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Fest offers early look at upcoming dramas

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: October 20, 2004 | Publication: Chicago Sun Times | Author: BILL STAMETS

Posted by: admin

The Chicago International Film Festival offers early looks at four dramas -- "The Machinist," "Dear Frankie," "P.S." and "Sideways" -- expected to open soon in local art houses. The dialogue is in English, if you're one to avoid subtitles.

And if you want to take advantage of the fest's $6 matinee price, I highly recommend the 4:30 p.m. screening at Landmark Century of "Turtles Can Fly," an eloquent Iraq war drama in subtitled Kurdish that may never screen here again.


Where: AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois (AMC), and Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark (LC)

Tickets: $11; $6 for matinees before 5 p.m.; multiple-film passes available

Info: or (312) 332-FILM

Here are reviews by Roger Ebert and this writer of selected films screening tonight:

6:30 p.m. (AMC), "Dear Frankie" (U.K./Scotland): Emily Mortimer stars as the mother of a 9-year-old made deaf by an abusive father. She has left the father but hides the news from her son, telling him his dad is a sailor and writing the boy letters under his name from HMS Accra. When that very ship docks in their town, she realizes she has to produce a father and recruits a total stranger (Gerald Butler) to play the role. The man and the boy (Jack McElhone) are cool at first, but become friends, complicating the situation wondrously. (Ebert)

7 p.m. (AMC), "P.S." (USA): One possible Oscar nominee here is Laura Linney as a Columbia University admissions specialist who has an affair with a young student. But not just any student. F. Scott Feinstadt (Topher Grace) has the same name as the boy she loved in high school -- and he looks just like him, too. How can this be? Is it fate, or just a cruel trick of coincidence? The movie strikes a delicate balance between its romantic melodrama and the sense that something supernatural, or at least very, very odd, is at work. (Ebert)

8:45 p.m. (AMC), "Sideways" (USA): The best guy movie of recent years. Paul Giamatti gives a performance that's the equal of his conflicted character in "American Splendor." He's Miles, a recently divorced man who is gradually crossing the line from being a connoisseur of wine to being an alcoholic. His college roommate Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is getting married, and so these two 45-year-olds head to California wine country for a final seven days of buddyhood. The bold Jack, who wants a fling before marriage, connects with Sandra Oh, while the shy Miles, still mourning the loss of his marriage, is dubious about a sunny waitress and would-be horticulturist played by Virginia Madsen. The characters are allowed quirks and complexities, and the situations they get themselves into, however bizarre, seem just barely possible. I loved a scene where Miles and the waitress essentially fall in love after Miles explains why he feels tenderness, sympathy and love for the pinot noir grape, and she realizes he's talking about himself. (Ebert)

6 p.m. (AMC), "Shorts 3: Driven": A dozen short works make up this program drawing mostly from U.S. and U.K. directors. Filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt joins a tradition among avant-gardists of shooting home movies as art. "I Like It a Lot," his four-minute document of his daughter Ella's trip to an ice cream parlor, is deceptively simple, or merely simple; look at him indulge her with a chocolate cone and indulge himself sharing her glee and mess. "Andre Royo's Big Scene" is an insider's anecdote on African-American cinema. Director Chris Cherot, who directed the indie "Hav Plenty" (1997), here doubles as a director on a set fraught with personal and professional friction. Andre Royo, who played Tattoo in John Singleton's "Shaft," playing himself here as an indie actor cast as "Chico" in scene No. 107 with a big-shot Hollywood star (Hill Harper from "Hav Plenty" and TV's "C.S.I.: NY"). For the real inside story, listen to the crew during the credits. (Stamets)

9:30 p.m. (LC), "Brother to Brother" (United States) Writer-director Rodney Evans labels his earlier short films as "experimental documentaries," but his feature debut is a rather teacherly drama about a gay black artist finding his roots in the Harlem Renaissance. Anthony Mackie played the whistle-blowing lesbian-inseminator in Spike Lee's "She Hate Me"; here he is Perry Williams, a painter who tries to teach his college classmates about authors Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Perry's tutor and mentor is Richard Bruce Nugent (1906-1987), a Harlem Renaissance artist who faced homophobia and jungle fever. Evans drew upon 30 hours of interviews with the real Nugent, played here by a much too young-looking Roger Robinson. Perry writes a term paper about him, and Evans dedicates this earnest if unengaging film to him. (Stamets)


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