","#994499","#22AA99","#AAAA11","#6633CC","#E67300","#8B0707","#651067","#329262","#5574A6","#3B3EAC","#B77322","#16D620","#B91383","#F4359E","#9C5935","#A9C413","#2A778D","#668D1C","#BEA413","#0C5922","#743411"],"is3D":false,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"width":600,"height":371},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"PieChart","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script><p><br /><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Am5Rt8H_U2b1dHNkSEFoV0NpaWo1N1hTRTI5YTlYUHc&transpose=0&headers=0&range=A12%3AB21&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"bold":true,"color":"#000","fontSize":16},"pieHole":0,"booleanRole":"certainty","title":"Best Director","colors":["#3366CC","#DC3912","#FF9900","#109618","#990099","#0099C6","#DD4477","#66AA00","#B82E2E","#316395","#994499","#22AA99","#AAAA11","#6633CC","#E67300","#8B0707","#651067","#329262","#5574A6","#3B3EAC","#B77322","#16D620","#B91383","#F4359E","#9C5935","#A9C413","#2A778D","#668D1C","#BEA413","#0C5922","#743411"],"is3D":false,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"width":600,"height":371},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"PieChart","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p><p><strong>BEST ACTRESS</strong><br />8 - Jennifer Lawrence &ndash; Silver Linings Playbook (2012)<br />3 - Meryl Streep &ndash; The Iron Lady (2011)<br />10 - Natalie Portman &ndash; Black Swan (2010)<br />3 - Sandra Bullock &ndash; The Blind Side (2009)<br />9 - Kate Winslet &ndash; The Reader (2008)<br />9 - Marion Cotiliard &ndash; La Vie En Rose (2007)<br />15 - Helen Miren &ndash; The Queen (2006)<br />2 - Reese Witherspoon &ndash; Walk the Line (2005)<br />10 - Hilary Swank &ndash; Million Dollar Baby (2004)<br /><strong>19 -Charlize Theron &ndash;Monster (2003)</strong></p><p><strong>BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR</strong><br />5 - Christoph Waltz &ndash; Django Unchained (2012)<br />5 - Christopher Plummer &ndash; Beginners (2011)<br />11 - Christian Bale &ndash; The Fighter (2010)<br />14 - Christoph Waltz &ndash; Inglorious Basterds (2009)<br /><strong>23 - Heath Ledger &ndash; The Dark Knight (2008)</strong><br />12 - Javier Bardem &ndash; No Country for Old Men (2007)<br />7 - Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine (2006)<br />3 - George Clooney &ndash; Syriana (2005)<br />6 - Morgan Freeman &ndash; Million Dollar Baby (2004)<br />3 - Tim Robbins &ndash; Mystic River (2003)<br /><br /><strong>BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS</strong><br />11 - Anne Hathaway &ndash; Les Miserables (2012)<br />11 - Octavia Spencer &ndash; The Help (2011)<br />11 - Melissa Leo &ndash; The Fighter (2010)<br /><strong>12 - Monique &ndash; Precious (2009)</strong><br />8 - Penelope Cruz &ndash; Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)<br />11 - Tilda Swinton &ndash; Michael Clayton (2007)<br />7 - Jennifer Hudson &ndash; Dreamgirls (2006)<br />3 - Rachel Weisz &ndash; The Constant Gardener (2005)<br />8 - Cate Blanchett &ndash; The Aviator (2004)<br />6 - Renee Zellweger &ndash; Cold Mountain (2003)</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 10 Feb 2014 15:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/oscar-all-stars-and-winners-are-109678 'Great art is about guilt and longing' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-02/great-art-about-guilt-and-longing-109623 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><strong><u>UPDATED TUESDAY MORNING</u></strong></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Hoffman%20Bangs.jpg" title="Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs." /></div><p>From the brilliant writer and title character in <em>Capote</em>, to the insecure soundman in <em>Boogie Nights</em>, to the stand-in for cult leader/con man L. Rob Hubbard in <em>The Master, </em>Philip Seymour&nbsp;Hoffman owned any role he took on, earning every accolade he received as one of the finest actors of his generation. For many music lovers, however, he never played a better part or did a role more justice than his turn as the great rock critic Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe&rsquo;s <em>Almost Famous.</em></p><p>As was often the case (and never more than with Truman Capote), Hoffman&mdash;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/03/movies/philip-seymour-hoffman-actor-dies-at-46.html">who was found dead Sunday morning of an apparent drug overdose at the age of 46</a>&mdash;looked nothing like the tall, gangly, and dark-haired Bangs. But he grasped the soul of the writer, whether in the manic mode of Lester-as-preacher doing a hyped-up radio interview (&ldquo;Jim Morrison? He&#39;s a drunken buffoon posing as a poet!&rdquo;), or serving as the wise, sensitive, and encouraging mentor who delivers the most moving monologue, the original title, and the <em>raison d&#39;être</em> of Crowe&rsquo;s 2000 bildungsroman.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Oh man, you made friends with &rsquo;em. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong&hellip;.Because they make you feel cool. And, hey, I met you: You are not cool... We are uncool. Women will always be a problem for guys like us. Most of the great art in the world is about that very problem. Good-looking people, they got no spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we&rsquo;re smarter&hellip; Great art is about guilt and longing. Love disguised as sex and sex disguised as love. Let&rsquo;s face, you got a big head start&hellip; I&rsquo;m always home, I&rsquo;m uncool&hellip; The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you&rsquo;re uncool. My advice to you&mdash;I know you think these guys are your friends; if you want to be a true friend to &rsquo;em?&mdash;be honest and unmerciful.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Initially, many people in the rock world who knew Bangs thought that Crowe was nuts for casting Hoffman. For most, that changed when they saw the film.</p><p>As with any actor, part of Hoffman&rsquo;s success was capturing the way his subject moved, talked, and thought. He prepped to become Bangs by reading the manuscript of my biography a few months before it was published, watching videotapes I sent to Crowe, and studying a cassette of me as a high-school student interviewing the famous critic. Crowe told me that the actor walked up and down the street in San Diego where they filmed the radio station scene for an hour before shooting, listening to that tape on a Walkman to get Lester&rsquo;s speech patterns and his weird El Cajon drawl <em>just right</em>.</p><p>There was more to it than mimicry, though. When I visited the set on the last day of sound editing, Crowe took me aside and showed me Hoffman&rsquo;s scenes as Bangs, including a few outtakes. We both agreed that somehow, magically, we weren&rsquo;t watching an actor, but once again were seeing the hero we met when we each were 17&mdash;the director in 1972, and me in 1982. There was no way Hoffman could have done that without having some Lester inside him. From then on, whenever I saw him on screen again, I suspected the same was true to some degree of every character he played.</p><p>I always wanted to thank Hoffman for getting Bangs right. Unfortunately, I never met him.</p><p>Then again, having seen all of his most celebrated movies, maybe I did.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WzY2pWrXB_0" width="420"></iframe></p><p><u><strong>UPDATE</strong></u>: <em>Almost Famous </em>director Cameron Crowe has paid tribute to Hoffman on his Web site, <a href="http://www.theuncool.com/">The Uncool.</a> Here is what he wrote:</p><blockquote><p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">My original take on this scene was a loud, late night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. &nbsp;A call to arms. &nbsp;In Phil&rsquo;s hands it became something different. &nbsp;A scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. &nbsp;It became the soul of the movie. &nbsp;In between takes, Hoffman spoke to no one. &nbsp;He listened only to his headset, only to the words of Lester himself. &nbsp;(His Walkman was filled with rare Lester interviews.) When the scene was over, I realized that Hoffman had pulled off a magic trick. &nbsp;He&rsquo;d leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met. &nbsp;Suddenly the portrait was complete. The crew and I will always be grateful for that front row seat to his genius.</span></p></blockquote><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></a><em><strong> or join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><em>Facebook</em></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Sun, 02 Feb 2014 14:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-02/great-art-about-guilt-and-longing-109623 The Handsome Family kills it on HBO http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Rennie and Brett (WBEZ file)." /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD2.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Matthew and Woody (HBO)." /></div></div><p>Almost all of the well-deserved praise showered on producer T-Bone Burnett of late has come thanks to his role in crafting the music of the Coen Brothers&rsquo; moody homage to the pre-Dylan folk scene <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em>. But as impressive as that accomplishment is, even more awesome are his choices as music supervisor for <em>True Detective, </em>the new HBO anthology series wowing TV critics with stellar performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as cops chasing a serial killer through rural Louisiana in the show&rsquo;s first eight-episode season.</p><p>Rather than the predictable Cajun sounds some might have picked to power this tale, Burnett has instead matched the ominous Southern gothic mood with one exquisitely well-chosen song after another spanning a wide swath of different genres and eras, from &ldquo;Clear Spot&rdquo; by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band to &ldquo;Honey Bee (Let&rsquo;s Fly to Mars)&rdquo; by Nick Cave&rsquo;s Grinderman, and from &ldquo;Stand By Me&rdquo; by the Staple Singers to &ldquo;The Kingdom of Heaven&rdquo; by the 13<sup>th</sup> Floor Elevators. Best of all, however, was his choice for the show&rsquo;s theme song, kicking things off every Sunday night.</p><p>I recognized the dulcet tones of Brett and Rennie Sparks from the Handsome Family 10 seconds into the first episode, but I&rsquo;ll confess that as much as I love their now 10-albums-rich catalog&mdash;all of it released by the under-heralded Chicago indie Carrot Top Records&mdash;I had to do some digging in the stacks to place &ldquo;Far From Any Road&rdquo; as a rather deep album cut from <em>Singing Bones</em> in 2003.</p><p>That isn&rsquo;t to say it&rsquo;s not perfect for the job, or that it&rsquo;s not a great song&mdash;just that those twisted but lovable Sparks easily have a hundred tunes that would fit this tale of the undercurrents of evil and nihilism versus the forces of faith and humanism, and this one wouldn&rsquo;t have even been in my Top 20 picks, until T-Bone brought it to my attention once again.</p><p>&ldquo;The world needs bad men&mdash;we keep the other bad men from the door,&rdquo; McConaughey&rsquo;s philosophical sleuth said in this week&rsquo;s episode. I don&rsquo;t know about that, but even if they continue to prefer life in New Mexico over their old stomping grounds of Chicago (wonder why, with weather like this?), the world always has and always will need the Handsome Family.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p4zluA60hjs" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong> or join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 Chicago civil rights film gets National Film Registry recognition http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-12/chicago-civil-rights-film-gets-national-film-registry-recognition-109435 <p><p dir="ltr">The year 2013 is ending on a high note for Chicago film. Cicero March, a short film documenting a historic local civil rights march, was selected by the Library of Congress for its National Film Registry.</p><p dir="ltr">The library selects 25 films each year for the registry, and most tend to be significant theatrical productions. This year is no different, as the <a href="http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/13-216.html">big, popular films on the list</a> include Gilda, Pulp Fiction, The Magnificent Seven, and Judgement at Nuremberg.</p><p dir="ltr">But tucked among those titles was Cicero March -- a short independent documentary from the Chicago-based <a href="http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/collections/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/689">Film Group</a> that details a significant moment in the region&rsquo;s history.</p><p dir="ltr">On Sept. 4, 1966, Robert Lucas of the <a href="http://www.congressofracialequality.org/">Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)</a> led protestors on a march through Cicero, located on the city&rsquo;s western border and then racially segregated.</p><p dir="ltr">The march was supposed to be led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King had been in Chicago since January, and along with other activists, had faced many mobs in white communities such as Marquette Park.</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/women%20watching.png" style="height: 258px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Cicero residents photograph a historic anti-segregation march through the Chicago suburb in 1966 (photo courtesy Chicago Film Archive)" />But in August of that year, a <a href="http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_chicago_campaign/">&ldquo;summit&rdquo; </a>was held between King, then Mayor Richard J. Daley, the city&rsquo;s housing authority, and various real estate interests. Out of that emerged an agreement on open housing.</div><p dir="ltr">CORE was based in Chicago and well-seasoned by its efforts against segregation in Chicago public schools. And CORE activist Lucas <a href="http://digital.wustl.edu/e/eii/eiiweb/luc5427.0872.098marc_record_interviewee_process.html">considered the housing agreement a sham</a> and decided to go ahead with the march.</p><p dir="ltr">Once again, protestors were confronted by angry residents who lined the route, shouting, swearing, and threatening violence.</p><p dir="ltr">But as the Film Group documented, the marchers, flanked by police and armed National Guardsmen, were not afraid to respond.</p><p dir="ltr">As helicopters hovered overhead, residents hurled taunts such as, &ldquo;You should have washed before coming here,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Hey, the Brookfield Zoo is that way!&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In response one of the marchers yells, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t stop, just keep it coming, just keep coming, don&rsquo;t stop. You fat punk, I think I see what you&rsquo;re made of. You fat punk -- and your momma, too!&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cicero March is in the collection of the <a href="http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/">Chicago Film Archive</a> (CFA). [Disclosure: The writer is on the advisory board of the CFA.]</p><p dir="ltr">The original print was a well-worn circulating copy from the Chicago Public Library&rsquo;s collection of 16mm films. After contacting Mike Grey and William Cottle of the Film Group, the CFA raised money to restore one of its prints of the film.</p><p dir="ltr">Anne Wells, the CFA&rsquo;s collections manager, says this was the third year in which the organization submitted Cicero March to the Library of Congress for consideration.</p><p dir="ltr">She finds it incredible that the footage even exists.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They were the only news cameramen there,&rdquo; said Wells. &ldquo;So to the best of our knowledge, this is the only moving image footage of this civil rights march.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Wells thinks inclusion in the National Film Registry is a well-deserved nod to non-commercial Midwestern filmmaking, and recognition that this moment in history happened.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s ugly,&rdquo; said Wells. &ldquo;But you don&rsquo;t want to hide that past. It&rsquo;s a very emotional film, that this happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>All of the films selected for the National Film Registry have been deemed &ldquo;culturally, aesthetically or historically&rdquo; significant.</p><p><em><a class="underlined" href="http://www.wbez.org/users/acuddy-0" rel="author">Alison Cuddy </a> is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy"> Twitter </a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison"> Facebook </a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram</a>. </em></p></p> Tue, 24 Dec 2013 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-12/chicago-civil-rights-film-gets-national-film-registry-recognition-109435 11 alternative Christmas movies to watch this year http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/11-alternative-christmas-movies-watch-year-109384 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img 20th="" alt="" century="" class="image-original_image" edward="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Edward-Scissorhands-movie-still.jpg" style="height: 342px; width: 620px;" title="A still from &quot;Edward Scissorhands.&quot; (AP Photo/20th Century Fox)" /></div><p>Ah, Christmas movies. Everyone has a favorite, whether it be an old classic&mdash;the Rankin/Bass version of &quot;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xqACmJvqaU" target="_blank">Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer</a>&quot;&nbsp;comes to mind&mdash;or a newer addition, like Jim Carrey&#39;s &quot;How the Grinch Stole Christmas&quot; or Will Ferrell&#39;s &quot;Elf.&quot;</p><p>I will admit that a few traditional Christmas films still hold my heart, particularly &quot;It&#39;s A Wonderful Life&quot; (because I love Jimmy Stewart) and &quot;A Muppet Chistmas Carol&quot; (because I love Michael Caine as Scrooge, plus muppets), but my tastes have changed considerably over the years.</p><p>Once I began to realize that schmaltz-fests like &quot;The Family Stone&quot; were unfulfilling, and garish clunkers like &quot;Jingle All the Way&quot; were actually&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jingle-all-the-way-1996" target="_blank">materialism incarnate</a>, I made a conscious decision to venture outside the Hallmark Channel-approved box for my holiday viewing.&nbsp;</p><p>I started watching movies set at Christmastime, often with plots still somewhat impacted by or connected to seasonal tropes, but that also contained much weirder, darker, and more complex themes than the simpler stories I enjoyed as a child. (I blame you, film school.)</p><p>Then there are those beloved holiday staples that toe the line, but never quite cross it. For example, &quot;A Christmas Story&quot; has enough acerbic wit to balance out the nostalgia, but also plays to the masses for <a href="http://www.tbs.com/stories/story/0,,97568,00.html" target="_blank">24 hours on TBS</a>. National Lampoon&#39;s &quot;Christmas Vacation&quot; may veer hilariously towards the irreverent, but stops short of real oddball territory due to the near universal accessibility of writer John Hughes.</p><p>If you&#39;re looking for a new yuletide tradition that doesn&#39;t involve endless rounds of carol-singing, or if you&#39;ve simply had your fill of Bing Crosby and &quot;Frosty the Snowman,&quot; then I suggest treating yourself to a Christmas movie with a little more bite.&nbsp;</p><p>Here are my Top 11:</p><p><strong>11. &quot;Brazil&quot; (1985)</strong></p><p>Terry Gilliam&#39;s &quot;Brazil&quot; is one of the most bizarre movies I&#39;ve ever seen; and consequently, one of my all-time favorites. The warped Christmas setting, though completely random and unexplained, is a perfect match for the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wh2b1eZFUM" target="_blank">dystopian terror</a> of a society utterly devoid of holiday spirit. Plus, if you ever wanted to see Jonathon Pryce, Jim Broadbent, Peter Vaughn, Katherine Helmond, and Robert DeNiro in a film together&mdash;or rather, spiraling out of control in a wacky, retro-future Orwellian universe&mdash;herein lies your opportunity.</p><p><strong>10. &quot;Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy&quot; (2011)</strong></p><p>A Cold War<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aco15ScXCwA" target="_blank"> espionage thriller</a> starring Gary Oldman may not sound very Christmasy, but factor in a holiday office party as the scene that frames the movie&mdash;with gaudy &#39;70s suits, clouds of cigarette smoke, and a discordant sing-along to the Soviet Anthem, no less&mdash;and the idea of seasonal communion is turned wickedly on its head, like a wind-up doll gone deliriously mad. Meanwhile, in yet another sinister detail from director Tomas Alfredson (&quot;Let the Right One In&quot;), the singing is conducted by a eldritch-looking Santa Claus in a Lenin mask.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>9. &quot;Eyes Wide Shut&quot; (1999)</strong></p><p>In acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick&#39;s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXEziyz9duA" target="_blank">final film</a>, which premiered shortly after Kubrick&#39;s sudden death&nbsp;from a heart attack, then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a charged game of art imitating life. Here is a husband and wife who attend holiday parties together, then seperate, and fleetingly experience sordid lives outside their own. But when their wildest dreams turn to nightmares, notice the perverted symbolism: a Christmas tree (or related seasonal bauble) appears in almost every scene.</p><p><strong>8. &quot;The Apartment&quot; (1960)</strong></p><p>Leave it to filmmaker Billy Wilder (&quot;Some Like It Hot,&quot; &quot;The Lost Weekend&quot;) to write and direct a movie that focuses on the very darkest chasms of the human heart come Christmastime. Jack Lemmon plays the antihero, C.C. &quot;Bud&quot; Baxter: a lonely insurance salesman who decides to drown his sorrows in booze on Christmas Eve. He meets a fellow lonely heart at his neighborhood bar, and then brings her up to his apartment for a little more forgetting. But in a startling twist, they find that Shirley MacLaine&#39;s character is already there, passed out on his bed from a drug overdose. This sequence of events is beyond unfortunate, but also painfully true to life: a mirror reflecting back on those of us who know all too well how <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CufD9Tu1uLE" target="_blank">soul-crushing</a> the holidays can be, and how forced that &quot;cheer&quot; can often feel.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>7. &quot;Gremlins&quot; (1984)</strong></p><p>If you haven&#39;t seen this cult classic about evil little monsters going beserk on Christmas, then I am slightly jealous of your good fortune. The very &#39;80s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoK0BzYUTrU" target="_blank">black comedy horror film</a>, directed by Chris Columbus (&quot;Home Alone,&quot; &quot;Harry Potter&quot;) and produced by Steven Spielberg, centers on a teenage boy who gets a critter called a Mogwai for Christmas. His dad found the thing in Chinatown, of all places, and he must follow three rules to care for it properly: never expose it to bright light; never get it wet; and most importantly, never feed it after midnight. Of course, the boy does not follow these instructions, and his cuddly little pet, whom he calls Gizmo, eventually mulitiplies into a horde of scary reptilian gremlins that begin terrorizing his small town. Honestly, I always feared that my Furby would do the same thing.</p><p><strong>6. &quot;Batman Returns&quot; (1992)</strong></p><p>Tim Burton&#39;s first appearance on this list, with his second and last entry into the live-action &quot;Batman&quot; franchise of the &#39;90s, is also perhaps the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_Returns" target="_blank">most Christmasy superhero film</a> in recent memory. Corrupt businessman Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) is described as &quot;Gotham&#39;s own Santa Claus,&quot; Michelle Pfieffer&#39;s Catwoman kisses Michael Keaton&#39;s Batman under the mistletoe, and Danny DeVito&#39;s deranged Penguin wreaks havoc on a snow-covered Gotham City. Ironically, the movie also enjoyed a successful June release in theatres, giving it the highest opening weekend&nbsp;of any film up to that point.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5. &quot;Kiss Kiss Bang Bang&quot; (2005)</strong></p><p>In this underrated crime caper from writer/director Shane Black, a theatrical thief (Robert Downey Jr.) teams up with a gay detective (Val Kilmer) to solve a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ekNtkhLjs" target="_blank">murder mystery</a> at Christmastime. Downey and Kilmer have surprisingly great comedic chemistry, likely aided by the kitsch romanticism of a snowless LA with plastic trees and Christmas lights. An actress also entagled in the crime (Michelle Monaghan) even shows up in a sexy Santa costume at one point.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>4. &quot;The Shop Around the Corner&quot; (1940)</strong></p><p>Two employees at a Budapest gift shop (Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, respectively) can barely stand one another; and yet, unbeknownst to both of them, are falling in love through the post as each other&#39;s anonymous pen pal. But as fate would have it, Christmas is ultimately what brings these squabbling soulmates together. In the film&#39;s memorable final scene, Stewart puts a red carnation on his lapel&mdash;thus revealing his identity to Sullivan as her longtime mystery correspondent&mdash;and the two share a passionate embrace on Christmas Eve. Does this <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033045/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank">oft-repeated romantic comedy</a> scenario sound familiar? Watch &quot;You&#39;ve Got Mail&quot; (the 1998 Nora Ephron-directed remake starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), relive the nostalgia of AOL dial-up, and feel old.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>3. &quot;Edward Scissorhands&quot; (1990)</strong></p><p>Magical is the first word that comes to mind when I think of &quot;Edward Scissorhands,&quot; which is exactly the spirit that director Tim Burton conjures up in every fairy-tale frame. Johnny Depp&#39;s impressive silent film actor performance is another revelation (how could one not fall in love with his sweet, gentle, sadly<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099487/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank"> scissor-handed hero</a>?) and the bizarro world that the rest of the characters inhabit looks positively ethereal once the snow starts to fall. In fact, Winona Ryder twirling like an angel admist snowflakes and ice sculptures is perhaps the purest embodiment of Christmas I have ever seen put to film: an exultation of whimsy, wonder, and most of all, hope.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2. &quot;The Nightmare Before Christmas&quot; (1993)</strong></p><p>Yes, Christmas features prominently into the plot, but Tim Burton&#39;s story is just as much about Halloweenteen and its delightfully creepy inhabitants as it is about what Jack Skellington discovers in the land of elves and Santy Claus. Plus, the incredible <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-LXKoNOMj0" target="_blank">stop motion animation</a> from director Henry Selick (&quot;James and the Giant Peach,&quot; &quot;Coraline&quot;) remains as mind-blowing today as it was when the film was first released.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>1. &quot;Die Hard&quot; (1988)</strong></p><p>I don&#39;t care what <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/here-is-an-opinion-that-is-not-as-clever-as-you-might-think" target="_blank">Buzzfeed</a> says; this movie is the epitome of yuletide joy. If you don&#39;t believe in miracles after watching Bruce Willis bungee jump through explosions on a fire hose, what hope is there for the world? Also, as a card-carrying member of the Alan Rickman fan club, I simply cannot fathom why audiences tout his role in &quot;Love Actually&quot; (quite possibly the most overrated holiday film of all time, in which he plays one of the most unlikeable characters) over his turn in this priceless gem. Old standbys like &quot;Miracle on 34th Street&quot; and &quot;Home Alone&quot; aside, &quot;Die Hard&quot; reigns as the ultimate Christmas movie.</p><p><strong>What are your favorite unconventional Christmas films?</strong></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about art and popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/11-alternative-christmas-movies-watch-year-109384