With the film festival circuit basically running year-round, one of the benefits of attending a major fest is the opportunity to see titles that screened earlier elsewhere. Case in point: Some eight months after its premiere at Cannes 2012, Jeff Nichols's Mud screened yesterday for critics at Sundance. I was less enamored than many of the filmmaker's last effort, Take Shelter, which—to these eyes, anyway—made some very critical missteps in its home stretch. Mud furthers my impression that Nichols's work behind the camera far exceeds his efforts at the keyboard.
If Shotgun Stories (2007) found the writer-director taking up the Southern-poetic-realism mantle of friend David Gordon Green—the latter of whom also has a film, Prince Avalanche, screening in Park City—then this is his Undertow: a boyhood adventure yarn, set on and around a raging river. Two Arkansas middle-schoolers (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, both excellent) travel to a nearby island, find an abandoned boat stuck in a tree, and meet Matthew McConaughey's eponymous outlaw hermit. Soon the boys are playing gopher for this wanted man, getting mixed up in his romantic and legal troubles while dodging both their guardians and some nasty customers on the hunt for Mud.
Call it the calm before the storm: Though well-wishers had warned me of instant, sidewalk-clogging traffic, my first morning in Park City was mild in every sense of the word. (The temperature, far from subzero, hovered around 20 degrees—no great adjustment for a traveling Chicagoan.) Only scattered festival parking signs, coupled with a double-take-provoking Mike White sighting, offered any indication that this sleepy ski community would soon be invaded by thousands of tourists, cinephiles and industry professionals.
But then, it's still early. Day one of Sundance seems to have been designed to ease all of us—attendees, organizers and locals alike—into the ten-day festivities to come. The first handful of screenings don't start until this evening; my week-long movie binge kicks off with May in the Summer, one of the 16 films in this year's U.S. Dramatic Competition. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on a couple of Sundance titles, both pretty exceptional, that I caught in the run-up to the fest.
Here's a sneak peek at what's coming up in this week's Time Out Chicago, on newsstands tomorrow:
There are some of us (my mother) who, when given a choice between two similar items, will always choose the cheapest one. No matter if the cheaper one is made of the chintziest material this side of Bangladesh and will fall apart after a few wears, the cheap one is a deal. Sometimes, my mom is right: Who needs high-quality purple jeans when that color will be out of style next season? But when it comes to things like bikini waxes and fresh produce, it pays to shell out more.
In this week's Deals Issue, we help you through that difficult choice—cheap out or pay up?—by weighing all the important factors such as how much of a hassle the cheaper item is, whether the more expensive choice will pay off in the long run and more. Turns out, more often than not, my mom is right. As if there were any other option.
Enjoy these activities around Chicago, completely free.
6pm, Harold Washington Library Center
Some people collect stamps, baseball cards and comic books. Others amass the bony skeletons of heads. Author Simon Winchester chats and signs copies of his new book Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley’s Curious Collection, a visual display of more than 300 animal skulls.
5:30-8pm, Instituto Italiano di Culture
In case you haven't heard, 2013 has been declared the Year of Italian Culture. Support this year's theme by learning the language. Stop by the center's open house to take a placement test, meet with professional instructors or register for an upcoming class. There are music, wine and Italian delicacies in it for you, too.
It’s that time of year again, when many CTA riders enjoyed a commute sans pants. On January 13 the twelfth annual No Pants Subway Ride took place globally. The event began in 2002 and is staged by Improv Everywhere, a collective that focuses on city-based pranks.
The Chicago riders met near the Loyola Red Line stop and broke off into groups. Each group had its own designated train cars and pretended that they didn’t know each other. The riders boarded their trains completely clothed and later exited at designated stops. They took off their pants on the platform and re-boarded the next train while acting completely normal. After their pants-less journey, the participants met at 5 Guys in Rogers Park where they enjoyed free drinks in exchange for showing up pants-free.
Chicago hosted even more bulls than usual Saturday night when the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series brought an international cast of cowboys and tons of ornery livestock to Rosemont's Allstate Arena to put on a rip-snorting show. The Chicago Invitational will conclude today starting at 2pm as riders wrap up week two of a season-long quest to win big cash prizes and the series' golden belt buckle.
Various championship riders from the American West and South, South America, Australia and Canada attempted to complete eight-second, one-handed rides atop various spirited bulls for two hours Saturday to qualify for the invitational's final round today. Although there were some impressive spills, most of the gritty young riders held on, sometimes in thrilling style. The best ride of the night, which came toward the end, was turned in by Marco Eguchi, who was competing even though the left side of his face is "temporarily" paralyzed, as the announcer put it, after he was recently stomped by a bull in Brazil. Thankfully, no riders were gored or crushed at the Rosemont event, though it seemed miraculous every time a rider rolled clear of the one-ton beasts pistoning their back halves up and down as they bucked around the arena. (Most of the riders wear helmets, but some hit the arena with only cowboy hats on their heads.)
In addition to top-level displays of bull riding, the event packed lots of family friendly entertainment into the commercial breaks, led by versatile rodeo clown Flint Rasmussen, the Benny to these Chicago bulls. In fact, the interstitial activities, including a zamboni-like re-grading of the arena dirt by a Cat, was similar to the fun found at the United Center during breaks in the Bulls and Blackhawks action. With all 35 riders taking a spin around the arena today followed by a championship round featuring up to 15 contestants, the PBR tour, now in its 20th season, is one of the best ways to check out what bull riding's all about.
On January 14, show Monday who's boss by having Sailor Jerry's iconic anchor (pictured above) permanently stamped on your body. Beginning at 11am on a first come, first served basis, folks (21 and older) can get inked by an artist at Chicago Tattoo (1017 W Belmont Ave).
Lucky tatted participants will be further rewarded. Each will receive a complimentary drink token redeemable at nearby Trader Todd's (3216 N Sheffield Ave) where $5 Sailor Jerry specials are being offered and reps are on hand doling out giveaways to all patrons.
It's funny to think that two years ago this month I was speculating on the future of sites like Kickstarter, and in all honesty, anticipating a tipping point when the general public would tire of the incessant stream of pleas for donations from Kickstarter users. Time and again I have happily been proven wrong, particularly in the case of projects where donations are equivalent to pre-orders of innovative products.
Back in August, Martin Kastner kicked serious Kickstarter butt, raising $736,112 for the Porthole, a stunning infusion vessel used for cocktails at the Aviary. His goal was $28,500. This week, a similar phenomenon happened with two more Chicago designers. IDEO's Jerry O'Leary and Dave Vondle launched CST-01 with their side project, Central Standard Timing, at CES 2013. Within a day and a half they exceeded their $200,000 goal. What is it exactly? A stainless steel watch cuff that's thinner than a credit card, minimal as possible (knob- and button-free) and lighter than five pennies. The E Ink screen features a custom-designed font, and the watch charges on a base station with a projected battery life of 45 days. Pre-orders for the watch, available in white or black, cost $129 each. Watch the video on the campaign site to get the full picture.
The moral of the story? Got a great business idea? Launch it on Kickstarter now while the iron's hot.
The holidays and year-end hoopla are fading in the rear-view mirror, leaving only months of snow and chill ahead of us. Usually, the winter months present only two options: get fit, or hibernate–but it doesn't have to be that way. With everyone else holed up on the couch or in the gym, winter is the perfect time to take a class and learn a new, awesome skill. Below are five of our favorite unusual classes going on in Chicago this winter:
Cooking classes at Butcher & the Burger
Cooking classes abound in Chicago, but Lincoln Park’s Butcher & the Burger offers some of the most interesting options we’ve seen. The classes take place in the restaurant’s prep kitchen, and while they aren’t hands-on (i.e., you will not touch a knife), they are BYOB. Sous chef Nate Reardon says the classes show students “how it’s all made. How the chefs break down the animal—respectfully—and how not to waste.” Classes offered change frequently, so be sure to check the website for the up-to-date deets. On the docket now: January 28th’s fish mongering class, which includes a chef demonstration on skinning, scaling, and preparing a fish—and of course, a full meal.
Next class is Jan 28. $85 per person. Register at butcherandtheburger.com. 1021 W Armitage, (773)-697-3735.
Chicago Park District Fitness Centers and Classes: Free Admission
Make good on the ubiquitous New Year's resolution to get in shape. Gratis admission includes access to citywide pools, strength-training equipment, treadmills, recumbent bicycles and yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and more. Times and locations vary, visit chicagoparkdistrict.com for more information.
Locations citywide, (312)-742-7529. Fri/Sat/Sun; free.
“Claire Ashley: frizzflopsqueezepop”
Some of Oak Park–based artist Ashley's playful, vibrant works, made out of painted tarpaulins, hang on the wall, others sit on the floor, and a few are even wearable.
78 E Washington St. (312)-744-6630. Fri 5:30 pm–7:30 pm, Sat 9 am–6 pm, Sun 10 am–6 pm; free.
Happy New Year! Yes, we're almost two weeks into 2013. Japanese tradition is to celebrate on Jan 11. Get a load of the taiko drumming and demonstrations in karate and aikido. Pay attention to the ceremonial rice pounding called Mochi-Tsuki. Once finished, you'll be eating these good-luck cakes.
Japanese-American Service Committee, 4427 N Clark St. (773)-275-0097. Sat 8am– 2pm; free.
Chandeliers at Saki
Chandeliers' electronic stew technically falls under the catchall of "dance music," and the group’s members have clearly done their research, immersing themselves not just in the genre but also the gear. The local crew's latest is Founding Fathers, a tranced-out affair we thoroughly enjoy.
Saki, 3716 W Fullerton Ave. (773)-486-3997. Sat 4pm; free.
Live Band Karaoke
Instead of getting lit to banish stage fright, allow Liquid Courage to help. But the band doesn't offer the lyrics on a screen—might be a good idea to learn the words first.
McGee’s Tavern, 950 W Webster Ave. (773)-549-8200. Sun 9pm; free.