Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TV Alert: Football and Head Injuries

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Tonight, Frontline (on PBS) airs a two-hour report about professional football and head injuries. The episode, "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis," specifically addresses whether the NFL knew about the dangers of head injuries, and kept that information from players and, by default, fans of America's most popular spectator sport.

The controversial topic began here: It was Pittsburgh forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu who, in 2002, examined the brain of former Steeler Mike Webster, and found evidence of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative condition. Interviewed by Frontline, Omalu said: "I saw changes that shouldn’t be in a 50-year-old man’s brains, and also changes that shouldn’t be in a brain that looked normal.”

The program airs at 9 p.m.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Afronaut(a) Film Series Debuting This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Afronaut(a) is a seven-part free film series kicking off this weekend, curated by artist and filmmaker Alisha B. Wormsley. Each event, held twice a month through early December, is set up as a salon, comprising films of many genres (experimental, sci-fi, African diaspora) as well as related performances from local and national artists and discussions.

The first event Sun., Sept. 15, at 2 p.m. (doors at 1 p.m.), at the Alloy Studios (5530 Penn Ave., Friendship). Wormsley will introduce the series, and present some her films as well as Chris Marker's time-travel short, "La Jetee," and Richard Kahn's "Son of Inagi," with live accompaniement by Ricardo Iamuuri.

For more information and the complete schedule, see here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cable-TV Alert: TCM's The Story of Film

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 2:53 PM

If you're a film fan and you've got no plans for this holiday weekend, you might want to spend it cleaning out your DVR, because Turner Classic Movies is about to blow your mind.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the cable channel is running a 15-week series, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, which promises "to tell the history of cinema through a global lens." Those documentary episodes are only 75 minutes, but alongside them, on Mondays and Tuesdays, TCM is running relevant films — an astonishing line-up of 119 films, plus shorts, from 29 countries.

A quick look at the exhaustive schedule shows many, many rare and unsual films, in addition to some familiar classics, that no discerning cinephile should miss.

Week 1 begins Mon., Sept. 2, and covers 1895-1918. It includes some of the very first films made, such as shorts from Edison, as well as influential full-length features, including four from D.W. Griffiths. Following episodes cover everything from European silents, early Asian cinema, the establishment of genre films under the studio system, the rise of world cinema after World War II, French New Wave, spaghetti Westerns, Third World cinema, the rise of "new American cinema" and "radical cinema" in the 1970s, and right up through today's concerns (digital filmmaking, post-9/11 cinema).

Some of the greatest films ever made that you may never have seen will be broadcast: The full schedule is here. I'm not sure it's humanely possible to actually watch every single film (they run into the wee hours on Mondays and Tuesdays), but if you did, you would know a LOT about cinema — and have fun learning.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Film Opening Today: 20 Feet From Stardom

Posted By on Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 9:11 AM


You'd be right in guessing that back-up singers often get overlooked, so it's doubly sad that we missed getting the release of this documentary film about back-up singers into this week's paper.

Morgan Neville's new doc, 20 Feet From Stardom, opens Fri., July 5, at the Manor, in Squirrel Hill. He interviews back-up singers — Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer (works currently with Sting and the Rolling Stones) and Merry Clayton (that unforgettable voice on the Stones' "Gimme Shelter") — as well as those stars who rely on them, and the occasional singer who walks that very long 20 feet from back-up performer to headliner.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Film about civil-rights activist Angela Davis screening

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 4:39 PM

A new documentary, Free Angela and All the Politcal Prisoners, directed by Shola Lynch screens in Pittsburgh on Thu., June 13.

"Angela" is, of course, Angela Davis, an iconic crusader for civil rights in the late 1960s and early '70s, particularly for politcal prisoners. In time, she herself was jailed — and freed.

The local premiere, at AMC Loews in Homestead, is hosted by New Voices Pittsburgh. The film begins at 7 p.m., and Dr. Joyce M. Bell, assistant professor of sociology at Pitt, will lead a post-screening discussion. For more information, see

Monday, May 6, 2013

RuPaul's Drag Race: Alaska Watch

Posted By on Mon, May 6, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Will Pittsburgh be home to a double-dose of drag royalty? Will history be made as the crown goes to Pittsburgh's own Alaska, boyfriend of last season's winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, Pittsburgh's own Sharon Needles?

If so, will Sharon have to give her crown to Alaska? Or will it be a two-crown household — and which will be more fabulous?

Find out tonight on RuPaul's Drag Race, in a special two-hour episode starting at 9 p.m., on Logo, in which the three finalists, including Alaska, will be paraded on the runway one last time.

City of champions! Bring it home, girl!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Join a Indie-Film Preview Club

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 1:36 PM

100 Bloody Acres
  • 100 Bloody Acres

If you're one of those folks who loves to see new movies before everybody else, there's a new opportunity in town.

Pittsburgh is one of 20 markets nationwide selected by distributor Gathr Films to hold sneak previews of new independent films; screenings are weekly on Thursday nights at the Hollywood Theater, in Dormont.

These aren't free previews — you have to sign up in advance and pay a membership fee ($19 for one month; $49 for 3 months). But that's less than $5 a film, comparable to renting a movie for home consumption. Membership guarantees a seat.

Upcoming films include releases from established indie-film distributors such as Millennium, Kino Lorber, Film Movement and Music Box Films. The programming covers dramas, comedies, music films, international films and documentaries.

May offers: The Iceman, with Michael Shannon; The Deep, an Icelandic doc/thriller; Ain't in It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm; What Maisie Knew, starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan; and 100 Bloody Acres, an Australian horror-comedy.

Full schedule details and how to sign up are here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

RuPaul's Drag Race: Alaska Watch

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Some of Alaska's runway work has been shaky this season, but last night she was the big winner, wowing the judges in not one, not two, but THREE runway challenges.

She nailed the Beverley Hills brat in the "Sweet 16" look; gave up some "Executive Realness" in a tailored power-pantsuit and razor-sharp pixie wig; and was all kooky sweetness for the big "Candy Extravaganza" challenge, sporting a pink mini-dress (and matching topper) that screamed "cotton candy."

Guest judge — and fab-tacky fashion-designer legend — Bob Mackie LOVED Alaska's look, seemingly swooning over our girl's skinny bow-legs, and declaring her "a star from the crotch down."

All of this put Alaska snugly in the final three, with the winner to be decided next week. Could TV do the unthinkable — award the top prize to Alaska, whose boyfriend Sharon Needles won it last season? Certainly, Pittsburgh would love having such a Power Drag Couple.

At worst, Alaska's going to come in third, and that's nothing to shed drippy mascara tears over.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CMU to preview new romantic-comedy film made by alums

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Carnegie Mellon has trained its share of actors, and next week, some of those alums return to campus with a preview of a new indie film.

The romantic comedy Breakup at a Wedding is just that: When the bride gets cold feet at the last minute, she suggests that she and groom playact the wedding rather than face the embarassment of calling off the ceremony. What could go wrong?!

The film, directed by CMU alum Victor Quinaz, was produced by several other CMU School of Drama alums, including Pittsburgher and Star Trek star Zachary Quinto.

The screening is 4:30 p.m. Tue., April 16, at McConomy Auditorium on CMU's campus, and will be followed by a Q&A with members of the cast and production team. The event is open to the public, but seating is limited and advance ticket purchase is recommended.

Tickets are $10 ($5 with CMU ID), and can be purchased at Purnell Center box office (412-268-2407). Proceeds go toward the School of Drama's Senior Showcase.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

RuPaul's Drag Race: Alaska Watch

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 2:41 PM

The season is winding down — after last night's show, there are just four queens left to vie for the title (and $100,000).

One of my fave repeat challenges is the Make-Over episode, where the girls have to take non-drag queens (gay, straight, old or whatever) and make them fierce and fabulous. It's a good challenge to see how well the ladies work their magic on someone who isn't them, and the stumbling, awkward newly hatched drag-for-day dudes are usually good for laughs.

Last night, the made-over were all military vets — who had served before Don't Ask Don't Tell Don't Drag. It gave Ru a chance to wax patriotic for a moment about how such brave men were making the world safe for all the ladyboys on stage, and to stage a quite dreadful flag-waving routine, which nearly everybody bungled.

Especially Pittsburgh's own Alaska, who seem to be coasting through most of this challenge. Her flag routine was vulgar without being funny (I would have supported vulgar AND funny), and her runway look wasn't very inspired (big hair, tight dress). My money was on Alaska getting called down to the Bottom Two, but she ducked it — mostly, I reckon, because Ru had already decided to send home the tiresome Coco.

But with only four queens left, there's not much wiggle room for coasting, Miss Alaska.


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