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By this point, you've probably read your fill about Lee Daniels's The Butler (or, as the studio wants us to call it, Lee Daniels' The Butler), the star-studded historical pageant that's currently this country's number-one box office attraction. But I think the movie is a lot stranger—and a lot angrier—than many reviews are making it out to be; in this week's long review, I expound on this argument and offer thoughts on Daniels's unique body of work. I also preview this year's edition of Noir City: Chicago, the Music Box Theatre's annual festival of film noir. As I note in the overview, I think the jewel of the series is the
35-millimeter revival of Richard Fleischer's Violent Saturday (1955). This underrated mash-up of noir and Peyton Place-style melodrama is chilling in its consideration of violence in human affairs; it's also a masterpiece of CinemaScope photography, featuring one jaw-dropping composition after another.
This week's issue also has new short reviews of: Austenland, a rom-com that marks the directorial debut of Napoleon Dynamite cowriter Jerusha Hess; Drinking Buddies, the biggest-budgeted feature to date from Chicago-based independent Joe Swanberg; Paranoia, a thriller about corporate espionage with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman; and You're Next, a pulpy horror movie directed by Adam Wingard, a frequent collaborator of Swanberg's. Last but not least, we review three titles in the 19th-annual Black Harvest Film Festival, now entering its last week at the Gene Siskel Film Center: Four of Hearts, a drama about the hazards of group sex; Home, a New York-set feature about a schizophrenic preparing to leave a halfway house; and Destination: Planet Negro!, a send-up of cheap 50s sci-fi.
Best bets for revival screenings: On Saturday and Wednesday, the Siskel Center screens The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in its David Fincher retrospective; on Saturday and Sunday, the Music Box screens Sergio Leone's Duck, You Sucker! in its spaghetti western series; Doc Films screens Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre sa Vie on Saturday and two films by Bruce Baillie, a major figure in U.S. experimental cinema, on Thursday; the Northwest Chicago Film Society presents Carl Dreyer's masterpiece Day of Wrath on Wednesday night at the Patio; and on
Saturday afternoonWednesday at 6:30 PM, you can catch a free screening of Federico Veiroj's A Useful Life, one of the flagship films of the Uruguayan cinema's current renaissance, at the Cultural Center.