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Thumbnails 11/2/18

Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts to introduce you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. We provide links to the original sources for you to read in their entirety.—Chaz Ebert


"CIFF 2018: 'The Hate U Give' and 'Widows' on the Red Carpet": My interviews with filmmakers Steve McQueen and George Tillman Jr., author Gillian Flynn and actors Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Amandla Stenberg at the Chicago International Film Festival, published at Indie Outlook.

“There’s no question Tillman Jr.’s film would make an essential double bill with Carlos López Estrada’s ‘Blindspotting,’ another powerful illustration of modern-day prejudice amplified shamelessly by our president. ‘What I want to illuminate for audiences is the importance of having empathy instead of sympathy, of having understanding as well as the ability to listen to each another,’ Tillman Jr. told me. ‘We must have the tough conversations provoked by this film, and I’m very excited for audiences to take it all in.’ Among the most potent truths illuminated by ‘The Hate U Give’ is the tendency for white people to mistake ‘color blindness’ as a form of acceptance. Having been open about her own sexuality in recent years, Stenberg told me that the importance of acknowledging one’s identity extends far beyond the realm of race. ‘Whether it’s your blackness, your gayness, your trans-ness or whatever it is, I think it is always so important to acknowledge the components of self that make us us,’ stressed Stenberg. ‘The premise of ‘I don’t see color’ is one that rests upon the idea that we live in a post-racial or post-identity society, which is not true. When we relate to one another and see, hear and regard each other, I think it’s really important to be inclusive of all the different facets of self that contribute to one’s own experience. You have to make sure that when you are seeing someone, you are seeing them not despite of who they are, but including and because of who they are.’”


"The Many Faces of Women Who Identify as Witches": Including Deborah Kampmeier, the exceptional filmmaker pictured above, in an article by The New Yorker's Naomi Fry. Catch the exhibit at NYC's ClampArt before it closes on November 24th.

“In her portrait series ‘Major Arcana: Witches in America,’ which will be shown at the ClampArt gallery, in Chelsea, beginning October 4th, the photographer Frances F. Denny seeks to explore the figure of the contemporary witch beyond the cultural chestnuts that have shrouded and obscured it. In the course of the past two years, Denny, who holds an M.F.A. in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design (where I taught her for a semester a number of years ago), has travelled in California, Louisiana, and along the East Coast, taking the portraits of dozens of women who identify as witches. Her subjects are of diverse age, social class, and ethnicity, and practice a range of rituals, often drawing on ‘mysticism, engagement with the occult, politically oriented activism, polytheism, ritualized ‘spell-work’ and plant-based healing,’ according to Denny’s exhibition notes. Among them are ‘self-proclaimed green witches, white witches, kitchen witches, hedge witches, and sex witches.’ The series as a whole aims to avoid easy formulas and, instead, to exhibit the heterogeneity and individuality of modern-day witches, Denny told me recently, adding, ‘I’m not pinning these women down.’”


"Fare Thee Well, Filmstruck": Our critic Monica Castillo eulogizes the irreplaceable streaming service in her latest Tiny Letter newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

“I don't need to tell you the news has been bad lately. But to lose a source of comfort in these trying times? It feels especially cruel, almost personally so. Last week, Time Warner pulled the plug on FilmStruck, the streaming service that offered treasures from the TCM vault and the Criterion Collection. As far as I know, there is no other streaming service that takes programming and extras so seriously. FilmStruck started the season after I began at The New York Times. It was exciting news to cover, and I felt especially attached to FilmStruck because of the timing. I picked movies from its collections after work to de-stress. Later, I came up with ideas on how to cover some new discovery I just HAD to write about. I cried my way through the early films of David Lean during a few rough patches, and I threw on old favorites like the movies of Peter O'Toole while doing chores to keep me company. FilmStruck proved the streaming world wasn't all bad news for classic movie fans, but that it could be a curated resource useful to diehard cinephiles and newcomers alike.”


"The Halloween Tree": Andrea Thompson revisits the 1993 animated gem at The Young Folks.

“Yes, Halloween has lasted, but everything mentioned above is mere window dressing. What has kept this holiday going is one of the universal truths of humanity which unites us all, and that is our fascination with fear and the individual horrors that shake us to our core. Few movies understand this, but the Emmy-winning 1993 TV movie ‘The Halloween Tree’ does. I discovered this little gem as a kid because I had the childhood most writers have, the kind with a nose fully inserted in a book. And the author of many such books was one of the great masters of sci-fi himself, Ray Bradbury, the author of the novel of the same name, as well as other books such as The Martian ChroniclesThe Illustrated Man, and Fahrenheit 451. For the film adaptation, Bradbury actually penned the screenplay and serves as narrator, which means much of his poetic prose is preserved. The movie takes place on Halloween Night, and follows four preteen kids, Jenny, Ralph, Tom, and Wally, all costumed up as a witch, a mummy, a skeleton, and a monster respectively, and eager to join their best friend Pip. As ‘The Halloween Tree’ puts it, ‘Some say that on the day he was born, all the soda pop bottles in the world fizzed over. Pipkin, who could yell louder, sing better, and eat more popcorn. Pip, the greatest boy who ever lived.’”


"'Bohemian Rhapsody': A Disservice to Freddie Mercury": Solzy at the Movies critic Danielle Solzman eloquently explains why the hotly anticipated biopic is a missed opportunity. 

“While the band’s popularity is the large focus of the film, it’s hard to discuss Freddie Mercury without knowing what we know about his sexuality. There were the rumors in the tabloids during the band’s heyday. The film doesn’t ignore it per se. There’s a montage of clips where Freddie and personal manager Paul Prenter walking into gay clubs. Even though we see him clearly hitting on guys, there’s not much outside of the relationship with Paul and even Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). This is it. Nothing to say of Freddie’s relationship with radio DJ Kenny Everett (Dickie Beau). There’s not even any sex scenes between them! I liken it to social media in that they’re only showing us what they want us to see. The biggest worry obviously has come true. It really does a disservice to the singer. When Freddie receives his AIDS diagnosis, the moment is not as emotional as it could be. This is a serious disease that killed many people. It led to his passing at the age of 45 years old on November 24, 1991. Here it is, the film misses an opportunity to have a bigger focus on his battle with the disease. To make matters worse, Freddie was diagnosed two years AFTER the Live Aid performance and yet as they rehearse for the gig, he opens up about his battle with AIDS! If you’re going to tell the story, tell it the right way.”

Image of the Day

Chicago's indispensable "cine-club," Filmfront, 1740 W. 18th St., is celebrating its first three-and-a-half years of free film and education programming with a fundraising party on Saturday, November 3rd. For more information on the event, visit Filmfront's official Facebook page. You can make a donation here and sign up for its monthly newsletter here. Also be sure to check out my article on Filmfront from 2016. Poster courtesy of Jacob Lindgren.

Video of the Day

The streaming platform Kanopy recently teamed up with the Goethe-Institut to showcase 48 acclaimed German features on its streaming platform. View the complete list here.

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is the former Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 

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