As Chicago prepares for hibernation over the long winter ahead, October proves to be a strong month for film options around town. With plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween on the big screen, you’ll also find the city’s longest-running film festival and a few off-the-beaten-path options—free documentary screenings, a panel on screenwriting—to make sure your month is covered when it comes to getting your movie fix.
A Star Is Born — As Steve Prokopy’s glowing review indicates, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut—an updated version of the entertainment industry’s favorite story about itself—is quite an achievement, thanks to his solid performance both in front of and behind the camera and the palpable chemistry with Lady Gaga as the titular rising starlet. A contemporary story of love, ego, addiction and ambition, Cooper and Gaga ignite on screen, him as a fading rockstar battling his own demons and her as a talented up-and-comer at risk of losing her artistic integrity to the machine. With a stream-worthy soundtrack rounding out the proceedings, this is one to make time for on opening weekend.
54th Chicago International Film Festival – The city’s longest-running film festival may’ve shaved a few days off its annual run this year, but there’s still plenty to see and experience during this October stand-by. Opening Wednesday, October 10 with a screening of Beautiful Boy, about a father and son’s journey through addiction, don’t let the somber tone fool you. With over 120 feature films plus dozens of shorts to choose from, you can literally go around the world right from your seat at AMC River East, while seeing some of the most anticipated films of the season. From Steve McQueen’s latest (the made-in-Chicago Widows); to Foreign Language Oscar selections from the likes of Italy, Japan, Mexico and more; to premiere documentaries on everything from pipe-making to Croatian theater, take a minute to pour over the schedule and see if you can make time for a film or ten. More here.
Music Box Of Horrors – The classic cinema in Lake View celebrates Halloween with one of the most intense movie programs you’ll likely find all month. While The Logan spreads its festive programming out across the month, the team at MBT packs thirteen films into 24 hours. From noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, plan to camp out in the big theater for classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (with live accompaniment) and 1988’s Child’s Play with writer Don Mancini in person. Tickets in advance of the event are just $30 for all 24 hours of programming, meaning you’ll get all the horror you can handle for less than $2.50 per film if you decide to stick it out for the whole time. More here.
Greenlight: Idea to Script to Screen – Aspiring screenwriters and film fans alike will find much to appreciate in this panel presented by the MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program at Northwestern University, a year-long program geared towards management of creative endeavors. According to the event listing, the summit features “successful producers and executives who work across a wide spectrum of the entertainment industry” to “highlight the strategies that the panelists have leveraged to produce exciting, relevant content for audiences locally and globally.” So that sounds cool. Panelists include producers from films including The Joy Luck Club, Ready Player One, and Brown Girls. More here.
Beetlejuice on Northerly Island – Did you think it was too late in the season to enjoy a movie outdoors? No way! Bundle up and bring your blankets and chairs for Chicago Park District’s screening of that Halloween classic, Beetlejuice, at Northerly Island. Totally free, the event even includes campfires to cozy up next to and marshmallows to roast over the flames. And unlike park screenings at the height of summer, this movie starts at a decent hour (around 7p) since the sun sets so early these days. More here.
October 26 & 27
Free Documentaries at Asian Pop-Up Cinema – The seventh go-round of this bi-annual film series is in full swing, with premiere screenings happening (mostly) every Wednesday night at AMC River East. In between those ticketed events are a handful of free community screenings, including two documentaries on Friday and Saturday, October 26 & 27. From Oscar winner Ruby Yang, Ritoma is a 60-minute documentary about an American basketball player who coaches a team in Tibet; it screens twice on Friday, with the coach, Bill Johnson, in attendance. Then on Saturday, enjoy a 2p.m. matinee of Made in Vietnam with filmmaker Thi Vo in attendance to talk more on the film about his search for the truth about his family in a war-torn country. More on Ritoma here; more on Made in Vietnam here.
(and technically, November 1)
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Live in Concert – As Halloween comes and goes, what better way to usher in the holiday season than that Tim Burton modern classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas? How about this: the animated musical presented in concert at the Auditorium Theater with the Chicago Philharmonic performing Danny Elfman’s memorable score (admit it, you’re humming a tune or two as you read this). Open to all ages, this could be perfect plans for Halloween night…after the trick-or-treating, of course. Tickets run from $30-$86; more here.
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