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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Screen This Week: Earnestness Aplenty

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 4:03 PM

  • Courtesy of Johnson State College
  • The Homestretch
Vermonters can’t seem to get enough of well-intentioned social-issues documentaries. They’re playing on screens all over the state this week.

Tuesday, March 31

Tonight, in the Cinema Room of Johnson State College’s Stearns Student Center, PBS’ monthly Community Cinema series touches down with a screening of the documentary The Homestretch. The film follows three young men who have brains, talent and ambition — but do not have homes. The subjects of the film challenge all the stereotypes about what it means to be homeless, and provide ample evidence that their struggles, though serious, are much like those of teens everywhere.

The film plays for free at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. Conversation to follow.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

What I'm Watching: Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Posted By on Sat, Mar 28, 2015 at 9:01 AM

I’m a longtime and unabashed admirer of Robert Rodriguez, who has been a polarizing figure in American film since he (and I think it’s fair to use the cliché in this case) burst on the scene with El Mariachi, his famously low-budget feature-film debut. I love his stylistic brashness, his willingness to both abide by and invert genre conventions, and his ability to bounce back and forth between “big” Hollywood films and more personal projects.

Even when Rodriguez’s films are less than great, they’re always — and I mean always — visually inventive and exciting. I happen to think Sin City is a great film, but even if you disagree, you can’t deny its visual originality and boldness. I’m equally fond of Rodriguez’s more straightforward genre exercises, such as Spy Kids and The Faculty, both of which demonstrate a deep grasp of genre conventions as well as a playful willingness to bend them. Planet Terror, his half of Grindhouse, certainly showed that he understands genre more profoundly than does his codirector, Quentin Tarantino.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Movies You Missed: God Help the Girl

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 3:31 PM

click image Murray, Alexander and Browning play a musical threesome. - AMPLIFY
  • Amplify
  • Murray, Alexander and Browning play a musical threesome.
This week in movies you missed: Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch creates a candy-colored, gorgeous-sounding musical drama that is high on angst and whimsy and low on plot.

What You Missed
Eve (Emily Browning) is a twentysomething compulsive songwriter undergoing treatment for anorexia at a mental hospital near Glasgow. On an illicit outing to a club in the city, she meets guitarist James (Olly Alexander), who's frustrated by the tendency of pop drummers to drown out his delicate vocals.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Curtain Falls on Burlington's "Cheap Seats" Theater

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 3:18 PM

The "cheap seats" come down. - COURTESY OF MERRILL JARVIS III
  • Courtesy of Merrill Jarvis III
  • The "cheap seats" come down.
Local cinephiles marked another sad milestone in Burlington's ever-shifting theater landscape last week when the former Ethan Allen Cinema on North Avenue in Burlington was torn down. Better known to longtime local moviegoers as "the cheap seats," the four-screen movie house was long a venue where wallet-conscious film buffs could catch up on recent releases by simply waiting a few weeks until they'd cleared pricier first-run theaters.

Ethan Allen Cinema went out with both a bang and a whimper. Though the building was unceremoniously razed by a wrecking ball in a matter of hours last Friday, the theater sat dark and vacant for nearly a decade. For years, only a popcorn machine, visible through the front window, reminded passersby of its past purpose.

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In This Corner ... Swale!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 12:41 PM

Swale in a chilly moment - SHEM ROOSE
  • Shem Roose
  • Swale in a chilly moment
Vermont rock heroes Swale have come out swinging in their new video, which, through the magical power of the internets, you can watch below.

Shot at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium during this year’s Golden Gloves tournament, the video, for the song “Beaten Down” from the band’s 2014 album The Next Instead, places the band members right inside the square circle. Though the video uses boxing to literalize the song’s central metaphor, the musicians leave the fighting to Golden Glovers Anna Gagnon and Hannah Rodrigue. A peaceful, if rockin’, bunch are these Swalers.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

What I'm Watching: "House of Cards"

Posted By on Sat, Mar 21, 2015 at 9:00 AM

  • Netflix
I may spend a lot of time watching and thinking about old movies, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the allures of modern-day television. Though I probably didn’t watch its third season in as much of a binge as did such avid fans as, say, President Barack Obama, I am now officially up to date with Netflix’s hit show “House of Cards.” (Season three of the show premiered less than a month ago, on February 27. That still seems pretty current to me, so this column contains no spoilers.)

Netflix, of course, has been leading the battle to upend the way we watch TV, releasing all of the episodes of its original programs in roughly annual, single-season bursts. Fans of “House of Cards,” like me, may now watch it at as rapid or as pokey a clip as they wish, and I must say that this is a liberating experience. The act of waiting a week for a show’s next episode already seems like an antiquated one, yanked kicking and screaming from an era in which “primetime” still meant something.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Movies You Missed: Hansel vs. Gretel

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM

click image Gretel shows her mojo. (Note: Having failed to find promo stills from this film, I have used trailer screen-grabs.) - THE ASYLUM
  • The Asylum
  • Gretel shows her mojo. (Note: Having failed to find promo stills from this film, I have used trailer screen-grabs.)
This week in movies you missed: Usually in this blog feature, I try to write about movies that you shouldn't miss. But what about all those movies you notice on Netflix and think, Hmm, WTF could that be?

Chances are, you aren't going to stream an obscure, unpromising-looking movie because its title aroused your passing curiosity. But I occasionally do that kind of thing. And that's why I watched Hansel vs. Gretel so you don't have to.

A week ago, while perusing Netflix Instant's new arrivals on Instantwatcher, I noticed Hansel vs. Gretel in the "Most Popular in the Last 24 Hours" list. I've heard of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, an actual movie that occupied local theaters in 2013. I've even heard of Hansel & Gretel Get Baked, which was popular on Netflix at around the same time. But this particular adult twist on the fairy tale was new to me.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Burlington's Fletcher Free Library Scores Smithsonian Exhibit

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 3:33 PM

Handaxes from (L to R) Africa (1.6 million years old), Asia (1.1 million years old) and Europe (250,000 years old) - CHIP CLARK, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
  • Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution
  • Handaxes from (L to R) Africa (1.6 million years old), Asia (1.1 million years old) and Europe (250,000 years old)
They might not have called ahead about it, but you should know that your relatives are coming to town. So are mine, and your neighbor’s, and those of your bank teller and barista. You can meet them all in downtown Burlington.

The Fletcher Free Library has just been selected as one of just 19 sites to host “Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?,” a traveling exhibit based on a permanent feature at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit — which features hands-on displays, videos and interactive kiosks — is cosponsored by the American Library Association, and will be at the Fletcher from February 18 through March 17, 2017. Talk about planning ahead.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

What I'm Watching: Carny

Posted By on Sat, Mar 14, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Gary Busey, Jodie Foster and Robbie Robertson in Carny - WARNER BROS. PICTURES
  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Gary Busey, Jodie Foster and Robbie Robertson in Carny
In high school, I developed the habit of watching movies as I drifted off to sleep. After I’d watched my evening film (or two, or three) and could hold back sleep no longer, I’d find yet another film on some cable channel, turn the volume down to “just barely audible” and lie down. Within minutes, I’d usually fall asleep, leaving it to my mother to turn off the TV in the morning.

I carried that habit into graduate school, and remember that one night, just before falling asleep, I caught the briefest snippet of the 1980 film Carny. As a longtime admirer of the Band, I was surprised, even in my drowsy state, to see Robbie Robertson acting in the film, as I didn’t realize that he’d appeared in anything besides The Last Waltz. I mentioned the film to a cinephile friend later, and he told me that the movie was well worth my time.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Movies You Missed: The Overnighters

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 3:00 PM

click image Reinke has tough news for the men he's been trying to help. - DRAFTHOUSE FILMS
  • Drafthouse Films
  • Reinke has tough news for the men he's been trying to help.
This week in movies you missed: The film that should have been nominated for a 2015 Best Feature Documentary Oscar is a dark, mesmerizing portrayal of hope in hard times, and what it means to practice Christian charity today.

What You Missed
Filmmaker Jesse Moss went to Williston, N.D., because he wanted to see what a 21st-century gold rush looks like. (Read more in this interview with Paste.) In the few years since hydraulic fracking gave birth to the North Dakota oil boom, the small town has swelled from about 15,000 residents to more than 20,000.

click image One of Reinke's more successful protégés, who did get a job in the oil fields. - DRAFTHOUSE FILMS
  • Drafthouse Films
  • One of Reinke's more successful protégés, who did get a job in the oil fields.
The boom has touched off a new labor migration within the U.S., reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath: Thousands of men who can't find employment in their own states have flooded into Williston and similar towns, enticed by rumors of six-figure oil-field jobs. The short doc "White Earth," an Oscar nominee in its category, profiles some of those migrants through interviews with their children.

Moss took a different tack. He spent six months sleeping in Williston's Concordia Lutheran Church, where Pastor Jay Reinke created a refuge for would-be workers unable to find housing in the crowded town. His film follows Reinke as the pastor struggles to continue housing these desperate men in the church and its parking lot, against mounting opposition from his congregation, his neighbors, Williston's daily newspaper and its governing body.

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