Film: Defiance in the Old South

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “Free State of Jones,” directed by Gary Carr. “The Free State of Jones” is based on a true Civil War story, a little known story, because its subject matter is in a controversial gray area. Here we have Newton Knight (a spot-on Matthew McConaughey at his scraggly, unkempt, bearded best), a Confederate…

Muhammad Ali: 1942-2016

  In tribute to Muhammad Ali, who died on June 3, we are reprinting this biographical film review, “‘Ali’ is good … but not the greatest,” from our January 2002 issue. By JOE AUCIELLO “Ali,” directed by Michael Mann, starring Will Smith, Mario Van Peebles, Jon Voight. A Columbia Pictures release, 2001 (rated R, 158…

Laura Poitras: Astro Noise

By CHRISTINE MARIE “Astro Noise,” Whitney Museum of American Art, Feb. 5 – May 2, 2016. In the “Seeds of Time,” Frederic Jameson famously wrote of our cultural moment, “It seems to be easier to imagine the thorough-going deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due…

Eye in the Sky

By JOE AUCIELLO “Eye in the Sky,” (2016), a film directed by Gavin Hood, written by Guy Hibbert, with Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. The arc of the suspense story is familiar enough. Begin the tale in normal times, introduce a disruptive element whose threat deepens until it is ultimately destroyed, and conclude with a…

Party time? A review of two classics

By BARRY WEISLEDER Is it time to build an international revolutionary workers’ party? James P. Cannon consistently said yes. Isaac Deutscher, for most of his adult life, said no. Both were highly esteemed Marxists, selflessly dedicated to workers’ self-emancipation. But their difference on this crucial point amplified important political divergences. Some 45 years after their…

Film: The Danish Girl

By JOHN WILSON “The Danish Girl,” 1 hr. 59 min., directed by Tom Hooper. “The Danish Girl” is a mesmerizing, moving account of how transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (originally Einar Wegener) came to be one of the first persons known to have gender reassignment surgery. Adapted from David Ebershoff’s fictionalized novel of 2000, it features Eddie…

Trumbo — The Hollywood witch hunt

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH TRUMBO, written by John McNamara, from the book by Bruce Cook. Directed by Jay Roach. With Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, and Diane Lane. Hopefully, word of mouth will encourage the general public to see this engaging film, in part because of the contemporary relevance of its focus on the consequences of not…

The anguish of racial oppression

By JOE AUCIELLO  Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me” (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015), 152 pp., $24. When Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke to an overflow audience at Boston College last October as a distinguished guest of the Lowell Humanities Lecture Series, he was introduced by the Law School dean as a new voice in…

A new look at 1959 novel about Trotsky

By JOE AUCIELLO Bernard Wolfe, “The Great Prince Died: A Novel About the Assassination of Trotsky,” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959/2015), 416 pp., $18. Credit the critical and popular success of two recent novels, “The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver and “The Man Who Loved Dogs” by Leonardo Padura, for this year’s re-publication of this…

Film: Battleground of home foreclosures

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “99 Homes,” a film with Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and Laura Dern. Written and directed by Rahmin Bahrani. “99 Homes,” set in Florida, is an excellent socio-economic film that could have been a documentary. I’m glad it isn’t. It is a well-acted, powerful drama based on the 2007-9 economic collapse, when banks…

Film: A racist killer on trial

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH  British filmmaker Marc Silver’s documentary, “3 ½ Minutes 10 Bullets,” mainly consists of the trial of Michael Dunn, the killer of Jordan Davis, a Black teen. It plays out like television’s “20/20” or “Dateline” production, with no commercials. Despite the current inflamed debate on racial injustice, director Silver offers us a cool-headed…

Film: Mad Max Fury Road

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH I liked “Mad Max Fury Road” much more than I thought I would. Critics seemed to focus on only the action, of which there was scads—relentless, spectacular, and loud. Cirque du Soleil gone gritty: Men clinging to the tops of swaying poles attached to souped-up speeding cars while blasting with automatic weapons.…

Film: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

By CHRISTINE MARIE  “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” a documentary film directed and produced by Mary Dore, 2014.  When the noted documentary filmmaker Mary Dore set about to tell the story of the beginning of the feminist movement that burst onto the scene in the mid-1960s, she could find no funders. Dore was supported when…

British government betrayed its hero

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH and JOE AUCIELLO The Imitation Game, a film biography directed by Morten Tyldum, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly. Director Morten Tyldum has crafted an excellent fictionalized film biography, “The Imitation Game,” based on the book, ”Alan Turing: The Enigma,” by Andrew Hodges. The film portrays Turing as an intelligent though troubled man,…

Climate change demands a radical solution

BY EVAN ENGERING “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate”, by Naomi Klein, 566 pages, Knopf Canada, September, 2014. The latest book of Naomi Klein, the influential Toronto-based journalist, author, and activist, may live up to its ambitious title, “This Changes Everything.” In it, Klein turns her thorough, eye-opening brand of investigative journalism to the…

A challenge to myth of male dominance

By CHRISTINE MARIE Book Review: Adrienne Mayor, “The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World.” Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Marx and Engels, when developing their understanding of the relationship between class society and the oppression of women, relied heavily on the ethnology and archaeological science of their day. They wrote…

Mockingjay: Revolution will be televised

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Part I, directed by Francis Lawrence, with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. How to build a revolution: Start with a tyrannical, revengeful president with a well-armed military; add a charismatic, self-effacing, yet heroic persona whose homeland was destroyed by his government; enhance with a wise, capable rebel…

Snowden speaks in ‘Citizen Four’

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH It is chilling to know for a fact that since 9/11/2001, the U.S National Security Agency, NSA, has been tracking phone calls from ATT and Verizon, and also bank activity, internet searches, and all social media sites used by every person in America. It also tracks our credit card purchases—on the internet…

‘Vietnam’: Riveting but flawed documentary

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “The Last Days of Vietnam,” a documentary film produced and directed by Rory Kennedy. Director Rory Kennedy, daughter of environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, has created a riveting and heartwarming, yet heartbreaking, full-length documentary film, “The Last Days of Vietnam,” which takes place in South Vietnam from 1973 to 1975, the last…

Genet’s revolutionary ‘The Maids’

By MARTY GOODMAN “My sleepers will flee toward another America.” —Jean Genet As a New Yorker, I make sure to avoid Broadway’s annual run of middle-class junk. But in August, a production by the Sydney Theatre Company of Jean Genet’s great 1947 play “The Maids” got me shelling out bucks. I’m a big Jean Genet…