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Pontification, Preservation, and Improvisation

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on May 19, 2006 5:06PM

Before we tell you about two local, movie-related events happening this weekend, let us first dispense with the Da Vinci-sized elephant in the room.

If you have yet to jump on The Da Vinci Code 2006_05_itsmorseyabigsilly.jpgbandwagon, you probably never will, though you’ll likely live a full and rewarding life without having done so. For research purposes, Chicagoist delved into the book this week and the experience was a bit like trying to run through 10 feet of water with an armload of laundry. But the book’s crowd-pleasing cliffhangers, historical fiction masquerading as fact and albino-laced conspiracy theories do function as sheer turn-off-your-brain enjoyment or as an impetus to watch more specials on the History Channel. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

After Mission ImpossibIe: 3’s underwhelming performance at the box office, Hollywood execs are downplaying their expectations about the film’s performance. Yet early reviews say director Ron Howard has slavishly lashed himself to the book so if you enjoyed it, you’ll probably dig the film.

For the rest of you/us, here are two other items worth your time:

Tonight is the grand (re-)opening of the Portage Theater,2006_05_portage.jpg the new home for screenings by The Silent Film Society of Chicago. The SFSC is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the art of silent film. The Society currently screens films at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, Illinois and begins a five-week Spring Silent Film Festival tonight at the Portage, which opened in 1920 and underwent a year-long renovation to restore the 1300-seat theater to its former glory.

And how does one kick off a new silent film venue? With a trio of Charlie Chaplin films, of course. Tillie’s Punctured Romance is the feature presentation with two-reelers The Rink and The Fireman rounding out the evening. The evening begins with the sounds of The Ron Smolen Orchestra at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11, but adults can purchase festival passes for $40 (students and seniors: $35).

Also tonight, WNUR is hosting Sonic Celluloid 4 at Block Cinema in Evanston. At this event, four local musicians will perform their own scores to four films, from the legendary (Melies’ Voyage to the Moon) to the obscure (short works by Ernie Gehr). The musicians include Thrill Jockey staples Bird Show (side project of Ben Vida from Town and Country) and The Lonesome Organist, as well as improvisational musician Weasel Walter and psych-punk band KK Rampage. Tickets are $10 or $7 for students and you can send an e-mail to reserve your seats. It’s like Fandago, but without the extra charges.

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