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Q: What's Better Than a Free Movie?

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on May 30, 2007 6:17PM

A: A free movie every week.

2007_5FREEMOVIES.jpg To us summer is about more than music festivals, street fairs and outdoor dining. It's also about enjoying wonderful cinema, either indoors in a wonderfully air-conditioned theater, or outside on a big freakin' lawn. And we'll be getting plenty of chances for both over the next several months thanks to Cinema/Chicago and the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival.

Better known as the organization behind the annual Chicago International Film Festival, Cinema/Chicago is presenting its "International Connections" series now through August 29 as a way to tide us over till October. Each Wednesday night at 7:30 in the Claudia Cassidy Theatre at the Chicago Cultural Center, a foreign-language film will be screened, accompanied by a short lecture from a guest speaker. All for free. Tonight's selection is the Argentine film Garua, a moody existential crime drama involving a community of bohemians and the tango. J.R. Jones, a critic at the Reader, is the speaker. Forthcoming titles include films from Taiwan, Austria, Belgium, Italy and many others. It's a good idea to arrive early as seating is limited.

Arriving early for the Outdoor Film Festival at Grant Park is also key, if you want a decent view of the screen that is. Although the show doesn't start until dusk, the best spots are usually taken a few hours in advance. Picnicking is the order of the day, as is (clandestine) liquor consumption. Yes; unlike the gorgeous Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, where civil wine-drinking is actually encouraged, at Butler Field all alcohol is a definite no-no. After being on the sad end of the confiscation ourselves, we were privy to just how strictly enforced the policy really is. If only we'd remembered that a clear spirit such as gin, vodka or light rum looks quite innocent when residing in an Aquafina bottle, which can then be discreetly combined with a mixer. But since that would be illegal, we've forgotten that idea already ...

Getting back to the films themselves: they're all brilliant. Who could resist the chance to see Young Frankenstein on an enormous outdoor screen with a huge audience in the mood to laugh? Double Indemnity will be awesome, as will Cary Grant in the classic screwball comedy The Awful Truth. Seeing as how Paul Newman just announced his retirement from acting and Robert Redford is on his way to Chicago, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a fortuitous choice. But our fave pick of the lineup hands down is Sweet Smell of Success, one of the most gleefully nasty, endlessly quotable movies of all time. We can't wait to see Burt Lancaster growl, "I'd hate to take a bite out of you. You're a cookie full of arsenic."