Book Review: Fire on the Mountain

John Brown's Story Lies A-Mouldering on the Page John Brown is one of American history’s most fascinating characters. The American Spartacus, Brown led an anti-slavery revolt in 1859 and has often been depicted as overzealous and even stark raving mad. After all, to racists, any white man who’d place himself in harm’s way by taking up arms in order to free Black slaves by definition had to be a lunatic. After his failed raid at Harpers Ferry a Continue Reading...

Film Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam’s Quixotic Quest: Mancha Ado About…? Monty Python collaborator Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote falls into an interesting motion picture category. Cinematic lore includes a sort of subgenre of “difficult” films often made by powerful directors seeking to impose their exacting, iconic, auteurish visions on studios, audiences, critics, etc. During the silent screen era the original uncut versions of D.W. Griffith’s Continue Reading...

Film Review: Us

Jordan’s Jeremiad: Bunnies, Ballerinas - and the Revenge of the Underclass? OK, I admit it - I’m a cinematic scaredy-cat. Ever since small kid days, horror movies have frightened the hell out of me. The last one I went to see was a 2018 LA Film Festival screening of Spell, which I saw because it was set and shot on location in Iceland, a country I’ve only seen from the sky and am interested in. To tell you the truth, I did manage to get Continue Reading...

Film Review: Cold War

Defective Defectors Don’t Hit Trifecta Shot in glorious black and white, Cold War’s helmer Pawel Pawlikowski’s won the 2018 Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director award and the film was nominated for Cannes’ prestigious Palme d’Or. Cold War won six European Film Awards and as of this writing has won a total of 20 prizes and been nominated for another 32. In 2015 Pawlikowski’s Ida was nommed for a cinematography Oscar and earned the Best Foreign Continue Reading...

Film Review: Vice

Bureaucratic Brio: The Man Who Would Be Vice President - or Viceroy? Writer/director Adam McKay’s Vice, an all-star biographical movie about Dick Cheney is among Hollywood’s top 2018 political pictures. It’s utterly uncanny how Christian Bale completely disappears into his role as the former vice president, just as John C. Reilly does as Oliver Hardy in another biopic being released in America during the holiday season, Stan & Ollie. With Continue Reading...

Movie Review: Maria by Callas

The Soprano: Inside Diva As an opera reviewer who doesn’t know much about the legendary Maria Callas I greatly enjoyed Tom Volf’s extremely informative documentary Maria By Callas. The film consists entirely of archival footage, clips of the soprano on TV talk shows and in the news, performance/concert vignettes, home movies and sound recordings. I don’t believe there’s a single solitary shot of original material per se by Volf but he has done Continue Reading...

Film Review: The Advocates

Gimme Shelter: And Much More French director Rémi Kessler’s heartwarming documentary The Advocates, which was screened at the LA Film Festival 2018, is now being theatrically released. The documentary takes an insider look at a compelling crisis that seems to be mushrooming across Los Angeles far beyond the confines of Skid Row: Homelessness. The 86 minute nonfiction film focuses in on a trio of L.A. organizers for whom the political is Continue Reading...

Film Review: First Man

The Wrong Stuff: From Claustrophobia to the Cosmos Director Damien Chazelle has had a meteoric rise in the Hollywood firmament. His 2014 hit Whiplash had a $3.3 million production budget and earned more than $13 million at the box office, while 2016’s La La Land cost $30 million. Presumably because that musical scored five times its costs, Chazelle’s latest movie, First Man, almost doubled La La Land’s budget. I usually don’t dwell on film Continue Reading...