CinemaDope: Library of Laughs

Over the years, the Northampton/Amherst area has been home base for any number of well-known personalities. The laundry list of bold-face names includes rock stars and authors, radio hosts and fashion designers, and a decent smattering of just about everything in between.

The bucolic Valley seems to have a special draw for creative New Yorkers, many of whom find themselves turning north—toward quieter schools and safer streets, goes the theory—after becoming parents.

It’s a common enough story that, until now, I had managed to overlook transplanted Brooklynite Mo Willems, an author and illustrator whose extensive body of work has earned him a trunk full of plaudits: a half-dozen Emmys he took home during a stint on Sesame Street; a collection of Caldecott honors for his work in children’s books; and a recurring spot on NPR as the organization’s “radio cartoonist.”

This week, Willems adds philanthropist to his bio when he hosts Cartoonapalooza! at Northampton’s Academy of Music. The Sunday afternoon event features a smorgasbord of his work, ranging from early animated shorts made for Sesame Street and Nickelodeon to the world premiere of The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog!, the latest in a series of animated adaptations based on his picture books.

All proceeds from the show—which also includes a Q&A and poster-signing with the author—are slated for improvements and renovations to the Children’s Department at Forbes Library. The fun gets underway May 23 at 2 p.m.; parents who hope to remain in their children’s good graces can call (413) 587-1010 for more information.


Also this week: Amherst Cinema opens The Secret In Their Eyes, the winner of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Writer/director Juan Jose Campanella’s film (he also edited, if you’re keeping score) is a murder mystery whose story spans a quarter-century.

Ricardo Darin stars as retired criminal court investigator Benjamin, who sets out to write a novel based on an unsolved rape and murder; when he shares his plans with a judge—a former colleague and object of his unrequited love—he finds himself at the center of the mystery.


A kind of small-screen mystery comes to Hadley’s Cinemark Theater on Thursday May 20, when the theater hosts Times Talks Live: Lost. The live two-hour discussion, simulcast from The Times Center in New York, features the brains behind ABC’s time-warping hit show Lost. Executive producer Carlton Cuse and co-creator Damon Lindelof discuss the challenges involved in wrapping up a show whose multitudinous mysteries inspired a legion of fans.

Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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