50 Enticing Titles at 50th CIFF

Stephen Cefalu and Nikki Pierce in Stephen Cone’s “This Afternoon.” Courtesy of CIFF.

Stephen Cefalu and Nikki Pierce in Stephen Cone’s “This Afternoon.” Courtesy of CIFF.

With the Chicago International Film Festival celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Indie Outlook is highlighting 50 of the most enticing titles scheduled to screen during the fest’s two-week run (from October 9th to the 23rd). Though some of these movies were already on my most anticipated list of 2014, and are scheduled to arrive in theaters in the coming months, the pictures I find most thrilling are the out-of-nowhere surprises that may never receive a U.S. release, making their appearance here all the more vital. To honor the festival’s half-century-long legacy, there will be a larger-than-usual number of retrospective screenings this year, giving audiences a rare opportunity to view both treasured classics and lost gems as they were originally intended to be experienced: on the biggest screen possible.

I’ve separated my picks into the following categories: Oscar Hopefuls, Indie Favorites, Starry Nights, Festival Flashbacks, Shots in the Dark and Critic’s Choices. To find tickets and showtimes for a particular film, just click on its title and you’ll be directed to its official page on the CIFF site.

Jaeden Lieberher and Bill Murray in Theodore Melfi’s “St. Vincent.” Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Jaeden Lieberher and Bill Murray in Theodore Melfi’s “St. Vincent.” Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

5 OSCAR HOPEFULS

Birdman

Michael Keaton makes a comeback in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s show business satire.

The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch’s timely fact-based thriller was the audience choice at Toronto.

St. Vincent

Bill Murray lends his cantankerous deadpan persona to this comic charmer.

Two Days, One Night

The Dardenne Brothers cast Marion Cotillard in their latest socially conscious drama.

Wild

Reese Witherspoon hikes through the desert in search of her own McConaissance.

Mark Duplass in Patrick Brice's "Creep." Courtesy of CIFF.

Mark Duplass in Patrick Brice’s “Creep.” Courtesy of CIFF.

5 INDIE FAVORITES

Baby Mama

Kris Swanberg, wife of Joe and a superb filmmaker, has an entry in “Shorts 1: City & State.”

Creep

Mark Duplass stars in Patrick Brice’s debut film promising multitudes of creepiness.

It Follows

Maika Monroe, so good in “The Guest,” is back in David Robert Mitchell’s paranoid thriller.

This Afternoon

Stephen Cone (“The Wise Kids”) turns his wonderful short, “Support,” into a feature.

Words with Gods

Mira Nair helms one of nine shorts tackling religion and spirituality around the world.

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche in Olivier Assayas’s “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Courtesy of CIFF.

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche in Olivier Assayas’s “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Courtesy of CIFF.

5 STARRY NIGHTS

Beyond the Lights

After lighting up the screen in “Belle,” Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a pop superstar.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Juliette Binoche plays an aging actress, though seriously, folks, Binoche is ageless.

The Last 5 Years

Anna Kendrick sings her way through a breakup musical not involving cups.

Low Down

John Hawkes and Elle Fanning star in a biopic on jazz pianist John Albany.

Miss Julie

Liv Ullmann will be here IN PERSON to present her adaptation of August Strindberg’s play.

Louise Fletcher and Brad Dourif in Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Courtesy of United Artists.

Louise Fletcher and Brad Dourif in Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Courtesy of United Artists.

10 FESTIVAL FLASHBACKS

Alexander: Ultimate Edition

Oliver Stone presents his extended, preferred version of his much-maligned 2004 biopic.

Breaking the Waves

Lars von Trier’s shattering 1996 epic features a galvanizing performance by Emily Watson.

Fanny and Alexander

Ingmar Bergman’s sprawling 1982 family portrait is among his most acclaimed works.

Here’s Your Life

Jan Troell’s black-and-white coming-of-age yarn won the Gold Hugo at CIFF in 1967.

Jamaica Inn

A 1939 Hitchcock curiosity that’s far from his best, but cinephiles should flock to it anyway.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Milos Forman’s 1975 anti-conformist classic earned boisterous applause at its CIFF debut.

Roger and Me

Michael Moore’s 1989 landmark offers a master class in the art of editing.

A Star is Born

Judy Garland is flat-out astonishing in George Cukor’s wrenching 1954 musical.

White Material

Highlighting this year’s Isabelle Huppert retrospective is Claire Denis’s shocking 2009 drama.

Why Be Good?

A 1929 silent film starring CIFF co-founder Colleen Moore is unearthed and restored.

Johannes Brotherus in Pirjo Honkasalo’s “Concrete Night.” Courtesy of Cinema Mondo.

Johannes Brotherus in Pirjo Honkasalo’s “Concrete Night.” Courtesy of Cinema Mondo.

10 SHOTS IN THE DARK

Concrete Night

The photography alone makes this noir-drenched descent into debauchery worth a look.

Hotel Nueva Isla

Irene Gutiérrez’s documentary centers on an old man living in an abandoned hotel.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles

Documentarian Chuck Workman takes on the formidable life of cinema’s eternal boy genius.

Marie’s Story

The synopsis of Jean-Pierre Ameris’s drama is evocative of “The Miracle Worker.”

Nabat

The tale of a woman refusing to evacuate her village is told in long tracking shots.

The Piano Room

A series of characters rotate through a single room in Igor Ivanov’s ensemble piece.

Speed Walking

“Dragon Tattoo”’s Niels Arden Oplev explores the impact of pornography on a ‘70s-era youth.

Supernova

The sexual awakening of a 15-year-old girl is “portrayed on a cosmic scale.”

The Word

Danish films are darker than most, and this teen revenge pic looks like no exception.

Zurich

Up-and-coming German talent Liv Lisa Fries plays a terminally ill woman facing mortality.

Ruben Ösland’s “Force Majeure.” Courtesy of CIFF.

Ruben Ösland’s “Force Majeure.” Courtesy of CIFF.

15 CRITIC’S CHOICES

The Babadook

Scary movies are rarely scary these days, but Jennifer Kent’s spookfest has earned raves.

Beloved Sisters

Aristocratic Western Europe as seen through the glistening eyes of three lovers.

Black Coal, Thin Ice

Winner of Berlin’s top prize, Diao Yinan’s piece of Chinese pulp fiction looks frostily cool.

Dear White People

Justin Simien’s comedy has been one of the most talked-about films on the festival circuit.

Force Majeure

Ruben Ösland comedically chronicles the impact of an avalanche on a vacationing family.

Free Fall

György Pálfi’s latest promises some of the most surreal imagery at this year’s festival.

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem

An excruciatingly prolonged Israeli divorce could also be titled “The Long Long Goodbye.”

A Girl at My Door

“Cloud Atlas”’s beguiling Doona Bae plays a policewoman who bonds with an abused girl.

The Kindergarten Teacher

A teacher forms an unnatural fixation on her remarkably gifted five-year-old student.

The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to last year’s devastating doc, “The Act of Killing.”

Of Horses and Men

Laughed out loud when I saw the official photo for this oddball equestrian comedy.

Stations of the Cross

14 chapters, each captured in a single take, follow a young woman’s journey of faith.

Timbuktu

Abderrahmane Sissako’s stirring ode to the defiance of Mali in the face of militants.

Viktoria

Maya Vitkova’s film about a woman without a bellybutton sounds flat-out fascinating.

Winter Sleep

Though it put some to sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s drama won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s