Cold in July @ The Ross

Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall)

Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall)

It is a shot in the dark made in an ordinary night in an ordinary town and the bullet hit its target. Jim Mickle’s film Cold in July is an engaging mystery that lends itself to the film noir genre. It works as Mickle weaves an intricate tale of suspense around the ordinary life of a husband and father named Richard Dane who reluctantly releases the shot in the dark on an intruder in his house. It’s 1989 in suburbia of East Texas, inhabited by law-abiding citizens with steady jobs who mind their business and find community at the local diner, but that murder, though carried out in self-defense, will turn Richard’s life upside down. Why? The intruder’s father returns to ask some questions. The answers will surprise even him!

Unlikely Heroes (fr left to right) Russell (Sam Shepard), Richard (Michael C. Hall), and Jim Bob (Don Johnson)

Unlikely Heroes (fr left to right) Russell (Sam Shepard), Richard (Michael C. Hall), and Jim Bob (Don Johnson)

The jewel of Cold in July is the lighting, and Cinematographer Ryan Samul selects cold and warm prisms to convey pain, dispassion, and confusion; and desaturated colors to establish firmly the time period. The performances by well-seasoned actors are forceful. Sam Shephard playing Russell, evokes how deep a father’s angst falls even though the son is wanted by the police; Michael C. Hall who so easily plays Richard Dane, walks the line between the man who yearns for the return of everyday routine and a husband/ father who has to protect his family. You will appreciate Vinessa Shaw as Anne Dane as she drives her character through the burden that has been thrown on her shoulders. Oh, I have to mention the suave Don Johnson, who is Jim Bob. He makes a pair of cowboy boots speak a foreign language! Yes, he is that good!

The Ross logo

Cold in July plays through June 5 at The Ross.

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime
Catch a film …
Share the Popcorn …
Feed Your Soul!

Advertisements

Belle @ The Ross

Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)

Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)

We all have found ourselves in the most insufferable circumstances wherein we hope against all hope that the fates will take pity on us mere mortals and make the way for an escape. We also have been in situations where we were made to feel unwelcomed, and thus we develop a yearning to belong. British film director Amma Asante’s Belle is a film inspired by the 1779 oil portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray. The portrait hangs at the Earl of Manchester’s ancestral home, Scone Palace in Scotland. Assante imagines the process of escape and belonging or, specifically, the methods a family uses to include a relative in the household all the while restricted by the socio-cultural mores of the time—that time is when the Atlantic slave trade was in full force … in Britain … in the eighteenth century.

The route of the Atlantic Slave Trade

The route of the Atlantic Slave Trade

Dido, played with unsettling restraint by British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is a mulatto whose British father, Sir John Lindsay, (played by Matthew Goode) searches for then rescues her from the possibility of the auction block when Belle’s mother, Maria Belle, an enslaved woman from a plantation in the West Indies, dies.

Sir John sends Belle to live with her great Uncle, William Murray, The Earl of Manchester (played by Tom Wilkinson) and her great Aunt, Lady Murray played by Emily Watson. Dido grows up with her sister/cousin Lady Elizabeth (played by Sarah Gordon), and is indulged with almost every privilege accorded a young woman of English aristocracy. What follows are the usual performances of the strictest notions of gentility and social manners that govern the behavior of the British aristocracy—all elements of a Jane Austen novel; but when race is added to that setting of opulence and grandeur at Kenwood House in Hampstead, London, you can cut the tension with a knife!

18th Century Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray

18th Century Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray

What is lovely about Amma Asante’s characterization of Dido, is not only the young woman’s confidence; also, Asante’s Belle showcases the Belle’s indirect association with Mabel, an African female domestic servant (played by Beth-Ann Mary James), who waits on her when she travels with the family away from Kenwood. These silent interactions via eye contact and smiles suggest Dido Belle never forgets her own heritage even as she swims in the pleasure of affluence.

Belle is a gracious movie and 18th century England is well-attended by its costumes and landscapes. Yet, Amma Asante’s film refrains from an emotional depth; Dido does not ache for her mother, for example. Instead, Asante focuses on the strong cross-currents of change about to occur in England, the country that abolished slavery in 1807.

The Ross logo

Belle plays through June 5 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime
Catch a film …
Share the Popcorn …
Feed Your Soul!

Jodorowsky’s Dune @ The Ross

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Harlem Renaissance Poet Langston Hughes asks in his poem of the same name, what happens to a dream deferred? Film Director Frank Pavich offers one answer in his documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune.

In his film, Pavich uncovers the sheer pleasure and excitement in going for our dreams. His interview with cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky who made films such as El Topo in 1970 followed by his irreverent film The Holy Mountain in 1973, brings to relief what we will do to stretch our artistic muscle not for glory nor capital gain but for the sheer wonder in where our imaginations can take us.

Jodorowsky's Colossal Storyboard Book

Jodorowsky’s Colossal Storyboard Book

Without cinematic restraint Pavich curries patience in his exploration of Jodorowsky’s dream to bring to the big screen Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune in the turbulent times of the 1970s. Oh, it was a grand endeavor! The cast and technicians and illustrators made up a magnificent roster of talent Jodorowsky named “spiritual warriors”: We know them all: David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali; screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, sci-fi paperback artist Chris Foss, and the artist genius of the late H.R. Giger of Alien fame. Brontis, Jodorowsky’s son, trained for two years in martial arts to prepare for his role.

Jodorowsky assembled all of his storyboard illustrations and bound them into what became a collossal book of source material! In the film Pavich animates those images to give audiences a glimpse of what could have been. Jodorowsky left no stone unturned to realize his dream.

'Dune' The Film that Jodorowsky never made

‘Dune’ The Film that Jodorowsky never made

Jodorowsky, of course is the star of the show, and at 84 years old, he still conveys his intense passion for Dune via a most engaging and entertaining personality. “I wanted to make the most important picture in the history of humanity […] one that would connect to God!” Jodorowsky proclaims! His fervor, even today, still hovers over this most ambitious venture, and he is not alone! Pavich’s interviews with Michel Seydoux, Jodorowsky’s director and producer tapped for Dune; H.R. Giger; Diane, Dan O’Bannon’s widow, among others, all coalesce to reflect on a project that attracted the best talents in Hollywood! Yes, it was a grand endeavor!

… and Hollywood looked at all that he had created and said it was not good. So what happened to the dream deferred? Hmmmm …

The Ross logo

Jodorowsky’s Dune plays through May 22 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Watch for film television & more. In the meantime,
Catch a film …
Share the popcorn …
Feed your soul!

God’s Pocket @ The Ross

Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Bird (John Turturro) in contemplation

Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Bird (John Turturro) in contemplation

We rejoice in small towns! We love the ease in getting around places and living in neighborhoods where everybody knows your name; those neighborhoods where locking your doors is an insult to those in the community. The safety. The familiarity. All of these features of the small town will relax and calm you.

Unless there is a murder around the corner or was it an accident? John Slattery makes his directorial debut in this well-rehearsed deep dark dramedy God’s Pocket.

Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) and Mickey

Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) and Mickey

Set in south Philadelphia, Slattery works hard to tease out the subtleties of living in a working class town called God’s Pocket that is inhabited by … well … let’s just say you would not want to be caught on the street after dark–alone.

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Mickey Scarpato, a luckless outsider who topples over into the life in the Pocket by marriage to his wife Jeannie (played by Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame). Jeannie’s son Leon, the town’s crime element, has been taken out by one of his co-workers, and everyone swears it was an accident. Mom refuses to accept the verdict, so Mickey has to scrounge around town to find the real story! You will appreciate Slattery’s skill in playing with our common sense notions about the working class town; and, when he disrupts them, you will want to lock your doors.

The Ross logo

God’s Pocket plays through May 22 at The Ross.

Watch for film television & more. In the meantime,
Catch a Movie …
Share the popcorn …
Feed your soul!

Finding Vivian Maier @ The Ross

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier

What’s in your attic? What’s in your basement? Things you no longer care about? Or things you don’t want people to see? Well, let me ask you this: what would you do with those intimate artifacts? Chicago historian and photographer John Maloof explores the world of American street photographer and Nanny Vivian Maier in his documentary Finding Vivian Maier.

pix2

Vivian Maier was born in 1926 in New York city and died in a nursing home in Chicago in 2009 at the age of 83 after a slip and fall on the ice. She hid things in her bathroom—a space she turned into a dark room wherein she developed many of her photographs; she dared any of her charges or employers to step foot therein. In another home, she told her employers “I come with my life, and my life is in boxes,” and those boxes filled up their garage. Those are the boxes Maloof bought for $400.00 at an auction in 2007, and what he found were 30,000 negatives he began to scan onto his computer. During this process, Maloof realizes that he has come across pictures of artistic value that document street life from the 1950s-1970s. He went back bought the remaining boxes, which totaled some 100,000 negatives.

pix of two boys

For all of the sensationalism about the new discovery of a natural talent, the exhibitions in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Maier’s spectacular photographs she took with her Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera—Maloof has that too—or opinions that she was eccentric, Finding Vivian Maier is a story about privacy and the extreme lengths a woman will go to keep it.

Maier photographed the world around her, but declined to let anyone see the product from her efforts, except for one family with whom she was employed. She refused to satisfy the curiosity of her employers by declining to answer any questions about her life nor did she offer any information about same. Those interviewed, then, could only offer to the public their observations of her.

pix4

The documentary, however, goes a step further. What seeps out is a tale about a woman who felt her business—her life–belonged only to her, and she kept that business in boxes and boxes of things in the attic or in the basement. Perhaps, in such a rapidly changing world, the rolls of film and negatives in her boxes let her know she existed, and she did not seek the world out to affirm that for her.

The Ross logo

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, catch a film, and share the popcorn. Watch television, and feed your soul!

Ernest and Celestine @ The Ross

Ernest (Forest Whitaker) and Celestine (Pauline Brunner)

Ernest (Forest Whitaker) and Celestine (Pauline Brunner)

It is no wonder that Ernest & Celestine received standing ovations at Cannes and Toronto in 2012! This animated feature is a delightfully warm and fuzzy story directed by Stéphane AubierVincent Patar, and Benjamin Renner. Ernest, the bear, is brought to life by the vocal talents of English dub cast Forest Whitaker, and Celestine, the mouse by MacKenzie Foy. Other vocal talents are Paul Giammatti as the Rat King, William H. Macy, as the Head Dentist, Lauren Bacall as The Grey One, and Jeffrey Wright as the Grizzly Judge.

Watch out for the big bad bear! (bedtime story)

Watch out for the big bad bear! (bedtime story)

Celestine is growing up in an orphanage listening to stories told by a very intimidating elder mouse about a big bad bear who lives above ground and has a strong appetite for young and innocent mice.

nighttime for the fugitives, Ernest & Celestine

nighttime for the fugitives, Ernest & Celestine

The theme of friendship is front and center. Aubier & Co. prompt us to ask the questions: Do we decide to believe the stories we are told about people who are different, and, if not, can we still have a place among relatives and friends or even a place called home? These questions bring enjoyment to the story. Along the way, Ernest and Celestine challenge societal prescriptions they are expected to fulfill. Celestine is more interested in the arts rather than becoming a dentist, and Ernest has desires to become an actor and musician. When Celestine saves herself from the jaws of a hungry Ernest and leads him to a cellar full of food, bear and mouse come to know each other, and their companionship overcomes the tales each one has heard. The magic and charm intertwined with devotion through friendship are refreshing. You come away from this movie feeling alright about taking a chance on someone you were told was different.

Ernest and Celestine plays through March 8 at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

The Ross logo

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

%d bloggers like this: