WBEZ | Thief http://www.wbez.org/tags/thief Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Thirty years ago, it took a "Thief" to showcase authentic Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/thirty-years-ago-it-took-thief-showcase-authentic-chicago <p><p style="text-align: center;"><object height="385" width="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/keET6waBJHk?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed height="385" width="480" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/keET6waBJHk?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></p><p>I saw clips of the upcoming Fox drama <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgb5e7zrymM">&quot;The Chicago Code,&quot;</a> and....I just don't know. There are shots of the skyline and cops busting in doors in real Chicago neighborhoods--not the mean streets of Toronto acting as a stand-in--native Jennifer Beals pulls of good Chicago accent and Delroy Lindo looks ready to take a seat in the City Council. And that is well and good.</p><p>They make good visual use of the city's architecture and structure--even bridges--and that's also a good sign. But judging by the promos, the show seems a little noisy; a little too high-octane. And although I will be watching &quot;Code,&quot; I've always thought a real Chicago drama should be a little darker, a little more brooding. Kinda like <em>Thief</em>, director Michael Mann's 1981 masterpiece starring James Caan which was released 30 years ago this year.</p><p>In <em>Thief</em>, Mann puts Chicago and its environs to good use, creating a dark, closed and ominous world where streets are rain-slickened, danger lurks in shadows and, for James Caan's character, options appear limited. The Division Street bridge at Goose Island, old Lower Wacker Drive--with its ghoulish green lighting--appear in the film, as does the Green Mill (which gets blown up in the movie's end.)&nbsp; A nighttime sequence in which Chicago's long-gone rialto, Randolph Street downtown, is reflected off the dark hood of Caan's car is worth the price of rental all by itself.</p><p>I liked seeing Dennis Farina in his first role, playing a henchman while the actor was still a Chicago cop in real life. His partner-in-crime in the movie is Nick Nickeas, whom I used to know when I was a cop reporter back in the 1990s at the Sun-Times (it's true; I was a pretty good cops-n-crime reporter before I turned soft and started covering architecture). Nick was head of Belmont Area Violent Crimes unit over at Belmont and Western. John Santucci, a former Chicago thief in real life, plays a plainclothes officer--which must have gotten a few laughs on the set. Santucci and Farina later had starring roles in Mann's late, great set-in-1960s-Chicago TV series,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/bey/2010/07/the-real-mad-men-the-cops-robbers-and-mid-century-design-of-crime-story/30936"> <em>Crime Story</em>.</a></p><p>I should stay away from movie criticism, but I won't. <em>Thief </em>is James Caan's best role since <em>The Godfather</em>; a tight, coiled performance that should have cemented his rightful place alongside Pacino and DeNiro. Mann also got a heck of a performance out of Tuesday Weld. Had the movie <em>Casino</em> been filmed five or 10 years earlier, Weld would have made a great Ginger.</p><p>Also worth watching in <em>Thief</em>: A young William Petersen getting shoved in one scene; Jim Belushi's character flying through the air; Chicago legend Del Close as a mechanic in a brief scene; and the Mighty Joe Young band singing &quot;Turning Point.&quot;</p><p>A&nbsp;parting shot:&nbsp;A scene with Caan and Weld filmed in an old style, glassy Miesian modern Illinois Tollway Oasis restaurant (weren't those restaurant's Howard Johnsons back then?). Some mighty fine acting here (although fair warning: the language is course), punctuated by the sound of cars passing underneath:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><object height="385" width="480"><param value="http://www.youtube.com/v/CfetsPmDWAk?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" name="movie" /><param value="true" name="allowFullScreen" /><param value="always" name="allowscriptaccess" /><embed height="385" width="480" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/CfetsPmDWAk?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></embed></object></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 13 Jan 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/thirty-years-ago-it-took-thief-showcase-authentic-chicago