‘Ask a Punk’ Documentary on Western Mass DIY gives glimpse into growing music scene (w/vid)
May22

‘Ask a Punk’ Documentary on Western Mass DIY gives glimpse into growing music scene (w/vid)

Amherst College junior Brian Zayatz’s new documentary, Ask a Punk, opens on a dark basement. You can’t see much other than some hazy Christmas lights in the frame. Some very involved yet calming music — tritones soaked in reverb — plays in the background.This basement in Hadley, along with others throughout the Valley and beyond, could have been finished and furnished with a crisp flat screen, but instead its brick walls are being...

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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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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: ‘Bad Channels’ Tune Into 666 … if you dare (w/vid)
May08

Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: ‘Bad Channels’ Tune Into 666 … if you dare (w/vid)

I was saddened when I heard the news that Paul O’Neil, the founder of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, had died. It seems my favorite bands have either passed away (the Ramones, the Cramps), or are eligible for AARP but continue to stumble on. In addition to Sparks and Alice Cooper, the Blue Oyster Cult is a prime example of the latter. Looking to expand their fan base in 1992, BOC produced the soundtrack for a movie called Bad Channels....

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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 some...

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Stagestruck: ‘Life in the (413)’ skewers local culture Saturday
Apr24

Stagestruck: ‘Life in the (413)’ skewers local culture Saturday

Back in the day — way, way back — live radio drama was a staple of the airwaves. As script-toting actors gathered around microphones, their dialogue was peppered with live sound effects, backed by a live band and punctuated with live commercial breaks, often with a live studio audience looking on.Lately, New Century Theatre, in partnership with radio station WHMP, has joined in the genre’s recent rebirth as a staged theatrical event....

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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.Not...

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Stream Queen: Blazing flicks to watch while high
Apr18

Stream Queen: Blazing flicks to watch while high

It’s 4/20, and whether you consider today a national holiday or just a chance to gather some friends and smoke, you’ll probably end up watching something. Thankfully, now that it’s no longer the ’70s, stoners can open Netflix or YouTube and watch something unique and outlandish, instead of just staring at a psychedelic Grateful Dead poster.Some high wisdom is obvious. For instance, if you’ve eaten an edible and you’re wondering...

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The DO NOT WATCH List
Apr17

The DO NOT WATCH List

 This week, our resident Stream Queen Lena Wilson offers a journey into some high-minded flicks beyond old Cheech and Chong movies (see pg. 18). But Advocate staff thought it equally important to share a blacklist of movies and TV shows to avoid when high — at all costs.This list was compiled from writers’ personal experience… but that’s probably obvious.Eraserhead (dir. David Lynch, 1977) Watching Lynch work his doomy...

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Film Screening: Holding Hands with Ilse
Apr10

Film Screening: Holding Hands with Ilse

Strangers No MoreIn the 1950s, Hampshire College professor Abraham Ravett relocated with his Polish Jewish family from Eastern Europe to the United States. Ravett was just three at the time of the move, but he carried with him a memory — and a single black-and-white photograph — of the German teenage girl who used to care for him while his parents were at work. He knew only her first name: Ilse. Fast-forward to 2011, when “a major...

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

Cinemadope: Hopptornet, a documentary that pushes people to jump

Maine CourseLike 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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Spring Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (April-June 2017)
Apr03

Spring Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (April-June 2017)

Tweet Puppets for the PeopleFrom its founding in New York’s Lower East Side in 1963 to its decades-long residence in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Bread & Puppet Theater remains one of the country’s most inventive and internationally recognized performing arts troupes. The company’s instantly familiar style of street theater shows — which mix music and dance with drama, puppetry, satire, and slapstick — are always a spectacle and,...

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Stream Queen: From Low-Budget Dreams to Indie Esteem
Apr03

Stream Queen: From Low-Budget Dreams to Indie Esteem

In our world of studio filmmaking driven by franchises and sequels, creators looking to develop original ideas are often restricted to independent production. While indie filmmaking means working on a shoestring budget, it also often means the cast and crew are creating a passion project, working to make something cinephiles have never seen before. Despite what Netflix tells you, “indie” is less a genre and more a means of film...

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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 FeelingsA 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 power...

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New Thursday Series: Award-Winning Documentaries at Next Stage
Mar27

New Thursday Series: Award-Winning Documentaries at Next Stage

The World in FrameSince opening its historic church doors in 2011, Next Stage Arts Project has been working to bring world-class events into the small town of Putney, Vermont (just north of Brattleboro). Never has that mission been more clear than with the group’s newest project: a curated screening series for feature-length documentary films called [framed], each one presented by the filmmaker, who will be present at each screening...

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Stream Queen: Women’s Work, rediscovering female directors
Mar20

Stream Queen: Women’s Work, rediscovering female directors

Whether or not Western Mass has gotten the meteorological memo, we’ve officially sprung forward. That means it’s time to emerge from hibernation, put on our rubber gloves, and get ready for some spring cleaning. In my case, I’ve decided to dust off some groundbreaking works by female directors, in honor of Women’s History Month.The cinematic history of female directors is woefully short, and very much still in progress. It took the...

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On Screens: Antarctica Ice and Sky
Mar20

On Screens: Antarctica Ice and Sky

Antarctica’s isolation and cold have always been attractive to me. A land of rolling ice mountains, silence, and snow where Mother Nature is commander in chief. In Antarctica — Ice and Sky, Oscar-winning director Luc Jacquet creates a portrait of French glaciologist Claude Lorius — one of the first scientists to start warning people about climate change. Lorius was among a vanguard of scientists studying ice cores in Antarctica, which...

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Cinemadope: In a Pickle
Mar20

Cinemadope: In a Pickle

The annual Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival returnsNow 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 organizers...

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Stream Queen: Personal Documentary (The Real Alternative Facts)
Mar13

Stream Queen: Personal Documentary (The Real Alternative Facts)

There are a lot of zippy phrases floating around right now that blur the concept of journalistic integrity — “fake news,” “alternative facts,” “White House press secretary Sean Spicer” — but in the film world, objectivity and performance coalesce into a kind of honestly biased duet. Despite its journalistic nature, even documentary filmmaking demands a viewpoint, which the director must decide to tease out through interviews and the...

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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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Thursday Film Screening: A Trailblazing Trans Elder and Activist
Mar06

Thursday Film Screening: A Trailblazing Trans Elder and Activist

Miss MajorKnown to many simply as “mama,” Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a trans elder and activist who blazed the trail for other high-profile transgender women of color. Griffin-Gracy has been involved, up close and personal, in decades of fights for rights, including at the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. Now 76 years old, she lives in Oakland and serves as the executive director for the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex...

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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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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: The Last Dinosaur
Feb27

Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: The Last Dinosaur

Many winters ago, in 1977 to be precise, a friend and I were invited to a party. As luck would have it, we were the only males present. To top it off, the girls wanted to try the old game of spin the bottle. Chumps that my friend and I were, we decided we would rather catch the premiere of a movie on TV called The Last Dinosaur. Mind you, this was way before the days of cable, or even VCRs, so our feeble minds thought this was a big...

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Stream Queen: Animation Staycation
Feb20

Stream Queen: Animation Staycation

As far as media genres go, animation is one that rarely gets its due. Cartoons enchant us as children, but are then left in the past, their artistry and potential forgotten. But whether on your laptop or your Saturday morning television screen, good animation can make us laugh, cry, or learn the entire plot of Hamlet at a young age (here’s lookin’ at you, Simba).Animation studios can define the genre for their respective generations....

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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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Now Playing: I Am Not Your Negro
Feb13

Now Playing: I Am Not Your Negro

The Fire This TimeThe writer and social critic James Baldwin died 30 years ago, but his powerful critiques of authority, ignorance, and racial injustice in America are still cited by poets, parents, protestors, and many others who feel, now more than ever, the need to fight for progressive ideals. As Baldwin’s legacy continues to slide more fully into mainstream culture — where his essays and books, including Notes of a Native Son...

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Cinemadope: The Eagle Huntress
Feb13

Cinemadope: The Eagle Huntress

All Ages ShowFor 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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A Video Bouquet for Valentine’s Day
Feb06

A Video Bouquet for Valentine’s Day

Recommendations for a romantic night inWhether or not you’re settling down with a significant other on Valentine’s Day, you’ll probably end up watching something. That’s due less to our media-ridden culture and more to the fact that this year’s holiday happens on the sexiest day of the week: Tuesday.Luckily for you, there’s more than enough movies, TV shows, and various other media out there that span the spectrum of romance. Want to...

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Saturday: Fabulous February Fringe Festival in Shelburne Falls
Feb06

Saturday: Fabulous February Fringe Festival in Shelburne Falls

Quick FlicksFebruary is typically rather bleak, and this year – once again – even Punxsutawney Phil can’t hack it. We don’t blame him. We’d be headed back to the burrow too, if not for a concerted effort up and down the Valley this year to make the coldest winter days feel a bit more warm and communal. Case in point: the new Fabulous February Fringe Festival, a Shelburne Falls event that seeks to promote films written or directed by...

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Stream Queen: From Golden Statues to Small Screens
Feb06

Stream Queen: From Golden Statues to Small Screens

There are few mediums more powerful than the moving image. Movies, TV shows, and even music videos can transport viewers to another time, place, or lifetime. I love cinema but, with so few compelling female/LGBT characters (my favorite kinds) in mainstream titles, I have become something of an expert at ferreting out niche media. In the age of warring streaming services, that means I’ve consumed vast portions of the Internet.Those of...

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Scary Movie Club: Split
Feb06

Scary Movie Club: Split

Horror auteur M. Night Shyamalan returns to what he does bestSpoilers ahead!A pumpkin won the presidency, the Power Rangers are returning to theaters, and the Pats came back from 19 points behind in the fourth quarter to win the Super Bowl. To this list of bizarre upsets, add one more: M. Night Shyamalan is back to making good horror movies. After an early trifecta of good flicks with great twists (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable,...

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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 WallOver 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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