Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Knight at the Movies: The Illusionist, World Trade Center, The Great New Wonderful and Snakes on a Plane
by Richard Knight, Jr.
2006-08-16

This article shared 3928 times since Wed Aug 16, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Images from The Illusionist and Snakes on a Plane.

_______________

The Illusionist, a period romantic drama set in Vienna in 1900, is based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser. In transferring the story to the screen, writer-director Neil Burger has opened it up, added a love triangle ( involving Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Rufus Sewell ) and expanded the role of a corrupt but likeable police chief, played by Paul Giamatti. The result is very old-fashioned and has the feel of one of those big-budget, MGM, top-of-the-line kind of shows—something like Random Harvest, say. It's grand and tragic and beautiful and fun all at once. In pulling off this cinematic trick—and much more besides—The Illusionist signals the arrival of a major talent in Burger.

The story, told in flashbacks, focuses on Eisenheim the magician ( Norton ) , who is the toast of Vienna for his startling, dazzling displays of prestidigitation. Like Streisand's Daisy Gamble in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Eisenheim can make plants grow ( a delighted audience roars its approval when an orange tree sprouts from his top hat ) and dazzle his packed houses with his mix of philosophy and magic. Word of mouth spreads quickly about this amazing magician and soon he gets a visit from Chief Inspector Uhl ( Giamatti ) , who has been sent to check out Eisenheim at the behest of the boorish Crown Prince Leopold ( Sewell ) . During a show for the Crown Prince he sends his fiancée, the beautiful Princess Sophie ( Biel ) , onstage. Eisenheim recognizes Sophie as the two enjoyed a brief but intense friendship as adolescents before the high-born Sophie was whisked out of the reach of the working-class Eisenheim. Now, their love re-ignites but it will take every bit of Eisenheim's ingenuity to find a way for the two to end up together.

The movie is magnificent to behold—shot in blacks and browns ( the prominent colors of the era ) on gorgeous period-perfect locations in Prague ( filling in for Vienna ) —and captures the ghostly look of early photographs. The mood of the film is also helped by an enigmatic but notably restrained score by Philip Glass. Finally, there are heartfelt, earnest performances from all the leads.

The Illusionist has another reward that one can only get watching it with a roomful of strangers as one did with The Sixth Sense and The Others: the delight one feels in sharing in its secrets. It's a great part of the fun but unlike those and other films along this order, it's not the end all and be all as it has been for the M. Night Shyamalan pictures—and that may be this movie's biggest trick of all.

_____

Ready or not, the 9/11 movies are coming. Last spring saw United 93 and now we have two within a week—the based-on-the-facts World Trade Center from Oliver Stone and the fictional The Great New Wonderful from Danny Leiner, who, before this, directed Dude, Where's My Car? and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Great New, as would be expected, is a complete 360 from those less-than-glorious pictures. There are reasons to see both movies though, surprisingly, the latter is the one that has resonated far beyond the screening for me.

World Trade Center is based on the inspiring true story of two Port Authority policemen ( Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena ) who became trapped under the rubble of one of the collapsed towers. Oliver Stone doesn't indulge in any of his signature cinematic pyrotechnics ( not that I have minded them—I'm a big fan ) . Rather, he has the sense to tell what is, in essence, a simple straight-ahead rescue story in which flashbacks of the trapped victims and their families play a large part. Fans of Ladder 49 will definitely appreciate this movie.

But before the rescue comes the journey down to the Twin Towers and the ride with Cage and his fellow officers to the chaotic area and the first sight of the damaged, burning buildings—with the air filled with paper and bodies—is devastating. These scenes feature another signature of Stone's movies: his ability to re-create perfectly tragic historical events ( here, thanks to seamless computer effects ) . It is numbingly sad to witness these scenes and the entrapment and rescue events that follow and take up most of the picture, while genuinely compelling, went by in a slow haze for me.

The Great New Wonderful, which plays an exclusive engagement at the Gene Siskel Center beginning this Friday, also cuts deep but resonates longer. Perhaps it resonates longer because the subject matter is unacknowledged grief or because a fictional account of characters ( told in five separate stories ) in the aftermath of 9/11 allows the writer and filmmaker the release and responsibility of true lives. The picture, unbelievably, starts as a wry comedy but, as the characters go about their lives, slowly reveals the post-traumatic stress that is affecting all of them and which, by the end of the movie, seems to blanket all of Manhattan.

This subtle, profoundly moving picture is not a downer and has wonderful performances from a dream cast that includes Maggie Gyllenhaal ( who also appears in World Trade Center ) , Tony Shalhoub, Olympia Dukakis and Edie Falco. Its well-crafted script is by first-timer Sam Catlin and the movie certainly puts director Leiner in a new light. This movie is highly recommended.

_____

I am a walking advertisement for the Jim Stafford novelty hit of the '70s. I don't like spiders and snakes. So when I inadvertently saw the trailer for Snakes on a Plane and kept my eyes closed through much of it, I knew I would have to forgo my usual critical duties for this Samuel L. Jackson 'action thriller.' And hearing Jackson angrily exclaim 'Get these motherf--kin' snakes off the motherf--kin' plane' wasn't exactly an inducement for me to see the picture at any rate. But then the picture's distributor, New Line, announced that there wouldn't be screenings for the critics in order that the fans of the movie, who had been Internet-buzzing about the movie for over a year, could arrive at this epic and 'discover it for themselves,' unsoiled by critical analysis.

Every critic—and by now much of the public—must be aware that this is the classic sign of the arrival of a turkey ( and not of the Thanksgiving variety ) . So I am happy to relay that a ) my phobias have been left intact, unsullied by New Line's picture and b ) it was my ironic pleasure to receive a computer-generated call from Samuel L. Jackson the other day. 'Hello Richard…' Jackson began before starting to talk about snakes. 'I'm not allowed to see your motherf--kin' movie so get off my motherf--kin' phone' I barked before slamming down the receiver. I discovered for myself that that was the right thing to do and quickly rated my actions four stars.


This article shared 3928 times since Wed Aug 16, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

LGBTQ+ film fest Queer Expression to feature Alexandra Billings in 'Queen Tut' 2024-04-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Pride Film Fest celebrates its second decade with a new name—QUEER EXPRESSION—and has announced its slate of LGBTQ+-themed feature, mid-length and short films for in-person and virtual events in April and May. QUEER EXPRESSI ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Jerrod Carmichael, '9-1-1' actor, Kayne the Lovechild, STARZ shows, Cynthia Erivo 2024-04-12
- Gay comedian/filmmaker Jerrod Carmichael criticized Dave Chappelle, opening up about the pair's ongoing feud and calling out Chappelle's opinions on the LGBTQ+ community, PinkNews noted, citing an Esquire article. Carmichael ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Outfest, Chita Rivera, figure skaters, letter, playwright dies 2024-04-05
- For more than four decades, Outfest has been telling LGBTQ+ stories through the thousands of films screened during its annual Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival—but that event may have a different look this year because ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Dionne Warwick, OUTshine, Ariana DeBose, 'Showgirls,' 'Harlem' 2024-03-29
Video below - Iconic singer Dionne Warwick was honored for her decades-long advocacy work for people living with HIV/AIDS at a star-studded amfAR fundraising gala in Palm Beach, per the Palm Beach Daily News. Warwick received the "Award of ...


Gay News

WORLD Israel court, conversion therapy, death sentences, Georgia bill, fashion items 2024-03-29
- Israel's Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Population Authority must register female couples as mothers on the birth certificates of their children they have together, The Washington Blade reported. The decision was made following a petition ...


Gay News

JP Karliak morphs into non-binary character for Disney+'s X-Men '97 2024-03-22
- series X-Men '97, a revival of the popular X-men: The Animated Series that's both continuing the ongoing mutant storyline and breaking new ground along the way. The character of Morph now looks more like the comic ...


Gay News

WORLD Uganda items, HIV report, Mandela, Liechtenstein, foreign minister weds 2024-03-21
- It turned out that U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator Jay Gilliam traveled to Uganda on Feb. 19-27, per The Washington Blade. He visited the capital of Kampala and the nearby city of ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Queer musicians, Marvel situation, Elliot Page, Nicole Kidman 2024-03-21
- Queer musician Joy Oladokun released the single "I Wished on the Moon," from Jack Antonoff's official soundtrack for the new Apple TV+ series The New Look, per a press release. The soundtrack, ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Lady Gaga, 'P-Valley,' Wendy Williams, Luke Evans, 'Queer Eye,' 'Transition' 2024-03-15
- Lady Gaga came to the defense of Dylan Mulvaney after a post with the trans influencer/activist for International Women's Day received hateful responses, People Magazine noted. On Instagram, Gaga stated, "It's appalling to me that a ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Jinkx Monsoon, Xavier Dolan, 'Frida,' Lena Waithe, out singer 2024-03-08
- Two-time RuPaul's Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon is headed back to the New York stage, joining off-Broadway's Little Shop of Horrors as Audrey beginning April 2, according to Playbill. The casting makes Monsoon the first drag ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Queer actors, icons duet, Hunter Schafer, Oscars, Elizabeth Taylor 2024-03-01
- Queer actor Kal Penn is set to star in Trust Me, I'm a Doctor—a film that chronicles the final days of actress/model Anna Nicole Smith, whose overdose death in 2007 at age 39 sparked a tabloid ...


Gay News

Dorian Film Awards: 'All of Us Strangers' takes top prizes 2024-02-27
- February 26, 2024 - Los Angeles, Ca. - For its 15th Dorian Film Awards, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics fully embraced All of Us Strangers, writer-director Andrew Haigh's fantastical and tear-inducing tale of two ...


Gay News

SAG Awards honor Streisand, few LGBTQ+ actors 2024-02-25
- Queer entertainers made their mark—although not a major one—at the 2024 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, held Feb. 24 in Los Angeles. The event was live-streamed on Netflix for the first time. Indigenous and Two-Spirit actor ...


Gay News

WORLD Caribbean ruling, Pussy Riot, Russian raid, Canadian warning, anti-trans bar 2024-02-23
- The top court in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines dismissed a challenge to colonial-era anti-gay laws, Reuters reported. Javin Johnson and Sean Macleish—two gay men who had pushed to decriminalize ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Kristen Stewart, Rock Hudson, Talia Keys, 'True Detective,' Marvel comic 2024-02-23
- At the Berlin Film Festival, Kristen Stewart defended her photo shoot for a Rolling Stone magazine cover that went viral and divided audiences on social-media platforms, per The Hollywood Reporter. "The existence of a female body ...


 


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.