Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 20, 2014

Posts in "Movies"

April 16, 2014

Potomac Video Closing, the Last of a Breed

The last Potomac Video storefront, a once-sprawling regional video rental empire, will be closing its Avalon location at 5536 Connecticut Ave. NW at the end of May.

Pvideo 251x335 Potomac Video Closing, the Last of a Breed

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

In an announcement made via its Facebook page, management confirmed the bad news. “As many of you have already heard, I sadly must announce that Potomac Video will be closing its doors for good at the end of May. Thank you to all for your loyalty and support. It’s been an honor to bring the best in world cinema to you. Please stop on by to buy some of our inventory or just to say goodbye! We’d love to see everyone. You are what we’ll miss the most!”

Once it’s gone, that’ll be it for full-service video rental stores in Washington, D.C.

Potomac Video was always known as a great resource for both cinephiles and casual movie-watchers. Once, while writing a story about political pictures, I was stumped in finding a copy of  Franklin J. Schaffner’s “The Best Man,” a 1964 film starring Henry Fonda and  Cliff Robertson based on Gore Vidal’s play. It was nowhere to be found online and hadn’t found its way into any kind of reliable DVD or Blu-ray rotation. But the MacArthur Boulevard location of Potomac Video had a copy — in VHS.

They took pride into holding onto such artifacts and amassed a catalog of some 50,000 titles by the time the closure notice went out on April 10. This made them out of step with the times, when movies and music are stored digitally, and as the economics of the movie industry moved steadily away from bricks and mortar. For those interested in some of those 50,000 titles, in VHS, Blu-ray or DVD, they’re all for sale.

The kind of attention to detail the staff gave at Potomac Video, whether it was through their categorizations by director, the extensive cult movie section, the staff picks, made it a place you could feel the passion for the movies. That’s something that doesn’t come through as well on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Perhaps video rental and sales stores will figure out a new model, like the bookstores and record stores have found new life in some quarters. Potomac Video’s website had long featured staff picks, blog posts, movie news and the like, an attempt to reach out to the community. For now, though, this is just sad, as the lights go out on the last of a breed.

It’s a point hammered home by the receipt you get from a Potomac Video purchase — which comes out on a dot-matrix printer.

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:37 p.m.
Movies

April 14, 2014

Calendar: DC Brau’s Anniversary, Drive-In Movies Return, Record Store Day!

Ah, recess. The pollen and tourist counts are up and everyone not on the campaign trail has a chance to let loose a little.

DC Brau’s Leather Anniversary

Has it really been three years since the Beeraissance started in Washington? To mark its third year since returning beer manufacturing to the nation’s capital, DC Brau is celebrating its leather anniversary at Meridian Pint on Tuesday night with $3 pints of its Public, Citizen and Corruption brews.

Screen shot 2014 04 14 at 2.14.19 PM 211x335 Calendar: DC Braus Anniversary, Drive In Movies Return, Record Store Day!

(Courtesy of DC Brau and Meridian Pint.)

If the big three in DC Brau’s quiver aren’t enough, not to worry. Full story

April 11, 2014

‘Documented’ Prepares For D.C., U.S. Premieres

“I come to you as one of our country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants,” Jose Antonio Vargas told the Senate Judiciary Committee over one year ago.

Starting next month, other members of Congress and Americans across the country will be able to see Vargas’ story as an undocumented immigrant play out on the big screen when his film “Documented: A film by an illegal immigrant undocumented American” opens in 11 cities, including Washington.

Documented will open on May 30 at the West End Cinema in Foggy Bottom.  It hits theaters almost one year after it was shown at the documentary film festival AFI Docs in Washington, D.C.

After a year of tweaking and editing, the film’s final version is set to open this May and June in New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Berkeley, Sonoma, San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Miami, in addition to D.C.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s theatrical release qualifies it to be considered for an Academy Award.  Documented will also be shown on CNN this summer.

Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Washington Post reporter who revealed his undocumented status in a New York Times Magazine article in 2011.  He went on to create a film about his journey, hoping to humanize the immigration issue and alter the terms of the debate itself.

“We cannot change the politics of this issue until we change the culture of this issue,” Vargas told the audience of a Documented screening at the Newseum on Thursday night.

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 2:45 p.m.
Movies

April 8, 2014

Can ‘Particle Fever’ Make Funding Science Fun?

“Particle Fever,” a documentary about physicists and the particle theories they love, captures a compelling and dramatic episode of modern science. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat and unabashed fan of the film, is hoping the movie will not only make science fun, but make funding it fun as well.

“When people are excited about a thing, it makes you want to pay attention to it,” Lipinski said of the story of the experimental and theoretical physicists gearing up for the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, which in 2012 shed light on the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” and a sort of holy grail in the physics world.

Lipinski, who introduced the film at its Washington premiere last month, has been tracking the progress of the film for years, dating back to contact with friends and colleagues at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Lipinski got his master’s degree in engineering from Stanford. “The whole idea was to get people engaged in making it a kind of reality show, showing that these scientists are real people,” he said. Along the way, the scientists just happen to have made one of the most significant scientific discoveries in history. Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:36 p.m.
Movies

April 4, 2014

Calendar: A ‘Naked’ Writer, a ‘Documented’ Filmmaker

A ‘Naked’ Writer’s Manifesto

Charles Wheelan, the scribe behind “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread From the Data” and “Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science” swings by for Monday’s Roll Call Book Club to talk about his latest offering: “The Centrist Manifesto.” Wheelan, a Dartmouth professor of public policy, is a bit fed up with the gridlocked shenanigans of the Republican and Democratic parties and calls for a centrist third party that can focus on the big issues, instead of just run for re-election and trade partisan snipes. If you think this isn’t exactly a novel idea, hear Wheelan out. He is, after all, the guy who successfully marries nudity and statistics. “The terminology may sound intimidating, but Wheelan handles it well and is a patient teacher. If you’re the kind of reader whose flagging interest can be revived by cracks about the Kardashians or the author’s faux self-deprecation, you’ll enjoy Wheelan’s style,” our own Randolph Walerius wrote of “Naked Statistics” last year.

“People ask me if I put ‘naked’ in the title just to sell books. The answer is, ‘yes!’” Wheelan cracked. He’ll discuss his book at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE starting at 6 p.m. We’ll serve snacks and adult beverages, and give out free copies of “The Centrist Manifesto” on a first-come, first-served basis. To register for this free event, click here.

Most Best of D.C.

The Washington City Paper’s Best of D.C. shindig is Wednesday at the historic Carnegie Library at 801 K St. NW, a block-party-worthy soiree of the city’s favorite beer, wine, burgers, oysters, bar, chocolate, gelato — you get the picture. Tickets are $80 for general admission. The $125 Very Important Person tickets are already sold out. Lots of local artists, performers and that admission fee gets you the open bar experience. For more information go to Washington City Paper’s website.

Undocumented Screening, Redux

Former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas returns to the District for another screening of his compelling documentary “Undocumented,” which chronicles his uniquely American journey as an undocumented immigrant and his push for an immigration overhaul. On Thursday, he’ll host a screening of “Undocumented,” which has been updated since its initial release last year to reflect current events, at the Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The movie starts at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion with Vargas, executive producer Janet Yang and FWD.us founder Joe Green. To RSVP, go to Eventfarm.

 

March 31, 2014

‘Big Men’ Asks the Big Questions

“Big Men,” the latest documentary from filmmaker Rachel Boynton, is a sprawling chronicle of oil discovery and development off the coast of West Africa, a tall enough order for any filmmaker. But Boynton — whose last film, “Our Brand is Crisis,” showed how American political consultants sell themselves, and their tactics, in other countries — wasn’t satisfied with just that.

“I felt like I could do something better, something bigger, something epic,” she said in a recent interview. The result — which takes her and her “Big Men” crew from upstart energy company Kosmos’ bid to develop a big oil find in Ghana, to the dingy and dangerous Niger Delta to Kosmos’ offices in Dallas to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange — is also an exploration of human motivation.

“Everybody want to become big,” Egbema King Bini Pere III G.O.E. Tiemo, a key tribal figure in Ghana that Kosmos is trying to woo, tells Boynton. “It is an instinct in every human being, to be well to do.” The idea of being the “Big Man” in Africa is not new. The strong-man leader of V.S. Naipaul’s unnamed Africa nation in his seminal novel “A Bend in the River” is simply, “The Big Man.”

Boynton adds key context in “Big Men,” though, interviewing everyone from the AK-47 wielding Nigerian Deadly Underdogs militant group to the pinstripe-suited chairman of Warburg Pincus, the hedge fund that helped finance Kosmos’ venture in Ghana’s Jubilee Field. Her journey, from oil price boom days in 2006 through the capital-poor days of the financial crisis to 2011, shows how previous oil development in Nigeria weigh on Ghana’s development.

“So do you think it’s just human nature to fight like this? Over who’s going to get what?” Boynton asks at one point in the movie. The answer, as provided by the likes of Deadly Underdogs leader Ezekiel, Kosmos’ one-time leader Jim Musselman and a host of others, might be obvious by the end of the movie, but is delivered, as Boynton wished, in an epic way.

“Big Men” is playing at the Landmark E Street Cinema at 555 11th St. NW.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:01 p.m.
Movies

March 17, 2014

Taking the Long View on Recess Week

PHOENIX — Monday’s snow is a reminder of why Major League Baseball long ago decamped for Arizona and Florida for its spring training schedule. With snow on the ground in Washington, Opening Day seems a long way away on the East Coast.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, teams are starting to make preparations to return to their home cities — or Australia for the season opener in the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers — but there are still plenty of exhibition/tune-up games to go, including at Roll Call After Dark’s favorite locale, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the Oakland A’s have long made their springtime home.

But if you’re not fortunate enough to be soaking in the rays in Arizona or Florida, there’s still plenty to do in Washington, even as it throws off the last vestiges of winter storming. Full story

March 14, 2014

Physicist Bliss: First Pi Day, Next ‘Particle Fever’ Movie

Physicists have a lot to cheer about these days. First comes the mathematical/pastry part of the equation. Then comes the celluloid/digital celebration of their efforts.

On Friday, they can bring pie to their colleagues to celebrate Pi Day (3/14, get it?), an event both of Congress’ resident physicists did when Reps. Bill Foster, D-Ill., and Rush Holt, D-N.J., brought home-baked goods in to celebrate that most charming of mathematical constructs. And starting March 21 in D.C. and Baltimore, they can share the story of one of their field’s biggest accomplishments, the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in Geneva, Switzerland, at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, by taking in Mark Levinson’s documentary “Particle Fever.”

The movie, which has been screening all over the country, including a show in Washington this week that Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., helped shepherd, details the recent culmination of decades of work, experimentation and construction of the LHC, which in 2012 succeeded in discovering the elusive Higgs, the so-called god particle that physicists have only been able to theorize about until the LHC’s grand experiment.

Reminded that March 14 was Pi Day, Levinson, who in addition to being a filmmaker has a PhD. in elemental particle theory, laughed and said, “That is great. I appreciate it on behalf of all the pi appreciators, all the people that have memorized pi to extraordinary lengths.” Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 2:18 p.m.
Movies

March 11, 2014

Washington Jewish Film Festival Moves Forward

No rest for the weary! The 24th annual Washington Jewish Film Festival just wrapped this past weekend, but planning for next year’s festival is already under way.

Ilya Tovbis, the festival director, said the process never really stops.

“A lot of what I do throughout the year, from a programmatic standpoint, is I’m in constant contact with filmmakers, distributors, producers, [to see] what’s going on with their next project. Sometimes we’ll go, ‘Send some works in progress,’ scripts, occasionally, just to get a sense of what’s coming. And also, one of the parts of my job that I love and is a great privilege is I get to travel to some other major festivals. In May I’ll be going to Cannes, in November to Haifa in Israel. And so some of the conversations you have there are certainly pointed to the next year and some are two, three years away. I mean, there’s some we’re tracking that may not come out until 2017.”

This year’s slate of 64 films came from all over the world, and the interest was so great in discussing them that the festival partnered with the Library of Congress for a series of noon-time talks with directors about their films.

Tovbis said it was a natural fit and expansion to link the festival’s filmmakers and viewers in settings beyond just the screenings and subsequent Q-and-A sessions. “There’s always so much conversation that’s not had. And again, these are the people who can speak at the highest level, with a great amount of research, intelligence, knowledge, and so it only made sense to always find additional ways” to further those conversations.

“What I hear from our filmmakers … is [that] our audiences are much more developed in terms of their historical knowledge, contextualization. A lot of what we show are documentaries, where they’re accessible to the general public, and you don’t need a Ph.D. in order to understand them. But there are certainly topics that are, y’know, whether they’re about Israel or Palestine or Baharian Jews … I think our audiences are very well versed, incredibly intelligent.”

For upcoming years, Tovbis expects to continue offering the diverse slate of films that festival attendees have increasingly come to expect.

“I really see us a bringing the best of international cinema we can possibly get to D.C., with a Jewish experience angle. … We considered over a 1,000 films to get to the 64 selections this year. And the idea first and foremost is quality. From a pure filmmaking basis. We’re certainly interested in the Jewish story it tells, but if it doesn’t qualify as a well-told story, we have enough other selections that we can choose from. I want it to really be the highest level it can possibly be,” Tovbis said.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:58 p.m.
Movies

March 7, 2014

Calendar: Richard III Gets a Reprieve, Roll Call Heads South by Southwest

Need to catch the retelling of one of Shakespeare’s seminal histories? How about the cinema of peace and war in the Middle East? Or how about a trip down South, by Southwest?

Richard III, Extended

If you’re looking to build on your “House of Cards” knowledge, you’re in luck, because the Folger Shakespeare Library has extended its current run of “Richard III” through March 16.

The evil that Kevin Spacey’s Vice President Francis Underwood does is right out of the playbook of the Bard’s tale of the wicked, deformed Richard III and his blood-bathed rise to power. Tickets range from $30 to $72. 201 East Capitol St. For more info, go to folger.edu. Full story

March 3, 2014

Snow Can’t Keep Down D.C. Movie Houses

Winter’s latest broadside to Washington has notched another snow day for the government and local schools, but hasn’t managed to totally shut down the movies, which is good news for moviegoers looking to catch up on Oscar contenders and winners that might have eluded them so far.

The 2014 D.C. Jewish Film Festival is in full swing, although it’s had to cancel a couple of screenings, but not all, for Monday. Among the casualties were Monday’s lunchtime talk with Dan Shadur at the Library of Congress about “Before the Revolution,” as well as the screenings of “The Sturgeon Queens” at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, Md., at 7:30 p.m. and “Altina” at the Goethe Institut at 7 p.m. All the other screenings — “Master of a Good Name” at 6:30 p.m. the D.C. JCC and “Nothing Old About This Testament” at 8:30 p.m. at the D.C. JCC, and “Arabani” at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, Md., are a go. For a complete list of screenings for the festival, go here.

The AFI Silver also has a pretty good complement of the Oscar winners and contenders on Monday, with showtimes for “12 Years a Slave,” “Her,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Nebraska,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Philomena.” They’ve also got some repertory fare, such as “The Crimson Pirate” and “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Ditto for the E Street Cinema and the Avalon Theater in Chevy Chase (although they’ve canceled shows after 6 p.m. on Monday) and the West End Cinema. The Avalon and West End are showing a bunch of the Oscar shorts.

So if you thought “Philomena” looked kind of interesting or realize that it’s about time you saw “12 Years a Slave,” or you’re in the mood for a claymation film about a mystical rabbi from 17th Century Eastern Europe,  the snow day’s a perfect time for that, eh?

By Jason Dick Posted at 2:01 p.m.
Down Time, Movies

February 28, 2014

D.C. Jewish Film Festival Has Hill in Mind

The 24th annual Washington Jewish Film Festival is under way, with a full slate of films airing through March 9 at area venues and a series of talks at the Library of Congress for cinephiles on their lunch break.

Among the 64 films from 18 countries are offerings from familiar names such as John Turturro from the United States, with his film “Fading Gigolo” to more obscure fare, such as Kibwe Tavares’ short film from Tanzania, “Jonah.” The festival is focusing on films from Poland this year, a country with a rich cinematic history and a complicated, tragic history with Jews, as films like “The Man Who Made Angels Fly” and “Mamele” make clear.

The free noontime talks March 3-5 and March 7 at the Library of Congress provide a nice way for those interested in the films and the issues they bring up to break up the day, and lunch hour, on Capitol Hill.

On March 3, Dan Shadur discusses his documentary “Before the Revolution” in the Mary Pickford Theater in the LOC’s Madison Building. On March 4, Diana Groo discusses her documentary, “Regina,” along with Alan Reich, in the Pickford. On March 5, Karen Kohn Bradley, Pierre Dulaine and Diane Nabatoff discuss “Dancing in Jaffa” in Room LM 642 of the Madison Building. And on March 7, Jason Hutt and Salo Levinas will talk about “Sukkah City” in the Madison’s Law Library Multimedia Center, Room 240.

And there’s no way we can skip mentioning a movie from South Africa called “Noye’s Fludde,” a short film by Mark Domford, based on the Noah flood story, but starring South African opera star Pauline Malefane as a female Noah and sung entirely in Xhosa. Wrap your head around that one!

February 26, 2014

‘The Act of Killing’ on a Grand Stage

“Well, what can you say after that?” Sen. Tom Udall asked after the screening of “The Act of Killing” at the Library of Congress’ Mary Pickford Theater. The film by Joshua Oppenheimer, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, examines the lives of the perpetrators of Indonesia’s mass killings of dissidents in 1965-1966, many of whom still occupy places of power and prestige in the world’s fourth-largest country.

Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has a connection to the filmmaker’s family. Sam Oppenheimer, the director’s brother, is a former Udall staffer and the Democratic senator is friends with the family. He heard the accolades about the documentary and took the opportunity to see the Feb. 12 screening. But New Mexico’s senior senator went into that screening, like most people who watch the film, unprepared for what he was about to see: an examination of one of the 20th century’s darkest acts, carried out with impunity by people still in power and re-enacted for Joshua Oppenheimer’s film in a series of surreal episodes for the camera.

“Art sometimes tells us stories we don’t want to hear, don’t want to face,” Udall said afterward. Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 2:09 p.m.
Movies

February 25, 2014

Jody Arlington Makes Leap From AFI to IFP

Jody Arlington, the veteran communications hand for the American Film Institute’s AFI Docs documentary film festival, has a new gig in New York, where she’ll be the director of communications for the Independent Filmmaker Project.

Among her duties will be overseeing IFP’s new Made in NY Media Center, as well as IFP’s Independent Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine and IFP’s Gotham Awards. It’s a full plate, and it sounds like Arlington is pretty psyched to get started in IFP’s Dumbo, Brooklyn, digs. (That’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass for those who don’t wear trucker hats and tight pants.)

“I’ve been consulting with IFP on their New Made in NY Media Center since summer, which had a great launch with Mayor [Michael Bloomberg] in October and is at the forefront of emerging trends in storytelling and tech, and a great place to be and collaborate with all the crazy new companies and brands being dreamt up by those bearded, flanneled, youngsters in Dumbo,” Arlington said in an email.

She added that she “will continue to keep a project or two on the side, because I’m just not happy if I don’t have at least three back-slashes after my name. It is a condition of the independent media world, the other being the ability to work from anywhere.”

The departure of Arlington and AFI Docs’ festival director Sky Sitney earlier this month represents two decades of experience leaving the documentary film festival previously known as Silver Docs.

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:32 p.m.
Movies

February 21, 2014

How D.C. Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Documentary

In Washington, it’s OK to love documentary films.

Hollywood features are glamorous and fun for everyone, but Washington’s unique political character make documentaries a natural fit for the city’s public-service-oriented population. The AFI Docs film festival, as well as other gatherings, use the moving picture medium to discuss nonfiction topics with fanfare.

And while several venues in the District and its surrounding ‘burbs are showing the nine Best Picture Oscar nominees from now until the March 2 Academy Awards broadcast, it’s the National Archives that is the only place that is screening the five Documentary Feature nominees, and for free, to boot.

This is a real service, considering that many of these flicks are only in theaters for a short period of time before turning over. It’s not that they’re unavailable on demand or on DVD or Blu-ray Disc, it’s always best to see feature films as they were intended, on the big screen. The Archives’ 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater fits that bill nicely. Being a public forum, it’s first-come, first-serve, so get there early for any showings.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. “20 Feet From Stardom” 90 minutes. PG-13.
  • Thursday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m. “The Act of Killing” 122 minutes. Unrated.
  • Friday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m. “The Square” 104 minutes. Unrated.
  • Saturday, March 1, 7 p.m. “Dirty Wars” 86 minutes. Unrated.
  • Sunday, March 2, 4 p.m. “Cutie and the Boxer” 82 minutes. R.

The Archives is also screening the Documentary Short Subject nominees, all on Sunday, March 2 at 11 a.m., and lasting 166 minutes.

Documentary Short Subject Nominees

  •  ”CaveDigger” 39 minutes. Unrated.
  • “Facing Fear” 23 minutes. Unrated.
  • “Karama Has No Walls” 26 minutes. Unrated.
  • “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” 38 minutes. Unrated.
  • “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” 40 minutes. Unrated.

The Archives is also showing some fictional Oscar nominees. The Live Action Short Film nominees and the Animated Short Film nominees, will be screened free as well. The five Live Action nominees will be shown Saturday, March 1 at noon, for a 97-minute program, and the five Animated Short Film nominees will be shown at 3:30 p.m. for a 71-minute program.

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

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