Acclaimed indie film “Ham on Rye” screens Wed., June 1, with editor & executive producer Kevin Anton as special guest

Best Video Film & Cultural Center screens the acclaimed independent film “Ham on Rye” on Wed., June 1. The event starts at 7 PM and admission is $7.

Kevin Anton, a Hamden-native and editor and an executive producer of “Ham on Rye,” will be on hand to discuss the film—how it got made, its journey through film festivals, and more.

The movie has a 96% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

New York Times critic Glenn Kenny chose it as a “New York Times Critic’s Pick.” Kenny writes:

With his first feature, the director and co-writer Tyler Taormina delivers something at first familiar and then increasingly — but never ostentatiously — strange. “Ham on Rye” can be taken as an allegory for middle-class suburban life in America, but it’s got added value as a potent mood piece, accomplished with a bare minimum of means.

Rolling Stone writer K. Austin Collins awarded the film 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. Collins writes:

The payoff is quiet, but grand. It is referential, but not merely so: “Ham on Rye” is more than just a catalog of our own pop culture memories. I definitely thought of Pennywise the Clown when a balloon got loose for no apparent reason; I thought more than once of “Blue Velvet,” too, if only because the movie’s sense of menace is, though tamped down, more than hinted at. Ultimately, “Ham on Rye”’s best point of reference is itself. It is, like the people therein, one of a kind and completely unforgettable.

The film scored 3 out of 4 stars from Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr. “Aspects of dreaming stick to the edges of this film,” Burr writes. “It’s never clear when we are, with music cues from the early ’60s and late ’90s, cars from the ’80s, an iPod from the turn of the millennium… “Ham on Rye” will frustrate literal-minded audiences, but it’s a work of gentle, genuine American surrealism — a lo-fi love song to those left behind by character and chance.”

Support for this screening has been provided to Best Video Film & Cultural Center from 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 5/24/22

Top Hits
The Batman (DC Universe comic book action, Robert . Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “For nearly three hours, ‘The Batman,’ directed by Matt Reeves from a script he wrote with Peter Craig, navigates a familiar environment of crime, corruption and demoralization in search of something different. Batman’s frustration arises most obviously from the intractability of Gotham’s dysfunction. Two years after the city’s biggest crime boss was brought down, the streets are still seething and the social fabric is full of holes.” Read more…)

Sundown (drama, Tim Roth. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Beandrea July’s New York Times review: “Acapulco’s picturesque beauty and grimy desperation converge in writer-director Michel Franco’s psychological thriller ‘Sundown.’ Franco teams up again here with Tim Roth who plays Neil Bennett, an heir to a United Kingdom meatpacking fortune on vacation with his sister, Alice [Charlotte Gainsbourg], and family. The cinematographer Yves Cape delivers a steady stream of wide shots and abstract-leaning frames that constantly compel the viewer to prioritize the macro over the micro.” Read more…)

X (horror, Mia Goth. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘X’ is a clever and exuberant throwback to a less innocent time, when movies could be naughty, disreputable and idiosyncratic. Two kinds of movie in particular: the dirty kind and the scary kind. Set in 1979, before the internet made pornography ubiquitous and before anyone was pontificating about “elevated horror,” this sly and nasty picture insists that the flesh and blood of down-and-dirty entertainment is, literally, flesh and blood.” Read more…)

Uncharted (action/adventure, Tom Holland. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 45. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “At least give Sony credit for recycling. That is the best that can be said for its nitwit treasure-hunt movie ‘Uncharted,’ an amalgam of clichés that were already past their sell-by date when Nicolas Cage plundered the box office in Disney’s ‘National Treasure’ series. Now, it is Tom Holland’s turn to cash in with a musty story about ancient loot, old maps, lost ships, invisible ink and a wealthy scoundrel with disposable minions.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray &Ultra HD 4K
The Batman (Blu-Ray & UltraHD 4K)

New Foreign DVDs
The Pink Cloud (Brazil, drama/sci-fi, Girley Paes. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Claire Shaffer’s New York Times review: “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A deadly phenomenon has spread across the globe and forced all of civilization into an extended quarantine. Fights break out in grocery stores and online. Video chat becomes the center of human communication, playing host to everything from work meetings to birthday parties… This is the premise for ‘The Pink Cloud,’ a Brazilian domestic drama with a helping of science fiction that, remarkably enough, was conceived of in 2017 and filmed in 2019.” Read more…)

The Love of Jeanne Ney (Germany, 1927, silent drama dir. by Georg W. Pabst, Edith Jehanne. From Rob Aldam’s Backseat Mafia DVD/Blu-Ray review: “‘The Love of Jeanne Ney’ is an epic drama which spans two countries and embodies the turbulence and uncertainties of the time. Playing with a number of cinematic styles, [director Georg W.] Pabst creates a work which consistently defies expectations and creates some really fascinating sequences. What makes it stand out from most of its peers is the number of different elements at play within The Love of Jeanne Ney. A film which works on many levels.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (documentary, bio, writing, literary, Kurt Vonnegut. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The documentary ‘Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time’ takes the importance of the novelist as a given, although years after his death in 2007, his ostensible significance still sets off conflicts on social media. By the same token, when Robert B. Weide, who directed this movie with Don Argott, describes the themes of a Vonnegut novel he read as a teen, he concludes by saying ‘What high school kid isn’t going to gobble this up?’” Read more…)

Best Video founder Hank Paper presents 5-film series starting Tues., May 31

Best Video founder Hank Paper returns to Best Video Film & Cultural Center to present a series “5 Great Films You Might Have Missed During the Pandemic — Or Should See Again and Discuss!” (Not Executive Director Hank Hoffman, who hasn’t left yet!)

Hank Paper founded Best Video in 1985 with 500 movies he could wholeheartedly recommend. In this series—which begins on Tues., May 31, and runs for five consecutive Tuesdays—he screens 1/100th that many movies but still ones that he thinks you need to see! Each screening starts at 7:15 PM and admission is $7. (Thanks to Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic, admission for members of Temple Beth Sholom is free.)

“These are the films that affected me the most during the last couple of years,” Hank Paper says. There will be 2-3 minutes of intro followed by the film on our large screen and a brief discussion for those who wish to stay and discuss.

May 31: Woman at War

For those who always wanted to go to Iceland, here’s your chance to see it in this thrilling Icelandic film about a woman, who longs to adopt a child, but instead wages single-handed war against Iceland’s environmentally destructive aluminum industry. Iceland’s beautiful setting underscores the stakes of the story—and offers one of the cleverest endings of any film.

June 7: One Night in Miami

What do 4 Black icons talk about in a hotel room in Miami? In the aftermath of his surprising knockout of Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali meets with three friends (Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke) in a motel room to celebrate his win and discuss each’s trajectory and obligations in the crosshairs of history. Beautifully and inspiringly acted (Cooke’s songs are not only thrillingly entertaining but cleverly figure in the climax of the story), what could have been simply exploitative turns out to be thought-provoking and profound. Director Regina King’s powerful, multi-award-winning tour-de-force—a fictionalization of a real meeting, based on a 2013 play by Kemp Powers—couldn’t come at a better time. This is history written in lightning.

June 14: Sound of Metal

…is not at all about the Punk Rock scene (it actually contains a most delicately sensitive and interesting soundscape) but about love and spiritual healing and people you’ll care about. This unique film features an unforgettable Oscar-nominated performance by Riz Ahmed in a profound journey that is rarely seen in film. In our world of sensory overload, you’ll find an oasis of surcease (so come to watch and relax!)

June 21: The Last Suit

An 88-year-old tailor runs away from his family’s plans for him, deciding instead to return a suit to an old friend that, 45 years earlier, saved his life as an escapee from a concentration camp. He doesn’t know if his friend is still alive or where he lives, and vows not to arrive there by crossing Germany. How is all this possible? This film about one man’s idiosyncratic stubbornness and the kindness of strangers is unforgettable.

June 28: Pig

If “Moonstruck,” “Raising Arizona,” and his Oscar-winning starring role in “Leaving Las Vegas” didn’t make you a Nicholas Cage fan, this film will. In this unconventional love story of a man and his pig, Cage plays a hermit whose beloved truffle-foraging pig is kidnapped, forcing him to return to Portland, Oregon seeking to get him back. You might expect another throw-away Cage revenge film but—not at all. Instead, you will find yourself on a profound spiritual odyssey exploring issues of authenticity, celebrity, gourmet cuisine, and the grace of finding something you truly care about. And—instead of the realist acting style so pervasive today—you will discover, in Cage, the deep, emotional, performative acting of a latter-day Marlon Brando. This is my favorite film of the year.

Support for this series has been provided to Best Video Film & Cultural Center from Connecticut 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.

The series is also sponsored by Temple Beth Sholom. TBS members may attend free.

Solo guitar by Glenn Roth Sat., May 28

Solo guitarist Glenn plays the Best Video Film & Cultural Center deck on Sat., May 28. the show starts at 5 PM.

Glenn Roth is not your typical commuter from Connecticut. Instead of a briefcase, he carries a gig bag. His workspace is the vaulted splendor of Grand Central Terminal or the tunnels and platforms of the New York City subway system. A literal underground sensation, Glenn is a licensed performer in the MTAs Music under New York program, playing for the most distracted and demanding audience in the world: legions of workers rushing to jobs throughout the Big Apple. And his fingers work magic, creating a soundscape of compelling melodies that invite them to leave the city rush behind on an aural escape.

There will be donation vases for the musicians and the venue. Please consider being generous in supporting musicians—opportunities to perform have been fewer the past couple of years. Suggested donation for Glenn of $10.

The parking lot is closed off for seating. There is on-street parking on Thornton Street, as well as parking behind our building and across the street at Spring Glen Church.

Connecticut Suzuki Guitar Academy recital Fri., May 27, 6:30 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center presents a program of classical guitar music from students of the Connecticut Suzuki Guitar Academy on Fri., May 27. The show starts at 6:30 PM and the cover is $10.

As this is an inside show, proof of vaccination and masks are required.

The Connecticut Suzuki Guitar Academy, founded by David Veslocki, delivers instruction to students in and around Norwalk, CT. The Academy delivers individual and ensemble instruction that has produced a level of playing that is nationally recognized by multiple competitions. Trevor Babb began teaching with CSGA in the fall of 2019 and will be leading two of the school’s advanced ensembles—one quartet and one sextet—at Best Video in a mixture of traditional and modern repertoire for guitar ensemble.

The program will feature music by Andrew York, Bach, Vivaldi, Hindemith, Haydn, and more.

The Howling Hound Dogs play the Best Video deck Thurs., May 26

The Howling Hound Dogs play the Best Video Film & Cultural Center deck on Thursday, May 26. The show starts at 5:30 PM.

The Howling Hound Dogs are a fun, upbeat washboard trio who play swing standards from the 20’s to the 50’s as well as folk and blues tunes, modern arrangements and funny originals. Their shows include ukulele, guitar, kazoo, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, washboard, jug and even spoons!

As a band and as soloists they’ve appeared at festivals, town concerts, senior facilities, libraries, the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, Nashville’s Bluebird Café and on TV and radio. Thew members of The Howling Hound Dogs are Peter Magrane, Lou Manzi and Tom McVerry.

There will be donation vases for the musicians and the venue. Please consider being generous in supporting musicians—opportunities to perform have been fewer the past couple of years.

The parking lot is closed off for seating. There is on-street parking on Thornton Street, as well as parking behind our building and across the street at Spring Glen Church.

Film series “Contemporary Classics of International Cinema” concludes with Iranian “The Salesman,” presented by Farbod Honarpisheh

Best Video Film & Cultural Center has continued its film screening renaissance in May with a four-film series “Contemporary Classics of International Cinema.”

After screening “Two Days, One Night” (Belgium), “Timbuktu” (Mauritania), and “Shoplifters” (Japan) May 3 , 10, and 17, respectively,. the series concludes with a modern masterpiece from Iran. All the spotlighted movies were released within the past decade. Each film has been presented by—and feature a post-film discussion led by—a faculty member of the Yale University Film & Media Studies department. The screening starts at 7 PM and admission is $7.

The series wraps up with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s 2016 Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film “The Salesman.” Farhadi wraps a gripping drama of violence, marital discord, and patriarchy around a theater company’s attempt to mount a production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote that, “Not since Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘All About My Mother,’ which brilliantly re-engineered ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ has a classic of the American stage been put to such ingenious cinematic use.”

Farbod Honarpisheh, who presents “The Salesman,” is currently a postdoctoral associate with Yale’s Film and Media Studies Program. His dissertation, “Fragmented Allegories of National Authenticity: Art and Politics of the Iranian New Wave Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s,” was completed at Columbia University. His research interests intersect film and media theory and history, critical theory, Iranian and Middle Eastern cinemas, comparative modernist studies (visual and literary), intermediality, the modern city, postcolonial theory, migration, and documentary studies.

Support for this series has been provided to Best Video Film & Cultural Center from 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.

As an indoor event, proof of vaccination and masks are required.

Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet plays best Video deck Sat., May 21, 5 PM

The Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet plays the Best Video Film & Cultural Center deck Sat., May 21. The show starts at 5 PM. (This show substitutes for the Jim & Willow Sirch & Gary Wikfors show, which had to be postponed.)

No cover charge but please bring cash for the musicians’ tip jar—suggested donation of $10. This has been a real hard time for musicians, almost all of whom have seen their live performance income dry up. (There will also be a Best Video tip jar for donations.)

Parking available behind Best Video and on Thornton Street.

The Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet (WMQ) was founded at the turn of the century to apply the quartetto classico version of the mandolin quartet to a completely new repertoire. Whatever your preconceptions are about what a mandolin quartet is like, forget them.

The current and founding, members of WMQ are: Ellen Cohn, mandolin; Colin Healy, mandola; Betsy Rome, mandolin; and Gary Wikfors, mandocello. “Walkingwood” is the name given the home of mandocello player Gary Wikfors.

Gary had acquired a chronic itch to arrange music for mandolin quartet, and eventually a mandocello and mandola to do so. After experimenting with multitrack recordings, Gary felt the need to impose this affliction on some musical friends. Betsy likes to joke that this is the first band she was invited to join by email.

All WMQ members are playing out of their normal elements in this group: Betsy is a well-known flatpick guitarist anchoring the bluegrass-swing quartet “Too Blue,” Colin is a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist at the center of the “Ash Creek String Band,” Ellen is a sought-after accompanist of traditional Irish and Quebecois tunes on piano and guitar, and Gary usually plays the wee-little mandolin with “The Fiddleheads” and others.

WMQ made its public debut in 1999 at the NOMAD festival in Newtown, CT. Since then, we have played other folk and traditional-music festivals, coffeehouses, concerts, apple orchards and private events.

Their influences? Not classical. Motown, TV themes, surf, O’Carolan, hard rock, traditional Swedish… A common response is “I can’t believe you can play that on mandolins!”

Joe Carter-Jeff Fuller Brazilian Jazz Duo plays Fri., May 20, at 5 PM

The Joe Carter-Jeff Fuller Brazilian Jazz Duo plays the Best Video Film & Cultural Center deck on Fri., May 20. The duo features Joe Carter on guitar and Jeff Fuller on upright bass. The show starts at 5 PM.

The Joe Carter Brazilian Jazz Duo celebrates the music of Brazil – Samba, Bossa Nova, Choro, Baiao and more. Their repertoire features songs by Brazil’s classic composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Moacir Santos, Jacob do Bandolim, Luiz Bonfa, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell, Ary Barroso and others. The Duo takes things a step further by using their Jazz backgrounds to add Jazz improvisation into the tunes, creating a sound that blends the best of both worlds. In other words: the best of Music from “Both Sides of the Equator.”

Having performed in such diverse places as Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Recife in Brazil, Bombay, Bangalore and Goa in India, Trossingen and Stuttgart in Germany and Paris and Corsica in France, Joe Carter has used these experiences to form a sound and style based in “Samba Jazz”, a style that combines the improvisational nature of North American Jazz with the lyrical and rhythmical aspects of Brazilian Bossa Nova, Samba, Choro, Baiao and MPB.

Whether performing on stage and in clubs, teaching jazz and coaching ensembles, or composing and arranging in his home studio, Jeff Fuller brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to all his musical endeavors. An integral part of the Connecticut, New York and international jazz scenes, Fuller toured worldwide and recorded with saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Paquito D’Rivera. He has played with jazz masters from all styles and eras including such diverse artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Mose Allison, “Papa” Jo Jones, Gerry Mulligan, and Clark Terry.


No cover charge but please bring cash for the musicians’ tip jar—suggested donation of $10. This has been a real hard time for musicians, almost all of whom have seen their live performance income dry up. (There will also be a Best Video tip jar for donations.)

Parking available behind Best Video and on Thornton Street.

New releases 5/17/22

Top Hits
Licorice Pizza (comedy/drama, Alana Haim. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 90, Must See. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Licorice Pizza,’ a shaggy, fitfully brilliant romp from Paul Thomas Anderson, takes place in a 1973 dream of bared midriffs and swinging hair, failures and pretenders. It’s set in Encino, a Los Angeles outpost in the shadow of Hollywood and the birthplace of such films as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘Boogie Nights,’ Anderson’s 1997 breakout about a striver’s passage into pornographic stardom.” Read more…)

The Cursed (horror, Boyd Holbrook. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 62. From Noel Murray’s Los Angeles Times review: “A unique take on werewolf folk tales, the arty monster movie ‘The Cursed’ journeys to late 19th century Europe for a story that ties a persistent evil to the enduring stain of bigotry. A true auteur project for genre-hopping filmmaker Sean Ellis — who wrote, directed, co-produced and serves as the cinematographer — this period piece is slow-paced yet peppered with enough gory attacks and smartly staged scare sequences to appeal to horror connoisseurs.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray &Ultra HD 4K
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure Blu-ray (1985, comedy/family, Paul Reubens.) Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 47. From Vincent Canby’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in}: “For the record, ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure’ is the story of what happens when Pee-wee’s bicycle is stolen and he sets out to find it, a journey that takes him to San Antonio and, finally, to the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank, Calif. You have been warned.” Read more…)

Walker Blu-ray (1987, historically-based drama, Ed Harris. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taking the true story of William Walker, the American adventurer who once ruled as the self-declared president of Nicaragua [1856-57], the director Alex Cox and the writer Rudy Wurlitzer have made ‘Walker,’ a hip, cool, political satire that’s almost as lunatic as the title character. The main difference is that the film intends to be funny while Walker, all five egocentric, puritanical feet of him, was fatally humorless.” Read more…)

Licorice Pizza

New British DVDs
Ridley Road (1960s period drama, Agnes O’Casey. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 71. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “It might seem as if there couldn’t be any nook or cranny of British history that hasn’t received its own television costume drama by now. But ‘Ridley Road,’ premiering Sunday on PBS’s ‘Masterpiece,’ finds some new and interesting territory. It’s set in London, with side trips to Manchester and the countryside of Kent, in 1962, just as the Swinging Sixties are getting into gear. But music and fashion are strictly in the background. In the foreground are the members of an organized, street-level Jewish resistance to the then-flourishing British neo-Nazi movement.” Read more…)

Martin Clune’s Wild Life (nature series w/British actor Martin Clune as host)

New TV
Succession: Season 3 (HBO drama series, Brian Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 92.)