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Movie Review: "Chasing October"

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Matt Liston is obsessed with the Cubs.

Yeah, I know. I'm preaching to the choir. But none of us has done what he did -- quit his job in order to make a movie on how he, alone, was going to will the Cubs to the World Series in 2003.

Is this a documentary on how he really almost did this? You'll see him in the bleachers (and I can't imagine how I never, not once, saw this guy around the ballpark in 2003, despite attending all but two home games that year) with those five ... damned ... outs to go, almost in disbelief that his crusade (and that's exactly what he calls it) is about to succeed.

Or is it more of a comedy? A takeoff or parody of someone who's doing this? Is he making fun of his own obsession? It's hard to tell, but there are indeed some very funny moments in this film, which is actually shot on video (at one point, we see his friend Chris, who acted as cameraman for most of the scenes, drop off several boxes containing 200 videotapes of what had been shot during the 2003 season), then transferred to film, giving the picture an ethereal, washed-out sort of quality, which somehow seems appropriate. Some of the scenes were shot out of sequence -- there's at least one scene looking down Sheffield that purports to be in midsummer, but all the trees are still bare, and at least some of the shots behind the old bleachers were shot in 2002, because you can see the "windscreens" that were installed on the back bleacher fences only during that season.

Matt's family and friends view all this with emotions ranging from bemused detachment (his parents and grandmother, all Cubs fans who keep reminding him that he has credit card bills to pay), to anger from his girlfriend, Faline England, who is living with him and approves heartily of the project when it starts, but who eventually moves out when he does things such as sell their couch to help pay his bills. And looking at the link above -- is she really his girlfriend? Or just an actress hired to be in the movie? Meanwhile, Chris the cameraman also has to have the approval of his girlfriend/fiancee Allison for this project. They wind up getting married (for real) -- on September 27, 2003, the day the Cubs clinch the Central division title. You'll have to see the movie to find out whether Matt goes to the wedding or the game.

He attempts to find out why the Cubs haven't won since 1908 -- investigating day baseball (interviewing, among others, Steve Stone), and the Tribune Company (he actually got CEO Dennis FitzSimons to sit for an interview -- FitzSimons takes this all with good humor). He finagled press credentials and interviewed several players, including Kerry Wood, who you will see saying, and I believe he meant it just as much then as he does now, that he wants to be a Cub when they win it all. If you ever had any doubt about who the heart and soul of the Cubs is in 2007, you won't after hearing Wood speak.

Liston includes quite a bit of footage from the 1984 collapse in San Diego -- I really didn't need to see this again, and truth be told, I have games four and five from '84 on tape (I was in San Diego for those games), but have never watched them. Steve Garvey plays a prominent role here, and I won't ruin an interesting surprise by telling you how.

You'll also laugh when you follow the sequence detailing how Liston shows how he considers himself personally responsible for the Cubs' acquisition of Kenny Lofton in July 2003.

Liston, who really did go deeply into debt to finance this film, has made a funny and touching movie -- you don't have to be a Cubs fan to feel that, but all of you who are will immediately identify with everything he says and feels. Clearly, he's an aspiring comedy filmmaker, too, and this effort will get him noticed.

It opens this Friday at the Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park -- click here for showtimes. It's also still showing here in Arizona in Scottsdale at the Harkins Camelview 5.

This is a fun look at what being an obsessed Cubs fan is all about. I'm thinking that most of us will identify with this feeling, and what it might feel like -- WILL feel like -- when the Cubs do, someday, win the World Series.