Batman, Break-Ups and Blues Brothers

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 20, 2005 2:14PM

As the city’s nighttime streets lend an air of authenticity to this weekend’s number one movie and Vince Vaughn's new flick shuts down a portion of Michigan Avenue for most of the day, the Sun-Times reminds us why The Blues Brothers is responsible for bringing moviemaking back to the city of Chicago.

As we watched Batman Begins this weekend, we noticed three things: 1) It is possible for Chicago’s mass transit system to get worse even if we get our own monorail system; 2) even cops in a fictionalized version of Chicago have the same mustache as real Chicago cops; 3) director Christopher Nolan’s imagining of the area of Gotham known as “The Narrows” looks remarkably like the burnt out area north of the river in the late 1930s film In Old Chicago.

Speaking of that area, WGN-TV is reporting that Michigan Avenue from Wacker to Illinois will be closed from 9 AM this morning until about 2005_06_20_blues.jpg3 PM due to filming on the Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn flick The Break-Up. According to the World’s Greatest Newspaper, no vehicular or pedestrian traffic will be allowed in that area though we’re sure some of you are clever enough to sneak a picture or two.

But without The Blues Brothers, it’s likely you wouldn’t get the chance to see Chicago-as-Gotham or curse the many bus re-routes that will plague downtown this morning. Today the Sun-Times begins a five-part series looking back at The Blues Brothers phenomenon.

With today’s copy serving as an introduction for the uninitiated, the series promises to examine the various Chicago locations used for shooting. This morning’s paper features shots of the Bluesmobile, Maxwell Street and the Bronzeville location that stood in Calumet City, home of for Ray’s Music Exchange (R.I.P. Mr. Charles). Tomorrow promises “a return to the Triple Rock Baptist Church” and Elwood’s flophouse overlooking the L (how about posting those pictures online, S-T?).

From the steel mills to the south to downtown’s Daley Plaza, that film showcased the soul of Chicago in a time when there wasn’t even a Chicago Film Office. It’s likely that Chicago ceased being a destination for filmmakers after the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Haskell Wexler’s quasi-documentary Medium Cool—with its shots of police violence in Grant Park—didn’t make for the ideal calling card for the Bureau of Tourism. In contrast, the article touts a film that showcases the city’s willingness to have fun at the expense of everyone from government officials to Illinois Nazis. Despite the renaissance in filmmaking the occured in its wake, no other film will capture what city culturral historian Tim Samuelson calls "the real Chicago."

Now who wants an orange whip?