About Paige Wiser
I'm a free-lance writer, editor, critic, commentator, muse -- so many talents, so little time. I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of celebrities' baby names. Does that sound braggy?
You can find my writing in Michigan Avenue magazine and its sister publications, Capitol File and L.A. Confidential. I've written cover stories on celebrities ranging from Rosie O'Donnell to Jenny McCarthy, as well as pop-culture essays that defy categorization.
I've also worked as the movie critic on ABC-7's "Windy City Live" with partner David Plummer, as a regular contributor on WGN radio, as a director of communications, as a desktop publisher, as an office temp, and in my teens I sold shoes at the Shop for Pappagallo in Woodfield Mall. Happiest I've ever been.
I have two kids, ages 13 and 11, and have served as the deputy room mom in charge of caramel fondue at a class Halloween party. Volunteering at school is not for the faint-hearted.
Over 17 years starting in the '90s, I served as intern, editor, reporter, critic, and columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. Regular columns included "Planet Paige," in which I wrote about the quirkier side of the news; "Camera Obscura," which celebrated B movies; and "BioFeedback," which distilled celebrity biographies.
I earned my bachelor's degree at Notre Dame and my master's at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. I'm thinking of putting "philosopher/adventuress" on my business cards.
Monthly Archives: September 2011
“Moneyball,” “Dolphin Tale,” and “Killer Elite.” Warning: I must have been in a bad mood.
I read Allison Pearson’s book recently, when I was in the thick of my own work-life balance crisis. I was exhausted from erratic hours, feeling guilty that I wasn’t with my kids when I was working, feeling guilty that I wasn’t working when I was with my kids, and dehydrated in an effort to cut back on bathroom breaks. I consumed the book in a frenzy, eager to get to the end to find out what the answer was. Heroine Kate Reddy had it all: kids, career, romance. So how did she do it?
David Plummer and I have been seeing lots of movies and then talking about them on “Windy City Live.” Here’s the link — let me know what you think. (There’s a reason why I hid behind a computer for the first 41 years of my life.)
But I love the show, love the people, and now have a valid excuse to self-tan.
Of all the songs in the world that mention Sept. 12, this is my favorite. I couldn’t find video of Annie Golden singing it, but this clip is arguably better: Kathleen Wilhoite performing the song during an episode of the ’80s sitcom “Throb,” with George Clooney in the background making like Tony in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” but with less subtlety.
I was just reminiscing about “The Concorde . . . Airport ’79” and wondering what happened to good old-fashioned disaster movies when I got invited to a screening of “Contagion.” Apparently there is no one who doesn’t want to work with director Steven Soderbergh, and I watched one A-list star after another don a haz-mat suit.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays a business executive who picks up some kind of bug in Hong Kong. Within days, almost everyone who touched something she touched is dead. (Yes, it’s worth the price of admission just to watch Gwyneth convulse and foam at the mouth.)
Doctors and scientists try to figure out what’s going on. A crusading blogger tells his readers that the government is lying to them. What’s left of the population scrambles for food and protection. “Contagion” is utterly believable, which is scarier than any vampire movie. It’s not as action-packed as the trailer would have you believe, but it works as a low-key horror movie, a mystery (as we try to track how the virus started), and a high-falutin disaster movie.
Three and a half stars
Fight movies are not my scene, however good they may be. I mean, ugh. I know you all loved “The Fighter,” but all brutality aside, I refuse to see any movie that Christian Bale loses weight for. I don’t want to encourage him.
Mixed martial arts are also not my scene, as they bring to mind vivid, unwanted images of Jean Claude Van Damme.
So “Warrior” started out as an underdog for me. Well, pow! Oof! Bam! . . . Consider me conquered.
It’s the story of two brothers, ripped apart by their alcoholic father, who haven’t seen each other in 14 years. In the mother of all coincidences, they end up in “the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts,” fighting each other for $5 million.
Realistic? No. Cliches? Sure, but you won’t mind. Nick Nolte sets the tone here as Paddy Conlon, the lousy father who’s now sober, but it’s too late: Neither of his sons care.
Joel Edgarton is sympathetic and real as big brother Brendan, who’s about to lose the house he shares with his wife (played by Chicago’s Jennifer Morrison) and two little girls. I had a more primal reaction to Tom Hardy (pictured), who plays the damaged Iraq war vet Tommy. Can you say Brando? Hardy has been in “Layer Cake” and “Inception,” but now he’s got my full attention. He skulks, broods and smolders with mouth-breathing conviction. Soon you can see him as the villain Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“Double Jeopardy” (7 p.m., TNT): Ashley Judd is mondo wronged, treats her prison sentence as a spa stay, and seeks revenge. Brilliant. The only thing it’s missing is Morgan Freeman.
“House Hunters: Urban Living” (8 p.m., HGTV): Shop for your pied-a-terre from the comfort of your own sectional. Chicago lofts are featured!
“The Europeans” (7 p.m., TCM): Brush up on your Henry James and consider it adult education. The 1979 movie stars Lee Remick. It’s followed by 1984’s “The Bostonians,” with an interesting cast: Jessica Tandy, Christopher Reeve, Linda Hunt and “The Sopranos'” Nancy Marchand. Both are directed by James Ivory.
“Minute to Win It” (7 p.m., NBC): A mother-daughter team takes on the Human Burrito challenge.
“American Greed: 9/11 Fraud” (8 p.m., CNBC): If you found yourself stealing from 9/11 widows, you might want to reassess your life.
“Toddlers and Tiaras” (9 p.m., TLC): Finally, pageant dads get their say.
I haven’t figured out yet what the perfect pop song is, but I’m always searching for it. Obviously, the answer is probably different for everyone (unless, like me, you mentally started rifling through the GoGo’s catalog). But I’ve always been fascinated by the definition of “pop” in general: How can you predict what will appeal to the largest cross-section of music lovers? How do you give people exactly what they want, before they know they want it? What makes Britney Spears’ oeuvre classic, and Rebecca Black’s “Friday” a joke?
“The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (7 p.m., TCM): Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, and Kirk Douglas in his film debut. Lauren Bacall’s the one who recommended him for the part — although he was named Issur Demsky at the time.
“History Detectives” (8 p.m., WTTW-Channel 11): Learn about the “Get Thin to Music” records of the ’20s, which eventually begat “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.”
“Billy the Exterminator” (9 p.m., A&E): Billy stalks an armadillo on a golf course.
“Sons of Anarchy” (9 p.m., FX): Season four starts with Clay and Jax finishing up a 14-month stint in jail. . . .