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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Watching Big Brother: Local Theaters Screen 1984

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 2:21 PM

Bob Flag as Big Brother - 1984 FILM STILL
  • 1984 film still
  • Bob Flag as Big Brother
One of the best weapons that "the arts" has at its disposal is, well ... the arts. In light of President Trump's threats to completely defund the National Endowment for the Arts, it seems safe to say that the NEA and its supporters have guns drawn — figuratively, of course.

Yesterday, arts blog Hyperallergic reported that approximately 400 people gathered at New York City Hall for a Rally to Save the Arts. Today, IndieWire estimates that some 90 movie theaters nationwide will screen Michael Radford's 1984 (!) film adaptation of George Orwell's landmark dystopian novel.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Local Producer Brings Gun Documentary Home to Stowe

Posted By on Sun, Apr 2, 2017 at 8:54 AM

From The Gun Shop
  • From The Gun Shop
The opening title card of The Gun Shop, a 2016 documentary produced for Channel 4’s Cutting Edge series in the U.K., states that there are more than 56,000 places to purchase a gun in America. What follows is a balanced look at firearm ownership and gun violence, using a single shop in Battle Creek, Mich., as a microcosm of the divisive American gun debate.

The Gun Shop was coproduced by Stowe resident David Rocchio, founder and president of Stowe Story Labs. That nonprofit group is devoted to facilitating the work of aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers.

“The reason I wanted to make this film is, I like guns, and I like my local gun shop, but I also get that we need to really do something about handgun violence in America,” Rocchio says. “And the way the system now approaches these issues is through opposite camps. I just wanted to start a dialogue, and the way you start a dialogue is to listen.”

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Howard Frank Mosher's Imagination of Vermont: A Tribute

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 1:50 PM

Howard Frank Mosher - COURTESY OF JAY CRAVEN
  • Courtesy of Jay Craven
  • Howard Frank Mosher
Vermont writer Howard Mosher died on Sunday, January 29. Filmmaker Jay Craven worked closely with Mosher since 1985 when he optioned the story rights to his book Where the Rivers Flow North. Craven has made five films based on Mosher’s stories. He and actor Rusty DeWees, who appeared in all of Craven’s Mosher films, will appear this Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4, 7:30 p.m., at the Stowe Town Hall to talk about their collaboration with Mosher. They'll also screen Where the Rivers Flow North (Friday) and A Stranger in the Kingdom (Saturday).

Like thousands of Vermonters who have been touched by Howard Mosher and his writing, I feel a deep sense of loss at the realization of life without him. No one has produced a larger body of work exploring the distinctive character and culture of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. No one has been more generous to fellow writers, taking time to chat, read their work and help them. No one was more tirelessly committed to his readers, through his cross-country sojourns in his 20-year-old Chevy Celebrity (dubbed the “loser cruiser") and his frequent signings at independent bookstores throughout New England.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Cinema Casualties Series Gets in the Christmas Spirit, Sort of

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 2:30 PM

OK, so maybe not everyone has the same definition of "the Christmas spirit." Maybe horror fans in particular have a very special understanding of the term that encompasses the schlocky Silent Night, Deadly Night movies. The first of them — about a kid traumatized by a killer Santa who then grows up to become a killer Santa — drew outraged think-of-the-children protests when it appeared in 1984.

In the wake of the very real horrors of 2016, however, perhaps a killer Santa suddenly seems a bit less threatening as a concept and a bit more, well, refreshingly absurd. Anyway, it's sure to please the self-aware fright fans who show up for Cinema Casualties, a Burlington film series that I wrote about a few months ago.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

On Jealousy, Jokes and English Muffin Pizzas: Dan Bolles and Steve Waltien Interview Mike Birbiglia

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 6:30 AM

  • Courtesy of Mike Birbiglia
  • Mike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia is a comedian, actor, director, writer and English muffin pizza savant. His latest film, Don't Think Twicecenters on a close-knit NYC improv comedy troupe that begins to splinter when individual members attract the attention of a network sketch-comedy show called "Weekend Live." It's a not-so-subtle stand-in for "Saturday Night Live," long the holy grail for improv comedians. 

In the thoughtful, shambling style that has become his signature, Birbiglia explores themes of jealousy and ambition. Perhaps most potently, he also ponders the inevitable moment when aging artists are forced to confront Peter Pan syndrome and reconcile creative passions with the desire for conventional stability.

Birbiglia stars in the film alongside the likes of Keegan-Michael Key ("Key & Peele") and Gillian Jacobs ("Community"). Among the film's other notable comedic talents is Vermont's Steve Waltien, who plays the supporting (OK, minor) character Hugh Finn. Waltien is a Shelburne native and an alum of the iconic Chicago improv theater Second City. He's presently a writer on Jon Stewart's forthcoming animated HBO series. (Full disclosure: He is also one of this writer's oldest and dearest friends.)

On Sunday, October 23, Birbiglia brings his new show, "Thank God for Jokes," to the Flynn MainStage in Burlington. Ahead of that performance, we checked in via email to ask him about comedy, his new movie and his mastery of English muffin pizzas. 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Playtime: Zammuto, 'Veryone'

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 6:30 AM

Nick Zammuto has a fascination with Rubik's Cubes. - AMELIA DEVOID
  • Amelia Devoid
  • Nick Zammuto has a fascination with Rubik's Cubes.

We made it through another week, you guys! In case you missed my debut post last week, welcome to Playtime. Each Friday I'll be writing about my offbeat local music obsessions. If you're feeling especially drained today, your eyes sore from data entry, your wrists strained from milk-steaming, back thrown from box-lifting, I have the perfect sounds to pour some life back into you. Plus, a bonus local film that you can watch online for free! Say hello to Zammuto.

This is pretty much what its like inside my brain.

A video posted by Zammuto (@zammutosound) on

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Purple Rain Comes to Town Hall Theater's Rock on Film Series

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Film poster detail, Purple Rain - COURTESY OF TOWN HALL THEATER
  • Courtesy of Town Hall Theater
  • Film poster detail, Purple Rain
If you're still mourning the loss of the Purple One (and who isn't?), you might want to consider driving your little red Corvette to Middlebury this Saturday, September 24, for the 2016 premiere of Town Hall Theater's Rock on Film series.  Purple Rain, starring the recently departed Prince, will kick off the season, which will feature eight or nine films.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

New Local Documentary Profiles Rutland Basketball Racism

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 4:03 PM

Divided by Diversity film poster. - COURTESY OF DUANE CARLETON
  • Courtesy of Duane Carleton
  • Divided by Diversity film poster.
In 2010, five high school basketball players from the Bronx were accepted at Rutland’s Mount St. Joseph Academy, a small Catholic school beset by flagging attendance numbers and a sports program with a recent history of athletic futility. For the student-athletes, the move four hours north from the bleak Edenwald housing project was both a blessing and a curse.

According to an intertitle in Divided by Diversity, a new documentary from local musician and filmmaker Duane Carleton, between 2009 and 2012, the entire state of Vermont had less than half the murders, less than a quarter the robberies and only a third more assaults than Edenwald during the same period.

But what the Bronx natives, all of whom were black, hadn’t bargained for was a barrage of racism, both veiled and overt. As the Mount St. Joseph team became increasingly accomplished on the hardwood, ugly racial barbs on social media escalated to outright hostility at games. At one game, fans started a racist “KFC” chant; at another, two people showed up in gorilla and banana costumes.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Montpelier's Savoy Theater to Get New Owner

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 9:00 AM

James O'Hanlon at the Savoy Theater - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan Von Duntz
  • James O'Hanlon at the Savoy Theater
The Savoy, Montpelier's 35-year-old art house cinema, will change hands this month. And the soon-to-be owner says he's committed to preserving the "unique experience" the theater offers.

Current owner Terrence Youk purchased the theater in December 2009 from long-timers Rick Winston and Andrea Serota. Youk renovated the theater, turned the basement into a second screening room, and closed the companion business Downstairs Video.  (The Savoy has preserved more than 1,000 classic DVDs from the stock as an "archive," lending them out to patrons who pay membership dues.)

Now Youk has new plans, including spending six months in India, where his wife will be a Fulbright scholar. He's selling the theater to James O'Hanlon of Worcester, in whom he has "every confidence that he will continue the mission of the Savoy of bringing central Vermont the finest in independent and foreign film," Youk wrote in an email.

O'Hanlon, who has been the Savoy's projectionist for the past two years, will take over ownership later this month, he said in a phone interview. While he's "not going to touch" the Savoy's programming of first-run independent films, he hopes to find new ways to connect the theater to its community.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Director Todd Solondz Talks 'Wiener-Dog,' Mortality and Cinematic Influences

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 2:04 PM

Director Todd Solondz (far right) talks with Greta Gerwig on the set of Wiener-Dog. - COURTESY OF IFC FILM
  • Courtesy of IFC Film
  • Director Todd Solondz (far right) talks with Greta Gerwig on the set of Wiener-Dog.
On Friday, July 1, I had the rare opportunity to speak by phone to Todd Solondz, the controversial creator of Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Palindromes and now Wiener-Dog, at his hotel in Germany. For a guy who grew up in New Jersey, he speaks with a strangely European accent. And for a guy as famous for his dark, depressive worldview as for his eight feature films, Solondz was thoughtful, generous with his time, funny and even warm.

My review of his new film appears July 6, online and in the paper. You can read my interview with this fascinating, one-of-a-kind filmmaker right now. 

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