Cinemadope: A Woman’s World
Apr22

Cinemadope: A Woman’s World

There were always a lot of women in my family. When I think back to my childhood, to family cookouts and graduations, to birthdays and funerals, it is always the aunts and grandmothers that rule my remembered roosts. They made sure everyone was fed, slipped the youngest of us extra candies, and kept the wheels turning on all of our lives. But if they were the busiest — at most of these affairs, the men could be found in armchairs,...

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Cinemadope: The Biggest Little Farm at Amherst Cinema
Apr15

Cinemadope: The Biggest Little Farm at Amherst Cinema

Spring in the Pioneer Valley always brings with it the sweet reminder of how lucky we are to be surrounded by so many working farms. Drive down just about any road that leads into or out of one of our bigger towns, and you’re sure to coast by a few coolers with “Fresh Eggs” signs leaning against them, and horses, cows, pigs, and more are as common here as protest signs (another nice thing about living in the Valley, I think). Our...

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Cinemadope: Is Hellboy actually a Western?
Apr08

Cinemadope: Is Hellboy actually a Western?

The tropes of the American Western have had a surprisingly wide influence. Its heady mix of self-sufficiency and violence, often presented as a necessary but natural manifestation of a hero’s morality, has spread like seeping blood into nearly every kind of popular modern storytelling. Even sci-fi stalwart Star Trek was initially pitched to network executives as “Wagon Train to the stars.” The bones of the western are just that: a...

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Cinemadope: Dear Genre
Apr02

Cinemadope: Dear Genre

Genre films are a bit like the snack food of the cinematic universe. Something of a guilty pleasure, often consumed late at night, and each with its own diehard fans. These are the films that almost never seek to be all things to all people, but instead deliver an artistic strike so specific that a built-in audience, familiar with the visual vocabulary of the style, is almost guaranteed. Of course, these are also the films that for...

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Cinemadope: Rite of Spring – the 14th year of the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival
Mar26

Cinemadope: Rite of Spring – the 14th year of the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival

With every March in the Valley comes a feeling of renewal — the Spring Bulb Show at Smith, that exquisite extra hour of daylight, a breeze that doesn’t slice through your very soul. And with that new sense of life comes the urge to get out and about, to emerge from our months of fireside hibernation and catch up with old friends, and maybe — just maybe — catch a movie while the sun is still shining. The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film...

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Cinemadope: The cinema scene of Franklin County
Mar18

Cinemadope: The cinema scene of Franklin County

Despite its proximity to the more famous haunts of Northampton, Franklin County has always had its own lively arts scene. The Green River Festival, celebrating 33 years in 2019, is perhaps the most recognizable name, but other area venues like the Montague Bookmill, the Rendezvous and Shea Theater (both in Turners Falls), and, more recently, Greenfield’s Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center have provided residents like this writer...

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Cinemadope: Russian Icons
Mar11

Cinemadope: Russian Icons

For many modern filmmakers, the shadow of Ingmar Bergman looms large. The great Swede, whose name has become a kind of shorthand here for foreign art-house film, was a revelatory experience for young filmmakers coming of age in a pre-digital era; seeing what he could achieve onscreen changed the game. And while Bergman may seem sui generis, one wonders: who were the filmmakers that interested the director when he wasn’t behind the...

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Cinemadope: CatVideoFest at Amherst Cinema
Mar04

Cinemadope: CatVideoFest at Amherst Cinema

If you’ve been around the interwebs for a bit, you’ve almost certainly run across Henri. Henri — or, to use his full title, Henri, le Chat Noir — is an ennui-soaked cat whose subtitled French musings call to mind old arthouse imports. “If my tail wags, it is a reflex action,” intones Henri over a soundtrack of Satie. “Nothing more.” In other installments, all shot in the same scratchy black and white, Henri visits the vet or bemoans...

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Cinemadope: Off the Wall
Feb25

Cinemadope: Off the Wall

Art lovers in the Valley are never far from a good gallery. Between the extensive collections of local colleges, dedicated museums, and the smaller neighborhood salons that pepper our local downtowns, we are lucky to live in an area with such a vibrant artistic community. This week, a few area cinemas play host to galleries from farther afield, giving locals a world tour without giving up the comfort of their favorite seat at the...

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Cinemadope: Natural Causes: The strange beauties of Rosamond Purcell
Feb19

Cinemadope: Natural Causes: The strange beauties of Rosamond Purcell

The photography of Rosamond Purcell is work that often feels plucked from another period. Her artistic impulse — what filmmaker Errol Morris described as “the contemplation of things that other people would normally just ignore” — harkens back to a time when many artists were also de facto naturalists, dealing with cadavers, carcasses, and the process of decay in the service of creating a new way of seeing the world around us. But...

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Cinemadope: Movies for winter vacation
Feb14

Cinemadope: Movies for winter vacation

Listen, I love my kids. I do. But it’s been a long winter around here. The holiday season was a terrible round-robin of stomach bugs, the heat went on the fritz in their bedroom, and a cold snap kept us cooped up in the house on days when their energy level could have powered the whole of the Eastern Seaboard for a holiday weekend. Things were just getting back to normal (though let’s be honest, fellow parents: this has all in fact...

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Cinemadope: Fish Out of Water – Two animated classics from Japan
Feb01

Cinemadope: Fish Out of Water – Two animated classics from Japan

Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki has always kept a close tether to the world around him. In wonderfully thoughtful films like My Neighbor Totoro and Pom Poko, beloved by young and old (and crowds and critics) alike, he has eagerly yet tenderly explored our human connection and disconnect with our wider natural habitat. The often hidden worlds around us may be too often overlooked, but in Miyazaki’s worlds, as in our own, they can...

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Cinemadope: Superhero overload
Jan18

Cinemadope: Superhero overload

In the last decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has cast a long shadow over the rest of the filmmaking world. Beginning with the surprisingly wide-reaching hit that was 2008’s Iron Man, the series of interconnected films — now up to twenty titles and about as many billions — has redefined today’s blockbuster. Where comic book heroes were once scoffed at, they’re now the biggest box office draw in the world. Before you write...

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Cinemadope: Star Gazing – A Celebrity Tells Her Tale
Jan18

Cinemadope: Star Gazing – A Celebrity Tells Her Tale

Some years back, one of my many day jobs had me working a small newsstand. Mostly, it meant selling local papers and coffee, and, once a month or so, packing up all the glossier magazines that hadn’t sold during the previous weeks. Those days were like spending hours in the check-out line at the supermarket, surrounded by the suntanning flesh of celebrities caught (sometimes literally) with their pants down. I don’t read much of those...

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Cinemadope: A city, one step at a time
Jan11

Cinemadope: A city, one step at a time

One of the best things about The New Yorker magazine — other than the cartoons, of course — has always been the attention it pays to the oddball stories of the city. For this writer’s money, it will always be Joseph Mitchell who set the bar; have a look at his classic New Yorker pieces, collected in book form as Up in the Old Hotel, and marvel at the multitude of eccentrics and peculiar personalities that form the beating heart of the...

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Cinemadope: Holmes Sweet Holmes
Dec24

Cinemadope: Holmes Sweet Holmes

When it comes to our popular heroes, few if any can match the long and varied history of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous “consulting detective” made his debut in the 1887 tale A Study in Scarlet, and from the get go Holmes changed the detective game in ways that are still seen today (when sidekick-to-be Watson first meets Holmes, the latter is discussing the details of discovering crime-scene bloodstains, a century...

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Cinemadope: Hello Dolly – One man’s imaginary world
Dec24

Cinemadope: Hello Dolly – One man’s imaginary world

Eighteen years ago, Mark Hogancamp lost his life. That is not the same thing as saying that Mark Hogancamp died, because he didn’t. But when the Navy veteran was beaten so badly in a 5-on-1 attack outside a bar that he ended up in a nine-day coma, large parts of his past were gone forever. Memories, the ability to walk or talk — gone. Hogancamp would have to start from scratch, relearning not just the basics of life, but the basics of...

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Cinemadope: How Swede It Is
Dec10

Cinemadope: How Swede It Is

If you’re anything like me, your schedule is a mess this month. End-of-year holidays, school vacations, shifted work schedules and last-minute shopping excursions: it all combines to make December the month where our regular calendars get thrown out the window. So it goes for the Far Out Film Discussion group at Forbes Library. Its usual “last Monday of the month” schedule would place December’s meet-up the night of New Year’s Eve — a...

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Cinemadope: Beast Mode – New stories in an old world
Nov27

Cinemadope: Beast Mode – New stories in an old world

It’s almost the holiday season once again, which means that in a few short weeks many of us will be revisiting Pottersville, the what-if town that will come to pass if George Bailey decides to end his heroic existence in It’s a Wonderful Life. Filled with seedy bars, loose morals, and jazz, Pottersville was supposed to be a dark warning to George, but let’s be honest: it also looked a heck of a lot more interesting than Bailey’s plain...

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Cinemadope: Ski Mogul – The legacy of Warren Miller
Nov21

Cinemadope: Ski Mogul – The legacy of Warren Miller

If you’ve ever been on a pair of skis, you know the feeling: a strange and exhilarating mixture of lightness and speed, freedom and danger, that feels a bit like a giddy dream of flight and a bit like you’re cheating death. And while today’s aerialists — particularly the spinning tops of the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team — grab a lot of the attention, winter games were cool long before they came along. That is largely due to the late...

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Cinemadope: Two stories of Jewish struggle
Nov08

Cinemadope: Two stories of Jewish struggle

Like so many, I have been glued to my radio these last few weeks, as ever-changing reports have been released about the death of Saudi journalist and author Jamal Khashoggi. Those horrifying reports have often been paired with reports from the Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict, which has left Yemen in a state of humanitarian disaster, with famine, cholera, and other terrors threatening the country’s people. What seems so surprising, though,...

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Cinemadope: King of Queen
Oct26

Cinemadope: King of Queen

Few people could command a stage the way Freddie Mercury did. Frontman for legendary rock band Queen as well as a solo artist, Mercury always seemed bigger than his own body; his energy, his sexuality, and above all his voice — that incredible, glass-clear, voice, effortlessly gliding up into the atmosphere — gave the impression that he could burst into pure light at any moment, and made it impossible to look anywhere else when he...

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Cinemadope: First Blood – a director sets his direction
Oct24

Cinemadope: First Blood – a director sets his direction

If you’re familiar with the name Dario Argento, it‘s most likely through his stylishly supernatural horror film Suspiria. That 1977 film, about an American ballet student who gets caught up in an otherworldly conspiracy at a German dance academy, was like a glossy magazine soaking in a pool of blood. Slick on all counts. But it wasn’t Argento’s first film, or his first to marry almost over the top violence with a filmmaking...

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Cinemadope: Legends onscreen and off
Oct11

Cinemadope: Legends onscreen and off

Even as a young actor, Robert Redford often carried himself with the quiet dignity of an old-timer. In films like The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Redford combined his boyish charm and good looks with a steady center that seemed borrowed from an older man; the combination of wise and wise-cracking enriched both sides of his personality, and helped make him a star. Many years later, and Redford, now 82, has grown up to...

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Cinemadope: A filmmaker gets her due
Sep28

Cinemadope: A filmmaker gets her due

In the world of filmmaking, the French New Wave is the Dylan-goes-electric moment. Rejecting the period dramas that had theretofore dominated screens, the group of European filmmakers who led the new artistic charge instead found inspiration in the modern world, and they believed in the power of the singular auteur — that a film director, like a novelist, is an author whose style should be evident in the film itself. It was a rebuke...

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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: Mama Africa Miriam Makeba continues to inspire
Jul09

Cinemadope: Mama Africa Miriam Makeba continues to inspire

When the world lost Miriam Makeba in 2008, we lost a great musical and political voice. The first African musician to become a solid international star, her powerful singing crossed national divides without ever losing touch with her South African roots — no mean feat, as she was banished from the country early in life, after starring in the 1959 documentary Come Back Africa, which turned a bright light on the harsh reality of...

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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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