A fine last-minute option for the movie buff on your Christmas list, the fifth edition of David Thomson’s The New Biographical Dictionary of Film was published in late October. I finally got around to cracking it open this week … and I’ve yet to close it. Thomson’s 1,076-page tome is as addictive as ever, bound to keep one engrossed as they move from entries that have appeared in every edition since the first, in 1975, to new and/or updated capsules on those who’ve emerged since his most recent edition in 2004.
The local cinematic universe gets a much-needed shot of adrenaline this week. Even the Hollywood studio efforts look palatable.
Curious about where Sacha Baron Cohen, the Andy Kaufman-esque comedic genius behind Borat and Bruno, might set his satirical sights next? Wonder no more, as we now know the identity of his next character: climate change skeptic Lord Monckton.
How many times have you found yourself with an idea that could change your community for the better? If you had an opportunity to make your idea a reality, would you take it?
These are two of the questions at the heart of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge. The Foundation asked Cincinnati locals to submit ideas for improving their communities.
After receiving more than 200 entries, the foundation narrowed the contest down to 21 finalists in all, each with dreams of bringing education, culture, green living, wellness and thriving local business to the community.
CityBeat film critic tt stern-enzi is one such finalist. He hopes to launch WatchWriteNow, an after-school film club devoted to the development of critical thinking and creative writing skills.
“WatchWriteNow started thanks to my work as an independent contractor with Lighthouse Youth Crisis Center and a few Cincinnati Public School after-school programs,” stern-enzi writes in an email interview. “The impetus was to bring filmed content in to high school students, to let them critically discuss works that might be accessible to them in ways that subjects in the classroom might not be.”
stern-enzi hopes to improve education within the community by teaching film appreciation and the critical skills to express it in writing to local high school students. The concept is similar to an overseas program called Film Club UK, which was started by critics and filmmakers in order to bring film and critical discussion into classrooms — not just as an after-school activity but as part of the curriculum.
stern-enzi was inspired by his own high school AP English teacher, Cleve Latham, at the McCallie School for Boys in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“Mr. Latham let me talk about Blue Velvet after I saw it multiple times during its opening weekend back in 1986. To see a teacher grant that degree of respect and authority to a film, to allow an AP class to crack that ‘text’ open for analysis was the trigger for what has become not just a career path for me, but a real life's passion. And I want to be able to pay that forward for at least one of the students I encounter now.”
Now through Sept. 27, the foundation is asking the public to vote for their favorite Big Idea finalist. One winner in each category — Strong Communities, Cultural Vibrancy, Job Creation, Environmental Stewardship, Educational Success, Health & Wellness and Economic Opportunity — will be chosen based on the number of votes received.
“This can't be accomplished without community involvement,” stern-enzi writes, “which is why the voting format for the challenge is so exciting. If we want projects like this as part of the Greater Cincinnati landscape, we must be prepared to support the foundational efforts to get them off the ground.”
The winners of The Big Idea Challenge have plenty of resources to make their dreams a reality.
In addition to cash prizes of $500 to $1,000, the foundation will also find a nonprofit organization to implement the seven winning ideas and provide grants of $5,000 to $50,000 to spring the ideas into action.
One of the finalists will also be selected to receive a grand prize, contributed by the members of the Foundation's governing board.
Voting for The Big Idea Challenge wraps up Friday, and winners will be announced in October.
Nowhere has that sentiment been more obvious than at the multiplex, where a smattering of offerings have been pretty solid (Bridesmaids, Fast Five, Kung Fu Panda 2, Super 8, X-Men: First Class) and a smorgasbord have been solidly (if not heinously) flawed (Bad Teacher, Cars 2, Green Lantern, The Hangover Part II, Larry Crowne, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, to the pinpoint the most obvious culprits).
It's interesting that Cole Smithey would evoke the name of Nicolas Cage when commenting on Liam Neeson's recent fondness for genre pictures that would seem beneath his talents. In his review of Unknown, which opens here at 12:01 a.m. tonight, Smithey says, “How Liam Neeson went from being that rare thespian animal of a leading-man character actor to a full-on action star while still keeping his artistic integrity is a mystery. It's certainly more than Nicolas Cage could do.”
While the latter is hard to argue against — though I'm not giving up hope on Cage just yet (see 2009's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) — I'm not so sure the former is still accurate.
George Clooney's The Ides of March opens today. Given the avalanche of local press its already received (mostly by the endlessly smitten Enquirer, but also via hordes of social-media geeks), need much more be said about the behind-the-scenes aspects of Clooney's political thriller? (If you answered “yes” to that question, read my interview with Ides of March actor Max Minghella here.)
The burning question now is whether The Ides of March is any good.
On the morning of Feb. 28, 1958, a school bus carrying 48 elementary and high school students ran over an embankment and plunged into the Big Sandy River in Prestonsburg, Ky. Twenty-six kids and the bus’ driver lost their lives in the crash, forever altering the small, close-knit Floyd County town’s inhabitants.
Michael Crisp’s appropriately somber documentary, The Very Worst Thing, meticulously re-creates the events surrounding the accident via vintage radio recordings and photos and modern-day interviews with people — from a survivor of the accident to those who want to keep the victims’ legacy alive — connected to that day more than 50 years ago.
Unless you've understandably been stricken with Apocalyptic anxiety while hiding out in your basement since John Boehner was named Speaker of the House, you probably recall that area native/Hollywood bigwig George Clooney was in town earlier this year shooting his fourth directorial effort, a political drama called Ides of March.
After a quick post-production turnaround, George Clooney’s The Ides of March debuted at the Venice Film Festival last week (to a mixed critical response) before being unveiled Thursday at a packed press and industry screening (a few people were even sitting in the aisles) here on Thursday. (It opens nationwide Oct. 7.)