Reading my review of Zero Dark Thirty (coming soon!), Managing Editor Brent DiCrescenzo remarked that I've probably given more five-star reviews in 2012 than in any other year. He's right—I issued the rating five times, the most I've ever done so, though not by much. A search of TOC's archives reveals my previous record was four.
Still, that hardly means this was the greatest movie year since I started working at the magazine in 2006. Rather, it's really a matter of the vagaries of assignments. When possible, we try to keep reviewing and interviewing duties separate for a given film. I would have given five stars to The Hurt Locker in 2009, for instance, tying that year's total with this one, but instead talked to Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and Jeremy Renner (two of whom reteam for Zero Dark). And for whatever it's worth, I didn't see a single film in 2012 as great as last year's No. 1, Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, which would have topped my best list had it been released this year.
I will say that 2012 has been a deep year for great movies. I had a healthy top ten, with just about every title on there a must-see. (Some years, you run out of those and end up populating the remainder of the list with very-goods.) Past the jump, you'll find all the five-star reviews TOC Film has published so far this year. You may note that A.A. Dowd has been more stingy with the rating than I've been. But again, it's mostly a matter of assignments. He wouldn't necessarily have given five stars to my favorites and vice versa.
Doomsday on Division: 6 Bar Excursion
Saturday, you'll wake up feeling like hell. The bright side: You won't actually be there. Each location has $5 Svedka cocktails. Get your lanyard punched at all six to attend the free "I Survived Doomsday" party on Saturday the 22nd at Mahoney's.
Various bars including the Original Mothers, 26 W Division St. Friday 9 p.m. Free admission.
Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints
Before the 19th century, adding color to printed images was a difficult and laborious business. Through works by artists including Hokusai, Mary Cassatt and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, this exhibition of inventive and beautiful prints demonstrates how technological and artistic exchanges between France and Japan advanced printmaking in both countries.
Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S Greenwood Ave (773)-702-0200. Fri, Sat, Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Free.
Designed to mimic Germany's annual market celebration, the Loop replica returns for another year. Live entertainment, dozens of vendors selling miscellaneous handmade ornaments and classic food and drink—mulled spice wine, marzipan, schnitzel, stollen and strudel— are yours for the taking.
Daley Plaza, Washington and Dearborn Sts (312)-744-3315. Fri/Sat 11 a.m. -9 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. -8 p.m. Free.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Now in its 11th season, this rink is free and open to the public. Skate rentals are available for $10. Visit the website for exceptions to regular hours.
11 N Michigan Ave (312)-742-5472. Fri Noon-10 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. -10 p.m., Sun 10 a.m. -9 p.m. Free.
Rock Your World: The Wildest and Weirdest Rock and Roll from Around the Globe
Beginning with the unique social advantage the U.S. had following World War II, pop culture around the globe undeniably looked to us for cues (we can thank the real life Mad Men for that), and one of the biggest was rock & roll. More than just an American and British thing, this musical expression took root from Iran to Argentina, and Maria's resident musical mind Joe Bryl intends to showcase it all, with stops in Africa, Brazil and Thailand along the way.
Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 960 W 31st St (773)-890-0588. Sun 9 p.m. Free
Here's a sneak peek at what's coming up in this week's Time Out Chicago, on newsstands tomorrow:
- This year has had some incredible soundbites, from Gov. Pat Quinn declaring the death of Obama at the state fair in August (he meant Osama bin Laden) to actor Brian Dennehy calling Jessical Lange a bitch in our April 12 issue. Take a tour of 2012 via memorable quotes from Chicagoans both notable (Rahm) and not (a dude pulled over for doing 111mph in a 45mph zone, so he could "go have sex").
- Who even cares about Kwanzaa anymore? As Around Town editor Tomi Obaro found, it's a holiday that's slipping in popularity, but it may find a resurgence...someday.
I was supposed to write this week about the most memorable Chicago sports moments of 2012. Trouble is, I’m trying my best to forget the past 12 months. Derrick Rose crashing to the floor clutching his knee; the White Sox soiling their pants and blowing the division lead; the Cubs playing dismally even by Cubbie standards; the Blackhawks going nowhere in the postseason and then going away as the NHL locked out its players; the Bears starting well and fading again…
Why linger over such foul-smelling stuff? I’m going positive. I’m presenting the highly subjective and deeply personal E.I.G. Awards (for Excellence in Greatness) to the sports figures who earned my applause in 2012.
For more of this story and other Chicago sports essays, visit chicagosidesports.com.
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.