Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. The 32nd Season of PBS’ American Masters series – and the launch of the show’s year-long Inspiring Woman online campaign – kicks off with the first in-depth presentation of the iconic playwright and activist. Director Tracy Heather Strain has full access to Hansberry’s archives – personal papers, home movies and rare photos – to show how her childhood experiences in Chicago would profoundly influence her politically and artistically outlook. Watching her family’s fight against the repressive effects of segregation would find its way into her writing – first as a reporter and later in ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ – a seminal theatrical piece saw her become the first black woman to author a Broadway play and won the top prize from The New York Drama Critics’ Circle. It also deals with her life away from the stage, advocating for civil rights here and abroad, gay rights, feminism and staunch oppositions to the use of nuclear weapons, colonialism, and homophobia. With remembrances from sister Mamie Hansberry, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Amiri Baraka, Louis Gossett, Jr, Lloyd Richards and Tony Award-winning actress Anika Nona Rose standing in for Hansberry to read some of her letters and comments, this is the most comprehensive look at an American icon. Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart premieres Friday, January 19th at 9pm Eastern on PBS. You can also go to www.pbs.org for more information.
The Final Year. As the Obama Administration was wrapping up its final year in office, the foreign policy team – Ben Rhodes, Susan Rice, John Kerry, and Samatha Power – were still looking to implement lasting policies that would leave a mark long after they were out of office. In the new HBO produced documentary, Greg Barker gets unprecedented access to the inner working of those efforts, as they assist President Obama in matters pertaining to North Korea, Libya, the civil war in Syria and establishing global accords on climate change. From The Oval Office to meetings with heads of state, we get a fly on the wall look at how deals are made even as the balance of power is about to undergo a seismic shift. If you are a hardcore politico or new to the process, this doc gives you a look into a world very few of us gets to see. The Final Year opens in select theaters and will be available on Itunes this Friday.
Small Time Crime. Ian and Eshom Nelms wrote and directed this sly, dark neo-noir that pays subtle nods to other crime classics. It starts John Hawkes as Mike Kendall, an alcoholic ex-cop who was recently thrown off the force for inadvertently getting his partner and a civilian killed while he was drinking on the job. While coming home from another bender, he discovers the body of a murdered oung woman. Seeing this as a chance to get back on the force (and redeem himself for getting two people killed), Kendall, acting as a private investigator, dives into the case. Joining forces with the victim’s well to do grandfather (Robert Forrester), he quickly discovers that she was heavily involved in drugs, prostitution and blackmail with some very connected people. Powerful people that could get him, his adopted sister (Octavia Spencer) and her husband (Anthony Anderson) killed. The Nelms brothers have put together a good old fashioned down and dirty crime flick, complete with a rouge anti- hero, shadowy bad guys and a healthy dose of black comedy. Hawkes, who has build up a solid career as a character actor is perfectly cast the quirky boozy Kendall. Add Robert Forrester, being, well Robert Forrester, strong supporting performances by Spencer and Anderson, and what you have is the first great sleeper movie of 2018. Small Time Crime opens nationwide this Friday.
Mosaic. After allowing viewers to look through the story from a variety of perspectives through interactive app late last year, the latest work from Steven Soderbergh will take a more linear approach in this five part HBO series. It centers around the murder of Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), a popular author who is also Summit, Utah’s most high profile resident. Chief detective – and Summit native – Nate Henry (Devin Ratray) is given the toughest case of his career in finding her killer and his investigation points towards two suspects: Joel Hurley (Garrett Hudlund), her former border who abruptly left Summit for a new life in Louisiana; and Eric Neill (Frederick Weller), Lake’s lover, who was actually a small time grifter, looking to make the ultimate score. The investigation plays out over four years with Neill eventually gets arrested, but his sister Petra (Jennifer Ferrin) and Henry believe there’s a lot more to this case that’s being taken for gospel. Soderbergh’s been away in self imposed retirement, but has lost none of his edge in bringing this story of deception, passion and intrigue to life. A case can be made the time away from the camera has rejuvenated him, as evidenced by the way he introduced the series with a highly imaginative app. The cast – led by Stone, Hudlund, Weller and Ratray – are expertly cast, with Beau Bridges and Paul Reubens (yes, it’s Pee Wee everyone) putting in solid supporting turns. It’s a bold new chapter for one of cinema’s best filmmakers. Mosaic premieres January 22nd at 8pm Eastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Beuys. 30 years after his death, the art world is still catching up to Joseph Beuys. Director Andreas Veiel put together this new documentary in the same manner Beuys created his art – colliding an array of untapped visual and sources with remembrances from family, friends, collaborators and contemporaries to give an unique portrait of the confrontational and controversial graphic artist and sculptor. It also shows how Beuys was ahead of his time on how the role of artist can put them at the center on discourses on media, capitalism and community – issues that ring more true today than when he was alive. It’s a film that is both reclamation and celebration of an all time great. Beuys is playing now at select theaters nationwide. You can also go to www.kinolorber.com for more information.
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Sacred Places by Dope Sagittarius. The second album by Funkface frontman Luqman Brown’s side project expands on the electro-funk/rock, punk, hip hop path that was laid out on his debut effort Ghetto Glitch. There’s still a decidedly indie DIY approach to the project, but it’s much more refined, smooth out, but still edgy and funky. There’s also an array of guest stars including Corey Glover, Mazz Swift, Ronny Drayton, Roy Radics, Marc Cary, and Mike Ladd to help bring the blizzard of rock, funk, reggae, electro and even some down and dirty blues into the mix. Rich in grooves, political bend and a whole lot of love, there’s no sophomore jinx here. Solid from start to finish. Sacred Places by Dope Sagittarius is available now through Bandcamp and Itunes.
New York City. Shawn Walker @ Kasher Gallery. Founded in 1963, The Kamoinge Workshop provided crucial support and solidarity for Black photographers and other artists and played a key role in having their work exposed outside of their respective communities. Shawn Walker, one of the founding members of this collective is the subject of a new retrospective at the Steven Kasher Gallery. Covering over 30 years, Walker work captures the local Black experience using abstractionism, surrealism, social documentary and street photography. It’s a stunning display of images that highlights the work of a seminal artist. Shawn Walker will be at the Kasher Gallery through February 24th. You can also go to www.stevenkasher.com for more information.
New York City. 60s Verite. In the 1950, Robert Drew, an editor/correspondent for Time/Life was looking for a new way to present documentaries. Teaming up with cameraman Richard Leacock, he developed lightweight 16mm cameras that could also pick up sound. Cinema Verite was born, allowing the filmmaker to be present, yet invisible, and able to capture the action in ways that had yet to be seen on film. D.A. Pennebaker, Albert & David Maysles, Bill Jersey and other filmmakers quickly followed suit, just in time to capture a decade of unrest and sweeping change. Film Forum looks back at this crucial period with a two and a half week retrospective that covers everything from music (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, On The Road With Duke Ellington, Gimme Shelter); in depth looks at the American Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam (The Bus, Winter Solider, A Time For Burning, A Sad Song For Yellow Skin), portraits of John Kennedy, Jane Fonda, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, and Paul Anka; and much more. The series shows how the cinema vertie also found its way into such feature films as Faces, and Medium Cool. It’s a great salute to a style and a form that forever changed how we see film. 60s Verite will run at Film Forum through February 6th. You can go to www.filmforum.org for a complete rundown of films, tickets and additional information.
New York City. Pictures Under The Palms. While most of the Northeast – including New York City – is dealing with an unusually cold this winter, Brookfield Place in offer moviegoers a chance to get away from it all without leaving the city – all for free. Each Tuesday from January 23rd through February 27th, The Pictures Under The Palms series will feature a DJ set and such crowd favorites such as Wonder Woman and Mamma Mia and Rebel Without A Cause. To coincide with the Winter Olympics, viewers will get to vote on three sports-themed movies to round out the month. Miracle, The Triplets Of Belleville, When We Were Kings, Space Jam, Hoosiers, Cutting Edge, Cool Runnings and Battle Of The Sexes are all included in the running with the top three (bronze, silver, and gold) all taking the remaining three screening dates. It’s a great way to get away from the snow, cold and ice without making a major dent in your wallet. You can go to www.artsbrookfield.com for more information and also to cast your vote.