All posts tagged: AFI Silver Theatre

Judgement and forgiveness

Why do we find it so easy to judge and so hard to forgive? Part of the answer might lie in the fact that holding grudges and passing judgement can seem so satisfying. As Tim Herrera wrote in a recent New York Times article, we may actually like them, as we “tend to them as little pets.” Anne Lamott, writing in her inimitable (some would say snarky) style in Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, captures the same push-pull attraction when she says, “Kindness towards others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all. Do you want this, or do you want to be right? Well, can I get back to you on that?” In our time of extreme political polarization, it may be difficult to identify the humanity amidst the ideology. The more we see religion, politics and life as a winner-take-all battle full of zero-sum calculations, forgiveness seems quaint — a lost art or forgotten concept. This was on my mind as …

Blowing the Doors Off the Joint

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” is the theme of this week’s AFI Docs Film Festival in Washington, where some 70 documentaries will be shown in theatres across the city over five days.  To get myself in shape, I spent Sunday and Monday watching two documentaries that are not part of the festival but are currently playing in the area. One tried — and only partially succeeded — in reaching the standards suggested by the theme. The other is a masterpiece simply because it captures a treasure at the height of her powers.  As one reviewer phrased it, “She blew the doors off the joint.” But let’s start with the less-satisfying of the two. Echo in the Canyon, currently playing at the E Street Cinema, is a documentary about the legendary Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles from the mid-1960s. The film focuses on the music of The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas, and the hook is a 2015 tribute concert from current-day fans Jakob Dylan (Bob’s …

Film Reel

Our Best Picture Quest Begins Anew

As we have done almost every year since 2012, Candice and I are on a quest to see as many of the “Best Picture” nominees as possible prior to the Academy Awards show on March 4th.  Last year we were on a roll…and then life intervened, and we only saw four of the nine nominees.  This year we’ll have to get them all in this month, as Candice will be otherwise occupied with hip replacement surgery on March 1st.  So to get ahead of the game, we saw four pictures in four nights last weekend (and into Monday). Our wonderful American Film Institute Silver Theatre here in Silver Spring has been showing five of the Best Picture nominees, so it was easy to go two blocks and drop in for a movie.  All four that we’ve seen were excellent, each in its own way.  Here’s our initial take (from two highly unqualified movie critics). We both loved The Post, as much for what it says about the importance of a free press as for the …

Quest for the Best (Picture) Returns

After skipping a year, Candice and I are back and enthusiastic about choosing this year’s Best Picture winner for the Oscars. We started this annual review of the top picture nominees from two highly unqualified movie critics around 2012, and did our last round in 2015.  Sometimes in year’s past, we weren’t interested in seeing up to a third of the nominees due to violence or other graphic content (I’m looking at you Quentin Tarantino).  But in reviewing the trailers for this year’s class, we’re excited about all of them.  We have a month…so let’s go! Today, we walked up to AFI Silver to see Hidden Figures – a marvelous movie that we both highly recommend.  A colleague at work told me she had seen it three times already!  The story is compelling (especially since it is true) and the ensemble acting is superb.  Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan was especially compelling, but all three female leads were terrific from my perspective. Get yourself to see this movie.  Oh, and bring your hanky.  Even though …

Quest for the Best (2015 Edition, Round 2)

Since our last report on our quest to see the Best Picture, Candice and I have seen three more of this year’s nominees.  So let’s get to it. We walked to our “commercial” theatre (the Regal) in downtown Silver Spring earlier this week to see Selma. This movie has had its share of controversy, from the treatment of Lyndon Johnson in the film, to the snub from the Academy in terms of award nominations. David Oyelowo was excellent as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a performance certainly deserving of a Best Actor nomination. But the film was stilted at times, and uneven. Selma is not the year’s Best Picture, but it is the most important film of the year.  We forget too quickly how difficult it was to attain rights for all, and how much pressure there is, even today, to restrict or even take away those rights.  I have members of my extended family who love to wave the Confederate flag, without any understanding of what that really means. I grew up in …

A Quest for the Best Picture (2015 Edition)

As we entered our empty nesting period, Candice and I took the plunge in 2012 and made a pledge to try and see all of the year’s films nominated in the Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” category.  We (almost) succeeded – seeing eight of the nine 2012  nominees – and every year since we’ve taken on the same challenge.  While we seldom get to all the films (we generally avoid the gratuitously violent ones such as 2013’s Django Unchained), we’ve seen the vast majority and have really enjoyed talking and – in my case  – writing about them. This year there are eight nominees, and as we enter the final month we now have three under our belt.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful, lush, and very funny film by Wes Anderson, which we saw in March when it was first released. The acting by Ralph Fiennes as the concierge, along with that of the rest of the ensemble, is delicious while the plot is convoluted and crazed.  This is a very good film…but not …

Quest for the Best (Picture) Update

In our quest to see all the Best Picture nominees before the March 2nd Academy Awards show, Candice and I find ourselves well behind our pace of recent years.  We’re going to blame it all on February.  Have I mentioned that I really hate February? Why does this month even exist? But enough with the excuses…we’ve now seen four of the nine nominees.  I wrote earlier about the first two, so let’s focus on the most recent films we’ve seen.  Both were very satisfying. Philomena stars the incomparable Judi Dench who – as Philomena Lee – undertakes a search for a son she was forced to give up for adoption some fifty years earlier by the nuns of an Irish convent.  This is a deeply moving true story, that is lovingly filmed.  Steve Coogan, as the journalist Martin Sixsmith who uncovers Philomena’s story, interacts very effectively with Dench on the screen.  I won’t spoil it for those who have not seen the movie, but this is one I strongly recommend.  Philomena is a terrific movie. …

The Muscle Shoals Groove

The man in front of us in line said it best.  “After several days of watching a documentary or two a day with a heavy or depressing theme, I’m ready for some music.”  I knew what he meant. Saturday evening Andrew, Claire and I had attended an excellent documentary as part of the AFI Docs festival at the American Film Institute Theatre in Silver Spring. Titled Blackfish, it chronicled SeaWorld’s treatment of their killer whales. Here’s the synopsis: When SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was mauled to death by a “killer whale,” the tragedy was dismissed as a freak accident. In actuality, it was one of many such violent incidents between well-meaning trainers and wild orcas, the main attractions at marine parks all over the world. Utilizing astounding rare footage and candid interviews, BLACKFISH takes an unflinching look at the disturbing practices that keep such places in business and the corporate-led efforts to protect this highly profitable industry. It was an important film…but when Candice and I stood in line on Sunday waiting to see Muscle …

Academy Awards Here We Come (Again)

Last year I broke a 57-year-old tradition and decided to see all the films nominated in  the Academy Awards Best Picture category.  We had a blast, updating More to Come… when I thought we’d seen the winner, as well as on the night of the awards. This year, Candice and I are back at it again. We thought we had an early start. Over the summer and fall we went to a couple of movies that, to our eye, had Best Picture possibilities.  We both loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom. Shows what we know. But we quickly hit our stride, and after tonight’s viewing of Beasts of the Southern Wild at AFI Silver Theatre, we’ve now seen four of the nine Best Picture nominees. Since it is our most recent viewing, I’ll just say that Beasts of the Southern Wild is an interesting film, but best picture quality…ummm, I don’t think so.  And I’m sorry, but Quvenzhané Wallis did not deserve a nomination above Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. …