All posts by avivakempner

Ted Williams Doc Depicts a True American Hero

By: Aviva Kempner

Just when we need a good story about an American hero, Nick Davis’ The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, a compelling PBS documentary about baseball’s great Ted Williams, airs tonight on PBS stations at 9 pm. This moving show about Williams has all the elements of a great drama. His biography includes hidden family secrets, feuds with the press as well as his stellar hitting form, outstanding military bravery and taking a courageous stand for including Negro League veterans into Cooperstown.

Ted Williams is justifiably called baseball’s greatest hitter, yet his own parents never saw him play the game. As amazing as his hitting stats were when he played, Williams sacrificed having an even more spectacular career by serving in the military in both WWII and the Korean War. The film depicts how each time Williams returned from service he was hesitant about whether or not he could conquer his mental demons and physical wear and tear to get back into the game.

Unlike today’s injured players, we are not talking about healing a sprained ankle, but recovering from experiencing combat. What a feat when Williams came back from WWII to win his first AL MVP award. During the Korean War, Williams flew as a Marine combat aviator and again regained his MLB status.

The show also deals with the family background and psychology of this baseball slugger. Williams, whose mother was both Mexican and an active soldier in the Salvation Army, kept a distance from his Latin heritage. It is shocking to hear that such a super star never had either of his parents witness his talent at the stadium. That distance from family was also experienced by catcher Moe Berg, who later joined the OSS. As I am presently making a documentary about Berg, I am shocked to know his father never saw Berg play a baseball game either as a teenager or as a major-league player.

Although his parents were not involved in Williams’ playing career, the slugger was close to his own children. The film is enhanced by his daughter Claudia offering insights into her father’s life and Williams’ support to his son John Henry, who died of leukemia.

Narrated by Jon Hamm, a baseball fan himself, the documentary includes interviews with sportscaster Bob Costas, players Wade Boggs and Joey Votto, Williams’ biographer Ben Bradlee Jr, erudite MLB historian John Thorn and others. The show is produced by THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET, Nick Davis Productions, Big Papi Productions, Albert M Tapper Productions and Major League Baseball.

As the Red Sox maintain the best record in baseball this summer we are going to be reminded tonight of the legacy of such a great Boston baseball slugger and patriot that it will possibly move one to tears. I certainly cried for his courage both on and off the field.

Other sluggers who were contemporaries of Williams– like Joe DiMaggio, who was in active competition with him, and Hank Greenberg, who was friends with him, also lost many years serving in the military during WWII. I have always thought their stats in the baseball records deserve an asterisk explaining how they jeopardized even greater records defending America.

They just don’t make them like they used to.

Now the Oscar Glow is Gone: Time to Award the Passover Prize   

 Now the Oscar Glow is Gone: Time to Award the Passover Prize   
 By Aviva Kempner

For the last two years, I have been meaning to compose an essay listing those films or talent that I thought were unfairly ignored for Oscar nominations.

Although the Oscar glow has faded, I am still going to evoke those winners today because spring break gives people time to catch up on missed movies on DVD or digitally. Plus, we need some relief from tent pole action movies or the stormy and who’s fired nightly news.

Let’s call these entries, the Passover Prizes. Obviously, it’s a timely distinction as these honors are being announced just before the start of Passover, my favorite Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation from slavery in Egypt.

In the spirit of being ecumenical, I am declaring the prizes to be a decorated egg in honor of Easter, which is also celebrated this weekend. Being sensitive to the feminist wave that has finally swept Hollywood, we all know that only females produce eggs.

Rest assured these winners are going to capture your heart, make you cry or squirm in your seats, and make you feel that your lives are easy or calm in comparison.   Not to worry they will only encompass a few names, akin to those lovers who got away or the crushes that never materialized but one cannot forget.

Starting back two years ago, I want to award Passover Prizes to two fine actors starring in roles that have not escaped my memory and I could watch time and time again.

I cannot forget the outstanding performance that Dev Patel gave in Matt Brown’s illuminating The Man Who knew Infinity as Srinivasa Ramanujan, the genius, Indian-born mathematician who faced racism while studying in England during World War I. I can still picture the scenes of this committed vegan trying to sustain a healthy diet during wartime rationing and pursuing his studies among the skepticism of bigoted British scholars. Infinity was plagued by coming out early in 2016, which everyone knows hurts Oscar chances. It was also released before Lion, another Patel starred film set in India, which garnered the steam of the Weinstein machine driven Oscar campaign.

No actress riveted me more to my seat than Jessica Chastain as the tyrannical lobbyist in John Madden’s driven Miss Sloane in 2016. Playing a ruthless commander of the political system that allowed her to switch sides at the drop of a cause, Chastain surprisingly evoked both anger and respect from her audience. Her expertise in plotting strategy in meetings and the cold use of a male escort testified to her superb acting chops.   She showed us that equality meant not being a “nice guy,” but showing humanity when it counted.

Moving forward to 2017, two of the best supporting actor nominations should have been bestowed onto Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell in Dee Rees’ heart wrenching Mudbound.   Playing celebrated Southern white and black veterans in the Jim Crow South, their common World War II experiences bind them. The scenes of them sharing their wartime wounds are a hallmark in celluloid depictions of wartime trauma. The terrifying racism faced by Mitchell and the compassion shown by Hedlund made me wish that not only both had been nominated but had won in a tie. That award fantasy would have been a rich healing tool for co-existence that we so need in our present American political climate.

This movie is a must for understanding the difficulties of those returning from war to so-called normality. Nor is it a just a World War II phenomena. It should be required viewing for the new head of the VA and relatives of today’s vulnerable vets.

As I reveal my list of three 2017 foreign film titles that I thought deserved to be nominated, I realize how fixated I am on the power of war movies. It is not surprising to me as my all-time favorites range from Casablanca to The Bridge on the River Kwai and Schindler’s List.

From England to Hungary to contemporary Israel these trifecta of war themed movies explore serious themes and make you scream out of empathy and sorrow. Set in wartime London before the US joined the Allied forces, Lone Scherfig’s romantic Their Finest celebrates a screen writing team of British writers who is developing a feature intended to convince Americans to join the battle against the Nazis. Working and living amidst the constant German air attacks, life in London never looked more harrowing. The growing bond between the female writer, positioned in a secondary role, and the male screenwriter is a joy to watch as their unrequited love blossoms. But remember the best war movies do not have happy endings.

Foxtrot and 1945 are also war themed movies full of powerful and memorable scenes. Ferenc Török’s evocative 1945, which unfairly did not even receive the nod from Hungary to be an Oscar contender, is a black and white masterpiece that feels like a classic murder mystery.

Set right after the end of World War II, the film intercuts between the reaction of the non-Jewish occupants of a small Hungarian town terrified by the surprise arrival of two Orthodox Jewish men at the train station. As the elder and younger men transport their long boxes, the village people scurry around hiding obviously deserted Jewish religious items because they are worried that the two are coming back to reclaim their businesses or homes that have been taken over by the townspeople after the Nazi deportations. As the plot unfolds like a nuanced murder mystery, the inhabitants demonstrate contradictory reactions. 1945 gives the word homecoming a whole new mysterious meaning.

And the Israeli entry for the Oscars, Samuel Maoz’s challenging Foxtrot, was also overlooked. Starting with the story of a parent’s grief upon hearing of a son’s death, the film’s editing, photography and acting contribute to its poignancy. The movie moves to sometimes humorous scenes depicting the monotony of combat life as well as the moral challenges of wartime in the Middle East. The film challenges the glamour of heroism and duty often found in American action flicks.

So sorry these roles or movies missed being nominated, since they received less fanfare and smaller viewing audiences. I hope that by giving these performances or gems the Passover Prizes your interest will be peaked to watch what you probably missed.

Hoping some politicians will also see these films so they are reminded that war is hell, and prejudice is so damaging.

Just don’t forget to have Kleenex nearby. I assure you that there is not a rotten egg among them.

Seventeen Tribute Chairs

Seventeen Tribute Chairs

By Aviva Kempner

       In 2000, my nieces and I picketed in front of the Vice President’s mansion after Al Gore was not declared the winner.  When a news reporter asked my niece Delaney, aged 10, why she was protesting, she replied “I am scared of guns in the schools.”

It’s eighteen years later, and the situation has gotten worse. Our kids are being shot and are even more scared of guns being in their schools. As parents and aunts and uncles and Americans we must take a stand on gun control.

Here is one way you can demonstrate your desire for reform. My neighbors Elaine, Julia, three neighbor kids, Grace, Mateo, Xavier, and I created a memorial in honor of the 17 who lost their lives in Parkland in anticipation of the March for Our Lives coming this Saturday, March 24th.

I suggest that all those in the Washington area and around the nation also create a symbolic tribute to the victims.  For our tribute, we placed 17 lawn chairs out on my front lawn. The last chair was placed to its location by Congressman Jamie Raskin with help from my friend and landscaper Donald.

Try doing the same. Or be creative by using wooden stakes, balloons, empty shoes, or anything you can find to symbolize the loss of these 17 lives and the thousands of others that have gone before them.

Just a warning: if it is going to rain or snow cover the signs in plastic because the weather ruined our first signs.

Let us unite to demand how we need gun reform now. We need Congress to hear the cries of the innocent victims, the young folk and the grieving relatives.

In the words of the button made by my school teacher friend:

LET’S LOVE OUR KIDS MORE THAN OUR GUNS!!!!!!

 

Filmmaker and writer Aviva Kempner is a DC voting rights advocate.

How This Year’s Oscars Became a Feminist Game Changer

How This Year’s Oscars Became a Feminist Game Changer 

“I believe the 2018 Oscars are going to have a lasting influence,” writes documentarian Aviva Kempner

​Link: https://www.thewrap.com/oscar-mcdormand-feminist-game-changer-aviva-kempner/

​Frances McDormand, a week has passed since the Oscars, and I’m still fired up by your speech.

The highlight of attending this year’s ceremony was when you symbolically lowered your much-deserved masculine statue down on the stage, and called on all the nominated women to stand. Your recitation of “inclusion rider” validated a legal concept that needs to be shouted throughout the land.

I was moved to tears and stood up cheering your inspiring gestures from my nosebleed seat at the Dolby Theatre.

The only thing that would have made me happier is if I had been able to give you the gun reform button — “Love Your Children More Than Your Guns” — that I had in tow. My vision was of you wearing this miniature billboard for the world to see. I presented one to Allison Janney while secretly wishing her “West Wing” character was presently working in the White House.

I believe the 2018 Oscars are going to have a lasting influence. The nomination for “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison has already challenged me to hire beyond the norm. I employ a mostly female staff members and editor, and was inspired to use a female cinematographer for my L.A. shoot last week. My search was unsuccessful, but I am now committed to hiring a woman DP for future shoots.

Several 2018 nominees have given audiences game changing insights. The most empowering female portraits — Meryl Streep’s female newspaper publisher fighting for the Fourth Estate in “The Post” and McDormand’s grieving mother demanding justice in “Three Billboards” — were most liberating. Thanks Jordan Peele for your “Get Out,” a stirring horror story about race and eye opener to white society. And kudos to Sebastian Lelio for writing and casting Daniela Vega in such a moving trans love story as “A Fantastic Woman.”

Other Hollywood actresses have also led the charge. The expressions of solidarity with the #MeToo and #Timesup movements at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards were so encouraging.

These thespians’ courageous acts inspired me to come to the Oscar ceremony sporting this accessory about our society’s gun issues, because lawmakers in my Washington, D.C., hometown are not calling for reform. Using words expressed by one of the Parkland student survivors, a D.C. school teacher was my designer. I finally managed to hand McDormand a button two days after the Oscars when she was introducing an amazing new film, “Rider,” directed by the talented Chloe Zhao. At its reception, I observed how the outspoken actress’ words were already reverberating in Hollywood. I overheard a male producer bragging that he was hiring two female directors for future film projects.

I left L.A. singing, “Is this the start of something wonderful and new,” from the Oscar-winning song from last year’s “La La Land,” “City of Stars.” I told my airport Lyft driver, an actor of African heritage named Lamarana Bah, that this new Hollywood era should be helpful finding roles.

I swear I stood taller arriving in my Washington on Women’s International Day. And I did not waste any time employing my expanded height. I rushed to proudly attend a private screening of the most enjoyable “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by the tenacity of D.C.-based producer Catherine Hand. It is one of the largest budgeted films ever directed by a woman of color.

I returned late at night to find a newsletter that lauded those contributing to the creation of an embassy statute without mentioning any of the women who had also worked on the art project. I sent off emails criticizing the exclusion, and sure enough those in power agreed to correct the errors.

I feel McDormand’s message traveling with me as I am working today on a new feminist tale, “Pissed Off,” about how the female senators fought to secure a bathroom for themselves in the Capitol since there had not been women elected to that legislative branch before 1932. Hollywood inspired this story too — the idea came to me listening to a panel last year at The Wrap’s Power Women Breakfast in D.C.

I expect that McDormand’s call for action and advancements in 2018 will be reflected at next year’s ceremony. How about a woman hosting the Oscars? Bring back Whoopi!! Expect another nomination for Morrison’s work on “Black Panther,” and numerous nods for diverse and female nominees.

Meanwhile, there is a most pressing matter. To those women in Hollywood who have led the way please join us here in D.C. on March 24 to walk the streets calling for changes in U.S. gun laws. We need your talent and notoriety to demand that legislators finally demonstrate compassion and wisdom to protect our youth.

Frances, we need you here to billboard the message. And if you have misplaced the button I gave you, don’t worry — we are making many more.

The Timely Accessory I’m Wearing to This Year’s Oscars By Aviva Kempner

Link to Original Article: https://www.thewrap.com/what-wearing-oscars-aviva-kempner-gun-control/

“I only wanted to wear an accessory that reflected the courageous responses of the young adults who survived the Parkland, Fla., shooting,” writes documentarian Aviva Kempner.

What a thrill to win the lottery for a ticket to attend the 90th annual Oscars ceremony. I am even more excited to be going as a member of the Academy, and pinching myself in disbelief.

I had attended years ago as the grateful guest of my dear cousin, director Arthur Hiller. Back then I went through all the mishegoss worrying about what to wear and how to get my hair done in an elegant style. (Not that anyone is going to care about what a middle-aged, out-of-town documentary filmmaker was wearing that evening or any time for that matter.)

This year I have a much different concern even though the first questions all my friends asked was, “What dress and jewelry are you going to wear to the ceremony?” Without missing a beat, I answered that this year no designer dress, even if I could afford one or fit into its narrow dimensions, was going to represent the look I wanted to achieve in 2018.

As a citizen of Washington, D.C. — whose population is unfairly denied any voting representation in Congress — I only wanted to wear an accessory that reflected the courageous responses of the young adults who survived the Parkland, Fla., shooting and the parents who tragically lost their teenage children.
So, I don’t care that I selected a previously worn, long red Indian caftan that I just grabbed from my closet. The only thing I am concerned about is what button I am wearing.

I was lucky enough to discuss this dilemma on Sunday with a teacher I knew sitting next to me at a reception for the unveiling of a statue of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., who was violently killed by a bomb planted in the car he was driving on the street of Washington, D.C., in 1976. His co- worker Ronni Karpen Moffit also died in this insidious attack planned by the Chilean military government.

Without missing a beat and in the spirit of a dedicated teacher, she volunteered to help me create my fashion statement. And I mean literally make my accessory.
She came over to my house and inspired by words spoken by one of the Parkland survivors a button design was born. Sitting in my backyard this educator produced a couple dozen buttons for me and friends to wear and pass out at the ceremony.
I have always thought that teachers are so grossly underpaid and taken for granted for all they do in our society. And this educator, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a gracious phantom thread to my Oscar costume.

So thanks to this preschool teacher, armed only with her creativity and crayons, and with no desire to ever arm herself with a gun in the classroom, I possess the grandest of fashion statements for the Oscars.

As a Washingtonian who is most upset that Congress time and time again has not passed stricter gun control measures to allow our children to go to school in a safe environment, this is what I am going to wear on Sunday.

anti guns button.jpg

Watch AVIVA saying goodbye to her beloved car VIOLETA

On August 3rd, Aviva sadly parted with her beloved Violeta, after 11 years of devoted service.

Hope you enjoy Avivas teary farewell ceremony with her loyal staff before Violeta was shipped away into junkyard hell.
IF only Violeta could talk she would relate the scandalous gossip that went on within her doors as Aviva talked about everything from baseball to politics to movies and about her beloved nieces while illegally using her cellphone.  (and that is not a iPhone, young ns)
Violeta deserves a purple heart (much more than Trump) for being recklessly parked in numerous narrow spots and not screaming as she was rear ended constantly by her crazy owners driving.
What saved Vioelta from being wrecked either at her bust or tusch were the empowering license plates she wore with great pride while parked in DC.  The plates read:

4DCVOTE (which Hillary supports)

I am not sure what Aviva will buy next as always she claims she is the only person who grew up in Detroit that knows nothing about cars.
She did know a cute car when she saw it.
ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Two Great Television Shows to Stream this Summer

Summertime and the living is streaming. I am still not sure how this whole process of streaming operates but I have succeeded in figuring out how to record my favorite shows or watch them on demand. I can say that many of my friends, especially those of a senior age, are not so talented. Remember always ask young people for help.

My newfound capabilities have enabled me to expand my infotainment intake, and I suggest watching two cable shows about aspects of our American history that make for great drama. Try figuring out how to access them if you missed them when they first aired.

The Americans on FX is an incredible story about a Russian couple posing as American travel agents living amongst us in the Washington, DC area during the Reagan era while actually spying for the Soviets. These KGB agents try to cope with danger while bringing up two children and the facing the morality of their actions. You will have to do a lot of catch up because the show already aired for four seasons, but it’s worth every suspenseful episode.

Underground on WGNA is a riveting series of how slaves were submitted to horrible conditions in the South and how a group organized an escape from their plantation against great obstacles. While on the run, they encountered cruel bounty hunters but were also aided by a few abolitionists with a conscience. The difference between the house and field slaves is bluntly portrayed as well as the toll slavery took on everyone. The ending of the seasons introduces a character that will motivate you to keep on watching when it starts up again.

Kudos to these cable stations for providing us drama that can offer us glimpses into our American past, and better understand the long lasting effects of the Cold War and slavery in the South that shapes our country in the present.

Good luck on trying to access the shows.

Kate Winslets The Dressmaker, International Hits Screen as Filmfest DC Celebrates 30 Years (Guest Blog)

While other American states are enduring primaries,, the Nation’s Capital has been celebrating 30 years of movies premiering at Filmfest DC, Washington, D.C.’s International Film Festival, this past week and through the weekend.

This year, the festival opened with Jocelyn Moorhouse’s hilarious and poignant “The Dressmaker,” starring Kate Winslet as the sophisticated dressmaker coming home to see her elderly mother – played with a devilish twinkle by Judy Davis – and unearth what caused her exile at a young age.

Read the full post at theWrap.com, here!

Watch CONFIRMATION on Saturday Night- But Not Alone

This Saturday night, HBO will offer Americans a great lesson in democracy by airing Confirmation, a movie about Anita Hill’s Senate testimony on Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1991. This airing is also timely because America needs to be reminded how the Senate Judiciary Committee works whenever a vacancy occurs on the Court and how the present Republican leadership’s refusal to hold a hearing for our President’s nominee Merrick Garland is undemocratic.

The other theme addressed in this upcoming drama— sexism both in the work place and in the all male Senate committee back then— are also current as voters have an opportunity to finally vote for an excellent and experienced female candidate for President.

I remember all too well being glued to the television day after day watching the hearings and feeling so shocked about the sexist complaints Hill felt compelled to report about Thomas. My anger only increased hearing the chauvinist treatment from the male Senators. Plus the hearings brought to mind the sexist treatment I had faced in my own past and had buried deeply in my brain. My friends confessed that the hearings also brought up ugly memories for them.

That is why Anita Hill is such an important heroine for so many of us women. With talented actress Kerry Washington playing Hill, I am sure you will identify with the scandals that women encountered back then and are still facing in the work place and in their personal lives.

I just suggest you not view the show alone, especially if you’re a woman, because the issues call for discussion. Call or email some friends to come over and watch the show together. I organized such a group showing by emailing friends this afternoon.

Hopefully after you finish watching Confirmation and discussing the issues with your friends please contact the Republican leadership in Congress and insist that hearings be held for nominee Garland. And then go rent or buy Freida Mock’s Anita, her excellent 2013 documentary on Anita Hill, and discover how this brave woman succeeded in her career in spite of confronting sexual harassment at work and hostility at Senate hearings.

And just hopefully both Garland and Hillary Clinton will also succeed in their challenges.

Women Directors are not asked their opinions, so what else is new?

In the April 1-8 edition of Entertainment Weekly (page 22) there is an article discussing which Hollywood directors would encourage the release of movies put forward by Sean Parkers Screening Room for same day release in your home.  Cleverly, writer Nicole Sperling decided to survey directors about what they thought of this so-called new concept of viewing films in ones living rooms on opening day. (Seems to me like Netflix has capitalized on this concept already.)  She found 5 people were for the new system and 5 opposed it. Maybe it is a new concept with first day releases, but what is not new is that the 10 directors pictured for the survey were all men.

Are so many female feature directors out shooting movies that they could not be reached for their opinions?  Or does EW editors and writers not have the pictures of these female directors on file?

Just another example of Middle Age Madness when Hollywood and those who cover the industry cannot seem to remember that only one gender, apparently, are able to direct feature films.
I don’t know what makes me more furious: That it was written by a women writer in the entertainment industry who seems clueless as to how to best cover the male hegemony at a critical time when women directors are suing for recognition and continue in making noise about discrimination.

Or that it’s discouraging that that the story focused on famous directors and they are all male.

Maybe the male species was only surveyed because they are usually the couch potatoes?

For what it’s worth EW I believe that audiences should first see movies released on the big screen.  But of course that is a MAM thought since I was raised on the joy of watching films larger than life.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Oscar Residuals

Although the Oscars are ancient history by this point a few of us still smile when recalling how Chris Rock nailed the white elephant in the room and left us with laugh-induced bellyaches. After his routines, my annual wish for political statements to be made at the Oscars was fulfilled to the brim.

I do hope that audiences will change their behavior after what they heard at this year’s Oscars ceremony. Listening to one of Rock’s pleas I bought even more Girl Scout cookies than usual and served them at my annual betting party for how many games my local baseball team, the Washington Nationals, will win. I have also been inspired to renew working on a long-standing concept for a television series that celebrates diversity, and I have criticized a friend for not including any speakers of color at her otherwise wonderful women’s program. And I have advocated for more diverse representation in the documentary branch.

But on another front I have not been very successful. My personal efforts to talk friends into seeing some of the Oscar winner’s great performances and movies have failed. I pride myself on seeing most of the nominated movies and performances, and even before the nominations are announced. I advocate that they see those movies as soon as they are release. But some friends just won’t go see a movie with “tough” themes, and winning a golden statute does not seem be enough incentive.

These films with hard-to-watch scenes because of the realistic depictions of suffering have resulted in some excellent performances. I was enraptured by Leonardo DiCaprio’s brilliant performance in The Revenant. I thought the movie captured the brutality, especially as directed toward the Native American population, and beauty of our country’s history of manifest destiny. Mexican director Alejandro Gonzàlez Iñàrritu and director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki so deserved their statues. These well deserved accolades given to two citizens of America’s below the border neighbors only prove that art is best realized on the screen not by building walls between our countries but by allowing the free flow of ideas and talent.

Yet my efforts to entice friends, especially of the female persuasion, to see this frontier epic went mostly unheeded. As a matter of fact one male acquaintance said to me “you are the only woman I know who saw the movie.” Without going into a detailed discussion about the perceived squeamish female factor in movie going, I just have to say both male and female movie goers are missing a spectacular vision of the settlement of America. Women don’t need to see Leonardo only sinking in a ship for love to know what a talented actor he has always been.

A similar reaction manifested when I enthusiastically encouraged family and friends, especially children of Holocaust survivors, to see Làszlò Nemes’s Son of Saul. The movie’s demanding sound effects, Géza Röhrig’s heart wrenching acting and the close up camerawork so bravely portray the horrors of Auschwitz. I told the Hungarian director, whom I had the honor to meet, that I believed his brutal depiction of the horrors in the death camp was so close to what I imagined my murdered grandparents and aunt and surviving uncle faced there. Kudos to Sony Pictures Classics for nurturing this foreign film’s release.

I also faced hesitation from moviegoers when I encouraged them to see the performance by the recipient of the best actress award, Brie Larson, for her nuanced acting in The Room. They expressed reluctance to watch a movie about a mother who has been raped and held in captivity while caring for a son born under such horrible circumstances. What they are missing are the command performances of a mother who surrounds her offspring with an incredible fantasy world. The Room is one of the most inspiring stories of a mother going to great lengths to care for a child by creating an imaginary bubble of survival rarely seen on the screen.

I don’t know the numbers of how the Oscars winners are faring on the income charts as my survey stems from personal anecdotes. I just hope that Hollywood and the independent community will still make and distribute these “difficult” subject films.

I was also inspired by Sarah Gavron’s Suffragate that is the best-underrated and under viewed film this season. The scenes of how British working class women faced horrible working conditions and unequal status in their marriages still resonate in my head. Depicting the courageous and even militant suffragette fight in England for women’s voting rights was captivating and so timely. What better film to see this year when Hillary Rodham Clinton will hopefully capture the Democratic nomination and lead America in 2017.

So I can only hope that moviegoers will see both the so called fun movies and also the serious ones. I certainly alternate going to both. Maybe the reluctance to deal with the moving and depressing realities of the past and today’s world is the horrible news we are receiving daily from all over the world.

This rejection phenomenon just occurred just now among my email boxes. I had proposed to several friends to see Atom Egoyan’s Remember, about Holocaust survivors planning to take revenge an Auschwitz Nazi guard on a cross-continental journey, at my local independent Avalon Theatre.

But the majority of my buddies expressed more interest in seeing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Turns out that Remember was an engaging thriller with a twist, so glad my friends agreed to go with me. Although a humorous wedding flick trumps a celluloid depiction of genocide for some of my friends, I am glad I went with my film going instincts.

Why Ed Asner’s Solo Show Is Like ‘The Vagina Monologues’ for Older Men (Guest Blog)

The 86-year-old actor offers a frank — and very funny — take on men’s health in “A Man and His Prostate”

A show about prostate problems that plague older men does not strike one as a comical subject. But when lines about male issues are being delivered out of the mouth of the quintessential curmudgeon, an 86-year-old Ed Asner, this delicate topic is gut-wrenching humorous.

Read my full guest blog on The Wrap.com, here.

How ‘Son of Saul’ Director Feels He Succeeded Where Other Holocaust Movies Have Failed (Guest Blog)

Not surprisingly, László Nemes’ wrenching “Son of Saul” was recently nominated for a Golden Globe award and shortlisted for the Oscars, as well as landing on most film critics’ best-of lists. Ever since the film won the Grand Prix at Cannes in May, its young director has been rightly praised for this brilliant and realistic portrayal of survival in Auschwitz in 1944.

Nemes was recently in Washington, D.C. presenting his masterpiece. He explained how he started making the film “10
years ago when he was just 28 years old.”

Read my full guest blog on The Wrap.com, here.

Gun Reform Needs Help From Hollywood (Guest Blog)

A couple secretly hoarding a cache of guns and plotting their nefarious political goals as they go about leading a “normal” American life while nurturing their offspring. This storyline is most familiar to those of us who are fans of FX’s “The Americans,” the story of Soviet spies posing as a model American couple with kids while violently taking out enemies of Mother Russia. Both scenarios include a garage full of weapons, and a couple clandestinely plotting evil acts. While the hit television show returns for its fourth season in 2016, the real life couple’s double lives came to a brutal end thanks to rapid police response.

Read my full guest article on The Wrap.com, here!