Spend some time in the Windy City by watching this week's picks!
Unexpected (2015, dir. Kris Swanberg) I was a fan of Kris Swanberg's latest movie when I saw it at last year's CCFF, as it's a movie about pregnancy that avoids most of the sitcom tropes to which pregnancy is reduced in most Hollywood movies. Cobie Smulders gives the best performance of her career thus far as a Chicago public school teacher who is pregnant at the same time as one of her star students, and the bond formed between the two of them is what gives the film its emotional center. A native of Chicago who lived through some of these same experiences, Swanberg gets the city right in a way that many movies don't and depicts a community that's completely underrepresented in movies about Chicago.
Stir of Echoes (1999, dir. David Koepp) A really good ghost story that got overlooked when it was released too close to The Sixth Sense back in '99. I like The Sixth Sense and all, but whereas that movie is cold and stately -- "classy," I guess -- Stir of Echoes is its blue collar cousin. I love the working class world in which the movie exists and I like Koepp's willingness to be scary and a little bit crazy at times. Kevin Bacon is great because Kevin Bacon is literally always great. Why does it take us so long to fully appreciate some of our best actors?
Only the Lonely (1991, dir. Chris Columbus) Here's a rare Christopher Columbus comedy that's not completely full of shit. John Candy plays a Chicago cop living under the thumb of his mother (Maureen O'Hara), but begins to exert his independence when he falls in love with Ally Sheedy. I get it. You get it. There's good Chicago stuff here (the movie was produced by John Hughes, who stuck to the city like Scorsese stuck to New York), but what's nice about the film is that it's a romance about introverted adults that recognizes that it can be hard to find love at any age. I haven't seen this in a long time, but I remember it being sweet.
The Fury (1978, dir. Brian De Palma) One of the most memorable set pieces from one of my favorite Brian De Palma films takes place at the Old Chicago Amusement Park, in which telekinetic Andrew Stevens causes a ride to malfunction and terrorizes all the passengers. But, then, this is a movie full of great set pieces (because De Palma), not the least of which is its legendary, show-stopping finale featuring the greatest exploding gag ever committed to film. I love this movie.
Blink (1994, dir. Michael Apted) I have not seen Blink since the early '90s, so it might not be the effective thriller I remember it being. Madeline Stowe plays a blind Chicago musician who witnesses a murder, with Aidan Quinn showing up as the cop protecting her. It's sort of amazing that in the early '90s a studio could open a movie with Aidan Quinn and Madeline Stowe as its stars. And also that it's a thriller aimed at adults, which was very popular in the '80s but now doesn't exist because movies are made for the very young and/or the very stupid. My big memory of the movie is that it features The Drovers, an Irish folk band that I was into back when I actually listened to music. I should revisit this one over the weekend.