Category Film

A Dignified Dying in Love: Harry Macqueen’s “Supernova”

Hardly any of us want to leave this earth before reaching a ripe old age with plentiful living and loving in our memory storehouse and some inclination toward finally letting these noble but frayed vessels of ours go. Premature death always cuts us to the quick, exposing not only our own vulnerability, but also our sense of sadness and outrage when it takes someone we love and will miss.

The recent BBC Films release, “Supernova,” out a few weeks in theaters and as of yesterday on Amazon Prime, explores this theme in particularly poignant fashion, riding the superb acting coattails of Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth as Tusker and Sam, a longtime couple in their ‘60s coming to grips with Tusker’s early onset dementia.

He simply will not allow Sam’s life to be dominated by caring for someone who will not even recognize him in the near future, the richness of their past buried forever within the occlu...

Read More

Jimmy Carter (Our First) Rock & Roll President

In a 2018 interview that opens the recently released documentary, “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President,” the now 96-year-old ex-POTUS places a vinyl record on a small turntable at his home in Plains, Georgia. The sight of a record, with the familiar red (“Columbia”) inner circle that tells you the album information, comes as almost a shock, a sudden time-warpy escort into a warm bath of nostalgia for people of a certain age.

And then Carter, with that trademark grin of a genuinely good and happy man, true Christian to his bones, settles into a chair and nods his head in approval as he remarks, “All right! Sounds familiar.” 

The sounds we hear with him are the opening guitar strums of Bob Dylan before he begins, “Heyyyy, Mr. Tambourine Man…”

A hilarious anecdote in this grin-inducing documentary involves bad boy gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson’s visit to the White House, a kind of refr...

Read More

Zombie Apocalypse Alert: Reviewing “The Social Dilemma”

Last night, at the end of my viewing “The Social Dilemma,” a documentary now streaming on Netflix that launches a howitzer at the purported addictive evils of modern social media manipulation and the technologies that enable it, up popped on my screen one of those “You might also like” blurbs that are attached to most every piece of media these days. They’re designed, of course, to keep us glued right where we are rather than take the dog for a walk or finish up the dinner dishes or read a bit of poetry from a paper book before turning off the bedside light.

“Hmmm,” I said to self, while warmly considering the walk down the hall to the bedroom—“I’ve never seen (the 2005 Bob Dylan documentary) ‘No Direction Home’…maybe I’ll just peek in on the first 10 minutes!”

Two hours later (it was now midnight), I paused it for a moment and saw on the screen that there was an hour and forty-eigh...

Read More

Not Your Typical Reunion: Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods”

A few minutes into Spike Lee’s newest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” there is a lovely scene of old pals, African American Vietnam veterans, reuniting in the lobby of a Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) hotel after an unspecified long hiatus from each other’s company. The mood is jocular, joshing, loving, full of huge smiles and secret code handshakes, all of which engendered a gushy inner glow in this viewer, reminding me as it did of warm-hearted reunions of my own.

Then I got a grip on myself and interrupted my reverie with, “Oh crap, this is a Spike Lee movie!”

Which is when my thoughts shifted instead to donning some kind of emotional flak jacket and tension reduction helmet, the better to withstand the next two and a half hours of what I knew would be Lee’s visionary provocations, challenges, goads and questionings of the American experience, particularly with respect to race relations and the centuries-long ...

Read More

Devotion, Betrayal, Conformity, Freedom: Netflix’s “Shtisel”      

I know a little bit about Judaism in general but next to nothing about its Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox versions, about which Jews themselves have huge differences of opinion. (And part of what I know about Judaism in general is how rarely Jews hesitate in sharing those opinions…)

That’s a major reason why, as a lapsed Catholic Unitarian Universalist with mystical Christian-Buddhist sensibilities and an always attentive ear for the common core of religious practice, I was enchanted recently to stumble upon “Shtisel,” an Israeli television production that ran there for two 12-episode seasons beginning in 2013 and concluded in 2016.

It then crossed the seas courtesy of Netflix in 2018 and attracted such a rapidly growing audience that it was exhumed recently for a third season that is currently in production, with full Covid-19 precautions in place.

Set in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Geula in modern day...

Read More