Ah, summer movies: the season when Oscar considerations go out the window and box office is king. But even the least discriminating moviegoer can only stomach so many superhero franchises and over-caffeinated comedies. Thankfully, Chicago's multitude of summer film fests-including a run at the just-reopened Portage Theater-offers a respite from the multiplex grind. Whether your tastes run toward classic films, lesbian coming-out stories, experimental Argentinean shorts or all of the above, we've got something to satisfy your cravings.
The Silent Summer Film Festival, July 21-Aug. 25
One of the oldest operational movie theaters in Chicago, the 1,300-seat Portage has reemerged as an art house after a five-year hiatus and is reaching back to its '20s roots: Every Friday during the fest's run, the Chicago Silent Film Society unearths a worthy rarity from the pretalkie era, usually with live accompaniment on the vintage organ. Highlights include 1924's Soviet sci-fi metaphor "Aelita, Queen of Mars" and King Vidor's 1926 take on "La Boheme."
Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, Thursday-Sunday
This 18th annual fest offers a little something for the highbrow crowd. If you're the type who demands car chases, punch lines or linear narratives, you may want to look elsewhere. Here, you'll find oddities like Andy Warhol's mid-'60s screen tests of Bob Dylan, Iranian critical darling Abbas Kiarostami's new documentary, and a psychedelic mash-up of old Laurel and Hardy films. The fest squeezes in 70 often bizarre flicks from 11 countries, so open minds are a prerequisite.
Movies in the Parks, through Aug. 29.
If you live in the city, you're probably within walking distance of at least one of the Park District's 100-odd free, outdoor screenings. While the lineup leans toward family-friendly fare like "Wallace and Gromit," older cineastes can seek out the odd showing of "Roman Holiday" or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." You'll have to provide your own lawn chair and bag of snacks, but the rest of the evening is on the taxpayers. You're welcome! Various locations; click here for next screening.
Reeling at Gay Games VII, July 14-23
This precursor to November's annual LGBT film fest packs nearly 40 queer-themed shorts and features into nine days, including outdoor screenings at Osterman Beach (5800 N. Lake Shore Drive). Held in conjunction with the nation's largest gay and lesbian athletic competition, the fest features a wildly diverse selection: an animated impotence metaphor, a harrowing prison documentary and a few coming-of-age stories. Any fest screening "Queer Duck: The Movie"-a feature-length cartoon with the vocal talents of Conan O'Brien, Tim Curry and David Duchovn-has to be worth a look, right?
The Seventh Annual Chicago Outdoor Film Festival, July 18-Aug. 29
Chicago cine-godfather Roger Ebert and plucky sidekick Richard Roeper take the stage to introduce "Rebel without a Cause," the inaugural title on this year's roster of classics. With a 50-foot screen and professional-grade sound, this fest provides the best outdoor movie environment you're likely to find. You know your stubborn friends who insist old movies are "boring" and "cheesy"? Bring 'em down for "On the Waterfront" and see if a night with Brando doesn't change their tune.
Film Festival, Aug. 17-24
CUFF's latest installment plans to bridge the art-school gap by examining the link between underground movies and underground music. This year's crown jewel is the world premiere of "The Monks: Transatlantic Feedback," Dietmar Post's documentary on the legendary proto-punk band. Other highlights include a new doc on Christian indie rockers The Danielson Family, an experimental music video showcase and the new work from "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" auteur Jeff Krulik.
Ira Brooker is a metromix special contributor.
Originally published June 12, 2006.