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reviews(winter soldier, free speech, hateship, mekons, nyphomaniac, under the)

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Even though this week caps off Chicago Poetry Month, the only art related activity that I did on Saturday was talking on Cathleen Bartel’s radio show. This covers most of what I said on the show
Here’s some mini reviews of some recent films I saw. Many of them are currently playing in theatres across Chicago

Captain America: Winter Soldier- One of the more exciting Marvel comics based films is like a cross between a superhero film and a Bourne like spy flick. It deals with a World War 2 era hero who must confront the cold reality of the modern espionage world. It features a great villain, the winter soldier an assassin who is somehow connected to Captain America’s past. There’s many great stunts and action scenes and a great supporting cast. Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as the black widow (who for some reason has no Russian accent), Samuel Jackson as the Nick Fury, and Anthony Mackie as the Falcon. Emily Van Camp (from Revenge) is introduced as a suspicious neighbor and potential future love interest. This also ties into the shield series especially the ending.
Highly recommended.

Free Speech and the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew--Engrossing documentary about Chris Drew (who was an acquaintance of mine) that was directed by the Chicago photographer and film maker Nancy Bechtol (she often displays her work at the Art Colony.) Drew was a talented street artist that sold his work for a dollar, and he was arrested for selling art without a permit under the Chicago Peddler’s Ordinance. He ended up videotaping the arrest, and was threatened with 15 years of jail for violating the Illinois Eves dropping law. He sued Chicago for violating his civil rights because he believed art was free speech and he died before he was vindicated. The movie includes lots of enlightening interviews and footage of Drew as well as fine interviews with his artistic supporters. It also brings up the issue of increased government resistance to free speech in the post 911 age. see

Hateship Loveship -Well acted film with a weird title spotlights the dramatic skills of Saturday Night Live alum Kristian Wiig for the first time. Wigg is a hard working nanny, and the mean girl she babysits sends fake correspondence between Wigg’s character and her dad (who is a drug addict.) Eventually the pair meet and fall into a real romance but some forces threaten to tear them apart. It’s too bad that this is only playing in one theatre (the Gene Siskel Center) this week while the disastrous Girl Most Likely played everywhere.

Nymphomaniac 1- Lars Von Trier’s disturbing psycho drama is a about a roughed up woman (played by a Charlotte Gainsborough) who is found in the street by an older man. He takes her in and she tells him her life story (at least the sexual parts) and how her unlimited sexual appetite messed up her life and the lives of those around her. In the first part she belongs to a kind of club of high school girls that try to have a maximum amount of sexual encounters without any kind of emotional connection (she mocks one of the other girls who actually develops feelings.) Perhaps the best scene is a confrontation between her and the wife one of her lovers played by Uma Thurman who shows up with her kids. Currently playing at the Landmark Century.


Nymphomaniac 2 -In the second part Gainsborough’s character continues her story. At the end of the last film she could not have pleasure during sex anymore and in this one she plunges into an affair with a sadomasochist who is the first man in a long time that can make her feel anything After that she ends up in an extortion racket (run by her leading many from Anti-Christ Willlem Dafoe) and she trains a young protégé who ends up being much more cold hearted than her. The shocking ending may shock and surprise some viewers. Believe it or not the best scene is heartfelt discussion about the phonies of PC. Playing at the Landmark Century.

Revenge of the Mekons-Joe Angio’s rockumentary chronicles the evolution of one of Britain’s leading post punk bands to a Chicago based alternative country/rock act (although the band has never strictly fit any one label.) The band has been around since the late ‘70s, and they even recorded “Never Been in A Riot,” a direct response to the Clash’s “White Riot.” One member suggests that their lack of commercial success may have helped them to stay together. The film shows their membership changes (for awhile even the Pretty Things’s Dick Miller was hanging around the group), and stylistic switches. At one point the members starting getting totally immersed in traditional folk and country, and they recorded “Fear and Whisky” a hugely successful record that helped spawn the whole alt country scene. There are some sad stories about how the band was on the verge of a big breakthrough when something terrible happened (like an admiring record exec or art gallery manager getting fired.) Hopefully this film was get them some well-deserved attention. Jon Langford, the lead singer, is also a talented artist and his work can be seen every second Saturday at the Art Colony at 2630 W Fletcher. He also has a new recording titled “Here be Monsters” that was put out by Bloodshot Records. Playing at the CIMM festival on Wednesday. See

Highly recommended

Under the Skin- Mesmerizing and haunting erotic sci-fi film that suggests much more than it shows (in this way it is much closer to Val Lawton’s films than modern horror flicks. I don’t want to give away too much but Scarlett Johansson is a modern day extraterrestrial femme fatale who picks up men in Scotland and uses them/collects them in an unexpected way. Some of the scenes Johanssen picking up the men were filmed with non actors with a hidden camera and the conversations were unscripted. It was based on a novel by Michael Faber, an acclaimed Dutch sci-fi writer. The eerie soundtrack helps to reinforce the creepy otherworldly atmosphere.

Highly recommended.


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