Image from Tár (2022); Courtesy of Focus Features/Everett Collection
Image from Tár (2022) Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features/Everett Collection

There’s nothing more exciting than hearing those five little words, “And the Oscar goes to…” Unless, it’s sitting in a theatrical venue waiting for the curtain to rise. Fortunately, Chicagoans can experience the joy of live performances while enhancing their appreciation for this year’s Academy Award contenders.

With a Gotham Independent Film Award win and a Critics’ Choice nomination under her belt, Till star Danielle Deadwyler is a frontrunner for one of Oscar’s five Best Actress slots. Ranked as one of the best films of 2022 by the National Board of Review, the 1955-set biopic follows a mother’s heroic reaction to her teenaged son Emmett’s horrific lynching in Mississippi.

The story is covered in Collaboraction’s theatrical version of the Emmy-winning Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till  which will debut at Chicago’s DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center (Feb. 9-19). “Once in a lifetime, if we are lucky, a project like this comes along and all we can do is play our part to serve the greater good of telling an important story and belonging to each other,” explains Artistic Director Anthony Moseley, who co-directs the play with company member Dana Anderson. 

Named Best Picture of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, and Variety magazines, Tár is the season’s critical darling. And, in the titular role, Cate Blanchett is an Oscar favorite with Best Actress accolades from the Chicago Film Critics Association, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle, and Venice Film Festival, among others.

Although the personal life of her fictional character shouldn’t be compared to actual classical pianists and orchestra conductors, it’s nevertheless a treat to see acclaimed women do their thing in this profession. As such, movie and music fans can attend Montero Plays Mozart by Music of the Baroque (MOB) at Chicago’s Harris Theater (Jan. 21) and Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (Jan. 22). Conducted by MOB Music Director Dame Jane Glover, the program features esteemed pianist and human rights activist Gabriela Montero.

“We are so excited to welcome the dynamic and inventive Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero to our stage,” notes MOB Executive Director Declan McGovern. “Her recordings include Bach and Beyond and Baroque, but for our annual Mozart birthday concert this January she will play one of his most recognizable piano concertos: No.21 with its famous slow movement, forever immortalized in the 1967 film Elvira Madigan. I can’t wait to hear what Gabriela will play for her encore. She often improvises on an audience request! Will it be Bach? Who knows! This is one of the reasons why her concerts are so exciting.”

Austin Butler has been picking up praise and a People’s Choice Award for his portrayal of pop icon Elvis. Like Tár, the musical biopic made the American Film Institute’s Top 10 list. And like Blanchett, Butler has collected Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nominations for his leading turn.

Of course, Butler isn’t alone in his depiction of the “King of Rock and Roll” since Tyler Hilton played him in the Golden Globe-winning flick Walk the Line in 2005. Now, Hilton is putting his blue suede shoes back on for Celebrating Elvis Presley’s Records from Sun Studios (Jan. 15) at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn. Backed by the jazz and western swing trio Hot Club of Cowtown, Hilton will sing some of Elvis’s early hits (“That’s All Right, Mama,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “I Got a Woman”) as well as original numbers.

With Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes nominations, it’s likely Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) will secure a Best Animated Feature nod from the Academy. Chicago-area children can relive the famed feline’s first life in Shrek: The Musical at Drury Lane in Oakbrook. Tickets go on sale this month.

Janet Arvia

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.