At Amherst Cinema: An actor dives into a reporter’s death
Sep06

At Amherst Cinema: An actor dives into a reporter’s death

There’s a famous scene in Network, Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film about the state of the television industry, in which veteran newsman Howard Beale (Peter Finch), bitter about his impending dismissal in the face of declining ratings, announces to his audience that instead of fading away he will go out with a bang – by killing himself on air in an upcoming broadcast. It doesn’t quite happen that way in the film (without Beale continuing on,...

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Cinemadope: A Queen and Her Kings
Aug29

Cinemadope: A Queen and Her Kings

A musician’s life is never easy. I’m not talking about those of us who pick up the guitar now and then, or even the many who, long after it becomes clear that they will likely not move beyond the coffee house or bar circuit, still pack up the Volvo to head out for a weekend gig. I’m thinking instead of those people for whom performance is a necessity — people who from early on have been driven to sing, dance, blow a horn, or beat a...

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Cinemadope: These New Kid Flicks Aren’t Just For Kids
Aug22

Cinemadope: These New Kid Flicks Aren’t Just For Kids

No KiddingOne of the great myths of cinema is that kids movies are for kids. Sure, they might be a bit more brightly colored than most, or hit most of their punch lines a little more on the nose, but never forget that these films are made by grown-ups. Peel back that sweet outer layer, and very often you’ll find a richer, more complex flavor just beneath the surface.This week, a small army of “kid’s movies” land on area screens,...

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Cinemadope: On the Road Again
Aug15

Cinemadope: On the Road Again

Alien. Blade Runner. Black Hawk Down. The Martian. Over the decades, director Ridley Scott has built a career on making the kinds of films (often with a bit of a sci-fi bent) that combine quiet moments with explosive action. But for me, he will always be first associated with a film that many people are surprsed to find he directed at all.That film is the now-classic 1991 road movie Thelma & Louise, screening this week at Cinemark...

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Sisters and Soldiers: New Films This Week
Aug09

Sisters and Soldiers: New Films This Week

A quiet world, invadedSometimes it seems like we have always been at war. Whether on a small scale or a world stage, we as a species seem never to tire of hurting each other, and of finding inventive new ways to do it. But perhaps even more depressing than that terrible march of progress from stones to drones are those ancient horrors that are still so terribly common in our more recent conflicts.One of those horrors is at the heart...

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Cinemadope: Music! Intrigue! Nuts! Documentary film screenings this week
Jul25

Cinemadope: Music! Intrigue! Nuts! Documentary film screenings this week

In this political season, there has been a lot of talk about the meaning — good and bad — of dynasties in our national discourse. The truth is that, for a country that prides itself on its history of flipping the bird to royalty all those years ago, we sure do love to see familiar faces on the big stage: Kennedy, Bush, and Clinton are more than mere names. They are signifiers and shorthand that let us feel connected to the wider...

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Cinemadope: Fallout
Jul19

Cinemadope: Fallout

Conspiracy Theories “Challenger” will forever be one of those words whose meaning — or at least its history — is immediately known to anyone old enough to have lived through the 1986 space shuttle disaster. That tragic moment, witnessed live by so many American children (I was one such seventh grader, watching on a TV wheeled into our social studies classroom), is still seared in our national memory. Just seeing the shape of the...

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Cinemadope: Prince’s Purple Reign
Jul11

Cinemadope: Prince’s Purple Reign

We all have a tendency, as we get on in years, to remember our better days and let the not-so-great times wash away in the river of time. It’s human, and while you might roll your eyes at your great-aunt launching into that same story about sneaking into a Beatles concert, rest assured that someday someone will be rolling their eyes at your own oft-told stories. But you? You’ll be too happy to notice.In film, too, stories we love get...

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Cinemadope: Defiant Requiem showing in Amherst
Jun27

Cinemadope: Defiant Requiem showing in Amherst

Notes on War When it comes to war and film, there will never be a shortage of stories. Whether tales of daring or death, on the front or at home, war can bring out the best and worst in us, and create lifelong strength — or leave one with lasting wounds. And while we at home, removed from the reality of conflict, might imagine our soldiers as one mass of humanity, the truth is that they are millions of individuals, each with their own...

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Cinemadope: Here and Gone
Jun20

Cinemadope: Here and Gone

Small films shown quickly, so see them todayShowing movies is a tough racket, and the hard truth of the matter is that an opening weekend can make or break a film’s chances at breaking even at the box office. Do decently out of the gate, and you might get a chance at week two; do not-so-decently, and you’re probably destined for the DVD bin at Walmart — if you’re lucky.One of the trickier bits about writing a weekly film column is...

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Cinemadope: Swede Hearts, a celebration of the best Bergmans in film: Ingmar and Ingrid
Jun06

Cinemadope: Swede Hearts, a celebration of the best Bergmans in film: Ingmar and Ingrid

 Hear that a local theater is hosting a Bergman festival, and the first thought that will pop into the heads of most art-house denizens will be that of the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. An icon for the ages, the director’s films — The Seventh Seal, Fanny and Alexander, etc. — came to define “foreign film” for a generation of moviegoers. There have been a whole lot of Ingmar Bergman festivals over the years, and it’s fair to...

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Take Note
May31

Take Note

 Movies without music would be like books without adjectives. So much of the emotional impact of film as we know it depends on auditory cues and clues, even though we aren’t really aware of it much of the time. When we are aware of it, more often than not it lessens the impact of the music on a scene. But done right, movie music — in which I include not just soundtrack songs and title themes but also the little recurring motifs,...

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Cinemadope: ‘April and the Extraordinary World’ plays this weekend; Longevity serum, missing scientists, and a talking cat named Darwin
May23

Cinemadope: ‘April and the Extraordinary World’ plays this weekend; Longevity serum, missing scientists, and a talking cat named Darwin

Ask people what they like in art, and you might think that all they want is “the real world” mirrored back at them. We hail the Old Masters — their mastery of light and shadow, their ability to make hard marble seem like supple skin. But where would we story lovers be without alternate worlds?In a world sometimes overly concerned with making art seem “real,” it’s always a pleasure to find oneself happily lost in another place, and...

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Cinemadope: A Bugs Life
Mar08

Cinemadope: A Bugs Life

There was a time in my life — not, in truth, all that long ago — when I didn’t think that the genius of Looney Tunes would ever be equalled. Sure, animation has grown to encompass all sorts of new technologies since Bugs and company first hit the screen, but what made those cartoons so essential to me as a boy was never just how they were drawn. Instead, it was the wordplay and wit at work, and the unending nods to all sorts of adult...

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Cinemadope: Piano Man, Marvin Hamlisch’s musical legacy
Feb29

Cinemadope: Piano Man, Marvin Hamlisch’s musical legacy

You don’t have to be a music nerd to know Marvin Hamlisch. Or a theater nerd. Or a film nerd. Or a television nerd. Because even if you don’t know him by name, Hamlisch’s work will have seeped into the soul of anyone who was alive in the latter half of the 20th century. He was, after all, that rare creative beast (there have been only 11 others) who attained what has come to be known as an EGOT: winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar,...

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Cinemadope: A Bird in Hand, Sesame Street comes to Northampton
Feb08

Cinemadope: A Bird in Hand, Sesame Street comes to Northampton

As I sit here in my shirtsleeves, typing away near a slightly open window, I really must insist that readers of this column remember this minor detail: it is February. This is the time when we’re all supposed to be calling all the hardware stores, asking about roof rakes and ice dams; or buying one of those weird ergonomic shovels because all the normal ones are sold out, bought by normal people who think ahead. I mention it not...

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Cinemadope: Keeping the Beat
Jan25

Cinemadope: Keeping the Beat

One of my favorite memories of being young and broke in New York is of a night my then-partner and I went to a Manhattan music spot to hear one of her co-workers play. The venue was a second floor residence — it seemed a good bet that, despite the space made for a dance floor, someone called it home after the music was over for the night — and the bar carried wildly marked-up drinks from the bodega below. The man who had invited us...

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Cinemadope: Turkish delight, the unstoppable spirit of youth
Jan11

Cinemadope: Turkish delight, the unstoppable spirit of youth

Twice in the 1990s, a striking debut made a splash in creative circles. There were, of course, other debuts that have left their marks — Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, for instance, hit screens in 1992, cutting the channel for the coming river of pop culture-saturated stories that would make him a household name — but what made this particular pair stand out was that they both told the same story: one was a debut novel, the other...

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Cinemadope: Shifting Gears, bikes, cars, and the future
Jan04

Cinemadope: Shifting Gears, bikes, cars, and the future

Here in the Pioneer Valley, bikes and biking are part of the fabric of daily life. People come from miles away to roll along the long bike path. Built on an old rail line that stretches across the Connecticut river and connects far-flung towns, the bike path has grown in popularity. New businesses have sprung up that cater to the two-wheeling crowd — check out the to-go window in the back of Easthampton’s Tandem Bagel Company, where...

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Cinemadope: Loose Lips and Starships
Dec28

Cinemadope: Loose Lips and Starships

For movie fans everywhere, a lot of the news this month has been about The Force Awakens, the new J.J. Abrams film in the the Star Wars franchise, and the seventh installment in the ongoing story of Jedis, the Dark Side, and a scrappy rebellion that stretches across a galaxy. But if the film itself is news — and after the execrable three prequels that were foisted on eager fans over the last decade or so, any Star Wars film that isn’t...

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Cinemadope: Nerd Christmas
Dec14

Cinemadope: Nerd Christmas

When I do the dishes in our house, I often like to plug in some headphones and catch up on a favorite podcast. One of those podcasts is a new discovery for me, so I’ve been catching up on old episodes during my nightly scrubbing. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter that the stream is about a year old, but last night I was listening when the subject of the new Star Wars trailer came up, and it took me a moment to realize that the hosts...

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Winter is Coming: Holiday Film Traditions
Dec07

Winter is Coming: Holiday Film Traditions

As I sit down to write this column, the calendar is teetering on the edge of December. Thanksgiving may have been unseasonably balmy, but today was the first day all season that I left the house and immediately turned back to put on another layer. When I got back, I plugged in the tree and put on some holiday music, made a cup of tea, and curled up as tightly as I could in the softest chair in the house. And yet none of that signals...

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Cinemadope: Jennifer Lawrence, then and now
Nov30

Cinemadope: Jennifer Lawrence, then and now

It’s hard to imagine, sometimes, that Jennifer Lawrence’s first listed credit on IMDb — “Mascot” on a 2006 episode of the TV series Monk, by the way — is less than 10 years old. The Kentucky-born actress, still just 25 today, has had a meteoric rise, with her mix of beyond-her-years maturity and youthful coltishness earning her a Best Actress Oscar at the age of 22; she is the second youngest actress ever to win. In films small and...

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Cinemadope: Bond Issue, Daniel Craig makes an old role his own
Nov23

Cinemadope: Bond Issue, Daniel Craig makes an old role his own

There was a moment in Apple’s September product announcement event — during which they unveiled the newest version of the Apple TV, their set-top streaming device that brings Netflix, Hulu, HBO and much more to the living room TV set — when designer Jen Folse took a moment to demonstrate the voice search capabilities of the new device. Pressing a button on the remote control to activate the voice recognition service Siri, she began by...

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Cinemadope: The Social Network, Cuban music and a couple of classics
Nov16

Cinemadope: The Social Network, Cuban music and a couple of classics

When I first moved to Northampton in 1997, the now classic Buena Vista Social Club had only recently been released. A collection of Cuban music performed by veterans of the Havana scene, it was a surprise hit that was originally meant to be a showcase for a collaboration between Cuban musicians and visiting musicians from Mali. When the Malian contingent found themselves unable to secure the visas necessary for the project, American...

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Cinemadope: Return Tickets, a mainstay reopens in Amherst
Nov09

Cinemadope: Return Tickets, a mainstay reopens in Amherst

When a movie theater closes up shop, it often catches us by surprise. It isn’t that we don’t see it coming; we all know by now about Netflix, Hulu, and Redbox, and how the ever-expanding options of cable television and the Internet have siphoned off some of the traditional theater crowd. By the time the doors are locked for the last time, many of us might not have been inside for the better part of a year. Still, we see it coming;...

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Cinemadope: Autumn film trips in the Valley
Nov03

Cinemadope: Autumn film trips in the Valley

Movie fans can be a pasty bunch. Ducking out of the sun to catch a sparsely attended matinee is par for the course — those nearly empty mid-week shows are a welcome respite from the cellphones and chatter of weekend opening nights. Netflix, Vimeo, and the local library can eat up an awful lot of the remaining daytime hours for the diehards among us. Luckily, film buffs in the Valley have the best of both worlds at our doorstep: a...

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Cinemadope: Busting out. A comedy classic returns.
Oct26

Cinemadope: Busting out. A comedy classic returns.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the upcoming reboot to the Ghostbusters franchise. Director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) 2016 release is a female-centered take on the story that stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as a pair of old friends who are thrown together again when ghosts invade their beloved New York. It is set to be, by most accounts and by a cursory glance at Feig and Co.’s recent output (not just Bridesmaids but...

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Cinemadope: Scare Tactics, Halloween movies
Oct19

Cinemadope: Scare Tactics, Halloween movies

Of all the holiday movie traditions, it might be that of Halloween that has given us in the film world the most joy over the years. Christmas has some winners, of course, but is often bogged down by moralizing, sappiness, or commercialism. Thanksgiving and New Year’s barely have enough films between them to constitute a tradition. But Halloween movies — like the holiday that inspires them — tend to get dressed up in an outrageous...

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Cinemadope: Smuggling a pile of Tibet to exiles in India
Oct13

Cinemadope: Smuggling a pile of Tibet to exiles in India

I’ve lived in the Valley for some 18 years now, which is exactly as long as I lived under my parents’ roof. Everything in between there and here — my two homes, each of which, now, has had its own family life — has been a way station, a stop along a longer road. But as much as I’ve come to love the deep richness of Western Mass, there is a part of me that will always feel tied to the Rhode Island shore where I grew up. For me, that...

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Cinemadope: Octoberfest, a new film festival hits Northampton
Oct06

Cinemadope: Octoberfest, a new film festival hits Northampton

We here in the Pioneer Valley love a good festival. Just this year I’ve seen festivals devoted to asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, or one that just throws it all together to celebrate the harvest season. Our small towns have festivals to celebrate their small-towniness, and you can’t shake a stick in the summer without hitting a music festival or two. But maybe more than anything else, the film festival has had real staying power. The...

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Cinemadope: Hurts So Good, remembering the ’80s
Sep29

Cinemadope: Hurts So Good, remembering the ’80s

As much as I love good film — the transformative power of a story well told, the otherworldly experience of settling into the dark as the lights come up on someone else’s dream — there is something to be said for the bad ones out there. To be clear, I’m not talking about the hundreds of generically bad movies that get put out every year that simply don’t work for whatever reason. (Ironically, perhaps, those films rarely suffer from a...

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Cinemadope: Beyond the Screen, special shows and a new job for De Niro
Sep22

Cinemadope: Beyond the Screen, special shows and a new job for De Niro

One of the great treats of having Amherst Cinema around for so long — it turns 10 next year — is that the programming has had the chance to grow beyond the standard fare that is all too expected of an “art house” theater (a label, I’d guess, the theater itself would reject as too limiting). Great movies have always just been the beginning. Certainly, Amherst has brought in a good number of foreign films and revivals (more on that...

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Cinemadope: Mob Mentality, the Whitey Bulger story
Sep14

Cinemadope: Mob Mentality, the Whitey Bulger story

Almost from the get go, movies and crime have been a natural pair. Perhaps it’s the voyeuristic nature of the medium, where to some degree we’re all just looking through a one-way mirror, that draws us to stories of sin and violence — we get all the adrenaline with none of the danger. Or maybe movies are simply another, newer, version of Aesop’s fables, warning us against our own darker impulses. Or maybe we’re just the crowd at the...

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Cinemadope: Soul Music, The Beatles in Amherst and an Indian classic
Sep08

Cinemadope: Soul Music, The Beatles in Amherst and an Indian classic

Film fans might remember Julie Taymor’s wide-ranging 2007 movie Across the Universe. It opened to mixed reviews, but one thing it had going for it was the strength of its musical foundation: the bulk of the soundtrack — and indeed the whole arc of the film’s story — was built on the classic repertoire of the Beatles. The boys from England had long been a fun fit for film, making early pseudo-documentaries like Help! and A Hard Day’s...

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