From opening night, October 9, 2014, until the last film on October 22, the special anniversary of the 50th Chicago International Film Festival was “film-tastic” as always! The “24” films that I viewed at the festival, with the exception of Miss Julie, were all shown at the AMC River East Theaters.
In summing up the festival, I find that it is reminiscent of being on a world cruise. Every stop (film) is a new experience to embark upon a country’s culture. The cinematography leaves lasting snapshots in your memory, evoking different senses in each frame. First, it is a lush, tropical landscape; the next, a snow-covered ski village, then to a hidden beach beckoning romance with its shimmering waves.
The varied plot lines take you to a family celebration with ethnic foods along with music that is enhanced with a draping of dramatic overtones to a silly song inducing an outburst of laughter. Will you prefer elegant candlelight dining to a homemade sandwich in a sunny park? Will it be a spirit-filled evening in a church or late night clubbing into the wee hours? Before you sail on, you’ll have just one more stop: Q&A’s with the directors, to ask questions that you simply must know the answers to, or just to commend their talent and labor on their recent creations.
Again, this year’s 50th CIFF offered a five-star “port of call” for everyone’s film itinerary from features to shorts. And I can’t wait to book a passage on the 51st CIFF. If only they’d sell chocolate gelato in the theater next year. Read more…
Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau star in “Chef.” Photo Credit: Open Road Films.
Properly Prepared, Sensationally Satisfying
Writer, director, producer and actor, Jon Favreau is back filmmaking again, but far from the Iron Man franchise. In Favreau’s latest indie-style flick, Chef, he tackles roles both in front of and behind the camera. This culinary comedy is like a fresh recipe when it comes to the other films out there this year.
Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, Iron Man 3, 2013) is an innovative, celebrity chef in Los Angeles who is creatively constrained by the owner of his high-end restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman, Kung Fu Panda 2, 2011), who won’t let him stray from the traditional menu that has historically won over diners. When a major food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt (Kill the Messenger, 2014) comes into the restaurant to critique Carl’s creations, he’s clearly disappointed with the old standbys, especially the chocolate molten lava cake. It doesn’t take long before Ramsey’s distaste for Carl’s latest work is broadcast all over social channels, and a social media battle ensues. After another failed attempt to convince Riva to let him try something new, Carl realizes that he will never be able to cook what he wants and what he thinks others would enjoy. Despite his ten years of dedication to the restaurant, Carl parts ways to save his integrity.
Carl, a broke, divorced father has hit rock bottom and unsure of his next move. After some soul searching and hanging out with his estranged son, Percy (Emjay Anthony, The Mentalist, 2013), Carl reaches a turning point and decides to team up with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara, The Three Stooges, 2012) and her first husband, Marvin (Robert Downey Jr., The Judge, 2014). Carl and his team comprised of his old sous chef (John Leguizamo, Kick Ass 2, 2013) and Percy, transform an old food truck in Miami and create a wide assortment of delicious Cuban sandwiches. While finally cooking the creations he dreams up, Carl begins to regain his happiness, both professionally and personally, especially with his son.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” Photo Credit: Focus Features
Redmayne Should Prepare Himself for An Oscar Nod
Most know Stephen Hawking as the English astrophysicist, or just a sheer genius. Besides those who study algorithms and atoms for a living, what do the rest of us really know about Dr. Hawking? Turns out, there is much of his story to tell.
In director James Marsh’s (Man on a Wire, 2008) esteemed biopic, The Theory of Everything, audiences are exposed to Stephen Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables, 2012) simultaneous intellectual ascent and physical decline as he battles motor neuron disease, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. More importantly, this drama showcases the bliss and challenges of his marriage with Jane Hawkings (Felicity Jones, The Amazing Spider Man 2, 2014), based on her memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. While a film about the ins and outs of a couple’s marriage may seem dull and ordinary, it’s precisely what makes this film extraordinary.
It’s the early 1960s, and we first see an energetic, 21-year-old Hawking swiftly peddling his bike through the cobblestone streets of the University of Cambridge in England. Hawking and his friend head to attend a University function where he meets Jane Wilde, a scholarly foreign language undergrad. Next thing we know, Jane is visiting with Stephen’s parents over a delicious homemade meal and bad homemade wine. Stephen then invites Jane to the breathtaking May Ball, and the rest is history. Not long into their relationship, Stephen suffers a fall and is taken to the hospital where they diagnose him with motor neuron disease, a neurological disorder where the muscles progressively deteriorate – walking, swallowing and speech eventually become impaired. While Hawking is justifiably in shock about his diagnosis, he’s somewhat thankful to hear his brain would still function, until he is told he has two years to live that is. Read more…
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson.
Eddie Redmayne’s Performance as Stephen Hawking Sparks Oscar Buzz in “The Theory of Everything”
In 1963, while attending the University of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking, a brilliant student, was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative form of Motor Neurone Disease. He was given the earth-shattering news that he only had two years to live. The fact that Stephen Hawking, now 72, went on to not only write the bestselling avant-garde book, A Brief History of Time (an attempt to explain the universe in simple terms), but also to have a loving marriage that bore him three children is miraculous in and of itself. It would appear that this fairytale story deserves a fairytale ending, but alas, Stephen and Jane Hawking’s life together was filled with disapproving in-laws and extramarital affairs. The film doesn’t sugarcoat their struggles; we share their triumphs as well as their defeats.
Eddie Redmayne, a British actor who is known for his roles in Les Misérables (2012) and My Week with Marilyn (2011) delivers a mesmerizing portrayal of Hawking in the film. If you haven’t seen either of those films, you just may recognize him from his stylish Burberry clothing advertisements.
Stephen Hawking’s story is based on source material from a memoir, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, penned by his first wife, Jane Hawking. The film spans three decades and requires an extreme physical transformation by Redmayne, as in contorted body movements, unnatural facial expressions, and slurred speech. If you’ve seen Daniel Day-Lewis’s Academy Award winning performance in My Left Foot (1989) as Christy Brown, an Irish writer and painter who was born with cerebral palsy and could only write, type, or paint by use of the toes of one foot, then you’ll have an idea of the physical complexity of this role. And yes, Redmayne is creating mega Oscar buzz through a similar character adaptation.
Many questions are palpable after viewing the film. Having the opportunity to have them answered by Redmayne provides insights into the backstory of this extraordinary film’s production. We discussed his meeting Stephen Hawking along with the members of Hawking’s family, his preparation for the role, the physical demands required, Hawking’s keen sense of humor, co-star Felicity Jones’s incredible strength as Jane Hawking—which, by the way, he perceives as the backbone of the film – and the joy they experienced by improvising various scenes.
I caught up with Redmayne at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Chicago and was thoroughly enlightened by the stories surrounding the foundation for his challenging role as Stephen Hawking.
Sarah Knight Adamson: Did you meet with Stephen Hawking and did he give you any advice?
Eddie Redmayne: Yes, I met him. I basically was so nervous that I ended up just telling Stephen Hawking about Stephen Hawking for the first twenty-five minutes. What did I learn from him? More than anything, he has this vivacious, playful, witty, deeply funny charisma that emanates from him, even though he can move few muscles now. That was the overriding thing I took away, but also, there were specific things. Like he asked me whether I was playing him before the voice machine. I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, my voice was very slurred.” Aspects of the performance that he cared about specifically, he highlighted. That was important to me.
SKA: How wonderful. From reading the press notes, I know that Stephen allowed you to use his voice in the movie. How was that different from, say, Roger Ebert’s computer voice? I know Roger used a voice called “Alex” that’s from an Apple Mac. They sound a little similar to me, but I’m sure they’re not.
ER: Well, that is interesting. You know Stephen had a tracheotomy in 1985 – I think that was the date. After that, he had this voice made for him. At the time, it was very specific and the early technology for that. Of course, at any point, he could have changed that voice to something more updated, but he became identified with it. That became his personality. It was an American-accented voice. He says quite hilariously that Americans tend to think it sounds Swedish, and the Brits think it sounds American. It’s very interesting to me the idea that that becomes your identity in some ways. He’s held on to that point. Read more…
Sarah Knight Adamson’s Film Reviews and Celebrity Interviews can be heard weekly on the internationally syndicated show: Hollywood 360 Radio Network. It airs in New York, LA and 92 stations. In Chicago listen to WINDam560.