If you're tired of hearing from outsiders about Pittsburgh's "weird" sandwich — you know the one with the fries and the slaw, right on it! — tune in Monday for Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods America. In this Pittsburgh edition, the host of the Travel Channel show does visit Primanti Bros., but he also stops by Cure for some goat parts, visits with our own local-food-booster Rick Sebak, checks out sausage getting made and eats a fish caught in the Allegheny River!
The show airs 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 11, on the Travel Channel.
The Three Rivers Film Festival runs through Sat., Nov. 23. We haven’t seen these films but here are some playing over the next couple of days that look like interesting picks. For the complete schedule and more info, see www.3rff.com.
SATURDAY, NOV. 9
Grave of the Fireflies. Isao Takahata’s 1988 animated film follows two Japanese children during the final days of World War II. Beautiful, affirming and devastating, a must-see of Japanese anime. 2:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 8 p.m. Tue., Nov. 12 (Regent Square)
A Fierce Green Fire. A new documentary looks at 50 years of the environmental movement, from saving the Grand Canyon through the toxic Love Canal and current concerns over climate change. 3:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 13. (Waterworks)
Art of Life. Kyle Holbrook, known locally for his murals throughout Pittsburgh, makes his directorial debut with this documentary about the transformative power of art in the lives of troubled teens. 4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9 (Melwood)
Prince Avalanche. From director David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls) comes this new offbeat comedy about two men (Emile Hirsch, Paul Rudd) repainting highway lines.
4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 14 (Waterworks)
Philomena. See a sneak of this drama starring Judi Dench, as an Irish woman who, with the help of a journalist (Steve Coogan), attempts to track down the child she gave up nearly 50 years earlier. 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9 (Regent Square); also 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 12 (Waterworks)
Go For Sisters. Catch the latest from indie stalwart John Sayles, a drama about a missing child set on the U.S./Mexican border. 6:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 9:30 p.m. Tue., Nov. 12 (Waterworks)
Eurocrime! A fun-looking documentary about Italian crime films of the 1970s, that were sort of rip-offs of American hits and sort of critiques of Italy’s own pervasive violence (Mafia, terrorists). 8:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 1:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10 (Melwood)
SUNDAY, NOV. 10
Animated Films of Jean Michel Kibushi. These rarely screened short, family-friendly animated films are drawn from Congolese folk tales, and feature a variety of animation styles: drawing, cut-outs, models and claymation. 2:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10; also 6 p.m. Thu., Nov. 14 (Harris)
Oxyana. This doc looks at the effects of the prescription-pill abuse, particularly that of Oxycontin, in the small coal-mining town of Oceana, a.k.a. “Oxyana.” 2:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10; also 9 p.m. Wed., Nov. 13 (Waterworks)
The Servant. Joseph Losey’s 1963 moody-but-Mod tale of the destabilization of a wealthy Londoner’s home after he gets a new butler (Dirk Bogarde). Adapted from playwright Harold Pinter’s work. 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10; also 9:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 14. (Waterworks)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Catch a sneak peak of this Nelson Mandela bio-pic before it opens theatrically. Idris Elba stars as famed South African activist, prisoner and eventual president. 7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10; also 6:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 11 (Waterworks)
For reviews of other films screening this weekend, click here.
The Three Rivers Film Festival runs through Sat., Nov. 23. Below are reviews for films screening this weekend. For the complete schedule and more info, see www.3rff.com.
EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE
I was surprised to find myself having to explain who the late Morton Downey Jr. was to a couple of twentysomethings. I had forgotten that his outrageous TV talk show was on more than 25 years ago, and, like a bottle rocket, flared hotly but briefly. It’s just that his style of shout-y, confrontational, you’re-wrong-and-I’m-right-so-shut-up has seeped into nearly all of the issue-oriented shows on TV.
This bio-doc from directors Daniel A. Miller, Seth Kramer and Jeremy Newberger charts the life and career of Downey, from his youthful days as an aspiring pop crooner through the explosive rise and fall of his late-80s talk show. Former colleagues and friends weigh in, and there are ample clips of the show. Notable guests shown here include Ron Paul on legalizing drugs and Rev. Al Sharpton, who, along with Downey, made extensive PR hay out of the Tawana Brawley mess.
A smattering of pop psychology casts Downey has a dude with plenty of unresolved issues — a troubled relationship with his dad, womanizing and a self-destructive streak — and such figures always fascinate, at least temporarily, when their ids spill over into the public sphere.
More interesting is the filmmakers’ attempts to contextualize Downey’s success, and to draw a line from Downey’s showy “outraged populist” shtick to his obvious descendents working the airwaves today. There are some notable gaps in the story (where’s Geraldo?), but this is an entertaining ride down memory lane for us oldsters, and a critical piece of history for the younger set interested in how parts of our media culture got where it did. [Al Hoff]
1:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 7:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10 (Waterworks)
This film is writer/director Tate Bunker’s modern retelling of the classic fable “Little Red Riding Hood.” Instead of going to grandma’s house 11-year-old Red — played with outstandingly innocent by newcomer Hannah Obst — runs away from her home in Milwaukee. She goes to Daytona Beach, and eventually to Cumberland Island, Ga. to see wild horses running on the beach.
The Big Bad Wolf in this story is replaced by quite possibly the creepiest pedophile shown on screen since Dylan Baker in Happiness. Mark Metcalfe (Neidermeyer, in Animal House) is Lou, a middle-aged lone traveler who meets Red in the Milwaukee airport and begins stalking her as she makes friends and travels through Florida. Metcalfe’s performance is stomach-turning and head-flinching which translates into really good: You will hate Lou; be disgusted by Lou; pray for Lou to be hit by a bus, whatever it takes to get him off Red’s trail.
Not only is Lou a metaphorical stand-in for the Wolf, but almost every one of Metcalfe’s creepy actions and movements is more and more wolf-like. There’s a scene where Lou crouches over and sniffs a sleeping Red that almost made me stop watching the film. Almost, and that’s the hook. Bunker’s well-made, well-acted indie film isn’t enjoyable to watch by any means, but that doesn’t mean you can or will stop watching.
Obst is really good and her best scene comes in the first act while she tries to overcome the panic of getting on the plane and leaving her home for an adventure that thrills and terrifies her at the same time. It’s Obst’s innocence that drives this film. The movie will make you uncomfortable and you will probably squirm in your seat the entire time. But I’m guessing when he set out to make this film, that’s exactly the reaction Bunker was going for. [Charlie Deitch]
2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 16 (Melwood)
JAMEL SHABAZZ: STREET PHOTOGRAPHER
As Teenie Harris did in Pittsburgh, Jamel Shabazz spent of lot of time simply taking photographs of people in his Brooklyn neighborhood in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Being a young man, he frequently took photos of other young people, posed in their new clothes, in social groups, outside neighborhood joints. Shabazz felt it was important simply to document what he knew — to find the beauty in his streets. Only later did the significance of his oeuvre become clear.
As Charlie Ahearn’s profile of the photographer establishes, Shabazz was documenting several key movements: the burgeoning hip-hop scene, with all its attendant fashions; the work of community-based Islamic groups; and, most poignantly, the vibrancy of working-class neighborhoods before they were ravaged by the crack-cocaine epidemic and related gang violence.
The doc is a bit meandering: Shabazz, who is interviewed extensively, jumps around in his recollections. But the photos he took — now collected in a book (Back in the Days) and revered worldwide — are fantastic to see, and his continued commitment to documenting his community is inspiring. [Al Hoff]
6 p.m. Sat., Nov. 9; also 4 p.m. Sat., Nov. 16 (Harris)
THE TRUTH ABOUT EMMANUEL
This rather slow drama from Francesca Gregorini charts the relationshuip between a troubled teenage girl and a new neighbor, a single mom who needs a babysitter. From the start, the film is fraught, with everybody playing slightly off-kilter. The neighbor looks a lot like the girl’s dead mother (with whom she is obsessed) and the baby looks … well, suffice to say, there’s something not quite right with the baby, either. Unfortunately, this gothic melodrama never quite finds its groove, and winds up on an expected course of baroque tropes. [Al Hoff]
4:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10; also 9:30 pm. Wed., Nov. 13. (Waterworks)
SOBRE LAS OLAS
Local filmmaker Carolina Loyola-Garcia’s documentary looks at the history of flamenco — the music and dance — in America, especially through the lens of New York-born dancer Jose Greco. Plenty of performances are peppered in between segments on the art form’s culture and history. Sometimes it feels like Garcia could have focused just on Greco, or else minimized his segments in order to focus more on other artists, but Greco’s widow is a show-stealer as a talking head, and overall, there’s plenty to be learned here. Only a few of the artist interviewed have a Spanish background, illustrating the wide appeal of the style. [Andy Mulkerin]
7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 10; also 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 12 (Melwood)
There’s a light in the east — and it’s the glow of a new movie theater! Nearly a decade after the Showcase East shut its doors, a new theater complex opens today at the Monroeville Mall.
Officially called “Cinemark Monroeville Mall and XD,” the new cineplex has 12 screens. Half the theaters will be RealD 3D-capable, and for maximum “D,” there is an “Extreme Digital Cinema” auditorium.
Plus the standard amenities of 21st-century movie-going: floor-to-ceiling screens, digital surroundsound, plush stadium seating and a well-stocked concession stand.
The theater is showing current releases, plus one special treat through the weekend: Midnight screenings Thursday, Friday and Saturday of George Romero’s 1978 zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead, shot at the Monroeville Mall. See complete theater schedule here.
Imagine a drive-in that you could walk or bike to — and which screened a wide-range of short films, including comedies, dramas, documentaries and even experimental works.
Such a venue is happening for one night, Sat., Oct. 12, at 917 Liberty Ave., Downtown (a.k.a. Phil's Parking Lot, between Liberty and Exchange Way). The event is co-presented by Future Tenant gallery and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
A sleection of film from up-and-coming local artists will be screened. Featured filmmakers include: Alex Goldblum, jtc45/D.S. Kinsel, David Safin, Mike Smith and Jeremy Waltman. (The press release notes: "Some themes may be unsettling," so consider yourself advised.) A $5 donation is suggested.
The screening starts at 7 p.m. Come early for good seats (which presumably will be provided), and for pre-show grub: From 5-7 p.m., food trucks will be parked nearby.
For more info, visit Future Tenant's website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.freeangelafilm.com.
Thanks for the live blogging. Hopefully, you are inside the convention at 4:30 p.m. for…
It might have occurred to the author to bother to define the term "ball culture".