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March 6, 2015

Posts in "Movies"

March 5, 2015

VICE Prepares for End of the World With a Stiff Drink

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“I suggest we all go get drunk now,” Shane Smith, the high priest of smashmouth journalism outfit VICE said.

That seemed about the most appropriate thing to do after watching the season three premiere of “VICE” on HBO Wednesday night at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The episode takes Smith, correspondent Vikram Gandhi and the VICE crew to Antarctica and Bangladesh to see the rapidly mutating effects of climate change, and it has a pretty simple, bleak message. Full story

February 17, 2015

Washington Jewish Film Festival Casts Wide Net

The Washington Jewish Film Festival gets underway on Thursday, an 11-day showcase for the global tapestry of Jewish life. What you’ll see — a range of films that includes repertory classics like Francois Truffaut’s “The Last Metro” and Louis Malle’s “Au Revoir Les Enfants” to contemporary Israeli selections such as Nissun Dayan’s “The Dove Flyer” — is by turns dark, funny, religious, secular, musical and everything else under the sun. Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 2:55 p.m.
Movies

February 13, 2015

David Carr’s Raspy Voice Lives On in ‘Page One’ and ‘Night of the Gun’

For those still processing David Carr’s sudden death, The New York Times scribe lives on in two great works he left behind, the 2011 documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times” and Carr’s memoir, “Night of the Gun.” Full story

February 6, 2015

The In-Between Zone Movies

It’s that strange time of year: the cinematic in-between zone when “The Boy Next Door” and “Boyhood” compete, if not necessarily for the same audiences or awards.

If one doesn’t want to see either cougar bait or Oscar bait, what else is available? Plenty. The in-between zone is a time not just for camp and class, but sleepers and second-runs. And with the weather still wickedly polar, it’s the right time for screen time. Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 10:41 a.m.
Movies

January 5, 2015

‘The Interview’ Playing at a D.C. Theater Near You

Rogen, seen here in February with with Lauren Miller, is no stranger to Capitol Hill. Will his movie screen here soon? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rogen, seen here in February with wife Lauren Miller, is no stranger to Capitol Hill. Will his movie screen here soon? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For those inclined to see “The Interview” on the big screen instead of video on demand or online, two theaters in Washington, D.C., are screening the Seth Rogen-James Franco-faux assassination of Kim Jong Un movie, differentiating themselves from what one outlet has pegged Hollywood’s Wussiest Moment of 2014.

The West End Cinema in Foggy Bottom and the Avalon in Chevy Chase are screening the satire at least through this Thursday. At the West End, it’s been showing in Theater 2, which holds 75 people. The Avalon has been showing it in its Theater 1, which holds more than 300 and is one of the city’s nicer movie experiences.  Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:04 p.m.
Movies

December 16, 2014

Shocked, Shocked Woodhouse Brothers Are Fighting on Cable TV

With all the spontaneity of a professional wrestling match, the Woodhouse brothers, liberal Brad and conservative Dallas, argued their political points on cable television today and their mom called in to scold them.

While the “Oh, God, it’s mom,” comment from Dallas and Joyce’s admonition that they get all this piss and vinegar out their system so they don’t ruin Christmas at Casa Woodhouse back in North Carolina is adorable in a #ThisTown kind of way — it’s worth pointing out this is a bit old hat for the family Woodhouse. They even made a movie about it, “Woodhouse Divided,” that catalogues in detail their cable television and public spats, as well as, yes, family holiday arguments.

Let’s get ready to rumble. Again.

Related:

Woodhouse Divided’ — The Real Life Political Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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December 15, 2014

Calendar: ‘Through a Lens Darkly’ Illuminates Screens

Protesters march in the "Justice for All" march on Dec. 13 in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Protesters march in the “Justice for All” march on Dec. 13 in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Thomas Allen Harris worked on his latest film project, “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” for years, and it was released in Washington on Dec. 12.

The timing, while entirely coincidental, comes during a period of renewed discussion of race as grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., continue to reverberate and demonstrations sweep through the halls of power, including at Capitol Hill. Full story

December 2, 2014

‘Remote Area Medical’ — a Documentary Whose Subject Is No Longer Remote

“If I’d made this movie, I’d have screwed it up,” said Stan Brock, the founder of Remote Area Medical and a man with nearly a half-century of film experience.

The movie he is referring to is “Remote Area Medical,” a documentary by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman about Brock’s organization, which provides free medical clinics to the poor. Their movie documents one of RAM’s weekend pop-ups in Bristol, Tenn., in 2012.

The organization, which Brock founded in 1985, first set to work delivering health care in out-of-the-way locales such as the Amazonian jungle and the wilds of Africa. Brock, a former cowboy in South America and collaborator on Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom,” was uniquely qualified for a medical venture serving virtually inaccessible areas in developing countries. Now, nearly 30 years later, more than 60 percent of RAM’s clinics are conducted in the United States. Full story

November 21, 2014

‘Food Chains’ Explores Farm Worker Rights, Wages

In Immokalee, Fla., after driving around the country visiting farms, Sanjay Rawal found the solution — at least one of them.

He’d been looking, after reading the book “Tomatoland” by Barry Estabrook, for a way to show on film the struggles facing farm laborers. The result, his first feature-length film, “Food Chains,” debuted in Washington at the West End Cinema (2301 M St. NW) on Friday.

“In an age where we all take photos of our food with our phones, we care so much about our food, but we’re not protecting the hands that pick our food,” Rawal said. Full story

By Clark Mindock Posted at 4:52 p.m.
Movies

October 30, 2014

CITIZENFOUR: Snowden’s Side of the Story

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“In the end if you publish the source material, I will likely be immediately implicated. I ask only that you ensure this information makes it home to the American public. Thank you and be careful, Citizenfour.”

In her soft voice, Laura Poitras begins her latest film, “CITIZENFOUR,” reading from an email she received from a National Security Agency whistleblower, who later revealed himself as Edward Snowden.

“CITIZENFOUR” is the third film in Poitras’ trilogy about post-9/11 America. She had already started a documentary on government surveillance when Snowden reached out to her in January 2013, turning her film upside-down. “The stakes are real. It’s not just, ‘Oh here’s a good story, I have good access,’” Poitras said in a recent phone interview. “I know that he was absolutely putting his life on the line. … There was just a palpable sense that this was not just about getting a scoop.” Full story

October 20, 2014

What To Do in D.C.’s In-Between Times

Well, we all know what we’ll be doing in two weeks: sweating out election returns. And next week is Halloween. But what about this week — particularly if you’re not on the trail or otherwise — should you find yourself in Washington, D.C.?

Phillips Goes to The Wall

The Phillips Collection is getting a little help with its exterior decorating this week, inviting four Senegalese artists — Muhsana Ali, Fode Camara, Viye Diba and Piniang (Ibrahima Niang) — to paint a mural on the wall of the museum’s Hunter Courtyard that will be unveiled to the public Thursday at noon. “The Leading Edge Ideas: Inside the 21st Century Museum” is part of the Phillips’ partnership with the State Department’s Office of Art in Embassies and is designed to set the stage for this weekend’s International Forum Weekend. (Don’t act like you didn’t know it was International Forum Weekend.)

Lincoln Gets Pressed

Thinking about an Honest Abe costume for All Hallows’ Eve? Bone up, then, on a relatively unexplored chapter of the 16th president’s biography — his relationship with the press — Thursday at the National Archives. Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer will discuss his latest book, “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion,” with Frank Bond at the Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater at 7 p.m. Admission is free. In his review of the book for Roll Call, John Bicknell wrote, “With his usual sparkling prose and exhaustive research, one of America’s foremost scholars on the 16th president has given us a robust portrait of the nexus between American politics and the press. As much as it is a telling slice of Lincolniana — the kind of detail-rich tapestry we have come to expect from Holzer — it is also a lively history of mid-19th century journalism.”

Cemetery Pre-Party

The lively folks over at Congressional Cemetery get into the swing of Halloween things on Saturday with their annual Ghosts and Goblets party on the cemetery grounds. The event follows in the footsteps of the cemetery’s Dead Man’s Race 5K earlier this month and August’s Day of the Dog, which combined animal adoption with food trucks and local breweries at the historic resting place that also doubles as D.C.’s premier dog-walking park. The party starts in earnest at 8 p.m., though VIP access gets one in the gates at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $70, which includes drinks. To purchase tickets or learn more, go here.

Related Stories:

Lincoln and the Power of the Press’ Elucidates Symbiotic Relationship Between Politicians and Journalists

The Ghosts Who Stare at Goats or All-You-Can-Eat-At-Congressional Cemetery

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 8, 2014

American Film Institute Sets 2015 Documentary Festival Schedule

The American Film Institute today announced the date’s for next year’s documentary film festival, setting aside June 17-21 at multiple sites in downtown D.C. and Silver Spring, Md.

For filmmakers, the festival set three deadlines for feature and short-length submissions. Dec. 12 for early birds, Jan. 30 for regular old submissions and March 2 for procrastinators.

Related Stories:

AFI Docs Announces 84-Film Full Slate

How D.C. Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Documentary Film

AFI Docs Leaves D.C. Footprint

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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By Jason Dick Posted at 4:30 p.m.
Movies

September 29, 2014

‘Fort Bliss’ — A Grounded Movie Gets Theatrical Run

Call it the little movie that could. “Fort Bliss,” a feature film about an Army medic/single mom returning stateside after a tour in Afghanistan and struggling with re-entry, is enjoying an extended theatrical release in Washington, continuing its rise from festival favorite and video on demand to big screens, thanks largely to grass-roots support.

The movie, directed by Claudia Myers and starring Michelle Monaghan, focuses on the challenges Monaghan’s character, Maggie Swan, has reconnecting with her young son and simply adjusting to not having bullets flying overhead. It’s a timely film, particularly as the country continues to grapple with questions about U.S. troops’ presence in Afghanistan and calls for more investment of blood and treasure in Iraq and possibly Syria get louder.

That doesn’t mean it was an easy sell. Josh Levin, general manager of the West End Cinema, said, “I originally turned it down. I turned it down cold,” when contacted by distributors about a run at his Foggy Bottom theater. He said it was an easy call “without any editorial comment about the films,” because he’s seen over and over again that when it comes to movies about Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s just no audience. “I just dismissed it out of hand.”  Full story

September 26, 2014

‘Dear White People’ Sparks Conversation on Race and Identity

As Sam White, an aspiring filmmaker, strolls through the courtyard at fictitious Winchester University, her teaching assistant tells her the best way to reach viewers is to make her film a mirror and hold it up to the audience. The film in which the scene takes place, “Dear White People,” does just that.

“I want people to ultimately see themselves,” writer and director Justin Simien said in a recent phone interview. “I think that’s sort of the role of art in general.”

White and Winchester are fictional parts of the satirical film that explores the lives of four black students at the predominantly white college. The film is smart, funny and provocative, with characters often making insightful statements about black culture that whiz by before you know what hit you.

“Dear White People” is the name of White’s college radio show, where she confronts racial stereotypes with quips such as, “The minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.”

Though the discussion of race is evident from the title of the film, the movie also confronts how we identify ourselves and how we reconcile our often-conflicting identities with ourselves and society.

“I wasn’t interested in making a morality play,” Simien said. “I wasn’t interested in the conclusion being ‘racism is wrong.’”
Instead, Simien shows the complexities and contradictions of young black college students attempting to define themselves today, particularly in predominantly white institutions.

The Sundance Film Festival hit certainly resonated with the audience at the National Museum of the American Indian on Sept. 24, which was the film’s first stop on its screening tour.

“Dear White People” drew enthusiastic cheers from the audience as the credits rolled.

The audience consisted of many young black college students from around D.C., but also a number of Hill staffers. Also spotted in the audience was Rep. John Conyers Jr., the 85-year-old Michigan Democrat who is also the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

“Dear White People” was shown as 10,000 people from around the country attended the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington. Although the screening was not part of the conference, its timing was not a coincidence.

Marshall Mitchell, a spokesman for Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, which own the rights to the film, said the screening was planned around the conference.

Mitchell, a former Hill staffer, said the CBC conference “is a time when issues of importance to African-Americans from legislation to social justice are talked about in Washington, D.C., so the timing was perfect in terms of the release of the film and the ALC weekend.”

Mitchell reached out to local colleges and Hill staffers to advertise the screening and thought it would be particularly important to legislative staffers.

“It’s a relevant film to inform them of the culture going on on college campuses,” he said.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Center for American Progress teamed up to host the screening, which included a discussion after the film.

“The world of Winchester is a microcosm for the larger American experience,” Simien said at the panel. He noted the pressures to fit into a sphere of black culture persist throughout one’s life.

Simien was inspired by his own experience in college, where he was one of the few black students on campus. “I often found myself being a black face in a white place,” Simien said. “And me and my black friends often found ourselves sort of toddling between the different worlds, modulating our blackness.”

“All of my characters are very messy and they’re complicated and they’re contradictory,” Simien said. That “messiness” is part of what makes the characters so relatable.

The characters also confront how white students interpret black culture in one of the most jarring scenes in the films when students paint their faces black, blaring hip hop and playing at being “gangster” by sporting toy guns and gold chains.

Simien said he chose a to highlight a blackface party because it “really articulated the horror of seeing the black experience interpreted through people who have no sort of contact with that experience.”

That interpretation persists in media portrayals of “popular black culture,” as Simien put it, which is used in marketing campaigns and films. Blackface parties are also a reality at some universities, which Simien reminds his audience by interspersing pictures from actual parties in the credits.

“I definitely made this movie to spark a conversation,” Simien said. The conversation will continue as the film hits select theaters on Oct. 17 and goes nationwide on Oct. 24.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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By Bridget Bowman Posted at 11:06 a.m.
Movies

September 19, 2014

‘Pay 2 Play’ Street Art and Big Money in Politics

Pay 2 Play

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

A poster pasted on H Street Northeast draws pedestrian attention to a familiar palette.

The pastel and dark blues, beige and a solid primary red were once seen on Shepard Fairey’s 2008 “Hope” poster, which advocated for President Barack Obama in a presidential race where candidates collectively broke records by raising over $1 billion for the first time in U.S. history.

This poster was also designed by Fairey, with the same colors and style — but with a more cynical message. It advertises “Pay 2 Play,” a documentary that critiques and exposes a political system, using street art as one of many focuses, in which big money interests hold more sway. After initial success at the Angelika Pop-Up theater, showtimes for the documentary were extended until September 25.

“I think corruption is an abiding story,” director John Wellington Ennis said, referring to a common topic in many of his films. “It evokes back to childhood when you’re bullied or when someone takes something from you knowing that you can’t get it back.”

For Ennis, though, big money is just one way to gain influence.

Street art, he said, can be a powerful tool of political expression that can give a voice back to “grown ups” who are being wronged by the power money has in the political system.

“Street art struck me as an interesting parallel as sort of a last resort for people who have next to nothing to put out a message,” Ennis said. “It’s in a public space … and you don’t have to be in on something to appreciate it.”

PAY-2-PLAY-Poster

(Courtesy Pay 2 Play)

 

“Pay 2 Play” documents the journey of the filmmaker from 2005 on, when Ennis went to Ohio to tell the story of the Coingate scandal. His father had been auditing the scandal on behalf of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and when Ennis, a comedian at heart, heard about what was happening, he felt he couldn’t pass up the chance.

“The details of it were so funny and over the top,” Ennis said. “I felt like, if I could tell that story, then maybe people could see how these things come back to running for office.”

Over the next decade Ennis put together the film, which includes the “secret” story of the game Monopoly and interviews with Los Angeles street artists, to explain big money in political campaigns, especially in the years after the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

“Eventually you see a whole bunch of different people and they’re saying the same thing,” Ennis said. “It’s fun to let the audience make those connections as they occur.”

Just like his idea of street art, he wanted the movie to be accessible to all sorts of people.

“You know, in the end it’s just going to be a funny movie that people will watch and have fun with,” he said. “There are so many people who come here to make a difference and I want this to be an inspiration to them.”

And, Fairey art isn’t the only thing Pay 2 Play has in common with big political campaigns.

Going forward, Ennis hopes to build a “limited activist” movement across the country, using online tools such as NationBuilder, a campaign tool developed by a former 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign staffer that streamlines volunteer organizing and fundraising.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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By Clark Mindock Posted at 3:29 p.m.
Movies

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