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

New Thursday Series: Award-Winning Documentaries at Next Stage

The World in Frame Since 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 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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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 Major Known 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 Time The 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 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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A Video Bouquet for Valentine’s Day
Feb06

A Video Bouquet for Valentine’s Day

Recommendations for a romantic night in Whether 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...

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Saturday: Fabulous February Fringe Festival in Shelburne Falls
Feb06

Saturday: Fabulous February Fringe Festival in Shelburne Falls

Quick Flicks February 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 best Spoilers 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 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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Sunday Performance: Exploded View
Jan23

Sunday Performance: Exploded View

Reflective Collective What happens when eight talented women — all of whom are involved in creative communities across Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties — meet to make poetry and art together? In the case of Exploded View, they create multimedia exhibits and spoken-word performances unlike anything else in the Valley. Exploded View was conceived by Candace Curran, who showed up at Samantha Wood’s studio one day last spring...

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Stagestruck: The Cold Warrior’s Mask
Jan23

Stagestruck: The Cold Warrior’s Mask

Travels with a Masked Man, John Hadden’s compelling “two-character solo performance,” seems to fall squarely in the by-now-familiar genre of the one-person memoir, in this case exploring a rocky relationship with his father. Except that this one is not at all typical. For one thing, Hadden’s father was a spy. The show itself, which comes to the Valley next Friday, is more impressionistic than strictly biographical. It’s based on a...

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Cinemadope: “The Brand New Testament” at Amherst Cinema
Jan23

Cinemadope: “The Brand New Testament” at Amherst Cinema

The Man Upstairs Let me say this right up front: I’ve never acted a day in my life. The closest I came was tagging along with a friend while he auditioned for an open call for extras on a pirate movie, where my college-freshman goatee briefly attracted the attention of someone with a clipboard. Maybe I missed my calling, even if I was only meant to be an extra in twenty Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Still, many of my friends over...

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Cinemadope: Schlep West, Young Man
Jan16

Cinemadope: Schlep West, Young Man

More than most people, Americans love a good road story. I think it’s something that is simply part of our collective national subconscious, a metaphysical result of the vast physical breadth of the nation. Few of us, even today, really get (or take) the chance to explore our own country. But deep down, the desire has always been there, and we are always ready to read someone else’s account of it, running straight through from Lewis...

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Friday: John Cleese Stops by Worcester
Jan16

Friday: John Cleese Stops by Worcester

The Holy Monty Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a comedy classic that has been creating rabid fans for decades. If you’ve never seen it, the film, a silly trek with mythical King Arthur and his Spamalot knights of the round table, is highly quotable and hillarious. All the funny stuff happens in the first 45 minutes, but I’ll let John Cleese explain that to you himself Friday at the Hanover in Worcester. Cleese, a living comedy...

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The Absorbing Animations of Sachio Cook
Jan09

The Absorbing Animations of Sachio Cook

Fine Tooning One morning in early October, I was flipping through local events online to assemble our calendar listings. That process becomes a bit of a blur sometimes, but my eye stopped short on a striking color cartoon — part of an announcement for an animation exhibit that month by Sachio Cook at the Hosmer Gallery in Northampton. In the drawing, a wide-eyed woman crawls on her hands and knees through a forest, searching for...

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Cinemadope: Is Spielberg Corny?
Jan09

Cinemadope: Is Spielberg Corny?

There are times when I look back on my youth and shake my head at my younger self. Mostly, it’s when I think about the dreck that was on in the after-school hours on the local UHF stations: sugar-cereal cartoons that were a 12-year-old’s forbidden fruit. It is with a heavy heart that I try to estimate the amount of time I spent glued, wide-eyed, to episodes of ThunderCats. But there are other stories from those days that have stayed...

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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: When Brad Pitt Was the Pits
Jan09

Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: When Brad Pitt Was the Pits

Recently, I visited the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington where my sister and her family helped to lavishly decorate the rooms with Yuletide trimmings. Yet my mind was not on sugarplums. Instead, it was on the movie I knew I was going to review for this column, which is set in a very unfestive place. Brad Pitt currently stars in — and has received high critical marks for — the new movie Allied. But while I’m sure the...

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Cinemadope: Three films about hummus, bagels and blintzes
Jan03

Cinemadope: Three films about hummus, bagels and blintzes

When it comes to film, the Christmas and New Years weeks are not usually a great time for filmgoers, with the exception of a few blockbusters and carefully planned Oscar-hopeful releases. Studios and theaters know that we’re all too damn busy rushing out to buy a last minute gift or go to another holiday party, so they push openings back for much of their best fare. What does get sent out is largely the cinematic equivalent of all...

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Halos & Horns: Our 2016 List of Who’s Been Good or Bad… or Worse
Dec27

Halos & Horns: Our 2016 List of Who’s Been Good or Bad… or Worse

How Does This Work? Who on earth do we think we are, doling out judgement left and right? Find out here. The List HALOS // The People of East Longmeadow — For creating a seven-member Town Council in the wake of a coup on the now-defunct three-member Board of Selectmen. This March, two board members teamed up to overthrow the chairman and hire a new police chief and town administrator. During the annual town election in April, East...

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Advocate Sessions: Video every Friday
Dec05

Advocate Sessions: Video every Friday

Giant Talent. Tiny Stage. For more than 40 years now, the Advocate has covered politics, local news, and entertainment from an alternative angle. But nothing runs through our newsprint’s black, white, and red veins more powerfully than independent music. We’ve been shaped, in deep ways, by the punk, folk, rock, and counterculture ethos that evolved over decades of American upheaval. Today, in certain ways, our future is as unstable as...

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Cinemadope: Denzel Washington stars in August Wilson’s Fences
Dec27

Cinemadope: Denzel Washington stars in August Wilson’s Fences

Month of August Despite his legendary status in American theater, August Wilson is not a name one hears attached to many film projects. The self-taught dramatist, who dropped out of high school after being falsely accused of plagiarism, left behind an astounding body of work — including plays like Jitney and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — when he passed away at age 60 in 2005. His work changed the way the experience of black Americans was...

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For the Kids: New Year’s Morning Music Party
Dec27

For the Kids: New Year’s Morning Music Party

Sleeping In? That’s So 2016 Get those kids out of bed (it’s not like they stayed awake until midnight, anyway) and let them dive into a new year the fun way: with puppets and breakfast. Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective are continuing the beloved “Morning Music Party” series for another year with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, and diversions for kids. After a free breakfast of fresh pancakes, juice, and...

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Cinemadope: Wild Things
Dec19

Cinemadope: Wild Things

Director Garth Jennings has had an interesting, if short, career. Coming out of the gate with an adaptation of the Douglas Adams cult classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 2005, his first big film grossed many millions, starred people like Zooey Deschanel and John Malkovich, and opened its first weekend atop the North American box office. It seemed like a good start, even if you weren’t a fan of the Adams book. Two years...

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It’s a Wonderful Time… for It’s a Wonderful Life
Dec19

It’s a Wonderful Time… for It’s a Wonderful Life

Attaboy, Clarence When it comes to holiday classics, I’m partial to the festive antics of Die Hard (“Now I have a machine gun — ho ho ho!”). But many kids and families — and, on wistful days, certain single adults — lean toward Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra clearly needed a restorative break from the early 1940s, when he was directing wartime propaganda films, and this rather shamelessly wide-eyed, gooey-hearted...

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