We're coming off a year that saw numerous venue disruptions for the Northwest Chicago Film Society, which found itself moving from the Portage Theater to the Patio Theater to the Siskel Film Center in a matter of months.
Surely there's a long-term home somewhere in the city for this group of programmers who have a knack for looking beyond the usual movie classics to dig up some of the weirder, more interesting finds of the early 20th century.
"After moving around so much, we're still in the planning stages for 2014," programmer Julian Antos told me. "We'll be taking a brief break in January and will tentatively resume programming in early- to mid-February."
We'll have to wait and see how things develop for Antos & company. Elsewhere on the art house scene, the schedule is as busy as ever. Here's a glance at some of the offerings on tap in the upcoming weeks.
Sundance, part I: A selection of eight short films playing at this year's Sundance Film Festival (which takes place the last two weeks in January) will screen at the Music Box Theatre. The lineup includes "Whiplash" (17 minutes) about an "aspiring drummer who enters an elite conservatory's top jazz orchestra"; "K.I.T." (15 minutes), the story of a "guilt-ridden but well-intentioned yuppie (who) goes to great lengths to prove she is a decent person"; and "The Event" (4 minutes) described thusly: "Love and a severed foot at the end of the world." The program runs 93 minutes in total. (Jan. 3-5 at the Music Box Theatre; musicboxtheatre.com)
"Kiss the Water": A documentary about fly-fishing, specifically Scottish fly-maker Megan Boyd, who died in 2001. Her "fabled expertise at tying enchantingly delicate fishing flies put her work in museums and the hands of collectors around the world and prompted Queen Elizabeth II to award her the British Empire Medal," according to her obituary in The New York Times. Prone to wearing men's ties, tweeds and army boots, she was an eccentric in her village in the Scottish Highlands, but an artist as well. Director Eric Steel uses a combination of photography and animation to tell her story. (Jan. 4 & 6 at the Siskel Film Center; siskelfilmcenter.org)
"These Birds Walk": Filmed over a three-year period, this charismatic film about runaway children in Pakistan is a "remarkably assured documentary that shows us, as much as tells us, about a forgotten generation growing up in strife and poverty," Betsy Sharkey writes in her LA Times review. (In Urdu with English subtitles.) A Q&A with co-director Bassam Tariq follows the Jan. 12 screening. (Jan. 10-16 at Facets; facets.org)
"The Best Offer": Geoffrey Rush stars in this romantic thriller about the world of European art auctions that was shot in Italy, Vienna and Prague. "Massive production values tend to overpower the story, but they could be an added attraction for the cultivated audiences," per the Hollywood Reporter. The cast includes Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland. (Jan. 17-30 at the Siskel; siskelfilmcenter.org)
Wit and Humor: Chicago Filmmakers hosts Christian Gridelli and Hunter Norris, the young duo behind Chicago's Dimestore Films, a comedy collective that has made a number of short videos, including the very funny "A Letter Home From the Outer Zone" about a kid recalling his time at a second-rate space camp. The script is droll: "Dear Mom and Mom's Friend Keith," it begins. "At first I was kind of bummed that you weren't going to send me to the real Space Adventure Camp. But the one Keith found in the back of his old car magazine has been great!" The screening will include several of their videos as well as footage from their upcoming feature. (Jan. 18 at Chicago Filmmakers; chicagofilmmakers.org)
Sundance, part II: Each year the Music Box Theatre screens one feature-length film currently in the Sundance lineup. This year audiences will get an early look at "Happy Christmas" from Chicago-based filmmaker Joe Swanberg, who shot the film here in town shortly after he wrapped work on "Drinking Buddies." The new movie stars Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick and Swanberg himself. (Jan. 30 at the Music Box; musicboxtheatre.com)
"Gunga Din": The 1939 adventure movie set in late-19th-century colonial British India stars Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as army sergeants sent on a dangerous mission. The film also stars Joan Fontaine (who died at age 96 in December). "Admittedly it's a rather thankless role before she became a star," says Pickwick programmer Matthew Hoffman. "But 'Gunga Din' is considered one of the greatest action films to come out of Hollywood — then or now. It's a great balance of comedy and adventure." Among the writers who got their hands on the script: William Faulkner, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. (Jan. 23 at the Pickwick Theatre; parkridgeclassicfilm.com)
"Time of the Robots": Seattle-based filmmaker Erik Hammen stitches together public domain footage from old "Flash Gordon" serials as well as horror and B-movies — including 1933's "Tarzan the Fearless," 1950's "Rocketship X-M," and 1952's "Radar Men From the Moon" — to create something wholly original. "A uniquely imaginative, bizarrely delightful narrative that creates a new experience highly reminiscent of early cinema," per programmer Beckie Stocchetti. (Jan. 25 at Chicago Filmmakers; chicagofilmmakers.org)Copyright © 2015, RedEye