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“… Once a Person’s Voice is Captured, They are Expendable”: Director George C. Wolfe on the Musical Histories of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Black music. White privilege. Chicago. 1927. What could possibly go wrong? Indeed, nearly everything, and it’s chronicled with artful intensity in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the second in a cycle of ten plays that compassionately detail the 20th-century experiences of African Americans. Ma Rainey’s was brought to the screen this season in a stellar production directed by George Wolfe that stars Viola Davis in the title role and, in his final role, Chadwick Boseman as the upstart young trumpeter and rake in her band. Wolfe, a Tony Award-winning theater director and writer, is gradually building a formidable resume in cinema. In the past six plus years, he’s helmed You’re Not You and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 143: Alison Wright

She’s probably best known for her Emmy-Nominated performance as FBI secretary Martha Hanson on FX’s critically acclaimed series The Americans, and now Alison Wright has breathed life into another complex character in yet another hit series—Ruth Wardle on TNT’s Snowpiercer. In this hour, she gives us a peek under the hood of her craft and we get closer to understanding how she’s able to bring such naturalism and depth to all her performances. She talks about her early fascination with “The Method” that led her to the Lee Strasberg Institute, her “thought-linked” approach to the text which she developed over the years (that just might be a big part of the secret to her greatness), and I ask her about…  Read more

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My Job During a Pandemic: Producing 100+ DVDs and Blu-rays in 2020

Silvero Pereira in Bacurau (courtesy of Kino Lorber)

When I left Kino Lorber’s office on Friday, March 13th, I was expecting to return on Monday. I was wrapping up the DVD and Blu-ray of Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew (2010), getting final proofs of Adam Nayman’s booklet essay and waiting for the test molds (the final check disc the replicator sends for approval before the title goes into manufacturing) to come in. But then the lockdown hit, and the scramble to improvise and adapt to the situation. One of my colleagues lives nearby our office, so he shipped the I Wish I Knew test molds to our head of quality control, who was working from home in Brooklyn. All the shipping addresses then had to be changed…  Read more

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“I Had to Use Nine Credit Cards”: Shatara Michelle Ford on Test Pattern

Brittany S. Hall and Drew Fuller in Test Pattern (courtesy of Kino Lorber)

Shatara Michelle Ford’s debut feature Test Pattern addresses sensitive material with clinically painstaking detail. The narrative begins in 2017 at an Austin bar as Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) meets Evan (Will Brill), a thirtysomething white guy whose liquid courage prompts him to ask for Renesha’s phone number. Somewhat surprisingly, the two hit it off and grow to become a loving couple.One evening, Renesha begrudgingly (she has work in the morning) meets up with a friend for drinks at a local bar, where they meet two flirtatious men who proceed to drug them. Nearing unconsciousness, Renesha is taken to an unfamiliar location and is subsequently raped. The second half of the film deals with the immediate aftermath of Renesha’s assault, never shying away…  Read more

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“How Do You Connect with Someone with a Camera? It’s a Hard Thing to Talk About”: DP Joshua James Richards on Shooting Nomadland

Frances McDormand in Nomadland (courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

A compelling blend of drama and nonfiction, Nomadland won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Adapted from a book by Jessica Bruder, it was written, edited and directed by Chloé Zhao. This is the third collaboration between Zhao and cinematographer Joshua James Richards, following Songs My Brother Taught Me (2015) and The Rider (2017). Richards won the Best Debut Cinematography at the EnergaCamerimage Festival for Songs My Brother Taught Me. This year Camerimage awarded its Golden Frog to Richards for Nomadland.  Frances McDormand, who plays Fern in Nomadland, optioned the book in 2017. Filming took place in 2018 on locations that ranged from the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) to…  Read more

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Pump Up the Volume, Lovecraft Country and New Streaming Titles at OVID.tv: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country

On the relatively short list of truly great films about teenage alienation, writer-director Allan Moyle’s 1990 drama Pump Up the Volume ranks somewhere near the top, alongside earlier classics like Rebel Without a Cause and Over the Edge; yet unlike those brutally pessimistic movies, Pump Up the Volume manages to be as exhilarating as it is cynical, blending its authentic despair with an uplifting sense of liberating rebellion in a manner that compromises neither. Moyle had already directed one coming of age gem, Times Square, when he came to tell Pump Up the Volume’s story of a suburban loner (Christian Slater) who serves as the voice of his high school – and, by extension, a disaffected generation – on a…  Read more

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“Am I Going to Have to Reshoot Half of This Movie?” Howard Deutch on Some Kind of Wonderful

Mary Stuart Masterson, Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson in a publicity image for Some Kind of Wonderful

Writer-director John Hughes had just begun to make a name for himself with three films he made for Universal (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Weird Science) when Ned Tanen lured him over to Paramount with an overall deal designed to turn the filmmaker into a mogul. In less than three years, Hughes wrote, produced, and/or directed five movies for the studio (Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes Trains and Automobiles and She’s Having a Baby), all of which have now been reissued on Paramount’s “John Hughes 5-Movie Collection” Blu-ray with a generous supply of extra features, including a terrific piece in which Kevin Bacon interviews Hughes about Some Kind of Wonderful and She’s Having a…  Read more

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