The Ramayana, an ancient Southeast Asian oral epic, has been told and retold for millennia. Many Westerners have never heard of it, but that might be changing. Just this year, I wrote a short story called "The End Of An Age: A Ramayana." More famously, the animator Nina Paley recently created an animated musical retelling called Sita Sings The Blues. And over this past weekend, Harris Theater showed David Kersnar's Ramayana adaptation, a rock opera plus Indian dance extravaganza titled Sita Ram.
While Chicago’s Newberry Library houses a vast collection of research material—a million and a half books, half a million maps, 200,000 pieces of sheet music and 15,000 cubic feet of manuscripts, to be precise—they don’t often advertise what’s in it. But with their latest exhibit, "The Newberry 125," visitors who are more into browsing than researching can get an idea of what the Newberry is sitting on. Free and open to the public from now through December 31 [ed note: be sure to check holiday hours before planning a visit], the exhibit celebrates the library’s 125th anniversary by putting 125 items from its vast archive on display. Some of these pieces have fantastic historical value, like Shakespeare’s first folio, the first Bible printed in North America or a piece of sheet music signed by a nine-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(!) Others, like a novelty paper cup from the 1912 presidential campaign of Eugene Debs, seem, well, less weighty.
Halloween was more than a month ago, but the dead are being resurrected this month at the Raven Theatre. Poets from beyond the grave are pitted against Chicago’s finest living wordsmiths in “Dead or Alive: Battle Royale of Slam Poetry Supremacy for All Eternity.” Produced by Chicago Slam Works, the mock slam is the organization's second offering this season in its new performance space in Edgewater, a theater as musty as the style of verse that poetry slams were invented to challenge. For those who think today’s poets have nothing on the greats, “Dead or Alive” aims to settle once and for all who rules the spoken word.
Don't waste your cash when there are so any TOC-approved free things to do this weekend!
Night at the Fine Arts Building
How anyone could possibly walk away from this place without feeling inspired, we haven't the faintest idea. The 127-year-old property was home to Frank Lloyd Wright, poet Ezra Pound and Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Tonight, watch current artists as they perform in dance, music and theater productions. At the fourth annual open house, visitors are given free rein to wander the ten-floor studio space.
Fine Arts Building, 410 South Michigan Avenue (312) 566-9800. Friday 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; free.
Hardcore Honky Tonk Happy Hour at the Empty Bottle
Honky-tonk heavyweights the Hoyle Brothers have been hosting this happy hour hootenanny for as long as we can remember. Get there early for one of the coveted seats.
Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western Avenue (773) 276-3600. Friday 5:30 p.m.; free.
Chicago Welcomes Home the Heroes Parade
Marking the one-year anniversary of the official end of the Iraq War, the Chicago Welcomes Home the Heroes Parade stands as a service to properly welcome home the veterans of post-9/11 armed conflicts–though veterans of all wars are invited to march, and all are encouraged to attend. The parade route runs down Columbus Drive between Balbo and Monroe. Check www.chicagowelcomeshometheheroes.org for more information.
Columbus Drive between Balbo and Monroe. Saturday 12 p.m.; free.
The Paper Machete
Christopher Piatt hosts this weekly "live magazine," a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit at the Green Mill, featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day.
Green Mill, 4802 North Broadway (773)-878-5552. Saturday 3 p.m.; free.
Winter Solstice Festival
It's the shortest day of the year, but you can still pack in a lot of activities and celebrate the changing of season. Create edible holiday ornaments for the area's wildlife, roast chestnuts, set out on an illuminated nature walk and meet the wolves and other critters from Big Run Wolf Ranch.
North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 North Pulaski Road (312)-744-5472. Saturday 6 p.m.-9 p.m.; free.
The scamps who claim a second office at Lake Street Screening Room (a.k.a. the Chicago Film Critics Association) have weighed in with their nominations for 2012's best films, and The Master, with ten nods, is in the lead. Buzz for Paul Thomas Anderson's opus has been building out of Chicago since an advance 70mm screening at the Music Box in August.
A.A. Dowd and I are both CFCA members. It's worth noting that, unlike various groups on the coasts, the Chicago critics make their picks electronically, so no one knows what anyone else is choosing. That certainly affects strategizing to some degree. Still, it seems there's broad support for performances I would've deemed long shots, like Denis Lavant's protean work in Holy Motors, as well as turns so far inexplicably omitted from the year-end dialogue. (As a waterboarding CIA analyst, Australian actor Jason Clarke goes through the greatest character arc of anyone in Zero Dark Thirty.) We can't have everything: The documentary choices seem to have gravitated toward the more-promoted releases (I threw the bulk of my points behind This Is Not a Film, even though it may not, strictly speaking, be a documentary), and I didn't agree with the acclaim for Sundance sensation Beasts of the Southern Wild, which garnered nine nominations.
But on the whole, this is an excellent roster. The press release follows the jump; winners are scheduled to be announced Monday.
Ian McKellen gave a hint, but just a hint, of what he’ll do after he finishes shooting The Hobbit trilogy next year, when he'll finally put Gandalf to rest. “I know what I’m gonna do,” he told me, “and I can’t really talk about it. Contracts aren’t signed. But I think I’m gonna do something on U.K. TV. I think I’m gonna be doing another movie. And I know I’m gonna be acting in the United States. That will be this time next year. I should be working in America, onstage.” McKellen says his website will be updated “the minute contracts are signed.” Until then, there’s the small matter of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opening tomorrow, which we discussed in this week’s Time Out Interview. Another outtake from our conversation touched on his gay-rights activism:
You’ve said that, when you were younger, there was nowhere to be romantic as a gay person outside of people’s houses. What’s it like now for you when go into a gay bar or another gay setting?
Well, I’m very happy for everybody who’s there, as long as it’s not a ghetto situation. I hope people are having happy lives outside. Sometimes I go to gay clubs and think, Hmm, I wonder how many of these boys are out to their families or out at work or out at college or whatever, and whether this isn’t just a respite from their normal situation of being rather hidden. But I always get such a lovely welcome from gay people when they congregate together. It’s such a contrast that they can talk to other gay people openly. And I visit schools quite a lot and talk to kids. I always get a very positive response from quite young people and people in their early teens who can’t understand why anyone should be worried about this.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens December 14. Read our review here.
Great movie posters, like great trailers, blur the line between advertising and art. Some skillfully lay out the attractive components of an upcoming movie. Others aim for abstraction, looking to capture the essence of a film. And then there are the one-sheets that work simply as stand-alone aesthetic triumphs.
All of these varieties are represented on the list below, my choices for the ten best movie posters of 2012. In a year of lazy Photoshop monstrosities and splashy star-powered mosaics, these were the 27'' x 41'' triumphs most deserving of your bare wall space. Click on each thumbnail to get a full look at the image.
10. Blue Like Jazz (Review)
More romantic than the film it's advertising—a rightfully forgotten crisis-of-faith indie—this gorgeous design puts the eponymous color to good use.
9. Bachelorette (Review)
Brilliantly blocked and framed, this playful freeze-frame hints at the naughtiness audiences expect, while supplying each member of its girls-night-out ensemble an expressive action pose. FYI: I have not seen the movie.
8. V/H/S (Review)
There's actually a whole gallery of posters for Magnet Releasing's horror anthology—including five nifty, comic-book-style alternates—but I prefer the ingenious simplicity of the main one.
7. Frankenweenie (Review)
Disney commissioned a whopping 20 variations to sell Tim Burton's stop-motion Frankenstein homage. This is the best of the bunch: It boasts a dramatic, pleasingly symmetrical design that evokes the Universal Horror canon as well as—if not better than—the movie itself.
6. Man on a Ledge (Review)
You practically get vertigo staring at this horizontal marvel of perspective, which forgoes vanity shots of the cast in favor of a dynamic expression of the film's premise.
5. The Imposter (Review)
It's a simple concept, perfectly executed—and one that teases the fascinating identity masquerade the movie takes as its subject.
4. The Man with the Iron Fists (Review)
Violent, colorful and surreal, this hand-drawn beaut—one of several retro posters created for the RZA directorial debut—looks like an instant classic. Why do I feel as though it will outlive any memory of the actual movie?
3. The Master (Review)
Given the multiple interpretations The Master has inspired, this Rorschach-themed design seems apropos. Mostly, however, it's just strikingly strange—again, like the movie.
2. The Cabin in the Woods (Review)
Even more so than the movie's Rubik's Cube–evoking main poster, Cabin's Escher-inspired alternate captures the genre-bending nature of the film without telling us anything about its twisty plot. The retro color scheme and layout also mirror the filmmakers' affection for '70s Fangoria fare.
1. Holy Motors (Review)
Eye-grabbing and iconic, this poster is simplicity done right—though I won't deny a certain resemblance to the ad for Uncle Boonmee.
The Jay Cutler Brand is in crisis. Although he’s at the helm of the winning Chicago Bears, Cutler holds the dubious distinction of being the second-most-disliked player in the NFL, according to a recent poll by Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research. ESPN pundits deride him for the smallest infractions, and social media users roast him online.
This negativity is hurting Brand Cutler, and several PR professionals say it could affect his earning potential—and his legacy. “Athletes are brands, much more so than in the past,” says Gregory Lee Hendricks, an executive at Chicago sports and entertainment marketing firm Matter. He says Cutler needs to define his brand and manage it accordingly. But there’s a problem, Hendricks says: “I don’t know what Jay’s brand is.”
For more of this story and other Chicago sports essays, visit chicagosidesports.com.