The Company You Keep @ The Ross

Jim Grant (Robert Redford)

Jim Grant (Robert Redford)

My My My. Robert Redford on the silver screen! The Sundance Kid, Hubbell, Johnny Hooker, Roy Hobbs, and … oh … well … I digress.

Redford tackles a most frenzied yet nostalgic moment in the history of anti-war activism in the United States in his newest film, The Company You Keep. Based on Neil Gordon’s novel, The Company You Keep tells the story of former members of The Weather Underground, a radical leftist anti-war group of white, middle-class students that sometimes used violence as a means for revolutionary change in the 1960s.

Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) gives up

Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) gives up

Several have eluded the FBI for 30 years until Sharon Solarz (played by Susan Sarandon) decides to turn herself in, thus initiating the manhunt for the others. Redford plays with warm-hearted though measured zeal, Jim Grant, a.k.a Nick Sloan, a Weather Underground comrade. Via a series of insightful vignettes, Redford showcases reflections from these rebels-turned-aged adults who are law-abiding citizens, even running good honest marijuana off the coast of California. Each story is relatable; who among us has not turned to the past to reflect? We just hope peace is there when we step back into the present. The cast of old school stars as his former comrades-in-arms, Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, and Richard Jenkins, has a sepia effect. As veterans of an entertainment industry salivating over youth, it is simply groovy when the camera closes in on the wrinkles, pot-marks, and crow’s feet, each actor wears with the dignity of an American eagle.

Mimi (Julie Christie) and Jim share a tender moment

Mimi (Julie Christie) and Jim share a tender moment

Redford resists the snap, crackle, and pop; instead, he massages Lem Dobbs’s script into a compact adventure encased in suspense and intrigue. Shia Labeouf, however, is the disappointment. He’s miscast! And his performance as Ben Shepard, the investigative reporter, is a filmic intrusion, at which you want to throw a rotten tomato, and … well …

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The Company You Keep plays through May 16 at The Ross in Lincoln.

Adam Leon’s independent film Gimme the Loot plays through May 9
Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers opens May 10 and plays through May 16

Friday Live! audio version @ 28:27 http://bit.ly/1132vFB

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Trashed @ The Ross

a line of refuse in the ocean

a line of refuse in the ocean

Land. Sea. Air.

Landfills. Incineration. Sea-dumping.

Oscar winner Jeremy Irons narrates with personal depth the visceral truth of waste, the inefficient methods used to dispose of it, the harmful pollutants, and the health risks that attend those exposed to it. It is a global phenomenon, and British documentary filmmaker Candida Brady does not flinch in her ecological examination of the casual gesture of throwing things away and its repercussions on the environment. The documentary is called Trashed, and even though Brady refrains from an all-out pedantic tirade, she, nevertheless makes clear her intent to educate the public about the devastating effects of trash, be they in Vietnam, Indonesia, Lebanon, France, San Francisco, or North Pacific Gyre.

Jeremy Irons sits amid a pile of trash

Jeremy Irons sits amid a pile of trash

Trashed is loaded with facts, and each factoid is backed-up by experts in the field. The presentation of the harrowing effects of the toxic chemical compounds called dioxin evokes guilt but calls for active responsibility. Through the eyes of Jeremy Irons, Brady takes us inside a Vietnamese hospital, for instance, and the camera scans rows of deformed fetuses in formaldehyde jars, and takes a hard look at living children deformed from Agent Orange sprayed during the war. Trashed makes it point without any visual relief from the waste with which we have strewn across the earth.

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White Space ~ A Review

Maya Washington

Maya Washington

Sirens
The clink of penny change on a sidewalk
Applause
The cuddle of coffee cups on a waitress’s tray
Sounds …

Conversation
Altercation
Love notes whispered
Laughter
Sounds we take for granted

Sounds. Spoken Words. Each conducts the melodies of everyday life, but speaking the word is celebrated as the most powerful of social exchanges. In her beautifully imagined film short White Space, however, film director Maya Washington (White Space Poetry Project) gingerly dramatizes silence as the ‘other’ manner of communication in a space that privileges the spoken word: the stage. Washington shrewdly casts subtle clues that lead to an ‘opening night’ so affectionate that the heart stirs to rejoice; it has one other outlet for infinite expression.

The film opens on a street as the echoes of the night accompany a determined young man in a hoodie walking to somewhere. Matt Koskenmaki’s impassioned score forges the film’s serious almost haunting tone with bluesy bass chords dancing with percussion and the brassy buzz of the trumpet. The process of addition by subtraction produced the music’s blend Koskenmaki remembers:

I first saw the film … there was no music; it was very rare for someone to give me a short film like that … most temp in the music. [White Space] was a blank canvas, so what I did was write a lot of music–more music than was needed. When Maya came to hear what I had done, we went for low tones to [evoke] intimacy.

On the way, Koskenmaki’s musical pulses emphasize the intimacy between the young man and the writer of the uplifting phone texts he reads: “I know you can do this; Love you”; and then a plea: “Please don’t mess this up”; “Get here!!!” Cinematographer James Adolphus builds audience curiosity as he alternates between the dots of street sounds and the warm jollity of a small theater called The Alabaster located in the backroom of a laundromat. Slam Poets serve as an entertaining preface to what is to come with their respective rat-a-tat rhythms to socio-cultural critique,

You’re right! I’m overreacting to white folks who liberate they coon selves through the culture of black people replacing stereotypes in hip-hop music with caricatures from Dixie!
–Ant Black

and smooth stylistic musings on the power of inner beauty,

No reflections on glass, shadows or shapes, pictures on the wall, or shimmering lakes can show you what you are: A truly undefinable beauty. – Tanya Alexander

Enter The Poet, the young man in the hoodie, played by deaf performance poet Ryan Lane (Dummy Hoy: A Deaf Hero; Switched at Birth). Koskenmaki stops the music, and the scene transitions from a lively night at the coffee house to an awkward but reverent silence bathed in white light.

Sayna (Washington) and The Poet (Lane)

Sayna (Washington) and The Poet (Lane)

Lane excels in this precarious moment as he laudably conveys The Poet’s self-conscious hesitancy on-stage along with his virtuosity in communication. “When we suck the sound out of the coffee house, the absence of sound becomes more intense,” reveals Washington. For approximately two minutes and nineteen seconds, The Poet transcribes the issues from his heart through his hands. It is silent. “I can’t tell you who I am without telling you where I’ve been,” he signs with such spirit and emotion that patrons nod with understanding. Washington plays Shayna, his girlfriend, whose texts are the love notes of encouragement that drive the poet past his fear.

The Poet (Ryan Lane)

The Poet (Ryan Lane)

It is without question. Lane performs his own frustration as a deaf actor navigating within a business that more often than not recognizes those who hear. The film’s chief virtue, then, is courage—the courage of the deaf artist to perform live and the courage of the audience to hear him. These diegetic collaborations are the fruits of Washington’s own collaborative labors:

Ryan and I collaborated with a hearing poet Herschel McPherson; a poet/interpreter Mona Jean Cedar; and, a deaf poet/actress Zendrea Mitchell (the woman at the train station) to create the poem in the final scene. We had to shape a poem written in spoken English into [American Sign Language] then back into English subtitles. Cinematographer James Adolphus and I thought a lot about how we wanted the audience to experience the ASL visually. [The work of] Brett Bachman (Editor) and Matt Koskenmaki (Composer) […]made the emotion of the scene tangible.

Washington reaches deeply to shift our perspective on live performance and its conventional venue. In the process, she attends to those issues that tug her own heart. “I want hearing people to […] feel a little anxious and uncomfortable, even if they aren’t sure why,” she explains, “a lot of deaf artists walk in both the hearing and deaf world. I feel like it’s time for hearing artists to do the same.” That ‘walk’, no doubt, is fragile, and as the luminous alabaster stone requires care, so does the journey taken together by the hearing and the deaf. White Space makes that happen, and in all of eight minutes and fifty seconds.

White Space is scheduled to screen at the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle, Washington, Monday April 15 (www.langstonarts.org); the Indie Boots Film Festival in Chicago (www.indieboots.org) and the Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival in May 2013 (www.tidfaf.ca).

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Trance @ The Ross

Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson)

Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson)

Rosario Dawson shines in Danny Boyle’s new thriller Trance. She plays Elizabeth Lamb, the mysterious hypnotherapist you will want to help you access any hidden memory you have willed to forget. Charged with hypnotizing Simon (James McAvoy) an art thief who cannot remember where he placed his stolen goods, Elizabeth Lamb weaves her magic on the con artists who hire her to tap Simon’s brain. The audience does not escape her charms as we are exposed to the mental and emotional calisthenics that would fell a marine. Lamb carefully guards her secret to produce her own desired results. In the meantime, with expert proficiency, Lamb entrances us to believe whatever she wants us to believe.

Dr. Lamb runs for her life

Dr. Lamb runs for her life

Is she on the take? Did she plan the entire heist of Goya’s painting, “Witches in the Air”? Whatever is the truth, Dawson’s portrayal invites us to ‘bear with her’ on the non-stop twists and double-backs that leave us dizzy with anticipation for the next turn. The ending is a shocker that places front and center what a woman will do to gain her freedom.

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Trance plays through May 2 at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln, NE

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