Archive for January, 2015

Grudges in “A Most Violent Year” feel ancient

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Judging from the way it was dropped off in theaters like an orphan, after failing to get any Oscar nominations, it looks like they are burning off “A Most Violent Year.” So see it while you can.

This meditative and atmospheric thriller was one of my favorite films of 2014.

Oscar Isaac, unrecognizable from “Inside Llewyn Davis,” plays an independent heating oil distributor in New Jersey during the 1980s who has thirty days to come up with a way to pay for a property that would expand his business or lose his down payment.

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Skill and artistry in Oscar nominated animated short films

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Animation is a sophisticated art form often in service of the juvenile and elementary.

Short films are the exception to this. They invite the innovation and imagination that can, over time, seep into the mainstream. And they serve as platforms for a filmmaker’s skill and artistry.

There is a little of all of this in the Oscar nominated short films, showing in a program at the Oriental Theater this week. The live action Oscar nominated shorts are showing on a separate program.

Go to the theater’s website for more information.

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Oscar nominated live action shorts offer snapshots of humanity

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Short films are not always, what’s the word I’m looking for here, short.

According to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules, a short film Oscar nominee can be no longer than 40 minutes.

While that’s an eternity in short attention span time, it’s a full length feature film shorter than best picture nominee “Boyhood” which runs 166 minutes.

You could argue that “Boyhood” is a collection of short films collected over 12 years observing the lives of the same characters. So consider the best short film Oscar nominees in the same context.

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Kickstarter project by director of “American Movie”

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Sarah Price, co-director of the documentary “American Movie” has launched a Kickstarter campaign for her new film project about the grunge punk feminist band L7. She has already collected more than $8,000 in donations toward a $97,000 goal with 29 days remaining in the campaign.

Price, a former Milwaukee resident, directed “American Movie” (1999) one of the seminal documentaries of the 20th century and set on the city’s northwest side, with Chris Smith.

Price also co-directed “Summercamp!” and “The Yes Men.”

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‘The Americans’ starts mid-season TV land rush

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Whenever there is a confluence of current events and popular culture, I wonder: Is it serendipity or marketing?

The arrest of three Russian spies (!) this week in NYC can only mean one thing: Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Americans” on FX. After losing track of the show in its second season and screening four new episodes I was struck by how little has changed and how easy it was to jump back into.

On the surface, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are an all-American suburban married couple in the 1980s who are actually the Soviet spies next door.

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When the Green Bay Packers were on “Love Boat”

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Sorry that headline is click bait.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a stroll through the archives of “The Love Boat” turned up a few actual players from the Green Bay Packers. Sports celebrities regularly turned up on the cheesy Aaron Spelling romantic comedy anthology.

An episode with Joe Namath aired last week on MeTV. The New York Jets quarterback appeared on two episodes in 1980 and 1981 in one as a “playboy with a scheme for his best friend” played by Fred Willard.

But what I’m referring to happened Sunday when the Packer name appeared in an unclear context

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Kenosha to honor Orson Welles’ 100th birthday

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When I visited Kenosha in 2008 for a story on the 70th anniversary of “The War of the Worlds” broadcast, I found a city “generally ambivalent” about its native son. All I could find was a small plaque outside a home in the 6000 block of 7th Ave. in the Library Park historic district.

That has since been rectified. The city, close enough to Illinois to contain a fair share of Chicago sports teams fans, is mounting a month long celebration of Welles’ to celebrate his 100th birthday, May 6, 1915. The celebration is being planned by the Citizen Welles Society of Kenosha.

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WRIT doubles ratings with holiday music format

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The holiday music format played by Clear Channel station WRIT-FM (95.7) doubled the oldies stations ratings during the holiday survey period between Dec. 3 and Dec. 31.

WRIT earned a 12.2 share and was the number one ranked station in the market. In the December ratings survey, ended Dec. 3, the station had a 6.1 rating and was ranked third.

It traded places with country music station WMIL-FM (106.1), which lost 1.4 of a rating point and dropped from first to third place. And talk sports and information station WTMJ-AM (620) held onto second placed with a 9.8 share, a .1 of a drop from last month.

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Dynamic, detailed “Mr.Turner” looks at Victorian artist’s world

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At a time of year when the sky is as grey as dirty snow, say hello to the color, drama and emotion of “Mr. Turner.”

As he did with “Topsy Turvy” Mike Leigh, who wrote and directed both, has made a film in the mannerisms of the period and in the style of the subject matter.

“Topsy” was an expansive tale about 19th century operetta composers Gilbert and Sullivan.

The more formal “Turner,” set during the era preceding theirs, portrays the landscape artist J. M. W. Turner as a transitional figure of sorts.

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Aniston’s “Cake” a cascade of painfully familiar set pieces

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To paraphrase the old National Lampoon gag about pain, “Cake” hurts.

But what hurt Jennifer Aniston’s chances at an Oscar nomination could be the paint by numbers nature of the piece. When we meet her she is physically and emotionally crippled and eating Percodan like Pez. She is self-medicating after a tragic traffic accident that left her in constant pain.

It hurts to even sit up straight in a car, and so she travels lying down on the reclined passenger seat and can tell different routes by bumps in the road.

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