During the early years of the last century, a number of itinerant film companies traversed the United States and produced movies set in small and not-so-small towns. Their casts were comprised of local, non-professional actors and, while featuring nominal plotlines, they primarily existed as travelogues of a sort in that they served to promote the town's amenities.
One of the most compelling and poignant new films to go into release this summer is a documentary: LIFE ITSELF, in which Steve James (of HOOP DREAMS fame) offers a warm tribute to one of the all-time-great film critics. That would be Roger Ebert.
During the month of August, Turner Classic Movies is celebrating Hollywood and international stardom with its annual Summer Under the Stars series. Today, for many film enthusiasts—particularly young viewers-- choosing a movie often is based on its genre, special effects, or franchise. Decades ago, during the golden age of the studio system, filmgoers targeted their movie choices by the star names that appeared on theater marquees.
Coming-of-age films have long been a moviemaking staple. Stories featuring young people who are attempting to define themselves, to relate to their elders while figuring their place in the world, certainly are appealing both dramatically and as subjects that will attract the audience demographic that the movie industry so desperately covets.
One new film that I have been long-anticipating is GET ON UP, a biopic which chronicles the life and times of James Brown, one of the seminal figures on the American musical scene during the infancy of rock, roll, and soul.
For more than 100 years, stereotypes have been a fixture in developing comedy routines in popular entertainment…the fat Italian man who belches garlic, the Fagan-like Jew who sits under a single weak light bulb counting gold coins, the dumb blonde, the lazy Latino who perpetually is seeking siesta, and the African American who fractures the English language and is afraid of his own shadow. Today, most would agree that these are not only inaccurate representations, but indeed are offensive and obsolete tools for creating comedy.
The number of children who for one reason or another go missing not just in the United States but across the globe is staggering, maddening, and heartbreaking. The saga of one such occurrence is told in SIDDHARTH, a heartfelt, quietly shattering new film.
I recently attended the Festival Cinema Invisible, now in its third year, which features an array of new Iranian films, all of varying length. What struck me was the generally high quality of many-- but not all-- of the films, not to mention the universality of their subjects.