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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Cinemadope: Northampton Movie Night
May22

Cinemadope: Northampton Movie Night

An evening in Northampton has never been boring. Meet your date for a cocktail or a glass of wine, move on to dinner at any number of downtown bites, catch a concert, go to an art opening. Stroll the streets, duck into the renovated Pulaski Park, circle Paradise Pond on the Smith campus. They weren’t kidding when they settled on “walk into something wonderful” as the slogan for downtown. But get the itch to see a movie, and your...

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Cinemadope: It’s Going to Be a Damn Fine Reboot, and FREE Streaming Movies )w/vid)
May15

Cinemadope: It’s Going to Be a Damn Fine Reboot, and FREE Streaming Movies )w/vid)

Amherst Cinema is gearing up for the return of Special Agent Dale Cooper. Kyle MacLachlan returns to TV this week in his early role as Cooper, the FBI man who got tied up in the death of Laura Palmer and the mysteries of Twin Peaks when the show of the same name first aired in the early 1990s on ABC. I was in high school then, and watching the original was a life-changer: it was dark and weird and funny and sweet in a way nothing had...

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Cinemadope: Would You Take a Bullet for Art? Documentary on full-throttle artist Chris Burden (w/vid)
May08

Cinemadope: Would You Take a Bullet for Art? Documentary on full-throttle artist Chris Burden (w/vid)

For such a rich subject, films about art and the people that make it all too often feel either forced and flat or ridiculously over the top. Better, usually, to take the documentary route, and let the art speak for itself. That’s the course taken by directors Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey, whose film Burden — screening this week at the Little Cinema in the Berkshire Museum — takes a good long look at the life and times of...

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Rabbit Season: ‘Donnie Darko,’ cult classic about a boy and an apocalyptic bunny, returns to the screen
May01

Rabbit Season: ‘Donnie Darko,’ cult classic about a boy and an apocalyptic bunny, returns to the screen

In the world of film, it is sometimes depressingly simple to point out why a given film is popular: perfectly groomed stars with gleaming teeth, things going boom, good over evil. I get it — we are, by and large, easy to please, and that’s okay. It’s just not that interesting. What is far more difficult to pin down, and so much more engaging to wonder about, are the unexpected hits and cult favorites. What these works do is strike...

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Cinemadope: This Is Spinal Tap deadpans for gold
Apr24

Cinemadope: This Is Spinal Tap deadpans for gold

While the idea of a “mockumentary” now seems almost old-hat, in 1984 director Rob Reiner gave birth to the zany medium. His ridiculously entertaining satire about life on the road with aging, British metal band Spinal Tap during their American comeback tour was mostly improvpotised, with stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer leading the charge. At the time, it was almost puzzling in the strength of its deadpan....

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Cinemadope: TED talks live on the Cinemark screen
Apr18

Cinemadope: TED talks live on the Cinemark screen

TED talks — the bite-sized presentations given at the organization’s annual Technology, Education, and Design conference — have become an oddly popular cultural phenomenon. At once elitist and public-spirited (a standard conference membership will run you 10 grand, yet thousands of the famous talks are available for free on TED.com), it has become a sort of intellectual snack food, shared on social media with attention-grabbing titles...

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Cinemadope: Hopptornet, a documentary that pushes people to jump
Apr10

Cinemadope: Hopptornet, a documentary that pushes people to jump

Maine Course Like so many of my middle-aged compatriots, I seem to have adopted food as a new hobby. Not cooking, necessarily — quite a bit of this particular enterprise is taken up simply by watching other people cook, it turns out — but eating, at least. And what I’ve come to realize about myself is that I’m addicted to those smallest of plates, the hors d’oeuvre. My dear mother-in-law may work for half a day assembling a...

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Cinemadope: Banned in the U.S., Documentary about Massachusetts prison for criminally insane turns 50
Apr03

Cinemadope: Banned in the U.S., Documentary about Massachusetts prison for criminally insane turns 50

One of my favorite discoveries from the last year was Documentary Now!, a wonderfully endearing mix of parody and love letter to the modern documentary genre. Originally created for the IFC channel — I first ran across it on Netflix, where you can still check out the first season — the series, created by Saturday Night Live alums Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Seth Meyers tackles a different well-known documentary each episode,...

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Cinemadope: Your Nearest Screening of 1984
Mar27

Cinemadope: Your Nearest Screening of 1984

Hurt Feelings A few weeks back I found myself with a rare night off — the kids asleep early, the house somehow clean, the bills already paid. I was scrolling through my various Netflix queues when a familiar title popped up: V for Vendetta, the Wachowskis’ 2005 adaptation of Alan Moore’s (Watchmen) famous graphic novel. Something in our current climate had me in the mood to revisit this tale of a neo-fascist regime, holding on to...

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Cinemadope: In a Pickle
Mar20

Cinemadope: In a Pickle

The annual Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival returns Now in its twelfth year, the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival (PVJFF) has long been a wonderful part of the Valley’s plentiful film offerings. Carefully curated, the festival screens films big and small, providing local filmgoers with a thought-provoking slate of work that is engaging, entertaining, and often unexpected. Beyond giving viewers a nice show, the festival...

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Cinemadope: Perfect 10
Mar13

Cinemadope: Perfect 10

Talk about the American Dream, and one of the first things that will likely come up is the idea of owning your own home. To be sure, having a house of one’s own brings with it a host of benefits — if you have kids, for instance, cleaning all those rooms every day means you can skip a gym membership — but sometimes there is something lost in the rush to find our own walled castles. Before I came to the Valley, I lived in a series of...

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Cinemadope: In Plain Sight
Mar06

Cinemadope: In Plain Sight

Over the last few months, it has become impossible to ignore the rising tides of xenophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry and hatred that have suddenly made America a much scarier place for so many of those who call it home. Of course, these prejudices aren’t new — for a nation founded by people fleeing persecution, we sure have done a damn lot of persecuting ourselves — but they are certainly out in the daylight in a way they...

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Cinemadope: Wolverine’s Back — For the Last Time
Feb27

Cinemadope: Wolverine’s Back — For the Last Time

We Americans are a nostalgic bunch. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just that we are still such a young nation — there are Italian cafes that are older than our whole country — that we like to fool ourselves into thinking we have more history than we do. Or maybe, when things are particularly desperate, we just need the comfort of pretending that things haven’t always been so bad. And so we have our Facebook memories, our Timehops, our...

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Cinemadope: The Short List
Feb20

Cinemadope: The Short List

It’s easy, when Oscars season rolls around, to feel jaded about the cult of celebrity that Hollywood engenders. It can seem that the same kinds of films, and the same kinds of stars, come away with the golden statue every year. But if we’re still waiting for the Academy to wake up to the wider world of film when it comes to the biggest awards, some categories — and not just the foreign film selections — have long seemed more open to...

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Cinemadope: The Eagle Huntress
Feb13

Cinemadope: The Eagle Huntress

All Ages Show For years now, the Academy of Music in Northampton has played host to the annual KidsBestFest film festival. It’s a free week-long event (donations are welcome) that mixes great kid-centric movies from around the world with a local event known as YouthFilm, which gives youthful local filmmakers the chance to have their work shown on the Academy’s big screen. The festival is scheduled to coincide with the school vacation...

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Cinemadope: The Venice Ghetto – 500 Years of Life
Feb06

Cinemadope: The Venice Ghetto – 500 Years of Life

Every year at Oscar time we get a speech about the power of visual effects and their ability to “capture the magic in our mind” or some such thing, followed by a green-screen montage of dragons, space aliens, and transforming cars that are also space aliens. Don’t get me wrong: great effects can make a movie magical. But without a story that we care about, even the best effects are just lightning trying to reanimate the dead. The true...

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Cinemadope: The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
Jan30

Cinemadope: The Prison in Twelve Landscapes

Building a Wall Over the last few years, a regular appointment in Boston meant that I was frequently traveling along Route 2 between Franklin County and the Hub. It was more convenient than driving south to hook up with the Pike, and more picturesque, even if it did mean losing cell service now and again. I got used to it, and before long it felt little different than my commute to Northampton along Route 5. But however many times I...

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