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Saint Xavier welcomes film critic Michael Wilmington

Chicago Tribune’s movie scribe to lecture on ‘Visions of America’ in film on Thursday, Nov. 11

CHICAGO (Oct. 11, 2004) – Lead film critic for the Chicago Tribune Michael Wilmington will speak at Saint Xavier University for the 6th Annual Honors Program Guest Lecture.

The lecture, co-sponsored by Saint Xavier’s Center for Religion and Public Discourse and the departments of English & Foreign Languages and Art & Design, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11 in the Butler Reception Room on Saint Xavier’s Chicago Campus, 3700 W. 103rd St. This program is free and open to the public. 

Wilmington, a nationally recognized expert on film history, will inquire into both the inspiring and the disturbing portrayals of American myths and ideals in film. Titled “Visions of America in Film,” the program will examine how depictions of America in film reinforce or challenge popular myths about our culture: the American Dream; the American Tragedy; the Heroic Experiment; the Melting Pot; the land of the rich and greedy; the land of the free; the land that conquered its own natives. The program will also explore why the United States itself is so often the protagonist and subject in some of its most popular films and will look at why American films about America are more intense in their treatment of the national mythos than films made elsewhere.

“Throughout his career as a film reviewer, critic, teacher of film studies and film history and public intellectual, Michael Wilmington has provoked and stimulated his readers with his perceptive insights into ‘Visions of America’ in film,” said Judith Hiltner, director of Saint Xavier’s Honors Program. “Whether it is interpretations of the immigrant experience, depictions of the American west, images of the Great Depression, or reflections of the bright lights and tangled jungles of our modern cities, Mr. Wilmington has taught his audiences how to read in film inspiring, dispiriting, paradoxical and contradictory interpretations of what America means.”

In addition to his work with the Chicago Tribune, Wilmington has served as a film reviewer and reporter for the Los Angeles Times (1984-93); contributing editor of The Velvet Light Trap; lead movie critic for Isthmus of Madison, Wis. (1980-93); LA Weekly (1983-84); and L.A. Style (1990-93). He also has taught at the University of Southern California, CalArts and the UCLA extension school. He currently lectures at the University of Chicago Continuing Studies program.

Wilmington received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and counts Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman and Martin Scorcese as his favorite filmmakers. His favorite films are “Citizen Kane” (all time); “The Godfather” trilogy (modern American); “Fanny and Alexander” (modern foreign); “the Rules of the Game” (classic foreign); “Singin’ in the Rain” (musical); “The Searchers” (adventure); “City Lights” (comedy); “Psycho” (thriller) and “Intolerance” (silent). He cites the film “Maniac” as his worst filmgoing experience.

This year’s Honors Program theme is “The Idea of America,” where Wilmington’s area of expertise an ideal fit.

“Throughout his career, Michael Wilmington has managed to translate the subtleties of academic film and cultural criticism so that his insights deepen and enrich the viewing experience for thousands of his readers and listeners who have never taken a course in film or critical theory,” Hiltner said. “It’s an honor to host a film critic who so provocatively has stimulated us to ponder the meanings of America depicted in such an influential cultural medium.”

For more information on this event or on Saint Xavier University’s Honors Program, please visit the university’s Web site at www.sxu.edu or call (773) 298-3230.