Movies Are Mo’ Better in 35mm – Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues – Co-presented by Jazz Institute of Chicago, July 17

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Wednesday, July 17 at 7:30 PM
Directed by Spike Lee • 1990
Forced to practice the trumpet while all the other neighborhood kids congregate at the dugout, Bleek Gilliam grows up to be the leader of a successful jazz quintet. The adult Bleek (Denzel Washington) is torn between two strong-willed women—schoolteacher Joie Lee and aspiring singer Cynda Williams—but his first love is, of course, his music, and the biggest threat to it all is Bleek’s lingering loyalty to his manager and childhood friend (Spike Lee). For his follow-up to Do the Right Thing, Lee conceived a musical epic as expansive and misty as that breakthrough was tight and specific. Mo’ Better Blues is ostensibly set in present-day New York, but the cavernous club sets and musty caricatures of showbiz hangers-on suggest something more stylistically promiscuous, with decades’ worth of allusions and archetypes freely intermingling in an eternal cycle. (Wynn Thomas’s production design is a stand-out and Ruth E. Carter’s costumes likewise complicate any firm sense of period.) As always with Lee, Mo’ Better Blues is stocked with memorable supporting turns (Denzel’s bandmates include Wesley Snipes and Giancarlo Esposito) and enough swing-for-the-rafters digressions to remain vivid throughout. Lee’s father, Bill Lee, wrote the score, performed by the Branford Marsalis Quartet. (KW)
130 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1990) Lab: Deluxe

Short: “All My Life” (Bruce Baillie, 1966) – 3 min – 16mm from Canyon Cinema — Travelling in Casper, California, Bruce Baille was struck by the beauty of the light in the area, and, wanting to finish a roll of Ansco film without the emotional drain of making a movie, shot a three minute pan of it before leaving. He then set the footage to Ella Fitzgerald’s “All My Life”, which he claimed as an inspiration for the film, using a scratchy recording to mimic how the song would sound when he listened to it at a friend’s cabin with “a potato sack over the speaker”. The result is what Baille considered one of his strongest films and which New York Times critic Manohla Dargis described as “one of the most perfect films that I’ve ever seen”.

Presented with the Jazz Institute of Chicago as part of JIC’s 50th Anniversary


Music Box Theatre – 3733 N Southport Ave
Tickets: $10 • BUY TICKETS HERE

Monday, July 22 at 7:00 PM
Directed by Sean Baker • 2017
Director Sean Baker in person!
This widescreen, candy-colored-but-never-sugar-coated marvel makes us want to visit the Sunshine State like no movie since Kelly Reichardt’s River of Grass. The Florida Project is a clear-eyed tour of Kissimmee, a land of bed bug-infested residential motels sprung up on the highway in the shadow of Walt Disney World, where outfits like the Magic Castle Motel are held upright by worn-out working men like Bobby (Willem Dafoe), a combination manager, sheriff, and surrogate father figure, too stoic to let his own disappointments reveal themselves to his guests. An unvarnished work about people living on the margins and continually flirting with homelessness, incarceration, and Child Protective Services, The Florida Project could fit snugly within a classic ‘social problem film’ framework of an earlier generation, but writer/director/editor Sean Baker’s celluloid north star is Hal Roach rather than Stanley Kramer. Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) could hold her own with Our Gang any day of the week, whether she’s spitting on cars over a railing or accidentally setting abandoned buildings ablaze. Her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) ekes out a living hawking wholesale perfume to befuddled tourists, but her increasingly desperate circumstances dictate a new approach that flies mercifully over Moonee’s head. This unassuming film is so rigorous in maintaining its child’s-eye-view that the eventual rupture is heartbreaking beyond words. Gorgeously photographed in 35mm by Alexis Zabe, who learned a thing or two about keeping up with kids as they run through overgrown brush while shooting Carlos Reygadas’s Post Tenebras Lux, The Florida Project was initially distributed as a DCP-only title; we are proud to present the Chicago premiere of this unique print. (KW)
112 min • A24 • 35mm from A24

Short: Our Gang in “The First Round Up” (Gus Meins, 1934) – 20 min – 16mm — In this installment of Our Gang, the titular group of children decide to go down a nearby creek and picnic for the night, inspired by a poster for Rocky Mountain Resort featuring two cowboys camping. However, their attempts at this adult outing are rife with failures and mishaps, culminating in a series of horrific visions of monsters in the night. This short was personally selected by Sean Baker, director of The Florida Project.

View the full season schedule here!

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