PREVIEW: The 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival
Not only am I a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), but I’m also a fan! The Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF), now in it’s third year, is one of the reasons why. This is, as far as I know, the only film festival created and curated by local Chicago critics. The programmers have gone to Toronto, Sundance and SXSW, picked the best of the best and brought them to Chicago, to be screened by fellow film enthusiasts at the beautiful Music Box Theatre in Chicago, from Friday, May 1st through Thursday, May 7th.
These will likely be some of the best films you’ll see all year. No joke – last year, many of the films included on the line-up showed up on many year-end lists. This year is no different. From Opening Night to Closing Night, the variety of feature-length films and shorts is nothing less than impressive.
Check out the list of actors appearing in this year’s films: Michael Fassbender, Salma Hayek, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Sam Rockwell, Guy Pearce, Jean Dujardin, Jermaine Clement, Cobie Smulders, Taylor Schilling and Jessica Williams. That’s a fantastic list, but even more fantastic is the fact that some of those actors will be appearing on stage to discuss their films. That’s right, it’s not just showing you the best of the best of the recent festival. Chicago’s own, director Joe Swanberg will be there to discuss his new film. Smulders will be there to promote on two of her films (that’s right! We got Maria Hill coming to our festival on opening weekend for “Avengers: Age of Ultron”). Two directors will be returning to the CCFF to promote their new films, James Ponsoldt brought “The Spectacular Now” at the inaugural festival and Bobcat Goldthwait was on hand last year to discuss his film “Willow Creek”. That’s just some of the many guests that will be in attendance throughout the festival.
Keeping It Reel will be providing you with reviews of as many films as we can during the festival’s run. By the numbers, we’ll have 22 feature-length films and 3 programs of Shorts to keep up with. There truly is something for every film enthusiast at this festival. Below is a breakdown of all the CCFF films this year and here is where you can purchase tickets!
FRIDAY, MAY 1st (OPENING NIGHT)
7pm: DIGGING FOR FIRE
directed by: Joe Swanberg
A young married couple (Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt) is still trying to adjust to life as parents three years after the birth of their son. While house-sitting for some friends, she drops the kid off with her mother before a night on the town while he invites a bunch of friends over, leading both into a night of temptations that include drinking, pot, another woman, and something very strange in the yard. Also starring: Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, and Anna Kendrick. Director Joe Swanberg scheduled to attend.
directed by: Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen.
In 1982, three 11-year-olds in Mississippi set out to remake their favorite film, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. After seven turbulent years that tested the limits of their friendship and nearly burned down their mother’s house, they had completed every scene except one: the explosive airplane fight. Thirty years later, they attempt to finally complete their childhood dream by building a replica of the 75-foot flying wing from “Raiders!” in a mud pit in the backwoods of Mississippi and then blow it up.
11:59pm: RESTORATION, and the Midnight Insanity Shorts
directed by: Thor Fruergaard, Alyx Duncan, Tom Brown, Lester Brown, & Ryan Oliver (scheduled to attend)
“Growing Pains” – Fabian’s world gets turned upside down when he meets the fun and cool Felicia and they fall in love. Problem: Whenever Fabian gets horny, he turns into a werewolf.
“The Tide Keeper” – One night an old seaman dreams the ocean into his bed. His own mortality is at risk as his household objects begin to suffocate him.
“Teeth” – The life of a misguided and intensely focused man, chronicled through his oral obsessions.
“Ill Will” – A bicycle thief assaults an old loner. On seeing the teenager again, he decides its time to put the wheels in motion of a horrific revenge.
“Restoration” – The ghost of 10-year-old Yvonne LeMay has been tethered to the trunk of a 1950 Fleetline Deluxe for over half a century. Ultimately frustrated with her new digs, she throws a temper tantrum that proves deadly for the resident gearheads.
SATURDAY, MAY 2nd
12pm: KAHLIL GIBRAN’S THE PROPHET
directed by: Roger Allers
Director Roger Allers (“The Lion King”) assembled an array of internationally acclaimed animators to realize episodes from the classic text by renowned Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran, which are woven into the tale of a mischievous young girl (voiced by “The Beasts of the Southern Wild”’s Quvenzhané Wallis) who attempts to free an imprisoned poet (Liam Neeson). As their story unfolds, several of Gibran’s most cherished essays—on love, work, children, marriage, and freedom—are brought to life in vibrant vignettes directed by some of the world’s foremost animators, among them Tomm Moore (“The Secret of Kells”), Bill Plympton (“Idiots and Angels”), and Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi (sequence directors on Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”). Also starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, and John Krasinski (voices).
2pm: THE NEW GIRLFRIEND
directed by François Ozon.
Working from a story by Ruth Rendell, acclaimed French filmmaker Francois Ozon (“Swimming Pool”, 8 Women” and “Young & Beautiful”) offers up the tale of a young woman (Anais Demoustier) who is left reeling by the sudden death of her lifelong best friend (Isild de Besco). One day, she pays an unexpected visit to the friend’s widow (Romain Duris) and makes a discovery that changes both of their lives in highly unexpected ways.
directed by Andrew Bujalski.
Recently divorced, newly rich, and utterly miserable, Danny (Kevin Corrigan) would seem to be the perfect test subject for a definitive look at the relationship between money and happiness. Danny’s well-funded ennui is interrupted by a momentous trip to the local gym, where he meets self-styled guru/owner Trevor (Guy Pearce) and irresistibly acerbic trainer Kat (Cobie Smulders). Soon, their three lives are inextricably knotted, both professionally and personally. Also starring: Brooklyn Decker, and Anthony Michael Hall. Cobie Smulders will discuss the film.
directed by Kris Swanberg.
Spirited Chicago schoolteacher Samantha Abbott (Colbie Smulders) is trying to adjust to an unexpected pregnancy and sudden marriage. But Samantha finds new perspective on life through a friendship with promising high-school senior Jasmine (Gail Bean), who’s dealing with her own unplanned pregnancy. Also starring: Anders Holm, Michele Sweeney Adams, and DuShon Monique Brown. Kris Swanburg and Cobie Smulders will discuss the film.
9:30pm: CALL ME LUCKY
directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
An inspiring, triumphant and wickedly funny portrait of one of comedy’s most enigmatic and important figures, “Call Me Lucky” tells the story of Barry Crimmins, a beer-swilling, politically outspoken and whip-smart comic whose efforts in the ’70s and ’80s fostered the talents of the next generation of stand-up comedians. But beneath Crimmins’ gruff, hard-drinking, curmudgeonly persona lay an undercurrent of rage stemming from his long-suppressed and horrific abuse as a child—a rage that eventually found its way out of the comedy clubs and television shows and into the political arena. Featuring intimate interviews with both comedians and activists alike, director Bobcat Goldthwait’s (“World’s Greatest Dad”, “God Bless America” & “Willow Creek”) “Call Me Lucky” bravely tells Crimmins’ incredible story of transformation from a rage-fueled funnyman into an acclaimed proponent of justice who personified the healing power of comedy. Both Bobcat Goldthwait and Barry Crimmins will be on hand to discuss the film.
11:59pm: GOODNIGHT MOMMY
directed by: Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
In the heat of the summer, a lonesome house sits in the countryside between woods and corn fields. Nine-year-old twin brothers (Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz) are waiting for their mother (Susanne Wuest), but when she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before. As the children start to doubt whether this woman is actually their mother, an existential struggle for identity and fundamental trust emerges. Germain with English subtitles.
SUNDAY, MAY 3rd
1pm: Shorts Program 1
directed by: Theo Anthony, Joshua Tate, Luke Poling, Adam Poling, Adam Roffman, Frankie Shaw, Brian Bolster, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Shelley Eager & Don Hertzfelder
Chop My Money – The story of three street kids living in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Guest Room – A young woman with Down Syndrome grapples with identity and adulthood after an unexpected turn of events with her boyfriend.
Spearhunter – A spear-hunter proclaims himself the world’s greatest and erects a museum dedicated to his own obsession.
SMILF – A single mother struggles to balance her old life of freedom with her new one as a mom.
One Year Lease – A couple and their cat endure a year-long sentence with Rita, the cat–loving landlady.
STOP – A young man’s livelihood is put to the test when he gets stopped by the police on his way home.
The OceanMaker – A young pilot fights against vicious sky pirates for control of the last remaining source of water.
World Of Tomorrow – A little girl is taken on a mind-bending tour of her distant future. (winner of Sundance and SXSW awards)
3pm: SLOW WEST
directed by John Maclean.
Jay (Jodi Smit-McPhee) is a lovelorn, 17-year-old Scottish aristocrat who travels to the American West at the close of the nineteenth century to track down his former lover. Confronted with the harsh realities of the frontier, he falls in with a rough and mysterious traveler named Silas (Michael Fassbender), who soon discovers the focus of Jay’s affection has a price on her head. Together, the two navigate a vast, untamed wilderness while attempting to stay one step ahead of a bloodthirsty posse and a colorful bounty hunter. Also starring Ben Mendelsohn
5pm: PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
directed by James C. Strouse.
Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) is a graphic novelist, a professor at the School of Visual Arts, and the father of beautiful twin girls (Gia and Aundrea Gadsby). But Will’s seemingly picture-perfect Brooklyn life is turned upside down when he catches his longtime girlfriend and mother of his children cheating on him with a friend. A year later, Will is a single father living alone in a tiny studio apartment in Astoria and trying to put his life back together. In this thoughtful comedy, he must navigate the unknown landscape of single fatherhood and dating in New York City while remaining an inspiration for his students and coming to terms with himself as both a father and artist. Also starring Regina Hall and Jessica Williams
7:30pm: BATKID BEGINS
directed by Dana Nachman (In Person).
Five-year old Miles Scott spent half his life battling leukemia. So when Miles wants to transform into Batkid, San Francisco’s Make-a-Wish thinks bigger. Why not turn San Francisco into Gotham City? As the idea goes viral, will it overwhelm Miles, Make-a-Wish, and the city, or will the good of humanity make this a day to remember for millions? Director Dana Nachman & writer/editor Kurt Kuenne (Dear Zachary) will be in attendance.
10pm: THE KEEPING ROOM
directed by Daniel Barber.
This western drama directed by Daniel Barber and written by Julia Hart (which landed on the 2012 Black List of Hollywood’s most celebrated unproduced screenplays) looks at the waning days of the Civil War from the unusual perspective of a pair of South Carolina sisters (Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld) left behind to work the family farm with the aid of a female slave (Muna Otaru) after the men have gone off to fight and presumably die in the struggle against the North. While wondering what the future will bring with the inevitable coming of Yankee troops, the three are faced with a more immediate peril in the form of a pair of advance scouts (Sam Worthington and Kyle Solter) who are on their own personal rampage and whom they are forced to fight off in an equally brutal manner.
MONDAY, MAY 4
5pm: Shorts Program 2
directed by: Jack Dunphy, Michael Mohan, Christine Bergland, Sophie Vucovic, Meg Smaker, Stella Kyriakopoulos, Trevor Anderson & Thomas Siwinski
Serenity – An animated memoir recounting first love, addiction, and losing one’s virginity.
Pink Grapefruit – A young married couple brings two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend.
9:55 – 11:05 Ingrid Elkman Bergsgatan 4B – A home-care employee knocks on Ingrid’s door and awakens feelings she can’t shut out.
Boxeadora – One woman defies Fidel Castro’s ban on female boxing to follow her dream of Olympic glory.
Volta – A mother and daughter start out from downtown Athens and head to the northern suburbs of the city. Nina thinks she’s going on a walk.
The Little Deputy – Trevor tries to have his photo taken with his father.
A Blue Room – A man wakes up in a blue room. He’s stuck inside, he can’t escape, and a window is his only way to connect to the outside world.
directed by Noah Pritzker
A dark look at affluent, privileged families in San Francisco, where the world of precocious high schooler Clark Rayman (Ben Konigsberg) is crumbling around him. When his mother (Mira Sorvino) checks into rehab and he clashes with his father (Greg Germann), Clark goes in search of affection, convincing the much more stable family of his new girlfriend Natalia (Morgan Turner) to let him move in. As Clark’s presence becomes more intrusive and his father’s efforts to get him back become more violent, Natalia and her family (Saffron Burrows and Scott Lawrence) grow increasingly uncomfortable with the arrangement. Director Noah Pritzker scheduled to attend
9pm: HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT
directed by Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie.
For their third full-length film, sibling directors Ben and Joshua Safdie drew upon Arielle Holmes’ real-life experiences as a homeless 19-year-old drug addict, including her violent relationship with boyfriend, Ilya. As Holmes wrote out her story (which became the as-yet unpublished novel Mad Love in New York City), Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein wrote a screenplay based on the material. The cinematic result—in which Holmes plays herself while Caleb Landry Jones plays Ilya—tells the tale of a vagabond couple in New York City battling addiction amidst a manic, unstable love affair. Starring: Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, and Eleonore Hendricks
TUESDAY, MAY 5th
directed by Eskil Vogt
In Ingrid’s dreams she can see the way the world around her looks; her husband’s office, their favorite restaurant, her memories. It’s when Ingrid awakes each morning and opens her eyes that she remembers she’s blind. With her life suddenly and dramatically changed, Ingrid has retreated to the safety of her apartment where she can feel in control, letting her imagination become her reality and where her deepest fantasies, desires, and fears provide a constant internal monologue. Ingrid has invented her own world to substitute for the one she has lost, but how can she make sense of all that is happening to her, and who can she trust?
7pm DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD—THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON
directed by Douglas Tirol
Featuring rare and never-before-seen-footage, this is the mind-boggling story of The National Lampoon from its subversive and electrifying beginnings to its rebirth as an unlikely Hollywood heavyweight, and beyond. A humor empire like no other, the impact of the magazine’s irreverent, often shocking sensibility was nothing short of seismic as the institution’s (drunk, stoned, brilliant) alumni left their fingerprints all over popular culture. Both insanely great and breathtakingly innovative, The National Lampoon set the foundation of modern comic sensibility while setting the bar impossibly high. Director Douglas Tirol scheduled to attend.
9:30pm THE CONNECTION
directed by Cedric Jimenez.
A stylish, ’70s-period crime thriller inspired by true events, Cédric Jimenez’s “The Connection” tells the story of real-life Marseilles magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) and his relentless crusade to dismantle the most notorious drug smuggling operation in history: the French Connection. In his crosshairs is charismatic and wealthy kingpin, Gatean “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), who runs the largest underground heroin trade into the States. Though the fearless and tenacious Michel, aided by a task force of elite cops, will stop at nothing–including boldly orchestrated drug raids, devastating arrests, and exacting interrogations–to ensure the crime ring’s demise, Zampa’s “La French” always seems one step ahead. As La French mounts its retaliation, Michel will be forced to make the most difficult decision of his life: to continue waging his war, or ensure his family’s safety, before it’s too late. Also starring: Céline Sallette, and Benoît Magimel
WEDNESDAY, MAY 6th
5pm: THE SECOND MOTHER
Directed by Anna Muylaert
When Val (Regina Casé) left her home to work thousands of miles away as a live-in housekeeper for Fabinho (Michel Joelsas) in Sao Paulo, she carried the guilt of leaving her young daughter Jessica behind with relatives. Now, 13 years later, Jessica (Camila Márdila) shows up in Sao Paulo, and her presence throws into disarray the unspoken class barriers within Fabinho’s home.
7:30pm: THE END OF THE TOUR
directed by James Ponsoldt
Based on David Lipsky’s critically acclaimed memoir “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace,” this is the story of a five-day 1996 interview between Rolling Stone reporter and novelist Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) following the publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, “Infinite Jest.” A tenuous yet intense relationship develops between journalist and subject as the two men bob and weave, sharing laughs and revealing hidden frailties. Also starring: Joan Cusack, Anna Chlumsky, and Mamie Gummer. Director James Ponsoldt scheduled to attend.
10pm: NIGHT OWLS
Directed by Charles Hood
Workaholic Kevin (Adam Pally) goes home with the beautiful train-wreck Madeline (Rosa Salazar) for a drunken one night stand, but he’s horrified to discover she’s actually his boss’ jilted ex-mistress. After she takes a bottle of sleeping pills, Kevin is forced to keep her awake all night. As Madeline and Kevin banter through the night, they begin to fall for each other. Adam Pally & director Charles Hood scheduled to attend.
THURSDAY, MAY 7th (CLOSING NIGHT)
6pm: THE OVERNIGHT
Directed by Patrick Brice
Alex (Adam Scott), Emily (Taylor Schilling), and their son, RJ (R.J. Hermes), have recently moved from Seattle to Los Angeles’ Eastside. Feeling lost in a new city and desperate to find new friends, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) at the neighborhood park and gladly agree to join his family for pizza night at Kurt’s home. But after the kids go to bed, the family “playdate” becomes increasingly more revealing. Director Patrick Brice scheduled to attend.
8:30pm: ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
In this Sundance Grand Jury and Audience Award winner, awkward, self-deprecating high-school student Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is determined to anonymously coast through his senior year while making wacky versions of classic movies with his only friend, Earl (RJ Cyler). But then Greg’s well-meaning mother (Connie Britton) forces him to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate with leukemia. Though tentative at first, the unlikely duo becomes inseparable—but when Rachel gets sicker, Greg’s well-fortified world is changed forever. Also starring: Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, and Jon Bernthal. directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon scheduled to attend
That’s the impressive line-up! We’re giving away a mess of tickets to certain films listed above. So, stay tuned….