As 2018 comes to an end, it’s probably possible to spend just about every waking moment in a movie theater. From holiday specials to year-end series and more, there are myriad cinematic ways to wind down the year. And the options here aren’t just your run-of-the-mill, sit in a theater and watch options. We’re talking movies at cat cafes, movies meet karaoke…you name it, Chicago’s movie scene has it. On the other hand, December marks the last chance studios have to get their biggest, best films into theaters before awards season, meaning you’ll have more than a few great choices on the big screen, too.
First Tuesdays at Midwest Independent Film Festival — The city’s only monthly film festival dedicated entirely to films produced in the Midwest, this month’s First Tuesday event is jam-packed with local film goodness. Start the night with a cocktail reception and pre-screening discussion, then settle into the theater to screen the short films in the running for the org’s Best of the Midwest awards. The whole affair is quite democratic, as after the screening you’ll be able to vote directly for the best of the best online and via mobile app. And just to extend the fun (and keep you on the edge of your seat), MIFF will announce all the Best of the Midwest award winners at their January event. Learn more about the nominations party here.
Chicago Movieoke 10th Anniversary — Do you love movies? Do you love karaoke? Friend, Movieoke is for you! And did you know Chicago has had such a gloriously cheesy event for ten years running? That’s right, this month Chicago Movieoke celebrates their 10th anniversary at their main venue, The Whistler (the “Movieoke Mothership” as they call it) in Logan Square. What exactly is Movieoke? Pretty much what it sounds like: you choose the movie scene and quote along with it as it plays out on screen (subtitles included just in case). Organizers provide clips of more than 200 scenes, so whether you’re looking to re-enact Dumb and Dumber or Lawrence of Arabia, chances are you’ll be able to have your moment in the spotlight. Free to attend, learn more here.
Through December 6
Inquiring Nuns — These days, filmmaker Gordon Quinn is Chicago’s godfather of documentary film, spearheading intriguing productions year after year via Kartemquin Films (which itself is having quite a moment). But fifty years ago, he was a budding documentarian just finding his voice in what would become a transitional era for the art form. Now playing through December 6 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 1968’s Inquiring Nuns is one of his earliest films and, based on the critical buzz, continues to be one of his best. The premise is simple: two Catholic nuns are women-on-the-street, asking everyday citizens a simple but profound question: Are you happy? See it in the city where it happened, with Quinn in attendance at select screenings. More info and tickets here.
Chicago Film Society Winter Fundraiser — The Chicago Film Society is a small but mighty organization of cinephiles that exists to maintain, restore and preserve cinematic treasures on film. This month, they gather at Chicago’s Lake Street Screening Room, a similarly beloved venue, for a fundraiser geared to support the important work they do. Tickets are limited and not exactly cheap, but if you’re serious about the importance of film (real, tangible film) and the work CFS does, it’s worth every penny. The event includes screening clips of newly acquired films and ongoing restoration projects, plus drinks and small bites to go with all the mingling and good cheer. Get tickets here.
Adler After Dark: Space Odyssey — Designated for discerning adults only, the Adler Planetarium’s “After Dark” series curates unique events after hours for a chance to explore the museum with fellow space-geek grown-ups. In December, real-life outer space meets movie outer space for an evening themed around Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film turns 50 this year, meaning anyone with a movie screen is hankering to present this classic (the folks at Music Box Theatre recently presented a restored version of the 70mm print in all its glory). Here, the folks at the Adler take the film as inspiration for a night that includes a spirited discussion on the making of the film, a HAL-themed scavenger hunt and more. Tickets are available here (Adler members get a discount).
If Beale Street Could Talk — A couple of years ago, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight swept audiences off their feet with its lyrical, moving portrayal of a young black man coming to terms with his sexuality. It won Best Picture at the Oscars that year, even as critics (and voters) were divided between it and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. Jenkins returns with his next feature, an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk, his sharp eye and masterful direction as impressive as ever. The story of a young black couple in love in 1960s New York, like Moonlight, every moment is breathtaking, striking a near impossible balance between the tragic and the hopeful. Give yourself a gift this holiday season and go see the best film of the year when it opens in Chicago on Christmas day.
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