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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Blogathon: AEOS’s Guilty Pleasure Movies

Jenna and Allie over at Chick Flicks decided to start their own blogathon about guilty pleasure movies. I learned about it from Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies, who included some great guilty pleasure movies in his list. Be sure to check out his post.

The rules were simple (check them out here!), and the only one I broke (but with permission), is that I missed the deadline. Thanks to Jenna and Allie for still letting me participate! 🙂

Most of my guilty pleasure favorites, I must admit, are comedies, many involving romance. The intelligent movie-viewer inside me always seems to poke when I want to watch of these films, exacting that balance of guilt and pleasure that I enjoy indulging every now and then. Without further ado, here are five guilty pleasures movies I occasionally enjoy:

1) The Wedding Date (2005)

The Wedding Date

Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney in The Wedding Date.

Critical Consensus: It’s not a great movie. The plot is thin, the protagonist has security issues, and the overall storyline fails. But no one needs a rehash of what 90% of the Rotten Tomatoes critics thought.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: I loved the chemistry between Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney. The latter is hunky and confident in the film, making him a good lead. Messing plays a somewhat frustrating character at times, but nonetheless, relatable. Outshined by her over-the-top younger sister (played by Amy Adams), Messing’s character struggles with accepting her current status. The story takes place over in London, which was a nice switch from the typical rom-com in New York. The father figure is strong and funny (Peter Egan), and perhaps more than all the above reasons, I loved the soundtrack, which featured 90s Maroon Five and some Michael Buble hits.

Movie Fun Fact: The film score’s composer, Blake Neely, stretched his rookie composing muscles on The Wedding Date, the film being his first solo feature film assignment. The score was first released as a limited edition CD that quickly sold out, but has been repeatedly asked for after its success and popularity.

2) 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jennifer Garner and Andy Serkis doing the Thriller in 13 Going on 30.

Critical Consensus: Same formula we’ve seen over again, but Jennifer Garner shines as the leading lady.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: The scene when Garner and Mark Ruffalo dance the Thriller. Lord of the Ring‘s (2001) Andy Serkis plays a fashion editor, Judy Greer is the villainous best friend, and Mark Ruffalo is the lovable guy that got away. I always thought Jennifer Garner played her best character as Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30. It’s a movie with a lot of sweet moments, both romantic and also hilarious.

Movie Fun Fact: Behind the Scenes footage on the DVD includes interviews with the main cast who talk about their younger self-portrayal counterparts. It’s always interesting to see who gets cast as the young version of an older, popular actor.

3) Jingle All the Way (1996)

Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way.

Critical ConsensusJingle All the Way received mixed reviews, some scathing, and some hopeful that the movie made the OK mark.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: I grew up watching this movie as a kid, cracking up. It became a family tradition at my parents’ home to watch this movie around Christmas every year, and somehow, we have continued on with this tradition in more recent years. Sinbad’s character, Myron, is so beyond insane at times, that you can’t help but laugh at the guy. Jingle All the Way makes people either laugh or shake their heads. I’m in the former group.

Movie Fun Fact: As of February of 2014, a sequel has gone into production, featuring none of the original cast. Instead, Larry the Cable plays the lead in the project.

4) Happy Gilmore (1996)

Christopher McDonald and Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore.

Critical Consensus: Dividng the critics, Happy Gilmore still managed to receive a fresh tomato on the Tomatometer, and even scored a 7 out of 10 on IMDB.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: Back in the day when Adam Sandler knew how to make people laugh in his movies, the comedian seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. Happy Gilmore is one of those funny entries that make it onto Sandler’s list of “funny movies from ‘back in the day,'” and it remains one of my favorite quotable comedies that I will continue watching if I catch it on TV in the afternoon. His humor isn’t for everyone, but Sandler gave new meaning to the game of golf, and the hilarious work of the supporting cast (Ben Stiller, Christopher McDonald) won me over.

Movie Fun Fact: MTV awarded Happy Gilmore an award for the Best Fight between Adam Sandler and Bob Barker.

5) The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday

Kate Winslet and Jack Black in The Holiday

Critical ConsensusThe Holiday is yet another one of my guilty pleasures that received overall mediocre scores with critics, despite its well-known cast.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: Hans Zimmer’s score is captivating in this film, so much so that I listen to it every year, especially around the holidays. I love the cast, although I enjoy the scenes with Kate Winslet and Jack Black over Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of viewing this film is the small part Eli Wallach (RIP) plays as the old, but not forgotten Hollywood screenwriter Arthur Abbott.

Movie Fun Fact: When watching The Holiday, I just assumed Kate Winslet was older than Cameron Diaz, given Winslet’s established filmography and graceful personality (perhaps her accent had something to do with it too?). I was shocked to discover that Cameron Diaz is actually three years older than the Brit!

It’s your turn now. What are some of your guilty pleasure films? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Valentine’s Day Special: Ten Favorite Romantic Movies

Welcome to Love Week at All Eyes on Screen! Each day I’ll have a post about something that I love. Valentine’s Day is here, so I’ll be listing off my top ten favorite romantic movies that I love.

But first, I must ask, Why are they called “romantic comedies”?  Many of them are not funny, and there’s certainly plenty of comedies that are low on the romance.

Wikipedia defines a romantic comedy as the following:

a film that includes “light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles.”

Even as a chick, that definition rubs me the wrong way. There’s something annoying about the idea that everything can go wrong, but “true love” will make it all go away. It’s not that I don’t believe in true love or its power to overcome difficult times. But it seems to painted in such a pretty way that we always see that physical infatuation, that two-month period in the relationship filled with butterflies and roses. Great film rides off drama. Drama’s a natural ingredient that must be placed in film in order get the protagonist from point A to point B. And such is the job of all storytelling, regardless of the format or channel.

Perhaps the genre “romantic comedy” receives the great beating in film today. Maybe it’s the lack of good drama that drags it down. We have all of these unrealistic situations occurring, such as the film Life as We Know It (2010). Really? A romantic plot born from a couple dying and willing the care of their child to two complete strangers who dislike each other? (Sorry – I’m not much of a Katherine Heigl fan, all.)

Yes, some romantic films work well in a more dreamy-like state, such as 13 Going on 30. But perhaps that success lies in that the movie doesn’t attempt to take itself seriously like Life as We Know It. Romantic films like My Best Friend’s Wedding set the bar for more realistic romantic flicks. Or maybe the idea of an ending that didn’t end happily became more accepted because we deem happy endings as unrealistic.

Regardless, there’s not a more popular genre to receive low scores from critics than romantic comedies. Speaking for myself, I don’t care to watch romantic films for their critical acclaim; I’ll admit wholeheartedly that I watch them for that feel-good feeling, even if they have (multiple) fluff moments.

Honorable Mention: A Walk to Remember (2002)

This movie almost made my top 1o list. Mandy Moore and Shane West are probably each credited most for this film. Neither have made as successful films since, although West stepped it up when he joined the main cast of the TV show remake, Nikita. Moore also has upcoming television plans. Regardless, this film is typical Nicholas Sparks crap. And I enjoyed it. It’s almost painful to admit since I abhor Nicholas Sparks’s obsession with pairing characters together and then ripping them apart for unrequited love, death, mean relatives, war, the list goes on and on. I did love Mandy Moore in this film, though. She has a great singing voice and gets to showcase some of her vocal talents on screen as well as on the soundtrack.

10. The Wedding Singer (1998)

The Wedding Singer is one of my favorite Adam Sandler films. He’s absolutely hilarious, especially in some of his older movies like The Longest Yard (2005), Mr. Deeds (2002), and Happy Gilmore (1996), but I think he hits his stride in this film. He helms this obnoxious humor while still earning some sympathy from viewers. He and Drew Barrymore work great against one another, although I much prefer The Wedding Singer over their second attempt 50 First Dates (2004). This scene is one of my favorites; the Billy Idol character really adds to the humor of it all.

9. The Wedding Date (2005)

The majority of critiques on The Wedding Date is negative. I know, I know. I would call The Wedding Date a guilty pleasure, but I guess it doesn’t add up much to the idea of “guilty pleasure” when people are calling Jersey Shore and all shows Kardashian “guilty pleasures.” Why do I like this film? It’s hard to say. I guess I just love Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney together in it. I like that it takes place in London, and I love the score by Blake Neely. Not to mention, Michael Buble and Maroon 5 make up much of the film’s soundtrack. If you’re a fan of this movie, you might want to check out the new TV show Smash, starring both of The Wedding Date‘s Debra Messing and Jack Davenport.

8. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Kate Hudson is hysterical in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are another one of those duos that play great against one another, although their second attempt Fool’s Gold (2008), fades in comparison. Hudson puts McConaughey through hell, and it’s only fitting for us to watch him suffer. The video is one of the funniest scenes in the film.

“You killed our love fern!”

7. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

Many people do not consider (500) Days of Summer to be romantic, but it just happens to be one of my favorite romantic movies. Yes, I know it follows the same pattern as My Best Friend’s Wedding, which I’ll get to soon. But Marc Webb’s creation is wholly original and altogether enjoyable and romantic in many scenes. I love his storytelling method in the film, and one of my favorite scenes is of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt walking through IKEA, as well as the dance sequence to the tune of Hall and Oates I included. The scene I’m most moved by though is one of the scenes near the end, when Gordon-Levitt gives a little speech about love in the middle of a work meeting. He’s clearly lovesick and brings a hint of irony about how as greeting card writers, they tell people’s loved ones that they love them for them. And what is the specialty in that when you can tell a person yourself how you feel?

6.  My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

The first time I saw My Best Friend’s Wedding, I had no idea that Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney would not end up together. In fact, I was stunned to see Cameron Diaz whisk Mulroney away at the end. I love the idea that two people, who happen to be best friends, made plans to someday marry if they never found another person. And then off goes Mulroney and finds the youngest, most naive girl to fill the shows Roberts decided that she should have filled instead. She hatches a plan to steal the soon-to-be groom, and it makes sense. They have this brilliant chemistry, and of course they ought to end up together. But they don’t; such is life. The end leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth, because the fight is finally over, despite her losing it. I love the use of Union Station and the old Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox, yo!)  in this film. It’s nice to see some Chicago scenery be taken advantage of! Check out the video for what I think is one of the best scenes in a romantic movie.

5. It’s Complicated (2009)

On Christmas Day in 2009, a few friends and I planned to see the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes. We were pumped until we found out that it was sold out and that we had to settle for It’s Complicated, the rom com starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. The unfortunate affair turned out to be a fantastic film after all. It’s Complicated is proof that Meryl Streep is capable of playing normal, every day people. There are so many hilarious scenes in this film, that it’s one of the few rightly dubbed “romantic comedy.” From Steve Martin and his divorce tapes, to John Krasinski playing the lovable son-in-law, It’s Complicated has become one of my favorite go-to romantic movies.

4. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You’ve God Mail is a classic romantic movie in most people’s books, and it’s definitely one in mine. It’s one of three films that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in together, and they do so with a perfect connection. It brings me back to the time when AOL was the big thing around the Internet, and we had to listen and wait for the dial connection before we could use AIM or send an email. It’s the recycled story of two people who hate each other, and later learn to like one another as they start to learn and understand more. Meg Ryan has done her share of these films, and Hanks really isn’t a stranger to the genre either. The end scene is pitch perfect. Enjoy it!

3. Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill is another romantic movie with Julia Roberts that I love, and my first one including Hugh Grant that makes the list. I really like both in the genre, although I’m of the belief that both made their best romantic films in the 90s or early 2000s as opposed to more recent times. I love this film. It’s completely a dream gone reality, bringing everyman Hugh Grant into the movie star sphere of Julia Roberts, where an unlikely connection is formed. She experiences time around his humble friends and family, while he starts to wonder if she’s stringing him along or truly into him. She brings her world into his when she says the famous line, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

2. 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jennifer Garner seems to be more accepted acting in rom coms these days, and one of her best ones I think is 13 Going on 30. She bears all the youthful innocence necessary for her character, and the very underrated Mark Ruffalo does a nice job playing opposite her. It’s also pretty hilarious to watch Andy Serkis actually play a human on screen, much less his giddy character in this movie. The film does a nice job of putting life in perspective. Although must of us probably won’t have our futures defined by the friends we had in high school, we will have memories of that time that will stay long with us. It also does a nice job of showing us that who we pick as friends often influences our behavior and changes us in the future. Overall, 13 Going on 30 fits the description of being light-hearted and sweet. Oh well.

1. Never Been Kissed (1999)

Never Been Kissed is my favorite romantic movie. It’s about a dork who returns to high school on an undercover assignment to find out about today’s teenagers. Drew Barrymore blossoms at this geeky character who desperately seeks to fit in. I haven’t seen another movie similar enough that showcases a character quite like the one Barrymore creates in Never Been Kissed. My favorite scene is when she tells her story via voice over. It’s a great way to wrap up the film. I included the final scene of the film because it’s all I could find on YouTube. It’s also one of my favorite film kisses.

OK, your turnWhat is your favorite romantic movie? Or what is one of your favorite scenes from a romantic movie? Don’t be shy . . . 

Favorites vs. the Best

It’s a little well-known fact among my peers, coworkers, friends, and family that I’d like to study film in grad school and then work in the field following school. This provokes the question, “What is your favorite movie?”

Hidden in that question are three expectations I must denounce before I reveal my favorite(s):

  • First, most expect my favorite to be something near an Oscar-worthy Best Picture nominee, a documentary that defined my generation, or an inspirational true story that struck heartstrings. I guess my taste is just not classy enough to fulfill that conjecture.
  • The second assumption is that my favorite movies have always been the same. My favorite movie when I was thirteen is not my favorite movie now. Not even close.
  • The most common expectation people seem to have is that my favorite movies and the movies I consider to be some of the best are one and the same.  This stark difference is undermined by your average movie-goer. Good movie-making and a movie that you can watch over and over again and consider your favorite, is, well . . . a rarity.

So with those three presuppositions knocked down, I’ll tell you what my current favorite movies are (in no intended order):

The Wedding Date

Maybe it’s that Debra Messing looks absolutely gorgeous, or Dermot Mulroney’s voice is super sexy and the combination is impeccable. Or maybe I was just impressed by a movie that was written by a woman (Dana Fox, screenwriter), adapted from a book written by a woman (Elizabeth Young, Asking for Trouble), and directed by a woman (Clare Kilner, director). The idea of the movie is hilarious. The protagonist, Kat (Messing), pays an escort to accompany her to her younger, spoiled sister’s wedding where her ex-fiance was the Best Man. Who knows? All I can say is that I found the premise funny, the idea light, the cast enjoyable, and the main character relatable and real.

Dan in Real Life

It’s Steve Carell, only not the Steve Carell most know and love. The Dan in Real Life Carell – that’s the Steve Carell I love. It’s a movie about family, about putting your loved ones ahead of yourself, about taking chances, and about allowing yourself a little freedom to live. Paired with Juliet Binoche, who is naturally beautiful yet doesn’t call attention to herself, the couple is fun to watch on screen together. Dan’s parents’ home feels like the New England home where everyone wouldn’t mind spending a family weekend. It’s chilly, so there’s lots of plaid, lots of snow, and lots of family traditions that makes you feel good inside. Dane Cook unmistakably adds to the movie’s humor, and Sondre Lerche’s beautiful score lends a feeling of warmth and naturalism to the movie.

Elizabethtown

If you’re a fan of Orlando Bloom, you’ve seen him play multiple character roles such as princes, pirates, and outlaws. He’s led in some of the largest and well-known film trilogies including Lord of the Rings and The Pirates of the Caribbean (fine, it’s outgrowing “trilogy,” so screw me!). Ned Kelly, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven are just a few of the huge movies Bloom has played starring roles in. And suddenly, he’s actually playing a regular, every day person in Elizabethtown. Everyone knew that if Kirsten Dunst could stay out of rehab, she was more than capable of taking on the positive, uplifting role of Claire Colburn. Featuring a fantastic soundtrack that  includes the likes of Elton John, Patty Griffin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and My Morning Jacket, as well as an original score by past rocker Nancy Wilson, Elizabethtown takes a withdrawn, lonely Drew Baylor (Bloom) who nearly commits suicide, to a small town in Kentucky to attend to the details of his father’s funeral with old, opinionated relatives.  Claire represents a person who understands a lot about life, and knows how to find the wisdom in simple ideas by observing others. She befriends Drew, and in a sense, saves him from himself and his past life that was wrapped up in a job and an empty apartment by forcing him to face his feelings. It’s difficult for me to not fall in love with this film every time I watch it.

And there you have it. My three current favorite films. They may not be considered the best by the majority, the average movie watcher, or any critic, but they’re my favorites. Stick around, and I might let you in on what films I consider to be the best I’ve seen thus far.