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Friday, November 17, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 10:17 AM

click to enlarge Pop-up Nickelodeon begins Downtown on Friday
CP photos by Amanda Reed
From being the backdrop for films like The Dark Knight Rises and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pittsburgh is known for its small but mighty role in the film industry. But it all started in 1905, with a small storefront theater begun on Smithfield Street by Harry Davis and John P. Harris.

The Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) is honoring that history in time for Light-Up Night beginning tonight with a pop-up nickelodeon at 811 Liberty Ave., transforming the former Arcade Comedy Theater space into a 20th-century theater with donated banquet chairs from the David Lawrence Convention Center and a fresh coat of paint.

“There isn’t a whole lot of exposure in Pittsburgh about the nickelodeon and Pittsburgh’s role as the birthplace of the commercial movie-theater industry,” says THS executive director Richard Fosbrink. “We thought, ‘What can we do to make the public aware of this?’ so we decided to do a recreated nickelodeon.”

The Nickelodeon will screen classic silent short films, including Edwin S. Porter's "The Great Train Robbery," from 1903, Georges Méliès' groundbreaking 1902 short "A Trip to the Moon" and a 1910 silent version of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” plus short films introducing the Theatre Historical Society of America — all for just a nickel.

The Nickelodeon also features an exhibit on Pittsburgh’s role in the film industry, beginning with Harris and Davis’ Nickelodeon.

The pop-up Nickelodeon runs through First Night festivities — Sunday, Dec. 31 — and is open from noon to 7 p.m. every day except Monday, when it is closed.

THS, which recently relocated to Pittsburgh, is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the history of America's theaters, and showcasing their role in American architectural, cultural and social history.

For more information about the pop-up, visit

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2016 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge Iconic Pittsburgh filmmaker Tony Buba featured at the Carnegie tomorrow
Image courtesy of Ryan Loew and Matthew Newton
Tony Buba in "No Place But Home"

A new documentary short about one of Pittsburgh's most notable artists highlights a free evening with Buba at the museum.

In "No Place but Home," local filmmakers Ryan Loew and Matthew Newton let Buba tell the story of his four-decade career in his own words.

The eight-minute film covers a career largely defined by Buba's work illuminating his hometown of Braddock, the formerly booming Mon Valley mill town that, by the time Buba started making films, in the 1970s, had fallen on hard times.

Buba's work — including possibly his magnum opus, the feature-length "Rust Bowl fantasy" Lightning Over Braddock (1988) — has earned him international acclaim, and honors including, in 2012, a five-day retrospective at New York City's prestigious Anthology Film Archives.

click to enlarge Iconic Pittsburgh filmmaker Tony Buba featured at the Carnegie tomorrow (2)
Image courtesy of Braddock Films
Tony Buba (right) on the set of 1988's "Lightning Over Braddock"

Tomorrow's "No Place but Home" screening is followed by a selection of Buba's own signature shorts, including: "Betty's Corner Cafe" (1976), about a neighborhood bar and its characters; "Washing Walls With Mrs. G" (1980), his warmhearted and hilarious portrait of his grandmother; "Mill Hunk Herald" (1981), about the legendary workers' newspaper; "Fade Out" (1998), a film that lyrically suggests the town's fate at the hands of the planned Mon Valley Expressway; and 2007's "Ode to a Steeltown." There's also a never-before-seen short, followed by a Q&A with Buba.

The evening, co-sponsored by WESA 90.5 FM, is part of the Carnegie's Double Exposure series, which features artists, curators and others discussing the legacy of the avant-garde film and video of the 1960s-80s.

The event runs 6-8 p.m. Admission is free.

The Carnegie is located at 4400 Forbes Ave., in Oakland. 

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:57 AM

click to enlarge 'Last Dragon' star Taimak answers seven important questions before April 22 visit
Battle of the Masters in The Last Dragon: Leroy Green (Taimak) and Sho-Nuff (Julius Carry)
"Who is the master?!"
Also, how do I get "The Glow"? And just how big can Vanity's hair get?

Important questions asked — and answered — in the 1985's martial-arts comedy The Last Dragon. The film, long a cult favorite, offers fights, cheesy special effects, groaner puns and even a romance. The film's full title is Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, so you know the Motown Master packed it with musical performances, too.

Most folks probably came to The Last Dragon via VHS tapes or cable, so here's your chance to see Michael Schultz's masterpiece on the big screen. The film screens 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fri., April 22, at the Hollywood Theater, in Dormont. The film's action star, Taimak, will attend both screenings, sign copies of his new book, Taimak:The Last Dragon, and do a Q&A. More info and tickets here

Prepare your important questions for Taimak now. We got in a few in early, and Taimak graciously answered them via email.

Your fighting preference: fist or foot?

How long does it take to eat a small popcorn using only chopsticks?
Depends how cooperative the kernel is :)

How many headbands were deployed in the making of The Last Dragon?
I don't know, I only wore a hat.

If you could time travel back to New York City 1985, what would you buy?
A VIP ticket to Studio 54

Whatever happened to all those giant boomboxes?
They shrunk.

Besides The Last Dragon, is there a greater martial-arts movie than Enter the Dragon?
I don't know about better, but I love many, like Seven Samurai, Five Deadly Venoms, Shogun's Assassin, Chinatown Kid, Shaolin Soccer, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, 18 Bronze Men ... etc.

Who is the master?
I Am.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 4:47 PM

Jonathan Hock's new documentary about baseball's fast pitchers (and the men at bat who face them) screens at Carnegie Mellon University, on Fri., April 15. The film was produced by CMU trustee Thomas Tull, and features several CMU faculty members: Tim Verstynen, professor of psychology; Michael Tarr, professor and head of psychology; and physics professor Gregg Franklin.

You can read CP's review of Fastball, which Al Hoff describes as "an entertaining round-up of contemporary interviews with baseball old-timers, archival footage and a micro-focus that proves surprisingly interesting even to non-fans." 

After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with director Hock, professors Tarr and Franklin, and Chris Johnson, director of performance for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

8 p.m. Fri., April 15. Kresge Theatre, CMU campus. Oakland. $5 (free for students and children under 12)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 2:48 PM

Pittsburgh doesn't deserve Bennet Omalu. A decade ago, after trying to shed light on a brain disease that was contributing to the deaths of football players, he was run out of town. But, last night the Nigerian forensic pathologist  with nearly a dozen degrees and certifications in everything from music to business returned to the city  to launch a foundation named for him. 

The Bennet Omalu Foundation will continue Omalu's work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease he discovered after performing an autopsy on former Steelers legend Mike Webster in 2002. The foundation was founded by Giannina Scott, producer of Sony Pictures’ Concussion,  a soon-to-be-released film based on Omalu, and will be affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh where Omalu studied.

click to enlarge Bennet Omalu Foundation launches in Pittsburgh
Photo By Rebecca Nuttall
From left: Jeanne Marie Laskas, Dr. Bennet Omalu, Giannina Scott and Dr. Clayton Wiley
"I was so inspired by this man, by his selflessness, his generosity," Scott said of her decision to make a movie about Omalu and create the foundation. "He gave up everything to bring this information to the world, and it didn't matter how much they tried to stop him, everything he lost, he continued his work."

The foundation launch preceded a screening of Concussion and after watching the movie, it's hard to reconcile Omalu's love of America and Pittsburgh after everything he went through. His discovery of CTE and its effects on numerous players in the National Football League was not originally celebrated, and his perseverance to spread the truth about the disease made him a target. His family and livelihood were threatened to the point where he ultimately decided to leave Pittsburgh.

"If not for the city of Pittsburgh, if not for the University of Pittsburgh, I wouldn't be standing here today," said Omalu, who became an American citizen in February of this year.  "The road has been long and hard and difficult. I have been bruised, but that is the story of the American family." 

And from Omalu's comments last night, you get the sense that he definitely does not hold a grudge. He sees his struggles as another step along the path to achieving the American dream.

"When I was a child growing up in Africa ... America was a country that was closest to what God wants us to be as his sons and daughters, a country where God sent his favorite people," said Omalu. "Today, with all of my experiences, my belief in this country as a child has been affirmed. I'm more American than America."

For our review of Concussion, pick up the Dec. 23 issue of the Pittsburgh City Paper. 

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J.J. Abrams gives Star Wars fans the film they’ve been waiting 30 years to see

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 2:11 PM

On Tuesday, City Paper got a sneak peek at Star Wars: The Force Awakens and you can check out our

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Free screening of new doc (T)ERROR, about an FBI anti-terrorism informant in Pittsburgh
A scene from (T)ERROR

A new documentary about domestic counterterrorism investigations screens for free, on Fri., Nov. 20, on the Carnegie Mellon campus. 

(T)ERROR is a timely film from Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, which addresses broad issues like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, profiling and domestic surveillance through one specific case. In 2011, Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a 63-year-old former Black Panther-turned-counterterrorism paid informant, is tasked by the FBI to ferret out, befriend and aid with the conviction of a "person of interest" in Pittsburgh, namely Khalifah Ali Al-Akili, of Wilkinsburg.

A bit of a braggart, Torres gives the filmmakers remarkable access, inviting them into his scheming to nail Al-Akili. Torres toggles between finding some thrill in the work and wishing he worked at a fancy cupcake bakery. Things get interesting when Al-Akili gets wind of the FBI investigation, and also invites the filmmakers to document his pushback.

On the surface, it's a real-life thriller, but real chills come from the firsthand accounts and on-the-wall documentation of how problematic this sort of investigation is — one more rooted in pursuing criminalized ideologies than actual crimes — as well as the inherent risks of using paid informants. 

The film screens at  5:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 20, at McConomy Auditorium, on the CMU campus, in Oakland. Co-director Cabral will do a Q&A after the screening.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Reviews of upcoming Three Rivers Film Festival features
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead
The 34th annual Three Rivers Film Festival continues through Sun., Nov. 15. More than four dozen films screen at Melwood, Harris, Regent Square and Waterworks theaters. Most tickets are $9, and a complete schedule is at

BODY. The opening scene of Malgorzata Szumowska's dark comedy shows a body hanging from a tree, an apparent suicide. The protagonist, Janusz, a medical examiner who looks at the body, neglects to notice that the victim is not actually dead. He barely flinches as the body gets up and walks away after being cut down.
This lack of emotion carries throughout this Polish film, which — with a few minor exceptions, proves more dark than comedic. Janusz is recovering from the death of his wife, which he deals with by simply shutting down. While others are visibly shaken by a dead child stuffed into a public toilet at a crime scene, Janusz is the one who steps in close and describes the corpse, more mildly annoyed than disturbed.
In therapy, Janusz' daughter Olga, who suffers from an eating disorder and blames her father for her mother's death, is encouraged to scream to let out her emotions. You wish the same for her father: scream, cry, get angry, just do something!
In time, the father and daughter are brought together by Olga's therapist, Anna, who communicates with the dead and lets them know their wife and mother has a message for them. But Anna is grieving too, from the loss of her own child, and she also seems to be just a body going through the motions like the others. With so little backstory or emotional attachment to any of the characters, I found myself hoping that the message tells them all to start living again. In Polish, with subtitles (Lisa Cunningham)
6:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11, and 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Waterworks

DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD. Paramount in capturing (and perpetuating) the early 1970s zeitgeist of anti-establishment, pro-sex-and-drugs, button-pushing, politically cynical youth culture was National Lampoon magazine. The magazine shook off its fusty Harvard roots and delivered a steady monthly dose of outrageousness. Douglas Tirola's documentary tells the tale, from the enterprise's shaky start, through its glorious early 1970s heyday, and on through the myriad spinoffs and influences the mag had. Tirola supplements archival footage and material with contemporary interviews with former writers, artists, editors, money men and interested bystanders. The magazine spawned a radio show, comedy LPs, books and a stage show, Lemmings. 
From National Lampoon, there is a throughline for such successes as Saturday Night Live and Animal House, and the projects nurtured dozens of influential actors, comics, writers and directors, including such bold-face names as John Belushi, director John Hughes, writer P.J. O'Rourke and Christopher Guest. 
But the mag was undone partly by its own success: Not only did its best talent fly the nest, but popular culture caught up, mainstreaming much of what made National Lampoon so deliciously shocking. But the film provides ample evidence for what a heady, hilarious trip it once was.
(Al Hoff)
8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11. Regent Square. Director Tirola is scheduled to attend.

click to enlarge Reviews of upcoming Three Rivers Film Festival features
We Are the Ones

WE ARE THE ONES. Michael Skinner and Jon Michael Shink, a Pittsburgh native, went into South Sudan thinking they were going to tell the story of one American surgeon’s mission to spread medical knowledge, but ended up in the middle of a tribal conflict. South Sudan is made up of many tribal factions, including three groups bitterly at war with one another that  the film focuses on: the Dinka, the Nuer and the Murle. Their resulting hour-long documentary focuses on three men and their mission to help heal their communities both physically and politically.
The American surgeon, Glen Geelhoeld, has been on hundreds of missions and works to ensure that when he is gone, his students will be able to practice on their own. We follow two of these students, a self-taught doctor, Francis Gai of the Nuer tribe, and Ajak Abraham, of the Dinka and a Lost Boy trained in Cuba. They negotiate the everyday trials of running a clinic with little help and few supplies. While the clinics may be a safe zone, the viewer quickly realizes that in a constant state of tribal warfare, these men are looked to not only as doctors, but as protective community leaders. As each young man advances in his practice, his resolve to help unite the conflicting tribes and treat the root causes of the conflicts becomes just as important. Discouraged and tired of waiting for government help, each doctor strikes out to help his community knowing ending the fighting starts from within. In English, and other languages, with subtitles. (Celine Roberts) 
8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14 (Harris) and noon, Sun., Nov. 15 (Melwood). Directors Michael Skinner and Jon Michael Shink are scheduled to attend both screenings. 

MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA. Dziga Vertov’s influential documentary remains visually stunning after 80 years. A kinetic essay of life and industrialization in the Soviet Union, the 1929 silent film will be accompanied by live music from Boston’s Alloy Orchestra. 6:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Regent Square. $15

And check out these reviews of other films screening this week, including Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, In the Shadow of Women, Entertainment, Glassland, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Breathe and Take Me to the River.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Movies Playing This Weekend at Three Rivers Film Festival

The 34th annual Three Rivers Film Festival starts Fri., Nov. 6, and runs through Sun., Nov. 15. More than four dozen films screen at Melwood, Harris, Regent Square and Waterworks theaters. Most tickets are $9, and complete schedule is at

Write-ups for the opening-night films are on CP’s website: Crocodile Gennadiy, This Changes Everything and Court.

And check out these reviews of another nine films screening this weekend, including the Irish film, Glassland, pictured above.

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Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 12:26 PM

The Three Rivers Film Festival begins tonight, with films from around the world, but one of its more notable homegrown ingredients arrives tomorrow.

click to enlarge Sync’d – live music with local silent shorts – is tomorrow night at Neu Kirche
Film by Mike Bonello is part of Sync'd 7
Sync’d 7 is this year’s incarnation of an evening-length program during which local musicians provide live scores for short silent films by local artists.

Tomorrow night, as part of the festival’s Micro-Cinema Side-bar, Sun Cycles (Matt and Jackie McDowell) and Cocoon II (Nick Fallwell and Caulen Kress) provide the sounds for films by such top local film and video artists as Ross Nugent, Padraic Driscoll, Tess Allard, Andrew Daub, Jenn Gooch, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Michael Maraden, Andrew McIntyre, Ivette Spradlin and Athena Frances Harden, Justin Crimone and Mike Bonello. (Maraden is Sync’d’s organizer.)

Traditionally, the films range from abstracts to documentaries, though most are experimental. Most this year are in video, says Maraden, though Nugent’s contribution is a double-16 mm film projection.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door. Admission includes free refreshments while supplies last. There will also be pre-show and intermission DJ sets by KMFD.

Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center is located at 1000 Madison Ave., in Deutschtown.

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