Arts Paper

Friday Flicks: I Am Somebody

Still from Madeline Anderson's 1970 documentary I AM SOMEBODY.

Still from Madeline Anderson's 1970 documentary I AM SOMEBODY.

Friday, February 9, 2018 - 

In March 1969, 400 nurse’s aides, housekeepers, and cooks at the South Carolina Medical College Hospital went on strike. Almost all of them were black. Almost all of them were female.

For the next 100 days, these women marched through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, singing civil rights songs, holding nighttime protests, and decrying the low wages, heavy workload, and vicious racial discrimination that had driven them from their workplace.

Before they went on strike, many of these women made as little as $1.30 an hour. The nurses called them “monkey grunts.”

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Friday Flicks: The Post

The Post (2017)

The Post (2017)

Friday, January 19, 2019 - 

Does America need a big, dumb love letter to the First Amendment at a time when its big, dumb president is hell bent on destroying the free press?

I’d be into that.

But does Steven Spielberg’s The Post offer anything more than self-congratulatory, overly simplistic, and perhaps even incipiently anti-democratic pablum?

Well… yes and no.

The Post tells the story of the 1971 debate within the editorial and business ranks of The Washington Post about whether or not to publish stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a trove of top secret documents that outlined decades of bipartisan executive branch decisions to keep the U.S. engaged militarily and politically in Vietnam.

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Friday Flicks: Top 10 Movies of 2017

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird (2017)

Friday, January 12, 2018 - 

Well, it’s been a year.

I can’t remember the last time that Hollywood was the driver of one of the most important and far-reaching news stories in American culture.

But with the takedown of Harvey Weinstein (and so many other predatory producers, directors, and actors) and the rise of the #MeToo moment, women in the movie industry have not only helped lay bare the rampant sexual abuse and toxicity baked into the power dynamics of America’s preeminent entertainment industry.

They’ve also helped galvanize public concern around systemic sexism in all aspects of American society in a way that celebrities, perhaps, are best suited to do. They are people with incredibly high public profiles, adept at telling stories, who are finding ways to use their media magnetism to make a dent in an unequal society. For that, I can’t help but feel grateful.

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Welcome To The Nut

Trish Clark presents at the kick-off event for last year's 48 Hour Film Project New Haven. (Thomas Breen photo)

Trish Clark presents at the kick-off event for last year's 48 Hour Film Project New Haven. (Thomas Breen photo)

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 - 

What do John McClane, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and New Haven’s filmmaking community have in common?

Starting in January 2018, the answer to that question will be the Nutmeg Institute: A new venture from local movie advocates Trish Clark, Patrick Whalen, and Michael Field to help encourage and organize the production and enjoyment of movies in the Greater New Haven area.

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One of the group’s first initiatives toward bolstering the city’s cineaste community is a new, monthly brunch-and-movie series to be hosted at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, a North Carolina-style barbeque restaurant located at 196 Crown St. in downtown New Haven.

The series kicks off on Sunday, Jan. 14 with John McTiernan’s 1988 holiday/action fan favorite Die Hard, in which Bruce Willis stars as John McClane, a rakish off-duty NYPD officer who finds himself pitted against a cabal of German terrorists during a Christmas-time visit to Los Angeles.

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Friday Flicks: Knightriders

KNIGHTRIDERS (1981)

KNIGHTRIDERS (1981)

Friday, October 27, 2017 - 

George A. Romero, the legendary horror director who died this summer at age 77, made a movie in the early 1980s about a troupe of medieval reenactors who dress up as knights, perform tricks on motorcycles, and joust with wooden lances and rubber axes.

For a filmmaker best known for reintroducing the zombie as a staple of the American cultural imagination through such movies as Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985), the Renaissance Fair-acrobatics of Knightriders(1981) may on its surface seem like quite the thematic departure.

And yet, no movie in his filmography better captures the stubborn idealism, artistic ambition, fierce independence, and persistent social criticism that defined Romero’s five decades as a filmmaker.

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Friday Flicks: Candyman

CANDYMAN (1992)

CANDYMAN (1992)

Friday, October 13, 2017 - Candyman is an electrifying, terrifying film. It is the rare mainstream horror movie that prominently features Black actors, settings, and stories. And it shamelessly trades in some of the most egregious racial stereotypes that American culture has to offer.

Such is the uncomfortable paradox of Candyman: its style, storytelling, and iconic villain stand up favorably with those of any other slasher film, and its serious engagement with Black characters distinguishes it from the otherwise overwhelming Whiteness of the genre.

And yet, watching its continuous distortion and demonization of Black sexual desire, one cannot help but think that this required entry of early 1990s horror cinema is in fact one giant step backwards in the representation of Black people on screen.

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Friday Flicks: PRIDE Version

Tangerine ( 2015) by Sean Baker

Tangerine (2015) by Sean Baker

Friday, September 15, 2017 - LGBTQ cinema has often been a cinema of outsiders. Which makes sense, considering that mainstream movie culture has long been dominated by a conservative, narrow, and overwhelmingly normative heterosexual understanding of gender and sexual identity.

But in the nearly 50 years since the Stonewall rebellion and the Gay liberation movement of the early 1970s, movies by and about LGBTQ people have flourished as a substantial and diverse subgenre of American cinema. From the experimental, abstract lesbian cinema of Barbara Hammer (Dyketactics) to the lyrical character studies of Ira Sachs (Love is Strange), LGBTQ cinema in this country has and continues to explore life, love, gender, sexuality, and identity, all too often formed in the face of broader societal prejudices.

In celebration of the start of New Haven PRIDE Weekend, here are three recommendations for movies that explore LGBTQ life in this country, focusing on stories and characters that refuse the limitations that American cultural norms around gender and sexual identity may try to foist upon them.

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Friday Flicks: Patti Cake$

PATTI CAKE$ (2017)

PATTI CAKE$ (2017)

Friday, September 1, 2017 - Patti Cake$ is first and foremost a movie about a daughter and a mother: two women separated by age, alcohol, and resentment, bound together by blood, love, and music. Well, two very different kinds of music.

In writer-director Geremy Jasper’s new low-budget hip hop drama, Danielle Macdonald plays Patti Dombrowski, a 23-year-old New Jersey bartender who mixes drinks at night, looks after her ailing grandmother during the day, and spends the rest of her waking hours writing and spitting rhymes. 

On the street, bullies and hustlers mock her weight by calling her Dumbo. But in her notebooks, at the microphone, and behind the wheel of her aging Cadillac (custom license plate PATTIWGN), Patti goes by another name: Killer P.

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Friday Flicks: Wind River

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in WIND RIVER (2017)

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in WIND RIVER (2017)

Friday, August 25, 2017 - The Western as a genre has long celebrated hard-scrabble men who can squint into the distance and distill the workings of the world into a single, pithy phrase.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” says a frustrated newspaperman towards the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), relenting before the heroic, whitewashed image of a popular politician.

“In this world there’s two kinds of people,” Clint Eastwood’s Blondie explains to his unarmed opponent as they search for buried treasure in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966). “Those with loaded guns and those who dig.”

In Westerns, these carefully placed aphorisms tend to shed as much light on the characters who speak them as on the world they seek to describe. For these cigarillo-chomping vigilantes, the world is understandable, but fatalistic and unforgiving. The best and only way to survive is to follow the rules obediently, however painful and merciless they may be.

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An Archive Of Movie Madness

Upson pulling CED VideoDiscs at The Archive. (Thomas Breen photos)

Upson pulling CED VideoDiscs at The Archive. (Thomas Breen photos)

Friday, August 18, 2017 - Brandon Upson lifted an LP-sized plastic case of Clint Eastwood’s 1965 Western For A Few Dollars More as he explained the brief history of the CED VideoDisc.

“This is the last analog format,” he said, recalling all the time and money that the electronics company RCA supposedly invested in developing a disc-shaped video format that could be read physically with a stylus. The CED was phenomenally unsuccessful, and RCA discontinued production of the discs and their players in the mid-1980s, just a few years after they went to market.

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