Thor, dinosaurs, Air Force jets flying at maximum speed, the adventures of a certain digitally animated space hero, minions, super pets…
Summer 2022 will offer moviegoers the usual menu of corporate-driven films. While some of my June recommendations may have been produced and distributed by such corporate entities as Netflix and HBO Max, they share one thing in common: they are all made of stars—Bardem, Banderas, Cruz, García, Estefan, J.Lo.
And yet, take a close look, for example, at the new film starring Penélope and Antonio. It’s not exactly IP-driven, is it? And neither is Rebecca Huntt’s deeply personal exploration of her Afro-Latina roots, Beba. (Although, granted, I can’t say the same thing about the new version of Father of the Bride.)
In other words, while corporate cinema gives viewers their daily dose of junk food, you can always find the film equivalent of fine dining in your nearest movie theater or hidden by the algorithms of your favorite streaming service:
CHICAGO SUMMER SCREENINGS (every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark Street, until June 28 and every Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., from July 6 until September 11): Here’s a great alternative to the franchise- and corporate-driven joys of summer movie-going for Chicagoland residents and visitors. For the past 18 years, Cinema/Chicago, presenter of the Chicago International Film Festival, in collaboration with 20 partner organizations including consulates, cultural organizations, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), has presented a free weekly film series around a specific theme.
Some of the films chosen for this series have rarely been screened outside of the festival circuit—and sometimes not even then—so the opportunities to discover a movie that you will fall in love with are endless. And each film will be followed by a brief discussion led by one of the Chicago International Film Festival programmers or a special guest.
The theme this year is Adaptation, and we are not talking about the traditional big-screen adaptation of a work of literature, much less a comic book. Adaptation takes many forms: it includes remakes of movies—I just found out about the restoration of a 1950s Argentinean remake of Fritz Lang’s M coming out on Blu-Ray later this year—interpretations and reinterpretations of historical events, epic pieces of music (Pink Floyd’s The Wall), hell, even of board games (Battleship, anyone?).
The offerings this month include two films from Mexico and Spain: Perdida (Tuesday, June 7), Jorge Michel Grau’s (We Are What We Are) 2019 remake of the Colombian film The Hidden Face (La cara oculta) about an ambitious orchestra conductor that starts a steamy relationship with a sexy bartender after his wife’s disappearance.
Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa’s latest collaboration with Javier Bardem, The Good Boss (Tuesday, June 14), about a benevolent boss whose life is upended by a disgruntled ex-employee, is Spain’s official entry to this year’s Academy Award for Best International Feature.
Both presentations will take place at the Chicago History Museum. Tickets can be reserved in advance beginning two weeks before each screening at www.chicagofilmfestival.com/summerscreenings. You will also find the complete program there.
Oh, yes, and about those post-screening discussions I mentioned earlier: I will be leading the one for Perdida, so stop by and say hi.
HALFTIME (streaming June 14 on Netflix): Although I have heard unconfirmed rumblings that Ben Affleck makes an appearance or two in this documentary, I don’t expect to see much of him. The focus after all is on J.Lo’s preparation and rehearsals for her 2020 Super Bowl halftime performance alongside Shakira and the professional and personal triumphs and obstacles she has faced in the last couple of years—including her separation from baseball superstar Alex Rodríguez—plus her life story. Netflix promises that we will get to see a Jennifer López we usually don’t get in all those glossy magazines and TV interviews. The documentary will undoubtedly be fodder for the chismosos in all of us.
OFFICIAL COMPETITION (in theaters June 17): Almodóvar alums Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas join forces in this brutal satire about moviemaking from the dynamic Argentinean duo of Gastón Dupray and Mariano Cohn (responsible for the brilliant small-town satire The Distinguished Citizen). Cruz plays a filmmaker who has been entrusted by an eccentric octogenarian millionaire with the adaptation of an award-winning novel about sibling rivalry. She casts two actors who are as different in their approach to acting as Albert Brooks and William Hurt were in their approach to newscasting in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News (1997): the more serious-minded Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez) and the global star Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas). Shenanigans ensue.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE (streaming June 16 on HBO Max): I couldn’t help but think of the much-missed Cuban-American actress Elizabeth Peña when the trailer for this third adaptation of Edward Streeter’s novel was released. Yes, Andy García and Gloria Estefan are akin to Cuban exile royalty, but Elizabeth had so much grit and such a tough core, such a wonderfully snarky sense of humor, that she would most probably have stolen the show away from Andy.
This time around, the story not only centers on a father who reluctantly has to give his adored daughter away but also on a potential clash between two different cultures and attitudes. Billy’s (Garcia) and Ingrid’s (Estefan) daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona) has just announced that she is getting married to her Mexican boyfriend (Diego Boneta) in Mexico. And to make things even more interesting, Billy and Ingrid are going through marital problems of their own.
The film takes place in Miami but it was shot in Atlanta, Georgia so… strike one for authenticity. I guess we’ll have to wait until the film is released to see how well it handles this culture clash and if it will be as memorable as the Spencer Tracy/Vincente Minnelli classic or as funny as the Steve Martin/Martin Short remake.
BEBA (in theaters June 24): I hope, I really really hope, that those folks who last year accused Lin-Manuel Miranda and the film version of In the Heights of colorism—thus starting a much-needed debate in our community—use their voices in support of Beba, Afro-Latina filmmaker Rebecca Huntt’s sui generis exploration of identity and connection. It’s an extraordinary, challenging, and demanding opera prima, a memory film where Huntt reflects on her young life and the questions she has raised and keeps raising about who she is, her legacy, and the history surrounding that legacy.
Mixing together music, 16mm footage, and interviews with her Dominican father and Venezuelan mother, college professors, and close friends, Huntt has created a fiercely powerful collage of sounds and images that demands multiple viewings. Beba is a powerful reminder that the personal is, indeed, political.
Featured image: Rebeca Huntt, writer, director and star of ‘Beba’ (Courtesy of NEON)