2022 was a year of extremes and intensity: Russia’s war with the Ukraine; the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights; Covid continues to disrupt; worldwide inflation and extreme weather events. Beyond the boundaries of our planet, the Webb telescope sent back awe-inspiring images of our galaxy, and the moon is experiencing a bit of a come back. No surprise that the films that document our lives also share these qualities.
Below are the documentaries that moved me this year: Read More
“I was born to 2 tomato farmers” were the first words of a tale that would captivate me for the next 6 hours and change the course of my life when Sidney Poitier sat down to tell his life story.
In 2011 we produced Oprah’s Master Class, the flagship documentary series, which launched the network OWN. It was an autobiographical series in which people who Oprah considered “masters of their lives” recalled critical turning points in their lives and relayed their life lessons. This was an important show for Oprah, and she pulled out all the stops to book her favorite people for this inaugural season. Among the most important were Maya Angelou and Sidney Poitier, whom she considered family. Read More
Dolor y Gloria – Pain and Glory
Antonio Banderas. Dolor y Gloria, 2019.
With his latest film “Dolor y Gloria” (Pain & Glory), Pedro Almodovar* has given us the most personal and restrained film of his career. But don’t let that fool you. Almodovar is a master of self reference, and he expertly weaves this nonlinear story within a story, a memory within a memory, the film within the film, leaving me wanting more. Like the reviewer in The Guardian, I felt that “this movie was running so smoothly and so seductively that it could have gone on for another five hours.”
Largely autobiographical, the story centers around Salvador, a film director (played by Antonio Banderas) in the autumn of his life, who is facing a creative block born out of profound emotional and physical pain. Antonio Banderas has never been better. While he plays a passive character at the bottom of a well of depression, he is so present and allows deep emotions to boil just below the surface. And this being an Almodovar film, there are moments that are really funny, especially when Salvador is persuaded to attend a Q&A of one of his classic films (a meta moment as we were also there to hear a Q&A with Almodovar after the screening).
Pedro Almodovar and Kenneth Lonergan in conversation at the DGA Theater. Credit: Busy K.
Amazing Grace, 2018.
Get thee to the movie theater now, gentle reader, to see Aretha Franklin’s concert film Amazing Grace. To see it on the big screen is to be transported back to 1972, to the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles where Franklin recorded her Grammy-winning gospel album. In search of authenticity that a studio recording could never achieve, Franklin brought the studio to church in every sense of the word with the support of the Southern California Community Choir, her band, and Rev. James Cleveland, one of the most renown gospel figures of the time. Read More
Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs
Stanley Kubrick for Look magazine, Rosemary Williams, Show Girl [Kubrick photographing Rosemary Williams], 1949 ©SK Film Archives/Museum of the City of New York
I have been a fan of Stanley Kubrick for nearly as long as I have been a fan of movies. Dr Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Shining top the list for me in that I can watch them over and over and find some new delight in his dispassionate storytelling, dramatic soundtracks, and the aggressive symmetry of his composition.
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo speaks at the bill signing of the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” at City Hall, May 9, 2018.
Yesterday was a full circle moment — to be present at City Hall for the bill signing of the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act
,” a comprehensive package of legislation strengthening New York City’s anti-sexual harassment policies and combating sexual harassment in the workplace. Last month the City Council
passed 11 bills that will expand worker protections and improve transparency about harassment in city government— some of the toughest harassment protections in the country.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at the bill signing of the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” at City Hall, May 9, 2018.
With the swiftness that the issue demands, the research and the passage of these bills has progressed rapid through local government in the wake of the #metoo movement to shine a light on sexual harassment and predation nationwide. The council members acknowleged that every new revelation of harassment and assault is a failure of the City to protect its most vulnerable residents.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Mellini Kantayya and I wrote about women pioneers as part of the “Women in Film & Television History” Series for the New York Women in Film & Television blog. Read More