Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Siren at Northwestern University's Film Criticism Conference, April 21-23

For those of her patient readers who reside in the Chicago area, or will just happen to be passing through, the Siren announces that she will be appearing on two panels at this fine feathered critical fête, hosted by the Block Cinema at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. A schedule follows below. The whole thing is free, so do stop by if you can.

Block Cinema Presents


A three-day conference on the state of film criticism

April 21-23, 2011

Block Cinema at the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art (Northwestern University) is pleased to present a three-day conference entitled Illuminating the Shadows: Film Criticism in Focus from April 21-23, 2011.

This conference, comprised of four panel discussions and four screenings, seeks to shed light on the current state of film criticism, connections to past critics and practices, and future trends and opportunities.

An impressive roster of working critics from Chicago and around the U.S. has been assembled to share their expertise and opinions on the ever-shifting nature of film criticism. The participants include visiting critics Scott Foundas (New York), Dave Kehr (New York) Karina Longworth (Los Angeles), Wesley Morris (Boston), Farran Smith Nehme (New York), and Jonathan Rosenbaum (currently Richmond, VA). Local participants include critics, writers, academics, filmmakers, artists, and a radio host, all of whom write or comment on film: Fred Camper, Alison Cuddy, Nick Davis, J.R. Jones, Ben Kenigsberg, Gabe Klinger, Ed M. Koziarski, Michael Phillips, Ray Pride, Ben Sachs, Hank Sartin, Bill Stamets, Scott Tobias, and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

Through on-stage discussions and introductions to a slate of critically acclaimed contemporary and archival films, Illuminating the Shadows will provide insight into the role film criticism, and film writing more generally, has in our contemporary, media-saturated cultural life and how critics and writers on film view the work they do.

Complete schedule below.

Dates: Thursday, April 21 through Saturday, April 23, 2011.

Venue: Block Cinema (at the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University), 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, IL.

Cost: All events in Illuminating the Shadows are free and open to the public.


Illuminating the Shadows: Film Criticism in Focus

Block Cinema

Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art

40 Arts Circle Drive

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

April 21-23, 2011

Through panel discussions and on-stage conversations with leading film critics and writers from across the U.S. and from Chicago, and complemented by guest-curated screenings, Illuminating the Shadows: Film Criticism in Focus will explore the state of film criticism at a potentially transformative moment. Technology, journalism, criticism, and cinephilia are always in flux, but the present confluence of changes in all these areas impacts the role of the critic and the nature of film criticism to a degree not previously seen.

A distinguished roster of participants from Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Chicago (but who can all be read nationally and internationally, thanks to the internet) will navigate this new terrain, seeking to shed light on the changes taking place in film criticism today, and how those changes are connected to still-relevant critics and practices of the past. They will also project forward, looking at new opportunities and trends on the horizon. Amidst all the changes one thing does seem clear: lively and intelligent writing and discussion on film is more prevalent than ever, and most of it is just a mouse-click away.

Special support for this program is provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, the Rubens Family Foundation, and the Office of the Provost, Northwestern University.




Film Screening


Selected and Introduced by Michael Phillips

(Errol Morris, 2010, US, 35mm, 87 min.)

“She was living in a movie long before she came to star in my film,” says director Errol Morris of his latest, formidably self-fabulizing subject and the elliptical center of Tabloid. The woman, Joyce McKinney, is a former North Carolina beauty queen who, in 1977, kidnapped her Mormon sweetheart, tied him up, tossed his magic underwear aside, and…end of story? Hardly: As the scandal hit the British tabloids McKinney became the fame machine Fate had in store for her all along. One of Morris’s tightest, most exuberant documentaries, Tabloid finds Morris setting aside the fog of war and the horrors of Abu Ghraib for a different sort of combat–the war for control of a narrative. Michael Phillips. Special advance screening courtesy of IFC Films.



Panel One:

Past Perfect – Critical Histories, Seminal Touchstones, and Rediscoveries

This panel will explore how the past intersects with the present and future by looking at earlier practices of film criticism, the legacy and growing influence and importance of particular critics (such as Serge Daney and Manny Farber), and the critic’s role in bringing to light neglected contemporary films or forgotten films from the past.


Nick Davis (Assistant Professor, English and Gender Studies, Northwestern University)


Farran Smith Nehme (Writer, Self-Styled Siren Blog)

Jonathan Rosenbaum (Writer; Visiting Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University)

Fred Camper (Artist; Film Critic)

Dave Kehr (Video Columnist, New York Times)

Gabe Klinger (Film Critic and Journalist; Professor; Curator)


Film Screening

Sailor’s Luck

Selected and introduced by Dave Kehr

(Raoul Walsh, 1933, USA, 35mm, 81 min.)

The playfully salacious and decidedly un-PC pre-Code comedy Sailor’s Luck follows the misadventures of amorous young sailor Jimmy Harrigan (James Dunn). While on shore leave in San Pedro, California, Jimmy meets a young cutie (Sally Eilers) and tries to woo her by entering a dance marathon. Directed by Fox’s rising star, Raoul Walsh, and made before the infamous censorship codes were enforced, the film, with its brazen depiction of ethnic and gay stereotypes, is, as Dave Kehr put it, “the pre-codiest of pre-code movies.” New 35mm print courtesy of Fox.


Panel Two:

Present Tense/Future Conditional – The Changing Landscape of Criticism

This panel will explore the current state of film criticism and its possible future. Among the potential topics are: the role of the critic today; changing models of and platforms for criticism; the tension between print and online criticism; the prevalence of amateur or citizen critics; the potential for global reach that the Internet provides; the fragmentation of readership; the role of online and other technical capabilities in expanding or enriching criticism; and the increasing casualness in moving among roles as critic/programmer/maker/advocate/distributor/etc.

Moderator: Scott Foundas (Associate Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center)


Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune Film Critic)

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (Film Critic, Mubi; Co-host, Ebert Presents at the Movies)

Karina Longworth (Film Editor at LA Weekly & critic for Village Voice Media)

Wesley Morris (Film Critic, Boston Globe)

Scott Tobias (Film Editor, The A.V. Club)


Film Screening


Selected and Introduced by Karina Longworth

(Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2010, Greece, 35mm, 95 min.)

A playful middle-finger to humorless Eurodrama, ATTENBERG is a frank and disarmingly funny contemplation of the strangeness on having a body (so much potential for pleasure; the inevitability of decay and death). Marina (Ariane Labed) is a 20-something virgin whose first affair (with Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos) coincides with her young father/best friend's dying days. Its title a lost-in-translation scrambling of wildlife documentarian David Attenborough,ATTENBERG incorporates tropes familiar from Lanthimos' Oscar-nominated sensation—sexual awakening; language play; awkward dancing—but ultimately eschews brutality for poignancy. Director Athina Rachel Tsangari is a major new talent. – Karina Longworth



Panel Three:

Critical Voices: Style, Substance, and Scope – The Art of Film Writing

This panel will explore both practical and general topics about film criticism and film writing more broadly. With the inundation of writing about film online and the ability of anyone to participate, what means are there for distinguishing oneself amongst the chatter? Topics may include: defining an audience; determining the scope of one’s writing; the craft of effectively writing on film; working in differing modes (reviews, essays, polemical pieces, etc.); the intersection of criticism and academia; starting out as a writer; and re-tooling to meet new realities.


Hank Sartin (Senior Editor, Time Out Chicago)


Farran Nehme Smith (Writer, Self-Styled Siren Blog)

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (Film Critic, Mubi; Co-host, Ebert Presents at the Movies)

Wesley Morris (Film Critic, Boston Globe)

Scott Foundas (Associate Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center)

Jonathan Rosenbaum (Writer; Visiting Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University)


Film Screening

The Forgotten Space

Selected and Introduced by Jonathan Rosenbaum

(Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, 2010, The Netherlands/Austria, DigiBeta, 113 min.)

How many of us know that over 90% of the world’s cargo travels by sea, in anonymous multicolored containers? I’m still learning things from this epic, multifaceted, and ambitious Markeresque essay film about work and concealment in the global economy. It combines the long-term research and analysis of Allan Sekula with the filmmaking experience of Noël Burch to examine the lives of workers in Belgian, Chinese, Dutch, and Pacific American ports—not to mention the alienated experiences of people who attend an art museum in Bilbao, among other related topics. – Jonathan Rosenbaum


On-Stage Roundtable: Criticism in Chicago – A Case Study

Chicago has a rich and eclectic history of film criticism and a unique variety of outlets, including daily and weekly print publications, radio, television, online platforms, and blogs. This informal discussion among a diverse group of critics will cover working in Chicago, the city’s film culture, and the larger issues raised in the panel discussions and how they are manifested locally.


Alison Cuddy (Host, Eight Forty-Eight, WBEZ 91.5 FM)


J.R. Jones (Staff Writer, Chicago Reader)

Ben Kenigsberg (Film Editor, Time Out Chicago)

Ray Pride (Film Critic, Newcity; News Editor,

Ben Sachs (Freelance Film Critic, Chicago Reader, Cine-File Chicago)

Ed M. Koziarski (Filmmaker; Writer, Chicago Reader, Reel Chicago, Time Out Chicago)

Bill Stamets (Freelancer Writer, Chicago Sun-Times and Newcity)


DavidEhrenstein said...

Neat stuff, Siren! Say "Hi" to Jonathan and Fred for me -- I haven't seen either of them in the flesh in quite some time.

Nice that Manny's still being talked about. Wish there were room for Raymond Durgnat (my very favorite film critic.) See hwat you can do on that score, if you are so inclined.

Marilyn said...

I debated whether to attend any of this. The debate is over. I'll be there! Shane and I would love to have dinner or something with you. Our home is literally 20 minutes from NU's Evanston campus.

Tony Dayoub said...

Congratulations! I'm impressed, but not surprised. Wish I was in the area to catch these events.

KEVYN KNOX said...

Sounds like a great time. I wish I could make it, but alas, I cannot.

Have fun and congrats on being part of the panel.

Peter Nellhaus said...

He probably doesn't remember me, but if possible, say "hi" to Fred Camper for me.

Anyways, congratulations. The theaters no longer exist, so I wouldn't be able to show you the sites of my budding cinephilia, from when I lived in Evanston between 1962 and '65.

Peter Nellhaus said...

The Siren on those respective panels is almost like Barbara Stanwyck and the professors in Ball of Fire.

The Siren said...

Peter, it's still early in 2011, but I doubt very much I will hear anything much more flattering than a Barbara Stanwyck comparison between now and midnight Dec. 31...Thank you. :)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's the Siren's lecture at the conference.

Vanwall said...

Congrats! Gee, yer in The Show - "You know, you never handle your luggage in The Show, somebody else carries your bags. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains." O'course we knew that last about you already. Watch out for the big-league pitching, a lotta screwballs...but I know you like those anyway.

Roger said...

I sure wish I could make it for this. Sounds like fun!

jim emerson said...

Ooops. That comment above from "Roger" is actually from me. I didn't realized I was signed in under the feedback account!

James T said...

Will it be filmed?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Chicago is going to be a lucky town to have you. Congratulations, Farran, What about the TCM Fest?

Trish said...

Oh darn! I will be in Chicago for a few days, Siren, but not until April 27. I'm crushed...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Latest FaBlog: Doris Mary Kappelhoff is 88

NicksFlickPicks said...

I can't tell you how excited I am to meet you, moderate this panel, and soak up the whole weekend of screenings and conversation. Really am so pleased that you're coming. Safe travels, and see you soon!

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Wish I could listen in live. I bet it's a fun time. ie, have fun you gals and guys!

Ms.Zebra said...

Jealous. You should come to Portland. You know-- the land of forgotten noir.

Edward Copeland said...

Wish I could be there or at any of these sort of gatherings.

IT Tips said...

congratulations. The theaters no longer exist, so I wouldn't be able to show you the sites of my budding cinephilia, from when I lived in Evanston between 1962 and '65.

Cupcake Boxes