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Best of Chicago 2009

Best Filmmaker


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The Reader's Choice: Steve James and Peter Gilbert

Apologies to Harold Ramis, a dyed-in-the-wool Chicagoan whose track record of clever, expertly paced comedies (Caddy­shack, National Lampoon's Vacation, Groundhog Day, Analyze This, The Ice Harvest) makes him the best writer-director of the SNL/SCTV generation after Christopher Guest. (Ramis's latest feature, produced by Judd Apatow and scheduled for release in June, is The Year One, starring Michael Cera and Jack Black as a couple of primitive hunter-gatherers.) But only producer-director Steve James and producer-director-cinematographer Peter Gilbert of the documentary institution Kartemquin Films can point to a trio of accomplishments like Hoop Dreams (1994), Stevie (2002), and last year's At the Death House Door. The first film, which tracked the fortunes of two young basketball hopefuls over seven years, and the second, which recorded the trials of a downstate man who as a child had gotten James for a Big Brother, are both notable for their length, depth, and social sweep. At the Death House Door is more impressive for its punch, profiling a Texas minister who counseled nearly a hundred inmates on their way to the death chamber. In their movies James and Gilbert have doggedly focused on the powerless, turning out films unimpeachable in their authenticity. —J.R. Jones

&Our readers' choiceJoe Swanberg

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