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by Cynthia Fuchs

15 Dec 2011

“It’s hideous to be called a terrorist,” says Daniel McGowan. “But here I am, facing life, plus 335 years.” Sitting in his kitchen with a lowjack on his ankle and awaiting trial in 2006, McGowan looks back on the events that brought him to this place. As he explains in If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, he’s never considered himself a terrorist, though of course he’s seen the reports on television and in newspapers concerning his work with the Environmental Liberation Front (ELF). “People need to question this new buzzword,” he suggests, “It’s a new bogeyman word.” Screening on 15 December as part of Stranger Than Fiction’s Pre-Winter Season Special, Marshall Curry’s documentary is remarkable for its access to McGowan and its examination of so many aspects of the case. Recently named to the short list for a Best Documentary Oscar, the film doesn’t judge so much as it considers—actions and motives, ambitions and mistakes. As Curry says, “I think complexity is more interesting, and from the beginning I wanted to present people’s best arguments and let those smack into each other, rather than their worst arguments.”

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

14 Dec 2011

“In 1997, I was fixing a plate of food in the kitchen,” says Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, “Getting ready for the evening news.” What he heard on the TV changed everything: a scientific report linked birth defects and childhood cancers to water contamination at Camp Lejeune, where he and his family had lived. “I dropped my plate, right there. I mean, it was like God was saying to me, ‘Here is a glimmer of hope, that you will find your answer.’” Ensminger’s question concerned the death of his nine-year-old daughter, Janey, some 14 years earlier. She’d had leukemia, and throughout her illness and after her passing, he wondered why. For the rest of Tony Hardmon and Rachel Libert’s Semper Fi: Always Faithful, Ensminger pursues answers, joining with two other victims. Their efforts are made more difficult by military and government efforts to deny responsibility. Screening on 14 December as part of Stranger Than Fiction’s Pre-Winter Season Special series, the documentary follows their alternately frustrating and heartening journey and also advocates for their cause. Given the passion that Ensminger and others bring to the story, Semper Fi mostly needs to observe, though occasional images or empty swings in a back yard or Jerry traipsing through the woods with his hunting rifle (“I come up here to get away from the daily stress”) help to underline its poignancy and also, their perseverance.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

13 Dec 2011

When Bruce Ratner announced the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn in 2003, he brought along noteworthy supporters, from architect Frank Gehry to New Jersey Nets minority owner Jay-Z to Mayor Mike Bloomberg. They all touted the arena as a way to create jobs, to improve the local economy, to bring new life. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, as documented in Battle for Brooklyn.

Troubles began when some residents of “the footprint” resisted being moved. Their resistance led to the corporation bringing in the state government, who cited “eminent domain” as a rubric for claiming the land, that is, the expropriation of private property for the public good. And oh yes, primary “public” beneficiary was to be Forest City Ratner Companies. Local resistance galvanized ROUND EXACTLY THAT APPARENT OVERSIGHT. Screening on 13 December as part of Stranger Than Fiction’s Pre-Winter Season Special—and followed by a Q&A with directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky—the film follows one resident in particular, Daniel Goldstein, a graphic designer who can’t imagine how his life will be changed by his commitment to the project. Goldstein and other residents resent the implication that they matter so little as to be considered “practically from scratch.” To be sure, not all residents feel this way: some believe the promises made by Ratner, Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg, and Senator Chuck Schumer, that the development will bring employment opportunities to Brooklyn and improve material and economic conditions going forward. (Senator Schumer’s misspeaking during a press conference may or may not be telling: “Basketball is great, but you know what enervates me about this? 10,000 jobs!”) As the Atlantic Yards project divides the community, it inspires a range of responses, from placards in residential and commercial windows and street protests to local organizing and full-on media campaigns.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

12 Dec 2011

Breathing. When you watch bodies in Wim Wenders’ Pina, you hear and see them breathing. In a movie about dancers—about the work of dancers, their efforts to tell stories, to move audiences—this is no small thing. And in this, the 3D imaging is actually more helpful than distracting: it focuses your attention on what the dancers’ bodies do, in space, in relation to one another and in relation to the costumes and props they use, which range from chairs and tables (in Café Müller) to dirt (Rite of Spring) to water (Vollmund). And in this, the film is a revelation.

by Jessy Krupa

7 Dec 2011

Last week, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the upcoming 2012 Grammy Awards on both a lavish concert special (that was slightly better than last year’s event) and their official website. Many of this year’s nominees are new artists, and some of the categories have been changed, but one thing hasn’t changed: people are already making predictions. Here’s a look at some early guesses on who will win in the biggest categories on February 12th, 2012.

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2016: Executing 'The Deed'

// Moving Pixels

"It's just so easy to kill someone in a video game that it's surprising when a game makes murder difficult.

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