Review: ‘Call Jane,’ starring Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver

January 5, 2023

by Carla Hay

Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver in “Call Jane” (Photo by Wilson Webb/Roadside Attractions)

“Call Jane”

Directed by Phyllis Nagy

Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago, from 1968 to 1973, the dramatic film “Call Jane” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A lawyer’s wife becomes involved with the Jane network, a group of mostly women who provided abortion services in the Chicago area when it was illegal at the time. 

Culture Audience: “Call Jane” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver, as well as people interested in dramatic movies about what life was like for middle-class women in the late 1960s to early 1970s, before the Roe vs. Wade case in 1973 that gave federal legal protection for abortion in the United States.

Elizabeth Banks in “Call Jane” (Photo by Wilson Webb/Roadside Attractions)

“Call Jane,” a drama that takes place from 1968 to 1973, is both a look back into the past and a look into the present and future of anyone who cannot get access to a safe and legal abortion in the United States. When “Call Jane” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year, abortion had federal legal protection in the U.S., ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade case in 1973. In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with the court’s decision allowing individual states to determine their respective abortion laws.

“Call Jane” is told from the perspective of a fictional, middle-class woman who gets involved in the Jane network, an underground abortion network in Chicago, beginning in 1968, when she sought a illegal abortion for herself. Some of the comedic moments in “Call Jane” are awkwardly placed, and a few of the characters become dangerously close to being parodies. However, the movie is intriguing overall in portraying a pre-Roe v. Wade female perspective of abortion in the U.S.

Directed by Phyllis Nagy, “Call Jane” uses a lot of fact-based elements of the real-life Jane network and blends them into a story with fictional characters. The 2019 film “Ask for Jane” (written and directed by Rachel Carey) did the same thing, but “Call Jane” has a much higher caliber of talent in front of and behind the camera than “Ask for Jane.” Both films have flaws and are centered primarily on white, middle-class women, when the reality is that women of various demographics used the abortion services of the Jane network. However, “Call Jane” (written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi) is a better movie overall in every way and doesn’t look like a mediocre made-for-TV film in the way that “Ask for Jane” does.

In “Call Jane,” the main protagonist is Joy Griffin (played by Elizabeth Banks), a homemaker and wife of an attorney named Will (played by Chris Messina), who works in criminal justice. Joy and Will live in Chicago, and they have a teenage daughter named Charlotte (played by Grace Edwards), who’s about 13 or 14 years old. At the beginning of the movie, it’s 1968, and Joy is pregnant.

The movie’s opening scene shows Joy and Will are leaving a lawyers’ convention which has a police barricade outside because of anti-Vietnam War protestors outside. Joy sees police brutality against the protestors as she and Will drive off. He comments with some relief that Charlotte is too young to get involved in the anti-war, anti-establishment movement. Little does Will know that Joy will soon become involved in a “radical” movement of her own.

Joy thinks that she has an ideal life. She has a good and loving family. She helps her husband with his legal briefs. “Honey, you make me sound like Clarence Darrow,” Will says appreciatively.

One of Joy’s best friends is her neighbor Lana (played by Kate Mara), a widow whose daughter Erin (played by Bianca D’Ambrosio) is a friend of Charlotte’s. Lana identifies as a conservative Republican. It’s hinted that Joy is also a registered Republican, but Joy likes to think of herself as more open-minded and more liberal than most Republican mothers.

Things take a turn in Joy’s life one day, when she is dancing with Charlotte in the kitchen to a Velvet Underground song when Joy suddenly collapses. She’s rushed to a hospital, where she gets a grim diagnosis: Her pregancy is causing her to have cardiomyopathy (congestive heart failure), and the doctor says the only medical treatment to stop it would be to have an abortion.

However, in Chicago in 1968, abortion is legal only if it is approved by an authorized board of medical professionals. In Joy’s case, the decision is made by an all-male group of doctors. She’s told that she has a 50% chance of living if she does not terminate the pregnancy. The doctors vote unanimously to not approve the abortion.

Joy doesn’t get much help from Dr. Campbell (played by Joel Brady), her obstetrician/gynecologist, who tells her that another option to get a legal abortion would be for Joy to pretend that she’s suicidal. Dr. Campbell would then get notes from psychiatrists to approve the abortion. Dr. Campbell’s secretary has an even more dangerous suggestion: “Just fall down a staircase. It worked for me.” Fearing that she will die as a result of the pregnancy, a desperate Joy goes to a seedy abortion place in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, but she backs out of the abortion, because she feels that the abortion will be botched by the unsavory people who are in charge.

Joy then finds out about the Jane network through flyers posted on a street. The flyers say, “Pregnant? Anxious? Get Help! Call Jane.” Joy calls the phone number on the flyer, and she discovers that the Jane network offers confidential and anonymous abortions. Because everything is illegal in this process, Joy sees firsthand that the paranoia and precautions involved in the Jane network are on the level of a well-coordinated spy network. People uses aliases and code names and are driven to secretive locations for the abortions.

Joy is terrified during her abortion, but after it’s over, she is surprised and relieved by the counseling and comfort that she receives from the women in the network. During her abortion experience, Joy meets several of the Jane network’s key players. They include strong-willed feminist leader Virginia (played by Sigourney Weaver), who founded the Jane network; outspoken Gwen (played by Wunmi Mosaku), who drove Joy to the abortion location; and compassionate Maeve (played by Evangeline Young), who is among the first women in the group to advocate for the Jane network to offer free abortions to women who can’t afford their price.

The only man who’s part of the network is an abortionist named Dean (played by Cory Michael Smith), who says he’s a doctor with training in obstetrics and gynecology. He is the person who performed the abortion on Joy. Dean’s bedside manner is often arrogant and abrupt to the women who are in his care, but the Jane network relies on him because none of the women in the group has medical training. Later in the story, Dean demands more money for his payment, so the women have to decide how much they need Dean to be a part of their group.

After talking to the members of the Jane network, Joy finds out how much help they need, and she decides to become a part of the network as a volunteer. Joy’s intention is to help other women, many of whom are even more desperate to have an abortion than Joy was. Joy keeps her Jane network activities a secret from everyone she knows who is not part of the network.

At first, Joy lies to Will by saying that she’s taking an art class, to explain her absences when she would usually be at home. When Will complains to Joy that she isn’t spending as much time at home like she used to do, Joy responds by saying, “I need to be with other people who think and do.” The trailer for “Call Jane” already revealed that Will finds out about Joy’s involvement in the Jane network. Will is concerned about Joy going to jail and worried about losing his attorney license if people discover that he knew about Joy’s illegal activities and did nothing about it.

“Call Jane” has some hokey “rah rah feminism” type of dialogue that sounds like made-for-TV slogans instead of realistic conversations. One thing that “Call Jane” does a much better job of portraying than “Ask for Jane” does is how the Jane network had a lot of in-fighting and disagreements among its members. One major point of contention was in how to decide who deserved to get free abortions. Virginia wants it to be a random selection from low-income women, while other Jane network members think the decision should be done on a case-by-case basis of who is the most in need.

The issues of race and socioeconomic class are also authentically discussed in “Call Jane.” Gwen, who is the only woman of color in the group, has to constantly remind the other Jane network members to think outside their privileged bubbles to have more empathy for people of different races and lower incomes who have worse abortion hardships than the average middle-class white woman. During a heated argument (in one of the movie’s best scenes), Gwen points out that African American women in the Chicago area are less likely to be able to afford a safe abortion and are more likely to die from botched abortions. Gwen calls it a form of “black genocide,” which Virginia scoffs at as a “batshit” concept.

As for Joy, she becomes friendly with Gwen, but it’s mostly a superficial relationship that doesn’t extend to Joy showing an interest in having Gwen in her life for the long haul. The movie has some racial stereotyping, by having Gwen show Joy how to smoke marijuana. It’s as if the movie is saying that out all the left-wing, progressive types that Joy is now hanging out with in the Jane network, the only black person in the group is the only person who needs to be singled out as a habitual pot smoker.

Joy’s main conflicts are with abrasive Dean, because she thinks he’s toxic to the group, and he doesn’t offer the compassionate care that she thinks the abortion patients deserve. In real life, the Jane network never had anyone die from the abortion services that the Jane network provided. It was important for the Jane network to also have a reputation for offering meaningful counseling to abortion patients, which is something most underground abortion groups didn’t do at the time. Joy eventually finds a way to deal with Dean, but the movie doesn’t do a good-enough job in convincing viewers that neophyte Joy comes up with this solution, and that other more-experienced people in the Jane network (even whip-smart leader Virginia) couldn’t think of it earlier.

If viewers are wondering if any of the characters in “Call Jane,” are based on real people, there are similarities to some of the real-life people in the Jane network. Joy is probably based in part on Judith Arcana (also known as Judy Pildes), a prominent Jane network member married to an attorney. Virginia is no doubt based on Heather Booth, who is credited with founding the Jane network. Gwen is most likely based on Marie Leaner, the most prominent African American member of the Jane network.

If people want to learn more about the Jane network by watching a movie, the best one is the 2022 HBO documentary “The Janes,” directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes. (Arcana, Booth and Leaner are all interviewed in “The Janes” documentary.) Not as comprehensive as “The Janes” but worth seeking out is the 1995 documentary “Jane: An Abortion Service” (directed by Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy), which had a limited release in theaters and was originally televised on PBS.

All of the cast members in “Call Jane” are very good in their roles, with Weaver being an obvious standout because of her acting talent and because Virginia has the strongest personality. “Call Jane” would have benefited from telling viewers a little bit more about the lives of Virginia and Gwen, who are the two Jane network characters other than Joy who get the most screen time and dialogue. In many ways, Virginia and Gwen are much more interesting than Joy, who comes across as a little bland, although Banks does an admirable job with the way the character was written. The biggest failing in “Call Jane” is not showing enough diversity in the abortion patients who get some kind of focus in the movie, when this diversity of abortion patients existed in real life for the Jane network.

Nagy’s direction of “Call Jane” is solid but occasionally disjointed. For example, the movie veers off into a very clumsily depicted and rushed plot development about Joy becoming the target of a police investigation, led by an undercover cop named Detective Chilmark (played by John Magaro), in a very short section of the movie. “Call Jane” should have spent more time on this plot development to bring more tension to the story. Before this plot development, the most tension that Joy gets from the Jane network is arguing with Dean.

“Call Jane” doesn’t have enough of anything that can be considered special or extraordinary filmmaking. And it’s not a movie that is going to change people’s minds about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. However, for viewers looking for a dramatic version of female empowerment taking place in the early years of the American feminist movement, “Call Jane” is a worthy option.

Roadside Attractions released “Call Jane” in U.S. cinemas on October 28, 2022. The movie was released on digital and VOD on December 6, 2022. “Call Jane” was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 13, 2022.

Review: ‘Till,’ starring Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett and Whoopi Goldberg

October 2, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jalyn Hall and Danielle Deadwyler in “Till” (Photo by Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures)

“Till”

Directed by Chinonye Chukwu

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1955 in Illinois and Mississippi, the dramatic film “Till” features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After her 14-year-old son (and only child) Emmett Till is murdered in a racist hate crime, Mamie Till-Mobley fights for justice in a system where white supremacy is enabled and enforced. 

Culture Audience: “Till” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Danielle Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as to people who are interested in well-acted biographical stories about the civil rights movement in the United States.

Danielle Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg in “Till” (Photo by Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures)

The heartbreaking and inspiring drama “Till” admirably tells the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley and how she not only fought for justice for her murdered son, Emmett Till, but also how she became an often-overlooked pioneer in the U.S. civil rights movement. Even though the events in “Till” take place in the 1955, everything about the movie remains relevant, as long as people are getting murdered, abused or harassed simply because of race or other parts of their identities. Danielle Deadwyler gives a stunning and emotionally stirring performance as a humble woman who channeled her grief over her murdered son (who was beaten, shot and lynched) into positive activism that has far-reaching effects that can be felt for years to come.

Directed by Chinonye Chukwu, “Till” could have easily been yet another civil rights movie about a crusading lawyer, a law-making politician, a famous activist with a large following, or a hate-crime victim. And although these characters are definitely in “Till,” all of these characters in this history-based movie are male. It’s rare that a movie about the U.S. civil rights movement focuses on an African American woman, even though African American women have been the backbone of many important social movements in the United States.

“Till” had its world premiere at the 2022 New York Film Festival in New York City. At the New York Film Festival’s “Till” press conference, which took place on the morning of the gala premiere, filmmaker Chukwu said that she didn’t want to direct the movie unless it centered on Till-Mobley. The movie’s producers agreed, and Chukwu presented her vision of the story, which included a rewrite of the screenplay to focus on Till-Mobley’s perspective. (Chukwu co-wrote the “Till” screenplay with Keith Beauchamp and Michael Reilly, two of the movie’s producers.)

It turned out to be the correct decision. One of Chukwu’s strengths as a director is in making great casting choices. Deadwyler, in the role of Till-Mobley, anchors the movie in a way that is the epitome of portraying inner strength and an ordinary person who becomes an extraordinary catalyst for social change. The movie also shows in subtle and not-so-subtle ways how grief and pain can be turned into something positive that becomes much bigger than being about just one person.

Many people watching “Till” might already be familiar with the name Emmett “Bo” Till and might already be aware of how the racist torture and murder of this innocent 14-year-old boy in 1955 was a turning point in the U.S. civil rights movement. The movie “Till” brings him to life in the performance of Jalyn Hall, who depicts Emmett as an outgoing and fun-loving teenager who liked to hang out with his friends and occasionally flirted with girls who caught his attention. People who know Emmett very well usually call him by his nickname Bo.

Born in 1941 in Chicago, Emmett was raised in Chicago, where his mother Mamie worked as an educator. Emmett was Mamie’s only child. In 1945, Emmett’s military father, Louis Till, died at the age of 23 in combat during World War II. Mamie then had a short-lived marriage (lasting from 1951 to 1952) to Pink Bradley, with the marriage ending in divorce. Mamie grew up in her home state of Mississippi but had relocated to Chicago in search of better work opportunities and a less oppressive racial environment.

That doesn’t mean racially integrated Chicago or anywhere is immune to racism. An early scene in “Till” shows Mamie shopping in a Chicago department store and asking a white store clerk about an item. The store clerk suggests to her that she shop in the basement, which was his way of saying that he didn’t want black customers to be shopping in the store’s main area.

With her head held high, Mamie looks him in the eye and calmly asks him, “Do the other customers know that too?” In other words, “Are you telling the white customers the same thing? Probably not.” It’s the first sign in the movie that Mamie is not going to play the role of a head-bowing, foot-shuffling servant, and that she can stand up for herself with intelligence and class.

In 1955, Mamie was in a happy and supportive relationship with Gene Mobley (played by Sean Patrick Thomas), who would eventually become her husband. Gene would become one of strongest sources of support during the family’s ordeal. Mamie and Gene didn’t legally marry until 1957 (two years after Emmett’s death), but they referred to each other as spouses, in a common-law way.

In August 1955, Mamie allowed Emmett to visit some of her relatives near Money, Mississippi, as part of his summer vacation. In the movie, perhaps out of a maternal instinct and concern, Mamie is apprehensive about sending Emmett to Mississippi by train on his own. At a time when racial segregation was legal and enforced in the South, she warns him that that “there are a different set of rules” for people who aren’t white in the South.

Emmett thinks that Mamie is being overprotective and maybe paranoid. Mamie’s mother Alma Carthan (played by Whoopi Goldberg) thinks so too. Alma tells Mamie that it’s time that Emmett be more independent since he’s close to being an adult and has to learn how to do things on his own. While Mamie says goodbye to Emmett the train station and he boards the train, she has a sudden look of fear on her face, which could be interpreted as a premonition that something terrible might happen to Emmett.

In Mississippi, Emmett stays with the Wright family, who are relatives on his mother’s side of the family. They include Emmett’s great-uncle Moses Wright (played by John Douglas Thompson); Moses’ wife Elizabeth (played by Keisha Tillis); and their son Maurice (played by Diallo Thompson). Moses makes money as a seller of cotton, and he oversees other African American men who pick cotton in the fields.

Emmett is expected to help out with this field work while he’s in Mississippi, but a city boy like Emmett immediately dislikes this type of physical labor. In the cotton fields, Emmett complains that picking cotton is a “square thing to do” (in other words, it’s too “country” for him), and he doesn’t take the work seriously. Instead, he sometimes goofs off on the job, such as pretending to pass out and getting a laugh when he reveals that nothing is wrong with him. It’s an example of Emmett’s impish sense of humor but also his naïveté at how different the lifestyle is for his working-class relatives in rural Mississippi, compared to the middle-class lifestyle he has in a big city like Chicago.

Maurice, who is in his late teens or early 20s, is a stern taskmaster who constantly warns Emmett not to be so cavalier about work and being an African American in an area where African Americans are targeted for lynchings and other hate crimes by white racists. During his stay in Mississippi, Emmett hangs out with Maurice and two of Maurice’s teenage pals who also work in the cotton fields: Wheeler Parker (played by Gem Marc Collins, also known as Marc Collins) and Simmy (played by Tyrik Johnson). Maurice is the unofficial leader of this group of friends.

When Emmett playfully flirts with some white teenage girls nearby, Maurice tells Emmett that he better not act that way with any white people, or else he could be killed. Emmett doesn’t take this warning seriously, because in his young life, he has personally never known anyone who was killed because of racist hate. And in Chicago, it’s not taboo for black people and white people to interact with each other.

One day, when Emmett, Maurice, Wheeler and Simmy have some time off from work, they hang out in front of a small grocery store. Emmett goes inside to buy a bottle of soda. The cashier behind the counter is Mrs. Carolyn Bryant (played by Haley Bennett), a white woman in her late 20s or early 30s. Emmett is friendly and open with everyone he meets, so he greets Carolyn with a smile and looks directly in her eyes.

In this racist area, where a black person is expected to act fearful and deferential toward white people, Emmett’s friendly confidence immediately makes Carolyn fill uneasy. She glares at him suspiciously has he pays for his soda. Emmett then tells her as a compliment, “You look like a movie star.”

Carolyn stares at him as if she can’t believe a black person is talking to her in this way. Emmett is oblivious to her silent hostility and takes his wallet and shows her a photo of actress Hedy Lamarr that he keeps in his wallet. “See?” Emmett says to Carolyn, as a way to point her physical resemblance. Carolyn looks even angrier, but Emmett doesn’t seem to notice.

Instead, Emmett cheerfully waves goodbye. And as if to make it clear that he thinks that Carolyn is pretty, she looks back at her and gives a flirtatious whistle. Carolyn is so incensed at this point, she leaves the counter to get a shotgun, which she plans to aim at Emmett. When Emmett sees that he could get shot but this angry racist, he suddenly understands the enormity of the situation.

Emmett runs outside while Carolyn follows him with the shotgun in aimed at him. Emmett and his pals quickly get in their truck and drive away before the situation escalates. Maurice is furious when he finds out what Emmett said and did. Maurice immediately wants to tell his father what happened, but Wheeler and Simmy convince Maurice to keep it a secret between the four of them.

However, this incident isn’t kept a secret by Carolyn. A few days later, her husband Roy Bryant (played by Sean Michael Weber) and his half-brother JW Milam (played by Eric Whitten) force their way with guns into the Wright family home, kidnap Emmett, and take him in their truck, where Carolyn and a few other men have come along for the ride. After Carolyn identifies Emmett as the teenager who flirted with her, Emmett is taken to an isolated farm area.

“Till” does not show on screen what happened to Emmett after he was kidnapped, but the movie does have some disturbing sound effects that don’t leave any doubt that he was tortured and beaten. At the New York Film Festival press conference for “Till,” Chukwu said she made a conscious decision for the movie not to show any physical violence against “black bodies.” It was the correct choice, because showing this type of violence could be thought of as exploitation and gives too much agency to the murderers.

Mamie finds out that Emmett has been kidnapped. Friends, family—including Mamie’s father, John Carthan (played by Frankie Faison), who is divorced from Alma and has remarried—as well as other people in the African American community join Mamie in their frantic search for Emmet. And then, they get the devastating news three days after his abduction that Emmett was found murdered (he was beaten and shot to death) in the Tallahatchie River. These scenes are heart-wrenching to watch.

Overwhelmed by grief, Mamie’s first priority was to get Emmett’s body returned to her so that he could be buried in Chicago. She wasn’t thinking about becoming an activist. But after seeing his disfigured and bloated body (which is replicated on screen), Mamie makes a crucial decision to let Emmett’s body be photographed and published by the media.

Mamie also decides that his funeral would be an open-casket funeral, where the thousands of attendees could see for themselves what the horrors and evils of racism look like up close. As Mamie says later in the movie when she tells reporters how she felt when she saw Emmett’s dead body: “My son came home to me reeking of racial hatred.”

The rest of “Till” takes viewers on an emotional journey as Mamie uses her inner strength to get justice for Emmett, which was also really a battle for anyone else wronged by a racist American society. Along the way, she meets some influential people who help her and teach her how to navigate being a civil rights activist with the agendas of politicians, lawyers and the media. Mamie also became more involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a result of her political awakening.

Rayfield Mooty (played by Kevin Carroll), a Chicago labor who also happened to be Mamie’s second cousin, was instrumental in putting Mamie in with the NAACP. In the movie, Rayfield is the first person to bluntly tell Mamie that she has to think strategically. “It would be a good opportunity for a politician to take on Emmett’s cause in an election year,” he advises her.

Her other allies include NAACP attorney William Huff (played by Keith Arthur Bolden), who was recommended to Mamie by Rayfield; civil rights activists William Medger Evers (played by Tosin Cole) and Myrlie Evers (played by Jayme Lawson), Medger’s wife. “Till” shows how the murder of Emmett was just the beginning of the trauma, since murder trial was a continual barrage of racial inequalities that gave preference to the white defendants. Although it is widely believed that several people were involved in Emmett’s murder, only Bryant and Milam went on trial for the murder.

The murder trial in September 1955 (a quick turnaround, considering the murder happened just a month before) is an example of how there are often two types of justice, based on the races of the people involved. Although many “Till” viewers will already know the outcome of the trial before seeing the movie, it doesn’t make the outcome any less impactful. “Till” has a lot of riveting scenes that are meant to upset and enlighten people.

“Till” also shows that sexism against women also played a role in how Mamie was mistreated and misjudged by bigoted members of society during the media coverage of the trial. (Her morality was attacked because she had been divorced, which is criticism that would have been less likely to be inflicted on a divorced man.) She was also advised to not look angry in public, even though she had every right to be angry about what happened to her only child.

And that’s why it’s important for this movie to be shown from a female perspective. In 1955 American society, Mamie didn’t have the privilege of being a church leader or a chapter president of the NAACP, since those leadership positions were almost always were held by men. Even in the early civil rights movement, women were rarely allowed to give long and passionate speeches in public. It’s why what Mamie accomplishes goes beyond racism but also speaks to how she dealt with gender inequalities within the civil rights movement.

“Till” also shows in effective ways the burden of guilt that the women in Emmett’s family feel because they made the decision to let him take that fateful trip to Mississippi. One of Goldberg’s best scenes in the movie is showing through her body language the heavy heart that Alma must have felt in knowing that she was the one to convince Mamie that Emmett needed to go to Mississippi on his own. When Alma breaks down in tears and expresses an outpouring of guilt to Mamie, it’s an example of how trauma often makes loved ones feel responsible for what happened, or feel like they didn’t do enough to protect their loved one, even though it wasn’t their fault.

The movie also accurately depicts that Mamie did not become an activist overnight. It was a gradual process as she began to understand that no one else could be a better advocate for Emmett than she was. Mamie did not ask to become a public figure who was thrust into the spotlight. It was a calling that she answered, out of love and necessity.

Chukwu brings solid direction to “Till,” with many artistic choices in sound, production design, film editing, music, costume design and cinematography. It would be tempting for any filmmaker to make “Till” look like a sweeping epic melodrama. But thankfully, Chukwu and the other “Till” filmmakers refrained from making “Till” look like a social justice soap opera. An over-the-top tone would ruin the whole point of the movie, which is to make the story relatable.

“Till” shows in many ways that the horrific crime that happened to Emmett and his family can, has and does happen to ordinary, law-abiding people through no fault of their own. And, just as importantly, the movie helps people understand that you don’t have to come from a rich or privileged background to make a difference in society. “Till” arrives in theaters in the same year that the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden on March 29, 2022. The law now makes lynching a federal hate crime in the United States.

The technical aspects of “Till” work very well for the movie, but the story unquestionably has a particular resonance because of how Deadwyler and the rest of the cast members fully embody their characters with authenticity. Even when experiencing so many indignities, Deadwyler shows through her nuanced and outstanding performance how Mamie remained dignified and steadfast in her search for justice. “Till” is a necessary reminder that the work of Till-Mobley and other civil rights advocates is far from over, because racism is everyone’s problem, not just the problem of the people who are targets of this hate.

Orion Pictures will release “Till” in select U.S. cinemas on October 14, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on October 28, 2022.

Review: ‘The Janes,’ starring Heather Booth, Judith Arcana, Marie Leaner, Dorie Barron, Martha Scott, Diane Stevens and Laura Kaplan

June 7, 2022

by Carla Hay

A 1972 photo of Jane members in “The Janes” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“The Janes”

Directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes

Culture Representation: The documentary “The Janes” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few African Americans) discussing the Jane network, a Chicago-based group of mostly women who provided abortion services and counseling before the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade made abortion legal on a federal level in 1973.

Culture Clash: The Jane network had to be an underground, outlaw group when abortion was illegal, and some members got arrested for homicide in 1972. 

Culture Audience: “The Janes” will appeal primarily to people interested in a fascinating documentary about reproductive rights and people who believe in a woman’s right to choose if or when to have a child.

A 1972 photo of Jane members in “The Janes” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Regardless of how people feel about abortion, “The Janes” documentary is not only a history lesson about what life in America was like before Roe v. Wade but it’s also a compelling reminder of what’s at stake in reproductive rights and family planning. One of the best things about the movie is that it doesn’t give the narrative over to politicians. Instead, the story is told mostly from the perspectives of people who were involved with the Jane network, the Chicago-based underground group that provided abortion services and counseling at a time when abortion was illegal in Illinois and most other states in America.

The Jane network, whose origins began in 1965, disbanded in 1973, when the U.S. Supereme Court case Roe v. Wade made abortion legal on a federal level. The Jane network got its name because people who needed the services were told to ask for someone with the code name Jane when contacting the network, which advertised through flyers and through word of mouth. The outreach began on college campuses but then extended to many other communities in the Chicago area, including low-income and underprivileged communities.

Directed by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes, “The Janes” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary begins with a harrowing personal story told by Dorie Barron, who got two abortions when abortion was illegal. She got the first abortion at a place that turned out to be disreputable: “I just wanted it over with,” Barron says of the abortion. “I had no other options. I was that desperate.”

Barron also remembers that because of the outlaw nature of this procedure: “It was [like] the mob. You had to talk in code.” “Chevy” meant the abortion cost $500. “Cadillac” meant that the abortion cost $750. “Rolls Royce” mean that the abortion cost $1,000.

Barron vividly recalls that as she was waiting to get her abortion that there were “three men and one woman, who brought another patient. They spoke all of three sentences the entire time: ‘Where’s the money? Lie back and do as I tell you. Get in the bathroom.'”

This cold and uncaring attitude wasn’t the worst of her experience though. After the abortion, she and the other abortion patient were sent to a hotel room. Barron says she was bleeding profusely and decided to get professional medical help for herself, knowing she’d be at risk of being arrested if the medical professional who treated her wanted to report her for having an abortion. “If I had stayed in that hotel room, I’d be dead,” Barron says emphatically.

Barron says she had her second abortion with the Jane network, which she describes as giving her a “total opposite” experience compared to her first abortion. With the Jane network, Barron says: “All I heard were kind words, consideration, concern. When I tell you they changed my life, they changed my life.”

Barron’s story is an example of how the Jane network distinguished itself from the incompetent patient care that other underground abortionists provided. According to “The Janes,” the Jane network is estimated to have performed about 11,000 abortions, with none of the patients dying as a direct result of these abortion procedures. It’s an astounding feat, considering all the horror stories before Roe v. Wade of women and girls who died after getting illegal abortions.

The documentary includes disturbing details of septic wards in Chicago hospitals where women and girls with botched abortions often received improper treatment and sometimes died as a result. Those who didn’t die were at risk of being arrested. Several people in the documentary say that the Jane network was different from other abortion groups because the Jane network was led by women, and the services included empathetic counseling in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere.

The Jane network’s origins began in 1965, when activist Heather Booth was a student at the University of Chicago. A friend, who was also a University of Chicago student, was raped, and the rape victim was unfairly shamed for being “promiscuous.” In 1965, Booth also became involved in the Freedom Summer Project, an activist event. “And during that summer, I learned you have to stand up to legitimate authority,” Booth says in the documentary. “Sometimes, there are unjust laws that need to be challenged.”

Booth states that the turning point for her to become a reproductive rights activist was when a friend told her that his pregnant sister was suicidal because the pregnancy was unwanted. It motivated Booth to start an underground abortion service that ended up growing into the Jane network, whose official name was Abortion Counseling Service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union. Booth says in the documentary that when she launched this service, she was referred to Dr. T.M. Howard, a medical professional who could perform abortions. When she started getting more people to refer to Dr. Howard, she knew there was a demand to have an underground network.

“The Janes” documentary has interviews with several other women who worked in the Jane network, including Judith Arcana (also known as Judy Pildes), Marie Leaner, Martha Scott, Diane Stevens, Eleanor Oliver and Laura Kaplan. The documentary also features interviews with women who used the Jane network’s abortion services (or took a friend to the Jane network) but who only wanted to be identified by a first name in this movie. They include women identified by the names Abby, Eileen, Crystal O., Jeanne, Peaches and Sheila.

After Dr. Howard was arrested for performing illegal abortions, Booth was referred to someone who is interviewed in the documentary and uses the alias Mike. When Mike worked with the Janes, he used the code name Dr. Kaplan, even though he was never a medical doctor, but he received abortion training from a real medical doctor. The Jane network found out that Mike wasn’t a real doctor, but continued to use his services out of necessity until they parted ways with him because of money issues.

Mike says he got involved in doing Jane network abortions because it paid about “four or five times” the amount of money that he could make from doing construction work. He says he didn’t get personally involved with any of the patients’ feelings or problems when doing abortions. “It was a job,” he says nonchalantly in the documentary. By his own admission, Mike eventually had a falling out with the Jane network when he wanted to get paid more money than the network could give him.

Leaner comments on Mike: “I thought he was a blowhard, sort of a con man and a showman and a wise guy. But I also thought that he had a heart.” Mike wasn’t the only person doing abortions for the Jane network. Many women of the Jane network eventually performed abortions, even though they were not medical doctors either. It’s mentioned in the documentary that they did so because licensed medical doctors did not want to get involved or would charge too much money.

Because of the secretive nature of the Jane network, it was standard practice to talk in code. “The Front” was the term used for the waiting room. “The Place” would be the place where the abortions procedures happened. Women and girls who needed the abortion services could use aliases, although they often had to provide the real phone numbers where they could be contacted. In an era before the Internet or burner cell phones, it was a lot harder for people to get temporary contact information that couldn’t be traced back to them.

However, the Jane network had a confidentiality policy not just for their clients’ protection but also for their own protection. It’s mentioned in the documentary that the Chicago Mafia got involved (no doubt through payoffs for protection), which is typical of any illegal operation that attracts the Mafia. At a time when the overwhelming majority of attorneys, doctors and clergy were men, the Jane network also had male allies in these professions who would secretly offer their services to Jane clients.

Speaking of attorneys, Arcana’s lawyer husband (who has a surname that is not Arcana) is also interviewed in “The Janes.” At his request, he is only identified in the documentary by his first name: Michael. He says that he and many of his mostly male attorney peers did not want to get involved in abortion issues at the time, not only because abortion was illegal then but also because civil rights attorneys such as himself were more focused on race relations and had little to no interest in women’s rights.

Still, Arcana says that being a white woman married to an attorney helped a great deal when she and six other Jane network members were arrested in Chicago for homicide on May 3, 1972, because of the abortion services that they provided. The arrestees were Arcana, Scott, Stevens, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Pariser, Sheila Smith and Madeleine Schwenk. (Ironically, nearly 50 years to the day later—on May 2, 2022—the news website Politico revealed a U.S. Supreme Court leaked draft suggesting that members of the court are preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade.)*

Arcana, who had recently given birth at the time of her 1972 arrest, says in the documentary that she had certain privileges that she knew would work to her advantage when it came to getting out on bail. Arcana comments, “Not only was I a nursing mother, I was a college graduate, a white woman, and married to a lawyer. And all of those things were going to get me out on bail. And boy, did I not disbelieve that.”

Because most of the Janes were privileged white women (many were homemakers, college students and full-time activists), they often came from very different backgrounds from many of the low-income people who needed the Jane network’s services. When New York state made abortion legal in 1970, and certain women in the Chicago area could afford to travel to New York for abortions, the Jane clients’ demographics changed to have more low-income people than ever before. “The Janes” documentary mentions that there were tensions and disagreements in the group about how to interact with underprivileged people. The Jane network eventually agreed to offer discounts or free services to those who couldn’t afford to pay the full price.

Issues of race and social class also came up because women of color were rarely allowed to be Jane network leaders. Leaner (who is African American) comments, “There were more women of color—not necessarily on the team of people, but the people who consumed the service.” Kaplan agrees: “The women who came through the Jane network [for abortion services] were very, very different from the women who were in Jane. We would say to women [of color], ‘You can join us,’ but there weren’t a lot of takers.”

“It was a concern for us,” Kaplan says of the differences in racial and social classes between the most of the Jane network workers and most of the Jane network clients, particularly in the network’s later years. “We were primarily white, middle-class women.” The documentary mentions that efforts were made to be mindful of different races and social classes, but the Jane network wasn’t perfect, and it how to deal with race/class differences was an area that always needed improving.

“The Janes” documentary says that Leaner was instrumental in getting civil rights attorney Jo-Anne Wolfson to represent the Jane network defendants in the homicide case. Wolfson, who was initially reluctant to take the case, had a strategy to delay the trial as much as possible. It turned out to be the correct strategy because the U.S. Supreme court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 made the homicide charges no longer legally viable, so the charges were dropped. The Jane network disbanded not long after the Roe v. Wade decision, since their underground services were no longer needed.

The documentary doesn’t sugarcoat that abortion before Roe v. Wade was risky not just for physical reasons and legal reasons, but also for psychological and emotional reasons. The stress of being involved in illegal abortions took a toll on many of the clients and workers of the Jane network. The documentary mentions that one Jane leader identified only as Jody eventually had to check into a psychiatric facility because she had a breakdown. Jody eventually quit the Jane network.

And how did the Jane network stay underground for as long as it did with no arrests until 1972? Arcana’s husband Michael puts it bluntly by saying that a lot of the Jane network’s abortion clients were the wives, girlfriends and daughters of influential people in law enforcement and politics. Many of these men paid for the abortions.

Other people interviewed in the documentary include former Chicago homicide detective Ted O’Connor, Rev. Patricia Novick-Raby and Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper. In the documentary, Dr. Allan Weiland and former registered nurse Kathleen Kennedy talk about what they witnessed in pre-Roe. v. Wade septic wards at Chicago hospitals. A man who is only identified by the name Wayne says in the documentary that he was married to a woman who worked in the Jane network with his full support. “Our daughters understood not to talk about it, but they understood that it was just part of my life,” Wayne comments.

As a documentary, “The Janes” might not change people’s minds about the abortion issue. But the movie certainly succeeds in showing that abortion is a health issue that can affect anyone. This isn’t an issue that should be considered only in the realm of a select number of elite politicians and other lawmakers. “The Janes” shows in no uncertain terms that people who are directly affected can be family members, friends and other loved ones of people from all walks of life. These human stories and experiences are at the heart of reproductive rights and family planning.

*UPDATE: On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, thereby eliminating the federal law making abortion legal in the U.S., and giving jurisdiction to each U.S. state to decide what the state’s abortion laws will be. This ruling means that abortions in the U.S. can now be illegal or legal, depending on the state.

HBO and HBO Max will premiere “The Janes” on June 8, 2022.

Review: ‘The Outfit’ (2022), starring Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Simon Russell Beale

March 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zoey Deutch and Mark Rylance in “The Outfit” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“The Outfit” (2022)

Directed by Graham Moore

Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago in 1956, the dramatic film “The Outfit” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A mild-mannered British man, who owns a men’s clothing shop in Chicago, has local gangsters as his clients, and he becomes embroiled in the gang’s problems. 

Culture Audience: “The Outfit” will appeal primarily to people who like watching above-average mystery thrillers that have some unpredictable plot twists.

Johnny Flynn and Mark Rylance in “The Outfit” (Photo by Rob Youngson/Focus Features)

The suspenseful thriller “The Outfit” keeps viewers guessing about who are the heroes and who are the villains. It’s a well-crafted movie with a very talented cast that brings impressive energy to this unique story. If people ever say that good old-fashioned mystery films aren’t being made anymore, then point them in the direction of “The Outfit.” It pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock-influenced films of the mid-20th century while avoiding being a misguided, “stuck in a time warp” mess.

“The Outfit,” which takes place in 1956, is the feature-film directorial debut of Graham Moore. He won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, for 2014’s “The Imitation Game,” another well-made movie about an intelligent British man who gets caught up in a web of lies and treacherous conspiracies. Moore co-wrote the “The Outfit” screenplay with Jonathan McClain.

Unlike the sprawling settings of “The Imitation Game,” the setting of “The Outfit” is contained entirely in one place: the small clothing shop of Leonard Burling (played by Mark Rylance), a British immigrant who has been living in Chicago for the past several years. It would be easy for viewers to assume that “The Outfit” was adapted from a stage play, but this movie has an original screenplay.

Leonard’s specialty is high-priced, custom-made men’s suits. He also does clothing repairs. He’s very meticulous and takes pride in his work. He’s also quick to tell people that he’s a cutter, not a tailor. As time goes on in the movie, viewers see that the movie’s title of “The Outfit” has a double meaning: the type of clothing that Leonard can make and the gang syndicate that causes the dangerous predicament that Leonard becomes involved with in this movie.

Leonard is a reclusive, middle-aged bachelor with no children. He lives alone in a back area of the shop. Leonard has one employee: a woman in her 20s named Mable (played by Zoey Deutch), who is the shop’s administrative assistant/receptionist. She has a perky personality and is very reliable. However, Mable is honest in telling Leonard that she doesn’t love his line of work and only has this job to make enough money to pay her bills. Her dream is to travel around the world, including go to Paris, a city that has a special place in her heart.

Leonard tells people that he moved from the United Kingdom to Chicago because the popularity of denim clothing made his bespoke line of work fairly obsolete in his native country, where he used to have a shop on London’s Savile Row. Leonard’s reason for immigrating to America doesn’t sound very plausible, because denim clothing is popular in the United States too. Leonard is very private and doesn’t divulge much about his personal life, although he mentions that he served in the British military during World War I.

Among the people who are Leonard’s loyal clients are some local Irish gangsters. Leonard stays out of the gang’s dirty dealings and doesn’t pass judgment. The wealthy Irish mob boss in the area is named Roy Boyle (played by Simon Russell Beale), who doesn’t appear until about halfway through the movie. Roy is grooming his only son Richie Boyle (played by Dylan O’Brien), who’s in his 20s or early 30s, to eventually take over the gang’s business.

However, Richie has a rival for this position of power: a cunning manipulator named Francis (played by Johnny Flynn), who’s about five to eight years older than Richie. Francis was orphaned at an early age and taken in by Roy as somewhat of a foster son. Francis is as cold and calculating as Richie is hot-headed and impulsive. Richie feels a lot of jealousy and resentment toward Francis, whom Richie suspects is his father Roy’s top choice to be Roy’s successor as the mob leader. Richie gripes to Leonard about Francis: “He not even Irish!”

Something happens during this story that forces Leonard to be caught in increasingly elaborate deceptions and traps involving a coveted surveillance tape and a missing person. Complicating matters, Francis and Mable are romantically involved with each other. All of the cast members give exemplary performances, but Rylance is the obvious standout because his Leonard character is the most complex. Nikki Amuka-Bird shares top billing in “The Outfit” as an enigmatic woman named Violet, but viewers should know that Violet gets very limited screen time (about five minutes) toward the end of the film. After a somewhat slow-paced start, “The Outfit” goes on a thrilling ride that keeps viewers on edge throughout this entire memorable mystery.

Focus Features released “The Outfit” in select U.S. cinemas on March 18, 2022. UPDATE: Peacock will premiere “The Outfit” on May 2, 2022.

Review: ‘8-Bit Christmas,’ starring Winslow Fegley, Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael, Bellaluna Resnick and Sophia Reid-Gantzert

December 26, 2021

by Carla Hay

Winslow Fegley in “8-Bit Christmas” (Photo by Sabrina Lantos/New Line Cinema/HBO Max)

“8-Bit Christmas”

Directed by Michael Dowse

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Chicago area in the present day and in 1988, the comedy film “8-Bit Christmas” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A man in his mid-40s tells his 11-year-old daughter the story of his misadventures in 1988, when he was an 11-year-old boy who desperately wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas, even though his parents forbade him from playing video games at the time.

Culture Audience: “8-Bit Christmas” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching lightweight Christmas holiday comedies that are steeped heavily in 1980s nostalgia.

Sophia Reid-Gantzert and Neil Patrick Harris in “8-Bit Christmas” (Photo by Sabrina Lantos/New Line Cinema/HBO Max)

The formulaic family comedy “8-Bit Christmas” is elevated by a watchable and occasionally amusing performance by Winslow Fegley as an 11-year-old boy in 1988 who goes to great lengths to get a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Directed by Michael Dowse, “8 Bit Christmas” is really just a series of slapstick scenarios that culminate in a sentimental “life lesson” that’s expected in a movie with a Christmas theme. Kevin Jakubowski adapted the “8-Bit Christmas” screenplay from his 2013 novel of the same name. The movie is best appreciated by viewers who have some fondness for 1980s nostalgia or who know how big of a deal a Nintendo Entertainment System was to many kids during this decade. (The movie’s title refers to the primitive 8-bit data resolution of 1980s video games.)

“8-Bit Christmas” begins with a man in his mid-40s named Jake Doyle (played by Neil Patrick Harris), who is traveling with his 11-year-old daughter Annie Doyle (played by Sophia Reid-Gantzert) to the home of Jake’s widowed mother for a Christmas holiday visit. Jake grew up in Batavia, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), where his mother still lives. Annie has been pestering Jake to get her a smartphone for Christmas.

Jake adamantly refuses because he thinks Annie is too young to have this type of phone. Annie has to use Jake’s phone, only when he’s with her. It’s embarrassing to Annie that she doesn’t have her own phone, but Jake won’t change his mind.

Instead, Jake tells Annie about the time in 1988, when he was Annie’s age and was obsessed with getting a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Jake says to Annie, “When I was a kid, I wanted a Nintendo worse than you wanted a phone.” Annie replies, “That’s not possible.”

Jake is prompted into telling this story when he and Annie arrive at his mother’s house and they find his old Nintendo Entertainment System in the room that Jake had as a child. Annie knows that there was a time when Jake’s parents didn’t allow him to play video games, so she wants to know how he ended up with a Nintendo Entertainment Sysem . Most of the movie then switches to flashback mode when Jake tells his story in voiceover narration, with occasional scenes that go back to the present-day Jake and Annie.

In 1988, 11-year-old Jake (played by Winslow Fegley) considered himself to be an average boy in an average middle-class American family. His parents John Doyle (played by Steve Zahn) and Kathy Doyle (played by June Diane Raphael) are happily married. Jake has a precocious younger sister named Lizzy (played by Bellaluna Resnick), who is about 6 or 7 years old in 1988. Lizzy is a “goody-two-shoes” child who likes to snitch on Jake to their parents whenever Jake does something wrong.

The kids at Jake’s school are envious of a spoiled rich boy named Timmy Keane (played by Chandler Dean), who’s apparently the only kid for miles who has his own Nintendo Entertainment System. Therefore, small crowds of children gather in front of Timmy’s house on a regular basis because they want to get invited inside Timmy’s home to play Nintendo games with him. However, Timmy will only allow certain kids inside, based on whatever gifts or favors they can offer to him.

Needless to say, Timmy is an obnoxious brat who takes advantage of his social status to make some kids feel bad about themselves if they don’t get invited into his house. Timmy has an elaborate play area in his home that would rival any recreational arcade for children. The first time that Jake plays Nintendo, it’s at Timmy’s house. Jake instantly gets hooked and wants his own Nintendo Entertainment System.

It’s the same wish for many of Jake’s friends too. Jake hangs out with a small group of kids, who eventually make it their mission to get their own Nintendo system. The close-knit pals in Jake’s clique are:

  • Mikey Trotter (played by Che Tafari), whom Jake describes as being allowed to watch R-rated movies, and Mikey has an adult cursing vocabulary and mischievous nature to prove it.
  • Evan Olsen (played by Santino Barnard), who is nervous and neurotic.
  • Tammy Hodges (played by Brielle Rankins), who is smart and confident.
  • Teddy Hodges (played by Braelyn Rankins), who is Tammy’s fun-loving twin brother.

Other kids who are not part of this clique but who factor into the story are:

  • Josh Jagorski (played by Clay Arnold), the school’s large and violent bully, who looks like he’s a teenager, not a pre-teen like all the other students.
  • Jeff Farmer (played by Max Malas), whom Jake describes as a “pathological liar.”
  • Conor Stump (played by Jacob Laval), who is the school’s nerdy social outcast.
  • Katie Sorrentino (played by Sofie Michal Maiuri), a classmate who casually observes some of the shenanigans of Jake and his friends.

Jake knows that his parents are not inclined to want to give him a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Therefore, he comes up with a scheme to trick them into saying yes to his request. With his mother, Jake waits until she’s distracted and asks her for this gift when she’s not really listening to him. She says yes.

With his father, whom an adult Jake describes in a voiceover as a “dyslexic Bob Vila” when it comes to carpentry hobbies, Jake waits until they have some father/son time doing some woodshopping in the garage. Jake compliments his father John on John’s hand strength. Jake says he would like a gift for Christmas that would let him build up his hand strength, so Jake suggests a Nintendo Entertainment System. John says yes to this request too.

But there would be no “8-Bit Christmas” movie if Jake got his wish so easily. Eventually, Jake’s parents (and some of his friends’ parents) become paranoid that video games are bad for children, so the parents are determined to not have anything related to video games in their homes. Undeterred, Jake and his male friends, who are members of the Ranger Scouts, find out about a Ranger Scouts contest where the person who sells the most Christmas wreaths will win the grand prize of a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System.

A large part of “8-Bit Christmas” is about this race against time to sell the most Christmas wreaths, as friends turn into rivals to win this contest. There’s also some gross-out comedy, such as a scene of a child vomiting profusely and repeatedly, and a joke that goes on for too long about Jake having to clean up defecation from the family dog Ellwood. Not surprisingly, Jake wants avoid cleaning up after the dog as much as possible, so it leads to some minor conflicts with between Jake and his father John.

David Cross has a small role in “8-Bit Christmas” as an unnamed opportunist, who sells toys (probably stolen) out of the trunk of his car. His stash includes a Nintendo Entertainment System and Cabbage Patch dolls. Jake’s sister Lizzy wants a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas, so Jake feels some sibling jealousy when John is more eager to get Lizzy’s most-wanted Christmas gift but is unwilling to get Jake’s most-wanted Christmas gift.

There’s a lot of mediocre slapstick scenarios in “8-Bit Christmas” that clog up the story. For example, a recurring “joke” in the movies is that Jake’s mother Kathy accidentally bought a pair of girls’ Esprit snow boots (purple with flower-print trimming) during a frenzied shopping sale. Kathy never bothered to get Jake any other boots, because apparently she didn’t want to go back to the store to exchange the Esprit boots for boots that Jake actually wants to wear.

Jake is embarrassed because his mother makes him wear these boots to school and other places when there’s snow outside. (Animotion’s 1984 hit “Obsession” plays on the movie’s soundtrack every time Jake puts on these boots.) And predictably, Jake gets harassed by bully Josh when Josh sees Jake wearing these feminine-looking shoes. It’s a not-very-well-written part of the story because this problem would’ve easily been solved by a merchandise exchange at the store.

Jake’s humiliation for wearing these boots (which is an over-used gag in “8-Bit Christmas”) plays into tired movie/TV stereotypes that anything “feminine” associated with a boy is supposed to automatically be a reason for the boy to be ridiculed and bullied. The movie makes a half-hearted attempt at explaining this sexist trope, by having the adult Jake explain to his daughter Annie that in the 1980s, people were less open-minded about gender equality and many other things. But if the filmmakers wanted a recurring joke about Jake being embarrassed about something that his mother makes him do, they could’ve picked a funnier scenario than Jake having to wear feminine-looking boots.

The good news is that “8-Bit Christmas” at least presents the girls in the movie as just as intelligent if not smarter than the boys. It certainly makes up for how this movie gives most of the screen time and the most adventurous parts of the story to the male characters. It’s pretty obvious that the movie’s main target audience is supposed to be anyone who has nostalgic memories of 1980s Nintendo video games, even though there isn’t one particular Nintendo game that gets spotlighted in the movie.

In terms of the “8-Bit Christmas” cast members, Fegley as the young Jake absolutely carries this movie to any level of charm that it might have to audiences. And that helps a lot, because the young Jake gets the vast majority of the screen time in this movie. Fegley has good comedic timing, and his character is relatable to most people who’ve been an 11-year-old child, regardless of gender. The rest of the cast members are serviceable in their roles, with some of the actors continuing to be typecast as characters they’ve played in many other movies. (Zahn as a goofball; Cross as a sarcastic wiseass.)

“8-Bit Christmas,” which clocks in at a breezy 97 minutes, isn’t the type of movie that’s going to be considered a Christmas holiday classic, but it’s an agreeable way for viewers to pass some time if they want to see an entertaining Christmas holiday film for people in various age groups. The last 20 minutes of “8-Bit Christmas,” which are the best parts of the film, make up for much of the silliness that lowers the quality of the rest of the movie. “8-Bit Christmas” is ultimately a film that’s enjoyable without demanding too much intelligence or emotional investment from viewers.

HBO Max premiered “8-Bit Christmas” on November 24, 2021.

Review: ‘Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World,’ starring Chance the Rapper

August 13, 2021

by Carla Hay

Chance the Rapper in “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” (Photo courtesy of House of Kicks and Park Pictures)

“Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World”

Directed by Jake Schreier 

Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago on April 8, 2017, the concert documentary “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” features a racially diverse group of performers and about 1,500 audience members (mostly white and black, with some Latinos and Asians), who are mostly young people, gathered for a concert by Chance the Rapper.

Culture Clash: Whimsical and carefree childhood themes are on stage, while the song lyrics sometimes address social unrest and drug use. 

Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of Chance the Rapper fans and people who like hip-hop, “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” will appeal to people who enjoy high-energy concert films that are creative without being too extravagant and over-the-top.

Chance the Rapper in “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” (Photo courtesy of House of Kicks and Park Pictures)

On April 18, 2017, Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper held a secret concert in his hometown of Chicago. About 1,500 people were invited to watch him perform songs off of his breakthrough 2016 mixtape album “Coloring Book,” plus other notable tunes. (Based on who’s in the audience, most attendees were under the age of 30.) The result is this concert documentary that doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in its production and staging, but it’s a lively showcase for Chance the Rapper and his charismatic showmanship.

At 64 minutes long, it’s a briskly paced film that’s perfect for people who want a fairly quick dose of Chance the Rapper performing live. However, if the documentary had been 90 minutes or longer, it would have benefited from more behind-the-scenes footage of how this show’s production elements were put together. According to what Chance the Rapper says in the movie, the basic elements of the production happened in just a few weeks. It took a lot longer than a few weeks to plan it though.

In an interview shown before the movie gets to the concert footage, Chance the Rapper says that he had a vision for years to do a show like this—steeped in childhood nostalgia but reflective of who he is as an artist who expresses adult experiences. In keeping with the “Coloring Book”/childhood theme, fans who were invited to the show were transported to the venue in yellow school buses. One of the stage props is a Sunday Candy store.

Before getting to the concert footage, the movie begins with some grainy, archival footage in black and white of Chance the Rapper (whose real name is Chancellor Jonathan Bennett) at age 8 or 9, performing at a talent contest by singing and doing some Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves (including the moonwalk) and being elated when he won the contest. Then there’s a standard montage of people who work with Chance the Rapper talking about how great and visionary he is. It’s fairly predictable commentary that you would expect from people on a celebrity’s payroll.

Tour manager Colleen Mares says that Chance the Rapper becoming a husband and father affected his spirituality in a positive way. Choir director Rachel Robinson echoes those thoughts, by saying, “His musical journey is parallel to his spiritual journey.” Other people who weigh in with their praise include film director Jake Schreier, production designer Michael Apostolos, drummer Greg “Stix” Landfair, sound engineer Jabari “Jack Red” Rayford and choreographers Pause Eddie and Ian Eastwood.

In all, there were about 100 people in the crew who worked on the show, according to what Chance Rapper says in the documentary interview. He says his first thought in deciding to do the concert was: “How do we mic the audience?” He adds that he didn’t want it to be the type of concert film where the audio from the audience was toned down. He wanted the concert to feel fully immersive. “I like creating experiences,” he says.

As an example of how important sound is in enhancing the visual experience, he demonstrates in a kitchen how hearing a running faucet before you walk into a room can affect your anticipation of what to see in the room. And then, the movie shows how perspectives change when you see faucet with running water, but you don’t hear the water. Chance the Rapper is obviously fascinated with the technical aspects of filmmaking, which is why if this documentary has been longer, it definitely needed more behind-the-scenes insight into his decisions for how this concert was staged and filmed. (He’s one of the documentary’s producers.)

Not much in this concert will be surprising to people who saw Chance the Rapper on his “Coloring Book” tour, since this concert was filmed during the tour. At times, there’s a choir on stage. There’s also a string orchestra led by a conductor. For “Same Drugs,” he sings and plays the piano while sitting next to someone dressed as a bird wearing a hippie-like headband. Even though Chance the Rapper has collaborated with many artists, there are no surprise guest apperances in this concert documentary.

Some of the concert highlights include his rousing renditions of “Blessings Part 1” and “Blessings Part 2” with the choir and getting the audience to sing along like it’s a church revival. A more contemplative moment comes with “Summer Friends,” where it’s just Chance the Rapper on stage accompanied by a keyboardist using a vocal effects processor, as they’re bathed in a soft white lighting glow. Other songs performed in the film include “D.R.A.M. Sings Special,” “Everybody’s Something,” “Windows,” “Angels,” “All Night,” “We Go High” and “All We Got.”

The show features high-energy hip-hop backup dancers. And there’s some theatrical acting on stage too, with a set piece constructed like the outside of a nightclub and a bouncer who won’t let hopeful patrons past the security rope. It’s a little corny and better-suited for a Broadway show, but at least it does not take up too much of the concert.

Chance the Rapper is not a highly accomplished dancer (he lets his backup dancers do the flashy dance moves), but he’s very good at commanding the stage. He also excels at connecting with his audience. One of the highlights of the film is toward the end, when he goes down to the audience level in the front row to touch people hands and give them high-fives. He also namechecks Chicago multiple times, and says at one point, “Chicago, thanks so much for all you’ve done for me!”

“Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” is self-distributed through Chance the Rapper’s House of Kicks company, exclusively at AMC Theatres for a limited time. It’s reportedly the first time that a music artist has self-distributed a film with AMC Theatres. Considering that Chance the Rapper is not touring in 2021 (he’s only scheduled to perform at Milwaukee’s Summerfest in 2021), seeing this documentary in a movie theater will be the closest that most of his fans will have to experiencing a full Chance the Rapper concert with some late 2010s nostalgia of how his shows were back then.

This documentary is not the type of giant concert spectacle that people will be talking about for years. Nor is it extraordinary when it comes to the concert’s production theme, set designs, costume design or choreography. However, it’s very enjoyable to watch, especially for people who are inclined to like hip-hop or at least have an appreciation for music with catchy beats. And it’s a good way for people unfamiliar with Chance the Rapper to get a sense of who he is as an artist on stage.

House of Kicks and Park Pictures released “Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World” in U.S. cinemas (exclusively in AMC Theatres) on August 13, 2021.

Review: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah,’ starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield

February 1, 2021

by Carla Hay

LaKeith Stanfield (in front) and Daniel Kaluuya (in back) in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Photo by Glenn Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

Directed by Shaka King

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Chicago in 1968 and 1969, the drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” features a predominately African American cast (with some white people and Latinos) representing people involved in the civil rights movement and law enforcement.

Culture Clash: The Black Panther Party, including Illinois chapter chairman Fred Hampton, was the target of FBI investigations that included hiring an African American paid informant named Bill O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party to help the FBI bring down Hampton and his colleagues.

Culture Audience: “Judas and the Black Messiah” will appeal primarily to people interested in movies about the civil rights movement for African Americans.

LaKeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Photo by Glenn Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” which is based on true events, mostly succeeds as presenting a rousing and riveting depiction of a troubling side of the U.S. civil rights movement that is rarely seen as the central plot of a movie: How African Americans were used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to betray African American civil rights leaders who were labeled as “troublemakers” by the FBI. It’s a necessary and sometimes uncomfortable examination of specific people in the late 1960s history of the civil rights movement, even though “Judas and the Black Messiah” has some awards-bait dramatics that were obviously manufactured for the movie.

Directed by Shaka King (who co-wrote the screenplay with Will Berson), “Judas and the Black Messiah” shows two very different sides of the African American experience with the civil rights movement. On the one side is the urgent activism embodied by Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. On the other side, is the passive political apathy of William “Bill” O’Neal, a car thief who was lured into betraying the Black Panthers by being a paid confidential informant for the FBI, in exchange for the FBI keeping O’Neal out of prison for his past crimes, such as car theft and impersonating a FBI agent.

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” which takes place primarily in Chicago, is told from perspective of O’Neal (played by LaKeith Stanfield), but Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya) is most definitely portrayed as the heroic soul of the movie. In real life, Hampton and O’Neal were in their early 20s when this movie takes place from late 1968 to late 1969. Thankfully, the filmmakers chose “Judas and the Black Messiah” as the movie’s title, instead of the movie’s original and very misleading title “Jesus Was My Homeboy.” Jesus is not a major theme in this movie at all.

The term “black messiah” refers to then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s fear that the civil rights movement would gain momentum under a powerful and charismatic leader. For a while, that leader was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), until he was brutally assassinated on April 4, 1968. “Judas and the Black Messiah” starts off in late 1968, when the civil rights movement became increasingly fractured by ideological divides between those who wanted to follow MLK’s non-violence philosophy and those such as the Black Panthers, who wanted to follow a more left-wing-leaning “any means necessary” philosophy, even if those means included violence.

Hoover has been depicted in various ways in movies and television, but in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” there’s no doubt that Hoover (played by Martin Sheen, in prosthetic makeup) is the movie’s chief villain. In an early scene in the movie, Hoover is presumably at FBI headquarters as he addresses an auditorium full of FBI agents (all white men, as Hoover reportedly preferred), with an oversized projection screen that looks a little too ahead of its time, as if he’s giving a TED Talk. This is supposed to be 1968, not 2018. It’s one of a few details that don’t ring true in the movie.

During this FBI assembly, Hoover sneers, “The Black Panthers are the single greatest threat to our national security. Our counterintelligence program must prevent the rise of a black messiah among their midst, one with the potential to unite Communists, the anti-war and the new left movements.” A photo of Hampton then appears on the giant projection screen, to make it clear that Hampton is now one of the FBI’s main targets.

Meanwhile, O’Neal is shown being a small-time car thief with an unusual method of operation: He impersonates a FBI agent (including having a fake badge) and pretends to arrest someone for having a stolen car. He looks for potential victims, by at least finding out their names and what kind of car they have, so the fake arrest can look real. And he chooses people who are probably into illegal activities and aren’t likely to go to the police when the theft victims find out they’ve been tricked. It’s implied that all of O’Neal’s theft victims are black, since he knows he’d have very little chance of getting away with this FBi impersonation stunt if he tried it on white people.

What usually happens during this fake FBI arrest is that O’Neal gets the handcuffed person’s car keys and steals that person’s car. Except when viewers first see O’Neal in this movie, that plan backfires in a bad way. O’Neal walks into a bar while some men are playing pool and tries to arrest one of them, but this stranger resists being handcuffed. The “arrestee” has a few friends who also try to stop the detainment. They’re all immediately suspicious of this “arrest” and chase after O’Neal in the car.

One of the friends jumps on the car roof with a knife and starts stabbing through the roof and ends up stabbing O’Neal. The injuries aren’t serious, but they’re enough for this car theft to be completely botched. O’Neal barely manages to get away from the angry group when he’s pulled over by police.

The movie then fast-forwards to O’Neal in a meeting with the FBI special agent who will be the one to lure O’Neal into the FBI sting: Roy Mitchell (played by Jesse Plemons), an ambitious smooth talker who asks O’Neal why he impersonated a FBI agent for a car theft. O’Neal replies, “A badge is scarier than a gun.”

Mitchell then asks O’Neal how he felt about the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X. O’Neal replies that he was a “little bit” upset over MLK’s murder and he didn’t give much thought to Malcolm X’s murder. It’s at this point that Mitchell knows that O’Neal doesn’t care much about politics or the civil rights movement, and therefore O’Neal can be easily manipulated into being an informant.

First, Mitchell says that the only way that O’Neal can avoid prison is to work as an informant for the FBI. Whenever O’Neal starts to express doubts about being an informant (and this happens several times throughout the story), Mitchell tells O’Neal that the Black Panthers aren’t much different from the Ku Klux Klan, because Mitchell says both are radical, unpatriotic groups that want to divide people by their races and overthrow the U.S. government.

It doesn’t take long for O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party in Chicago and gain the trust of Hampton, who makes O’Neal the head of security. Hampton is a smart and magnetic leader who is respected by other party members because he often shows through words and deeds that the cause he’s fighting for isn’t about his ego but is about the people and future generations. Unlike other Black Power leaders, who wanted to keep black people separate from people of other races, Hampton embraced alliances with like-minded people of other races.

Hampton is credited with creating the Rainbow Coalition in 1969, which aimed to unite other anti-establishment groups for shared causes. It was a concept that was met with some resistance from the separatist Black Panthers, but because this is a movie, the Rainbow Coalition’s origins are a little too oversimplified and streamlined. One minute, Hampton and some other Black Panthers are showing up uninvited to meetings by the Young Patriots (a group of working-class white people) and the Young Lords (a group of Puerto Ricans) and making themselves known as unexpected allies. The next minute, Hampton is leading a Rainbow Coalition rally with members of the Black Panthers, the Young Patriots and the Young Lords in attendance.

The movie also shows how Hampton spearheaded the alignment of the Black Panthers with a Chicago-based African American gang called the Crowns, in order for the Black Panthers to have access to weapons and armed security backup. And what do you know, one of the Crowns just happens to be someone who was in that group that chased after O’Neal in that botched car theft. There’s a very “movie moment” when O’Neal is sure this guy is going to remember him, thereby making O’Neal more paranoid that his cover will be blown.

Some of the other Black Panther Party members who are featured in the movie include Jimmy Palmer (played by Ashton Sanders), Jake Winters (played by Algee Smith), Judy Harmon (played by Dominique Thorn) and Deborah Johnson (played by Dominique Fishback), a wide-eyed student who is in awe of Hampton and ends up becoming his girlfriend. In real life, Johnson is now known as Akua Njeri, and she gave birth to Fred Hampton Jr. in December 1969. Njeri and Hampton Jr. both were consultants on “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Of course, in any movie that involves spying, there are double crosses and constant questions about loyalty, honesty and who can be trusted. The movie ramps up the tension not only outside the Black Panther Party but also within it. “Judas and the Black Messiah” also raises thought-provoking questions that will make people wonder about the prices that people pay for freedom, however freedom might be defined by individuals. And when there are informants or spies who are paid to betray, to what extent should they be branded as the “enemy”?

“Judas and the Black Messiah” has undoubtedly powerful performances by Kaluuya as Hampton and Stanfield as O’Neal. Kaluuya has the flashier role that will get more attention, mainly because there’s no ambiguity about his purpose in the film: depicting Hampton as a civil rights hero. In the few times Hampton was depicted in scripted projects before “Judas and the Black Messiah” was made, Hampton was usually a marginal character who didn’t have much depth, such as in the Netflix 2020 movie “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

In “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Hampton is a larger-than-life personality who gets the big speeches, the leadership position at rallies, and the martyrdom when he lands in prison at the height of his power. Hampton’s biggest showcase speech scene comes after he’s released from prison and gets a hero’s welcome during a Black Panther rally in Chicago. After leading the crowd to chant, “I am a revolutionary!” several times in the speech, he declares poetically: “You can murder a liberator, but you can’t murder liberation! You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder a revolution! You can murder a freedom fighter, but you can’t murder freedom!”

Stanfield has the more difficult and nuanced role as the conflicted and duplicitous O’Neal. On the one hand, O’Neal knows he’s a traitor. On the other hand, O’Neal is portrayed as someone who genuinely became friends with many people in the Black Panther Party, but he felt powerless to stop the informant deal that he made with the FBI. There are times when O’Neal shows so much loyalty to the Black Panthers that FBI agent Mitchell doubts whose side O’Neal is really on.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” doesn’t let O’Neal completely off the hook for his betrayal, but the movie gives the impression that his decisions were not about the money but about his fear of going to prison if he didn’t comply with what the FBI wanted. In real life, O’Neal gave only one TV interview about his Black Panther/FBI informant experience. It was in 1989, in an interview for the PBS show “Eyes on the Prize 2,” which aired the interview on January 15, 1990. Clips of this interview are recreated in the movie.

The performances in “Judas and the Black Messiah” are impactful and deserving of high praise. Where the movie falters is in some of the scenarios depicting the interactions between O’Neal and his FBI contact Mitchell. In the movie, Mitchell deliberately kept O’Neal’s identity a secret from most his FBI colleagues. (Hoover knew though.) Therefore, it doesn’t make sense that the movie shows O’Neal and Mitchell openly meeting several times in upscale restaurants, where O’Neal is obviously the only black person there as a dining patron. It wouldn’t have been hard for the movie’s screenwriters to keep all of the meetings between O’Neal and Mitchell in less public places.

O’Neal’s wardrobe gets a little more stylish as he starts to make more money from the FBI. But in the beginning, O’Neal definitely stands out in these restaurants because he’s dressed inappropriately (too casual) for these kinds of dining establishments. If you were to believe this movie, in 1969 Chicago, a black man in “street clothes” can walk into an upscale restaurant where all the other patrons are white, sit down, have dinner with a white man in a suit, and no one notices, stares or questions why this inappropriately dressed black man is there. Things like that would’ve definitely gotten noticed in the real world. And this scenario is not exactly O’Neal and Mitchell keeping their relationship undercover or incognito.

Another “only in a movie” contrivance is in a scene where a despondent O’Neal ends up in a bar, where a woman shows a romantic interest in him after she rejects a fur-coat-wearing motormouth at a nearby barstool. The rejected man (played by Lil Rel Howery), who is identified only as Wayne in the movie’s end credits, is a stranger to O’Neal, but Wayne drops hints that he knows that O’Neal is working for the FBI.

O’Neal, who is already feeling very uneasy, follows Wayne out to Wayne’s car and demands to know who he is. The movie, with anxiety-filled music building to a crescendo, then has Wayne reveal something that’s meant to shock O’Neal and the audience. It’s highly doubtful this confrontation ever happened in real life, but fans of the Oscar-winning 2017 horror movie “Get Out” will be happy to see “Get Out” co-stars Kaluuya, Stanfield and Howery reunited as cast members for “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

As the only women with significant speaking roles in the movie, Fishback (as Hampton’s girlfriend Johnson) and Thorne (as Black Panther member Harmon) show considerable talent, although this is definitely a male-dominated film. Johnson’s character evolves from being a star-stuck fangirl of Hampton to being a loyal romantic partner to being a strong-willed expectant mother, who can’t help but feel impending heartbreak and doom when she hears Hampton give a speech saying that he will probably die for his people. Thorne’s Harmon is a badass who can get down and dirty in fight scenes just like the men do, such as in a tension-filled shootout between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers.

The flaws in the movie’s screenplay are outweighed by the significant talent of the cast members and the ability of director King to maintain a suspenseful edge. Even though many people watching this movie might already know what happened to Hampton and O’Neal in real life, “Judas and the Black Messiah” triumphs in capturing the essence of this era of the civil rights movement in America. There might be fabricated “only in a movie” moments, but the film authentically conveys the passion and necessity for civil rights.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Judas and the Black Messiah” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on February 12, 2021.

Review: ‘The Thing About Harry,’ starring Jake Borelli and Niko Terho

February 14, 2020

by Carla Hay

Niko Terho and Jake Borelli in “The Thing About Harry” (Photo by Parrish Lewis/Freeform)

“The Thing About Harry”

Directed by Peter Paige

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Chicago with a predominantly white cast, the romantic comedy “The Thing About Harry” is about two young middle-class men (one who’s openly gay, and the other who’s openly pansexual) who were enemies in high school but start to fall in love with each other, even as they date other people.

Culture Clash: Because one of the men is a commitment-phobic playboy who dates men and women, it causes conflicts over whether or not he’s a suitable partner for the other guy, who wants a long-term, monogamous relationship.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to fans of romantic comedies who are open-minded enough to seeing diverse sexualities portrayed on screen.

Jake Borelli and Niko Terho in “The Thing About Harry” (Photo by Parrish Lewis/Freeform)

The romantic comedy “The Thing About Harry,” Freeform’s first Valentine’s Day-themed original movie, puts a queer spin on a story that is very much inspired by the 1989 classic Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal movie “When Harry Met Sally.” In “The Thing About Harry,” two male friends who are obviously sexually attracted to each other try to keep their relationship platonic because one of the pals thinks that falling in love with a good friend is a recipe for disaster. This made-for-TV movie isn’t going to win any Emmys, but it’s a hilarious and sometimes emotionally touching ride that should please fans of romantic comedies.

“The Thing About Harry,” which takes place in Chicago over an approximate five-year period, begins with smart but neurotic Sam Biselli (played by Jake Borelli) an openly gay college student cuddling in bed with his straight female best friend Anatsasia “Stasia” Hooper (played by Britt Barron), a purple-haired sassy free spirit who’s a major commitment-phobe when it comes to dating. While cuddling with Stasia, Sam gets a call from two friends he knew in high school—a straight couple named Chris and Kelly, who ask Sam to attend their engagement party in their mutual hometown of Liberty, Missouri.

Sam says yes, and he plans to road trip to the party in his car. Chris and Kelly then ask Sam to do them a big favor: Give a ride to their friend and former high-school classmate Harry Turpin (played by Niko Tero), who doesn’t have a car. Sam and Harry attend the same college, but they’re not exactly friends. Sam has been openly gay since high school, and popular athlete Harry used to bully him mercilessly because of Sam’s sexuality and because Sam was the type of nerdy kid in school who was a know-it-all teacher’s pet. Sam had the unflattering nickname “Suck-up Sammy” in high school, and Harry was one of the classmates who taunted him with that name.

As far as Sam is concerned, Harry is one of the last people he wants to be stuck with on a road trip, but Sam is such a nice guy that he can’t say no to Chris and Kelly, and he reluctantly agrees to give Sam a ride to the party. Stasia, who has been Sam’s best friend since they met on their first day of college, doesn’t mince words when she tells Sam what she thinks about his decision to spend time with Harry: “You, my friend, are a medical marvel. It’s a wonder you can stand with a spine like that.”

Sam is the type of person who’s a romantic at heart. He believes in monogamy and that a partner should be mindful of things such as a three-month anniversary. It’s one of the reasons why he’s no longer with his ex-boyfriend Malcolm, who cheated on him and definitely was not the type of person who would remember anniversaries. Sam and Malcolm started off as close friends, but as a result of the breakup, Sam has sworn off ever dating someone who’s starts off as a close friend.

When Sam arrives at the arranged meeting place on campus to pick up Harry for the road trip, Harry is almost a half-hour late. Their meeting is somewhat awkward because Sam is very mistrustful of Harry and extremely annoyed at Harry’s tardiness. Harry offers a flippant apology and rambles on that he’s been preoccupied with some of the people he’s been dating, and he’s broken up with his most recent girlfriend. Sam doesn’t seem too surprised, since Harry was a playboy in high school too.

Sam asks Harry if he remembers how much of a hard time he gave Sam in high school. Harry, like a lot of school bullies who’ve grown up, doesn’t remember being as harsh on Sam as Sam remembers it. But Sam reminds him how much Harry’s behavior was mean-spirited and hurtful. Harry is a little taken aback, but then Harry mentions that he has an ex-boyfriend, which leads to Harry telling Sam that he’s pansexual—someone who’s attracted to people of all sexualities and genders.

This time, it’s Sam’s turn to be surprised, since he thought that from the way Harry acted in high school, Harry must be heterosexual. Sam is so shocked that he nearly runs into a truck on the other side of the road. They have a minor car accident when the car swerves into an embankment and has to be towed away for repairs.

While they’re waiting for Sam’s car to fixed, Sam and Harry share a motel room, where Harry confesses to Sam that the reason why he bullied Sam was because he was envious that Sam was open about his sexuality. Harry hadn’t come out with his true sexuality back then, and he said that if he acted nice toward Sam in high school, people would think he was queer “by association.”

After Harry’s confession, the two men open up to each other a little more by talking about their favorite things and their life goals. Sam is surprised to learn that despite Harry’s playboy ways and “macho jock” image, he has a sweet and sensitive side: Harry tells Sam that his favorite movie is “Up” and that his biggest life goal is to become a father. By contrast, Sam says he’s not sure if he wants to bring kids into this world. Later, Harry gives a sincere apology to Sam for being a bully to him in high school.

With Sam’s car back in commission, they continue on the road trip, but Harry ends up ditching him in the middle of the trip to meet up with his most recent ex-girlfriend because they’ve decided to get back together. The engagement party isn’t shown in the movie, but another party is shown that’s a turning point in Sam and Harry’s relationship.

Back in Chicago, not long after the engagement party, Sam and Stasia go to a singles-only Valentine’s Day party. And, of course, Harry happens to be there too. At the party, Harry is wearing an outfit that looks like he just came from a 1992 Kris Kross video: overalls with one of the arm straps unbuttoned. Despite this fashion faux pas, Harry is still the best-looking guy at the party and there’s still a spark of mutual attraction between Sam and Harry.

But talk about bad timing: Harry tells Sam that he’s decided to try being celibate for a while. Sam doesn’t think Harry’s celibacy vow will last, but it makes him feel more comfortable with becoming friends with Harry. Stasia meets Harry for the first time at this party, and although she’s initially suspicious of him, she eventually accepts him when she sees that Sam has forgiven Harry and that they’ve decided to be friends.

The rest of the movie is a “will they or won’t they” guessing game on whether or not Sam and Harry will ever reveal their true feelings for each other while they date other people. “Queer Eye” co-star Karamo Brown has a memorable cameo as a pretentious art dealer named Paul, who dates Sam. In a genuinely funny scene where Sam and Paul join a group of friends at a local bar’s trivia night, Paul shows his true petty nature and Harry surprises everyone with how much trivia he knows. The message is clear: Harry’s not such a dumb jock after all.

Sam and Harry each have platonic male roommates who offer their advice and observations. Sam’s roommate is a middle-aged gay man named Casey (played by former “Queer as Folk” co-star Peter Paige, who directed this movie), who’s like a caring older brother to Sam. Harry’s roommate is a straight guy close to his age named Zack (played by Japhet Balaban), who frequently joins Harry, Sam and Stasia for their friend get-togethers.

Before and after he graduates from college, Sam shows an interest in progressive liberal politics, and he starts his career as a community organizer for a mayoral candidate. Meanwhile, Harry (who’s a marketing major) flounders around after college in low-paying entry-level jobs, such as a sales associate at a clothing store or selling phones at a kiosk.

One of the reasons why Sam is attracted to Harry is that he’s not just another pretty face. Harry is a lot smarter than people assume that he is (although he’s still not as smart as Sam), and he’s a fun and loyal friend. Harry also gets involved with issues that Sam cares deeply about, such as LGBTQ rights. When Sam and Harry go to a party after a Pride parade, something happens at the party that changes the course of their relationship.

“The Thing About Harry,” which was written by director Paige and Joshua Senter, has some unpredictable twists as well as some formulaic aspects to the story. The movie’s biggest appeal is in how realistically the characters are written and portrayed. The whip-smart dialogue of Sam, Stasia and Casey will remind viewers of people they know who can give sassy and sensible romance advice all day to friends, but their own love lives are kind of a mess. And because Harry is a very handsome and commitment-phobic playboy, he has that realistic mix of being charming and frustrating, which are common traits for people who know they have their pick of partners who are competing to fall in love with them.

If Sam and Harry are secretly in love with each other, what’s holding them back? Sam doesn’t want to get his heart broken by Harry, who doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to monogamy and long-term relationships. Harry doesn’t want to fall short of Sam’s high expectations when it comes to romance, and he probably feels that Sam deserves to have a partner who’s on a similar intellectual level.

Despite their differences, Sam and Harry are easy to root for in his love story. The whole point of this movie is to show that when it comes to love, there’s no explaining a lot of attractions. Instead of seeing if a potential love partner fits a list of requirements, many times it’s just best to just go with what feels right if it doesn’t hurt anyone and it makes you happy.

Freeform will premiere “The Thing About Harry” at 8 p.m. ET/PT on February 15, 2020.

2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots added to lineup

November 13, 2019

The following is a press release from NBC:

A spectacle like no other awaits millions as the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, the nation’s most cherished holiday tradition, once again kicks off the holiday season. Millions of families will tune in to watch the excitement unfold on Thursday, Nov. 28 as Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker of NBC News’ “TODAY” host the broadcast from 9 a.m.-noon in all time zones that will also include a special debut performance from her new album Courage by the incomparable Celine Dion.

The Macy’s Parade has must-see entertainment for everyone in the family. Joining the festivities will be stars from a variety of global music genres from pop, R&B and country to Latin and K-Pop, with a few noteworthy special appearances thrown in the mix. Appearing or performing onboard one of Macy’s signature floating stages will be Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago, Ciara, Josh Dela Cruz, Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Debbie Gibson, former NASA astronauts Kay Hire & Janet Kavandi, Chris Janson, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, NHL legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk, the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, NCT 127, Ozuna, Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, That Girl Lay Lay, TLC, Tenille Townes and Chris Young; with an extra special appearance by the one-and-only Santa Claus.

To kick-off the revelry, a special must-see opening number featuring a who’s who of actors, singers, dancers and more, all joined by the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, will start the Thanksgiving Day party with a smash.

Following the opener on 34th Street, Broadway’s best shows will take a star turn in front of Macy’s famed flagship with special performances from the casts of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Beetlejuice, Hadestown and Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. In addition, the show-stopping Radio City Rockettes® will bring their signature high-kicking magic to Herald Square.

Since November 1924, the magic of the holiday season has begun with the march of the Macy’s Parade as it enthrals the nation with its signature mix of whimsical elements and special performances. For the 93rd edition, the line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 40 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 11 marching bands.

“We are thrilled to present the 93rd edition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to our viewers nationwide,” said Doug Vaughan, Executive Vice President, Special Programs, NBC Entertainment. “This iconic tradition will once again jump start the holiday season with a celebration led by an incredible lineup of performers, bands, floats, balloons and more.”

For the fourth year, Macy’s, along with NBCUniversal and Verizon, will give viewers an up close and personal second screen experience of the Parade with a 360-degree livestream on Verizon’s YouTube page. The stream will go live at 8:30 a.m. EST at www.youtube.com/verizon and will run through noon EST. With exclusive access to cameras along the entire Parade route, online spectators will get a glimpse of the magic behind the scenes, as well as a preview of what’s to come as the Parade marches down the streets of Manhattan. Additional information on the livestream to be announced soon.

New giant balloons joining the line-up this year include Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon. In celebration of his 75thbirthday, a heritage balloon and fan-favorite will return to the Parade as Smokey Bear returns to the skies over Manhattan.

Since 2005, the Macy’s Parade has also been home to a collection of high-flying artworks created in collaboration with renowned contemporary artists, as part of a special series titled Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery. This year, for the eighth edition of the collection, the world’s most renowned female contemporary artist will take her iconic art to new heights as Yayoi Kusama joins the Macy’s Parade with her Love Flies Up to the Sky balloon creation. The balloon design was developed by the artist from face motifs that appear in her “My Eternal Soul” series of paintings — a body of work that she began in 2009. Vibrant and animated, the paintings embody Kusama’s innovative exploration of form and revolve around a tension between abstraction and figuration. The artist’s signature dots, which recur throughout her practice, also feature prominently in the Macy’s Parade balloon design. Previous balloons in the Macy’s Parade Blue Sky Gallery series have included works from famed artists Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, KAWS and FriendsWithYou.

This year five new floats will debut, including Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You! (Josh Dela Cruz), The Brick-changer by The Lego Group (NCT 127), Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® (Tenille Townes), Rexy in the City by COACH® (Billy Porter), and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Kelly Rowland).

The nation’s best marching bands bring the beat to the holiday revelry. For this year’s 93rd march, 11 of the specially chosen ensembles will ignite coast-to-coast excitement and hometown pride as they step off and perform on the streets of the Big Apple. This year’s bands include Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band (St. Petersburg, FL), Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment (Blue Springs, MO), Catalina Foothills Falcon Band (Tucson, AZ), Franklin Regional Panther Band (Murrysville, PA), Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), Madison Central High School Band (Richmond, KY), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s Kings of Halftime (Lithonia, GA), Morgan State University’s The Magnificent Marching Machine (Baltimore, MD), NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY), Ronald Reagan High School Marching Band (San Antonio, TX) and Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (Cullowhee, NC).

Entertaining the crowds with their signature exuberance will be the Parade’s signature large and specialty performance groups. Joining the line-up this year are the teen dancers and cheerleaders of Spirit of America Dance Stars and Spirit of America Cheer. These groups together feature more than 1,200 of the very best performers recruited from hometowns nationwide. Days before Thanksgiving, they will gather for the first time in New York City to rehearse their numbers as a group, ahead of their once-in-a-lifetime national spotlight. Adding some wacky 1980s style dancing will be the hilarious 610 Stompers (New Orleans, LA), with modern dance youth talent showcased by The Alvin Ailey School (New York, NY) and the tap dance theatrics of children from The Nice List (New York, NY). Rounding out the performance group line-up and joining select talent performances will be Gamma Phi Circus (Normal, IL), Manhattan Youth Ballet (New York, NY), the dance stars of the world-renowned in-school arts education program National Dance Institute (New York, NY) and Young People’s Chorus of NYC (New York, NY).

PLEASE NOTE: All talent, performers, elements and information included are subject to change.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast is produced by the Emmy Award-winning Brad Lachman Productions. Brad Lachman serves as executive producer, Bill Bracken will co-executive produce and Ron de Moraes directs.

For an insider’s look at the holiday procession, fans nationwide should visit macys.com/parade for regular updates including behind-the-scenes previews, special tours, interactive historical information, and more. Fans can also follow @macys on various social networks and join the conversation using #MacysParade.

2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: major floats, celebrity appearances announced

November 1, 2019

The following is a press release from NBC:

A spectacle like no other awaits millions, as the 93rd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, the nation’s most cherished holiday tradition, kicks off the holiday season. On Thursday, November 28 at 9 a.m., the time honored phrase Let’s Have a Parade™ will ring from the starting line as the march of fantasy takes to the streets of New York City. With more than 8,000 volunteers dressed as clowns, guiding the flight of larger-than-life character balloons, transporting spectators to new worlds on signature floats, bringing the beat in the nation’s best marching bands and entertaining the crowds as part of dazzling performance groups, the annual march is jam-packed with entertainment. With more than 3.5 million spectators in New York City and more than 50 million television viewers nationwide, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is America’s premiere holiday celebration.

“Spectacle is synonymous with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and each year we aim to create an even bigger one than the last, with incredible must-see entertainment for millions of spectators nationwide,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Featuring an amazing line-up of high-flying character balloons, jaw-dropping animated floats, world-class marching bands and performance groups, artists covering a variety of musical genres, and of course, the one-and-only Santa Claus, we are ‘Parade Ready’ and can’t wait to take to the streets of New York City to once again herald the arrival of the holiday season.”

For more than nine decades, the magic of the holiday season has begun with the march of the Macy’s Parade, as the spectacle enthrals the nation with its signature mix of whimsical elements and dazzling performances. For the 93rd edition, the line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 40 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 11 marching bands.

INFLATABLE ICONS
Since 1927, when the Parade’s character balloons first joined the revelry, the inflatables have become a signature element featuring some of the world’s most beloved characters. Over time, the inflatables have morphed from air-filled characters carried on sticks to high-flying giants, balloonheads and even hybrid inflatables with vehicles inside (balloonicles) or tandem tricycles (trycaloons).

New giants joining the line-up this year include Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon. In celebration of his 75th birthday, a heritage balloon and fan favorite will return to the Parade as Smokey Bear once again takes to the skies over Manhattan.

In 2005, the Macy’s Parade began to feature what would become a collection of high-flying artwork created in collaboration with renowned contemporary artists. The special series, entitled Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery, has featured some of the art world’s finest creators. This year, for the eighth edition of the series, the world’s most renowned female contemporary artist will take her iconic art to new heights as Yayoi Kusama joins the Macy’s Parade with her Love Flies Up to the Sky balloon. The design was developed by the artist from face motifs that appear in her “My Eternal Soul” series of paintings–a body of work that she began in 2009. Vibrant and animated, the paintings embody Kusama’s innovative exploration of form and revolve around a tension between abstraction and figuration. The artist’s signature dots–which recur throughout her practice—are also featured prominently in the Macy’s Parade balloon design. Previous balloons in the Macy’s Parade Blue Sky Gallery series have included works from famed artists Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, KAWS, and FriendsWithYou™.

Returning giant balloon characters include Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Children’s Books; Sinclair Oil’s DINO®; The Elf on the Shelf®; Goku; Illumination Presents Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Jett by Super Wings™; Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen 2”; Chase from PAW Patrol®; Pikachu™ by the Pokémon Company International; Pillsbury Doughboy™; Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; and Trolls. Completing the inflatable lineup is the famed Aflac Duck, Sinclair Oil’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles, as well as Universal Orlando Resort’s The Nutcracker.

STARS ON PARADE
The Macy’s Parade has must-see entertainment for everyone in the family. Joining the festivities will be stars from a variety of global music genres including Pop, R&B, Country, Latin and K-Pop, with a few noteworthy special appearances thrown in the mix. Appearing or performing onboard one of Macy’s signature floating stages will be Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago, Ciara, Josh Dela Cruz, Debbie Gibson, former NASA Astronauts Kay Hire & Janet Kavandi, Chris Janson, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, NHL® Legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk, the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, NCT 127, Ozuna, Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, That Girl Lay Lay, TLC, Tenille Townes, and Chris Young; with an extra special appearance by the one-and-only Santa Claus.

FLOATING WONDERS
Conceived and crafted by the incredible artisans of Macy’s Parade Studio – a design and production facility that includes carpenters, engineers, electricians, painters, animators, sculptors, metal fabricators, scenic and costume designers – this year’s line-up of floats sets an unparalleled stage for entertainment. Gliding down Manhattan, the Parade’s signature floats transport spectators to worlds of wonder through creative design, engineering, and skillful construction. While they may seem to float down the Parade route as three stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide stages, the magic is truly in the design as these floats are built to collapse to no more than 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide in order to travel safely from the New Jersey home of the Parade Studio to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel each Thanksgiving eve.

This year, five new floats will debut including Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You! (Josh Dela Cruz), The Brick-changer by The Lego Group (NCT 127), Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® (Tenille Townes), Rexy in the City by COACH® (Billy Porter), and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Kelly Rowland).

The returning float roster and its scheduled performers and special stars include 1-2-3 Sesame Street® by Sesame Workshop™ (The cast and Muppets of Sesame Street); Big City Cheer! by Spirit of America Productions (Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin); Central Park (Lea Michele); Christmas Cheer is Near by Elf Pets®/The Elf on the Shelf®; Cornucopia; Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill® (Idina Menzel); Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s®; Fantasy Chocolate Factory by Kinder™ (Natasha Bedingfield), Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant® (Chris Janson); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (Chicago); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Chris Young); the NHL® Most Valuable Hockey Mom presented by MassMutual (Black Eyed Peas and NHL® Legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk); Parade Day Mischief by SOUR PATCH KIDS® Candy (Ozuna); Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Nickelodeon (Ciara); Santa’s Sleigh (Santa Claus); Shimmer and Shine by Nickelodeon (Debbie Gibson); Snoopy’s Doghouse by Peanuts Worldwide (Charlie Brown and former NASA Astronauts Kay Hire and Janet Kavandi); Splashing Safari Adventure by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions (TLC); Tom Turkey; and Universal Playground by Universal Kids (That Girl Lay Lay).

Returning for a third year by popular demand, the Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree by Delta Air Lines will feature the harmonious voices of more than 100 Macy’s colleagues and friends from Delta hailing from across the nation and the world. Performing an original song to celebrate the start of the holiday season, the golden-voiced chorus will touch the hearts and uplift the spirits of millions.

STRIKE UP THE BAND AND DANCE
The nation’s best marching bands bring the beat to the holiday revelry. For this year’s 93rd march, 11 of the specially chosen ensembles will ignite coast-to-coast excitement and hometown pride as they step off and perform on the streets of the Big Apple. This year’s bands include Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band (St. Petersburg, FL), Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment (Blue Springs, MO), Catalina Foothills Falcon Band (Tucson, AZ), Franklin Regional Panther Band (Murrysville, PA), Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), Madison Central High School Band (Richmond, KY), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s Kings of Halftime (Lithonia, GA), Morgan State University’s The Magnificent Marching Machine (Baltimore, MD), NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY), Ronald Reagan High School Marching Band (San Antonio, TX), and Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (Cullowhee, NC).

Entertaining the crowds with their signature exuberance will be the Parade’s signature large and specialty performance groups. Joining the line-up this year are the teen dancers and cheerleaders of Spirit of America Dance Stars and Spirit of America Cheer. These groups together feature more than 1,200 of the very best performers recruited from hometowns nationwide. Days before Thanksgiving, they will gather for the first time in New York City to rehearse their numbers as a group, ahead of their once-in-a-lifetime national spotlight. Adding some wacky 1980s style dancing will be the hilarious 610 Stompers (New Orleans, LA), with modern dance youth talent showcased by The Alvin Ailey School (New York, NY) and the tap dance theatrics of children from The Nice List (New York, NY). Rounding out the performance group line-up and joining select talent performances will be Gamma Phi Circus (Normal, IL), Manhattan Youth Ballet (New York, NY), the dance stars of the world-renowned in-school arts education program National Dance Institute (New York, NY) and Young People’s Chorus of NYC (New York, NY).

A NATIONAL SPECTACLE
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the nation’s biggest and most anticipated holiday celebration. Broadcast nationally on NBC, with millions of families nationwide tuning in to watch the excitement unfold,  the TODAY Show’s Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker will host the three-hour broadcast from 9 a.m. – noon (in all time zones).

To kick off the revelry, a special must-see opening number featuring a who’s who of actors, singers, dancers and more, all joined by the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street, will start the Thanksgiving Day party with a smash.

Following the opener, on 34th Street, Broadway’s best shows will take a star turn in front of Macy’s famed flagship with special performances.  In addition, the show-stopping Radio City Rockettes® will bring their signature high-kicking magic to Herald Square.

360 DEGREE INTERACTIVE FUN
For the fourth year, Macy’s, along with NBCUniversal and Verizon, will give viewers an up close and personal second screen experience of the Parade with a 360-degree livestream on Verizon’s YouTube page.  The stream will go live at 8:30 a.m. EST at www.youtube.com/verizon and will run through noon EST. With exclusive access to cameras along the entire Parade route, online spectators will get a glimpse of the magic behind the scenes, as well as a preview of what’s to come as the Parade marches down the streets of Manhattan.

For spectators in New York or those traveling to the city to see it live, the 93rd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade begins at 9 a.m., kicking off from 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will march to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South and then march down 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas. At 34th Street, the Parade will make its final turn west and end at 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square.

For an insider’s look at the holiday procession, fans nationwide should visit macys.com/parade or regular updates including behind-the-scenes previews, special tours, interactive historical information, and more.  Fans can also follow @macys on various social networks and join the conversation using #MacysParade.

This Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will bring millions of spectators a dazzling celebration like no other. Start the countdown, in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … Let’s Have a Parade!

Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Hilton is the official hotel of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Ram is the official truck of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Remo is the official drumhead provider of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Under Armour is the official outerwear provider of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix
CULTURE MIX