Does the Arc In Hollywood Bend Towards Justice?

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While some decry the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an exclusive club deserving an #OscarsSoWhite label, others see it pushing a liberal agenda through every ribbon displayed at the annual Academy Awards. Given the conservative nature of the economic decision-making in Hollywood, the truth resides somewhere in between. Filmmakers may see themselves as political gadflies, while studio execs resist the urge to promote social change if it might restrain box office receipts. When … [Read more...]

SPOTLIGHT: No More Silent Nights

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Spotlight is a throwback to the golden age of seventies cinema. It is a whip smart tribute to investigative journalism, rooted in character and grounded in a world where the most special effect is human emotion. Spotlight follows the tireless efforts of a team of reporters from The Boston Globe to uncover the sexual abuse perpetrated by far too many Roman Catholic priests. The most disturbing revelations in this true story involve the systematic cover up by Cardinal Bernard Law and the Boston … [Read more...]

ROOM: Expanding Our Empathy

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Heartache is an interesting condition. It is usually associated with romance, when break ups lead to heartbreak.   So what should we call a situation where you find yourself rooting so hard for someone else’s happiness, that their trials and tribulations make your heart ache?Room is both harrowing and heroic.   It places a heavy burden upon its characters and thanks to superb acting, writing and directing, transfers that weight to the audience.   Emma Donoghue adapted her award-winning novel … [Read more...]

MCFARLAND USA: An Interview with Legendary Coach Jim White

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Do you like sports movies?   I cry every time I watch Field of Dreams. The rousing underdog stories of Rudy or The Rookie almost feel too good to be true. The cynic in us may resist, but once you actually meet Jimmy, the guy who sank the winning shot in Hoosiers, your perspective shifts.   These aren’t just tall tales, manufactured by Hollywood.  These can be modest, “everyday” heroes who challenge us to practice, to press on, to never give up.I recently met Jim White, the legendary cross … [Read more...]

OSCARS 2015: BOYHOOD, BIRDMAN OR BUDAPEST FOR BEST PICTURE?

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The 2015 Oscar race has become one of the tightest and most unpredictable contests in years. Three well-crafted films emerged over awards season as the key contenders for the 2015 Academy Award for Best Picture: Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  While Selma and Interstellar combined epic scale and meticulous craft, the Academy and the guilds obsessed over a few peccadilloes that kept them out of serious Oscar contention. (Only time will honor these two towering cinematic … [Read more...]

COMMON BRINGS GLORY TO THE GRAMMYS (AND THE OSCARS): An Interview

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What 2015 Grammy moment moved you?   Kanye West’s cut in on Beck’s acceptance speech for "Album of the Year" garnered most of the headlines.   How sad to a stunt overshadow Annie Lennox’s rousing rendition of “I Put a Spell On You” with Hozier.   Pharrell reimagined his sunny single, “Happy,” into an intriguing protest echoing the "Hands up/Don’t shoot" posture that accompanied events in Ferguson, Missouri.   Prince slipped in the best one-liner of the night, “Albums still matter. Just like books … [Read more...]

SELMA: The Fierce Urgency of Now

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What does courage look like? Does it come with confidence, the swagger of certainty?   Or does it spring from something more fragile, vulnerable, and costly? Selma offers a feature length portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that rises above clichés that drag so many bio-pics down. Far from a stodgy hagiography, Selma is enormously entertaining and remarkably resonant. King’s marches may look clear and strong in archival footage but what kinds of confusion and doubt preceded them?Selma tak … [Read more...]

BUYING TIME: THE BEST FILMS OF 2014

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So many movies, so little time. Why must Hollywood hold back their most ambitious movies all for the same month? Couldn’t they offer a few provocative choices each season?   Alas, the lure of awards causes the studios to cram too much good things into too small a space.   I start my best of 2014 list with an admission that I have yet to see such acclaimed flicks as BOYHOOD, INHERENT VICE, LOCKE, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, UNDER THE SKIN, LAST DAYS OF VIETNAM, and CITIZEN FOUR. As an advocate for these … [Read more...]

A BLACK MESSSIAH ARRIVES–THE YEAR IN MUSIC 2014

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Just as most music critics had wrapped up their best of 2014 lists, D'Angelo dropped a musical gift anticipated for over a decade.   Torn up by the death of Eric Garner in New York, D'Angelo rush released "Black Messiah" with almost no advance notice.   Taking a page from Beyonce's surprise December 2013 release, D'Angelo snuck up on everyone with the funkiest and finest sounds of the year.  "Black Messiah" proved to be more than worth the wait.His liner notes link the title to "people risi … [Read more...]

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING: Love in Practice

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking

British accents? Check.   Period clothes? Check.   Physical demanding role?   Yes, The Theory of Everything is definitely Oscar bait.While the title suggests a scientific treatise, The Theory of Everything actually delves into the mysteries of love and devotion. It is a celebration of the remarkable woman behind the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.   Jane Wilde provides a dramatic counterbalance to the magnetic mind of the famed cosmologist. While he may have “a slight problem with th … [Read more...]

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE: OUR DAILY MICROAGGRESSIONS

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Dear White People is a letter (or film) addressed to people like me.   I am a college educated, indie film fan, aware of America’s tangled history of race relations, and eager to do the right thing. And yet, Dear White People senses that I (maybe even we) haven’t rooted out a curious fascination and indirect racism in my expectations.   We feel familiar enough with black folks to expect certain patterns and tendencies.   In slotting colleagues into such boxes, we further delimit the glorious poss … [Read more...]


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