Cinemadope: The Informant – A drug war casualty
Sep17

Cinemadope: The Informant – A drug war casualty

In regional conflicts around the world, the use of child soldiers has become a sadly common phenomenon. Boys and girls — some still under ten — are pulled or forced into violent, dangerous situations far beyond anything they are prepared for physically or emotionally. When Americans hear these children’s stories, they are usually set in far-off jungles or forests, where charismatic and threatening leaders create a self-contained world...

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Cinemadope: Hollywood Hilltown — A small town with a big festival
Sep11

Cinemadope: Hollywood Hilltown — A small town with a big festival

Pull up the details on the Franklin County town of Ashfield, and it might look like a sleepy little drive-through of a place: population hovering somewhere under two thousand, a pizza place that gets good reviews, a lot of trees. You could be forgiven for thinking that it didn’t have a lot going on. But boy, would you ever be wrong. The town has always been the sort of tight-knit place that makes its own fun. But for the last eleven...

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Cinemadope: Starman – the undeniable talents of David Bowie
Aug31

Cinemadope: Starman – the undeniable talents of David Bowie

For all his undeniable talent as a musician and songwriter, the late David Bowie was always an incredibly visual creature. His many guises onstage and off told the story of an artist completely comfortable with the process of reinventing himself, and while some might see it as mere resurfacing — the suit and tie that gave way to the glam of Ziggy Stardust that morphed into The Thin White Duke — Bowie never let it stop at skin-deep....

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Cinemadope: Women Rockers in Film
Aug24

Cinemadope: Women Rockers in Film

When I opened Instagram over my morning coffee one recent morning, the first face staring back at me was that of a blue-haired Alice Bag, the fifty-nine year old punk icon and activist. Still a force after some four decades in the game, Bag and her band had played a show in Greenfield the night before — that Instagram shot was snapped by the Advocate’s own Valley Show Girl Jennifer Levesque — before continuing on to New York for the...

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Cinemadope: Art and the business of art
Aug14

Cinemadope: Art and the business of art

Like musicians and record labels, the worlds of artists and art dealers have never been quite in the same business. Despite all the often necessary crossover and interaction, there is often a nagging feeling (if our films are to be believed) that while one half of the relationship is interested in a full palette of colors, the other just wants to see green. It’s probably an unfair depiction, but one that was exacerbated by the ghastly...

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Cinemadope: ‘The Judge’ stirs the stagnant waters of the Middle Eastern judiciary
Jul29

Cinemadope: ‘The Judge’ stirs the stagnant waters of the Middle Eastern judiciary

Back in my art school days, I was always fascinated by my art history classes. Seeing our changing world reflected back at me through the lens of artistic evolution made the lives lived in the distant past seem much more like my own — less a mannered bit of historical style, and more about finding creative ways to process the issues of the time. One of the artworks that has stayed with me from those days is Judith Slaying Holofernes,...

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Cinemadope: Christopher Robin explores what stays with us from childhood
Jul23

Cinemadope: Christopher Robin explores what stays with us from childhood

Close your eyes, and think back to the stories of your youth. It’s remarkable, how strongly they stay with us. The recent release of Morgan Neville’s Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? put a spell on me, casting me back to my own childhood — Fred Rogers and his neighborhood friends were a big part of those years — and reminding me of just how much I took from the man and his manner. Even today, I love a good zip-up...

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Cinemadope: The Theme Song’s the Thing in Mission: Impossible
Jul16

Cinemadope: The Theme Song’s the Thing in Mission: Impossible

Film and television may be the land of the moving image, but it has sure given us a lot of great music over the years. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, quietly breathing out Moon River. Shirley Bassey’s brassy, wagging Goldfinger. The many themes and soundtracks that have become cultural touchstones: The Pink Panther. Jaws. Psycho. But while some of those melodies dig deep into our psyches — the ominous see-saw of the Jaws riff kept...

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Cinemadope: The private life of iconoclast Grace Jones
Jul02

Cinemadope: The private life of iconoclast Grace Jones

Growing up, I wasn’t often presented with images of strong women. You’d see the occasional Rosie the Riveter magnet here and there, but even then it seemed odd to me that it required sending most of the male population to an overseas war before a woman got a chance to take charge. In media, when there was a female role that wasn’t just arm candy to a higher-paid actor, it often meant the character was de-sexed as much as possible, as...

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Cinemadope: Animated summer fare in the Valley
Jun25

Cinemadope: Animated summer fare in the Valley

It’s finally getting into the full swing of summer here in the Valley — the asparagus festival has come and gone, the colleges have mostly emptied out, and keeping up with the yard work is beginning to turn  downright Sisyphean. If you find yourself longing for a little getaway, who could blame you? If a return to the simple pleasures of a cartoon-soaked youth sounds enticing, Valley theaters have you covered in the coming weeks. Find...

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Cinemadope: A great time for film lovers to check out Forbes Library
Jun18

Cinemadope: A great time for film lovers to check out Forbes Library

Something I’ve come to love about Father’s Day weekend is my own dad’s profound disinterest in the world of the internet. He doesn’t give a fig for Facebook, has no email address, and if he were ever involved with something viral it would be cause for a trip to the doctor’s office. The man is so offline that he doesn’t even have a debit card. What he does have is a library card. And for as long as I can remember, he has made the...

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Cinemadope: A filmmaker becomes part of an immigrant’s harrowing journey
Jun12

Cinemadope: A filmmaker becomes part of an immigrant’s harrowing journey

Open a newspaper, turn on your television, scroll through your Facebook feed: it won’t be long before you’re face to face with the ongoing discussion of the state of immigration in America. To be sure, the current resident of the White House — whose policies have broadened the debate into a referendum on more basic human rights — has made it an issue that can’t be ignored. But for all the heat generated by the ongoing arguments, it’s...

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Cinemadope: Lowest to Highest at the Ciclismo Classico Bike Travel Film Festival at the Academy of Music
Jun04

Cinemadope: Lowest to Highest at the Ciclismo Classico Bike Travel Film Festival at the Academy of Music

Unless you’re a diehard cyclist, we are just now into the high season for bikes. (You’ll know you’re a diehard if you own snow tires for your ride.) For many, it’s one of the rare enjoyments that span a lifetime; our first great sense of freedom is often found when a parent lets go of the back of the bike, and that same feeling of endless possibility keeps millions riding for the rest of their lives. Our bikes may get bigger, and our...

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Cinemadope: Jean Michel Basquiat and David Hockney on the big screen
May27

Cinemadope: Jean Michel Basquiat and David Hockney on the big screen

Movies about painters are tough in the way that movies about musicians are tough: it’s nigh impossible to find an actor or actress for the part that is not only adept in their own chosen field, but also good enough to fake the very real particular talents of those they’re portraying. Viewers needn’t be a Picasso or Hendrix to spot a fake; the better films are nearly always those that let the artists — in person or through what they...

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Cinemadope: The deadly ‘crime’ of being black
May22

Cinemadope: The deadly ‘crime’ of being black

Last month, the story of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson lit up social media feeds everywhere. Two young black men, they were waiting quietly for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks when one of them asked to use the restroom. After an employee refused — they hadn’t ordered anything yet, and the bathroom was for paying customers, the men were told — they returned to their table. Soon after, three police officers arrived and promptly...

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Cinemadope: Academy of Music hosts history tour, two great films this week
May14

Cinemadope: Academy of Music hosts history tour, two great films this week

Even in a New England town with a fair bit of history, the Academy of Music in Northampton has roots that run deep. Founded on the vision of philanthropist and Northampton native Edward Lyman, the Academy opened to the public in May of 1891 and quickly became a favorite stop on the tour circuit. Mae West, Sarah Bernhardt, and Boris Karloff — Frankenstein’s Monster! — have all graced the Academy stage. Harry Houdini (spoiler alert)...

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Cinemadope: A courtside seat with Norotious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg)
May07

Cinemadope: A courtside seat with Norotious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg)

Celebrity is a funny thing. Usually, it charts along one or two familiar trajectories: the discovery of some young talent, followed by either the long work of career-building or the short decline of a crash-and-burn. But once in awhile, someone captures the public imagination in a way that defies the expectations of even the most jaded celebrity observer. So it is with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who, now 85,...

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Cinemadope: The kaleidoscopic philosophy of jazz percussionist Milford Graves
Apr30

Cinemadope: The kaleidoscopic philosophy of jazz percussionist Milford Graves

So few of us follow our deepest drives — it’s a path that leads along high wires and narrow ledges, and for many, the fear of failing big keeps us dreaming small. On the other end of human experience is a man like Milford Graves. Graves is a renowned percussionist who has been on the avant-garde jazz scene since the beginning, performing with the likes of Albert Ayler, Sonny Sharrock, and Paul Bley. As he and his fellow musicians were...

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Cinemadope: Into the Doc
Apr20

Cinemadope: Into the Doc

If you caught the 2016 screening of Khalik Allah’s Field Niggas at Amherst Cinema, you got an early look at the filmmaker’s meditative and searching vision. That film, an hour-long gaze at the faces and bodies of the men and women passing through an East Harlem intersection during the summer of 2014, captured both a spiritual beauty and a rough reality with a richness and clarity that made it something more than most documentaries....

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Cinemadope: Getting schooled on schools – A Backpack Full of Cash
Apr16

Cinemadope: Getting schooled on schools – A Backpack Full of Cash

American schools — and the teachers and students that fill their halls — have been in the news quite a bit lately. More and more, it seems that the reality of the classroom has become lost in a fog of “thoughts and prayers.” But it isn’t only during the aftermath of what seems to be an unyielding string of school shootings that the clang of disconnect rings out; listen to the everyday stories of those who live and work in...

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Cinemadope: Bringing the Red Sox to Israel
Apr06

Cinemadope: Bringing the Red Sox to Israel

After a long winter, spring has returned to Western Mass. And with it, as hotly anticipated as any crocus, comes a new season of Red Sox baseball. It’s a tradition that we have come to take for granted, and even when it’s not a great season — let’s face it, disappointment is part of the deal when you’re a fan — we can count on the Sox always being a part of spring. Bostonian Larry Baras wanted to bring that feeling to a place that had...

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Cinemadope: Andy Goldsworthy makes me want to go outside
Apr02

Cinemadope: Andy Goldsworthy makes me want to go outside

Live in New England long enough, and it’s easy to begin to take it for granted. The deeply quiet winters, the burst and blaze of autumn, the summer thunderstorm that chases away July’s heavy heat — our seasonal weather and landscapes become a way to mark our calendar of complaints, instead of being appreciated for the wildly diverse, awe-inducing things they are. Occasionally, it’s good to be reminded of just how rich our landscape...

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Cinemadope: Slavery Then and Now
Mar26

Cinemadope: Slavery Then and Now

So much can depend on a word. Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary about race and the sprawling prison-industrial complex that has bloomed in modern America is called “13th,” but it could very well have been titled with another single word: “Except.” That word, nestled into the 13th Amendment to the Constitution from which the film draws its title, has changed the lives of countless men and women. The amendment in question, ratified in...

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Cinemadope: The Room director returns
Mar19

Cinemadope: The Room director returns

When Tommy Wiseau’s film The Room finally found its audience, it was as a famously awful piece of filmmaking — watching it was like seeing a tornado tear through a garbage dump. Whether or not the director has ever fully grasped the workings of his fame is still an unanswered question, something made more apparent with the success last year of James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, which chronicled the making of The Room. Wiseau, who...

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Cinemadope: Hedy Times
Mar12

Cinemadope: Hedy Times

It couldn’t have been easy to be known as The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. But that was the way actress Hedy Lamarr was presented to American audiences by studio head Louis B. Mayer, who came across the star during a European jaunt in the late 1930s. By then, Lamarr — born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914 Vienna — had already appeared in Ecstasy, a film that made her famous due to its frank nudity and inclusion of an orgasmic...

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Cinemadope: The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival Returns
Mar07

Cinemadope: The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival Returns

Now in its 13th year, the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival has proven itself to be one of the area’s most popular cinematic traditions. And with good reason: the festival is a wide-reaching affair that brings its offerings not just to one theater, but to screens throughout the Valley, creating a two-week event that feels like the truly regional experience it is. Just as wide-ranging is the festival’s slate of films, a varied lineup...

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Cinemadope: A Horror Film Stitched Together from Horror Films at Amherst
Feb23

Cinemadope: A Horror Film Stitched Together from Horror Films at Amherst

It’s always been a point of pride at Amherst Cinema that they are no mere movie house. Plunked down right in the heart of the town’s downtown, flanked by coffee spots and park greens, the theater has always been something of a community hub. Perhaps it would have been their destiny, given the location, but it is an identity the organization has long embraced and actively encouraged, putting on all sorts of events that help bring the...

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Cinemadope: Oscar Shorts at the Berkshire Museum
Feb19

Cinemadope: Oscar Shorts at the Berkshire Museum

The dust may finally be settling on the latest Super Bowl — at least outside of Philly — but for film fans, it’s the coming weeks that are the lead-up to the biggest contest of all: the Oscars. The 90th Academy Awards ceremony is set to go off on the first Sunday of March, and the parties (and partisanship) can be as over the top as any sports fan’s — one almost wonders why the nominees don’t hawk their own lines of jerseys and hats....

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Cinemadope: Playing yourself in an Iranian film on a real crime
Feb06

Cinemadope: Playing yourself in an Iranian film on a real crime

Review movies long enough, and you’ll hear the tale of Taste of Cherry. The 1997 film from Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami won the Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival, and was hailed by many as a masterpiece. But when it hit theaters in the U.S., there was at least one very prominent thumbs down — the famous thumb of The Chicago Sun-Times’ influential film critic Roger Ebert, who called the film (a long, quiet, look at a...

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Cinemadope: KidsBestFest a February Tradition
Feb05

Cinemadope: KidsBestFest a February Tradition

We parents of the Pioneer Valley have a pretty sweet deal. You might not realize it if you don’t have kids in your life, but once you’re clued into it you begin to discover that there is a near-endless list of things to do with your little ones. Hayrides, science workshops, and puppet theater are just the start of an ever-expanding slate. Heck, we literally have an entire museum in Amherst devoted to the wonders of picture-book art...

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Cinemadope: One Saturday, Many Films
Jan29

Cinemadope: One Saturday, Many Films

A few years back, I spent most of my weekends running around Western Mass as part of an acoustic jazz band. We played parties, weddings, and a lot of restaurant gigs, but the place I was always happiest to see was the welcoming porch of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield. “Groceries, Meat, Liquors,” reads the sign out front, and that does a nice job of summing up the wide-ranging role that Elmer’s — part breakfast joint, part country store,...

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Cinemadope: Alone/Together
Jan22

Cinemadope: Alone/Together

One of the stranger aspects of moviegoing is that it is at once a grand communal act and an intensely private experience. We gather together in dark rooms as if in secret churches, and when the crowd is right it can feel as if we’ve all been through something together — a metamorphosis brought on by a shared art that leaves us different people, and more connected people, than those that earlier went into the theater. But then — unless...

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Cinemadope: Different Strokes
Jan16

Cinemadope: 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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