"No, it isn't," Rode said. "But it's an interesting movie. As a film historian watching this I was wondering, who greenlighted this? It is so un-Hollywood. Particularly for 1944, right in the middle of World War II when Hollywood was producing so many movies that were distractions — the sword-and-sandal stuff, the horror movies, the patriotic war-themed films.
"Mankiewicz was an outrageously talented, outrageous character who eventually drank himself out of Hollywood. It's a fascinating screenplay. And maybe it's only a screenplay that someone who is an alcoholic and kind of crazy can come up with. I think a lot of the weirdness of the movie is reflected by Herman Mankiewicz."
And what of that deceptively seasonal title? "It was released in May," said Rode. "No one had enough gumption to release this in December as a Christmas movie. It's not a feel-good movie at all."
"Christmas Holiday" screens 5 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Monday at the Siskel Film Center. Go to siskelfilmcenter.org/christmas-holiday.
David O. Russell's ode to the '70s
The director behind "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook" appears in a prerecorded interview before a preview screening of his latest film, "American Hustle." "Hustle's" plot centers on a con man forced to work for the feds. Starring Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Christian Bale. 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Music Box. Advance tickets are $14; day-of are $18. Go to musicboxtheatre.com.
WTTW will broadcast "Blackhawks: 17 Seconds" this weekend as the latest in long list of front office-approved celebratory documentaries that are more about fan service and marketing than actually revealing much about a team. That said, those famous last seconds of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals are dramatic as they come, and the film offers a look at the players off the ice when they individually take the cup home to their families. It airs 8 p.m. and again at 11 p.m. Saturday.
This weekend's Chicago Serbian Film Festival includes a screening of "Circles," based on the true story of a Serbian soldier in Bosnia in the 1990s who dies protecting a Muslim shopkeeper. The story picks up more than a decade later, when the victim's family and friends still harbor notions of revenge. The fest runs through Sunday at the Muvico in Rosemont. Go to serbianfilmfest.com.
For more than a decade filmmaker Anthony Powell traveled to southernmost outpost in the world to collect footage for his 2013 documentary "Antarctica: A Year on Ice." Powell had to design special camera rigs that could withstand the extreme cold and wind (with the help of $50,000 raised on Kickstarter). It screens 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Chicago Filmmakers and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Columbia College's Ferguson Theater. Go to chicagofilmmakers.org.
Christmas at Facets
If you're looking to pick up some DVDs on the cheap (VHS tapes as well) you might want to check out the annual warehouse sale at Facets, where stock is going for as low as $1.99 for DVDs and 10 cents for VHS tapes. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Facets. Go to facets.org.
Chicago filmmaker Joe Swanberg's latest indie, "Happy Christmas," will debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Filmed in Chicago not long after Swanberg completed work on "Drinking Buddies," the film stars Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick (who also appeared in "Drinking Buddies"), Melanie Lynskey and Mark Webber. The synopsis: "A young woman breaks up with her boyfriend and then moves in with her older brother, his wife, and their 2-year-old son." The fest runs Jan. 16-26.