Hank’s Recommendations 02/05/13

hank_paperTWO GOOD FILMS ABOUT TOLERANCE

AGORA — Many customers (especially women) have recommended this film to me, and I’m passing the recommendation on to you.

“Agora” means a “gathering place” or “assembly,” and in fourth century Alexandria the typical assembly was more of a hotbed of contending religious forces: pagans, Jews and Christians, each vying to control a city that was only nominally run by a Roman garrison. Alexandria, by then, was famous for its ancient library that was widely considered a repository of world knowledge, as well as for one of its caretakers, a female astronomer and teacher, Hypatia, about whom little is known but her fame.

This film dramatically fills in the historic gaps. It begins didactically (with one of her open air classes) but then develops dramatic heft as it assays the lethal stew of intolerance among the three religious groups as each more and more aggressively comes to contend with the open enquiry of the scientific mind as symbolized and embodied by Hypatia, portrayed by Rachel Weisz. She is the sole woman in this film among pious wolves. Despite periodic academic starchiness, this visually spectacular movie nicely conflates the astronomical and historical in its portrait of the earth’s moral as well as physical place in the universe. And, of course, both tolerance and a respect for science is still something we can stand to be reminded of today.

ARRANGED — Two new grade school teachers—one Muslim, the other Jewish—become friends at a time in both their lives when their respective orthodox parents are arranging their marriages. The film is an affecting portrait of the mutual cross-cultural support that develops between the two instinctively independent women, beloved offspring caught in the vise of a tradition they otherwise feel a genuine part of.

Delicate, humorous and informative, this is a film about the challenges and opportunities of tolerance that offers a sanguine alternative to the hotbed of the intolerant marketplace.

Highly recommended.

Next “What Would You Do?” film screening—”Gone Baby Gone”—Monday, Feb. 11 at 7 PM

Gone_Baby_Gone_DVDThe “What Would You Do: Ethical Dilemmas in Great Films” film series is a collaborative effort of Temple Beth Sholom and Best Video. Best Video owner Hank Paper and Temple Beth Sholom Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic will take turns introducing films and leading the post-film discussions.

The admission cost per film is $5 and reservations are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Each of the three previous screenings have been sold out.

On Monday, Feb. 11, at 7 PM, we present “Gone Baby Gone.” The film will be introduced and the discussion led by Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic.

When two young private detectives (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) are hired to take a closer look into the mysterious disappearance of a little girl in blue collar Boston, they soon unravel a multitude of twists and turns where nothing is as it seems. “Gone Baby Gone” also stars Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan and Amy Ryan.

New Releases 01/29/13

Top Hits

Seven Psychopaths (dark comedy, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Meta to the max, filled with clever jokes and observations that stick like barbs and deflated ones that land with a thud, Seven Psychopaths is a leisurely riff about movies, violence, storytelling and the art of the steal. It’s slight if sometimes amusing, partly because it has one of those casts studded with appealing faces like Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg, the reunited co-stars from Boardwalk Empire, who put in a day or so of work. Like guests, they rotate in and out fast, as do Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe [who deserves better], Tom Waits and Zeljko Ivanek.” Read more…)

Cold Light of Day (action, Bruce Wills. Rotten Tomatoes: 5%. Metacritic: 22. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “So murky that it is hard to discern shapes, let alone faces, in many of its scenes, and so crudely edited that its frenzied action has scant continuity,The Cold Light of Day is a catastrophe worth noting only for the presence of its name cast. Who knows why stars of the caliber of Henry Cavill [the next Superman], Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver signed on for this thoroughly incompetent ‘Bourne’ movie imitation.” Read more…)

Paranormal Activity 4 (horror, Katie Featherston. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 40. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The latest Paranormal Activity, No. 4, is unlikely to attract new viewers to this horror series; by now you’ve signed on or not. But there are reasons these movies persist, mainly a consistency and a determination not to overreach; understatement and adherence to form carry these films. Paranormal Activity 4 will please the fans, and that should sustain this low-budget, highly profitable franchise.” Read more…)

Hello I Must Be Going (indie romance, Melanie Lynskey. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The plot is a tissue of familiar contrivances, some of them gratingly unpersuasive, like the make-or-break deal that will secure the future of Amy’s father’s vaguely defined business. But Hello I Must Be Going [which shares its title with a Phil Collins album and a famous number from the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers] is better than the story it has to tell, and that is thanks to the bravery and sensitivity of Ms. Lynskey’s performance and the sweet, intense love affair that is the film’s main concern.” Read more…)

Last Ride (Australia, drama, Hugo Weaving. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Australian actor Hugo Weaving has the kind of blockbuster credits and genre fame that can overshadow a performer’s range. He’s hitched rides in hits like The Matrix cycle [as Agent Smith] and The Lord of the Rings trilogy [Elrond, an Elf-lord], in which he dominated his scenes with restrained intensity, slashing eyebrows and a voice that turns whispers into threats. He seems born to play eerie types like Smith who e-nun-ci-ate each syllable as if talking in time to a metronome, fitting vocalizations for a character who’s a machine. There’s more to Mr. Weaving than a spooky voice, though, but you need to look into the quieter corners of the movie world for the fuller picture. n the Australian film Last Ride he plays Kev, a guy with a rock for a heart and a sensitive 10-year old son, Chook (Tom Russell), who from his first trembling moment seems destined to smash that heart to pieces.” Read more…)

The Liability (action, Tim Roth)

Downton Abbey: Season 3 (British series, Hugh Bonneville)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (animated superhero feature, Peter Weller [voice])

Out in the Open (documentary, gay & lesbian identity, Greg Louganis)

More Than a Month (African-American history)

New Blu-Ray

Downton Abbey: Season 3

Seven Psychopaths

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

New Foreign

17 Girls (France, drama, Louise Grinberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 61. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “This French film, based on real events that took place in Gloucester, Mass., in 2008, has been relocated to Lorient, a shabby port city on the Brittany coast and the hometown of the filmmakers, who are sisters. The movie takes you inside the dreamy collective mentality of bored, mildly rebellious girls who look with horror at the lives of their mostly working-class parents. A core group makes a pact to have babies simultaneously and bring up their children together. The inner circle widens, and in short order 17 girls are pregnant.” Read more…)

Last Ride (Australia, drama, Hugo Weaving, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68.From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Australian actor Hugo Weaving has the kind of blockbuster credits and genre fame that can overshadow a performer’s range. He’s hitched rides in hits like The Matrix cycle [as Agent Smith] and The Lord of the Rings trilogy [Elrond, an Elf-lord], in which he dominated his scenes with restrained intensity, slashing eyebrows and a voice that turns whispers into threats. He seems born to play eerie types like Smith who e-nun-ci-ate each syllable as if talking in time to a metronome, fitting vocalizations for a character who’s a machine. There’s more to Mr. Weaving than a spooky voice, though, but you need to look into the quieter corners of the movie world for the fuller picture. n the Australian film Last Ride he plays Kev, a guy with a rock for a heart and a sensitive 10-year old son, Chook (Tom Russell), who from his first trembling moment seems destined to smash that heart to pieces.” Read more…)

New British

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976, Sherlock Holmes mystery, Alan Arkin. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film, which opened yesterday at the Plaza Theater, is popular movie-making at its most stylish. It’s simultaneously contemporary in its sensibility and faithful to the courtly mood and decent spirit of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originals. It’s also one of the most handsome evocations of a vanished period (circa 1890) since “Murder on the Orient Express,” and a collector’s item in terms of performances.” Read more…

From Mike Hale’s New York Times article this past weekend about the current Blu-Ray/DVD release of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: “We’re lousy with Sherlock Holmeses right now: the Robert Downey Jr. version on the big screen, the competing television interpretations of Benedict Cumberbatch [Sherlock] and Jonny Lee Miller [Elementary] and all the Holmes-inspired geniuses in current and recent TV shows like The Mentalist, Psych, House and Monk. So The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, released this week in a new Blu-ray and DVD package, enters a crowded market. But its Sherlock deserves special consideration because he’s the father of all those modern Holmeses. Besides being a clever comic mystery with an absurdly talented cast, this 1976 film — based on Nicholas Meyer’s playful novel imagining the meeting of two great Victorian detectives, one of whom is Sigmund Freud — established the template for all the twitchy, paranoid, vulnerable, strung-out Holmeses to come.” Read more…)

Downton Abbey: Season 3

Agatha Christie Partners in Crime (mystery series)

New TV

Pan Am: Season 1

New Documentaries

Only When I Dance (dance competition, Brazil. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 59. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “Joining Dancing Across Borders and Mao’s Last Dancer in the category of inspirational international dance films is Beadie Finzi’s Only When I Dance, which tracks the progress of two students with professional aspirations at the Centro de Dança ballet school in Rio de Janeiro. Casting is the key here, and Ms. Finzi chose wisely: Irlan Santos da Silva and Isabela Coracy, teenagers when the film was made, leap off the screen as effortlessly as they fly through the air onstage. Mr. Santos da Silva is particularly mesmerizing, as a dancer and a personality; there’s not much suspense regarding whether he will land a spot with a major ballet company.” Read more…)

Birders: The Central Park Effect (birdwatching, nature. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79.)

Out in the Open (documentary, gay & lesbian identity, Greg Louganis, in Top Hits)

More Than a Month (African-American history, in Top Hits)

New Gay & Lesbian

Out in the Open (documentary, gay & lesbian identity, Greg Louganis, in Top Hits)

New Children

Hotel Transylvania (animated feature, Adam Sandler [voice], in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 47. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The story flags, but the animation in Hotel Transylvania, a misunderstood-monsters story aimed at the Aladdin and Little Mermaid crowd, is never less than vivid. Younger children are unlikely to get all the references to monsters of yore, but if nothing else, the film will give their parents an opportunity to educate them about the Invisible Man and Quasimodo.” Read more…)

Madly Madagascar (animated short)

Music: The Ivory Bills on Thurs., Feb. 7, at 8 PM

Ivory_Bills_WebThe Ivory Bills are three guys who like to rock—mostly on original songs by bassist James Velvet, but also on some choice, quirky covers. They’ve released one album and two EP’s in their four year career. Their 2012 highlight was opening for Roseanne Cash on the New Haven Green for the Arts and Ideas Festival.

Read what others have written about The Ivory Bills:

Brian LaRue, New Haven Advocate:

James Velvet and friends (John L. – guitar, Johnny Java – drums) masquerade as a simple, salt-of-the earth bar band… They almost get away with it, unless you listen closely and hear how Velvet’s expert sense of narrative plays out; how the sing-songy verses build into broadly tuneful choruses; how the band’s kinda-bluesy chug reveals a sharp knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll traditionalism. If you know Velvet’s stuff, this is what you might expect from him in rock mode — and it’s just as inspired, human and humane as you’d hope.

Gary Vollono, IndepenDisc.com:

Tight & Tasty. Truly honing the power trio concept with balance, not bombast.

A video of James Velvet and the Ivory Bills live:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

• Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BAND

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS

• Wednesday, Mar. 6. BRAZILIAN MUSIC & JAZZ: SAMBELEZA with JEFF FULLER & ISABELLA MENDES

• Thursday, Mar. 7. INDIE ROCK: SIDEWALK DAVE

• Saturday, Mar. 9. ACOUSTIC CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC: HADE & WILLIAMS

• Wednesday, Mar. 13. ACOUSTIC BLUES & ROCK: NOAH KESSELMAN

• Thursday, Mar. 14. WINE TASTING with KARL RONNE from THE WINE THIEF

• Wednesday, Mar. 20. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Thursday, Mar. 21. INDIE GARAGE ROCK: GHOST OF CHANCE

• Sunday, Mar. 24. READINGS: JOEANN HART & MATT DEBENHAM

• Wednesday, Mar. 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

Music: Jack Vees on Wed., Feb. 6, at 8 PM

Jack_Vees_WebJack Vees will perform at the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Feb. 6. The music starts at 8 PM and there is a $5 cover charge.

Jack Vees has been active as a composer and bass guitarist since the mid 1970’s. While still in college he had the opportunity to play with a diverse array of jazz and rock luminaries from Gerry Mulligan to Toots Thielmanns to Carmine Appice. In 1981 his “The Book on Bass Harmonics” was published by Alfred Music and cemented his reputation as a creative visionary of the instrument.

Vees will be performing a solo set, including lots of pedals and an occasional laptop digital frippery, playing a number of unusual low end guitars, including an 8-string bass and a 12-string baritone guitar.

As a composer he has worked with many of the most creative ensembles in the contemporary music scene.  Yet at the same time his works have resisted fitting into any one style, and have been performed from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to CBGB’s in New York, and his recording of “The Restaurant Behind the Pier” stands as a unique example of an entire CD comprised of pieces exclusively for bass guitar.  For the past 25 years he has taught at the Yale School of Music, where he is the director of the Center for Studies in Music Technology.

Jack Vees performing his bass guitar solo piece “Restaurant Behind the Pier”:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Feb. 7. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BANDS

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS