Different Strokes
Jan16

Different Strokes

Few artists have captured the public’s fancy like Vincent Van Gogh. His richly textured landscapes, interiors, and portraits, built up with a painterly impasto as inviting as a rich ganache, seem to grow in popularity with every passing year. And while the calendar and coffee mug industries wouldn’t be the same without him, even his most accessible work has always felt like it contained hidden meaning in the ridges and valleys of his...

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Cinemadope: True North
Jan08

Cinemadope: True North

As the father of three little kids, I’ve come to regard the entertainment world — especially television and movie fare — as an ever-shifting battlefront. I’m not interested in shutting them off from the experience, but figuring out how to make it both enjoyable and edifying isn’t always so easy. “YouTube is junky,” my son will often tell me, just before asking if he can watch a particularly junky train video. For my daughters, I’m...

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Cinemadope: Guiding Light
Jan02

Cinemadope: Guiding Light

It’s tough to start a new year on a sad note, but it was only after the last Cinemadope’s deadline that I got the news that Duane Robinson had passed away. The driving force behind the revival of the Academy of Music in Northampton, and its enthusiastic and dedicated director for three and a half vital decades, Duane did more for the city’s cultural scene than many will ever know. We’ve just finished another season of The Nutcracker...

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Cinemadope: Changing Focus
Dec26

Cinemadope: Changing Focus

With the new year scratching at the door, it’s natural to take a reckoning of the one gone by. People tend to focus on the big changes — smoking, the gym, a reading list — but mixing up the smaller things can make a big difference too. Try getting your coffee at a different spot every morning. Start wearing a tie on Thursdays. Jot down poems — short poems are still poems — about the person in front of you while waiting in line. Do it...

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Cinemadope: Life Goes On
Dec18

Cinemadope: Life Goes On

Speak of nuclear winter, and my thoughts go not to bleak, windswept plains. There are no undead hordes clawing at my clapboards, no marauding gangs out collecting rainwater. In my (admittedly hopeful) imagined ruins, we can all rely on the safety of one thing: the climate-controlled vaults of the National Film Registry. As I write, the Registry is home to some 700 films that the Board has deemed “culturally, historically, or...

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Cinemadope: Beuys Club
Dec11

Cinemadope: Beuys Club

Even among artists, Joseph Beuys has often flown under the radar, someone known more for his enduring impact than his individual works. During my days in art school, Beuys was a name dropped conspicuously into conversations by those who wanted to make sure you knew that they had gone deeper than most. Warhol, Duchamp? Beginner stuff, they seemed to say. If you wanted to get to the richer veins of art history goodness, you should be...

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Cinemadope: Into the Woods
Dec04

Cinemadope: Into the Woods

The Valley and the Berkshires have long offered a snug home — or a cozy getaway — for artists, musicians, and playwrights looking for a nourishing balance of quiet and culture. For visiting New Yorkers, especially, it seems to be an irresistible draw as a spot to workshop new ideas without the harsh glare of city lights. Call it summer camp for grown-ups. But there are also those moments when city folk and townies rub each other the...

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Cinemadope: From Punk to Monk
Nov27

Cinemadope: From Punk to Monk

We all die. That great inescapable fact is the one sure thing we all share, but how the knowledge of it affects each of us is a profoundly personal thing. Some people rarely think of it until it is upon them, while others dwell in thoughts of dying. Some are paralyzed by the idea, while others are spurred to action, striving to do as much as they can in the time they’ve been given. And some, for reasons of their own, are compelled to...

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Pixar Strikes Again With More Diversity in Coco
Nov20

Pixar Strikes Again With More Diversity in Coco

Pixar has had a remarkable run. Beginning in 1985, with Toy Story, the animation studio has produced a body of work that has set — and maintained — a high bar for mainstream animation. While the Toy Story franchise proved to be the gift that kept on giving (a fourth installment is due out in 2019), films like Up, WALL-E, and Inside Out proved that the studio was never just telling kids’ stories. But for all its success, there has...

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Cinemadope: Bold Ballet on Screen

As the days grow shorter here in the Valley, we begin to hear whispers of that famous annual December celebration. Children look forward to it for months, and adults go shopping early to make sure they get everything they need before the best stock is sold. I’m talking, of course, about The Nutcracker. First performed in 19th Century Russia, the fan-favorite ballet has been a staple of the holiday season in the Valley for years, and...

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Cinemadope: A Fan Steps into the Spotlight in “Good Ol’ Freda”
Nov06

Cinemadope: A Fan Steps into the Spotlight in “Good Ol’ Freda”

It’s a fool’s game to think that the past can’t be topped, but let’s play it for a moment: can there ever be another phenomenon like the Beatles? Whether you count yourself a fan or not, the band — their impact was never only about their music — set off a sea change in popular music that is still making waves today. In a world where we now have nearly any recording literally at our fingertips, it’s difficult to imagine any one band...

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Cinemadope: Decay Okay
Oct30

Cinemadope: Decay Okay

When my grandfather died, some years ago now, my mother and I spent the days that followed going through his apartment to sort through the belongings he’d left behind, trying to figure out what we should keep and what we could safely shunt along to the garbage heap. It was a daunting but fascinating task; my grandfather wasn’t exactly a hoarder, but he was a man of many and widely varied interests, and his little second-floor nest was...

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Cinemadope: Calling in Sick
Oct23

Cinemadope: Calling in Sick

When we write the history of the last decade, the smartphone will surely loom large. Since 2007, when the iPhone was unveiled, these little packages of silicon and glass have become almost literally an extension of ourselves, attached to the ends of our arms to record, inform, or enhance so many of our moments. We still have some adjustments to make to this new world, to be sure — I long for the day when concerts are not spoiled by...

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Cinemadope: Blank’s Canvas
Oct16

Cinemadope: Blank’s Canvas

In his four-plus decades of filmmaking, director Les Blank (1935-2013) embodied the best of American documentary filmmaking. While his best-known work remains Burden of Dreams (a wild look at the insanity that was the production of his fellow director and friend Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo), his true impact comes from not one film, but from his wide-ranging view of American culture. Training his camera on smaller pockets of...

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Cinemadope: Films Fulfilling Three Kinds of Dread
Oct09

Cinemadope: Films Fulfilling Three Kinds of Dread

It’s October in New England, and that means it’s time for some annual traditions. Some are timeless, passed down through the generations—apple picking, hayrides—while others are more recent, and hopefully less long-lasting—the inane back and forth bickering of the warring pumpkin spice factions. (Seriously, people, it’s okay for someone to like something that you don’t.) But for many, at least in my circles, October means just one...

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Cinemadope: Dick Pics
Oct02

Cinemadope: Dick Pics

It would be unfair to the memory of Philip K. Dick to say that he’s having a resurgence. The author, who passed away at the age of 53 in 1982, has been more visible than usual of late thanks to a few headline grabbing adaptations, most notably the sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049 and the Amazon-produced series The Man in the High Castle (built on Dick’s 1962 novel that spun out a world in which the Allies had lost WWII, and the Nazis...

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Cinemadope: Northampton Film Fest
Sep25

Cinemadope: Northampton Film Fest

Even though the town has lacked a dedicated movie house for more than five years, Northampton has continued to find ways to bring film to area moviegoers. Cinema Northampton has done a fine job of scheduling its fun, community-focused, outdoor movie nights, screening family fare that brings people out of their Netflix dens to watch something with their neighbors. Sharp-eyed film lovers will catch an occasional screening at Smith...

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Cinemadope: Missing the Warm and Fuzzies?
Sep18

Cinemadope: Missing the Warm and Fuzzies?

At the Headfort School in Kells, Ireland, two of the school’s most popular teachers are getting ready to retire. The husband and wife team have been educating and inspiring children for almost half a century, and their example — and what the possibility of their retirement might mean for the country’s only primary-age boarding school — is at the heart of Neasa Ni Chianain and David Rane’s documentary School Life. It screens this...

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Cinemadope: Musical Bandits Plan Their Escape Tour
Sep11

Cinemadope: Musical Bandits Plan Their Escape Tour

When September hits, the kids head back to school — and for film fans, that can be a great thing. One of the many film events that are hosted on area campuses is The German Film Series, presented by the Amherst College department of German on irregular Thursdays in the school’s Stirn Auditorium. The series, which brings in a half dozen or so subtitled films each spring and fall season, is starting up again this week, and will screen...

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Cinemadope: CAAAAAN’T Miss this one
Sep05

Cinemadope: CAAAAAN’T Miss this one

For all its ham-fistedness, the world of Star Trek has done an impressive job of putting important issues in front of its audience over the years. And while the first series was set sometime in the 2200s, it all began, in our world, during the late 1960s — and Star Trek writers were quick to use their platform as a way to craft parables about racism, Vietnam, and more. This week, Cinemark Theaters will be screening Star Trek II: Wrath...

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Cinemadope: Whose Streets? Life in Ferguson after fatal shooting of unarmed, black teen by white officer
Aug28

Cinemadope: Whose Streets? Life in Ferguson after fatal shooting of unarmed, black teen by white officer

One of the more disturbing things about cinema is the establishment of who is a hero and who is a villain. Most often this looks like a white man taking down a non-white man. The specifics may change with the era — from the villain being African-American to South American to Middle Eastern to Asian — but the underlying message does not. It’s vital, then, that we seek out work made by the people of color whose voices are so often...

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Cinemadope: Human Smuggling Just to Get By
Aug21

Cinemadope: Human Smuggling Just to Get By

Shelburne Falls Pothole Pictures continues its summer movie series with something frosty: a screening of Frozen River. This 2008 film, written and directed by Courtney Hunt, was the hit of the festival circuit when it debuted, winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and nabbing a “Top Ten Films” spot from the American Film Institute — not too shabby for a first outing. And while Hunt’s story and direction are top notch, it is star...

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Cinemadope: Actor-in-Chief, Reagan forever changed the role of US President (Spoiler! Not for the Better)
Aug14

Cinemadope: Actor-in-Chief, Reagan forever changed the role of US President (Spoiler! Not for the Better)

With the ongoing avalanche of reporting on Russia and that nation’s relationship with our current president, it feels almost quaint to look back on the days of the Reagan era. Certainly there was international intrigue then, but today, the jelly beans and faux folksiness of Ron and Nancy’s White House sometimes seem — at least to a writer who went from boyhood to teenager under Reagan — like childhood memories from overnights at a...

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Cinemadope: How Reagan Forever Changed The Presidency
Aug11

Cinemadope: How Reagan Forever Changed The Presidency

With the ongoing avalanche of reporting on Russia and that nation’s relationship with our current president, it feels almost quaint to look back on the days of the Reagan era. Certainly there was international intrigue then, but today, the jelly beans and faux folksiness of Ron and Nancy’s White House sometimes seem — at least to a writer who went from boyhood to teenager under Reagan — like childhood memories from overnights at a...

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Cinemadope: It Takes Two To Go Down In A Bloody Shootout
Aug02

Cinemadope: It Takes Two To Go Down In A Bloody Shootout

For as long as stories have been told, they have been told about pairs: Odysseus and Penelope, Arthur and Merlin, Bugs and Elmer. It’s a rare tale that doesn’t focus, in some way, on that essential human desire to connect. It can bring us to ecstasy or despair — sometimes both — but there’s no escaping our need for each other. This week, Valley filmgoers have a chance to catch famous pairs on screens all over the area. Some of them...

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Cinemadope: Summer Cinema Slam in Brattleboro
Jul31

Cinemadope: Summer Cinema Slam in Brattleboro

Summer Cinema Slam 2017 is taking place at the New England Youth Theater in Brattleboro this Saturday night. Featuring an all-Vermont slate of films and artists — the bill includes four shorts and one hour-long feature, with musical act Hungrytown providing ambiance during the food truck and beer intermission — the films on display run the gamut from animation to period piece to drama. Ten dollars before or $15 at the door gets you a...

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Cinemadope: That Time the MoMA Refused to Return Nazi-Stolen Art
Jul24

Cinemadope: That Time the MoMA Refused to Return Nazi-Stolen Art

My first exposure to Egon Schiele came via Deane G. Keller, an artist and professor whose figure drawing classes remain one of my most lasting memories of art school. We had been working on some hand studies when he suggested I might enjoy the Austrian artist’s work, and when class let out I cut through the trees to the school library to look up the man with the strange name. The collection of work I found amazed me: drawings,...

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Cinemadope: ‘Wanna-Bes Need Not Apply,’ Documentary on Madonna’s Back-up Voguers
Jul17

Cinemadope: ‘Wanna-Bes Need Not Apply,’ Documentary on Madonna’s Back-up Voguers

“Wimps and Wanna-Be’s need not apply!” That was the tagline of a print ad announcing an open audition for “FIERCE Male Dancers” who wanted to earn a spot on Madonna’s controversial, ground-breaking Blond Ambition Tour in 1990. It would have been a dream job for any dancer, but nobody — certainly not the seven young men, most barely 20 at the time, who ended up touring the globe with the pop star — could have predicted the impact the...

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Cinemadope: A ‘Damned Dirty’ Future Classic
Jul10

Cinemadope: A ‘Damned Dirty’ Future Classic

At the risk of sounding impossibly out-of-touch, let me tell you something: I sure do miss Dialing for Dollars. That syndicated TV program — in which an afternoon movie was chopped into a few hundred pieces, allowing host George Allen to pick a number out of the area phone book and call cash-hungry viewers during the many breaks — did more for my early interest in movies than it had any right doing. Maybe it was because it was on in...

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Cinemadope: I Like Mike, Michael Keaton doesn’t get enough credit
Jul03

Cinemadope: I Like Mike, Michael Keaton doesn’t get enough credit

In film, there have always been levels of stardom. There are those stars whose wattage is measured in tooth whiteness, and whose films are expected to earn many millions based more or less on their mere presence — your Pitts, your Cruises, your Lawrences. Then there are those whose star power is moodier, imbued with more actorly gravitas — the Day Lewises, for short. It’s okay if their films don’t always make millions, because they...

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Cinemadope: Better Than Finding A 45-Year-Old Porno
Jun26

Cinemadope: Better Than Finding A 45-Year-Old Porno

Many years ago, I found myself deep in the basement of the old Pleasant Street Theater (now the location of McLadden’s pub in Northampton), cleaning out some old storage lockers. From one of them, I pulled out a dented, dusty, film can, a flat circle of metal about 15 inches across and an inch or so deep. On its side was a peeling piece of yellowed masking tape with a single, suggestive word scrawled across it in marker: “Throat.”...

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Cinemadope: Musical Evolution
Jun19

Cinemadope: Musical Evolution

There have been many eulogies given over the years for the American Movie Musical. And while the popularity of the form is certainly not what it was during its heyday — superhero movies, with their own kinds of acrobatics and wish-fulfillment scenarios, seem to have grabbed today’s everyday American — it has never gone away, either. What, then, changed? The subjects, certainly, grew heavier over the years: the mistaken identity romps...

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Cinemadope: Pedaling Up a Mountain While Playing the Keyboard
Jun12

Cinemadope: Pedaling Up a Mountain While Playing the Keyboard

This week, bicyclists (okay, you power walkers can come, too) get a film festival devoted to that sense of freedom when the Ciclismo Classico Bike Travel Film Festival comes to the Academy of Music in Northampton for a Thursday evening screening. Now in its eighth year, the Ciclismo is the only festival in the U.S. that trains its lens specifically on bike travel, but the stories it highlights are not just for bikers — they are for...

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Cinemadope: City Mouse, Rat Film exposes who the rodents really are in Baltimore
Jun05

Cinemadope: City Mouse, Rat Film exposes who the rodents really are in Baltimore

Fans of filmmaker John Waters might be familiar with the director’s odd fascination with rats. They crop up with some regularity in his life and work — from the original poster for 1977’s Desperate Living, which featured a cooked rat on a restaurant dinner plate, to the opening scenes of his film Pecker some two decades later, which zoomed in on a pair of the rodents in flagrante delicto, the humble rat has become Waters’ spirit...

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Cinemadope: Mad Max ‘Black & Chrome’ Escapes Hollywood’s Color Crutch
May30

Cinemadope: Mad Max ‘Black & Chrome’ Escapes Hollywood’s Color Crutch

There has been a trend in Hollywood filmmaking that, for the last decade or so, has steadily changed the look of our blockbusters. It’s a pervasive change, but one that has happened gradually enough that many people aren’t even aware that it has been happening, quite literally in front of their eyes. So then, a warning: If you haven’t noticed, and don’t want the way you look at movies to be changed forever, skip the next paragraph....

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