Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy 50th, Chicago Film Festival!

I've known since I moved here that I shared a spiritual link with the Chicago International Film Festival, and this year the case only gets stronger. On October 9, the festival will turn 50 on the same day I turn 37, and as happens every year, the programmers will whup even my relatives and loved ones in the competition for Best Gift.  Tickets go on sale to the public today, though one of the perks of joining Cinema/Chicago and supporting the organization is getting a two-day head start on those purchases.  I suspect I won't be the only patron who feels I am being showered with presents.

For their golden anniversary, the leadership has curated a selection that, according to Programming Director Mimi Plauché,"ties back to the history of the festival and also looks forward in so many ways." That commitment to its own heritage begins with the Opening Night selection of Liv Ullmann's Miss Julie, extending CIFF's streak of programming all of Ullmann's directorial efforts since her first in 1992 (including a new personal favorite of mine, Private Confessions, which won Pernilla August a richly deserved Best Actress award here in 1996).  Ullmann will be back to introduce the film and take questions, as will Hollywood directors and CIFF loyalists Oliver Stone and Taylor Hackford, who will screen some favorites among their own work: Natural Born Killers and the extended cut of Alexander in Stone's case, The Idolmaker and White Nights in Hackford's.  CIFF will also host the North American premiere of the newly restored Why Be Good?, released simultaneously as a silent and a talkie in 1929 and previously thought lost.  The star, Colleen Moore, plays a character named "Pert," which is all I need to know. She will be familiar to CIFF audiences as the inspiration for the Franju-esque graphic that CIFF has used as its logo since its inception, since she helped to found the whole institution.  Archival pleasures extend as well to a four-film cycle of Isabelle Huppert's greatest post-2000 hits, selected by the actress herself and screening all in 35mm at the Music Box: The Piano Teacher (blistering), Comedy of Power (diabolical), Copacabana (atypically comic), and White Material (unmissable).  Whether Huppert herself will alight for the occasion was not clear, but a girl can dream.

Miss Julie, despite being an Irish-set and substantially Irish-funded production, also commences in its way CIFF 2014's spotlight on Scandinavian cinema, which encompasses among many other films Ruben Östlund's festival smash Force Majeure, which I couldn't get into in Toronto; Norway's 1001 Grams, already submitted for Oscar consideration; Sweden's The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which at least gave Roy Andersson some competition in the race for memorable film titling; encore screenings of Breaking the Waves and Fanny and Alexander; a portmanteau of recent Nordic short films; and Iceland's Of Horses and Men, already a cult favorite, with an indelible poster and this IMDb logline: A country romance about the human streak in the horse and the horse in the human. Love and death become interlaced and with immense consequences. The fortunes of the people in the country through the horses' perception. You can bet I'm skipping the one-night-only screening of Birdman to be there.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcome, Class of 2018!

Northwestern University, where I teach, runs on the quarter system (elsewhere called the trimester system), so classes don't start here until next week.  Admittedly, this timely welcome I'm offering to our incoming first-years will be belated for students on most other campuses, though I wish everyone in school, at any level, a fantastic year.

I was so happy to score the gig giving the opening-day address to all 1150 first-years in our Arts and Sciences college.  My remarks were inspired equally by questions and worries I've heard from my own freshman advisees over the years, and by my own memories of excitement and uncertainty my first year in college, and by things I never stop thinking about.  For example, Project Runway.  And the Oscars.  Frequent readers of this site or listeners of Nathaniel's podcasts won't be surprised by any of that.

I wish I could give this advice to many more college students, and maybe other students as well, about controlling stress, admitting vulnerabilities, cultivating patience, and prioritizing happiness, even amidst hard work.  In hopes of doing that, I'm posting the text here, complete with what every campus address needs: a full-scale FYC for Secrets & Lies and a couple sung bars of "Let It Go."  Make the most of the coming year, everybody, or the coming four years!

Wildcat Welcome Address – September 17, 2014 – Nick Davis

If you have further or different advice you'd offer to entering undergraduates, please share it in the Comments.  And feel free to circulate, with attribution.  (Don't just lift it, or I'll be all up in your business like a Wendy interview.)

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