12/13/16 8:00am

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La La Land, the modern day musical film from director Damien Chazelle that stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, does this rather incredulous thing–it actually lives up to its trailer. For all its hype, leading the Critics Choice Awards, winning TIFF’s People’s Choice Award, rave reviews, you still don’t expect to float out of the theatre on a cloud after seeing the film, and yet you do.

La La Land is set in modern day Los Angeles and tells the story of Mia (Stone), a struggling actress who works in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot, and Sebastian (Gosling), a pianist determined to keep jazz out of the clutches of commercialism, who dreams of opening up his own club one day to keep the music alive. Sparks don’t exactly fly the first few times Mia and Sebastian meet, but as fate would have it, they tend to run in the same circles and hesitant sparks begin to crackle between the two. The romance that develops is a whirlwind of jazz and gauzy dresses and moonlit strolls, but beneath all that lays a very true, almost unbearably lovely connection between two dreamers who see one another quite clearly. (more…)

11/30/16 2:28pm

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In no particular order, here are all the things that Mike Mills’ third directorial feature, 20th Century Women, will make you do: nonchalantly dab your eyes with a tissue, develop a deep affinity for life in Santa Barbara in 1979, and fall in love with every inch of Annette Bening’s glorious face. Yes, Mills’ follow-up to 2011’s Beginners is that good.

Led by a brilliant cast of Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann, 20th Century Women tells the story of 50-something-year-old Dorothea (Bening) trying to decipher how to best help her teenage son (Zumann) grow into a good, just, young man in a time when everything is somewhat in flux: there’s an energy crisis, Jimmy Carter is desperately trying to unite a society that’s fumbling in the space between one era and the next, and local teenagers entertain themselves by playing choking games. Terrified that she alone cannot give her son everything he needs–and feeling more distant from him with every new record he spins in his room, and every minute in which he becomes a slightly older version of himself–Dorothea enlists the help of a few lost souls that rent rooms in her enormous, constantly in-repair home in sunny Santa Barbara. (more…)

11/22/16 12:45pm
Sharon Jones (Kyle Dean Reinford)

Sharon Jones Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford

“The show must go on.”
–Sharon Jones, from the film documentary Miss Sharon Jones!

Earlier this year I saw Daryl Hall and John Oates in concert, which fulfilled a dream of mine. Growing up as a child of the ’80s I was a huge fan of the duo but never saw them perform live. That was until they headlined at at Madison Square Garden for the first time in over 30 years last February. As eager as I was to see them, I also wanted to check out the opening act, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I love old-school R&B music from the Motown, Stax and Philadelphia International Records eras. So I wanted to see the Brooklyn-based soul group for myself and find out what everybody was talking about.


At times, the Dap-Kings set felt like a church revival, and I became one of the converted.


Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings weren’t your conventional soul band–this was a large ensemble with both rhythm and brass sections, reminiscent of something you’d see at a James Brown show or a soul revue on the Chitlin Circuit in the ’60s. The guitarist in the Dap-Kings also served as the MC-–a throwback to the old days–who in a booming voice introduced the main focal point, Sharon Jones. I never realized how petite Jones was in person, but underneath her small physical frame was a feisty high-octane performer who, along with the band, projected joy, energy, and of course soul. I knew at the time she was recovering from treatment for cancer, but you couldn’t tell as the band delivered one hot number after another. At times, the Dap-Kings set felt like a church revival, and I became one of the converted. (more…)

09/27/16 9:32am
A protestor holds a sign at a Concord, New Hampshire city council meeting. Courtesy of VANISH Films.

A protestor holds a sign at a Concord, New Hampshire city council meeting. Courtesy of VANISH Films.

If it wasn’t for the strip mall parking lots in the background, it would be easy to mistake Missouri for Mosul in the opening shots of Do Not Resist, Craig Atkinson’s, infuriating and important documentary investigating the militarization of American law enforcement.

The film opens on Friday, Sept. 30 at Film Forum, and feels incredibly timely in the wake of the deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott last week at the hands of police officers, and the police response to protests in Charlotte where Scott was killed. While Do Not Resist screened as part of the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and at the Nitehawk in July followed by a Q&A with Atkinson, this is the first extended run for the film in New York City. (more…)

09/13/16 10:33am

cocksucker-blues

“Robert Frank isn’t that interested in satisfying your expectations as a viewer,” said Anthony DeCurtis, veteran music journalist and professional Rolling Stones fan. Frank’s 1973 documentary Cocksucker Blues features what DeCurtis calls “the strongest version” of the band, touring to promote Exile on Main Street and “playing their asses off.”

It’s also a movie few people have seen.

Under the terms of a settlement between Frank and the Stones, the film, which was never officially released, can only be shown four times a year. BAM snagged two of those spots for 2016, with screenings on September 22. (While both shows are sold out, but BAM assured us that there will be standby tickets released before each screening.)

Cocksucker Blues follows the Stones on their 1972 tour for Exile on Main Street. It was supposed to be the chronicle of a comeback, the first time the band had returned to the U.S. after the disaster that was Altamont in 1969, and they hired Frank, embedding him backstage, in hotel rooms and on their tour plane, to create a documentary along the way.

Needless to say they were not pleased with Frank’s final cut.

The finished product depicts heavy drug use and sex, including Mick Jagger snorting cocaine, a groupie shooting heroin and, yes, befitting the title, blowjobs. Still, given all we know about rock and roll culture in general and the Stones specifically, how does this documentary still possess the power to shock?

DeCurtis, who for a time possessed a VHS copy of the movie, though it mysteriously disappeared from his office, he told us, argues that a film like this simply wouldn’t be made today. (more…)

09/08/16 9:08am

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After playing at over 140 festivals, the award-winning documentary Landfill Harmonic is finally having a big screen debut in New York City. Co-directed by Brad Allgood and Juliana Penaranda-Lofus, the film follows the journey of one very unlikely children’s orchestra from the slums of Paraguay to arenas all across the world. Why so unlikely? Each instrument in the orchestra is made from garbage. (more…)

08/11/16 10:44am
Rooftop Films started showing movies at Industry City in 2015. Photo: Ethan Judelson

Rooftop Films started showing movies at Industry City in 2015. Photo: Ethan Judelson

It all started with a few flyers, a bed sheet and a rooftop.

In the summer of 1997, Mark Elijah Rosenberg founded Rooftop Films on the top of his East Village apartment building. He and a few friends, he said, “used a 16mm projector, tied a sheet to the wall, opened the door to the roof, and we had a film festival.” The turnout to see the collection of short films that Rosenberg had selected for the evening, driven mostly by word of mouth, was much larger than expected–so many people showed up that Rosenberg’s landlord promptly evicted him.

Even without a rooftop of his own, the film-obsessed recent Vassar grad and native New Yorker realized that he was hooked on curating screenings. It was, he recalled in a phone interview, “a real pleasure to watch strangers come and appreciate the night.”

Fortunately Rosenberg had friends to turn to. Joshua Breitbart and Dan Nuxoll, current Rooftop Films program director, were working to convert an old warehouse space on McKibben Street on the border of Bushwick and East Williamsburg into lofts. They allowed Rosenberg and Breitbart to build a screen and show films on their roof.

“There were no hipster restaurants let alone Michelin restaurants,” Rosenberg said wryly. “It was derelict buildings and car fires…for better or worse we were part of the change in that neighborhood.” (more…)

07/26/16 10:57am

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We’re in it. The hottest part of the year. Rooftop weather. Right now it seems like the long, steamy days, sudden thunderstorms and sultry nights will last forever, but one of the sweetest things about summer is how fleeting it always feels. Here are three ways to take full advantage of the season and get up on a rooftop, take a deep breath, absorb the view and appreciate the moment.

Get a drink

New York being a drinker’s paradise, the most obvious rooftop activity for summer months is cooling down with a glass of something cold, refreshing and, well, dehydrating. We visited Rooftop Reds in the Brooklyn Navy Yard earlier this summer and highly recommend ordering a rosé tasting flight followed by a bottle of whichever wine you enjoyed the most. They also have hammocks for post-sipping total relaxation.

BB contributor Ellen Killoran has a new favorite rooftop drinking venue this year. She writes: The Llama Inn rooftop bar has managed to create a near-impossible oasis from the city while being so close to the BQE that you can almost touch it (strategic design keeps the roadway hidden). The compact space above Williamsburg’s new Peruvian destination restaurant feels like a tropical getaway, somehow muffling the noise right outside. The Spanish and Latin American wine list will challenge the palate. The Bodegas Los Bermejos ($13) is not your typical bone-dry rose, and the Llama Del Ray ($13), their signature frozen Pisco-red wine punch, will make your tastebuds stand at attention. (more…)

07/21/16 11:18am

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We’ll need to get a few things out of the way before I tell you why Ghostbusters, both the original and the reboot, is a great movie, why it’s not *just* a fluffy comedy, and why you, as a card carrying New Yorker, should go see it immediately, as a point of pride and honor.

Ghostbusters is about GHOSTS and what are ghosts but our own projected fears? What could be more revealing about us as a culture?

Ghostbusters, the 1984 version, is probably the movie I have seen the most in my life.

•I did not view the much hated, and admittedly terrible trailer for the new movie until after I actually watched the movie itself.

•Like many critics of the new movie, I would much prefer a sequel or new chapter in the series to a reboot. And yet, it really is fun to watch and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

•Most importantly, they both highlight the impersonally communal experience of living in New York City.

In the endless, unsolvable internet battle* over whether or not the movie is funny, whether people who don’t like it are misogynists, and whether the critics who did like it and took the time to write about it are simply politically motivated feminists, the two sides keep pointing out that both versions are fluffy comedies that should never be expected to shoulder any sort of cultural burden at all.

That is just not true. (more…)

07/20/16 4:19pm

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When I sat down for a screening of Don’t Think Twice, the new comedy from Mike Birbiglia, I was in a mood. It had been a long day at work, I had just booked it across midtown in a most unfavorable pair of heels, and, frankly, I wasn’t all that excited about the film I was about to see. Many indie films are a slow burn, sure, but a feature length film about improv comedy subculture? I didn’t have the highest expectations. An hour-and-a-half later, discreetly trying to wipe my tears with my sleeve, I had zero desire to leave the theatre.

Don’t Think Twice, actor, writer, and comedian Mike Birbiglia’s sophomore feature film, is the story of an improv group known as The Commune working in a dingy New York theatre. The six of them work for small crowds and for even smaller sums, are often on the prowl for a modicum of something that can be deemed as success. They also seem totally blissed out in one other’s company, a series of friendships that have clearly withstood the test of time and some awful jokes. They’re led by Miles (Birbiglia), a 30-something improv teacher with an affinity for sleeping with his younger students and claiming he’s always inches, just inches away from making it big. Then there’s spunky but spoiled Lindsay (Tami Sagher), whimsical Allison (Kate Micucci), and slightly pathetic Bill (Chris Gerhard). Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key round out The Commune as Jack and Samantha, the romantic couple of the group. Although most of them live together in a crappy loft and pretty much all of the group suffers through a series of mundane day jobs, they’re happiest when doing what they’re best at: getting on a stage a few nights a week and fearlessly shooting the shit. (more…)