With a membership to Cinema/Chicago, every few weeks there’s another screening of an upcoming feature. Over the year, I’ve been able to see some stellar films and hear inspiring Q&As with directors, writers and actors. As these screenings usually take place during the week, it’s a nice way to unwind after a work day.
This past week, we screened The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It features an all-star, British cast and does not disappoint. It’s about a group of ex-pats seeking solace, meaning and a new hip in India. The film is rich with colors, sounds and moments that feel all too real. But the film wasn’t the only thing I got that night.
As this film skews to an older, mature demographic, there weren’t many young adults there, sans the staff of Cinema/Chicago. Didn’t bother me one bit, but if it weren’t for this film, I can assure you I would not have met a most fascinating person named Sandy. Sandy is probably somewhere over the age of 70, rents library books, quotes philosophers and has spent his years doing good in Africa, Europe and Asia. He’s basically the kind of person I want to become.
We had great talks before and after the film where he told me things about himself and just things in general. When he found out I was a writer, we spent a lot of the conversation discussing linguistics, which I can honestly say, I’ve never given much thought to. We went our separate ways with the promise of catching an art exhibit.
The one thing I took away from Sandy, was his comment when I told him that he’s had such an awe-inspiring life.
“The best is yet to come.”
And if we learned anything from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, that’s exactly what’s to come.
Every year, the Chicago International Film Festival holds a secret screening night. They tease the film with all sorts of possibilities and keep under tight wraps what the film will be. You simply walk into the theater, take a seat and await fate. It’s seriously the closest thing to Christmas presents as a kid. I sit there anxious, my brain starts racing as title cards flip and my feet dance around as the waiting game begins. Needless to say, it’s my favorite event of the whole Fest.
This year’s proved to be a stellar pick from director J.C. Chandor, Margin Call. While the financial sector has never been a field of particular interest, this movie sucked me in. I’ll blame the stellar cast from Jeremy Irons to Paul Bettany to Kevin Spacey and Zachary Quinto. The movie felt all too real as it depicts the downfall of a financial agency and the eventual collapse of the economy. Needless to say, I have a new appreciation for financial dudes who slave away staring at screens and doing things with numbers I never could understand.
Then, by some grace of God, Chicago unearthed ANOTHER secret screening, this time at famed Music Box. While the feature leaked along with talent who would appear, I was completely shocked by the OTHER talent that walked out the curtain. Patton Oswalt took the stage to introduce….Jason Reitman. Reitman came out and then introduced Chicago-gal…Diablo Cody. And the three musketeers talked briefly before screening Young Adult.
Young Adult was a fantastic exposé of Mavis (played by Charlize Theron) on her quest to bring meaning to her life as her book series wraps with her final book. Naturally, she returns to her small hometown to find this solace, but instead, just finds her life is truly a wreck. Diablo Cody put it perfectly during the Q&A: “I wanted to show you that sometimes, assholes don’t change. In too many films you find the asshole becomes good. But as we all know, that isn’t the case.” The film is raw, the shots are amazing and it’s chocked full of awkward moments and delusional dreams.
I’m a sucker for secret films. I love the feeling you get while sitting there waiting for the film to happen. And the fact you’re walking in without knowing what awaits. It’s a thrill that just does not exist anymore in a world of instant, on demand and leaks on the world wide web. It’s the little things in life. And I’m so glad Chicago delivered two this week. If you find out your city holds a secret screening, immediately go. Even if the film’s bad (like last year’s Three Days at the Fest), that opening sequence of feelings is something everyone needs to experience.
Patton Oswalt, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman during "Young Adult" Q&A at Music Box theatre