Tag Archives: cult movies

Movies in The Park: Fireflies and Stars

to-sir-with-love (“To Sir with Love, 1967)

According to the Chicago Park District, 170 current and classic movies will be shown in neighborhood parks throughout the city, through September.  I know many of us have missed the first program offerings, but here’s a list of recommendations for the final month of movies.  Lots to choose from…  Bring popcorn, a blanket, and may I suggest a basket of goodies? NOTE: Click the names of the parks below for their locations.

Highlights and Recommendations…

07/29/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – To Sir, With Love (NR) * Hamilton Park free

A 1967 British film in which Sidney Poitier stars as an idealist engineer-turned-teacher tries to turn around a rough inner city school.

08/10/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – The World of Nat King Cole (NR) Tuley Park free
A truly great 2006 Documentary abouth the Chicago-bred icon.  Featuring (among others) his lovely wife.  If you missed this on PBS, catch it in the park.
 
 
08/11/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – The Sting (PG) * Lake Shore Park free
1973 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford in crime-ridden 1930s Chicago.
   
08/12/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Uptown Saturday Night (PG) South Shore Cultural Center free
Directed by Sidney Poitier, and starring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Harry Belafonte.  Steve and Wardell track across the city when they discover Steve’s won the lottery (but the ticket is in his stolen wallet).  The pair meet a truckload of hustlers, crooked politicians, and otherwise colorful folk in the hunt. 
   
08/15/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Calle 54 (G) Humboldt Park free
A 2000 film featuring an abundance of Latin Jazz legends performing on stage.  
 
08/18/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – The Blackboard Jungle (NR) * West Pullman Park free
In this 1955 film, an English teacher wages a war to get through to his students at a violent inner city school, even though many of his colleagues refuse to pick up arms. An early performance by Sidney Poitier is not to be missed.
   
08/29/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Sparkle (PG) * Washington Park free
Check out the Darkjive review of Sparkle here.
   
08/30/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Akeelah and the Bee (PG) * Unity Playlot Park (c/o Kosciuszko Park) free
A new classic featuring Keke Palmer, with Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.  A young girl tries to make it (against the odds) to the National Spelling Bee.
 
 
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Fame: Cult Movie of the Week

fameFame (1980) is one of those movies that makes you wish you lived in a world so filled with youthful fervor that at anytime a group of kids might break into interpretive dance and jump on a cab. 
We don’t. 
But that didn’t keep us from cheering for the characters in the film (especially Coco and Leroy), and later the TV show (which featured Janet Jackson and Debbie Allen). 
The story of  students at a New York Performing Arts High School, the film follows the ebb and flow of their kinetic reach for stardom. The narrative is, despite pitfalls, like an infusion of fresh hope in admittedly hard times.  It expresses a romantic image pairing sweat with success, art with desire.
A new Fame  motion picture is scheduled for release this year, but somehow it seems superfluous.  Those kids in the original are gonna live forever.
 
Wanna live forever? Wanna learn how to fly (again?)  the Tofu Chitlin Circuit is having a screening  of Fame in Bronzeville this Monday….
 
“If you want fame, well fame costs and right here is where you start paying with sweat!” 
 
 
 

The Tofu Chitlin Circuit (a Bronzeville-based theater conservatory) is continuing their Family Reunion with the quintessential theater movie…”FAME!”  Enjoy a screening and discussion.

Prizes for the best FAME gear!

When: Monday, July 27, 2009
Where: The Digital Youth Network
1050 E 47th Street
Chicago, IL 60653
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Film starts promptly at 7:00 p.m.
Donation: $3

more about TCC:
“Our mission is to bring the audience into the creative process of theater.  Our conservatory is an educational platform that assists artists and audience members with intellectual dialogue, poignant interviews from theater practitioners, workshops, classes and of course performances!”

Cult Movie of the Week: Stray Dog (1949)

Nora_inu_poster

A work of Japanese Noir from iconic Japanese director Kurosawa, “Stray Dog” (1949) gets by on good looks, swagger, and heart. Featuring a slinking pace, the film’s cadence is ultimately trumped by its ability to be beautifully gritty and enveloping, just like summer.

Set in the depths of summer in Post-World War II Tokyo, the film follows detective Murakami as he seeks to recover his stolen gun (pickpocketed on a swelteringly hot bus).  What he finds is himself slipping deeper and deeper into the world of the desperate kid, the Stray Dog, who committed the crime.   The world of Stray Dog is a world of desperation and ruin, a world ravished by bombs and economic turmoil.  Post War Japan is also a world in the midst of social upheaval: a world of seersucker suits and silk kimonos, with the ways of the West ever encroaching on Japanese tradition.  This is the perfect movie for a quiet summer night in which thunder rings out ominously… the sort of night in which we pray for rain to release us from oppressive heat.  But, don’t forget the Tempura & Sweet Tea (trust me on that one).

straydog4


Hi-Fi White: Foodstamps, Bulldogs, and Hollywood


Wilbur White was a nightclub singer on the South Side of Chicago whose bluesy growl wielded so much power that he was nicknamed Hi-Fi.  He’d been in the clubs since the 1950s, and although I hear he put on a knockout of a show, that never translated into record sales.  Speaking of knockouts, he played bit roles on Sanford & Son and in the boxing-in-prison movie Penitentiary (1979).  In the film, he was cast as the gap-toothed transvestite Sweet Pea.  Behind the scenes, the film was so under-budget that White took initiative and collected food stamps from cast and crew, becoming the production’s official caterer.  He fed over one hundred actors and technical staffers for the final week of shooting.   That’s good ol’ Chicago can-do!

here’s a clip of perhaps his signature number, Bulldog.

and here’s the trailer for the film:


NOTE: view the comments on this post for first hand stories and recollections…


Cult Movie of the Week: Shaft in Africa

I will start with the disclaimer: I am not really a blaxploitation film lover. I’m a lover of their funky romps-of-soundtracks. That said, I dig Shaft in Africa despite its more reserved soundtrack. Why? It’s titled Shaft…..in Africa! Not only Africa, but, specifically, Ethiopia… a country that holds a lot of romance for me because its people fought colonization (and won) in a time when Africa was being sliced up like hot apple pie.

Fast forward sixty years to this film. Shaft’s mission is to break up a human trafficking ring luring young Africans to Paris. Starring (former Ebony-Jet Fashion Fair model) Richard Roundtree and Vonetta McKee, Shaft in Africa (1973) also encompasses a love storyline between Shaft and Aleme. Lovely as McKee is in this film, amazing scenes of both Paris in the 70s and Ethiopia are enough reason to snatch up a copy of this film.

One of my favorite touches to this film is the Capoiera-styled fight scenes and the 007-outfitted wooden staff that Shaft uses when he goes undercover: the staff has a built-in camera and anything else he may need. It’s like James Bond, but he gets dirty…. and I like it.

shaft in africa5
One note about the soundtrack: the theme song was recorded by the 4 Tops (“Are You Man Enough”) and the soundtrack was composed by Chicago’s own Johnny Pate. Pate was the arranger for most of the early work by the Impressions and the man who Curtis Mayfield relied on as a orchestrator/arranger for years. In fact in Rolling Stone’s 1972 review of the Superfly soundtrack, Bob Donat stated,

…equal credit of course goes to arranger – orchestrator and long-time Mayfield collaborator Johnny Pate, who’s written charts for Curtis and the Impressions since the “Gypsy Woman” days.”

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Cult Movie of the Week: Jacksons an American Dream

Yeah, I said it.  Angela Bassett, Terence Howard, dude from Welcome Back, Kotter Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, etc., in the story of Gary, Indiana’s most famous sons (and daughters).   I recently pulled out my (second) dub of this.  It’s a textbook cult classic:  lines you can’t forget, larger than life characters… and untouchably-dope music.  Since I couldn’t make it to London to snag tickets to the gloved one’s “final” tour, this will have to suffice.  Below is that scene when Katherine finds Joseph’s been cheating.  You know what’s next. She don’t wont him, she don’t wont him, she don’t wont him no mo’…..


The Warriors: Cult Movie of the Week

warriors2Coke bottles clanging together, the sound ringing down a dark, wet alley.  A voice calls out menacingly:

“Warriors…. Come out and Play-yay…..”

warriors-dj

The Warriors (1979) is many things.  It is a classical Epic tale (like Homer’s Odyssey).  It is a pulpy cult classic with a look all its own (co-starring the New York Transit System and a bunch of dudes on rollerskates).  It is a gangland movie.  It is a spectacle.

Picture New York in the Late 1970s, poster child of ‘urban decay’.  Now picture a late night meeting of every Gangmember from all five boroughs.  In that meeting, a gangland kingpin named Cyrus (attempting to unite the Gangs of New York into one indomitable threat), is assassinated by an unknown assailant.  Somehow, one member of the Warriors is fingered.  Suddenly, the hunt is on to wipe them off the map, and their struggle becomes making it to their home turf (Coney Island) by daybreak.  This becomes horribly difficult as night progresses, and gangs come out of the woodwork to avenge the death of Cyrus. Super-fun, no wonder it was made into a video game.  Each gang rumble plays out like a “level”.  In the final scene, with Coney Island Beach as a backdrop, everything comes to a head.

NOTE: In real life, Coney Island (gritty neon playground of New York [and homebase of the Warriors]) has had its future in jeopardy.  Mayor Bloomberg plans to destroy what is there and create a squeaky-clean remake of the island a’la the Times Square revamp.  Click here to learn about the campaign to take the grit out of Coney Island (and the community-based backlash).

Another NOTE: You can catch “The Warriors” on the big screen March 6 & 7th (this Friday and Saturday) at the Music Box Theatre (3700 North on Southport, accessible via the CTA Brown Line) at Midnight.


Killer of Sheep: Cult Movie of the Week

killer-of-sheep_07Killer of Sheep caught the lives of the children with a fidelity to how kids really do fight, play, and cry — and how they can sometimes be cruel simply because they’re so scared.”
— ROGER EBERT

“If Killer of Sheep were an Italian film from 1953, we would have every scene memorized.”
— MICHAEL TOLKIN, SCREENWRITER

This is perhaps my favorite cult classic movie of all.  With very sparse dialogue, and a 1950s R&B soundtrack, the film is most telling through the soulful, grey images it engrains in viewers’ hearts: a herd of brown children, running in a dusty, vacant lot, dwarfed by dark, stoic palm trees; or a little girl clinging to a cyclone fence, face hidden by a grotesque rubber mask.   Killer of Sheep records mid-70s Watts through Stan, “a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse”, according to killerofsheep.com.  “Frustrated by money problems, he finds respite in moments of simple beauty: the warmth of a coffee cup against his cheek, slow dancing with his wife in the living room, holding his daughter”.  One day Stan conjures up one more plan, one more dream… to make a better life for his family, but to what avail?

Killer of Sheep absolutely breaks your heart and rouses your senses, as well.

killer-of-sheep_01


Black Girl: Cult Movie of the Week

blackgirl

(1966, Directed by Sembene Ousmane)

If you are unfamiliar with this movie, or Black Francophone film in general, change that…now.  Black Girl is the story of a beautiful Senegalese nanny named Diouana (played by Thérèse Mbissine Diop, see above), who joins Robert Fontaine (Monsieur) and Anne-Marie Jelinek (Madame) on their trip to the French Riviera, absolutely dizzy from her bosses’ promises of going to town some sunny afternoons and buying fine French things.  Growing up in the French colony of Senegal, she came to believe that everything French was, in fact, superior.  A much darker reality soon presents itself, however, when she realizes that her absolute truth was only spun to keep her in a position of yearning.  A poigniant tale of the scars of colonization that haunts like French Perfume.