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Music and Movies: 2005 In Review

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 29, 2005 6:58PM

For Chicago's entertainment beats, 2005 is best summed up by the phrase: change is good.

2005_12_29_review.jpgAt this time last year, if you had told us that 2005 would bring not one, but two world class rock festivals to Chicago’s parks, we’d have patted you on the head and cooed “Aw, you’re so cute.” But wonders never cease and so it was that the city of Chicago finally realized that in order for Chicago to become known for great music, you actually have to support the artists, talent bookers, and club owners that make these things happen.

While Lollapalooza had the bigger names, Intonation had the better vibe (once that whole pesky water situation was settled). Intonation also gave us hope that fests from smaller, independent organizations will be more prevalent next year. Something along the lines of the Flower 15 fest is something we’d like to see repeated in 2006. Better organization seems to be the key here. The Chicago Music Commission’s launch in March has spawned several “Musicians At Work” forums that have not only created networking opportunities but also been invaluable for helping indie musicians launch themselves in Chicago.

2005 also gave us undeniable proof that it’s not the summer of 1994 anymore. Two of Chicago’s formerly great rock gods ceased to be relevant this year: Billy Corgan and Liz Phair. Corgan’s increasingly bizarre ramblings in the press gave way to poor solo album sales and reviews and a pronouncement that he was re-forming the Smashing Pumpkins—a move that in retrospect seems like an even more desperate bid for publicity than it did at the time since we’ve heard nothing of it since.

As for Liz, we probably gave her a greater benefit of the doubt than others. But her most recent album and her performance at Lollapalooza indicate that she’s no longer interested in breaking new ground and has settled for a modicum of sales success by inhabiting trends rather than creating them. Good for her, just not so great for us.

Luckily, there’s a new guard ready to take their places.

In addition to the resurgence of Chicago’s rock scene, Chicago hip-hop is finally getting its due thanks to a vital underground scene and the mainstream success of Kanye, Twista and Common.

As for the movie biz, 2005 saw Chicago all over the big screen. Chicago lent its cinematic weight to films like Ocean’s 12, The Weather Man, Roll Bounce, Proof, Derailed, and Batman Begins, where the skyline was almost a character itself. Though fewer features filmed here in 2005, one film in particular is responsible—for better or worse—for Chicago’s place in the Us Weeklies of the world: The Break-Up starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. Some of us are happier about this than others, of course.

All of this is made possible thanks to the tax breaks given to filmmakers by the Illinois General Assembly. This year, those subsidies were almost taken away until an agreement was reached to increase the amount of minority participation on local film crews (a bill to support minority filmmakers in Illinois is currently stuck in Rules Committee). While larger film productions see the greatest return on their investment, more independent films are seeing the light of day as well.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a year in Chicago movies without discussing Roger Ebert who managed to stir shit up twice this year with controversies over his reviews of Million Dollar Baby and Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. Proof positive as to why Ebert deserved a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Some of the other things that caught our attention this year:
Best room with a view: Northerly Island
Best dance sequence: OK Go
Best proof that crazy sometimes masquerades as brilliance: R. Kelly’s "Trapped In The Closet"
Best proof that sometimes crazy is just crazy: the proposed Chicago Walk of Fame
Most entertaining conflict: Greg Kot and Bono
Least entertaining conflict: Big Fa and Twista
Best resolved conflict: Double Door’s new lease on life
Worst resolved conflict: The city and its dying blues community
Best album about Illinois that isn’t really about Illinois at all: Sufjan Stevens’s Illinois
Best example of socialism: The Chicago/Oslo exchange between the Empty Bottle and the Swedes
Best loss that was actually a win: Marty Casey on Rock Star
Best example of commerce trumping art: AMC/Loews merger
Best performance by mass transit vehicle: The "L" of the future in Batman Begins
Worst performance by mass transit vehicle: Metra in Derailed
Chicagoist Award For Most Post-Worthy Chicagoan: Kanye West. God bless you, sir. Every time you open your mouth, you give us great material.
We’ll miss you: Bottom Lounge (see you next year!), Rockit Girl, Woolworthy, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Troubled Hubble, Kiss-N-Ride, Emery Williams Jr.
Welcome back: Blue Meanies, Smoking Popes, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, Checkerboard Lounge