Film & Television

Boston Jewish Film Festival Celebrates Storytelling And Heritage

By Jared Bowen   |   Tuesday, November 2, 2010
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The Boston Jewish Film Festival runs through Nov 14th at local theaters, including the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

2010 marks the 22nd Anniversary of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and in that time, its mission has kept consistent and clear.
“We began as a way to showcase films with Jewish themes from around the world, and we’ve pretty much stayed that way,” says Sara Rubin, artistic director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
“We focus on very contemporary films. Sometimes we push the envelope a little bit, if it’s a fiction film, but we want either the theme or the characters to the Jewish. We don’t really care about who directed the film, or who acts in it. And if it’s a documentary, most things from Israel are going to be fair game.”

Being steeped in the Jewish experience certainly hasn’t limited the appeal of this festival, especially for film lovers simply looking for good films that wouldn’t come to Boston otherwise. And for Boston’s Jewish community, says Sara, “I think that film festivals are a place where Jews who might be a little uncomfortable in a more organized setting—a synagogue for example—can come and be comfortable exploring their Jewishness.”
In terms of “place”, the “place” Sara refers to is the community that gets built each year through the festival, and continues year-round. The festival itself is housed in a number of venues, primarily the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline and the Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, there are a number of screenings in the suburbs, including the West Newton Cinema and Arlington’s Capitol Theater.
One of the highlights of festival is the film Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.

View the trailer for
Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story

Sara explains, “It’s a wonderful, wonderful film, and what it does is touch upon something that has obviously struck a nerve.”
Directed by Peter Miller (who grew up in Lexington) and narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story confronts an old stereotype: That Jews are not athletic. It does this by exploring the historical connection between Jewish Americans and the nation's pasttime.
“It’s the puny Jew versus the strong athletic Jew,” says Sara. “I think that there are a couple of really strong characters that have resonated with audiences.  Certainly, Sandy Koufax by not playing on Yom Kippur, and Hank Greenberg who did the same. They’re both real giants, both physically… and um… sort of morally.”

View the trailer for Socalled

Sara also recommends a couple of hidden gems, including one called The Socalled Movie, about a very quirky artist called Socalled. Who is he?
Socalled’s real name is Josh Dolgin, and he’s from Montreal.  I’d say that he is kind of a ‘schlump,’ which is a Yiddish word for someone that’s sloppy.  He’s taken Klezmer music, which is an old music from Eastern Europe, and has added hip-hop music to it. He’s got quite the following among Klezmer and hip-hop types alike."
“We’ve shown more traditional Klezmer films, and this one is a little bit cutting edge. So I hope people will go, because they’ll see something different. That’s what we try to do with the Festival.”
The Boston Jewish Film Festival is underway all the way through November 14th.

Moviola's "So Called" Review

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Can You Endure This Horror Movie Marathon?

By Jared Bowen   |   Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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From the left: Superfan Generoso Fierro, Mark Anastasio and Jesse Hassinger

It's an understatement to say that Mark Anastasio knows horror movies. His office at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, where he is the assistant program manager, is crammed with more movie posters and action figures than office supplies. This guy knows horror movies the way Ted Williams knew hitting and Stephen Hawking knows physics.

So what makes a great horror movie? To Anastasio, it's a pretty specific formula. “It has to be made from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. That’s step one," Anastasio says. "Step two is that either Tom Savini or Rob Bottin should have done the makeup effects and special effects for it. And step three is that it needs to have been directed by John Carpenter.”

This connoisure of cinematic gore is one of two men responsible for the lineup at the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, a 12-hour sensory overload of live music, psychic readings, popcorn and — of course — plenty of blood and guts on the big screen. 

“It’s a really great endurance test for horror film fans,” says Anastasio. “Half the fun I have is going around at like 9 a.m., seeing what the status of the place is.  Seeing who’s still here… what the smells are like.  Our projectionist one year equated it to an actual crypt. It gets funky.”

The funk starts at the Coolidge Corner Theater this Saturday at midnight and it doesn’t stop until noon on Halloween Day. Hundreds of horror movie geeks, film buffs and curiosity seekers will pack into the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Some will stay for a movie or two and maybe a laugh. A few will be in it to win it, enduring six feature films ranging from the campy to the terrifying.
If you’re hoping to hear a preview of all of the films that you can expect to see on the big screen, well... “I can definitely talk about two of them,” says program manager Jesse Hassinger. Jesse is a refugee of Los Angeles who fled back to Boston to become the Coolidge Theatre’s lead programmer. He shares Mark’s facial hair and his enthusiasm for this year’s line-up, especially Saturday night’s double-feature.

View the trailer for House

“This year there’s a movie called House, which is a 1977 Japanese film, that just got… well, I don’t know if 'rediscovered' is the right word… but ‘rediscovered’ by Janus Films. It’s a crazy, wild, insane movie that is equal parts Japanese pop and LSD trip.”
The second part of the double-feature is the 1980s horror classic Re-Animator, which isn’t just celebrating Halloween, but a birthday as well.

“This is the 25th Anniversary year,” Jesse says. “It’s definitely a horror movie classic—HP Lovecraft influenced.  It has a great mix of humor and gore goes to extremes on both sides.”
So, which title is the bigger draw? The subtitled, LCD-trip Japanese Pop, or the Cult Classic celebrating it’s big 25?  According to Jesse, it’s neither.

View the trailer for Re-Animator

“I think the biggest draw are the four films that we’re not advertising.”
Mark agrees, “The dawn hours… and maybe even close to 9AM… yeah, there’s gonna be shear brutality. I challenge you to come to this thing and stay until noon.  I’ll be there at noon the next day and if you’re there shaking my hand, you are a true horror movie fan.”
And if that’s still not enough for you, “We do have a ghost that’s rumored to live in the theater,” says Jesse. “So, maybe we will hear from that ghost this year."

Moviola's Halloween Must-Sees

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Richard Sherman and Saving Mr. Banks

Thursday, December 12, 2013
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If you grew up loving the music from Disney's biggest hit movies, Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book, then you are among the millions whose hearts were touched by the talented Sherman brothers.

The songwriting duo, Robert and Richard, are characters in the new film Saving Mr. Banks, opening in theaters today, and they are caught in the middle of a battle of wills between the driven filmmaker Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, the immovable author of the beloved book, Mary Poppins.

alt title
Songwriter Richard Sherman on the set of Open Studio with Jared Bowen (Photo: Meredith Nierman)

The new film explores how Disney ultimately appeals to the author with the musical tributes to her characters, crafted by the Shermans. Combing through her Poppins books, the brothers found minor characters like Burt, the chimney sweep, and brought them to life with fantastic musical numbers. The brothers struck a chord with Travers by conveying the deeper meaning of her story--how kindness can change people--with a beautiful song built upon the book's details. "Feed the Birds" becomes a moving and pivotal part of the story, and is based upon a scene in the book where a woman is selling breadcrumbs on a London street.

In a 2011, when Richard Sherman was in town helping to bring Mary Poppins to the stage, he sat at the piano for an interview with Jared Bowen and he talked about creating those songs.

Richard Sherman's interview on Greater Boston

Another Disney hit film, The Jungle Book,  came to life on the Huntington Theater stage this past September, and Sherman again helped to reshape the popular tunes into musical numbers. This time on Open Studio, Sherman said Disney asked their team to find the bright and cheerful within the dark and frightening book by Rudyard Kipling. alt title Sherman said the creative team had fun and worked in a spoonful of happy-go-lucky to some of the jungle characters. He called assignments from Disney "a gift" because he and the other Imagineers working in the Disney empire were given license to create their best. "They jumped higher than they ever thought they could jump because Walt said you could do it," Sherman explained.

Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney in the film Saving Mr. Banks. Revealed is the untold backstory of how difficult it was to bring Mary Poppins to the screen. Disney's determination, combined with the talented people he could motivate, was still not enough for him to prevail in the clash over the film's process. But when Disney reached into his own childhood, he began to understand Travers. Together the author, the filmmaker and the songwriters set Mary Poppins free to become one of the most endearing films in cinematic history. And even after the images have faded somewhat from memory, we can still sing the words to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", but never try to say it backwards!

The Age of Endurance: John Wilson and More

Thursday, August 1, 2013
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Death in Paradise

Monday, July 22, 2013
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These Amazing Shadows

Monday, December 24, 2012
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About the Author
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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