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Column Fri Apr 18 2014

Transcendence, Heaven Is for Real, The Railway Man, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Unknown Known & Hateship Loveship

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Transcendence

Transcendence is one of those science-fiction works you foolishly allow yourself to get excited about because a whole lot of smart, talented people are involved in its conception and execution. The pedigree includes executive producer Christopher Nolan, first-time director (and Nolan's constant director of photography) Wally Pfister, and actors Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy and Clifton Collins, Jr., to name a few. Even the concept is intriguing: what if one of the world's most authoritative minds on artificial intelligence is able to have his memories and mind placed online, where he could have access to literally everything to world has to offer?

But wait, you say, a scientist putting his brain on a computer? Didn't I just see that as a subplot in the new Captain America movie (and a few other films dating back to the 1980s)? Yes and yes, but Dr. Will Caster (Depp) is no ordinary scientist; he's someone who believes that such an achievement can lead to giant leaps in research, medicine, security and many other things useful to human kind, far away from the prying eyes and weaponizing hands of the government and military. He would be the first computer with an emotional core, which was kept in check (in theory) by his loving wife Evelyn (Hall) and best friend Max Water (Bettany), both scientists as well. Dr. Caster calls this state of computer-human mind meld "transcendence," and what could possibly go wrong?

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Theater Thu Apr 17 2014

Memories Become Questions in The Great God Pan

"If you could kindly remember what we've told you to forget, please," is the undercurrent that takes hold of Jaime (Brett Schneider) in The Great God Pan just as he's settling into a new job as an internet wunderkind journalist and the idea of girlfriend Paige's (Kristina Valada-Vlars) "unplanned" pregnancy. The job is what he lives for, while he is still so unsure of committing to the woman he's been with for six years that upon Paige's pregnancy announcement, Jaime negotiates for "one week, just one week" before he will let her know if he's ready and willing to stay and be a permanent fixture in her and the child's life.

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Alice Singleton / Comments (0)

Theater Wed Apr 16 2014

Dorian at House Theatre: It's All About the Movement

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Photo by Michael Brosilow.

The House Theatre opened its new show this week and it pulsates with light, sound, color and movement. Dorian is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Ben Lobpries and Tommy Rapley and directed by Rapley.

The well-known story of Dorian--the man who didn't age while his portrait did--is beautifully staged in "promenade style" by House. The main-floor theater space at Chopin Theatre is opened up by eliminating all but a few rows of seats. The stage becomes an art gallery, and sometimes a performance or a club scene, with members of the audience mingling with the actors.

Basil, the artist who paints the portrait and falls in love with his subject, is played by the talented Chicago actor Patrick Andrews. Dorian is played by Cole Simon, a relative newcomer to Chicago, just as his character is a newcomer to the art and social scene in the play. Dorian begins as a rather shy and naïve person and becomes arrogant and self-centered as praise is heaped on his beauty. Years after the portrait is painted, his friends have aged, but Dorian appears the same, while the portrait, hidden from view, takes on strange characteristics.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Architecture Mon Apr 14 2014

"Mecca Flat Blues": Where Modernism Began in Chicago

GB-meccaexhibit-view.jpg34th and State: It's the corner where one grand Chicago era ended and a new one began. It's the place where modernism took root in Chicago.

The block on 34th Street between State and Dearborn streets was the site of the Mecca Flats, a square-block-size apartment building constructed in 1892 and demolished 60 years later. The exhibition Mecca Flat Blues at the Chicago Cultural Center tells the story of the Mecca in large-scale historic photographs that show the building's interiors and tell stories of the building's residents.

The Mecca Flats exhibit was curated by Tim Samuelson, Chicago's cultural historian. He presented a gallery talk in March about the Mecca and Thomas Dyja gave a lecture last week on the battle to save the Mecca in the 1940s and '50s. (Dyja is author of the cultural history The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, now out in paperback. The book won the 2013 Heartland Prize for nonfiction.) Both events had large turnouts.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Apr 11 2014

Draft Day, Oculus, Rio 2, Cuban Fury, Joe, Dom Hemingway & Cheap Thrills

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Draft Day


If Ivan Reitman's first film since No Strings Attached three years ago and his first truly enjoyable film in about 20 years was just about the general manager of an NFL football team (in this case, the Cleveland Browns for no particular reason) wheeling and dealing in the hours leading up to the draft, I would have thought it an interesting choice. But when you cast Kevin Costner, arguably the king of sports films that actually have heart (Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup), as general manager Sonny Weaver Jr., it means something and adds something to the overall significance of what's going in this behind-the-scenes look inside and outside the organization.

Costner doesn't play this role as a slick insider who manipulates to get what he wants, despite what the team's coach (Denis Leary), owner (Frank Langella) or money manager (Jennifer Garner) say. That's exactly what he is, but he doesn't play it that way. Instead, Sonny is a man trying to live in the shadow of his late father, a hero to the organization; deal with a pestering mother (Ellen Burstyn) and ex-wife (a marginalized Rosanna Arquette); and process the news that his girlfriend Ali (that would also be Garner) just found out she's pregnant.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Event Mon Apr 07 2014

Where Are We? 20x2 is Back April 19 at Schubas

20x2 Chicago: Where Are We? April 19, 2014 at SchubasGapers Block is proud to present 20x2 Chicago, a live event where 20 people are asked the same question and given two minutes each to answer in whichever way they choose. The results may take any form, from spoken word to music to film, and can be as varied as the emotions and reactions they evoke. This edition's question is "Where are we?" See the answers on Saturday, April 19 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave.

20x2 is a mainstay of afterhours programming at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX, and Chicago is its first official offshoot. The first show was Oct. 19, 2013, and featured the question "How could you?" Responses ranged from an airing of high school grievances to a slide presentation about overcoming cancer to a live collaboration between a musician and artist.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Preview Sat Apr 05 2014

Experimental Cinema @ Doc Films

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Every night of the academic year, Doc Films at the University of Chicago is showing a film. Moreover, one night of the week is dedicated to a specific cinematic theme. Last quarter it was the ever-so-wonderful Nicolas Cage. This quarter it's Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland, two experimental filmmakers who were married for 14 years.

The first showing was of Michael Snow's segment, featuring Wavelength and New York Eye and Ear Control. With barely any narrative or plot line, Wavelength begins in a bland room as two characters enter with muffled dialogue. The film rarely shows any characters from here on out and the audience is left wondering: When is something going to happen? Is there anything wrong? Why is there such a strong ringing noise? The constant questions linger dauntingly over the audience as the camera slowly zooms in to a particular subject in view.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Preview Sat Apr 05 2014

Preview of Ross Sawyers @ Hyde Park Art Center

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The Hyde Park Art Center, located at 5020 S Cornell Ave, is a wonderful addition to the Hyde Park neighborhood. The center holds exhibitions as well as artist residencies and classes for adults and children. While walking from the Bridgeport Coffee shop to the opposite side of the center, one cannot help but notice the new and alluring photography exhibition that the art center has recently installed. Typically, their is a large exhibition space which holds artwork, however, this presentation is located in a pathway and smaller gallery space--a perfect chance for us to take in the work of Ross Sawyers, a professor at Columbia College whose project beautifully documents "the rise and fall of the United States housing market".

At first glimpse, these images are abstract, surreal even. In almost every photograph, their is a glowing light drawing the viewer in, however, the light is too bright to fully contemplate what is there. Upon reading further into the images, one can conclude that Sawyers' work is focusing on the abandonment, manipulation and destruction of the housing market in the U.S. Traveling from the beginning to the exhibition until the end, the viewer is able to see the deconstruction of something that so familiar to all of us. In the beginning of his series, he depicts a closed space--claustrophobic and quiet--and by the end the image are torn and and tattered, yet beautiful and exposed.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Column Fri Apr 04 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Raid 2, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, Nymphomaniac Vol. 2, Anita & Finding Vivian Maier

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The latest installment in the Captain America story reminds us that although the super soldier (still played/embodied by Chris Evans) can make short work out of a cosmically enhanced Red Skull and an invading horde of aliens with his Avengers pals, the greatest threat to mankind is itself. In this case, it's a shadow organization that literally has the means to decide who lives and dies on the planet to make it a more peaceful/docile place to live.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is many things, and most of them work. It's a fit and proper sequel to both Captain America and The Avengers; it's a political thriller steeped in healthy fear of technology; it's a fleshed-out, highly watchable expanded episode of the ABC series "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (if you're still watching it, make sure to see this week's episode before you head to Winter Soldier for an added bit of fun); it introduces some of the most interesting and useful new characters (good and bad guys) that we've seen in a while — that includes you, Hawkeye; and it's just a magnificently plotted and paced action film that uses Captain America's past as a device to haunt and alter his present and future.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Theater Thu Apr 03 2014

Gift Theatre's Thinner Than Water: Not Just Another Dysfunctional Family

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Photo by Claire Demos.

Is blood thinner than water, rather than, as the proverb would have it, thicker? Gift Theatre's new play Thinner Than Water by Melissa Ross makes us ponder this question as water washes over the family members metaphorically as well as realistically.

It's hard enough for any family to be fully functional, for siblings and cousins to get along with their counterparts. Rich, poor; young, old; educated, street-smart; liberal, conservative, religious, secular. So many opportunities for family dissension. But the recipe for a hyper-dysfunctional family might start like this: Take one distant and unloving father and three mothers--and add one child from each.

As Thinner Than Water opens, the three half-siblings are arguing about who will handle details of their father's terminal illness. (They all refer to him as Martin, not Dad or any fond nickname.) Renee, the oldest (a strong performance by Lynda Newton) grudgingly acknowledges that, as usual, she will get stuck with most of the work. Renee seems to be the most put-together of the three: she's married with two children.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Television Thu Apr 03 2014

Art of the Web Series

By now most of you have heard of web series, for those of you that have not, it is simply a series of video content posted and obtained online. The most popular, and probably most recognizable, of these today is arguably "House of Cards." Mind you, "House of Cards" is not what I would consider typical, or most common, when thinking about web series. Most web series that are being produced today are independent, made by people that want to tell a story or be a part of the entertainment or film/video world but do not feel it is accessible from where they are, so like all great producers they just get out there and make it happen.

YouTube, Blip and Vimeo have given video creators a platform for distributing their footage. Today I want to focus on five web series being produced in Chicago.

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MartinJon / Comments (0)

Culture Mon Mar 31 2014

Beverly Arts Center Brings In New Executive Director

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Chicago's vibrant and diverse arts scene is undeniable; from theater to visual art to dance and beyond, the city boasts something for everyone, from all artistic walks of life.

Looking South of Roosevelt Road, a whole other cultural collective is firmly intact with venues including the South Side Community Art Center (SSAC), DuSable Museum of African-American History, Gallery Guichard, the Harold Washington Cultural Center and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, all off whom, in their respective right, serve as an integral part of the city's arts community.

For Heather Ireland Robinson, the new executive director of the Beverly Arts Center located in the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood, Chicago's arts and culture environment is simply part of her roots. "It's in my blood, said Robinson. "I love the arts in Chicago."

Robinson came on board the Beverly Arts Center in February; recently, I sat down with her to talk about her new position, support for the arts on the city's South Side, and her vision for the future of the BAC.

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (0)

News Sun Mar 30 2014

Roosevelt University Installs Multimedia Exhibit Honoring Real Estate Pioneer

Rooseveltexhibit-GB.jpg"Lifescape: A Video Portrait of Marshall Bennett," a multimedia installation honoring one of Chicago's real-estate pioneers, will open to the public Friday at Roosevelt University's Heller College of Business and Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate.

The installation and the institute honor Bennett, now 92, a major force in real estate development and planning in Chicago and around the world. "Marshall is a true legend in real estate and urban planning and development, not just in Chicago but on an international scale," says Jon DeVries, founding director of the institute.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Preview Fri Mar 28 2014

Lyp Sinc Show @ Defibrillator Gallery

unnamed.jpgThe performance gallery, Defibrillator, will be presenting their annual April Fools Day fundraiser, the Lyp Sinc Show, on Tuesday, April 1. This unique art gallery focuses on performance art. The gallery hosts an International Performance Art Festival annually, entitled, RAPID PULSE, June 1-10. The festival presents a total of 28 international and local performance artists for a series of 10 days. The Lyp Sinc Show occurs as a fundraiser for the artists meals, materials and housing for RAPID PULSE. There will be a total of 13 artists/groups at the Lip Sinc Show, which kicks off at 7pm.

Silky Jumbo will be the host for the evening and Jordan Jaymes will be the DJ.

Defibrillator Art Gallery is located at 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. The gallery requests a $10 donation at the door, refreshments are included. Call 773-609-1137 for more information.

Additional events include No Lights, No Lycra, a weekly dance party in the dark. The next one will occur Monday, March 31 at 8:15pm.

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Column Fri Mar 28 2014

Noah, Sabotage, Cesar Chavez & Jodorowsky's Dune

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Noah

There's a sequence in director and co-writer (with Ari Handel) Darren Aronofsky's Noah in which the title character (Russell Crowe) is relaying to one of his children the story of creation, pretty much word for word right as we know it from the Bible — six days, ending in the creation of man and woman. But the visuals that accompany this telling are what makes the sequence so magnificent, and in many ways, best explain Aronofsky's take of his version of Noah, his ark, the great flood, and the restart that humanity and civilization got as a result of said event.

What we see when being told the creationism version of life on Earth is actually the scientific version, including evolution — a creature crawls up out of the water, stands upright and takes on human qualities. It's all shown in an accelerated manner, but there's no doubt that Aronofsky isn't so much placating both sides of the discussion; he's attempting to find a way to see if both versions would exist in the same universe. It's as if he's saying, "Let's assume all of these events happened as written in the Bible. How would that be possible?" In some cases, the answer is simply, "It isn't." But in other cases, he attempts to find ways in which religious mysticism and hard fact work together to create circumstances and beings that might be easier to accept.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Architecture Mon Apr 14 2014

"Mecca Flat Blues": Where Modernism Began in Chicago

By Nancy Bishop

Explore one of the most important buildings in the city at a new Chicago Cultural Center exhibition.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Apr 18 2014

Transcendence, Heaven Is for Real, The Railway Man, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Unknown Known & Hateship Loveship

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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Events

Sun Apr 20 2014
Cake Frame 2 @ Co-Prosperity Sphere

Sun Apr 20 2014
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory @ Music Box

Mon Apr 21 2014
Secret History of Chicago Music Anniversary show @ Empty Bottle

Tue Apr 22 2014
Chicago Pun Slam @ Door No. 3

Wed Apr 23 2014
Sound Opinions at the Movies: Almost Famous

Wed Apr 23 2014
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain @ Patio Theater

Thu Apr 24 2014
Bring the Ruckus: Red Grooms on Celluloid @ Co-Prosperity Sphere

Fri Apr 25 2014
Applied Words: Voices of Protest

Fri Apr 25 2014
Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo

Sat Apr 26 2014
Applied Words: Voices of Protest

Sat Apr 26 2014
Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo


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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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Editor: LaShawn Williams, ldw@gapersblock.com
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