Hankin, ’16 Acres’ appeals to the human side of politics

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When it comes to politics there are generally two sides of the fence: you’re either interested, or you aren’t. Then there are the rare moments when an event is so catastrophic, a policy so egregious, that everyone, young and old, find themselves getting involved whether they like it or not, out of moral obligation or personal vendetta. The devastating tragedy of September 11, 2001 is one of these. However, busy as we are supporting our troops, admonishing our government, or going about our lives with an air of indifference, it is perhaps the revelatory spotlight on the question of what to do with the 16 acres of land where the twin towers once stood that has plagued the nation—especially New Yorkers; a question whose answer lies in the celluloid folds of Richard Hankin’s aptly-named biographical documentary, 16 Acres.

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Wild in Wichita

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“Act your age.” It’s a phrase all of us have heard at one point or another, usually voiced by a parent or other magisterial figure upon discovering some sort of uncovered mischief. Many times, the phrase is as warranted as it is stiff in meaning, especially in regards to children, young adults, and even the middle-aged authoritarians that youth often finds itself in subjugation to. But when does staunch despotic naysaying apply to the elderly: those who for most of our lives would keep us from swallowing gum or “borrowing” items that don’t belong to us? Watching Denise Blasor’s Wild in Wichita, the answer might surprise you.

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Coast Modern, Architecture For The Soul

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Is life composed of hard edges, or soft curves? In this elliptical documentary on the architectural wonderment of modernism and its steadfast metamorphosis over the last eighty-plus years, filmmakers Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome travel the Pacific Northwest in an effort to capture the essence of a spirituality we won’t find at the local synagogue or mosque, but in the very bones of our own homes. Coast Modern tries to establish not so much a style of living, but a way of life in its up-close-and-personal investigation of a series of homes and establishments belonging to the few who’ve decided to forgo the privacy and security of the enclosed enclaves most of us probably find ourselves in.

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‘Cow Power’ turns the lights on

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Global warming is an issue that has garnered bursts of widespread attention in both mainstream media and flyers on the walls of local colleges, with an impact as concerted as it is aloof. Films about the “inevitability” of our ill-fated demise (2012, An Inconvenient Truth) stand toe-to-toe with those rallying against the supposed absurdity of such a notion (The Great Global Warming Swindle). In a sort hilarious twist of irony, there may be a bigger issue at hand here, one that connotes the idea of a hell-on-earth as defunct.

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I Think It’s Raining

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It is with this in mind that I was struck by how at odds I felt about the actors’ ability in conjunction to the film’s style and narrative. Undoubtedly a by-product of the director’s decided dismissal of maintaining strict coherence of his script, throughout the narrative Renata and Val carry on Linklater-esque conversations in an awkward, pause-filled manner that initially induces a sort of ticking time-bomb dread.

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Tom Cawley’s “Something” is Anything but “Nothing”

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While higher-budgeted docs filled with even bigger names might elicit the awe of that Hollywood intangibility, Cawley’s down-to-earth subject matter, and even the subjects themselves, bring us into the story of our own lives. We don’t want to be the people on-screen, these celebrities of sight and sound and tactile surfaces, but rather we wish to paint the stars of our respective destinies with the footnotes of these men and women’s successes, failures, moments of elation, and of suffocating despair. They are, in a word, human.

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Ferrante brings back Groucho Marx

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Just then, the lights begin to dim as a loud voice comes on over the loudspeakers, the once-deafening shouts of a crowd in conversation with itself dying down as a spotlight follows impresario and tonight’s host Stefan Haves down the right side of the theater to the main stage. Mr. Haves is known for “frequently drawing on LA talent to re-invent physical theater, circus, and clowning — stubbornly breaking every artistic wall in a town whose theatrical conventions and filmic traditions often tend toward maintaining that stubborn ‘fourth wall’ [pasadenaplayhouse.org].”

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Smiling Through the Apocalypse

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Smiling Through the Apocalypse, if you haven’t already Googled it yourself already, is a documentary that focuses on Esquire magazine during the sixties. Specifically, during the sixties under the helm of editor Harold T.P. Hayes. The story goes something like this: during one of the most turbulent decades unseen since the Civil War era, editor and provocateur Howard Hayes is remembered as having stepped up to take the falling star that was Esquire, and put it back in the sky. The film’s summary goes on to describe a man who not only led a team behind some of the most varied polemical writing styles and iconoclastic subtleties, but did so under the caveat that each and every day could easily lead to (and oftentimes did) disaster riddle in controversy.

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The Ruby Cabaret

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As I breach the intersection where “blvd.” meets “way”, I notice an adjacent baseball field where middle school adolescents play a game next to fenced off basketball courts and children playing tag. It is memorable to me because the rays of sunlight peeking through the chain links surrounding the field cause me to raise a hand in order to see. But the sun soon goes down, and soon I no longer need to shield my eyes. Just in time, too – a crowd is beginning to form outside one of the Elephant Stage’s five doors I had mistaken for a restroom entrance earlier in the evening.

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