News Column

Filmgoers enemy No. 1

December 6, 2013


Filmgoers enemy No. 1

Two more reasons why TV commercials and trailers represent the greatest threat to the quality of the moviegoing experience:

* TV commercials and trailers spoil the big reveal in Walt Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" in which Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) figures out why author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is so overprotective of her "Mary Poppins" character. Granted, this doesn't rank with the Rosebud mystery or Luke and Leia's relationship. But did we really need to have this small discovery ruined in the trailer?

* Meanwhile, the marketing department at the Weinstein Company has released trailers that make Tracy Letts' savagely insightful domestic drama "August: Osage County" look like a frothy comic romp. By cherry-picking the few light moments in an otherwise blunt and emotionally brutal battlefield, the trailers completely misrepresent "August" as a vaguely whimsical look at a nutty family gathering, which, incidentally, begins with a patriarchal suicide.

I appreciate how difficult it must be to sell Letts' sharply observed examination of frayed family ties to a mass audience. But not since Columbia Pictures' 1991 "My Girl" -- a coming-of-age story about divorce and young death advertised as a wacky riot -- has there been a motion picture this grossly misrepresented to the public.

Film notes:

* The Chicago Serbian Film Fest runs Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8, at the Muvico 18 Theaters, 9701 Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont. Among the offerings will be "The Path Strewn With Roses," "Circles" and "Falsifier." Zoran Golubovich, one of the fest organizers, lives in Lombard. Go to or .

* DVD and VHS movie sales aren't normally mentioned in this column, but here's an exception: Chicago's not-for-profit movie organization Facets Multimedia will hold a massive One Day Blowout! (their PR description) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Facets lobby at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago. DVDs go for as low as $1.99; VHS tapes 10 cents. Proceeds support

kids programs. Go to .

* Thanks to all of our Daily Herald premium subscribers for selling out my presentation of "Lighting in the Movies," which takes place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Littman Bros. Lighting in Schaumburg. Stay tuned for future premium subscriber events.

Jimmy's wonderful life

Join me and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "It's a Wonderful Life: The Films of Jimmy Stewart" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights. Featuring clips from "Harvey," "Philadelphia Story," "Destry Rides Again," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "The Spirit of St. Louis." Just because it's December, we'll throw in "It's a Wonderful Life," too. Free admission. Go to .

Reel Life mini-review: 'Bettie Page Reveals All'

One-fourth of a percentage grade point might have changed Bettie Page's future way back in her Tennessee high school.

That tiny fraction awarded her the title of class salutatorian instead of valedictorian. So, instead of receiving a full university scholarship (the valedictorian's prize), the then-impoverished Page went on to become arguably the world's greatest pinup girl who, even after her 2008 death, ranks in the top-10 posthumous celebrity earners reported by Forbes in 2012.

Using extensive voice recordings of Page as a narrative springboard, Mark Mori's documentary "Bettie Page Reveals All" whisks us through the model's life, examining the basis for her enormous appeal ("poise, confidence and expression" as one source explains) while delving into the conflicting elements that created her personality.

A devoutly religious Catholic, Page did not drink or smoke and vowed she would never date any man who did. Yet, Page's free spirit and seemingly healthy self-image propelled her into glamour photography, ranging from bikini shots to full-nude portraits plus kinky S&M scenarios.

On tape, Page, her voice sounding aged and weathered, does not varnish her truth. She shares blunt assessments of her relationships (and sex) with men, among them her first husband who tried to kill her, and her later husband with whom she seemed to find love.

Mori's doc doesn't skimp on the visual evidence supporting Page's claim of photographic appeal. He stuffs his doc with kazillions of Page movies and photos, including the ones that later offended her, as they violated her self-imposed standards of posing in (relative) good taste.

Mori assembles an impressive list of commentators, including Playboy's Hugh Hefner and famed photographer Bunny Yeager, who found in Page a kindred spirit for creating free and freeing images of female sexuality at a time (the 1950s) of social repression.

This led to Page being singled out by the U.S. government (mostly Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver) as a corruptor of American youth. Later in life, Page disappeared from public view, prompting all sorts of conspiracy theories.

In fact, she spent time in mental health facilities. "My mind snapped," she explains.

Journalistically, Mori sometimes buries the lead, as in revealing Page's broken relationship with her parents late in the movie. Despite some slips in narrative construction, his doc provides impressive proof, if not photographic overkill, of Page's iconic immortality through Madonna, Katy Perry and countless other performers who owe their style and sexual openness to the queen.

"Bettie Page Reveals All" opens at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Rated R for sexual content and nudity. 101 minutes. ? ? ?

* Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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