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September 23, 2014

Posts in "Movies"

September 19, 2014

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

photo 445x333 Pay 2 Play Street Art and Big Money in Politics

(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 162x240 Pay 2 Play Street Art and Big Money in Politics

(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.

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

September 16, 2014

All in a ‘Last Days’ Work for Rory Kennedy

“My brother Chris says I make two kinds of films: depressing and really depressing. So, that may be my range,” Rory Kennedy says, laughing a little bit. “I don’t really see it that way. … A lot of my films, and I would throw this one there, are about people overcoming great odds.”

That sentiment comes through in the documentary filmmaker’s canon. The youngest child of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., has trained the camera on subjects that certainly have depressing elements, but ultimately show underdogs hanging on. Her body of work includes movies about poverty in Appalachia (“American Hollow”), torture in a military prison (“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”), breaking workplace barriers  (“Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House”) and her own mother’s path after RFK’s assassination (“Ethel”).

Rory Kennedy’s latest movie, “Last Days in Vietnam,” fits nicely into the darkness/overcoming dichotomy. Chronicling the days in April 1975 as the North Vietnamese finally pushed the U.S. presence from Saigon, it doesn’t sound like brother Chris is too far off. But the movie combines archival footage with contemporary interviews of U.S. and South Vietnamese personnel, composing a story of courage and grace under fire.

“To me, one of the lessons of this film is, once you get to the point where it’s the last days, there are very few good options,” she says. And yet, the ingenious ways in which U.S. personnel went against the odds, and sometimes direct orders, to ensure safe passage for U.S. and South Vietnamese citizens alike, shows the few good options available were put to maximum use.

“I was shocked with how much I didn’t know,” Kennedy says. “The good news and bad news is that I’m not alone.”

Among the things one might learn is that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, then a Navy officer, led a mission to move South Vietnamese naval ships out of the Saigon River and ended up facilitating the evacuation of thousands of refugees. (The details of the mission reek of a covert operation that combines elements of “Apocalypse Now” and “Exodus.”) Or that U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin frustrated the hell out of his charges by delaying evacuation planning but then quickly mobilized to turn the devolving embassy grounds into an impromptu pick-up spot that rescued thousands more. Or that Congress failed to grasp the enormity of the human rights situation and failed to help out because it was paralyzed by gridlock.

Wait. Never mind that last one.

“I love storytelling,” Kennedy says, explaining why she picked documentaries to be medium to her muse. In “Last Days in Vietnam,” Kennedy takes a set of information and facts, does some digging and weaves a story that sheds light amid the darkness. It’s like cinematic proof of Bob Dylan’s theorem in “Meet in the Morning.”

“They say the darkest hour/is right before the dawn.”

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September 15, 2014

Ken Burns Gets Personal With ‘The Roosevelts’

“No other family has touched as many Americans as the Roosevelts,” documentary filmmaker Ken Burns said at a Monday National Press Club lunch about his new film, “The Roosevelts.” The three share a “complicated, Russian-novel of a story,” that has never been shared as one multifaceted narrative.

This is your week to grab all the Roosevelt you can handle. “The Roosevelts” debuted on PBS stations Sunday night and the network will broadcast the entire 14-hour, seven-part series during primetime evenings this week, with the last episode on Sept. 20.

A few snippets of what you’ll discover in this Burns-epic of the presidential family: Teddy never stopped outrunning his demons. Franklin tried to be everything to everyone. Eleanor overcame a seemingly impossible childhood. The film covers from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962, while keeping a steady eye on the monumental changes America experienced in that century.

Burns, a documentarily filmmaker for more than 30 years, spoke of the Roosevelt trio with an earned intimacy at the sold-out luncheon. He introduced his reasoning for making this new epic, saying it’s been a conceptual dream for decades, shared with his colleague Geoffrey Ward, a writer and historian who also attended the event with Burns on Monday.

“We tend to form conventional and superficial wisdom about subjects,” Burns said. He wants this documentary to let viewers move past the labels associated with these towering figures in American history. He shows the Roosevelts to be human: flawed, influenced and driven.

Other attendees at the luncheon included Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, the U.S. chief of protocol from 1982-89 and the wife of the late Archie Roosevelt; Nik Apostolides, the deputy director of the Capitol Visitor Center and a co-organizer of the event; and Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS.

At the end of the event, as attendees were nibbling on Teddy, Eleanor and FDR-themed cupcakes, Burns shared what’s next on his list of projects. He has five films in the works, with pieces on the history of cancer (due spring 2015), the life of Jackie Robinson, the war in Vietnam (due in 2017), the history of country music and a biography of Ernest Hemingway.

Want even more? There’s a free Ken Burns app on iTunes, with film snippets and music, centered on “themes” of knowledge. The full-version of the app, with more content, costs $9.99.

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September 8, 2014

‘Woodhouse Divided’ — The Real Life Political Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots (Video)

The documentary “Woodhouse Divided” illustrates the political divide between the real life political version of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: the Woodhouse brothers, Brad and Dallas.

Brad, the former communications director for the Democratic National Committee and current honcho of Americans United For Change, and Dallas, former director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans For Prosperity and currently heading up Carolina Rising, are deeply steeped in politics, both nationally and in the Tar Heel State. If you work in Washington and have email, odds are good you’ve heard from one or both of them about how — take your pick — President Barack Obama/the Koch Brothers are destroying America.

They’re also tight and have a great deal of affection for one another, even if their arguments, which have played out mano a mano in the public sphere on cable television and the like for years, get heated. They always seem to be able to bury the hatchet immediately after trying to sink it in each other’s head over, say, health care. A much-told throwaway line for moderators of their shenanigans is typically, “Thanksgiving must be interesting,” or some variation thereof.

Well, starting in the run-up to the health care debate in 2009 to the fallout of the 2012 election, Miller traces their professional and familial dust-ups, including Thanksgiving dinner, which their fellow family members regard with seasoned eye-rolling.

“I try to get them not to talk about politics, but it doesn’t work,” their mother Joyce, a former staffer for North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford says in the film. “Sometimes, I would just prefer they not talk about their mother,” she also says, referring to an on-air argument that plays out before millions.

At a screening of the movie on Sept. 4 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, the brothers kept up the schtick, like two pro wrestlers taunting one another across the mat. “I’m going to cut the microphone … and give it to my brother,” Brad said before the movie, introducing them as “I’m the Democrat. He’s the wing-nut.”

“It’s nice to be here in Washington. I have never said that before, because I hate it here,” Dallas, said to the largely Brad-friendly audience. The wisecracks, particularly from Dallas, continued throughout the screening. For veteran Washington hands, it was like a return trip to the old Union Station theaters, but instead of the audience yelling at the screen, the film’s principals were yelling at each other in the dark. The two boisterous bros always make sure the people watching know it’s in good fun, even if what they do seems to cross the line, whether it be a joke about one’s weight or slapping the other’s hand away.

At the end of the film, before the credits had finished rolling, the projection abruptly ended and the screen went black. “The End!” yelled a young girl, presumably a younger Woodhouse. The audience laughed, the tension, both real and forced, was relieved, as the blue Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot and the red Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot punched each other to a draw.

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By Jason Dick Posted at 2:54 p.m.

September 5, 2014

A Welcome Back Calendar

Short Cuts

The DC Shorts Film Festival starts on Sept. 11, showcasing an international slate of 150 short-length films in 90-minute blocks through Sept. 21. Close-in venues like the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 1333 H St. NE and Landmark’s E Street Theater at 555 11th St. NW will host shows, but so will further flung ones like the Angelika Film Center and Cafe Mosaic in Fairfax, Va., and the Anacostia Arts Center across the river from Capitol Hill. For a full run-down of films, go to

The (Ken) Russell Building

The Library of Congress is in the middle of screening a series of the late Ken Russell’s films, and it’s a great bunch focused on music, laced with Russell’s trademark kinkiness and bathed in the peculiarity of the 1970s. On Sept. 12, the library screens 1970′s “The Music Lovers,” the story of Tchaikovsky’s marriage. A chamber piece this is not, as it focuses on the composer’s attempt to distance himself from his homosexuality, only to have it backfire when he marries a nymphomaniac. It’s a rarely screened part of Russell’s body of work, showing at 7 p.m. at the Pickford Theater on the third floor of the library’s James Madison Building on Independence Avenue. On Sept. 19, the Pickford shows Russell’s 1975 “Tommy,” the filmmaker’s adaptation of The Who’s rock opera starring Roger Daltrey, Jack Nicholson, Ann Margaret, Elton John and just about anyone tripped out from the ’70s music scene.

An Innovative Discussion

Not to jump too far ahead, but Roll Call Book Club returns on Sept. 16 at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, where we’ll sit down with Aneesh Chopra to discuss his book “Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government.” Chopra, the first-ever chief technology officer of the United States, takes a tack most fear to these days: Extolling the good government can do in paving the way for new discoveries that can benefit everyone. From the Pony Express to the Internet, there’s a record. This free event starts at 6 p.m. at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and includes a free book, beverages and snacks. To register, go to our spot on Eventbrite.

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August 26, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘The War Room’

Once upon a time, in a political galaxy not so far away, George Stephanopoulos was not the host of “Good Morning America” and James Carville was not a cable television combatant.

In “The War Room,” the 1993 documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the filmmakers shadow Stephanopoulos and Carville when they were virtually unknown campaign operatives, manning a fly-by-night presidential campaign that would topple an incumbent president and create the vaunted Clinton political machine that prepares, even now, 22 years after Bill Clinton first took the White House, for another run.

The very term “War Room” is so overused now, whether it’s referring to a Senate leader’s communications HQ or an NFL draft coordinating center, that it is easy to forget that this movie popularized a term that until then was primarily associated with Stanley Kubrick’s absurdist apocalyptic comedy “Dr. Strangelove.”

Watching Stephanopoulos and Carville run the show is one of the real pleasures of “The War Room.” It’s a movie that shows men at work, doing what they love in a way very few people see. It’s also funny, moves at a brisk pace and has a great soundtrack.

A couple of years back, the Criterion Collection released the film anew, and it has much to offer besides a high-definition digital transfer. Interviews with the principals, “Return of the War Room,” a companion documentary from 2008 and political catnip like an interview with Stan Greenberg about polling make the Criterion edition a great supplement for this, our current midterm political season, as well as the coming Clinton restoration run.

By Jason Dick Posted at 8:18 a.m.

August 11, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Road Scholar’

It’s August, when many people take vacation and are lured by the open road. “Road Scholar,” Roger Weisberg’s 1993 chronicle of Andrei Codrescu’s journey across America in a red Cadillac, is the perfect documentary to illustrate what could lay ahead: fast food, kitschy motels, machine guns and an exploration of what it means to be an American.

Codrescu, the long-time NPR commentator, reporter, novelist, essayist, poet, professor and editor, was born in Transylvania, Romania, one of his claims to fame, as he states at the beginning of the movie. His other? That he doesn’t drive, which he remedies by not only getting a drivers license but using it to take what he views as that most American of things: the cross-country road trip.

Along the way, he traces the paths not just of Americana but his own immigrant roots. He came to the United States in the 1960s, a political refugee, and landed in the most car-centric city of all: Detroit. His return to the Motor City is a sad one, with the decay that continues to define the city taking hold in the early 1990s.

It’s not all sad. Codrescu’s wry narrative, which helped the documentary win a Peabody award, navigates the American landscape with humor and affection. Years before Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” made some of these rounds, Codrescu paved the way, without having to fake the accent.

When Codrescu’s journey ends, in San Francisco at a citizenship ceremony he helps conduct, it’s a poignant moment that fits well into today’s debate on immigration. His own journey, from Romania to the United States, from New Orleans to San Francisco, shows the potential, accomplishment, absurdity and fun messiness of the American experience.

Plus, you get to listen to that awesome accent for a good hour and a half.

By Jason Dick Posted at 8:28 a.m.

August 4, 2014

Who’s the Fairest Nixon of Them All?

coin1 081503 2 370x335 Whos the Fairest Nixon of Them All?

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974, capping off a political career and providing writers, historians and filmmakers creative fodder the likes of which Shakespeare would have drooled over.

Nixon’s ambition, his successes, his failures, his paranoia and his mannerisms have provided memorable film roles for some of Hollywood’s most talented actors. Here, then, are some of the best Nixon performances put to celluloid, yielding that most Washington of questions: Who is the fairest Nixon of them all?

— Philip Baker Hall in “Secret Honor” by Robert Altman. Hall’s Nixon is an enraged man alone in a White House with a bottle of booze, recording equipment and portraits of the people who have shaped his life and loom ominously over him. This cinematic one-man play is a bitter pill, and Hall gives his sweaty, drunken, extended soliloquy everything he’s got in the tank.

— Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” by Ron Howard. Langella’s portrayal of the disgraced ex-president seeking to redeem himself through his extended sit-down interviews with David Frost is a marvel. He shows a calculating, slippery, awkward man, deeply hurt and coldly calculating all the same, desperate to re-engage in the game.

— Anthony Hopkins in “Nixon” by Oliver Stone. Stone’s gonzo biopic allowed Hopkins to lean into his interpretation of Nixon as  a less-sophisticated but just as dangerous version of Hannibal Lecter. It’s a wonder Hopkins doesn’t bite someone in this role. You have to admire the commitment.

— Dan Hedaya in “Dick” by Andrew Fleming. The Watergate scandal as comedy! Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are the Rozencrantz and Guildenstern of Nixon’s White House, two ditzy teenagers who find themselves enmeshed in the biggest political scandal of modern times. Hedaya, so used to playing cranky police captains, homicidal villains in Cohen brothers movies or Carla’s deranged husband Nick Tortelli in “Cheers,” gives the most bubbly portrayal of Nixon ever, a marvel considering how dark the source material is.

— Richard Nixon in “Our Nixon” and “Nixon by Nixon.” Judge for yourself how Nixon does compared to the other Nixons out there. Penny Lane’s “Our Nixon” and Peter Kunhardt’s “Nixon by Nixon” use archival footage, Super-8 home movies and the Watergate tapes to illustrate the 37th president. Both films, particularly viewed as a package, paint a portrait of Nixon that is compelling, entertaining and haunting.

By Jason Dick Posted at 1:18 p.m.

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Our Nixon’

The Aug. 9 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation is almost upon us, and it’s being accompanied by the recent releases of archival material and re-interpretations of the 37th president that portray Nixon as more than just a disgraced caricature.

Chief among these, partly because they marry the power of actual images to the sounds of real people’s voices, are two documentaries: Last week’s Documentary of the Week “Nixon by Nixon” by Peter Kunhardt and this week’s pick, “Our Nixon” by Penny Lane.

Both are the kind of movies that give non-fiction filmmaking a good name. Kunhardt’s film relies on Nixon’s secret tape recordings and archival news reports to paint the picture of the behind-the scenes president. Lane’s film is a different animal that uses some of the same techniques, but has an incredible twist, leaning on Super-8 home movies taken by White House aides H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin that were impounded by the FBI until just a few years ago.

What unfurls in Lane’s movie are images of a White House staff in its most candid moments, some light-hearted, some puzzling. It shows how much fun it can be in the White House and how dull it can be. Many of the film’s scenes depict a heavy conversation between, say, Nixon and Haldeman or Ehrlichman while the camera rolls on an image unfolding outside the West Wing — a hummingbird or a squirrel eating or spring-time blooms on the grounds. It’s a weird, abstractly sublime contrast.

“Our Nixon” shows a world most people don’t get to see outside of staffers and the press. It’s a view of the play from backstage, and the program is one of the most consequential epochs in American history.

By Jason Dick Posted at 9:50 a.m.

July 28, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Nixon by Nixon’ (Video)

“Sometimes, I regret …,” President Richard M. Nixon intones at the beginning of the documentary “Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words.” The voice trails off, leaving the viewer, or Nixon himself perhaps, to fill in the rest.

How does one mark the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s Aug. 9 resignation? One way is by watching Peter Kunhardt’s movie, which makes its debut on HBO on Aug. 4. Kunhardt uses recordings from Nixon’s secret taping system from 1971 through 1973 to form the base of the movie, along with images from news footage and other vintage sources from the era.

The strength of this documentary is letting Nixon do the talking, with an assist from senior aides such H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger. The range of topics swings from Nixon’s attitude toward the press — “The press is the enemy. Write that down on a blackboard 100 times” — to the pandas he helped convince the Chinese to send to the National Zoo. “Oh, they’re just darling!” Pat Nixon tells her husband.

Let Nixon be your Virgil in this guided tour through Watergate’s back passages.


By Jason Dick Posted at 4:21 p.m.

July 21, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Code Black’

Not for the faint of heart, “Code Black” by Ryan McGarry is a documentary about Los Angeles County’s emergency trauma center. Right off the bat it plunges the viewer into the most graphic elements of health care, as well as doctors’ concerns about how they can balance the optimism that led them to their profession with the brutal reality they face on a daily basis. McGarry, who was in his residency at County while he was filming the movie, is just one of the many doctors who make the movie hum along.

“Someone is suffering. What are you going to do?” asks Jamie Eng, a senior resident physician says after a series of scenes that makes the goriest episode of “ER” look like kid’s stuff. The staff’s narration revolves around the role that emergency rooms fulfill in the American health care system, an out-sized and expensive one that goes beyond treating gunshot wounds and reaches to primary care for the most vulnerable members of society.

“When we started this, it seemed so simple. We were going to be doctors. We were going to help people. But what if those ideals can die? I mean, what if those hopes can fade into the failure of the system. If you’re a young doctor, you have to ask yourself, ‘how do I protect the ideals I came here for?” McGarry says early on in the film.

Amid the depressing polarization of the health care debate in Washington, the fact that they’re even continuing to ask questions like that is a minor miracle. This movie shows why people go into medicine, and how tough that choice can be, however rewarding it may be.

“Code Black” is playing at the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market at 550 Penn St. NE.

By Jason Dick Posted at 6:27 p.m.

July 14, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Documentary of the Week: ‘Getting Back to Abnormal’

A new political documentary, “Getting Back to Abnormal” debuts this week on PBS and examines New Orleans politics in the post-Katrina era.

The 90-minute documentary — produced and directed Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Peter Odabashian and Paul Stekler — profiles a Big Easy city council race between a white incumbent, Stacy Head, and a local African-American pastor, Corey Watkins.

But the film also asks: Can New Orleans preserve its character amid recovering from the 2005 hurricane?

This team’s previous work has appeared on PBS’ Nova, American Experience and Frontline.

Stekler wrote and produced Frontline’s 2008 “The Choice” documentary chronicling then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ahead of the general election.

“Getting Back to Abnormal” premieres Monday evening. In Washington, it airs Friday at 10 p.m. on WETA, and on July 23 at 8 p.m. on WHUT.

Beyond the Beltway, check your local listings here.

Disclosure: The author of this post interned for Stekler while a student at the University of Texas. 

July 11, 2014

The Movies’ Guide to Understanding Cleveland

 The Movies Guide to Understanding Cleveland

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

It’s been quite a week for Cleveland, starting out by scoring the 2016 Republican National Convention and ending it with LeBron James spurning NBA mistress Miami to return to the Cavaliers.

But what if you’re not one of the fortunate travelers out there who have experienced all that Ohio’s North Coast has to offer? Well, there’s always the movies. Here are five to get you started on your journey to understand Cleveland.

  • “American Splendor.” Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s 2003 brings the real crown prince of Cleveland, the late graphic novelist/file clerk Harvey Pekar to the screen with Paul Giamatti and Harvey Pekar playing Pekar, whose vision of life in Cleveland matches the city’s gritty ethos.
  • “Major League.” David Ward’s 1989 film about a Cleveland Indians team that the owner tries to sabotage, but, of course wins instead, is a classic against-the-odds sports flick. It does capture the particular craziness of Cleveland sports fandom and their resignation to falling short, particularly with its ending. The team wins, yes, but it’s just a win for the division title. Usually these movies end with a World Series win! Not in Cleveland.
  • “Stranger Than Paradise.” Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 black and white story of a road trip that takes in a nice, middle-of-winter visit to Cleveland and the shores of Lake Erie captures just a little bit of what the reasoning might have been for some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Cleveland in the last few decades.
  • “Draft Day.” Want to see the more optimistic view of Cleveland sports? Ivan Reitman’s film this year stars Kevin Costner as a hometown general manager for the Browns whose ass is on the line to deliver big on the NFL’s draft day for the team and its fans. Wouldn’t you know it, he did. Wouldn’t you know it, within weeks of this film being released, the Browns drafted Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel. You be the judge if art imitates life.
  • “Howard The Duck.” Willard Huyck’s 1986 flick is perhaps one of the worst studio movies ever made, a colossal flop with George Lucas’ imprimatur and a Marvel Comics pedigree. A talking duck from a parallel universe gets beamed to Cleveland. Has to be seen to be believed.
By Jason Dick Posted at 5:53 p.m.

July 7, 2014

Washington’s Biggest Repertory Cinema: The Great Outdoors

screenongreen 1 072406 2 445x297 Washingtons Biggest Repertory Cinema: The Great Outdoors

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The outdoor summer movie circuit is in full swing, with plenty of al fresco viewing to go around in Washington, including the grande dame herself, the upcoming Screen on the Green on the National Mall.

Screen on the Green, which is entering its 16th year, starts back up between Seventh and 12th streets on July 21 with “The Karate Kid,” that touchstone of 1980s and Generation X culture. It continues on following Mondays with “Lover Come Back,” “Key Largo” and “A Soldier’s Story.”

Debuting that same week is the Washington City Paper’s Summer Cinema series in the Heurich House Museum’s garden, a bit cozier venue than the National Mall located just south of Dupont Circle at 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW. The first in the series, “Wayne’s World,” plays on July 24, with the next three Thursdays hosting “Clueless,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Beetlejuice.”

The city’s Film Office last month launched its Gateway DC Summer Film Series on the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s East Campus, the District’s only outdoor film series east of the Anacostia River at 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. SE. On Wednesday, it will show “Talk to Me,” a feature film about legendary D.C. journalist Petey Greene. The series continues through Aug. 13 with “Life of a King,” “My Family/Mi Familia,” “Wall-E,” “Rize” and “Are We There Yet?”

Closer to the Capitol, the NoMa Summer Screen at Second and L streets Northeast, continues Wednesday with the “The Muppets,” the rebooted one with Jason Segel and Amy Adams, not the original with Richard Pryor and Charles Durning. The food trucks serving the NoMa crowd are scheduled to be Popped Republic, Kafa Mania, DC Slices, Crepe Love and Orange Cow. NoMa’s series continues on Wednesdays through Aug. 20 with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Dark Knight,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Top Gun” and “The Sandlot,” with a rain date slated for the last slot and the film to be determined.

Also not too far from the Capitol is the Capitol Riverfront’s Canal Park series at 200 M St. SE. On Thursday, after a one-week hiatus, the movies fire back up near Nationals Park with “Balls of Fury,” the ping pong comedy. The “It’s a Whole New Game” theme will be in full effect, with Thursdays through Sept. 4 showing one sports movie after another. On July 17, Canal Park will show “Space Jam” and the following weeks will feature “Invincible,” “Bend it Like Beckham,” “Rudy,” “A League of Their Own,” “The Blind Side,” (a break on Aug. 28 in anticipation of Labor Day) and end with “Moneyball.”

So find a comfortable blanket for these free, dusk-time events. That’s a whole lot of movies.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:30 p.m.
Down Time, Movies

June 26, 2014

In ‘Korengal,’ Junger Closes The Book on Afghanistan

Sebastian Junger’s films about Afghanistan have a knack for coming to town when news is spiking about the war.

“Restrepo,” his film about an Army company’s tour of duty there, was released in 2010 as Gen. Stanley McChrystal was being relieved of his command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan; the war had officially become the longest one in U.S. history; Congress was debating a multibillion-dollar supplemental war-funding bill, and U.S. coalition forces had endured their deadliest month to date.

Now, as “Korengal,” his sequel to “Restrepo,” opens in Washington Friday, the country is in the midst of an intense debate over how to take care of its returning veterans, typified by the unfolding Department of Veterans Affairs waitlist scandal. President Barack Obama has nominated a new commander for Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Campbell, as the U.S. combat mission there winds down and veterans have begun to speak out more candidly about the divide between military and civilian life. Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 5 a.m.

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