commentary & opinion

Sean Philpott-Jones: How To Die In California

Aug 25, 2016

Late last month, Betsy Davis died at her home in Ojai, California. The 41-year-old performance artist was suffering from ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which had already robbed her of the ability to stand, to walk, and to speak clearly. Facing the prospect of a slow and lingering death as she lost her capacity to move, to eat and, eventually, to breathe, Ms. Davis took her own life by taking a lethal dose of barbiturates.

Keith Strudler: The High Stakes Of An Arm Cross

Aug 24, 2016

Some people – I’d dare say most Americans – would believe that swimmer Ryan Lochte will be the most persecuted athlete in the wake of the Rio Olympic Games. For his foolish antics – and really, more for the bizarre cover-up than the crime itself – he’s lost potentially millions in sponsors, including Speedo, Ralph Lauren, and a bunch of other companies I’ve never heard of. He’ll also be the running joke of late-night TV and probably has keep his hair brown for the near future. But really, it’s not all that bad. I’d imagine he’s back in black within a few months and probably hosting another reality TV show not long thereafter. Don’t cry for Ryan Lochte, not that anyone really is.

Rob Edelman: Kirk Douglas

Aug 22, 2016

During my just-concluded trip to London, I was not surprised to find that Kirk Douglas was the cover-boy on the BFI Southbank’s September/October film screening program. He certainly deserves to be feted, and not just because he will be celebrating his 100th birthday on December 9. For Kirk Douglas is one of his generation’s premier movie stars.

Blair Horner: Shopping Smart For Healthcare

Aug 8, 2016

Choosing a health care provider can be tough.  Most of us look at the physicians and hospitals in our network and just make a choice. Sometimes, we ask our friends for a recommendation.  But usually, it’s a shot in the dark; we assume that since the government has licensed the state’s providers, all meet a minimum basic level of competence.

Keith Strudler: The Promise Of A Better Tomorrow

Mar 2, 2016

I believe in evolution. And I mean that not in the political context it’s often discussed, but rather simply I believe we progress over time. You get to see this at the Museum of Natural History, when you realize the shark of a million years ago is different than the one swimming in the Pacific – although for the record I’m afraid of both. Crocodiles, house cats, monkeys – they’ll all changed with the times. And if they didn’t, they’d become extinct. Just ask the Dodo bird or the Sabre-tooth cat.


Justice Scalia’s death creates a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The next president may have more to fill. Deciding cases as if it were the Sheriff of Nottingham, The Roberts Court is having a major impact on the economy. How those vacancies are filled will make a big difference to all of us.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Words

Feb 23, 2016

Emily Dickinson included the following poem in a letter she wrote:

A word is dead

When it is said

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

Rob Edelman: Chimes At Midnight And Orson Welles

Dec 28, 2015

Back in September, I reported the following in my film commentary: “Whenever I’m in London-- and that is as often as possible-- one of my favorite haunts is BFI Southbank, formerly known as the National Film Theatre. One of the highlights of my most recent trip was attending a screening of Orson Welles’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, also known as FALSTAFF, which dates from 1966. Before the screening, Simon Callow, actor/director/Welles scholar extraordinaire, was on hand to discuss Welles’ career in the theater. Callow did not so much lecture as perform, and it was a special treat to listen to this witty, articulate man and soak in his vast knowledge of Orson Welles. And in addition, Keith Baxter, one of the surviving cast members, was there to introduce the film and take post-screening questions and answers.”

Keith Strudler: Don’t Drink (Or Swim In) The Water

Dec 9, 2015

It is certainly not the end of the beginning. Perhaps it is the beginning of the end. Or maybe it’s neither, but simply a series of unfortunate events. Regardless, this has been yet another bad run for the tarnished Olympic movement and the governing IOC, whose final letter may as well stand for crisis.

Rob Edelman: Trumbo

Nov 9, 2015

A film can be mediocre at best and, cinematically-speaking, it can be instantly forgettable. But given its subject and its take on history, this same film can be well worth seeing and contemplating. In other words, the film in question just may be a valuable learning tool.

Keith Strudler: The NFL In Europe?

Nov 4, 2015

Full disclosure here: I’m in Italy right now and fully aware of just how little Italians care about American football, among other American passions like SUV’s and Dunkin Donuts. But I expect that to change for me next week, when I head to London. That’s at least according to reports that the NFL will now play four games a year on British fields, adding games at Twickenham Stadium, a London Rugby facility, to its current lot at the more sophisticated Wimbley. And more could come starting 2018 when the soccer club Tottenham Hotspur finishes their new building in north London. All said, unlike the Italians, the Brits will get a full complement of American style football from an assortment of teams. So unlike, say, people in Cleveland, British football fans aren’t stuck with a perennial loser. Perhaps see London as the buffet of the NFL.

Rob Edelman: Two Films

Oct 26, 2015

A film with a high pedigree and the best of intentions may be briefly unveiled at a film festival or two before making its bow in theaters. The purpose of the festival exposure is to grab the attention of the media and win the applause of audiences, with the hope of garnering tons of positive press and Academy Award consideration. Meanwhile, another film that does not have a certain pedigree also may be screened at the same festival. However, because of its lack of star power or the fact that its dialogue is in most any language but English, this film will languish on the festival circuit for quite a while in the hope of attracting audiences and earning a U.S. theatrical distributor, let alone winning an Oscar nod.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Epic Of Everest

Sep 18, 2015

The early 20th century was a time when exploration reflected feelings of nationalist pride and the concept of man versus nature. So much of this activity coincided with the development of motion pictures. As North American, British, and European men—and a few women-- took to remote areas of the world on foot and in land and air vehicles , they brought with them moving picture cameras and still photographic equipment in order to record remote lands and peoples never seen by what they considered to be the civilized world.

Keith Strudler: How About Them Cowboys?

Sep 16, 2015

If you were near a TV and a sports fan on Sunday night, you undoubtedly heard the exasperating ending to the day’s final NFL football game. That’s especially true if that fan liked the New York Giants, who managed to grasp defeat from the imminent and unlikely jaws of victory. The G-men blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead, largely through a series of unfortunate mental errors. That process reached its apex in the final two minutes, when quarterback Eli Manning threw the ball out of the end zone on third down at the Cowboys one yard line instead of falling down and letting the clock run. That gave Dallas QB Tony Romo and the comeback kids enough time to drive the field and give the Cowboys a one point last second victory. It was a game the Cowboys were supposed to win, but suddenly seemed like they wouldn’t, largely thanks to a bunch of mistakes and bad bounces. It's a game story Dallas fans will retell for years, and one that drove Giants fans into an early season depression. New Yorkers assumed their team would be bad and probably lose this game – maybe by a lot. But it’s always worse to have false hope than no hope at all.

Rob Edelman: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Sep 14, 2015

So many actors who start out on the stage abandon their roots once they hit it big on the big screen. A classic example is Marlon Brando. After becoming a Big Name on Broadway in 1947, originating the role of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Brando headed for Hollywood and forever left the theater.

Keith Strudler: Big Sister

Sep 9, 2015

Last night at the US Open was certainly not the first, or second, or even twentieth time the Williams sisters played opposite each other at a tennis tournament. In fact, it was the twenty-seventh, with Serena’s win giving her a 26-11 edge. In recent days, it’s been all Serena, having taken seven of the past eight matches. Last night was a reminder of which sibling would go down in history as the more dominant tennis player. Despite a valiant effort by the 35 year-old Venus, the slightly junior and more athletic Serena rallied for a serviceable three set victory. All which means Serena will now continue into the semifinals as the overwhelming favorite to win this US Open and her 22nd major singles event. That would tie her with Steffi Graf for the most ever, and it would also complete her calendar Grand Slam, winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and US Open in the same year. Not that it’s in question, but this title would further enshrine Serena as the greatest women’s tennis player to grace the court. One could certainly argue she’s actually the greatest female athlete in any sport, but that’s a discussion for another time. Regardless of the depth of perspective, Serena’s win over her sister last night was yet another demonstration of athletic grace under pressure.

Rob Edelman: London Movie-Going, British Noir

Sep 7, 2015

Whenever I’m in London-- and that is as often as possible-- one of my favorite haunts is BFI Southbank, formerly known as the National Film Theatre. One of the highlights of my most recent trip: Attending a screening of Orson Welles’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, also known as FALSTAFF, which dates from 1966. Before the screening, Simon Callow, actor/director/Welles scholar extraordinaire, was on hand to discuss Welles’ career in the theater. Callow did not so much lecture as perform, and it was a special treat to listen to this witty, articulate man and soak in his vast knowledge of Orson Welles. In addition, Keith Baxter, one of the surviving cast members, was there to introduce the film and take post-screening questions and answers.

Rob Edelman: Female Sexuality

Aug 31, 2015

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, new to theaters, offers a take on teen sexuality that is, well, different. So many films that spotlight the growing pains and yearnings of high school-age youngsters center on males, with their female counterparts presented as little more than stereotypically unobtainable trophies. In other words, the only teens with sex drives are the boys. The girls too often are the fantasy figures. They either are pretty virgins who do little more than smile sweetly or sluts with large breasts who are the personal property of the school football star.

  A Listener Essay by Susan McDonough - a member of the New York State Humane Association.

Many people are excited about a summer at Saratoga Race Course, but not me. In my opinion, racing is bad for horses.

Rob Edelman: John Garfield

Aug 10, 2015

John Garfield, a screen and stage star whose career was tragically cut short by illness and the Hollywood blacklist, is one of film history’s too-often unrecognized talents. HE RAN ALL THE WAY, a lesser-known but nonetheless compelling Garfield feature, has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray. The film dates from 1951, and is the actor’s celluloid swan song. He was felled by a heart attack the following year, at an all-too-young age.

Keith Strudler: Life’s Great Awards

Jul 22, 2015

Not all sports awards are created the same. For example, if you win, say, the most improved on your high school JV tennis team, that’s fine. But if you win the Super Bowl MVP award, that’s better. With the ubiquity of awards and requisite ceremonies, most people are rightfully judicious on which commendations to cherish, and which to simply accept. In other words, some go on your wall, while others straight to the basement, if the trash.

Audrey Kupferberg: 5 Flights Up

Jul 17, 2015

In the last year or two, love among the senior population has been more than evident in little and big-screen entertainments. 

Rob Edelman: Jackie Robinson, 1947 & 2015

Jul 6, 2015

Given the recent, sad, disturbing events in Baltimore, Ferguson, Staten Island, and elsewhere across the country, the impact of Jackie Robinson becoming the first black man to play major league baseball in the 20th-century is well-worth recalling-- and discussing. This is a milestone that transcends sports. It is one of the bellwether occurrences of what at mid-century was the soon-to-burgeon civil rights movement. Cinematically-speaking, the travails of Jackie Robinson have been detailed in two films. One of them, titled 42, came to theaters in 2013. The other, titled THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY, was released way back in 1950.

Rob Edelman: Motherhood

Jun 29, 2015

Sometimes, a dramatically flawed film still may offer a certain insight into a very real issue. Such is the case with THE 11TH HOUR, newly-released theatrically, whose original title is I AM HERE.

Rob Edelman: Summer Movies And More

Jun 22, 2015

The summer movie season has arrived in force. JURASSIC WORLD, a movie which is the definition of cotton candy hot weather escapism, earned a whopping $200-million in U.S. theaters during its opening weekend. Add to this the $300-million the film earned overseas, and JURASSIC WORLD took in over a half-billion dollars during its first days in release. And if you bought a ticket, you certainly got what you paid for: special effects, special effects, and more special effects, all of which are calculated to thrill the masses.

New restorations of two classic films are being released this month.  Both are works of masters from cinema’s past.  The first is LIMELIGHT, a mature, philosophical drama written and directed by and starring Charles Chaplin.  The second is Dziga Vertov’s THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA, which is one of the outstanding documentary films of all time.

Rob Edelman: Two For The Price Of One

Jun 15, 2015


LOVE & MERCY is based on the life of Brian Wilson, the composer-performer-musical genius who back in the early 1960s was instrumental in making the Beach Boys one of America’s most successful musical groups. However, LOVE & MERCY is a bit different from other biopics in that two actors play the central character. Paul Dano is cast as Wilson as a younger adult, while John Cusack plays him as an older adult.

In the early decades of the last century, Ivan Mosjoukine was a top star first of the Russian cinema and then of the French cinema. He was a fine actor who exuded a special charisma, and Flicker Alley has recently released to DVD a ten-episode six-plus-hour-long Mosjoukine serial, the English title of which is THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY, that was produced in France between 1921 and 1923.

Keith Strudler: The Not So Beautiful Game

May 27, 2015

We’ve heard for a long time that soccer is finally getting big in the US. If nothing else, it seems the United States Department of Justice got the message. They’re into soccer all right, so much that the Feds this morning indicted nine international soccer officials and five American business executives on 47 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, amongst other things. The indictments, announced in a Brooklyn federal court, largely involved officials working for CONCAF, the international governing body for the game in North American and the Caribbean region. CONCAF is of course part of the larger FIFA organization, the entity that oversees the world’s largest and most pervasive sport, and also a group that seen as only slightly less corrupt than the Russian mob. And that may be unfair to the Russian mob.

Rob Edelman: Hot Docs

May 18, 2015

These days, I scan the titles and subjects of newly-released films and either shrug my shoulders out of disinterest or shake my head in frustration. Too many of the films I’ve been seeing are, well, disappointing-- and these are the better ones. Way too often, they are mind-numbingly awful. In some cases, they are intellectually vapid. More often than not, however, they simply are not at all entertaining.