What are the odds that two big-name films about jazz trumpeters would be taking over movie screens at the same time?
That’s the case, though, as “Born to Be Blue” (with Ethan Hawke in the role of Chet Baker) and “Miles Ahead” (featuring Don Cheadle as Miles Davis) are both jockeying for position in a theater near you. (OK, “Born to Be Blue” is currently being screened at the Landmark Spectrum 8 Theatres in Albany, while “Miles Ahead” is still waiting in the wings as a coming attraction…)
Interestingly enough, those aren’t the only music movies at the Spectrum. There is also *I Saw the Light” (the Hank Williams bio-pic starring British actor Tom Hiddleston as the kingpin of country music), while “Elvis & Nixon” (starring Michael Shannon as the King of Rock & Roll is coming soon).
And as it turns out, there’s quite a parade of other movies about music that are coming up around Greater Nippertown. Here’s a list of some of them that we rounded up:
Images Cinema in Williamstown will present an evening with independent filmmaking stalwarts John Sayles and Maggie Renzi (“Brother From Another Planet,” “Lone Star,” “Matewan”) at 7pm on Monday (April 11). The evening will begin with an onstage conversation with them about their life and work.
Sayles and Renzi have been creative partners, in life and in art, since the early ’70s, after meeting at Williams College. (He’s class of ’72; she’s ’73.) Throughout their career, their films have epitomized the best qualities of American independent cinema: intelligent filmmaking, impactful stories and memorable characters.
Following the conversation, there will be a screening of the digitally remastered “City of Hope,” Sayles and Renzi’s 1991 award-winning look at the personal cost of politics in a great American city, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The intriguing documentary “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures” premiered this past January at the Sundance Film Festival and will have its broadcast premiere on HBO at 9pm tonight (Monday, April 4). It couldn’t come at a better time, what with the recent anti-LGBT legislation pushed through the North Carolina legislature and signed by Governor Pat McCrory. The state seems hell bent in making sure everyone knows it’s not particularly accepting of people with differences. McCrory says the objections to his state’s Republican hate bill are being concocted by left-wing activists, accusing them of a “calculated smear campaign.” The ACLU has stepped in, just as it did back during the Mapplethorpe controversy.
So the time could not be riper for taking in this film.
“Look at the pictures,” said Senator Jesse Helms, denouncing the controversial art of Robert Mapplethorpe, whose photographs pushed boundaries with frank depictions of nudity, sexuality and fetishism, igniting a culture war that rages to this day.
More than 25 years later, the HBO Documentary Films presentation “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures” does just that, taking an unflinching, unprecedented look at his most provocative work. From acclaimed filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (“Inside Deep Throat”; HBO’s “Wishful Drinking” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) and produced by Katharina Otto-Bernstein (“Absolute Wilson”), the first feature-length documentary about the artist since his death and the most comprehensive film on Mapplethorpe ever, debuts tonight on HBO.
The majority of films are approximately 3-5 minutes long in a wide variety of genres, including animation, comedy, documentary, narrative and music video. This year’s fest features 20 videos by Greater Nippertown videographers and filmmakers, including Zach & Frank Appio, Christopher Brown, David Coveney, Julia & Michael Devine, John Gill, Khaz Gunnawa, Marty Hardin, James Heffernan, Kenny Hopkins, Isaac Jautz, Samuel Lund, Francesca Mastrianni, Marilyn McCabe, Lucas Neufeld, Ethan Obermayer, Samuel Pinheiro, Mark Spitzer, Caitlin Stedman, Connor Treacy and Jessica Vecchione.
The afternoon’s festivities will wrap up with a filmmakers Q&A session and the presentation of awards, including the People’s Choice Award, determined by audience ballots. Admission is $10.
It’s a superhero movie that not even Wonder Woman can save. That is if you have brains and are not easily fooled by video game visuals and pretentious melodrama. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has been touted as the kick-off for a whole new DC Comics franchise, and while the opening weekend grosses are impressive, it is Week Two and thereafter that will decide whether BvS is a charmer or a clunker. Truth be told, when Wonder Woman is the best thing in the film, we have a problem, Hollywood.
The film itself suggests it’s trafficking in topical notions of politics, religion and moral ambiguity, but its main currency is our contemporary penchant for hip and affected pessimism. Our heroes must be reduced to fallible human beings and stripped of their god-like stature, so that we may wallow in bloviated pessimism. Henry Cavill’s Superman spends a lot of time wrestling with his definition of good vs. evil, while Ben Affleck’s Batman has grown older, and less appealing without his sidekick Robin by his side. But it is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor who seems totally lost, without motivation or common sense to guide him.
It is a surprise, given how little screen time she gets, that only Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman manages to pull off the DC archetype correctly, a strong, effective woman in the midst of the doubting superheroes in her midst. She could easily give them a class on consistency and what it means to be a superhero. But in the end, even WW can’t save this unholy mess of a film.
Inducted into more music Halls of Fame than any female recording artist to date, Loretta Lynn (born April 14, 1932) has earned four Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and sold more than 45 million records worldwide. Still going strong after more than 50 years, “The Queen of Country Music” is now the subject of the new documentary “Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl,” premiering at 9pm on Friday (March 4) on PBS-TV during Women’s History Month as part of the 30th anniversary season of the “American Masters” series. The world premiere broadcast is the same day as the release of Lynn’s first new studio album in over 10 years, Full Circle (Legacy Recordings).
With unprecedented access to Lynn, her family and archives, “Still a Mountain Girl” features never-before-seen home movies, performances and photos, as well as insightful interviews with her friends and fellow musicians, including Jack White (producer of Lynn’s Grammy-winning album Van Lear Rose), Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert and Bill Anderson. The documentary also features never-before-seen footage of Lynn in the studio with producer John Carter Cash, as she records Full Circle and other new songs at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Filming with Lynn, her family and business team also took place at her ranch and other locations in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, the community she formed as a re-creation of her Appalachia birthplace, Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, where she was raised in poverty. Other interviewees include Sissy Spacek, who starred as Lynn in the Oscar-winning biographical film of her life, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (based on Lynn’s 1976 autobiography), and its director Michael Apted.