Chicago International Film Festival 2010 Archives

127 Hours by Mark Dujsik – October 13, 2010
He tests the rock with his foot — solid — and begins to climb down. The stone gives, and he falls, desperately grasping at the sides to slow himself down. He hits the bottom. The rock crushes his right hand and half of his forearm and pins them to the side. The camera pulls back to a medium shot — the wall, the rock, and his face — and the title finally arrives in silence. Here we are with Aron, drastically pulled out of the highs of his trip and into shock.

Abacus and Sword [Bushi no Kakeibo] by D. B. Bates – October 20, 2010
Finally, a movie for Tea Partiers to enjoy! Abacus and Sword weaves a tale of fiscal responsibility and the importance of good accounting practices in an increasingly modern world. To my surprise, it also stars Masato Sakai, who starred as Aoyagi in Golden Slumber. Seeing these two performances from the same actor, within a few weeks of each other, has convinced me Sakai is an incredible actor worthy of international acclaim. The film itself does not quite live up to Sakai’s performance, but it does overcome some third act lagging to deliver one of the most poignant endings I’ve seen in a very long time.

All Good Children by Hanna Soltys – November 2, 2010
In her debut feature film, director and writer Alicia Duffy gives a whole new meaning to obsession and, in turn, puppy love.

Asleep in the Sun [Dormir al Sol] by D. B. Bates – October 9, 2010
Surrealism is a tricky thing. There’s an incredibly fine line that an artist must walk in order to achieve an end product that combines dream-like logic with heady, symbolic imagery. Play things too “weird for weird’s sake,” and you risk alienating the audience. Play things too real, and you risk a film that’s filled with an assortment of inexplicable character changes and plot twists that are explained away with the shrug of dream-like strangeness. Asleep in the Sun, for all its ambition and beautiful imagery, walks the line but stumbles a little too much to fully achieve its goals.

Blame by Hanna Soltys – October 27, 2010
As the tagline says, when committing murder, you can’t make any mistakes. Alas, our young hoodlums have made a slip-up one could only make in the 21st century. And it is only when the twenty-somethings return to Bernard’s home that things really start to heat up and take shape. You learn, as all young people do during most intense situations, nothing is as it seems and secret after secret starts surfacing.

Conviction by Hanna Soltys – October 9, 2010
Eight in ten Americans have a sibling. What people would do for their siblings is often a grand list, from helping raise children to helping make ends meet. A sibling love is a bond that is deep, rich and tightly bound.

Defiled, The by Matt Wedge – October 12, 2010
What would the world look like to a zombie? That is the question at the heart of writer/director Julian Grant’s ultra low-budget The Defiled, a semi-experimental film that starts out strong before overstaying its welcome and losing focus on its efforts to subvert the zombie genre.

Devil’s Town [Đavolja Varoš] by D. B. Bates – October 20, 2010
Devil’s Town, a sort of depraved take on ensemble slice-of-life films, follows a disparate group of characters over the course of a single eventful day in Belgrade. I’ll be the first to suggest that my cultural ignorance may result in my inability to understand its reason for being, but that was my gut reaction. Tons of characters, situations, wanton violence, rampant sex and nudity, and a cultural obsession with tennis pro Jelena Jankovic all add up to a film that’s never dull but also never quite meaningful.

Erratum by Hanna Soltys – October 27, 2010
Sometimes the only way to outrun our past is to run away from our home. Michał (Tomasz Kot) does just that after attending University and never returning to his hometown. When he’s forced to run an errand for a boss, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of town, where he sees his father (Ryszard Kotys) and former bandmate, Zbyszek (Tomasz Radawiec).

Golden Slumber [Goruden suranba] by D. B. Bates – October 9, 2010
The propulsive opening scenes of Golden Slumber introduce a film that’s unwilling to pigeonhole itself in any genre. Part conspiracy thriller, part action, part comedy, and part romantic drama, writer/director Yoshihiro Nakamura does a great job balancing tonal shifts that would have seemed jarring or unearned in less skilled hands.

Hereafter by Mark Dujsik – October 14, 2010
Peter Morgan’s screenplay for Hereafter begins at the end, ends at the beginning, and hopes all the loaded inference of such structural choices will make up for the rambling, thin, and shallow scenes of idle characters in between. The end, after all, is just the beginning, no one literally says, but every passive action that befalls these characters makes sure to drive that point home and then take it out for another spin, just so the movie can do it all again.

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle [Eu când vreau să fluier, fluier] by Hanna Soltys – October 9, 2010
Ana and Silviu’s relationship is unlike any other you may have come across. It’s raw, fearful and extremely emotional. Piştereanu shines as this confused, mysterious and insanely smart inmate Silviu and will leave you wanting more.

Love Life of a Gentle Coward [Ljubavni život domobrana] by D. B. Bates – October 15, 2010
Love Life of a Gentle Coward finds the source of its comedy through a deft exploration of gender roles in the modern world. It benefits from a strong screenplay by Pavo Marinković (who also directed) that, in some ways, feels like the sort of comedy Woody Allen would make if he were still in his prime. Aside from its neurotic examination of romance, the film works as a fairly deep rumination on the way social expectations have muddied the relationship waters.

Matchmaker [Paam Hayiti], The by Hanna Soltys – October 27, 2010
A matchmaker, and even The Matchmaker, specializes in finding true love for even the most undesirable people. You never question a matchmaker’s advice and recommendation, especially when The Matchmaker is Yankele Bride (Adir Miller), a beast of a man who just survived life in “there.” But what makes Yankele Bride different from most matchmakers is the fact his reach goes far beyond eternal love and romance.

Next Three Days, The by Hanna Soltys – October 27, 2010
The Next Three Days has all kinds of promise in its cast (mainly Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Neeson) and its director (Paul Haggis of Crash fame). The film, adapted from the 2008 French film Anything for Her [Pour Elle], which starred Diane Kruger and Vincent Lindon, lacks character development, any type of realistic situations and has a very misleading trailer.

Nice Guy Johnny by Hanna Soltys – October 27, 2010
Nice Guy Johnny is a coming-of-age story for Johnny Rizzo (Matt Bush) and his quest to either live his dream of becoming a sports broadcaster or settle into a life with his longtime girlfriend, and now fiancée, Claire (Anna Wood).

Norman by D. B. Bates – October 16, 2010
Norman is a sharp-toothed teen comedy that doesn’t shy away from making a mess or going to extremely dark, emotional places. It’s clearly sympathetic to Norman’s misguided actions (and every single action Norman makes during the film is misguided), but Talton Wingate’s screenplay doesn’t let him off the hook. At its core, though, it’s an extremely well-made coming-of-age story for cynical teens. The narrative structure is familiar, but the emotional complexity and bleak satire of high school politics make it something more.

Polish Bar by D. B. Bates – October 20, 2010
Polish Bar explores the seamy side of the city, focused on two people whose lives erode as a result of poor decision-making skills. The film boasts terrific acting, skillful handling of difficult characters, and gritty, neo-realistic style. All of those qualities make it eminently watchable despite the occasional creative misstep (such as the unnecessary, heavy-handed presence of an Orthodox Jew). It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like harrowing depictions of pathological fuck-ups, Polish Bar is the film for you.

RED by Mark Dujsik – October 13, 2010
The group of former intelligence spooks that populates RED (a title formed from the acronym stamped on the personnel files of people like those that make up the reassembled team: “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”) is some sort of casting coup. Everyone who shows up not only makes perfect sense but also adds an edge of the slightly unexpected, as though their respective characters are just on the brink of breaking out of mold of their assigned characterizations. That they never quite do is either impressive self-control or a lower level of involvement.

Robber [Der Räuber], The by Matt Wedge – October 12, 2010
Heisenberg certainly isn’t interested in explaining his protagonist’s motives. Nor is he interested in making the audience like him. He keeps a cold distance between the viewer and the characters on screen that mirrors the barriers the characters keep between each other.

Skeletons by Matt Wedge – October 12, 2010
Skeletons is a film out of the United Kingdom that manages to avoid many of the quirky clichés that have sprung up around the absurdity-fests inspired by Charlie Kaufman scripts. That fact alone would make it a film worth seeing, but it also succeeds in offering a perceptive look at the psychologically damaging effects of abandonment and loneliness on three very different people.

Southern District [Zona Sur] by Hanna Soltys – November 2, 2010
Sometimes a film comes along that shows you despite a weak and bleak script, a movie can still be stunning. Southern District earns this distinction. The film takes place in a family home. The family literally never leaves the compound. And ironically, the sex-crazed son, Patricio (Juan Pablo Koria), rarely leaves his bedroom.

Stone by Mark Dujsik – October 7, 2010
Between the lines of aural montages of religious and political talk radio conversations, and the characters’ own insistence on examining their lives in spiritual terms, is the uncomplicated truth of the story. The tale of manipulators manipulating and being manipulated is the movie’s cold, candid core, but Stone’s imagined grander, more philosophical aims diminish the narrative the characters in the midst of their sad, adrift lives are telling.

Sword of Desperation [Hisshiken torisashi] by D. B. Bates – October 9, 2010
If you love Yasujirô Ozu, Sword of Desperation may impress you. The film pays such attentive homage to Ozu’s style that it could easily be mistaken for one of his films. On that level, it’s an impressive work. However, it’s a work that’s all borrowed style and no substance.

Trust by Hanna Soltys – November 2, 2010
This year, we have seen movies take a shift into a new topic: The online realm. From Catfish to The Social Network, movies are talking about what everyone else on the planet is talking with: Facebook, Gchat, Twitter, iChat, et cetera.

Trust touches on this theme once the high school freshman Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) meets Charlie, a high school volleyball player from California, in a chat room. Charlie and Annie begin sharing photos, texts, tips on how Annie can make the team, et cetera. Annie, like so many young girls, begins quite an infatuation with Charlie. She then learns he lied about his age. He’s really a 20-year-old. Then he lies again. He’s really a 25-year-old. And guess what? He lied again.