My Hometown Blogathon: Chicago

So first, I owe one huge apology to Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies for being severely late in posting for her blogathon, since it was due right around Thanksgiving. I loved the idea that she came up with for a blogathon, and being from (the suburbs of) Chicago, I was excited to post about some of my favorite films that feature the Windy City.


Here are five of my favorite films that highlight the city of Chicago:

5. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) is not only one of Julia Robert’s funniest films, in my humble opinion, but it also features multiple Chicago locations, including a very famous chase scene that ends in Union Station. The picture above cracks me up because the girl fight goes down in a bathroom at U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park), home of my favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox. Although My Best Friend’s Wedding appears on the surface to be just another bland rom-com, there are some hysterical moments, and it sets the tone for future romance films that don’t end happily ever after. But hey, at least there will be dancing.

Below is one of the most memorable scenes from the film, where Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) are on a boat, passing under some of the bridges in Chicago.


4. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Another rom-com that makes my list is While You Were Sleeping (1995), because its most pivotal scenes take place at an L train station in Chicago, the most memorable scene when Peter (Peter Gallagher) falls onto the tracks with an incoming train. Bullock makes for a believable character who could live in the city, and I think she does so successfully in While You Were Sleeping.

I didn’t have the easiest time finding clips from the film, but the trailer for the film below shows that most of the background and setting for the film takes place in the Windy City.


 3. The Blues Brothers (1980)

I have Ryan at The Matinee to thank for pushing me to finally watch this beloved film that features almost more of Chicago than any other film I have seen thus far. So much Chicago scenery, roads, and famous landmarks are shown in the film. One of my favorite scenes is the opening scene in which John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd jump the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River in a police vehicle.

 

At the time, this climactic final scene (at the “Palace Hotel Ballroom”) was performed at a country club, but later became the South Shore Cultural Center, receiving its name from the neighborhood in Chicago where it started. The Hollywood Palladium is where the indoor concert scenes were shot.


 2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

John Hughes, the director, writer, and producer for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), felt very strongly about the city of Chicago when penning and directing the film.

He’s quoted, saying,

“Chicago is what I am. A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I’ll make sure that’s exactly where I film. It’s funny—nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller.”

I never realized that Hughes was under fire for choosing Chicago over New York. His passion to have the city play a character in the story shows, as its architecture, well-known tourist attractions, and features are grandly put on display.

I wonder what Ferris would have thought of the 360 degree TILT ride now offered at the John Hancock Building.

 

I never had an experience quite like Ferris’s and his friends at the Art Museum, but it’s still one of my favorite places to visit in the city.

 

And I couldn’t not include the video of the parade scene with Matthew Broderick on a float belting “Twist and Shout.” The scene took two Saturday to shoot in the middle of downtown Chicago. Apparently radio stations announced that people could play extras in a “John Hughes movie,” and 10,000 people showed up for it.


 1. The Dark Knight (2008)

When Caz first announced this blogathon, I immediately thought of The Dark Knight (2008). It’s one of the most well-known films to have been shot in Chicago, probably because Chicago gets to play Batman’s city, Gotham, and that is pretty awesome.

As someone who grew up near Chicago, not in, but visited it often, there are certain areas in the city that I can pick out more easily when I’m watching a film. One of the most prominent locations was Lower Wacker Drive, as well as the Metra entrance at Millennium Park, where Batman (Christian Bale) was chasing the Joker (Heath Ledger).

 

The Gotham General Hospital, which the Joker blows up in the film, was actually the old Brach’s Candy Factory located on North Cicero Avenue. You can check out the explosion below.

 

Of course, there are so many notable films that have been filmed in Chicago, that I just chose five films that I really enjoy. Other major films that were filmed in Chicago include the following:

Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Untouchables (1987)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
North by Northwest (1959)
Nothing in Common (1986)
Home Alone (1990)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Public Enemies (2009)
The Company (2003)
The Fugitive (1993)
Risky Business (1983)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
High Fidelity (2000)

Thanks again to Caz for hosting this blogathan, and apologies for the tardy post.

It’s your turn now. What is your favorite(s) film(s) filmed in Chicago? Are there any prominent films shot in your hometown? Please join in on the fun below!

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AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?

The Ten Best Actors of All Time: Relay Race

All week, I have been MIA from all things AEOS and blogging due to unexpected circumstances, mostly just being incredibly busy. I was planning to really get back into the groove of things this week, having several posts planned for, but this week didn’t turn out how I expected. I promise that starting next week, I will be back. I have major catch-up to play on visiting everyone else’s sites! Apologies for being gone all week.

Today is Good Friday, but it is also my deadline to post for the best actors relay race that Ruth over at Flixchatter handed the baton to me almost a week ago!

Taking a page out of Ruth’s book, here is where the race originated and has moved since it started:

Nostra at My Filmviews started the race.

Nostra handed the baton to Terrence at The Focused Filmographer.

Terrence handed the baton over to Scott at Front Room Cinema.

Scott handed the baton over to my buddy Pete at I Love That Film.

Pete handed the baton over to my friend Ruth at Flixchatter,

Who handed the baton over to me!

Now, for the rules of the race, according to the race’s originator, Nostra:

“So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors”

I will be forthcoming and admit that due to my limited film viewing, that I haven’t seen many of the films which have made so many of these wonderful, celebrated actors the household names they are today. I have seen some here and there, but I’m definitely a little bit limited. So instead of repeating what those in the race have done before me, I will not be mentioning all of the films that made each actor famous.

This is an incredible list, and I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to decide who to add and who to take away. It wasn’t an easy decision on my end, but I still feel satisfied with my selection. Check out the photos below to see who is currently on the list.

Robert De Niro

Daniel Day-Lewis

Charlie Chaplan

Gary Oldman

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Marlon Brando

Robert Duvall

Christian Bale

Gregory Peck

My Choice: Tom Hanks

Those who have seen one of my more recent posts listing off my top five favorite actors will not be surprised to see that I’m adding Tom Hanks to this list. Choosing Hanks was an easy thing–he’s won two Oscars for his roles in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Aside from Spencer Tracy, Hanks is the only actor to have ever won two consecutive Oscars for Best Actor. He’s been nominated three other times for his roles in BigSaving Private Ryan, and Cast Away. And if you take all his critical acclaim away, you still get this versatile actor who, in my opinion, has always had that star quality that enabled him to take on roles from Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 to the animated character Woody in the Toy Story series. Hanks is known as much for his roles in Road to Perdition and The Green Mile as he is for his light roles in classic rom coms such as You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. Hanks is full of charm and charisma, and it’s apparent wherever he goes or in whatever role he plays. Although Hanks hasn’t filled the shoes of any titular character in more recent years, he’s still earned the right to be considered an acting legend in my book.

Who I Replaced: Edward Norton

This was such a difficult decision! Right now, I can imagine my sister, a big fan of Norton, shaking me and telling me I made the wrong choice. However, given the list, it was far more difficult to shed an actor than add one. I absolutely love Norton and think he was especially mind-blowing in Fight Club. I also appreciate that Norton so effortlessly crosses the line between villain and hero roles in films. He plays both sides so well. The main reason Norton is the one I replaced is that what many of the other actors on the list have that Norton doesn’t have is opportunity. At age 42, he was actually the youngest actor on the list with the exception of Christian Bale. With a few more lead roles under his belt, I think Norton has all the potential in the world to be one of the greatest actors of our time.

Following suite with Ruth, I will also be passing the baton onto another girl: Jaina at Time Well Spent. Excited to see who you add (and take away), Jaina!

The Man. The Movies. The Memento.

There’s been a lot of hype recently (especially today) about how Christopher Nolan has been snubbed once again – this time, by that warped Academy that makes all the decisions concerning the Oscars. This time around, it’s the 83rd Oscars, and Nolan has been rejected his much-deserved honor of being a Best Director nominee.

So instead of harping on the constant snubbing from said Hollywood Foreign Press Association and American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, let’s remember why we love CNolan.  After all, being snubbed means you must be pretty darn good at what you’re doing in the first place.

Far more than a triple threat. Yes, we all know he’s a fantastic director. But he’s also a screenwriter. And a producer. And a cinematographer and an editor (Following, Doodlebug).

Has a handful of quality A-listing actors to fill his movies with (Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy to name a few).

Created the most popular, and by many, considered the best Batman series thus far.

Established connections with professionals within multiple film fields: Hans Zimmer, composer; Emma Thomas (his wife), producer; Lee Smith, film editor; Jonathan Nolan (his brother), screenwriter.

Takes complex ideas and adapts them for the average film-goer. (MementoThe Prestige, and Inception).

Nolan’s IMDB file and Wikipedia (for what it’s worth) contain a lot of this information, but more and more of it is becoming knowledge among even amateur movie-goers. It was Christopher Nolan’s name, not Leonardo DiCaprio’s that brought people into the theater to see Inception, his latest flick, this past summer.

Check out the textual part of a common Inception poster: 

The words “From the Director of The Dark Knight” stick out. And while Leo’s name is in bright lights as well, it was the obscure, ambiguous trailer and the idea that the director of The Dark Knight could create another film as high quality as The Dark Knight, that made the film compelling enough to go see. Judging by most critics’ and audience’s reviews, it was.

Nolan may not have the nod of the Academy, but he has fans. And their respect.