The King of Staten Island

Posted on June 11, 2020 at 3:13 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Some violence, fires, sad death, suicide attempt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: June 12, 2020

Copyright 2020 Universal Pictures
Here we go again. Another too-long Judd Apatow movie about an arrested development, failure to launch man-child we are expected to find far more endearing than we do. “The King of Staten Island” shares these essential ingredients with earlier films like “The 40-year-old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” and one more: the main character played by a charismatic comedian or comic actor. In Apatow’s earlier films, those actors have included Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and Seth Rogen. This time, it is stand-up comedian and SNL cast member Pete Davidson.

But there are a couple of significant differences between the sunny sensibility of those glossy Hollywood confections and “The King of Staten Island,” with the significance of its setting reflected in the title. It’s not sunny. It’s dingy and gritty, with the help of superb cinematography from Robert Elswit, and very little music on the soundtrack. And the reasons that the main character is stuck in a perpetual directionless funk of helplessness, sorrow, self-pity, resentment, self-harm, numbness, and weed, are darker, much darker because we know the story is semi-autobiographical.

Normally, I might describe a film like this as the co-writer/star working through some issues (as, say, in Shia LeBoeuf’s “Honey Boy,” where he played his own abusive father). But it is not clear that Pete Davidson is working through much here, except to the extent he is re-enacting some of what has happened to him. Davidson is currently living at home with his mother, as we see (literally) in his appearances, some with her, in the videos he shoots for the pandemic-era SNL episodes. Davidson was seven when his fireman father was killed on 9/11. In this film, his character’s name is Scott, after his real-life father, to whom the film is dedicated. Scott’s father, also named Scott, was a fireman who died trying to rescue someone. As the film begins, Scott’s sister (played by Apatow’s daughter Maude) is leaving for college. And his mother (Marisa Tomei, in another wonderfully warm and radiant performance), 17 years after his father’s death, is beginning to date someone new, also a fireman (Bill Burr). Seeing the people closest to him taking chances, moving on, and accepting responsibility are deeply unsettling. But what he is most threatened by is allowing himself to feel the feeling he has numbed with weed, denial, and tattoos that are more like self-mutilation, mortification of the flesh, and self-inflicted pain to reduce feelings of worthlessness than aesthetics or self-expression. He says he wants to be a tattoo artist and practices on his friends (and briefly on a child). He says his dream is to have a combined restaurant/tattoo parlor. What he really wants to do is erase himself.

Davidson is an exceptionally appealing performer, and it is clear he is trying to blend art and life here, using the film itself to become more vulnerable and more present. But there is a reason one of the most frequent characters he plays on SNL (other than himself) is a teenager whose only reaction is a shrug. He is still operating within a pretty narrow range, in contrast to Tomei and Burr, and Pamela Adlon, who briefly appears as a bitter ex-wife, all excellent. Making the most of an even briefer appearance is Steve Buscemi, a real-life fireman playing one on screen.

There are touching moments, and some scenes have a satisfyingly authentic impact, especially those with a group of guys showing their ride or die support for each other by ragging each other mercilessly, an Apatow speciality. It could have been half an hour longer, first by cutting the weird scenes where restaurant waiters and bus staff literally fight for tips. But we keep rooting for Scott, and especially for Pete.

Parents should know that this movie includes constant very strong, explicit, and crude language, sexual references and situations, alcohol and drugs, including the use of both to numb pain, risky and foolish behavior, including a possible suicide attempt, criminal activity, a gun, and discussions of the death of a parent and divorce.

Family discussion: Why did Scott and his sister respond to the loss of their father differently? Why was it so difficult for Scott when he mother dated another fireman? What made him decide to change?

If you like this, try: Pete Davidson’s stand-up special, “Alive from New York”

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Drama Inspired by a true story movie review Movies Movies

Think Like a Dog

Posted on June 10, 2020 at 8:26 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for rude and suggestive material
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Low-key peril, chase scenes, marital estrangement
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 9, 2020
Copyright 2020 Lionsgate

As the title “Think Like a Dog” suggests, this family friendly fantasy from writer/director Gil Junger is a welcome throwback to Disney live-action fantasy classics like “The Absent-Minded Professor,” “The Shaggy Dog,” and “The Monkey’s Uncle.” A very likable Gabriel Batemen plays Oliver, a young science whiz who invents a contraption that allows him to hear what his beloved dog Henry is thinking. As he tries to figure out a way to talk to the girl he has a crush on and remind his parents how much they care about each other, Henry helps with support and advice. Meanwhile, there are adults who are very interested in Gabriel’s technology, including a charismatic high-tech billionaire and the US government.

Oliver’s parents, Lukas (Josh Duhamel) and Ellen (Megan Fox), are devoted to him but are having a hard time communicating with each other. They do their best to hide from Oliver that they are considering a separation. Oliver is so busy with his invention for the school’s science fair that he does not notice. With the help of a friend half a world away in China (Neo Hooo as Xiao), he figures out a way to access a government satellite to get the signal he needs to make it work.

The special guest at the science fair is a charismatic Silicon Valley superstar known as Mr. Mills, played by Kunal Nayyar, as a very different kind of super-brianiac than the one he played on “The Big Bang Theory.” Oliver wants to make a good impression on Mr. Mills and on his crush, Sophie (Madison Horcher), but his demonstration fails. Disconsolate back at home, he is comforted by Henry, and then accidentally discovers that his contraption actually works — on Henry!

As Mr. Mills tries to steal Oliver’s invention and government agents try to track down whoever is hacking the satellite, Henry advises him on talking to Sophie and gently urges him to pay attention to his parents so he can help them remember to pay attention to each other.

There’s a lot more going on here, including a school play (Oliver plays Romeo!) and a bully, and some of Henry’s canine friends and rivals. Writer/director Gil Junger keeps things moving briskly, with just the right balance of action, humor, and heart.

Parents should know that this movie includes themes of parents considering a separation, and may need to talk to children about how it is not always possible to resolve differences and stay together — and not the responsibility of children to keep them together. They may also want to talk about cybersecurity. This film includes some schoolyard language, potty humor, and some chases and mild peril.

Family discussion: If you could hear your pet’s thoughts, what do you think they would be? Whose thoughts would you like to hear? Who would you like to hear your thoughts? Why did Mr. Mills want the device? Why is Henry so confident?

If you like this, try: “Clockstoppers,” “The Shaggy Dog,” and “A Dog’s Way Home” And read my interview with dog trainer Sarah Clifford.

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Family Issues Fantasy movie review Movies Movies Stories About Kids Talking animals

AFI Docs 2020: It’s Online So Everyone is Welcome!

Posted on June 8, 2020 at 9:05 am

Copyright AFIDOCs 2020
The annual AFI Docs festival is one of my favorites because these are true stories. They will break your heart, lift your spirits, and change your mind. This year, because of COVID-19, the festival is online, which means everyone can see these extraordinary films. Passes are available for as little as $50 which gives you access to 59 Films From 11 countries. This year, 61 percent of the films are directed by women, 25 percent By POC directors and 14 percent by LGBTQ directors.

The festival opens with “Boys State.”

Each year the American Legion hosts a “civics camp” for high school students (separated by gender) in states across the country. BOYS STATE closely follows a group of teenage boys as they attend one such program in Austin, Texas. The attendees are tasked with creating a mock government and spend the week campaigning for leadership and party platforms. Political ambitions are high and the gubernatorial race is hot. Are you curious what the next generation of our political system looks like?

Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize, “Boys State” explores politics through a coming-of-age lens. The result reveals American democracy and political division at its most hopeful and terrifying moments.

The closing film is another political story, with a new perspective on a politician people think they already know, “Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President.”

If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Greg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. This fascinating documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House.
Director Mary Wharton assembles a star cast including Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Nelson, Dylan, Parton and Bono and fills the soundtrack with Southern rock, gospel, jazz, and classical.

Especially timely: “Women in BLue,” about the intersectionality of race, gender and violence in the Minneapolis police department.

One of Hollywood’s top directors, Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13,” “Splash”) has a film in the festival, “Rebuilding Paradise.”

On November 8, 2018, tucked in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the picturesque town of Paradise would be changed forever. The Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive fire in history, displaced over 50,000 residents, leaving the community in ashes.

In the aftermath of the haunting images of thick smoke and raging fires, Ron Howard’s documentary follows a group of residents as they struggle to rebuild their lives. While coping from the trauma and grieving their loved ones, they must wrestle with the logistics and bureaucracy of rebuilding their community. A sincere portrait of humanity, “Rebuilding Paradise” is a tribute of resilience in the face of uncertainty.

And Ron Howard appears in another festival film, “Dads,” directed by his daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “The Help”). I’ve seen the film, which is coming to AppleTV Plus later this month, and it is a wonderfully touching and inspiring look at fatherhood, with appearances by the director’s own family as well as celebrities like Will Smith and Jimmy Kimmel and a marvelous assortment of ordinary dads doing the extraordinary job of raising children.

Other films on the schedule include:

9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT: DIRS Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. PRODS Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. USA.
Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s film follows a group of secretaries in the 1970s fighting against lack of acknowledgment, demeaning tasks, low pay and all kinds of harassment in the workplace. From humble beginnings in a small office in a Boston YWCA to a nationwide movement so energized it inspired the iconic song and film, the organization’s rise was no easy undertaking. To achieve some justice, they employed clever tactics and took advantage of hidden talents wasted in the office. While gender parity has yet to be fully realized in the workplace, we would be nowhere as close without these women.

BLOOD ON THE WALL: DIRS Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested. PRODS Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested and Peter Goetz. USA.
Immigration under the current administration is indelibly marked by powerful media images of migrant caravans, thousands of Central American families walking hundreds of miles through Mexico desperate to attain asylum in the United States. Acclaimed filmmaker Sebastian Junger (Academy Award®-nominated RESTREPO and KORENGAL) reteams with Nick Quested (Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS) and National Geographic to chronicle the course of events that would transform Acapulco from tourist destination to murder capital in less than a decade.

BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN: DIR Ivy Meeropol. PRODS Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Ivy Meerpool. USA.
Before Donald Trump, there was Roy Cohn, the original New York bully. In fact, during the early days of Donald Trump, there was Roy Cohn, right by his side, introducing the brash young wannabe to the big time of Manhattan real estate. Trump was attracted to Cohn’s “take no prisoners” approach to the law and Cohn recognized a rising social climber when he saw one.
The Trump connection is but one fascinating thread in this multi-layered portrait of Cohn by filmmaker Ivy Meeropol, whose own grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed for spying for the Soviet Union as a result of Cohn’s ethically spurious legal maneuverings. Full of insightful interviews with the famous and the not-so-famous, the alchemical genius of BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN is to be, simultaneously, a searing indictment of Cohn and a poignant family history.

CODED BIAS: DIR Shalini Kantayya. PROD Shalini Kantayya. USA, UK, China.
While working on a project, MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers issues with facial recognition programs. Investigating deeper into algorithms and the data in artificial intelligence, she discovers the large gender and racial bias in software created by tech companies. But her findings are only the beginning to much more disturbing revelations. As many of these AI technologies creep into our everyday systems, everything from college application screenings to the type of medical treatment one receives is affected.
Researcher turned advocate, Joy leads a team of women to raise awareness and push for legislative protection. With personal stories of prejudice and those fighting against it, CODED BIAS sharply reveals the urgent threats to privacy, civil rights and democracy that are not in the daily headlines.

DILEMMA OF DESIRE: DIR Maria Finitzo. PRODS Maria Finitzo, Cynthia Kane and Diane Quon. USA.
Directed by two-time Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Maria Finitzo, the film follows a motley crew of unstoppable women, comprised of artists, educators, scientists, strippers and sex toy designers, who have made it their mission to dismantle internalized sexism and begin to repair the dissociated relationships many women have to their own bodies. In a reframing of daily micro-aggressions, society’s erasure of the clitoris is exposed as a tool of patriarchal deception, a negation of women’s wants and needs. This exciting (and informative) campaign seeks to dispel the discomfort and shame surrounding female sexuality by empowering women to own their desire, connect with their bodies and familiarize themselves with the vast, internal structure of the clitoris. They will paint it, sculpt it, plaster its image on walls and design special toys for it until all of society knows the laws of “cliteracy.”

DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986): DIR Lee Grant. PRODS Milton Justice and Joseph Feury. USA.
Screening as part of the AFI DOCS Guggenheim Symposium
Years before the economic catastrophes of COVID-19 and the 2008 recession, the U.S. experienced the tumult and divisiveness of the 1980s, a period that saw the country rapidly splitting into the haves and have nots. Lee Grant’s devastating 1986 Academy Award®-winning documentary takes a compassionate, clear-eyed look at those left behind in Reagan’s America. From desperate family farmers in Minnesota to unemployed factory workers in the Midwest and homeless people forced to live in decrepit welfare hotels in Los Angeles and New York, a cruel picture emerges of a country unmoored from its basic principles and core values. But beneath the weight of such crushing hardship, Grant finds courageous people who, on the verge of losing everything, discover the power of community organizing to fight injustice and to preserve basic human dignity.

FIRST VOTE: DIR Yi Chen. PROD Yi Chen. USA.
Toward the end of Washington, DC-based filmmaker Yi Chen’s beguiling and refreshingly non-partisan FIRST VOTE, one of the film’s subjects posits, “The central question that I think all Asian Americans feel is, ‘Do we belong?’” Given that, as recently as 1952, federal law barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting, it is a searing and inescapable reality faced by Asian Americans.
Taking her camera on the road during the 2018 midterm elections, Chen introduces us to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans: an avid Trump supporter in Ohio; a Democratic podcaster whose views have alienated his wife’s conservative friends; a gun-toting, Tea Party-favorite in North Carolina; and a progressive University of North Carolina professor. Speaking with distinct political voices, they share the common goal of seeing Asian Americans take their rightful place in American political life.

FREEDIA GOT A GUN: DIR Chris McKim. PRODS Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Chris McKim. USA.
Devastated after learning her brother Adam was murdered, New Orleans bounce legend Big Freedia uses her platform to raise awareness about the complexities of gun violence, a nationwide epidemic that continues to disproportionally harm Black communities. As Freedia shares her personal journey from growing up gay in the projects through Hurricane Katrina and chasing her musical dreams, she delves deep into the first-hand experiences she and the community have had with gun violence, seeking to uncover the causes behind it. She is not alone in her quest to make the streets of New Orleans safer for the next generation: mothers, teachers, students and others personally affected reveal the collective trauma left in the wake of this violence. Her brother’s murder still unsolved, Freedia leads us through a courageous and necessary dialogue about the origins of this American epidemic.

THE LETTER: DIRS Maia Lekow and Christopher King. PRODS Maia Lekow and Christopher King. Kenya.
Karisa lives in Mombasa, one of the largest cities in Kenya. He gets a call and discovers he has a delicate family problem: his grandmother has been accused of being a witch. Fearing for her life, he returns to his family’s village to figure out who wrote the letter accusing her of witchcraft and why. Using Karisa’s family as the jumping off point, we visit other elders accused of being witches and uncover the violence inflicted on them. What starts as an almost absurd family situation gets exposed to be a complicated human rights issue. Exploring unique modern cultural and religious clashes, Maia Lekow and Christopher King’s film is still able to achieve an intimacy and charm, that is, in many ways, magical.

MIRACLE FISHING: DIR Miles Hargrove CODIR Christopher Birge. PRODS Miles Hargrove, Christopher Birge and Eric F. Martin. USA.
So, your dad has been kidnapped by a rebel group and you are forced to negotiate for his release… what do you do? Well, if you’re Miles Hargrove, you make a video diary. Twenty-five years later, with the gift of hindsight, he returned to these diaries to tell this incredible story. In 1994, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) kidnapped journalist Tom Hargrove from the family home in Cali, Columbia, leaving his wife and two sons to pay the ransom. With the help of their friends, including a hostage negotiator, FBI agent and their 18-year-old neighbor, the group navigated conditions for his expected release. Their story, impeccably captured by a then state-of-the-art Video8 camcorder, shows a family in crisis, yearning for normalcy and finding moments of hope and kindness amidst the horror.

ONE LIFE: DIR Josh Turnbow. PRODS Akshay M. Shah and Robert Dvoran. USA.
In October 2016, in response to the Myanmar government’s promised political reforms, President Obama ended decades of U.S. sanctions against the country. What Obama didn’t anticipate was that his actions would inadvertently open the door to the Myanmar military’s all-out assault on the country’s Rohingya people. With a population of nearly one million, the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people were targeted, terrorized and killed. Within a matter of weeks, nearly 700,000 Rohingya were driven from the country.
Shedding light on the long term persecution of the Rohingya, tracing their forced migration to neighboring Bangladesh and illustrating their current conditions, Josh Turnbow’s moving – and infuriating – documentary screens at AFI DOCS on United Nation’s World Refugee Day. The U.N.’s World Food Programme has taken responsibility for feeding the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in a massive refugee camp in Bangladesh.

THE REASON I JUMP: DIR Jerry Rothwell. PRODS Al Morrow, Stevie Lee and Jeremy Dear. UK.
Opening a window into the sensory universe of five nonspeaking autistic people from around the world, THE REASON I JUMP takes the audience on a uniquely cinematic journey that is both revelatory and inspiring. Based on the remarkable best-selling book by 13-year-old Naoki Higashida, the film brilliantly blends its portraits with Higashida’s own insights into autism.
Acutely observed moments in the lives of each of the five people are connected by passages from Higashida’s writing, which comes to life in scenes featuring a young Japanese boy. As the boy travels through an epic landscape, he gradually discovers what his autism means to him and why he acts the way he does: the reason he jumps. Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Audience Award.

SAUDI RUNAWAY: DIR Susanne Regina Meures. PROD Christian Frei. Switzerland.
Muna, a young woman living under the oppressive state of Saudi Arabia, prepares for her imminent arranged marriage…and her risky escape to Europe. Using cell phones to secretly document her life, Muna exposes the strict patriarchy affecting her family and controlling her free will. Her only chance to flee is during her honeymoon. Muna is fearless, but will she succeed with her plan?
SAUDI RUNAWAY shares an intimate and thrilling story of human rights and the voice of those silenced by their government. Filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures collaborates with Muna, constructing the secret footage into a raw and insightful profile of a culture caught between tradition and modernity and a young woman willing to risk everything for a better life.

SING ME A SONG: DIR Thomas Balmès. PROD Thomas Balmès. France, Germany, Switzerland.
Returning ten years later to the remote mountainside village where he once encountered precocious but dedicated eight-year-old Tibetan monk Peyangki, documentarian Thomas Balmès (BABIES, HAPPINESS) discovers that much has changed. The roads leading into Laya are now paved and, beyond the television Peyangki once longed for, the young monks now scroll mindlessly through their phones while chanting their prayers. Now 18 years old, our subject texts his girlfriend, a bar singer who lives in the city, his devotion to her having supplanted that of his religious studies. Without falling prey to a simple binary of good/bad, Balmès’ beautiful observational portrait is a remarkable opportunity to explore both the positive and negative repercussions that modernization and technological access has on a community.

STOCKTON ON MY MIND: DIR Marc Levin. PRODS Cassius Michael Kim and Mike Marangu. USA.
Upon his election as mayor of Stockton, CA, in 2016, Michael Tubbs inherited one of the poorest, most violent and least literate cities in the country. Tubbs was also 26 years old, the youngest and first African American mayor of the city. This intimate portrait follows Tubbs during his term as he and others work on projects to address homelessness, universal basic income and education for at-risk youth.
A native of Stockton, Tubbs knows how street violence affects families – his father is serving a life sentence in prison. His determination to change his community started in childhood. Capturing this unique moment in history, STOCKTON ON MY MIND reveals the creative ideas and collaborative spirit Tubbs brings to government, as well as the multitude of strong reactions that his leadership elicits from citizens. A hopeful story of community, leadership and love, Tubbs is an undeniable leader to have on your radar.

A THOUSAND CUTS: DIR Ramona S. Diaz. PRODS Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn. USA.
Upon taking power in 2016, the newly elected populist president Rodrigo Duterte promised a relentless war on drugs. Brushing aside the rule of law and due process, his campaign resulted in thousands of deaths. Another constitutional casualty of Duterte’s rule has been freedom of the press.
Co-founded by journalist Maria Ressa in 2012, the online site Rappler is one of the Philippine’s most popular news outlets and a thorn in Duterte’s side. The stakes are raised when Rappler is cited as a fake news outlet and targeted for possible closure, followed by Ressa’s arrest on specious charges.
Set against the backdrop of the country’s 2019 midterm elections, this stirring documentary shows what happens when a strongman president threatens democratic norms. But Ressa, part of a group honored as Time’s Person of the Year 2018, is not backing down: “We, at Rappler, we will not duck. We will not hide. We will hold the line.”

THROUGH THE NIGHT: DIR Loira Limbal. PRODS Jameka Autry and Loira Limbal. USA.
Any working parent can tell you how vital childcare providers are to their lives. As America’s economy requires more parents working multiple jobs or the nightshift, the need for 24-hour childcare is critical. THROUGH THE NIGHT shares an intimate portrait of the struggle and bond between two working mothers and their childcare provider.
For over twenty years, “Nunu” and her husband “Pop Pop” have dedicated their lives to their business — creating a safe space for children to learn, eat, sleep and be loved. It is hard work and Nunu is relentless in providing care to her families. Through beautiful verité storytelling, filmmaker Loira Limbal demonstrates the personal toll of rising economic inequality — an issue even more relevant now as our country struggles with the effects of a health pandemic.

TRANSHOOD: DIR Sharon Liese. PRODS Sasha Alpert and Sharon Liese. USA.
We all remember the trials and tribulations of being a kid: fitting in at school, getting along with siblings, finishing homework. These alone are enough to handle. Now, add in discovering who you are and growing up as a trans youth in Kansas City. TRANSHOOD is director Sharon Liese’s in-depth five-year journey following the lives of four kids (ages beginning at 4, 9, 12, and 15) discovering their specific trans experiences alongside their families. Each of the kids and their parents navigate the day-to-day challenges of their home lives and their lives out in the world. Finding normalcy isn’t easy while tackling issues of body dysphoria, transphobia and bullying, and many other big topics that their cis-gender classmates can’t understand. What truly ties these stories together is the unbelievable empathy and humanity exemplified by each family, not just with the heavy moments, but often also during those typical of any childhood.

UNLADYLIKE2020: DIRS Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley. PRODS Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley. USA.
An exciting sampling of the ambitious PBS American Masters multi-platform series that profiles over 200 women, UNLADYLIKE2020 calls into question American history as we know it, reaching back to the dawn of the twentieth century to recognize unsung female leaders and trailblazers. Upending expectations and challenging the definition of womanhood, these “first women” found themselves at the forefront of progressive movements, organizing campaigns and leading paths to cultural change. Female historians share the names and stories of five of these pioneers: Martha Hughes Cannon, Jovita Idár, Jeannette Rankin, Mary Church Terrell and Zitkála-Šá. Their profound and extraordinary achievements in government, suffrage and civil rights, largely taken for granted by history, underscore the importance of continuously revisiting and revising the historical record to include the contributions of women and women of color. The inspiring battles that they waged in the name of equality continue to be fought by women today.

WHITE NOISE: DIR Daniel Lombroso. PROD Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg. USA.
WHITE NOISE is the definitive – and disturbing – inside story of the alt-right. With unprecedented, exclusive access, first-time filmmaker Daniel Lombroso tracks the rise of far-right nationalism by focusing on the lives of three of its main proponents: Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist and sex blogger turned media entrepreneur; Richard Spencer, a white-power ideologue; and Lauren Southern, an anti-feminist, anti-immigration YouTube star.
Lombroso’s intrepid camera takes the viewer into the terrifying heart of the alt-right movement: explosive protests, riotous parties and the private spaces where populist and racist ideologies are refined and weaponized. Easy to dismiss as extremists and provocateurs, the alt-right’s leaders adroitly wield the tools of social media to great effect, demonstrating that this dangerous movement is to be ignored at our democracy’s peril.

WOMEN IN BLUE: DIR Deirdre Fishel. PRODS Beth Levison. USA.
Janée Harteau became Minneapolis’s first female police chief in 2012. She quickly began the hard work to reform the MPD by increasing diversity through recruiting and leadership promotions. After a high-profile police shooting occurs in the city a few years later, Chief Harteau is forced to resign and the three female officers under her wing must continue the mission under an all-male leadership unit while rebuilding the community’s trust in the police.
WOMEN IN BLUE examines the relationship between gender, race and violence in an American institution that has long been male dominated. This compelling portrait demands we ask our society: by fighting for gender equality in policing, can we reduce police violence against citizens?

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Documentary Festivals

Movies for the Homebound XI: Dancing!

Posted on June 2, 2020 at 11:22 am

Movies to lift the heart and possibly inspire some exercise!  Some of my favorite movie dance numbers:

Bye Bye Birdie: When a pop idol is drafted, the teenagers go crazy in this classic musical starring Dick van Dyke and Ann-Margret. Two teenagers trying to make each other jealous make this dance number one of the all-time best.

The Step Up movies have some sensational dance numbers. Here’s one of my favorites from Step Up 3, to a song originally from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie.

Here’s Astaire and Rogers in “Roberta.”

Another one of my favorite “Step Up” dances, from “Step Up: Revolution

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Choreographer Michael Kidd was famous for his wildly energetic dances and this is one of the best. At a barn-raising the mountain Pontipee brothers compete with the men from the town for the hands of the ladies.

It’s Always Fair Weather: Kidd appeared on screen in this film, featuring the remarkable garbage can lid dance with Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey.

Kiss Me Kate: Speaking of choreographers on screen, Bob Fosse dances along with Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Ann Miller, Carol Haney, and Jeanne Coyne (later Gene Kelly’s wife) in this merry musical based Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” with music by Cole Porter.

And here is Fosse with his wife, Gwen Verdon, in “Who’s Got the Pain” from “Damn Yankees.”

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For Your Netflix Queue Lists Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families

Protest: Movies for Families About Working for Justice and Progress

Posted on June 2, 2020 at 10:41 am

Copyright 2014 Cloud Eight Films

The news of 2020 may be confusing and scary for children. These movies will help families talk about how democracies allow ordinary citizens to work for change.

Selma:  “Selma,” director Ava DuVernay’s film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital at Montgomery, to make the case for the right to vote, is superb as biography, as history, and as drama.

He Named Me Malala:  She risked everything to be allowed to learn. And now she is a world leader in advocating for other girls to have the same chance.

How to Survive a Plague: Extraordinary archival footage of the early days of AIDS activism makes this documentary especially vital and compelling. As writer/director David France told me, ““This isn’t a movie about what AIDS did to us. This is a movie about what we did to AIDS.” the people in this movie changed the way the medical and research communities interact with patients and their families who are coping with all diseases and conditions.

Boycott: The Montgomery bus boycott led by a young clergyman named Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world.

It is humbling to remember that the boycotters never demanded complete desegregation of the public transit; that seemed too unrealistic a goal. This website has video interviews with the people who were there. This newspaper article describes Dr. King’s meeting with the bus line officials. And excellent teaching materials about the Montgomery bus boycott are available, including the modest and deeply moving reminder to the boycotters once segregation had been ruled unconstitutional that they should “demonstrate calm dignity,” “pray for guidance,” and refrain from boasting or bragging.

Mission Blue: World-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle travels the globe on an urgent mission to shed light on the dire condition of Earth’s oceans.

Dolores: One of the most powerful activists on behalf of migrant workers is Dolores Huerta, who had to fight sexism as well as racism.

Amazing Grace:  The first ever citizen-led movement leading to peaceful social change was the British anti-slavery movement led by William Wilberforce, movingly depicted in this film. You can see the origins of the kinds of tactics and arguments that have formed the basis for every social movement since.

Made in Dagenham: Sally Hawkins stars in this fact-based story about women fighting for equal pay at a car company. It is a stirring and inspirational story and has a nuanced look at the political challenges as well as the professional ones.

1971: Before the Pentagon Papers, Edward Snowden, the Panama Papers, Wikileaks, and Chelsea Manning there was the first-ever leak of government documents. A group of activists broke into an FBI office and released documents showing abuse by law enforcement in a program called COINTELPRO. It was decades before anyone discovered who was responsible and we are just beginning to understand the impact of these revelations in loss of trust for government and changes of policy in the press.

Mighty Times: The Children’s March: This Oscar-winning documentary is the story of how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 to demand justice.

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