The 2016 Chicago International Film Festival is the best time of the year. The fall weather has made it's crisp arrival, along with pumpkin spice lattes, and a time to celebrate the cinema. If you don't get out to the theater much, now is the time to catch the movies that represent some of the best in the world. AMovieGuy.com had the chance to see what the fest has to offer and here are some of the movies to go see:
MOVIE: ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
DIRECTED BY: STEVE JAMES
If you are looking to mix up the type of movies you see at CIFF, you should check out the newest documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a good movie to watch after seeing The Big Short, that way you will get an idea of one of the smaller New York banks that was actually affected by the 2008 financial crisis. The Abacus Federal Savings in Chinatown and the Sung family was taken to court by the Manhattan district attorney for mortgage fraud AFTER they had reported the problem on their own. The documentary is a shocking example of how the big banks on Wall Street seem to get away with high crime, while the little guy is made an example of.
MOVIE: THE VIEW FROM TALL
DIRECTED BY: CAITLIN PARRISH & ERICA WEISS
Looking for a film that highlights both Chicago and independent cinema? Then you might want to check out The View From Tall. Directors Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss made an unconventional film, dealing with what some might see as taboo relationships, where high-school student Justine (Amanda Drinkall) is dealt with the backlash from engaging in a relationship with her teacher. She starts to see a therapist named Douglas (Michael Patrick Thornton), who is disabled in a wheelchair, and what begins as a contentious relationship turns into a friendship that neither thought was possible. This is not a great film, but I enjoyed the two lead performances, the script from Caitlin Parrish, and a fresh approach to independent filmmaking.
MOVIE: A QUIET PASSION
DIRECTED BY: TERENCE DAVIES
The life of Emily Dickinson is the focus of Terence Davies A Quiet Passion in a dramatic and well crafted fashion. Cynthia Nixon stars as Dickinson and continues her streak of strong performances (see last years James White) in her best yet. The script from Davies does a fascinating job of highlighting the beautiful writing from the poet, while also chronicling the ups and downs the poet went through in a society that asked women to be seen instead of heard. Her expert writing was too good to ignore and A Quiet Passion is one of the best films at CIFF.
DIRECTED BY: PAUL VERHOEVEN
Paul Verhoeven, the director of Basic Instinct and Showgirls is back doing what he does best: pushing the limits of sexual boundaries in cinema. Elle is about Michele (played marvelously by Isabelle Huppert), a woman in her 60's who has been violently raped. Instead of going to the police, she takes the trauma into her own control, and changes what it means to be a victim. Verhoeven has always seemed to have a bit of a twisted outlook of sex and passion by most circumstances, but here he has truly made a female-led vehicle, where violence is seen as an element of the game. If you see Elle at the festival, it's going to be one you never forget.
DIRECTED BY: JIM JARMUSCH
Paterson is the most Jim Jarmusch film that Jim Jarmusch has put out yet. The director of great films such as Broken Flowers and Only Lovers Left Alive, tells the story of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and poet who lives his days as a creature of habit. What you have here is a simplistic and extremely charming piece of art, including the loving relationship of our hero and his wife Laura (the beautiful Golshifteh Farahani). Each day we see the conversations Paterson has with people around town or when he stops at the bar for a beer to talk about his days. The best part though is Paterson's English Bulldog- Marvin. He is adorable and is the best movie dog since Uggie from The Artist.
DIRECTED BY: KIMO STAMBOEL & TIMO TJAHJANTO
If you were a fan of 2011's Martial Arts blood bath- The Raid and loved as much as I did the 2014 sequel The Raid 2, then you must check out Headshot. Part of CIFF's After-Dark program, it stars The Raid and martial arts superstar Iko Uwais. He plays Ishmael, a man who has been found shot and left for dead along the coast. This leaves him alive with very little memory of his training from drug lord Mr. Lee (Sunny Pang) and a bullseye on his back. What follows is a master class in martial arts action and video-game violence. It may not live up to the greatness of Raid 2, but this is a solid mix of Jason Bourne meets hardcore hand-to-hand combat.
OPENING NIGHT: La La Land
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
The opening night film at CIFF this year is already the most talked about film of 2016. I have not seen the Oscar front-runner, but if you intend on going to the fest, you may as well make it La La Land. It stars the adorable pair of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in what has received enormous praise out of Toronto and the Telluride film festivals. Director Damien Chazelle (whose last hit Whiplash is already a classic) has proven he has a knack for movies involving music, so I see no reason why not to see this one.