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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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There are a couple of different ways to make a documentary focused on a single figure. You can go the cradle to grave route. You can take the snapshot view, pulling a moment or moments to the forefront to serve as your foundation. Or you can mix it up, using the latter strategy to develop ideas within the framework of the former.

That last method is what Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock has opted to do with “Ruth – Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words,” the documentary newly available via virtual theatrical screening. The film takes a look at much of the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s life, though the primary focus is on her relationship with the Supreme Court, both in terms of arguing before it and serving on it.

Unfortunately, the film’s relatively lengthy quest for distribution – the film started making the festival rounds back in 2019 – means that in some aspects, it is a little dated. Specifically, it was completed before Justice Ginsburg’s passing in September of last year, leaving a few segments feeling a little askew.

Still, those off-key moments are relatively few and found primarily in the film’s final act. For the majority of the proceedings, we watch as the dynamic between the legal powerhouse that was RBG and the highest court in the land grows and evolves. And we get that through the standard talking head interviews, yes, but also – and primarily – through audio and video recordings of the woman herself, lending a proximity of perspective that invites the viewer in.

Sunday, 14 February 2021 18:43

‘Little Fish’ a smart sci-fi love story

So much of how we relate to the world rests on a foundation of memory. But what if that foundation were to crumble? How can a society survive without remembering?

How can love?

“Little Fish” – directed by Chad Hartigan from Mattson Tomlin’s screenplay – is a look at what might happen if the world started to forget. A young couple is just starting out on their life of love when their future is threatened by a global pandemic (yes, I know), one that threatens the very memory of their time together.

It is a thoughtful and emotional engagement with the idea of what it means to be connected to one another and how much of what binds us together is shared experience and the ability to return to those times through memory. Without that tether, we simply float away. And yet … perhaps love can transcend that tether and form a tie of its own.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 13:16

Celebrity Slam - Diamond in the fore of his head

When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, it’s easy to think that you’ve seen everything. Sure, the details change, but in terms of the broader picture, there just can’t be THAT many ways for famous people to be idiots. Again – there are shifts in specifics (and the specifics are by far the most fun part of the whole thing), but the basic fundamental stuff is the same.

Twitter beefs, hookups and breakups, “don’t you know who I am?” – all pretty standard.

But just when you think you’ve got this whole deal figured out and that there’s nothing new under the sun, Lil Uzi Vert has a giant pink diamond surgically implanted in his forehead and you realize that you don’t know anything at all about anything at all.

I mean … just read that last sentence again. I’ll wait.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 13:15

Weird National Briefs (02/10/2021)

Friends to the end

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Rest assured, “Chucky” is not on the loose.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has apologized after mistakenly issuing an Amber Alert that said the killer doll featured in the 1988 horror film “Child’s Play” was a suspect in the kidnapping of his 5-year-old son, Glen Ray, who was featured in “Seed of Chucky.”

The emergency alert described Chucky as a 3-foot, 1-inch-tall (0.9-meter-tall) doll wearing “blue denim overalls with multi-colored striped long sleeve shirt wielding a huge kitchen knife.”

The alert was mistakenly sent out three times last week to Amber Alert subscribers. The agency said it was a test malfunction.

TME – Malfunction. Sure. That’s how the evil dolls lull you into a false sense of security.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 13:08

Pro Football Hall of Fame names Class of 2021

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced their Class of 2021.

The group rolls eight deep, including five players selected by the Modern Era committee (three first-time-eligible inductees among them) – Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Alan Faneca and John Lynch. In addition, the class features one selection each from the Coach, Contributor and Senior committees: Tom Flores, Bill Nunn and Drew Pearson, respectively.

After starting with some 130 nominees back in September, the Hall has steadily whittled down the number. From 25 semifinalists in December to 15 finalists in January to this, the final group, the list has been narrowed and narrowed until now, we have the Class of 2021.

And even for a Hall of Fame class, it’s a strong one.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 13:01

Forgetting to remember – ‘Malcolm & Marie’

The deluge of pandemic movies is coming. Brace yourselves.

As we sit just shy of a year since the country shut down in the face of COVID-19, we’re starting to see some of the early fruits of cinematic pandemic pivots. These films will in many ways be defined by the circumstances of their origins – separating movies made during this time from this time will be impossible. Now, they aren’t necessarily ABOUT the pandemic, but rather shaped by the situation.

“Malcolm & Marie” is a prime example – an Amazon Prime example – of what these projects might look like. It’s a legitimate two-hander; there are literally two people that we see on screen in the entire movie. It is a legitimate single location shoot; all of the action takes place in and around one house. It is a dialogue-heavy black-and-white relationship drama, one that features two actors on the rapid rise to movie stardom in Zendaya and John David Washington. And all of it came together over the course of a couple of weeks with a twenty-person crew in an effort to keep working following the shutdown of Hollywood operations (including Levinson and Zendaya’s HBO show “Euphoria”).

But while the dense dialogue and vaguely true origins of the story prove compelling, the back-and-forth verbosity slowly starts devolving into a Hollywood-centric Albee riff – think “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” meets “The Player” – that rings false. Now, the barrels of charisma spilling all over the set courtesy of the two leads certainly help mitigate the situation; Washington and Zendaya certainly generate heat. Alas, that heat is somewhat undermined by Levinson’s affinity for speechifying; ultimately, there’s an insincere hollowness to it all – and that CAN’T be solved by presence alone, leaving the actors to their struggle.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 12:52

Doing it for the ‘Gram – ‘Fake Famous’

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a tenuous grasp on the concept of what it means to be an influencer. While I recognize that it involves building a large following on assorted social media platforms, then using those platforms to promote both one’s personal brand and the brands of those companies willing and able to cough up free stuff and/or cash, what I don’t get is … why?

Fame used to be the byproduct of individual talent, whether that talent involved music or movies or athletics or politics. You were famous because you DID something. But here in the 21st century – and especially in the last decade or so – that formula has been inverted by many. That is, you do things because you’re famous.

Again – what does that mean?

That’s the central question that the new HBO documentary “Fake Famous” is attempting to answer. The film – which marks the filmmaking debut of journalist Nick Bilton, who wrote and directed – bills itself as a social experiment of sorts, an attempt to delve into what exactly it means to be an influencer and exploring whether they are born or made.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 12:37

Set adrift on memory – ‘Bliss’

What if the life you know isn’t the whole story?

Few science fiction tropes offer the kind of narrative oomph that you get from parallel worlds. It’s an ideal way to introduce that “what if?” vibe that can make for such an interesting story. A more recent evolution of the concept is from the notion that we are living inside a simulation – an idea that seems to be steadily be gaining more real-world traction.

Of course, the fact that it CAN be effective doesn’t mean it always WILL be effective. And that potential for effectiveness means that we see it used a lot; unfortunately, that high volume doesn’t necessarily translate to consistent quality.

“Bliss” – the latest film from indie genre auteur Mike Cahill – attempts to explore some of the potential ramifications that might come from learning that what you believe to be real … isn’t. And while it does find room for some interesting ideas and a couple of sly subversions, it unfortunately becomes rather tangled in its own construction, to no one’s benefit.

Cahill, who wrote and directed the film, has a history of doing a lot with a little, crafting a pair of marvelous genre gems in “Another Earth” and “I Origins.” He’s venturing into familiar territory here, but despite some big ideas and strong performances from his leads, the film never quite clicks, particularly in its chaotic and vaguely unsatisfying third act.

It’s probably safe to say that this Valentine’s Day will be unlike any other that we’ve experienced. Under the still-looming shadow of the pandemic, we might not be able to celebrate this holiday of the heart in the ways that we have in the past.

In recognition of that fact, I’ve decided to try something a little different for this year’s traditional Valentine’s Day cover. Since many people may not be able to get out and do what they ordinarily would, I thought I might lean into one way that couples could celebrate together.

Movie night.

But not just ANY movie night. What I’ve done here is gone through the annals of cinematic history and chosen one film from each year from 1920 up through today. One movie that is a story of love and romance. Maybe a comedy, maybe a drama, maybe something in between – the only requirement is that love play a big part. It’s an ambitious list, to be sure. And while many of these titles will doubtless be familiar, I’m guessing that there will be a few that are new to all but the most ardent cinephiles.

(Note: For most of these, a simple description – a couple of sentences – will suffice. As we go along, however, I’m going to occasionally break out and go in-depth on some of my personal favorites.)

In the end, though, it’s all about finding the film that speaks most to you, about finding the movie to which you feel the strongest connection. Maybe you’re looking for something new. Maybe you’re looking for something familiar. Or maybe you don’t know what you’re looking for at all just yet. Regardless, I’ve got something for you here.

Let’s go to the movies.

We’ve all heard the old saw “Write what you know.” However, we don’t all agree on what that actually means.

For a writer like Susan Conley, it means carrying a deep, fundamental understanding of the sorts of people and places that you’re going to bring to life. That understanding – that knowledge – is what makes her work so engrossing and compelling.

Conley’s newest book is “Landslide” (Knopf, $26.95), a thoughtful exploration of the demographic and economic shifts that have been taking place in towns up and down the Maine coast in recent years. It’s a story of struggles – the struggle to make ends meet, the struggle to find fulfillment, the struggle of married life and motherhood – marked by occasional small moments of personal victory. All of it refracted through the prism of one woman’s perspective.

Grasping the importance of connection is a hallmark of Conley’s work – see 2019’s excellent “Elsey Comes Home” for a prime example – and she continues along that path with this one. She sets up shop in her protagonist’s head, giving the reader a first-hand look at the inner strife that comes with experiencing changes that are largely unwelcome and more than a little frightening.

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