But Is It Good for the Jews?

granda and granddaughter

Ed Rampell: The Netanyahu government’s “might makes right” stance not only jeopardizes international Jewry, but above all endangers Israel. Unnecessarily pissing off most of the international community may not be a good survival strategy, but it is a tried and true formula for hate crimes perpetrated against those perceived as belonging to the offenders.

Holy Wars: Putting the “Mental” into Fundamentalism

KK_protest

Ed Rampell: General Sherman, who burned Atlanta to the ground, rather famously and pithily said, “War is hell.” Stephen Marshall’s new documentary about religious fanaticism, Holy Wars, turns Sherman’s quote on its head with the clever tagline, “War is Heaven.”

40 Is the New 15: Don’t Trust Anyone Under 40

Craig Woolson Tod Macofsky Dana Meller Karole Foreman John Allsopp2

Ed Rampell: The new musical 40 is the New 15 has the distinction of being the first musical produced by the Academy for New Musical Theatre, while a workshop presentation of it was, deservedly, nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.

Bread and Circuses and Animal Rights

circus-stilts

Ed Rampell: I remember during small kid days the arrival of Ringling Bros.’ in New York, and the elephant march up one of Manhattan’s avenues – an irresistible photo op if ever there was one – to Madison Square Garden, where I’d join thousands of other “children of all ages” to watch the thrilling spectacle.

LA Film Festival 2010: Freakonomics

freakonomics

Ed Rampell: Freakonomics is a great documentary adaptation of Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s bestselling book that applies statistical and economics theory to various phenomena, finding extraordinary explanations and insights. Master documentarians direct various segments linked to interviews with the co-authors

LA Film Festival 2010: Night Catches Us

night catches us

Ed Rampell: Set in 1976 Philadelphia after the heyday of the Black Panther Party, this film noir-ish feature depicts the fallout involvement in the Black liberation cause has on ex-Panthers and others.

LA Film Festival 2010: One Lucky Elephant

one lucky elephant

Ed Rampell: Lisa Leeman’s documentary One Lucky Elephant is similar to the 1990s fact-based features Buddy and Gorillas in the Mist starring, respectively, Rene Russo and Sigourney Weaver, as humans living closely with wild animals. All three films study the paradigm of inter-species relationships.

LA Film Festival 2010: Space Tourists

space tourists

Ed Rampell: Today, due to the collapse of the USSR, the industry that put the first creatures and human into the cosmos has largely been reduced to providing Yankee billionaires with an extraterrestrial playground – for, of course, a fee: $20 million per launch.

LA Film Festival 2010: A Small Act

a small act

Ed Rampell: This beautiful, moving film goes on to show the eventual meeting(s) of Mburu and his benefactor, who had no idea a charity was named after her. Nor that this Holocaust survivor’s small act of generosity would enable Mburu to play a role in campaigning ethnic cleansing around the world as a U.N. international civil servant, including at his native Kenya.

LA Film Festival 2010: Camera, Camera; Madagascar, A Journey Diary; Sylvester Stallone

Camera, Camera

Ed Rampell: This refreshingly formal elegance compliments Madagascar’s content, as a visitor is invited by Natives to witness and participate in some sort of indigenous rituals that have to do with something like raising the dead. The short reminded me a lot of my time in another French colony, Tahiti, in terms of its delightful ukulele-sounding music, “bizarre” (to outsiders’ eyes) customs, language, local people, etc.

LA Film Festival 2010: Dog Sweat

Hot_Dog

Ed Rampell: Readers may remember President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dubious remarks about gays at a Columbia University forum in 2007, and In Dog Sweat Keshavarz dares point his camera directly at the homosexual scene in Tehran, where same sex relationships are probably more controversial than gay marriage is here.

LA Film Festival 2010: Mahler on the Couch

mahler on the couch

Ed Rampell: Mahler On the Couch is co-written and co-directed by that rarity, a father and son team, Percy (1987’s Bagdad Cafe) and Felix Adlon. Their German language movie reminds me of 1976’s The Seven-Percent- Solution based on Nicholas Meyer’s novel about Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) being treated by Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin).

LA Film Festival 2010: Farewell, My Lovely

farewell

Ed Rampell: Mensink said it took her up to 13 years to make what she called a “puzzle” of a film, piecing together the jigsaw motion picture pieces of found footage, including shots from only one feature film, Dirigible, a 1931 thriller made by none other than Frank Capra.

Carmen Miranda, The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat

Carmen Miranda

Ed Rampell: Here’s your Miranda warning: You have the right to be charmed, beguiled and to go bananas during the Hollywood stage production of Carmen Miranda, The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat. Magi Avila incarnates the 1940s dancing and singing sensation of stage, screen and nightclubs who personified Latin America for a generation of U.S. audiences.

Arizona Gov Outlaws Teaching Tombstone’s OK Corral Gunfight and Cowboy Pix

wyatt earp

Ed Rampell: In a press conference the unelected Governor also announced that as part of the legislation the Arizona public school system was prohibiting teaching about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. “Educating students about this purported gunfight at Tombstone in 1881 could inflame racial animosity against Caucasians,” contended Brewer, noting that all of the participants in the brief but bloody barrage of bullets were whites.

Princess Kaiulani: A Motion Picture Pretender to the Throne

anka Kilcher as Princess Kaiulani

Ed Rampell: This biopic purports to tell the tale of a fabled beauty who became embroiled in political turmoil, and of her romance with an Englishman. The movie’s press notes assert that, “Princess Kaiulani is the inspiring true story of the Hawaiian princess.” The problem is that this is a dubious claim. The simple fact of the matter is that Kaiulani opens with a historically inaccurate scene that never happened, and much of the movie is likewise historically suspect.

Cinephilia: Movie Mania at Hollywood and Divine

Martin Landau and Angelica Huston embrace (Photo: Mark Hill)

Ed Rampell: One of the worst informers of the Blacklist era was Elia Kazan; nevertheless, I went to see a restored version of Kazan’s 1960 New Deal drama Wild River, co-starring Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick and Jo Van Fleet as a stubborn old lady who refuses to vacate her home as the Tennessee Valley Authority prepares to flood the area. Convincingly playing a character 30 years older than her, Van Fleet’s Big Government hating Ella Garth seems like the grandmother of today’s Tea Party activists. TCM is big on film preservation and it aired a short featuring Martin Scorsese, Anthology Film Archives’ Jonas Mekas, etc., on this subject prior to Wild River.

Moist!

Ed Rampell: The audience, which included many African-American women, by and large loved the performances and philosophy. In a kind of “call and response” the performers adroitly riffed with the responsive spectators, incorporating some improv into their show since, as Jimmy Durante wisely noted: “Everyone wants to get into the act!” (Especially the sex act.)

L.A. Opera Rescues Conflicted Sexuality from Obscurity and the Nazis

Ed Rampell: The current production of The Stigmatized is the opera’s U.S. premiere and part of L.A. Opera’s “Recovered Voices” series, which, according to press notes, is “a multi-season initiative to revive the works of composers whose lives and careers were cut short by the Nazi regime.” Schreker’s saucy work, set in 16th century Genoa, was originally presented in Germany in 1918, and can be viewed as being part of the edgy postwar culture of the Weimar Republic that included sexually charged works in various cabaret acts and by playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht.

Theatre West: “Acting: The First Six Lessons” and “The Life and Times of A. Einstein”

Ed Rampell: Unlike other thespians, such as Brando who frequently derided acting as an unworthy profession (well, if your father repeatedly put you down during your childhood as a big nothing, even if you later won two Oscars, millions and vast critical acclaim, you’d still hear your father’s voice in your addled head insulting you and belittling whatever you did), it was a joy to see the pleasure that Beau continues to take in his lifelong avocation, and the pleasure Emily also takes in this art and craft, as the latest member of this show biz dynasty. And their clear enchantment in being able to perform together in this family affair.

Mid-August Lunch: Buon Appetito!

midaugustlunch.photo01

Ed Rampell: Mid-August Lunch may be out of step with the movie mainstream (all the more reason to feast your eyes on it), but it is very much in the Italian cinematic tradition of Neo-Realism. Like his motion picture predecessors such as Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Federico Fellini, Di Gregorio has cast a number of non-professional actors in the roles of the Italian mamas, and a couple of the director’s real life friends to play versions of themselves. This “amateur” casting – as the term “Neo-Realist” implies – often gives performances a more true-to-life, if less polished, quality, and it works very well onscreen here.

Cuba See, Junkies No

Brandon Alter (Photo: Ricardo Mamood-Vega)

Ed Rampell: Cuba and the Teddy Bear reminds us of the all-important father-son, parent-child bond and relationship. Break that, and all hell can break loose. I have observed that the children I know for him that link has been torn of asunder often don’t fare well. Despite being an illiterate drug dealer, to his everlasting credit Cuba still tries his best to be a good dad, despite it all.

Kucinich a Phony Liberal Leprechaun

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)

Ed Rampell: Kucinich’s March 17 capitulation two days after flying with President Obama aboard Air Force One to his Ohio district reveals Kucinich’s true colors and shows he’s running true to form. Kucinich’s eyebrow-raising healthcare flip-flop, like his presidential campaigns, raises the question: How Left is Left?

City Island: What a Tangled Web We Weave

Dominik Garcia-Lorido and Andy Garcia, in City Island

Ed Rampell: I highly recommend the filmic City Island, a delightful family comedy with a superb ensemble cast with an uplifting message. More than any other movie in recent memory it reminded me of William Shakespeare’s wise words ironically uttered by the foolish Polonius in Hamlet: “This above all else, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Six Degrees of Fornication: That Crazy, Kinky, Wacky Little Thing Called Sex

Carolyn Ratteray (l.) and Kalimba Bennett in "Six Degrees of Fornication" at the Whitefire Theatre. Credit: Jennifer May of Reel Sessions.

Ed Rampell: If the performers are under the covers and covered up in a play about sex, and the show’s not willing to show skin, it makes one wonder: why do a story about that particular topic in the first place? If you don’t want to show naked people and depict sex acts, why not do a play about something else?

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