Fluctuating temperatures be damned, the summer movie season is unofficially upon us. The next four months will be a nonstop flurry of costumed heroes, cool cops, talking toys, talking animals, capering comedians, rampaging kaiju, and scary stories to tell in the dark. It’s going to be a lot, honestly, and by the dog days of August, our minds may be mush, our stomachs bloated with popcorn. The good news, at least for those who live in the greater Chicago area, is that some blessed counterprogramming is arriving soon, like a cool arthouse breeze, to bring cinephiles relief during these warmer weeks.
In other words, the full lineup has been announced for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, and it’s a good one. Now in its seventh year, the week-long fest is 100% curated by critics from the Windy City (full disclosure, yours truly usually makes a few suggestions), pulling together a slate of favorites from other recent festivals like Sundance and South By Southwest. The most high-profile title playing this year is probably Yesterday, Danny Boyle’s magical-realist drama about a no-name musician (Himesh Patel) who wakes up one day to discover that he’s the only person on the planet who remembers The Beatles. But the real appeal of this fest is the opportunity to catch an early look at some of the year’s best, most adventurous indies, and this critic can personally vouch for several of them: the brutal but moving Aussie Western The Nightingale, from Babadook director Jennifer Kent; prickly psychodrama Luce, featuring a phenomenal performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr.; Awkwafina’s big dramatic breakthrough, The Farewell; and the best film of Sundance 2019, the apocalyptic Latin American hostage drama Monos.
The Chicago Critics Film Festival runs May 17 to 23 at the beautiful Music Box Theatre. The full lineup can be found here, while tickets can be purchased here. Oh, and those not ready to completely forego the thrills of the blockbuster season can still get their popcorn-movie fix with one of the greatest summer movies ever made: Ridley Scott’s original Alien, which is screening in 35mm for its 40th anniversary, with Dallas himself, Tom Skerritt, in attendance. Good luck topping that chest-busting, heart-stopping classic, Hollywood tentpoles of 2019!