Hank Hoffman to retire as Executive Director after 27 years at Best Video & then BVFCC

Best Video Film & Cultural Center, or BVFCC, announced today that Executive Director Hank Hoffman plans to retire at the end of June, 2022. Hoffman, who is 65, took over from Richard Brown as Executive Director in 2019 after four years as BVFCC’s Programming Director. He has been instrumental in guiding the organization from its roots as the independent video store Best Video—founded by Hank Paper in 1985—to its current incarnation as a dynamic nonprofit cultural center.

A 501(c)3 cultural nonprofit since November, 2015, BVFCC boasts a collection of 40,000 titles and—despite limitations imposed by the pandemic—hosted over 100 music and film events so far in 2021.

“Our motto is ‘bringing people, film, and music together.’ Best Video Film & Cultural Center has thrived because we appeal to folks’ need for real in-person community and bonding over culture in these days of virtual life,” says Hoffman. “It’s been immensely gratifying to have had a hand in reinventing this institution so it could be relevant in a new era.”

Hoffman began work as a clerk at Best Video in 1994, when the venerable outpost for film and music lovers competed directly with Blockbuster and Tommy K’s and the dominant format was VHS tapes. BVFCC has adapted, building on the reservoir of community support for Best Video and expanding its mission to become a cultural hub in the region.

“Hank has tirelessly devoted his time, talent and dedication to advancing BVFCC’s mission. I truly appreciate how seamlessly both he and Richard led the organization in its transformation into the strong community treasure of today. Hank’s deep roots and connections within the local music scene has added to the depth of broad offerings each week,” says BVFCC Board President David Margolis. “I have enjoyed working with Hank for the past few years and wish him a well-deserved and healthy joyful retirement. But I also hope and he stays connected to BVFCC as we move forward with new leadership.”

Hoffman initiated the evolution into a community-based cultural nonprofit in 2011 when he suggested the booking of music shows as a way to keep supporters of Best Video engaged as streaming affected rental traffic. Programming has since expanded from one day a week to encompass hundreds of events a year. Along with music performances, BVFCC hosts film screenings, literary readings, lectures on film, and community forums. At the same time, BVFCC has maintained and expanded its archive of movies, available to the public and its growing community of members, a treasure trove for everyone from local families to cinephiles. In 2020, Hoffman recruited a diverse steering committee of community members, Town of Hamden cultural officials, and the Spring Glen Church to put on the Hamden Black Film Mini-Series, showcasing movies relevant to the Black experience in the USA.

As a participant in the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s annual Great Give fundraising marathon, BVFCC has weathered the pandemic through a generous outpouring of financial support. During the Great Give, held in early May, BVFCC was honored to receive the support of over 520 donors, finishing first among over 400 participating nonprofits from the greater New Haven area.

In January, 2022, BVFCC was awarded a $25,800 Operating Support Grant from the CT Cultural Fund, administered by CT Humanities and the CT Office of the Arts.

The BVFCC Board of Directors has assembled a subcommittee to conduct a wide-ranging search for an Executive Director to lead the organization into the future. The group looks to find an individual with an enthusiasm for its mission; knowledge of film and music; nonprofit administrative experience; and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“I’m excited at the thought of handing off the baton to someone who can build on our accomplishments and deepen Best Video’s relationship to the community. BVFCC has a bright future ahead and I look forward to being part of that process,” Hoffman said.

New releases 1/18/22

Top Hits
Last Night in Soho (thriller/drama, Anya Taylor-Joy. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Nothing in Wright’s previous work quite prepared me for ‘Last Night in Soho,’ its easy seductiveness and spikes of sophistication. Dissolving the border between present and past, fact and fantasy, the director [aided by the euphoric talents of the cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung] has produced some of the most dazzling imagery of his career. This is also his first film with a female lead — he’s best known for buddy comedies like ‘Shaun of the Dead’ [2004] and ‘Hot Fuzz’ [2007] — a choice that lends an authentic shiver to a story anchored in male sexual violence and swinging London’s seedy underbelly.” Read more…)

Spencer (bio/drama on Princess Diana, Kristen Stewart. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Spencer,’ described by its director, Pablo Larraín, as “a fable from a true tragedy,” is all of the above, and also a fact-inspired drama about Diana, Princess of Wales, played with grit and grace by Kristen Stewart. Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997 — and whose maiden name gives Larraín’s film its title — is hardly an obscure figure. A global celebrity and tabloid fixture in her lifetime, she remains somehow irresistible.” Read more…)

Mass (drama, Jason Isaacs. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81, Must See. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The writer and director Fran Kranz stages this congregation like a play. The actors are seated across from each other in a single room, and the camera work is minimal, alternating between close-ups. The dialogue limits the amount of knowledge the audience is given about how or why the central horror [a school shooting] took place. This measured approach allows the feelings that flicker across the faces of the movie’s veteran cast to register not only as markers of marvelous acting — though there is plenty of that to spare — but as events with the power to propel the introspective plot.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Dune (available in Blu-Ray, 3D Blu-Ray, & 4K Ultra HD)

New Foreign DVDs
Hive (Albania, drama, Yllka Gashi. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A liberation story told with easy naturalism and broad political strokes, ‘Hive’ tracks Fahrije on her path to independence. (It’s based on the experiences of an Albanian Kosovo woman of the same name.) Like its protagonist, the movie is stern, direct and attentive to ordinary life. The writer-director Blerta Basholli doesn’t bludgeon you with the character’s miseries, or hold your emotions hostage. Fahrije isn’t lovable; sometimes she’s scarcely likable, which means she’s more of a human being than an emblem of virtuous suffering.” Read more…)

Beans (Canada, drama, Kiawentiio. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “The drama ‘Beans’ sets its coming-of-age story during the 1990 Oka crisis, when Mohawk residents of Oka, Quebec, began protesting the expansion of a golf course into Native burial ground. The characters in the story are fictional, but ‘Beans’ takes place during a real period of turbulence in Eastern Canada, as Mohawk people were harassed by their neighbors and the police.” Read more…)

Ema (Chile, drama, Mariana Di Girólamo. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Eroticism and pyromania dance hand-in-hand through “Ema,” a thorny provocation from the Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín. To some, its title character — played with vivid impudence by Mariana Di Girólamo — will be a possibly insane enigma; to others, a heroic mother who will do anything to reclaim her adoptive son.” Read more…)

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Japan, drama/romance, Kotone Furukawa. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy’ is a perfect entry point into [director Ryusuke] Hamaguchi’s work. Not every episode works equally well or hits as hard, but both times I watched this movie, I found something to admire, consider, argue with and weep over. The three stories are clearly separated with coy or cryptic or plainly descriptive titles. They have separate casts and each takes place in contemporary settings, though one has a modest, somewhat random splash of speculative fiction. Here, as in life, the most blandly familiar spaces — the back seat of a cab, a cluttered office, a living room — serve as unadorned stages for ordinary, existence-defining encounters.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
MLK/FBI (history, bio, civil liberties, race, Martin Luther King Jr. Rotten Tomatoes:99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘MLK/FBI’ is fair to all parties without being neutral or timid. In that regard, it’s an exemplary historical documentary — unafraid of moral judgment but also attentive to the fine grain of ambiguity that clings to the facts. It doesn’t force the preoccupations of the present onto the past, but rather invites you to think about how what happened then might help explain where we are now. The story took place a long time ago, but it isn’t finished.” Read more…)

Best Video awarded $25,800 Operating Support Grant from CT Cultural Fund

Connecticut Humanities, the statewide, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), has awarded Best Video Film & Cultural Center (BVFCC) a $25,800 CT Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant (CTCFOSG).

BVFCC will apply the funds to bolstering the organization’s film screening programming by covering licensing and honoraria costs. Additionally, Best Video is looking into using the money to upgrade its online presence and digital infrastructure and developing a filmmaking educational program for young people.

“Best Video Film & Cultural Center exists to bring people, film, and music together. The support of CT Humanities and the Connecticut Office of the Arts will be of tremendous importance in helping us to fulfill our mission,” says BVFCC Executive Director Hank Hoffman. “As an organization that has thrived by presenting in-person events—as well as maintaining a browsable archive of movies on physical media—we have felt the impact of the pandemic deeply. But grants such as the operating support grant of the CT Cultural Fund are a lifeline that enables us to continue and extend our work, which resonates with the community and brings joy and uplift to thousands of people.”

Best Video Film & Cultural Center was one of 624 organizations in Connecticut that was awarded CT Cultural Fund support totaling $16M from CT Humanities. The CTCFOSG are part of $30.7M of support allocated to arts, humanities, and cultural nonprofits through CTH over the next two years by the CT General Assembly and approved by Governor Ned Lamont. The CTCFOSG will assist organizations as they recover from the pandemic and maintain and grow their ability to serve their community and the public.

This grant was administered by CT Humanities (CTH), with funding provided by the Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) from the Connecticut State Legislature.

New releases 1/11/22

Top Hits
Dune (sci-fi remake, Timothee Chalamet. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In a galaxy far, far away, a young man in a sea of sand faces a foreboding destiny. The threat of war hangs in the air. At the brink of a crisis, he navigates a feudalistic world with an evil emperor, noble houses and subjugated peoples, a tale right out of mythology and right at home in George Lucas’s brainpan. But this is ‘Dune,’ baby, Frank Herbert’s science-fiction opus, which is making another run at global box-office domination even as it heads toward controversy about what it and its messianic protagonist signify.” Read more…)

Zeros and Ones (mystery/suspense dir. by Abel Ferrara, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 62. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Cryptic to a fault, Abel Ferrara’s ‘Zeros and Ones’ unfolds in a murkiness that’s both literal and ideological. Even its star, Ethan Hawke — speaking to us as himself in two brief scenes that bookend the movie — admits that, initially, he didn’t understand Ferrara’s script. His candor is comforting, and emboldening, encouraging persistence with a story whose destination seems as vague as its characters’ motivations.” Read more…)

The Djinn (horror, Exra Dewey. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The ‘be careful what you wish for’ trope is so common in horror films that it’s hardly a spoiler to say that his wish comes with dire consequences. He conjures the evil djinn, or genie, setting in motion a night of terror. The fable facade is a deceptive precursor for a film that’s definitely not for kids.” Read more…)

Black Widow (Marvel superhero action, Scarlett Johansson. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “If I were Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, a.k.a. the first original female Avenger and yet years overdue for her own film, I’d be hella miffed. After wearing myself out doing flips and kicks and spy work, I finally get my own movie, but the result, Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Widow,’ opening Friday, uncomfortably mashes up a heartwarming family reunion flick with a spy thriller — and then lets its star, Scarlett Johansson, get overshadowed.” Read more…)

Halloween Kills (horror sequel, Jamie Lee Curtis. Rotten Tomatoes: 41. Metacritic: 42. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “After a dozen movies — and a 13th on the horizon — the once-monstrous Michael Myers shuffles into theaters this weekend as exhausted as the 43-year-old franchise that indulges his blood lust. ‘Halloween Kills,’ the middle film of a reboot trilogy started in 2018 by the director David Gordon Green, is an indolent, narratively impoverished mess that substitutes corpses for characters and slogans for dialogue.” Read more…)

Minyan (coming-of-age drama/LGBTQ, Samuel H. Levine. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 69. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The subtle coming-of-age drama ‘Minyan’ creates a version of 1980s New York where whole neighborhoods have built up around the grief that’s carried by those who live there. The film observes as older Jewish men in Brooklyn recall rebuilding their lives after the Holocaust. In very different places of congregation, young gay men navigate death and persecution as a result of the AIDS epidemic. The hero of this film, David (Samuel H. Levine), is a novice in both worlds.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Outrage (1950, film noir dir. by Ida Lupino not available on DVD, Mala Powers. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. From Richard Brody’s 2014 analysis of the film for The New Yorker: “But ‘Outrage’ is a special artistic achievement. [Director Ida] Lupino approaches the subject of rape with a wide view of the societal tributaries that it involves. She integrates an inward, deeply compassionate depiction of a woman who is the victim of rape with an incisive view of the many societal failures that contribute to the crime, including legal failure to face the prevalence of rape, and the over-all prudishness and sexual censoriousness that make the crime unspeakable in the literal sense and end up shaming the victim. Above all, she reveals a profound understanding of the widespread and unquestioned male aggression that women face in ordinary and ostensibly non-violent and consensual courtship.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
I’m Your Man (Germany, rom-com, Dan Stevens. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Your eyes are like two mountain lakes I could sink into’ is a compliment most women would be disinclined to take umbrage at. But Alma [Maren Eggert] is not most women: A prickly scientist and cuneiform expert, she’s interested neither in flattery nor the man who’s delivering it. His name is Tom [Dan Stevens], he’s gorgeous, and he’s available. He is also a robot.” Read more…)

New Television
Billions: Season 5 (Showtime drama series, Paul Giamatti. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 73.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ghost World (2001, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Thora Birch. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s 2001 Times review [requires log-in]: “Terry Zwigoff’s ‘Ghost World,’ loosely adapted from a novel-length comic book by Daniel Clowes, continues this hopeful trend. It’s surely the best depiction of teenage eccentricity since ‘Rushmore,’ and its incisive satire of the boredom and conformity that rule our thrill-seeking, individualistic land, and also its question-mark ending, reminded me of ‘The Graduate.’ With all due respect to Mike Nichols, Simon and Garfunkel, and Mrs. Robinson, I like ‘Ghost World’ better.” Read more…)

New releases 1/4/22

Top Hits
Mayday (drama/fantasy, Grace Van Patten. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 45. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “It should be a bold premise, but there is a curious contrast in this film between the richly defined images and the story’s ethical indeterminacy. Visually, the writer and director Karen Cinorre is sure-footed, impressing with steampunk production design and sun-dappled cinematography. But narratively, her movie waffles, refusing to generate plausible rationales for Marsha’s girlboss-ish militancy.” Read more…)

Black Friday (horror/comedy, Bruce Campbell. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 52. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “This film would be perfectly delightful if it only strove for absurdity. Andy Greskoviak’s script lampoons corporate apathy and retail-work ennui with the same swiftness as his voracious zombies. Unfortunately, ‘Black Friday’ also tries to make viewers root for its characters, who are mostly delightful because they are such wildly mediocre people.” Read more…)

Small Engine Repair (comedy/drama, John Pollono. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “What happens in Manch-Vegas stays in Manch-Vegas. Just ask the men from ‘Small Engine Repair,’ an adaptation of the play of the same name by the actor and playwright John Pollono. The film, which Pollono also directs, provides more depth than the original but still flounders in the translation from stage to screen.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Woman Who Ran (Republic of Korea, comedy/drama, Kim Min-hee. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Some of the individual tales may hit the emotions harder or stay in the mind longer, and some viewers may never acquire a taste for his talky, elliptical, melancholy style. For those of us who delight in his elegant explorations of drunkenness, regret, lust and ennui, he is an indispensable comedian of modern manners, good and bad, and his steady [or perhaps compulsive] productivity is a gift.” Read more…)

Only the Animals (France, LGBTQ thriller, Laure Calamy. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “What would movies do without troublesome women — the cruel, the cold, the difficult, the dispensable? That’s one of the takeaways of ‘Only the Animals,’ a cynical French puzzler from the director Dominik Moll about a woman who goes missing. Her disappearance stirs up the usual interest; that she’s white and wealthy helps. There’s a police investigation and news reports and plenty of pain and suffering, but the many tears the movie vigorously pumps aren’t necessarily spilled over her.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Rich and Strange (1931, dir. by Alfred Hitchcock, comedy. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Dave Kehr’s brief description in the New York Times of the movie as part of an earlier DVD release: “The most important film among these early efforts is ‘Rich and Strange’ [1931], a cautionary tale about a middle-class couple who try to relieve the boredom of their existence by taking a trip, physically and sexually adventurous, to the Far East. Structurally, the film looks forward to Hitchcock’s later series of couples films, including ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ [1941], ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’[1956] and ‘Marnie’ [1964], in which mere marriages are transformed into sacred unions through the shared experience of suffering and temptation.”)

Shake Hands with the Devil (1959, drama, James Cagney. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Howard Thompson’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “One of the fastest, toughest and most picturesque dramas about the Irish Revolution, ‘Shake Hands With the Devil,’ opened yesterday at neighborhood theatres on a double-bill, and don’t ask us why. [Don’t ask us why the other half, ‘The Mugger,’ was made at all.] A new Hollywood company, Pennebaker, has had the ripe judgment to cull this dandy adventure drama of Black-and-Tan strife from a new Irish film studio near Dublin, with a spanking Irish-flavored cast headed by—who else?—James Cagney.” Read more…)

Lizzie (1957, drama, Eleanor Parker. From Bosley Crowther’s 1957 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a capricious woman Eleanor Parker plays in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s ‘Lizzie,’ which came to the Mayfair yesterday. At the start, she’s a drear and mousy creature, living modestly with her sottish aunt and working by day in a museum, Elizabeth is her name.Then she sits down before her mirror and bells and sirens begin to sound. First thing, she’s painting her lips scarlet, piling her hair on the top of her head and going out to a bar with a sluttish swagger to find herself a man. Now she calls herself Lizzie.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Naked Ape (1973, comedy, Victoria Principal)

New Documentaries
Try Harder! (education, sociology, Asian-American experience. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beandrea July’s Times review: “The coming-of-age documentary ‘Try Harder!’ from the director Debbie Lum [‘Seeking Asian Female’] immerses us in the world of elite college admissions at one of San Francisco’s top-performing public high schools: Lowell High. Equal parts vérité character study and probing meditation on the virtues of success, the film follows a group of five delightfully earnest overachievers who have internalized, to a stunning degree, the necessity of getting into Stanford and Harvard and other top-tier colleges.” Read more…)

Sid & Judy (bio, history, movie history, Judy Garland. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Amy Kaufman’s New York Times article: “‘Sid & Judy,’ which will debut tonight on Showtime, is like many portraits of the singer’s life in that it details the struggles she faced: her substance abuse, bouts of depression, five marriages and child custody battles. But by culling from Luft’s collection, the documentary offers a more unvarnished take on Garland’s life than, say, ‘Judy,’ the scripted film currently in theaters that is earning star Renée Zellweger Oscar buzz.” Read more…)

Annual membership discount option expires at end of year for non-recurring members

Since Best Video Film & Cultural Center took over ownership of Best Video in November, 2015, we have offered a 10% discount on annual memberships compared to monthly memberships. The 1-Movie Plan was $10 per month but $108 per year, for example.

The discount has applied no matter whether the membership fee was paid by check, credit card, or cash in person at Best Video or online as a recurring charge like the monthly memberships.

This discount for in-person payment expires at the end of this year. The administrative costs of securing renewals on annual memberships paid in person at Best Video is higher for us than when the membership has an automatic, secure online renewal.

From January 1, 2022 on, the 10% discount for annual memberships will apply only to recurring memberships through our secure online system. Members who prefer not to renew their annual membership on a recurring basis  are still welcome to renew by check, cash, or card but will be charged the full price of $120, $240 (2-Movie Plan), or $360 (4-Movie Plan).

New releases 12/28/21

Top Hits
The French Dispatch
(Wes Anderson dir. comedy/drama, Benicio Del Toro. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 74. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie is not Wes Anderson’s version of ‘Spotlight,’ in which humbly dressed reporters heroically take on power, injustice and corruption. Moral crusades are as alien to Anderson’s sensibility as drab khakis. What ‘The French Dispatch’ celebrates is something more specific than everyday newspapering and also something more capacious. Anderson has inscribed a billet-doux to The New Yorker in its mid-20th-century glory years that is, at the same time, an ardent, almost orgiastic paean to the pleasures of print.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The French Dispatch

New Foreign DVDs
Knocking (Sweden, horror, Cecilia Milocco. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Grief has left Molly [Cecilia Milocco] in a fragile state in ‘Knocking,’ a new psychological thriller from Sweden by the director Frida Kempff. After losing her lover in a tragic event at a beach, Molly spent time in a psychiatric ward, and her recovery in her new apartment is touch-and-go. Kempff spins Molly’s suspicions about a mysterious tapping noise into an insistent entry in the horrors of breakdown and isolation.” Read more…)

New Cult
The Prime Time (1960, cult juvenile delinquent/beatniks drama, Joanne LeCompte)

New LGBTQ
La Plays Itself: The Fred Halsted Collection (LGBTQ, gay erotica, Fred Halsted)

Dust Devil Heart, Sarah Dunn play Best Video Sat., Jan. 8, at 7 PM

Dust Devil Heart shares the bill at Best Video Film & Cultural Center on Sat., Jan. 8, with Sarah Dunn. The show starts at 7 PM and the cover is $10.

This being an inside show, these are our covid protocols: attendance of 30 max, masks and proof of vaccination required.

Dust Devil Heart is an indie folk singer-songwriter duo based in Branford, CT. At the core of DDH are two women (Holley Anderson and Elise Morrison) who both write songs, sing close vocal harmonies, and play acoustic guitar and electric bass. They are sometimes joined by a pedal steel player (Spencer Luckey) and other collaborators on strings and percussion.

They have just recorded their first album of original songs, titled Dwell Time, produced by Steve Rodgers in Hamden, CT. The album will be released this winter. Dust Devil Heart’s original songs are often love songs to places and to nature (and sometimes to people), big hearted explorations of life, learning, marriage, divorce, parenting, and a record of the fight to hold tight to the things that feed our souls amidst the practical demands of life. In performance, DDH pays tribute to artists they love with covers of folks like Lucinda Williams, Indigo Girls, Leonard Cohen, Antje Duvekot, and the Avett Brothers

Sarah Dunn is showcasing their solo endeavors for the in-progress EP, Thank You. Their style has been described “Acoustic singer-songwriter, but, also kind of emo?” A multi-instrumentalist, they have accompanied others on live performances and recordings, playing piano, violin, guitar, backup vocals, and trash can percussion. Sarah was raised in Georgia, and presently resides in Hamden with their two children.

UPDATE—POSTPONED Molly McLaughlin & Derek Monahan play folk & Irish music Fri., Jan. 7

Molly McLaughlin and Derek Monahan

UPDATE Dec. 27, 2021. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the scheduled Jan. 7 show with Molly McLaughlin and Derek Monahan has been postponed. We will reschedule this show for the spring & announce a new date as a separate Facebook event when scheduled.

Molly McLaughlin and Derek Monahan play folk and Irish music at Best Video Film & Cultural Center on Fri., Jan. 7. The show starts at 7 PM and the cover is $10.

This is an indoor show so attendance is 30 max. Proof of vaccination is required to enter and masks are required.

Molly McLaughlin and Derek Monahan perform folk music from North America and Europe for flute and guitar. Derek and Molly began working together in 2005 while attending the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT. In addition to studying classical music, Molly and Derek collected folk tunes from Ireland as well as repertoire from South America and Spain.

Molly is a widely diversified flutist drawing on experience in contemporary classical, improvisation, and Irish traditional music. As a flutist and singer, Molly has toured with Jethro Tull, recorded at Capitol Records, and currently performs with ensembles across the USA and Ireland. Derek is a versatile guitarist, banjoist, and singer working across New England. He has built a career performing numerous styles of music including classical, disco, Irish, and rock. Derek and Molly honor the musical traditions they draw upon through research and education while contributing their unique sound.

New releases 12/21/21

Top Hits
No Time to Die (James Bond action, Daniel Craig. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “As the knots in the plot are straightened out, the intricacies of spycraft recede in favor of a ponderous, familiar drama of sacrifice and revenge. The gloomy alpha villain [an ultra-gothy Rami Malek], who wants to wipe out much of humanity and is a mixture of curdled idealism and unhealed trauma, may remind you of Thanos in the final ‘Avengers’ movies. And the overall vibe — a look that is both opulent and generic; a tone that mixes brisk professionalism with maundering self-pity; an aggressive, exhausting fusion of grandiosity and fun — is more superhero saga than espionage caper.” Read more…)

The Many Saints of Newark (Sopranos prequel, Michael Gandolfini. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Movie spinoffs can be tough to pull off. Nothing felt at stake when I watched, oh, the first ‘Brady Bunch’ movie, but its source material wasn’t a critical fetish, something that inspired excited discussions on masculinity, the latest golden age of television and the effect on the industry. ‘The Sopranos,’ though, was too good, too memorable, and its hold on the popular imagination remains unshakable. It still casts a spell, and the movie knows it, which is why it sticks to the tired template of a boy’s own story rather than taking a radical turn, like revisiting Tony’s world from Giuseppina’s or Livia’s or Harold’s points of view.” Read more…)

Blue Bayou (drama, Justin Chon. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In its unsubtle way, ‘Blue Bayou’ strives to draw attention to the precarious limbo inhabited by foreign-born adoptees whose citizenship was never finalized. When an innocent argument in a supermarket lands Antonio on the wrong side of two police officers — one of whom [Mark O’Brien] is Jessie’s biological father and the other [Emory Cohen] no more than a bundle of boorish clichés — the incident heralds a series of escalating threats to a life that’s already far from secure.” Read more…)

The Last Duel (history/drama, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “It’s no surprise that Ridley Scott, who’s made his share of swaggering manly epics, has directed what may be the big screen’s first medieval feminist revenge saga. In addition to his love for men with mighty swords, Scott has an affinity for tough women, women who are prickly and difficult and thinking, not bodacious cartoons. They’re invariably lovely, of course, but then everything in Ridley Scott’s dream world has an exalted shimmer.” Read more…)

South of Heaven (action/drama, Jason Sudeikis. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 42. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review: “Aharon Keshales, who directed the film and wrote it alongside Kai Mark and Navot Papushado, aspires to say something about misunderstood antiheroes and the futility of escalating vengeance. [His and Papushado’s previous thriller, ‘Big Bad Wolves,’ had real bite.] Here, however, the execution is at once laconic and nonsensical.” Read more…)

Venom: Let there Be Carnage (superhero action, Tom Hardy. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 48%. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review; “Yes, there are battles — all of them exponentially less interesting than a twitch of Hardy’s eyebrow. ‘Let There Be Carnage’ flourishes in high-energy moments and feeds off low expectations; it’s the mold in the Avengers’ shower. Perhaps the next installment could do away with the pretense of these dingbats needing to save the world?” Read more…)

The Card Counter (thriller/drama, Oscar Isaac. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The solitary man in a room is [director Paul] Schrader’s most indelible authorial signature, a defining image and idea in one. That figure most famously appears in his script for ‘Taxi Driver,’ in which Travis Bickle, the cabby turned killer, pours out his rancid and bland thoughts; and he is the fulcrum of movies that Schrader has directed, notably ‘Light Sleeper’ and ‘First Reformed.’ The solitary man returns in ‘The Card Counter,’ a haunting, moving story of spirit and flesh, sin and redemption, love and death about another lonely soul, William Tell, who, with pen to paper, grapples with his present and his unspeakable past.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
No Time to Die
The Many Saints of Newark
Venom: Let there Be Carnage
The Card Counter

New Foreign DVDs
Undine (Germany, romance/drama, Paula Beer. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Christian] Petzold’s cinematic storytelling style is elegant but unfussy, perfectly complemented by Hans Fromm’s cinematography and by the sparely used music, which includes the Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson’s dreamy interpretations of Bach and the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ ‘Undine’ is ultimately more enigmatic than most of Petzold’s work. It is also, like its title character, eerily beautiful.” Read more…)

Gomorrah: Season 2 (Italy, gangster series, Marco D’Amore. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Mike Hale’s 2017 capsule New York Times review: “Based on the same book as the 2008 film ‘Gomorrah,’ the show is a brooding, propulsive, totally addictive story of rival gangster clans in modern-day Naples, shot like a Brutalist chiaroscuro nightmare. Like any good Mafia tale, Season 2 begins in the aftermath of slaughter, with the mohawked hothead Genny [Salvatore Esposito] clinging to life and his gang wiped out.” Read more…)

Luzzu (Malta, drama, Jesmark Scicluna. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “In ‘Luzzu,’ his first feature film, [director Alex] Camilleri demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of how small moments can build a sense of place: sandals on the salty floor of a fishery; a metal scraper peeling paint from a hull; a priest blessing boats for safe passage. Malta’s views are arresting, but the images Camilleri chooses would never be found in a travel brochure. In his subtle, vérité approach, he captures something special — not one man’s crisis, but a community’s culture.” Read more…)

The Auschwitz Report (Slovakia, historical drama, Noel Czuczor. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “The immersive historical drama ‘The Auschwitz Report,’ Slovakia’s submission for the 2020 international film Oscar, tells yet another true-life Holocaust-era tale of courage and daring with harrowing and deeply affecting results. Director Peter Bebjak, who wrote the film’s tense, propulsive script with Jozef Pastéka and Tomás Bombík, vividly re-creates several weeks in April 1944 in which Slovak Jewish prisoners Alfred Wetzler [Noel Czuczor] and Walter Rosenberg [Peter Ondrejicka] plotted and executed a death-defying escape from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Learning Tree (1969, drama, Criterion Collection, Kyle Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Gordon Parks’s ‘The Learning Tree,’ which opened yesterday at the Trans-Lux East and West Theaters, does nothing else so well or so lovingly as celebrate the life of a small Kansas town where, 40 years ago, the races lived in real, if uneasy, accommodation. Such a world, its events heightened and somewhat ritualized from Mr. Parks’s own semi autobiographical novel, is the film’s real subject. In approaching it, the director occasionally achieves a vision that is at once without illusions and profoundly nostalgic.” Read more…)

Bedtime Story (1964, comedy, Marlon Brando. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Marlon Brando is full of surprises. That’s part of his stock in trade. He loves to do the unexpected and then sit back and let his public gasp. That’s what he’s doing in ‘Bedtime Story,’ which came to the Palace yesterday. He is departing from his usual style completely and playing a ring-a-ding comedy character.” Read more…)