Review: ‘The Whistlers,’ starring Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga and Sabin Tambrea

February 27, 2020

by Carla Hay

Vlad Ivanov and Catrinel Marlon in “The Whistlers” (Photo by Vlad Cioplea)

“The Whistlers” 

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu

Romanian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Set in Romania and the Canary Islands’ La Gomera, this thriller has an all-white cast of characters portraying law enforcement and criminals.

Culture Clash: The characters have conflicts over drug smuggling, police corruption and stolen 10 million in cash.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like suspenseful crime stories and European arthouse films.

Catrinel Marlon, Vlad Ivanov, Agustí Villaronga, Antonio Buil and Andrei Ciopec in “The Whistlers” (Photo by Vlad Cioplea)

Drug dealers, corrupt cops, a femme fatalethese are all characteristics of numerous movies about the criminal underworld. However, the Romanian film “The Whistlers” has a unique angle because most of the characters involved the dirty dealing communicate in code by whistles that sound like birds. They use this form of communication for their most secretive messages. It’s a language called El Silbo that they’ve learned by traveling to a mysterious place at the Canary Islands’ La Gomera, off the coast of Spain. The El Silbo whistling language exists in real life, and “The Whisters” writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu was inspired to do this film when he heard about El Silbo.

At the beginning of the film, the central character Cristi Anghelache (played by Vlad Ivanov) is seen arriving in La Gomera. He’s an amoral Bucharest police officer who’s gotten involved in drug trafficking, by taking some of the cash involved in the drug deals he’s supposed to investigate and by becoming a trusted ally to a powerful crime lord involved in the drug deals. After arrivingin La Gomera, Cristi is driven to a secluded house, where he’s met by Gilda (Catrinel Marlon), a beautiful woman with a lot of secrets.

Gilda tells him, “The package arrived safely,” before showing Cristi his guest room. She also tells him cryptically, “Forget about what happened in Bucharest. I did it for the surveillance cameras.” It turns out that Cristi is at the house to learn to whistle in the El Silbo langauge. Exactly how and why he ended up there is revealed as the story unfolds.

There are many twists and turns to the plot, but it’s enough to say without revealing spoiler information that many of the characters have hidden agendas and could be involved in double-crossing each other at any moment. They are often under surveillance of hidden cameras. And most of them are looking for or want the €10 million in cash that went missing during a massive drug bust.

Besides Cristi and Gilda, the other people involved in this web of lies and intrigue are:

Paco (played by Agustí Villaronga), the powerful crime boss who’s the leader of a drug-trafficking ring that Cristi has been investigating and colluding with at the same time.

Zsolt Nagy (played by Sabin Tambrea), Paco’s trusted right-hand man, who’s been plotting with Gilda to betray Paco.

Magda (played by Rodica Lazar), Cristi’s tough and corrupt boss, who wants Cristi to help her frame Zsolt by planting cocaine in his possession so that Zsolt can be arrested and interrogated.

Kiko (played by Antonio Buil), the sleazy henchman who is often tasked with teaching El Silbo to people in the crime ring.

Mama (played by Julieta Szönyi), Cristi’s mother who is heartbroken over knowing that her son has gotten involved with criminal activities, but she remains loyal to him and acts in what she thinks will be in his best interests.

All of these characters are shown in flashbacks and present-day scenes. People who prefer linear structures in movies will have to pay extra attention in “The Whistlers” to what’s a flashback and what isn’t a flashback, in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Gilda is somewhat of a stereotypical femme fatale who uses her sexuality to get what she wants. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when viewers find out that she’s married to Paco and has been having sex with at least two other men who are involved in the drug-trafficking ring. Meanwhile, Cristi’s mother finds €50,000 in cash that Cristi has hidden in her cellar. She knows that it’s dirty money, so she donates it to a local church. That donation sets of a series of events that culminates in secrets being exposed and alliances being tested.

“The Whistlers” is an intriguing story that’s elevated by artsy and gorgeous cinematography by Tudor Mircea. (A scene that takes place during a light show at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands is particularly effective.) The film’s ending might not be much of a surprise, but the guessing games that the movie plays on viewers should be enjoyable to people who like a good mystery.

Magnolia Pictures will release “The Whistlers” in select U.S. cinemas on February 28, 2020.

Review: ‘Burden,’ starring Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Austin Hébert, Usher Raymond and Tom Wilkinson

February 26, 2020

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from left to right: Taylor Gregory, Andrea Riseborough, Forest Whitaker, Dexter Darden, Crystal Fox and Garrett Hedlund in “Burden” (Photo courtesy of 101 Studios)


Directed by Andrew Heckler

Culture Representation: Taking place in primarily in the small town of Laurens, South Carolina, this dramatic film has a racially diverse cast of African American and white characters portraying the poor and working-class.

Culture Clash: The movie tells the story about racial tensions and hate crimes that get worse when local Ku Klux Klansmen open a KKK shop/museum in the town, and one of the KKK members becomes a former racist.

Culture Audience: “Burden” will appeal primarily to people who like to see dramatic retellings of stories about people involved with civil rights and fighting racism.

Garrett Hedlund and Tom Wilkinson in “Burden” (Photo courtesy of 101 Studios)

There’s been a mini-trend of “based on a true story” feature films about white racists who change their bigoted ways of thinking, by having unlikely friendships with black people. In the movie, one black person in particular makes the difference in reforming the white racist. We saw this same premise in 2018’s Oscar-winning “Green Book,” 2019’s “The Best of Enemies” and now in 2020’s “Burden.”

Written and directed by Andrew Heckler (his first feature-length film), “Burden” won’t be nominated for any Oscars, but it’s a solid film that has a top-notch cast, even though the movie can veer into well-worn clichés. The movie’s timeless message is more important than the recycled way that much of the movie was filmed.

Taking place in the small town of Lauren, South Carolina, in the mid-to-late 1990s the story is told mainly from the perspective of the title character, Mike Burden (played by Garrett Hedlund), a self-described “redneck” troublemaker who was orphaned at an early age. The movie begins in the spring of 1996, when Mike (who’s in his early 20s) is making his living at a repo company, which is not-so-subtly called Plantation Repossession. He also has a long history of being a criminal. Most of his antisocial behavior consists of violent hate crimes, because he’s a longtime member of the Ku Klux Klan and has risen to the title of Grand Dragon.

Mike has a mentor/father figure in local Klan leader Tom Griffin (played by Tom Wilkinson), who is grooming Mike to be his successor. Mike is such a part of Tom’s family that he’s become like a brother to Tom’s son Clint (played by Austin Hébert), who works with Mike at Plantation Repossession. Tom’s wife Hazel (played by Tess Harper) is also a white supremacist who’s proud to have her family in the KKK.

Tom, Mike and other local Klansman have opened up a storefront in town called the Redneck Shop and KKK Museum, despite objections from many of the citizens in Laurens and beyond. One of the most vocal protestors is Rev. David Kennedy (played by Forest Whitaker), the leader of the New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Kennedy is a devoted family man to his wife Janice (played by Crystal Fox) and teenage son Kelvin (played by Dexter Darden).

Meanwhile, the movie shows two other people who eventually play a role in Mike Burden’s transformation. One is a single mother named Judy (played by Andrea Riseborough), who first meets Mike when he and Clint come over to her house to repossess items from her live-in boyfriend, who’s an unemployed former NASCAR driver and a heavy drinker. The other person is Mike’s former schoolmate Clarence Brooks (played by Usher Raymond, also known as Grammy-winning singer Usher), who encounters Mike and Clint when they go over to Clarence’s house to repossess his television.

Even though Clarence tells him his sob story about being laid off due to company cutbacks and asks the repo men to give him a break, Mike and Clint are unmoved. Clarence tries to appeal to Mike’s memories of when they were friends as young kids, but Mike somewhat smugly tells Clarence that he can’t make an exception for him or else he and Clint will lose their jobs. While they’re far enough away so Clarence can’t hear them, Clint and Mike make a racist comment about Clarence being on welfare.

The next time Mike and Judy see each other, she’s at the racetrack with elementary-school-aged son Franklin (played by Taylor Gregory). Mike and Judy lock eyes in the way that people do in movies when you know that they’re going to fall in love. Even though Judy has ditched her deadbeat boyfriend, she’s somewhat reluctant to date Mike because she knows about his bad reputation. But Mike is very charming and polite to her and Franklin, so eventually she gives in, and they start dating and fall in love.

Before Mike goes though his transformation, much of the story shows the dichotomy of his personality. One the one hand, he’s hard-working employee and a romantic boyfriend to Judy. On the other hand, he participates in vicious crimes against people who aren’t white or Christian. He and his KKK cronies regularly beat up black people. And they’re the kind of racists who, when they see a black girl walking down a deserted road by herself, they urinate on her and laugh as they pass by in a truck.

Mike’s mentor Tom thinks so highly of him that he tells everyone at a local KKK chapter meeting that he’s signing over the store/museum deed to Mike. What Mike does with that real-estate deed after he leaves the Klan becomes the center of a lawsuit that’s depicted in the last third of the film.

But before that happens, Judy makes it clear that she despises that Mike is in the KKK, and she starts spending more time working with Rev. Kennedy and the other people in his congregation who want to shut down the Redneck Shop and KKK Museum. She eventually helps Mike see the error of his ways, and he leaves the Klan.

But there are consequences, as Mike becomes the target of his former KKK comrades’ hatred. He loses his job and eventually his home. He gets beaten up by his former Klan buddies. Mike eventually turns to Rev. Kennedy for help.

Rev. Kennedy offers Mike, Judy and Franklin a place to stay at his home, which is an offer that his wife Janice objects to at first because she doesn’t want her family to be put in danger. The reverend’s son Kelvin is also upset by letting Mike and his new family into the Kennedy home and what it could mean for the Kennedy family. The danger is very real, since Clarence gets beaten up by KKK members because of Clarence’s association with Mike.

As the story unfolds, there are scenes that predictably happen. Judy’s son Franklin and Clarence’s son Duane (played by Devin Bright) become friends in a déjà vu of Mike and Clarence’s childhood friendship. The controversy over the KKK museum gets national attention, bringing Jesse Jackson (played by an actor) to town for one of the protests. Mike’s baptism (by Rev. Kennedy, of course), which takes place at a lake, shows a reformed Mike emerging from the water in slow-motion. It’s filmed with the kind of adoration that’s usually reserved for “miracle” scenes.

“Burden” sometimes gets hokey, but the good intentions outweigh the sometimes overly sentimental direction. The movie doesn’t sugarcoat that turning around a violent bigot’s life can be complicated, messy and dangerous. But the movie shows that things can improve for people who used to be enemies of each other if they have enough compassion, knowledge and resources to help people change for the better.

The former location of the Redneck Shop and KKK Museum has now been renamed the Echo Theater. According to a press release from 101 Studios )the U.S. distributor for “Burden”) 101 Studios and the New Baptist Missionary Church “are partnering to rebuild the space so that it becomes a center of positivity for the first time in its history. National and local partners, such as Lowe’s, are working with 101 Studios and the New Baptist Missionary Church to contribute supplies and materials to the renovation efforts.”

101 Studios will release “Burden” in select U.S. cinemas on February 28, 2020. 

Review: ‘My Boyfriend’s Meds,’ starring Jaime Camil and Sandra Echeverría

February 25, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sandra Echeverría and Jaime Camil in “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)

“My Boyfriend’s Meds” (“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio”)

Directed by Diego Kaplan

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Set in San Francisco and the fictional Mexican island of San Voitar, the Spanish-language romantic comedy “My Boyfriend’s Meds” has a cast of Latino and white characters that are primarily from the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A man tries to hide his multiple mental illnesses from his new girlfriend, and things turn disastrous when he accompanies her to a business retreat attended by her boss and co-workers.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like over-the-top, somewhat formulaic romantic comedies, but might offend some people who won’t like how various mental illnesses are made the butt of jokes.

Sandra Echeverría and Jaime Camil in “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)

The romantic comedy “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio”) tries to put a somewhat different spin on the genre by having its leading man as someone with various mental illnesses, which he controls through a lot of medication and therapy. But what happens when he goes on a business retreat with his new girlfriend (whom he hasn’t told yet about his psychiatric problems) and accidentally leaves behind his medications?

Because of this very tricky and sensitive subject, the movie takes a very broad, slapstick approach that has mixed results. The humor works best when it’s about mixed signals and failed communications, but it’s downright awkward and cringeworthy when it attempts to show the dangerous effects of a mentally ill person who goes off of medication for a few days.

“My Boyfriend’s Meds” (directed by Diego Kaplan, who wrote the screenplay with Gary Marks) also has an underlying patriarchal message that expects people to be more tolerant of men with mental illnesses than women. If the lead female character in the movie had the mental problems instead of the lead male character, there would be a lot less likelihood that characters in the movie would be willing to laugh off the inappropriate and offensive behavior shown by the mentally ill person.

Although this movie is a comedy that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, “My Boyfriend’s Meds” cynically presents itself as a movie that can lessen the stigma of mental illness. But instead, all the movie does is inflate the worst stereotypes of people with mental-health issues.

In the beginning of the film, viewers are introduced to San Francisco marketing executive Jess Overman (played by Sandra Echeverría), who’s looking for her Mr. Right. She’s single, successful, attractive and a nice person—an all-around great catch. The problem is that she’s very unlucky in love—or does she just have bad taste in men?

Her latest wrong boyfriend has proposed to her over a romantic dinner at a restaurant. He’s had the unusual idea of having a flying drone carry the engagement ring to the table when he proposes. But things go terribly wrong when the drone malfunctions and crashes, which causes Jess’ hair to catch on fire, and then the drone gets tangled in her hair, which requires large chunks of her hair having to be cut off. She’s so humiliated that she immediately breaks up with the boyfriend.

While she’s home alone after the fiasco, Jess lies on her water bed and smokes a joint. She then falls asleep and the joint burns through her water-bed mattress. After just going through her hair being set on fire, now she’s experienced a mini-flood in her home. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Jess goes to a mattress store to buy a new mattress—one that definitely won’t be a water-bed mattress. While she’s lying down on a mattress in the store to try it out, she senses someone lying beside her. It’s a good-looking guy who’s about 10 years older than she is. He introduces himself as Hank Gasper, the owner of the store.

Hank then proceeds to tell her that he can deduce what she needs just from how she’s lying down on the mattress. He correctly guesses that she used to own a water-bed mattress and now wants a regular mattress. He then follows her by lying down with her from mattress to mattress.

Instead of being creeped out by his behavior, she finds it charming, so she accepts his invitation to go out on a date with him. During dinner, Hank is the perfect date, and their chemistry together is so strong that they end up in bed together after that first date. They continue to see each other, and Jess can’t believe her luck at how much this guy is her ideal man. He’s charismatic, he treats her like a queen (including cooking gourmet meals for her), and they have a passionate sex life.

But this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without a problem. Hank has a big secret: He has several mental illnesses and conditions, such as having a bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder,  agoraphobia, Tourette syndrome and attention-deficit disorder. He’s been controlling these issues with lots of medication and the help of his psychiatrist Dr. Sternback (played by Jason Alexander), who urges him to immediately disclose his conditions to any woman he’s dating if he thinks it might turn into a serious relationship. Hank doesn’t take Dr. Sternbach’s advice (which Hank continues to ignore for most of the movie), so he doesn’t tell Jess about his psychiatric problems.

Meanwhile, Jess works at a company called Tequila Tuxcueca, which has a hotshot founder/CEO who thinks Jess’ personality is more “banana juice” than “tequila.” The company is having an upcoming retreat where employees can bring a guest, and Jess is desperate to impress her boss and co-workers to prove that she has a fun personality. Jess is a needy people pleaser who’s divulged way too much of her love life to her nosy, mostly married co-workers, who can’t hide their condescension that she hasn’t found Mr. Right.

The co-workers remind Jess that she’s broken up with a lot of boyfriends for various reasons. One ex-boyfriend was rejected because he has one testicle. She ended a relationship with another ex-lover because he has a habit of crying after has sex. She dumped another man because he acted like an airplane pilot during sex. The fact that her co-workers know all of this about Jess’s sex life says a lot about what type of person Jess is too.

Jess mentions to her co-workers that her current boyfriend Hank Gasper could be The One, and of course they want to meet him at the retreat. Feeling pressure to bring a “date” to the retreat, she asks Hank if he wants to go to the retreat with her, even though she tells him that she knows it might be too soon in their relationship for this type of getaway trip. Unbeknownst to Jess, Hank had been planning to tell her about his psychiatric problems that night. But instead, he says yes to the retreat invitation and decides to postpone telling her.

The retreat is at a fictional Mexican island called San Voitar. The company employees are staying at the Shanadu Hotel, which takes the term “getaway resort” seriously, because it’s a place that does not have cell phone service or Internet access for the guests. The movie also has a running gag (which gets old very quickly) about how the hotel employees emphasize the “sh” in “Shanadu,” to indicate that they want people to be as quiet as possible.

Things start off well on the trip, until Hank finds out that his big bottle of pills (he put all of his necessary medication in one bottle) is missing from his luggage. In a flashback, viewers see that Hank’s cat accidentally knocked the bottle out of his travel bag, and the bottle rolled underneath Hank’s bed without Hank knowing this happened.

Hank immediately panics and tries to call his psychiatrist, but that turns into a mini-ordeal because of the lack of cell-phone service and the slow-paced concierge whose pen runs out of ink. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. Hank ends up using a land-line phone to make the call to Dr. Sternbach. And wouldn’t you know, there isn’t a pharmacy at the hotel or nearby, so the meds will have to be flown in by special delivery. Of course, this can’t happen overnight, since Hank has enough prescriptions to fill a medicine cabinet, so Hank will have to go without his meds for a few days.

The rest of the movie is a slapstick fest of Hank having various meltdowns because he’s doesn’t have his meds, while Jess is confused over why he’s acting so crazy. Hank’s OCD kicks in when he sees walkways paved with stones, and he tiptoes to avoid stones. He starts to hallucinate, and one of his frequent hallucinations is seeing an animated pink medication capsule and a blue medication tablet, which he calls “Pila” and “Dora,” which can talk and dance. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Hank keeps in touch with Dr. Sternbach, who advises him to get as much sleep as possible, avoid drinking alcohol, and try not to have sex because sex will get him over-excited. Of course, Hank does the opposite of what his doctor advises, so he begins to act crazier.

A male concierge notices that Hank is acting unstable, so there’s a subplot of the concierge conspiring with one of the hotel’s cooks to con Hank out of money. The plan is for the cook to pretend to be a witch doctor who will charge Hank $1,000 to get a “special cure” for his medical problems. The concierge and the cook decide to split the money in their con game. Of course, Hank takes the bait, and sneaks off to meet with the “witch doctor” who promises to make him a magical concoction. Hank believes everything this stranger tells him. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

And then, Brooke Shields has a small supporting role as a New Age healer named Alicia Santos, who leads teambuilding therapy sessions at the hotel The sessions include people snapping their fingers in unison when they agree on something, which actually makes them look more like drag queens than a group of corporate employees. But the peaceful harmony that Alicia is trying to spread is frequently broken, because by this time, Hank’s Tourette syndrome begins to act up, so he starts shouting out random curse words. At first, the co-workers think he’s just being uninhibited, but then he begins shouting random insults at Jess’ co-workers, and they see that something is very wrong with him.

As Jess becomes increasingly mortified by Hank’s behavior (he still hasn’t told her why he’s acting this way), things go from bad to worse during a karaoke party, where Hank (wearing a cowboy hat and tight jeans) sings Backstreet Boys songs, strips down to his underwear, and starts dry humping the legs of one of Jess’ co-workers. It’s as cringeworthy to watch as it sounds.

But that’s not the worst part of the movie. That comes later when someone in the movie tries to commit suicide (take a wild guess who it is) by jumping off of a high ledge. What happens next is nothing short of ludicrous. It’s also bound to offend some people who think that suicide and suicide attempts should not be trivialized for the sake of making a slapstick scene in a comedy.

Despite making the leading man a psychiatric mess, “My Boyfriend’s Meds” is still a formulaic and predictable movie. As the troubled Hank, Camil handles his physical comedy pretty well, but the rest of the performances in the movie are serviceable at best. The message that the film tries to convey is that love can conquer all obstacles. Too bad some obstacles can’t be overcome for this movie, such as its ridiculous script and sloppy direction.

Panetelion Films released “My Boyfriend’s Meds” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.

Harvey Weinstein convicted of sex crimes, including rape

February 24, 2020

by Colleen McGregor

Harvey Weinstein at the Weinstein Company’s Pre-Academy Awards Dinner sponsored by Grey Goose at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on February 25, 2017. (Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian/BFA)

On February 25, 2020, in a New York City courtroom, disgraced entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on two of five possible counts involving two women: a first-degree criminal sexual act and a third-degree rape. He was found not guilty of the three most serious charges: two counts of predatory sexual assault and first-degree rape in the first degree on two women: Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann. The jury, consisting of seven men and five women, deliberated for nearly a week.

The trial began on January 6, 2020, after experiencing many delays. Weinstein, who is 67, did not testify at his trial. After the verdict was read, Weinstein was immediately taken to jail, where he will be held until his sentencing on March 11, 2020. He faces up to 29 years in prison.

Weinstein is also facing sexual-assault charges in Los Angeles, where he is accused of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another woman on two consecutive nights during Oscars week in 2013.

Weinstein was first arrested in May 2018,  when he turned himself into the New York Police Department. He was arrested and charged with rape and forced oral sex. According to the Associated Press, the rape charge was for an unidentified woman who claims that Weinstein raped her at a New York hotel room in 2013. The oral sex charge was for a 2004 incident in which former aspiring actress Lucia Evans claims that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at his New York office.

In October 2018, the charge involving Evans was dismissed. According to CNN, Evans’ attorney Carrie Goldberg implied that the charge was dropped for political reasons because of a “feud between the NYPD and the DA’s office.” Goldberg added that the dropped charge “does speak to a system desperate in need of reform.”

A few famous actresses testified against Weinstein in his New York trial: Annabella Sciorra (who says that Weinstein raped her in her apartment in 1993 and 1994) and Rosie Perez, who testified that Sciorra told her about being raped shortly after the incident. Perez found out much later that Sciorra’s alleged rapist was Weinstein, but Perez did not go to police because Sciorra swore her to secrecy at the time.

According to the Associated Press, New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made this statement after the verdict was revealed: “This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and it is a new day. It is a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed. Weinstein is a vicious, serial sexual predator who used his power to threaten, rape, assault and trick, humiliate and silence his victims. Weinstein with his manipulation, his resources, his attorneys, his publicists and his spies did everything he could to silence to survivors.”

Weinstein’s attorneys said that they will appeal the verdict. His defense attorney Donna Rotunno commented after the verdict was revealed: “Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man. He knows that we will continue to fight for him, and we know that this is not over.”

Weinstein’s conviction and imprisonment for sex crimes are considered landmarks for the #MeToo movement, which became a major cultural force in October 2017, when the New York Times and the New Yorker reported that Weinstein has a long history of sexual misconduct allegations, going back as far as the 1980s. The reports detailed how he silenced many of his alleged victims with financial settlements and non-disclosure agreements. In the years since those reports were published, more than 100 women have come forward to claim that Weinstein sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Weinstein has denied all the allegations, and says any sex acts he committed were consensual.

After the reports were published, Weinstein was fired by The Weinstein Company (the entertainment firm that Harvey co-founded with his brother Bob); Harvey’s second wife, Georgina Chapman, divorced him; and the company filed for bankruptcy. The Weinstein Company has since been purchased by investment group Lantern Entertainment.

In March 2019, Lantern and Gary Barber launched Spyglass Media Group, which will own the library previously owned by The Weinstein Company. Italian film distributor Eagle Pictures, cinema chain Cineworld (which own Regal Cinemas) and later AT&T’s Warner Bros. were brought in as minority holders. The library includes Oscar-winning movies “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Iron Lady,”  as well as partial ownership of the fashion reality TV competition “Project Runway.”

Several industry organizations (including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) have expelled Harvey Weinstein from their membership, and he has been sued by several women for sexual harassment/sexual misconduct. Ashley Judd, one of his accusers, is also suing him for defamation because she claims Harvey Weinstein damaged her reputation and career after she rejected his sexual advances.

Since the accusations about Weinstein were made public, there have been several books, news stories and documentaries about his scandals. The most notable feature-length documentary so far about Weinstein is Hulu’s “Untouchable,” which began streaming in September 2019. The entertainment industry website Deadline reported in 2018 that Plan B (Brad Pitt’s production company) and Annapurna Pictures are planning a dramatic feature film about how The New York Times broke the Weinstein #MeToo story. The movie, if it’s made, will likely begin filming after all of Weinstein’s criminal cases have been resolved.

Harvey Weinstein’s downfall is widely considered to be the turning point of the #MeToo cultural movement, which has survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault publicly telling their stories and seeking justice. The #MeToo movement has also led to sexual misconduct allegations against many other famous and powerful men, often resulting in the accused losing their jobs and/or being sued.

True Crime Entertainment: What’s New This Week

The following content is generally available worldwide, except where otherwise noted. All TV shows listed are for networks and streaming services based in the United States. All movies listed are those released in U.S. cinemas. This schedule is for content and events premiering this week and does not include content that has already been made available.

Monday, February 24 – Sunday, March 1

TV/Streaming Services

All times listed are Eastern Time/Pacific Time, unless otherwise noted.

Netflix’s six-part docuseries “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” premieres on Wednesday, February 26 at 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT.

Monday, February 24

“Live PD: Police Patrol”
(Episode 246)
Monday, February 24, 8 p.m., A&E

“Live PD: Police Patrol”
(Episode 246)
Monday, February 24, 8:30 p.m., A&E

“Twisted Love”
“Twisted Love” (Episode 103)
Monday, February 24, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Fatal Attraction”
“Blazing Deception” (Monica Sykes)
Monday, February 24, 9 p.m., TV One

“American Greed”
“Fake Heiress Cons High Society” (Episode 184)
Monday, February 24, 10 p.m., CNBC

Episode 4
Monday, February 24, 10 p.m., HBO

“Stranger Among Us”
“Flames of Fury” (Episode 104)
Monday, February 24, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Tuesday, February 25

“Murder Comes Home”
“On Her Own” (Episode 105)
Tuesday, February 25, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Wednesday, February 26

“The Trials of Gabriel Hernandez” (Six-part docuseries)
Wednesday, February 26, 3 a.m./12 am., Netflix

“Live PD: PD Cam”
Wednesday, February 26, 8 p.m., A&E

“Live PD: PD Cam”
Wednesday, February 26, 8 :30 p.m., A&E

“The Murder Tapes”
“Fire in the Desert” (Episode 204)
Wednesday, February 26, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“True Life Crime”
“Mom Gone Missing: Runaway or Murder Victim?”(Episode 108) **Season Finale**
Wednesday, February 26, 9 p.m., MTV

“In Pursuit With John Walsh”
“In Cold Blood”(Episode 207)
Wednesday, February 26, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Thursday, February 27

“The First 48”
“Triggered” (Episode 1911)
Thursday, February 27, 8 p.m., A&E

“Snapped: Killer Couples”
“Kristel Maestas and Ronald Bell” (Episode 1303)
Thursday, February 27, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“Live PD: Wanted”
(Episode 201) **Season Premiere**
Thursday, February 27, 9 p.m., A&E

“Man With a Van”
“Handsome Devil” (Episode 103) 
Thursday, February 27, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“In Ice Cold Blood”
“Guilty as Charged” (Episode 303) 
Thursday, February 27, 9 p.m., Oxygen

“60 Days In”
“They Know” (Episode 609)
Thursday, February 27, 10 p.m., A&E

Friday, February 28

“Dateline NBC: Secrets Uncovered”
“The Carrolton Plot” (Episode 820)
Friday, February 28, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“Fatal Vows”
“Hell on Wheels” (Episode 704)
Friday, February 28, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Live PD: Roll Call”
Friday, February 28, 8 p.m., A&E

“Live PD: Rewind”
Friday, February 28, 8:06 p.m., A&E

“Live PD”
Friday, February 28, 9 p.m., A&E

Friday, February 28, 9 p.m., ABC

Friday, February 28, 9 p.m., NBC

Saturday, February 29

“Criminal Confessions”
“A Helpful Witness” (Episode 313)
Saturday, February 29, 6 p.m., Oxygen

“Up and Vanished”
“Deadly Spirits” (Episode 103)
Saturday, February 29, 7 p.m., Oxygen

“Live PD: Roll Call”
Saturday, February 29, 8 p.m., A&E

“Live PD: Rewind”
Saturday, February 29, 8:06 p.m., A&E

“Live PD”
Saturday, February 29, 9 p.m., A&E

“48 Hours”
Saturday, February 29, 10 p.m., CBS

Sunday, March 1

“Evil Lives Here”
“He Almost Got Away With It” (Episode 709)
Sunday, March 1, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Wrong Man”
(Episode 203)
Sunday, March 1, 9:05 p.m., Starz

“The Lake Erie Murders”
“Black Sabbath” (Episode 204)
Sunday, March 1, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Forensic Files II”
(Episode 103)
Sunday, March 1, 10 p.m., HLN

“Forensic Files II”
(Episode 104)
Sunday, March 1, 10:30 p.m., HLN

Movies in Theaters


Directed by Andrew Heckler

MPAA Rating: R

When a museum celebrating the Ku Klux Klan opens in a small South Carolina town, the idealistic Reverend Kennedy (played by Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker) resolves to do everything in his power to prevent long-simmering racial tensions from boiling over. But the members of Kennedy’s congregation are shocked to discover that his plan includes sheltering Mike Burden (played by Garrett Hedlund), a Klansman whose relationships with both a single-mother (played by Andrea Riseborough) and a high-school friend (played by Usher Raymond) force him to re-examine his long-held beliefs. After Kennedy helps Mike leave behind his violent past, the Baptist preacher finds himself on a collision course with manipulative KKK leader Tom Griffin (played by Tom Wilkinson). In the face of grave threats to himself and his family, the resolute Kennedy bravely pursues a path toward peace, setting aside his own misgivings in the hopes of healing his wounded community. From Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robbie Brenner (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and writer/director Andrew Heckler comes this dramatic true story of compassion and grace in the American South.


No new podcast series debuts this week.


Events listed here are not considered endorsements by this website. All ticket buyers with questions or concerns about the event should contact the event promoter or ticket seller directly.

All start times listed are local time.

Live Laugh Levitate: An Unofficial Last Podcast on the Left Book Club

A discussion of author Dave Cullen’s non-fiction book “Columbine.”

WHEN: Saturday, February 29, 4 – 6 p.m.

WHERE: Onderdonk & Sons, 566 Onderdonk Ave ue, Ridgewood, NY 11385

ADMISSION: Free; RSVP recommended.


2020 NAACP Image Awards: Lizzo, Beyoncé, ‘Just Mercy,’ ‘Black-ish’ among the top winners

February 22, 2020

by Carla Hay

Lizzo, Beyoncé, the dramatic film “Just Mercy” and the comedy series “Black-ish” were among the top winners at the 51st NAACP Image Awards, which were presented at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, on February 22, 2020. BET had the U.S. telecast of the show, which was hosted by “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson.

Lizzo was named Entertainer of the Year, and her “Juice” video won Outstanding Music Video. Beyoncé, who did not attend the ceremony, won seven prizes: Outstanding Female Artist; Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (for her collaboration with Blue Ivy, Saint Jhn, and Wizkid’s “Brown Skin Girl”); Outstanding Song, Traditional (for “Spirit”); Outstanding Song, Contemporary (“Before I Get Go”); Outstanding Album (for “Beyoncé – Homecoming: The Live Album”); Outstanding Soundtrack/Compilation (for “Beyoncé & Various artists – The Lion King: The Gift”); and Outstanding Variety (Series or Special), for  “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé.”

ABC’s “Black-ish” won five awards: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series (for Anderson);  Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (for Tracee Ellis Ross);  Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (for Deon Cole); and “Black-is” co-star Marsai Martin won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as Outstanding Performance by a Youth (Series, Special, Television Movie or Limited Series). In the movie categories, Martin also won the awards for  Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture, for her role in the comedy film “Little.”

Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Just Mercy,” which is based on the true story of wrongfully convicted prisoner Walter McMillian, won four prizes: Outstanding Motion Pictures; Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture; Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (for Michael B. Jordan); and  Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (for Jamie Foxx).

According the a press release from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): “The NAACP Image Awards honors the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature, and film and also recognizes individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. The Image Awards previously aired on TV One.”

The public votes for the awards in the competitive categories. Non-competitive award recipients are announced in advance. This year, the recipients were U.S. Congressman John Lewis (Chairman’s Award), entertainment/fashion mogul Rihanna (President’s Award) and General Charles E. McGhee (Key of Life Award).

The following is the complete list of nominees and winners for the 2020 NAACP Image Awards:



  • Angela Bassett
  • Billy Porter
  • Lizzo*
  • Regina King
  • Tyler Perry


Outstanding Comedy Series

  • “Ballers” (HBO)
  • “black-ish” (ABC)*
  • “Dear White People” (Netflix)
  • “grown-ish” (Freeform)
  • “the Neighborhood” (CBS)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Anthony Anderson – “black-ish” (ABC)*
  • Cedric The Entertainer – “the Neighborhood” (CBS)
  • Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” (Showtime)
  • Dwayne Johnson – “Ballers” (HBO)
  • Tracy Morgan – “The Last O.G.” (TBS)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Logan Browning – “Dear White People” (Netflix)
  • Jill Scott – “First Wives Club” (BET+)
  • Tiffany Haddish – “The Last O.G.” (TBS)
  • Tracee Ellis Ross – “black-ish ” (ABC)*
  • Yara Shahidi – “grown-ish” (Freeform)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC)
  • Deon Cole – “black-ish” (ABC)*
  • Laurence Fishburne – “black-ish” (ABC)
  • Terry Crews – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC)
  • Tituss Burgess – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Halle Bailey – “grown-ish” (Freeform)
  • Loretta Devine – “Family Reunion” (Netflix)
  • Marsai Martin – “black-ish” (ABC)*
  • Regina Hall – “Black Monday” (Showtime)
  • Tichina Arnold – “the Neighborhood” (CBS)

Outstanding Drama Series

  • “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX)
  • “Greenleaf” (OWN)*
  • “Queen Sugar” (OWN)
  • “The Chi” (Showtime)
  • “Watchmen” (HBO)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series

  • Billy Porter – “Pose” (FX Networks)
  • Forest Whitaker – “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX)
  • Kofi Siriboe – “Queen Sugar” (OWN)
  • Omari Hardwick – “Power” (Starz)*
  • Sterling K. Brown – “This Is Us” (NBC)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

  • Angela Bassett – “9-1-1” (FOX)*
  • Regina King – “Watchmen” (HBO)
  • Rutina Wesley – “Queen Sugar” (OWN)
  • Simone Missick – “All Rise” (CBS)
  • Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  • Delroy Lindo – “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access)
  • Giancarlo Esposito – “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX)
  • Harold Perrineau – “Claws” (TNT)*
  • Nigél Thatch – “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX)
  • Wendell Pierce – “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (Prime Video)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  • CCH Pounder – “NCIS: New Orleans” (CBS)
  • Lynn Whitfield – “Greenleaf” (OWN)*
  • Lyric Ross – “This Is Us” (NBC)
  • Susan Kelechi Watson – “This Is Us” (NBC)
  • Tina Lifford – “Queen Sugar” (OWN)

Outstanding Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special

  • American Son (Netflix)
  • Being Mary Jane (BET Networks)
  • Native Son (HBO)
  • True Detective (HBO)
  • When They See Us (Netflix)*

Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special

  • Caleel Harris – “When They See Us” (Netflix)
  • Ethan Henry Herisse – “When They See Us” (Netflix)
  • Idris Elba – “Luther” (BBC America)
  • Jharrel Jerome – “When They See Us” (Netflix)*
  • Mahershala Ali – “True Detective” (HBO)

Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special

  • Aunjanue Ellis – “When They See Us” (Netflix)
  • Gabrielle Union – “Being Mary Jane” (BET Networks)
  • Kerry Washington – “American Son” (Netflix)
  • Niecy Nash – “When They See Us” (Netflix)*
  • Octavia Spencer – “Truth Be Told” (Apple TV+)

Outstanding News/Information (Series or Special)

  • PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (PBS)
  • Surviving R. Kelly (Lifetime)
  • The Breakfast Club (REVOLT)
  • The Story of God with Morgan Freeman (National Geographic)
  • Unsung (TV One)*

Outstanding Talk Series

  • “Red Table Talk” (Facebook Watch)*
  • “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central)
  • “The Real” (Syndicated)
  • “The Shop: Uninterrupted” (HBO)
  • “The Tamron Hall Show” (Syndicated)

Outstanding Reality Program/Reality Competition Series/Game Show

  • “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN)
  • “Lip Sync Battle” (Paramount Network)
  • “Rhythm + Flow” (Netflix)*
  • “Sunday Best” (BET Networks)
  • “The Voice” (NBC)

Outstanding Variety (Series or Special)

  • “2019 Black Girls Rock!” (BET Networks)
  • “Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones” (Netflix)
  • “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” (Netflix)*
  • “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
  • “Wanda Sykes: Not Normal” (Netflix)

Outstanding Children’s Program

  • “Doc McStuffins” (Disney Junior)
  • “Family Reunion” (Netflix)
  • “Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History” (Netflix)
  • “Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest” (Disney XD)
  • “Motown Magic” (Netflix)

Outstanding Performance by a Youth (Series, Special, Television Movie or Limited-Series)

  • Caleel Harris – “When They See Us” (Netflix)
  • Lonnie Chavis – “This Is Us” (NBC)
  • Lyric Ross – “This Is Us” (NBC)
  • Marsai Martin – “black-ish” (ABC)*
  • Miles Brown – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble

  • Angela Rye – “Young Gifted and Broke: A BET Town Hall” (BET Networks)
  • Jada Pinkett Smith – “Red Table Talk” (Facebook Watch)*
  • Lester Holt – “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” (NBC)
  • Trevor Noah – “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central)
  • Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sunny Hostin, Meghan McCain, Abby Huntsman, Ana Navarro – “The View” (ABC)

Outstanding Host in a Reality/Reality Competition, Game Show or Variety (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble

  • Iyanla Vanzant – “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN)
  • LL Cool J – “Lip Sync Battle” (Paramount Network)
  • Regina Hall – “2019 BET Awards” (BET Networks)
  • Steve Harvey – “Celebrity Family Feud” (ABC)*
  • Wayne Brady – “Let’s Make A Deal” (CBS)

Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy or Drama Series

  • Blair Underwood – “Dear White People” ( Netflix)
  • David Alan Grier – “Queen Sugar” (OWN)
  • Kelly Rowland – “American Soul” (BET Networks)*
  • MAJOR. – “Star” (FOX)
  • Sanaa Lathan – “The Affair” (Showtime)


Outstanding Album

  • “Cuz I Love You” – Lizzo (Nice Life Records/Atlantic Records)
  • “Homecoming: The Live Album” – Beyoncé (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)*
  • “I Used To Know H.E.R.” – H.E.R. (MBK Entertainment / RCA Records)
  • “Sketchbook” – Fantasia (Rock Soul Inc./BMG)
  • “Worthy” – India.Arie (India.Arie Inc./BMG)

Outstanding New Artist

  • Ari Lennox (Dreamville/Interscope Records)
  • Lil Nas X (Columbia Records)*
  • Lucky Daye (Keep Cool/RCA Records)
  • Mahalia (Burkmar/Warner Music UK)
  • Mykal Kilgore (Affective Music)

Outstanding Male Artist

  • Bruno Mars (Atlantic Records)
  • Khalid (RCA Records)
  • Lil Nas X (Columbia Records)
  • MAJOR. (BOE Music Group/EMPIRE)
  • PJ Morton (Morton Records)

Outstanding Female Artist

  • Beyoncé (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)*
  • Fantasia (Rock Soul Inc./BMG)
  • H.E.R. (MBK Entertainment / RCA Records)
  • India.Arie (India.Arie Inc./BMG)
  • Lizzo (Nice Life Records/Atlantic Records)

Outstanding Song – Traditional

  • “Enough” – Fantasia (Rock Soul Inc./BMG)
  • “Jerome” – Lizzo (Nice Life Records/Atlantic Records)
  • “Spirit” – Beyoncé (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)*
  • “Stand Up” – Cynthia Erivo written by Joshuah Brian Campbell & Cynthia Erivo (Back Lot Music)
  • “Steady Love” – India.Arie (India.Arie Inc./BMG)

Outstanding Song – Contemporary

  • “Before I Let Go” – Beyoncé (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)*
  • “Hard Place” – H.E.R. (MBK Entertainment / RCA Records)
  • “Juice” – Lizzo (Nice Life Records/Atlantic Records)
  • “Talk” – Khalid (RCA Records)
  • “Motivation” – Normani (Keep Cool/RCA Records)

Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration

  • “Brown Skin Girl” – Blue Ivy, SAINt JHN, Beyoncé & WizKiD (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)*
  • “No Guidance” – Chris Brown feat. Drake (Chris Brown Entertainment/RCA Records)
  • “Say So” – PJ Morton feat. JoJo (Morton Records/EMPIRE)
  • “Shea Butter Baby” – Ari Lennox feat. J. Cole (Dreamville/Interscope Records)
  • “Show Me Love” – Alicia Keys feat. Miguel (RCA Records)

Outstanding Jazz Album

  • “Carib” – David Sanchez (Ropeadope)
  • “Center of The Heart” – Najee (Shanachie)
  • “Love & Liberation” – Jazzmeia Horn (Concord Jazz)*
  • “SoulMate” – Nathan Mitchell (Enm Music Group)
  • “The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron” – Vanessa Rubin (Vanessa Rubin)

Outstanding Gospel/Christian Song (Traditional or Contemporary)

  • “I Made It Out” – John P. Kee feat. Zacardi Cortez (Kee Music Group/Entertainment One)
  • “Laughter” – Bebe Winans feat. Korean Soul (Regimen Records)
  • “Love Theory” – Kirk Franklin (Fo Yo Soul Records/RCA Records)*
  • “Not Yet” – Donnie McClurkin (Camdon Music/RCA Inspiration)
  • “Victory” – The Clark Sisters (Karew Records/Motown Gospel/Capitol CMG)

Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album

  • “Hard Place” – H.E.R. (MBK Entertainment / RCA Records)
  • “Juice” – Lizzo (Nice Life Records/Atlantic Records*
  • “No Guidance” – Chris Brown feat. Drake (Chris Brown Entertainment/RCA Records)
  • “Steady Love” – India.Arie (India.Arie Inc./BMG)
  • “Talk” – Khalid (RCA Records)

Outstanding Soundtrack/Compilation Album

  • “Harriet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” – Terence Blanchard (Back Lot Music)
  • “Queen & Slim The Soundtrack” – Various Artists (Motown Records)
  • “The Lion King: The Gift” – Beyoncé w/Various Artists (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)*
  • “The Lion King Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” – Various Artists (Walt Disney Records)
  • “Us (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” – Michael Abels (Back Lot Music)


Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction

  • “New Daughters of Africa” – Margaret Busby (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • “Out of Darkness, Shining Light” – Petina Gappah (Simon and Schuster)
  • “Red at the Bone” – Jacqueline Woodson (Riverhead Books PRH)
  • “The Revisioners” – Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Counter Point Press)*
  • “The Water Dancer” – Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World)

Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction

  • “Breathe: A Letter to My Sons” – Dr. Imani Perry (Beacon Press)
  • “STONY THE ROAD: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow” – Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Penguin Press)
  • “The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations” – Toni Morrison (Alfred A. Knopf)*
  • “The Yellow House” – Sarah M. Broom (Grove Atlantic)
  • “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays” – Damon Young (HarperCollins Publishers)

Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author 

  • “American Spy” – Lauren Wilkinson (Random House)
  • “I Am Dance: Words and Images of the Black Dancer” – Hal Banfield (Author), Javier Vasquez (Illustrator), (Literary Revolutionary)*
  • “More Than Pretty: Doing The Soul Work To Uncover Your True Beauty ” – Erica Campbell (Howard Books)
  • “Such A Fun Age” – Kiley Reid (Putnam Publishing / Penguin Publishing Group)
  • “The Farm” – Joanne Ramos (Random House)

Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography

  • “Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System” – Cyntoia Brown-Long (Atria Books)
  • “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward” – Valerie Jarrett (Viking Press)
  • “More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)” – Elaine Welteroth (Viking Press)*
  • “My Name Is Prince” – Randee St. Nicholas (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • “The Beautiful Ones” – Prince (Author), Dan Piepenbring (Edited by), (Random House)

Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional

  • “Inspire Your Home: Easy, Affordable Ideas to Make Every Room Glamorous” – Farah Merhi (Tiller Press)
  • “Letters to the Finishers (who struggle to finish)” – Candace E. Wilkins (New Season Books)
  • “More Than Pretty: Doing the Soul Work that Uncovers Your True Beauty” – Erica Campbell (Howard Books)
  • “Vegetables Unleashed” – José Andres (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • “Your Next Level Life: 7 Rules of Power, Confidence, And Opportunity For Black Women In America” – Karen Arrington (Author), Joanna Price (Illustrator), Sheryl Taylor (Forward) (Mango Publishing)*

Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry

  • “A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland” – DaMaris B. Hill (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • “Felon: Poems” – Reginald Dwayne Betts (W.W. Norton Company)*
  • “Honeyfish” – Lauren K. Alleyne (New Issues Poetry and Prose)
  • “Mistress” – Chet’la Sebree (New Issue Poetry and Prose)
  • “The Tradition” – Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)

Outstanding Literary Work – Children

  • “A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation” – Barry Wittenstein (Author), Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator), (Neal Porter Books / Holiday House Publishing Inc.)
  • “Hair Love” – Matthew A. Cherry (Author), Vashti Harrison (Illustrator), (Kokila)
  • “Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment” – Parker Curry (Author), Jessica Curry (Author), Brittany Jackson (Illustrator), (Aladdin Books)
  • “Ruby Finds a Worry” – Tom Percival (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • “Sulwe” – Lupita Nyong’o (Author), Vashti Harrison (Illustrator), (Simon & Schuster, BFYR)*

Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens

  • “Around Harvard Square” – C.J. Farley (Akashic Books)*
  • “Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk” – Meredith Davis (Author), Rebeka Uwitonze (Author), (Scholastic Inc.)
  • “Hot Comb” – Ebony Flowers (Author), Ebony Flowers (Illustrator), (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • “I’m Not Dying with You Tonight” – Gilly Segal (Author), Kimberly Jones (Author), (Sourcebooks Fire)
  • “The Forgotten Girl” – India Hill Brown (Scholastic Inc.)

Outstanding Motion Picture

  • “Dolemite is My Name” (Netflix)
  • “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)*
  • “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)
  • “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture

  • Chadwick Boseman – “21 Bridges” (STX Films)
  • Daniel Kaluuya – “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)
  • Eddie Murphy – “Dolemite is My Name” (Netflix)
  • Michael B. Jordan – “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)*
  • Winston Duke – “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture

  • Alfre Woodard – “Clemency” (Neon)
  • Cynthia Erivo – “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • Jodie Turner-Smith – “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)
  • Lupita Nyong’o – “Us” (Universal Pictures)*
  • Naomie Harris – “Black and Blue” (Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

  • Jamie Foxx – “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)*
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. – “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • Sterling K. Brown – “Waves” (A24)
  • Tituss Burgess – “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix)
  • Wesley Snipes – “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph – “Dolemite is My Name” (Netflix)
  • Janelle Monáe – “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • Jennifer Lopez – “Hustlers” (STX Films)
  • Marsai Martin – “Little” (Universal Pictures)*
  • Octavia Spencer – “Luce” (Neon)

Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture

  • Cynthia Erivo – “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • Jodie Turner-Smith – “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)
  • Marsai Martin – “Little” (Universal Pictures)*
  • Rob Morgan – “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Shahadi Wright Joseph – “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture

  • “Dolemite is My Name” (Netflix)
  • “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)*
  • “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)
  • “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture

  • “Clemency” (Neon)
  • “Dolemite is My Name” (Netflix)*
  • “Luce” (Neon)
  • “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)
  • “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (Netflix)

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (Television or Film)

  • Alfre Woodard – “The Lion King” (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Donald Glover – “The Lion King” (Walt Disney Studios)
  • James Earl Jones – “The Lion King” (Walt Disney Studios)*
  • Lupita Nyong’o – “Serengeti” (Discovery Channel)
  • Sterling K. Brown – “Frozen II” (Walt Disney Studios)

Outstanding Documentary (Film)

  • “Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool” (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
  • “The Black Godfather” (Netflix)
  • “The Apollo” (HBO)
  • “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” (Magnolia Pictures)*
  • “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality” (HBO)

Outstanding Documentary (Television – Series or Special)

  • “Free Meek” (Prime Video)
  • “Hitsville: The Making of Motown” (Showtime)*
  • “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” (Netflix)
  • “Martin: The Legacy of A King” (BET Networks)
  • “ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke” (Netflix)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

  • Cord Jefferson – “The Good Place” – Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy (NBC)*
  • Gloria Calderon Kellett, Mike Royce – “One Day at a Time” – Ghosts (Netflix)
  • Jason Kim – “Barry” – Past=Present x Future Over Yesterday (HBO)
  • Karen Gist, Peter Saji – “Mixed-ish” – Let Your Hair Down (ABC)
  • Trevor Noah – “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” – Steve King’s Comments Meet Trevor Noah: Racism Detective (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series

  • Ava DuVernay, Michael Starrbury – “When They See Us” – Part Four (Netflix)
  • Damon Lindelof, Cord Jefferson – “Watchmen” – The Extraordinary Being (HBO)
  • Nichelle Tramble Spellman – “Truth Be Told” – Monster (Apple TV+)*
  • Nkechi Okoro Carroll – “All American” – Hussle & Motivate (The CW)
  • Pat Charles – “Black Lightning” – The Book of Secrets: Chapter One: Prodigal Son (The CW)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Television)

  • Cas Sigers-Beedles – “Twas the Chaos Before Christmas” (BET Networks)
  • Melissa Bustamante – “A Christmas Winter Song” (Lifetime)
  • Patrik-Ian Polk, Devon Shepard, and Alyson Fouse – “Being Mary Jane” (BET Networks)
  • Suzan-Lori Parks – “Native Son” (HBO)*
  • Yvette Nicole Brown – “Always a Bridesmaid” (BET Networks)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Film)

  • Chinonye Chukwu – “Clemency” (Neon)
  • Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham – “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Doug Atchison – “Brian Banks” (Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures)
  • Jordan Peele – “Us” (Universal Pictures)*
  • Kasi Lemmons, Gregory Allen Howard – “Harriet” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series

  • Anya Adams – “GLOW” – Outward Bound (Netflix)*
  • Justin Tipping – “Black Monday” -7042 (Showtime)
  • Ken Whittingham – “Atypical” – Road Rage Paige (Netflix)
  • Randall Winston – “Grace and Frankie” – The Pharmacy (Netflix)
  • Shaka King – “Shrill” – Pool (Hulu)

Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series

  • Ava DuVernay – “When They See Us” – Part Four (Netflix)
  • Carl H. Seaton, Jr. – “Snowfall” – Hedgehogs (FX Networks)
  • Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson – “Power” – Forgot About Dre (Starz)*
  • Debbie Allen – “Grey’s Anatomy” – Silent All These Years (ABC)
  • Jet Wilkinson – “The Chi” – The Scorpion and the Frog (Showtime)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Television)

  • Codie Elaine Oliver – “Black Love” (OWN)
  • Janice Cooke – “I Am Sombody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story (Lifetime)
  • Kenny Leon – “American Son” (Netflix)
  • Rashid Johnson – “Native Son” (HBO)*
  • Russ Parr – “The Bobby Debarge Story” (TV One)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Film)

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor – “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (Netflix)*
  • Jordan Peele – “Us” (Universal Pictures)
  • Kasi Lemmons – “Harriet” (Focus Features)
  • Mati Diop – “Atlantics” (Les Films du Bal Presente en Co-Production avec Cinekap et Frakas Productions en Co-Production avec Arte France Cinema et Canal+ International for Netflix)
  • Reginald Hudlin – “The Black Godfather” (Netflix)

Review: ‘Impractical Jokers: The Movie,’ starring James ‘Murr’ Murray, Brian ‘Q’ Quinn, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano

February 22, 2020

by Carla Hay

Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray, Sal Vulcano and Joe Gatto in “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” (Photo courtesy of truTV)

“Impractical Jokers: The Movie”

Directed by Chris Henchy

Culture Representation: The predominantly white cast of the comedy film “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” has the four prank-playing stars of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers” going on a road trip to Miami and encountering people from various walks of life.

Culture Clash: This entire movie is about how the stars of “Impractical Jokers” compete with each other over an invitation to a Paula Abdul party, and they play pranks on unsuspecting people and themselves as part of the competition.

Culture Audience: “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” will primarily appeal to “Impractical Jokers”/The Tenderloins fans and other fans of lowbrow pranks.

Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano, James “Murr” Murray and Brian “Q” Quinn in “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” (Photo courtesy of truTV)

Fans of truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” which has been on the air since 2011 and follows the New York City-based comedy troupe The Tenderloins, should already know what to expect for the “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” the first theatrically released feature film from truTV. The question is if it’s worth paying extra money to see a movie that could basically be a TV special available at no extra charge for people who have truTV. You’d have to be a humorless grouch to not enjoy some of the genuinely laugh-out-loud moments in the movie. However, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” falls on its face when it steers away from the pranks, and it has the stars of the show reading scripted lines as actors portraying themselves.

“Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” directed by Funny or Die co-founder Chris Henchy, is absolutely the type of lowbrow, frat-boy comedy that fans love about the “Impractical Jokers” TV series. It’s the same format, with the guys using hidden cameras, as well as hidden speaking/listening devices to feed lines to one whichever guy is doing the prank, in order to make things more uncomfortable for him.

The movie is made for “Impractical Jokers” fans, not anyone looking for anything intellectual or groundbreaking. But for people who don’t know anything about “Impractical Jokers,” the movie is a pretty good introduction to the four “Impractical Jokers” stars: James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano, also known as the comedy troupe The Tenderloins. (All four of The Tenderloins, along with Henchy and Funny or Die’s Jim Ziegler and Buddy Enright, are producers of the movie.)

Murr is the group’s biggest physical daredevil and the “ladies’ man” in the movie: He gets completely naked during a boat prank, and near the end of the film, there’s a scene of him tied to the top of a small airplane as a stunt. (It’s not a stunt double.) Sal is the one who’s most likely to get the most humiliating pranks from the other guys. Q is the most sensible one of the group and is the one most likely to stop a prank if he thinks it’s headed in the wrong direction. Joe is the best improviser who’s the most likely to think quickly on his feet if a prank doesn’t go the way it was originally expected.

The movie begins with a scripted “origin story” of the “Impractical Jokers” stars’ first prank. At a Paula Abdul concert in the early 1990s, the four guys pull the fire-alarm switch, which abruptly ends the concert by sending frightened audience members heading for the exit. Abdul (who portrays herself in flashback scenes and present-day scenes) is so enraged that she gets in a physical fight with the four pranksters, including punching Sal in the throat, and she vows to get revenge on them.

Fast forward about 25 years later, and the guys are having dinner together at a restaurant, when Abdul sees them, but only recognizes them as the stars of “Impractical Jokers.” She comes over and gushes about how much of a fan she is, and he guys are relieved that she doesn’t remember them as the pranksters who ruined her concert years ago. Abdul invites them to a party she’s having in Miami, where she will also perform.

The guys are happy to accept the invitation because they think the party will be a “do-over” for them to make up for the fiasco of the previous time they were around Abdul. But there’s a problem: When they get the laminated badges that will give them access to the party, only three badges have been provided for them instead of four. Instead of asking for a fourth badge, they decide that on their road trip to Miami, they’ll do a series of pranks, and the guy who loses the most pranks will be the one who won’t get to go to the party.

So off they go on the road trip. One of their first stops is in Washington, D.C., which yields some of the best laughs in the movie. First, the guys do a prank challenge at the Lincoln Memorial, where they each have to convince strangers to approve a very inappropriate and distasteful eulogy. Each of the guys, while holding an urn said to contain someone’s ashes, separately approach visitors at a memorial monument. They ask the strangers to tell them what they think of a eulogy that they’ve written, and then read the eulogy. Each eulogy turns out to be insulting to the “dead person,” and most of the strangers approached say that the eulogy shouldn’t be read at the memorial. In the end, all but one of the guys fails this challenge.

In an even better scene, hidden cameras follow a tourist group being taken on a guide of caverns in the area. Joe then surprises the group by crawling out of a cave and pretending to be someone who had been trapped there since 1987. He’s wearing ghoulish light green makeup and alien-looking ears. And the startled and shocked expressions on the tourists’ faces are priceless.

Joe then makes up a story about being lost in the cave as a kid, when he got separated from his parents on a tour guide of the caverns. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m the Beef” (in reference to the famous “Where’s the Beef?” Wendy’s ad campaign from the 1980s. He asks the tour group, “Who shot J.R.?” (in reference to the famous cliffhanger from the TV series “Dallas”), and he asks if Walter Mondale got a second term. (Mondale ran against Ronald Reagan in the 1984 U.S. presidential election and lost.) All of these jokes land best with people who know about or remember the ’80s. Based on some of the puzzled or blank expressions of the younger people in the tourist group, the jokes went right over their heads.

When the guys are in Atlanta, another highlight of the movie is a challenge where they each interview for a job with the Atlanta Hawks, and they have to act like the interviewee from hell by saying and doing bizarre things during the interview. Joe is the funniest one in the group for this challenge, because he excuses himself to use the restroom during the interview, and then goes down to the basketball court that can be seen from the interview room, and starts playing basketball while the interviewer looks on in shock. When he comes back to the interview room, he tells the interviewer that security in the building isn’t very good because he was able to shoot hoops on the court without anyone stopping him.

Other prank challenges are hit-and-miss. One of these mixed-results challenges takes place on a private tour boat and resulted in a “win” for any of the “Impractical Jokers” guy who could convince tourists not to let the boat captain rescue someone in distress in a nearby raft. (The person “in distress” and the boat captain are really actors who are in on the prank.) This challenge was inconsistent because it had someone playing a military man in distress for part of the challenge, but then in another part of the challenge, a completely naked Murr plays the person in distress.

Another challenge that probably sounded funnier on paper than how it ended up on screen is when Murr celebrates his birthday at a strip club. While he’s getting lap dances in a private room, the blinds on a window in the room are lifted to reveal that members of his family (including his mother and underage nieces and nephews) are in the next room and watching him getting grinded on by strippers.

And in the beginning of the movie, a challenge with Sal dressed up as a shopping-center Santa Clause starts out funny when he pretends to fall asleep while a child is sitting on his lap. But then it becomes a little too mean-spirited to kids when Sal is told by the other guys to keep interrupting a little girl on his lap, and Sal “wins” if he can prevent her from telling “Santa” what her wishes are. It’s one thing to play hidden-camera pranks on adults. It’s another thing to subject kids to these pranks when they’re too young to understand what’s going on. But some parents must’ve signed release forms for their kids to be in this movie, so there you have it.

Another prank that will get mixed reactions is a roadside assistance challenge, where each guy pretends to be a stranded motorist with a broken-down car on a busy expressway, and tries to get help by flagging down cars that are passing nearby. There’s a slightly homophobic undertone to this prank, because some of the guys (namely, Joe and Murr) each try to act like a gay man to test the reactions of the people (who are all men) who stop to help. The pranksters apparently picked an area of the South that has a lot of redneck types, just to see their reactions when these locals are around a man who gives hints that they’re stereotypically gay. Murr scares one guy off when he leans over and shows that he’s wearing a purple thong. There are also double entendre jokes about gay sex to test if the Good Samaritans will pick up on the jokes.

While that questionable humor might not work so well in the movie, one of the funniest scenes is when the Sal, who doesn’t like cats, gets a prank played on him by the other guys. They lock him inside a motel room with a white tiger, which is chained up but sill close enough for Sal to have a panic attack. They don’t let Sal out of the room until he agrees to say things like “I’m a bitch boy.”

When one of the “Impractical Jokers” stars is the target of a prank, it’s hard to know how much of his reaction is real or is acting. And the movie’s cameo scenes with celebrities (such as Joey Fatone and Jaden Smith, who each portray themselves) lose their impact because viewers are told that Fatone and Smith are already in on the jokes.

The enduring popularity of “Impractical Jokers” is mainly because of unscripted reactions from everyday people who are truly unsuspecting targets of harmless pranks. Those are the best parts of the TV series and the best parts of this movie. As for the movie’s filler scenes where the “Impractical Jokers” stars have to memorize lines and recite screenplay dialogue like professional actors, here’s some unsolicited advice for these pranksters: “Don’t quit your day jobs.”

truTV released “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.

Movie and TV Reviews

Reviews for New Movies Released February 21 – February 27, 2020

Brahms: The Boy II (Photo courtesy of STX)
The Call of the Wild (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)
Emma (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)
Goldie (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)
Impractical Jokers: The Movie (Photo courtesy of truTV)
My Boyfriend’s Meds (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Photo by Elliott Landy)
Premature (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)
Seberg (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)
Standing Up, Falling Down (Photo by Noah M. Rosenthal)
Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations (Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures)

Complete List of Reviews

2/1 — drama

17 Blocks — documentary

37 Seconds — drama

Aamis — drama

Advocate — documentary

After Class (formerly titled Safe Spaces) — comedy/drama

After Parkland — documentary

All I Can Say — documentary

Amazing Grace — documentary

American Woman — drama

And Then We Danced — drama

The Apollo — documentary

Ask for Jane — drama

The Assistant — drama

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal — documentary

Bad Boys for Life — action

Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art — documentary

Beanpole — drama

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) — action

Blessed Child — documentary

Blow the Man Down — drama

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island — horror

The Boys (premiere episode) — drama

Brahms: The Boy II — horror

Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists — documentary

Buffaloed — comedy

Burden — drama

Burning Cane — drama

The Call of the Wild (2020) — live-action/animation

Cane River — drama

Changing the Game — documentary

Circus of Books — documentary

Clementine — drama

Color Out of Space — sci-fi/horror

Come as You Are (2020)  — comedy

Come to Daddy — horror

The Cordillera of Dreams — documentary

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words — documentary

Crown Vic — drama

CRSHD — comedy

A Day in the Life of America — documentary

Days of Rage: The Rolling Stones’ Road to Altamont — documentary

Decade of Fire — documentary

Devil’s Pie – D’Angelo — documentary

The Dog Doc — documentary

Dolittle — live-action/animation

Downhill — comedy

Dreamland — drama

Emma (2020) — comedy/drama

A Fall From Grace — drama

For They Know Not What They Do — documentary

Framing John DeLorean — documentary

Ganden: A Joyful Land — documentary

The Gasoline Thieves — drama

Gay Chorus Deep South — documentary

The Gentlemen — action

Get Gone — horror

Goldie — drama

Good Posture — comedy

Gretel & Hansel — horror

The Grudge (2020) — horror

He Dreams of Giants — documentary

Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation — documentary

Horse Girl — sci-fi/drama

The Host (2020) — horror

House of Hummingbird — drama

I Am Human — documentary

I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story — drama

I Want My MTV — documentary

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me — documentary

Impractical Jokers: The Movie — comedy

Incitement — drama

Initials SG — drama

Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica — documentary

It Takes a Lunatic — documentary

Jay Myself — documentary

John Henry — action

Kill the Monsters — drama

The Kill Team (2019) — drama

The Kindness of Strangers — drama

The Last Full Measure — drama

Leftover Women — documentary

Les Misérables (2019) — drama

Like a Boss — comedy

Limerence — comedy

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice — documentary

The Lodge — horror

The Longest Wave — documentary

Los Últimos Frikis — documentary

Lost Bayou — drama

Lost Transmissions — drama

Low Tide — drama

Lucky Grandma — action

Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over — documentary

Mai Khoi & the Dissidents — documentary

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound— documentary

Martha: A Picture Story — documentary

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words — documentary

Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back — documentary

Miss Americana — documentary

My Boyfriend’s Meds —comedy

Mystify: Michael Hutchence — documentary

Noah Land — drama

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin — documentary

Olympic Dreams — comedy/drama

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band — documentary

Only — drama

Ordinary Love — drama

Otherhood — comedy

Other Music — documentary

Our Time Machine — documentary

Out of Blue — drama

A Patient Man — drama

The Photograph — drama

Picture Character — documentary

The Place of No Words — drama

Plucked — documentary

Plus One — comedy

Premature — drama

The Quiet One — documentary

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — documentary

A Regular Woman — drama

Rewind — documentary

The Rhythm Section — action

Scheme Birds — documentary

Seahorse — documentary

Seberg — drama

See Know Evil — documentary

See You Yesterday — sci-fi/drama

The Short History of the Long Road — drama

The Show’s the Thing: The Legendary Promoters of Rock — documentary

A Simple Wedding — comedy

Slay the Dragon — documentary

The Sonata — horror

Sonic the Hedgehog — live-action/animation

Standing Up, Falling Down — comedy/drama

Stevenson Lost & Found — documentary

Stray Dolls — drama

Sublime — documentary

Swallow — drama

A Taste of Sky — documentary

The Thing About Harry  — comedy

This Is Personal — documentary

The Times of Bill Cunningham — documentary

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made  — comedy

To Kid or Not to Kid — documentary

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts — documentary

Troop Zero — comedy

The Turning (2020) — horror

Tyson — documentary

Unbelievable (premiere episode) — drama

Underwater — sci-fi/horror

Vas-y Coupe! — documentary

Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations — documentary

Watson — documentary

Weathering With You — animation

What Will Become of Us — documentary

What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali — documentary

The Whistlers — drama

Wig — documentary

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem — documentary

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation — documentary

XY Chelsea — documentary

You Don’t Nomi — documentary

You Go to My Head — drama

Zombi Child — horror

Review: ‘Emma’ (2020), starring Anya Taylor-Joy

February 21, 2020

by Carla Hay

Anya Taylor-Joy in "Emma"
Anya Taylor-Joy in “Emma” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“Emma” (2020)

Directed by Autumn de Wilde

Culture Representation: This comedic adapation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma” is set in the fictional countryside town of Highbury, England, and revolves around the white upper-class main characters and some representation of their working-class servants.

Culture Clash: The story’s title character is a young woman who likes to meddle in people’s love lives as a matchmaker, and her snobbish ways about social status sometimes cause problems.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to fans of Jane Austen novels and period movies about British culture.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn in “Emma” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

This delightful and gorgeously filmed adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma” stays mostly faithful to the original story but spices it up a bit to appeal to modern audiences. In her feature-film debut, director Autumn de Wilde takes the comedy of “Emma” and infuses it with more impish energy that’s lustier and more vibrant than previous film and TV adaptations.

The title character of the story is Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), a woman of privilege in her early 20s, who lives with her widowed father in the fictional countryside town of Highbury, England. Emma is a somewhat spoiled bachelorette who thinks she has such high intelligence and excellent judgment that she takes it upon herself to play matchmaker to people she deems worthy of her romance advice.

The movie takes place over the course of a year, beginning one summer and ending the following summer. Viewers know this because different seasons are introduced in bold letters, like a different chapter in a book.

One of the changes from the book that the movie makes is that it begins with Emma attending the wedding of her friend and former governess Miss Taylor, (played by Gemma Whelan) to Mr. Weston (played by Rupert Graves). (The book begins after Emma has attended the wedding.) Because Emma had introduced the Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston to each other, Emma feels that she has what it takes to play matchmaker to the unmarried people in her social circle. It’s at the wedding that viewers are introduced to most of the story’s main characters.

Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse (played by Bill Nighy), is a loving dad but often exasperated by Emma’s antics. He’s a hypochondriac who tries to shield himself from imaginary drafts of cold that he’s sure will cause him to get sick.

George Knightley (played by Johnny Flynn) is the handsome and cynical brother-in-law of Emma’s older sister Isabella (played by Chloe Pirrie). He thinks Emma can be an annoying meddler, but he nevertheless seems fascinated by what she does.

Mr. Elton (played by Josh O’Connor) is a social-climbing local vicar who has his eye on courting Emma, mostly because of her wealth and privilege. He’s unaware that Emma doesn’t see him has husband material.

Miss Bates (played by Miranda Hart) is a friendly, middle-aged spinster who is slightly ashamed about being unmarried at her age. She lives with her mother, Mrs. Bates (played by Myra McFadyen), who is a friend of Mr. Woodhouse.

Missing from the wedding is Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill (played by Callum Turner), who has a different last name because he was adopted by his aunt, who is frequently ill. Frank chose to stay home with his aunt instead of attending his father’s wedding.

Emma, who says multiple times in the story that she has no interest in getting married, nevertheless takes it upon herself to tell other people who would be suitable spouses for them. She starts with her gullible best friend Harriet (played by Mia Goth), a slightly younger woman of unknown parentage who idolizes Emma for being more glamorous and seemingly more worldly than Harriet is. Knightley can see that Harriet will be easily manipulated by Emma, and he expresses disapproval over Emma befriending Harriet.

A local farmer named Mr. Martin (played by Connor Swindells) has asked Harriet to marry him, but Emma convinces Harriet to decline the proposal. Why? Even though Mr. Martin is kind and clearly adores Harriet, Emma thinks that Harriet deserves to marry someone who’s higher up on the social ladder. As far as Emma is concerned, Mr. Elton would be an ideal husband for Harriet, so Emma sets out to pair up Harriet and Mr. Elton, whom Emma describes as “such a good-humored man.” It’s too bad that Emma doesn’t see that his humor is really buffoonery.

Mr. Knightley occasionally stops by to visit the Woodhouses, and he warns Emma not to interfere in other people’s love lives. He thinks Mr. Elton would be a terrible match for Harriet. Mr. Knightley is right, of course, but Emma ignores his warnings. Emma begins to manipulate communications between Harriet and Mr. Elton, with the goal that they will end up together and happily married. At one point in the story, Emma and Mr. Knightley have a big argument and they stop talking to each other.

Meanwhile, a new ingenue comes on the scene named Jane Fairfax (played by  Amber Anderson), who is the orphaned niece of Miss Bates. Jane (who is close to Emma’s age) is attractive, intelligent, talented. And everyone seems to be gushing about how wonderful she is, so Emma gets jealous. As Emma complains in a catty moment, “One is very sick of the name Jane Fairfax!”

Frank Churchill, a very eligible bachelor, begins spending more time in the area. And it isn’t long before Emma has thoughts about who would make a suitable wife for him.

However, things don’t go as planned in Emma’s matchmaking schemes. A series of events (and a love triangle or two) make Emma frustrated that things aren’t going her way. Unlike most heroines of romantic stories, Emma can be very difficult, since she can be bossy, selfish and occasionally rude. However, there are moments when she redeems herself, such as when she tries to make amends for her mistakes. If you know anything about romantic comedies and don’t know anything about how “Emma” ends, you can still figure out what will happen and if she’ll fall in love.

One of the changes made in this “Emma” screenplay (written by Eleanor Catton) that’s different from the book is that it puts more heat in the characters’ sexuality, with a makeout scene that’s definitely not described in the book. Another change is Emma shows more acknowledgement of people in the working-class, such as her servants and Mr. Martin, by interacting with them more than she does in the novel.

As Emma, actress Taylor-Joy brings a little bit more of a “hot mess” attitude to the role than Gwyneth Paltrow did when she starred in 1996’s “Emma.” Whereas Paltrow’s version of Emma was the epitome of prim and proper, Taylor-Joy’s version gives the impression that she would be ready to show her legs or knickers under the right circumstances. And as Mr. Knightley, Flynn’s pouty-lipped delivery gives him a smoldering quality that Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightley didn’t quite have in 1996’s “Emma.”

“Emma” director de Wilde comes from a music-video background (she’s helmed several videos for rock singer Beck), and perhaps this background explains why this version of “Emma” has a snappy rhythm to the pacing, which is sort of a tribute to 1940s screwball comedies. This pacing is subtle if this is the first version of “Emma” that someone might see, but it’s more noticeable when compared to other movie and TV versions of “Emma,” which tend to be more leisurely paced.

This version of “Emma” is also pitch-perfect when it comes to its costume design (by Alexandra Byrne), production design (by Kave Quinn), art direction (by Alice Sutton) and set decoration (by Stella Fox), because everything will feel like you’ve been transported to the luxrious English estates of the era. The costume design in particular is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

“Emma” certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea for people who don’t like watching period pieces about stuffy British people. However, fans of Austen’s “Emma” novel will find a lot to enjoy about this memorable movie adaptation.

Focus Features released “Emma” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.

Review: ‘Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations,’ starring Andrew Goldberg, Brad Orsini, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Deborah Lipstadt, Jean-Luc Slakmon and Valerie Braham

February 21, 2020

by Carla Hay

Andrew Goldberg and Russell Walker in “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” (Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures)

“Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations”

Directed by Andrew Goldberg

Culture Representation: This documentary examines the rise of anti-Semitism  in four countries: the United States, Hungary, the United Kingdom and France, featuring interviews with various people (almost all Caucasian) who are experts or have firsthand knowledge of the topic.

Culture Clash: Most of the people interviewed in the documentary say that anti-Semitism is a prejudice that has gotten worse in recent years, due to conflicts over economic uncertainty, immigration and more political leaders who openly express hatred of Jews.

Culture Audience: This movie will be of interest to anyone who is interested in contemporary news and social issues to find out the root causes of this bigotry and what can be done about it.

Jean-Luc Slakmon in “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” (Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures)

The excellent documentary “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” takes the concept that prejudice against Jews is like a viral infection that keeps spreading, and the movie focuses on four mutations in particular. Each mutation gets a chapter in the documentary.

“Chapter I: The Far Right” examines the far-right ideologies in the United States that have led to an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes. “Chapter II: Blaming the Jew” puts the spotlight on Hungary and certain political leaders’ noticeable obsession with demonizing Hungarian Jewish billionaire George Soros. “Chapter III: The Far Left” takes a look at anti-Semitism in far-left factions of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, as exemplified by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. And “Chapter IV: Islamic Radicalism” investigates anti-Semitism in France, particularly from radical Muslims.

Jewish actress Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” “ER”) provides narration in the beginning and end of the film, but the main narrator is writer/director/producer Andrew Goldberg, who’s also seen on camera interviewing some of the people in the documentary. Goldberg is a longtime journalist, and his expertise in newsgathering shows in the quality of this film. The editing by Diana Robinson (who’s also a producer of the documentary) is also top-notch. This is the type of movie that could be shown not only in traditional cinemas but also in schools and for groups that have an interest in news, anti-hate activism and other social issues.

In Chapter I, which covers anti-Semitism in the United States, among those who are interviewed are people who were witnesses or connected to the 2018 horrific mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people—the deadliest massacre of Jewish people in the United States. Those interviewed include Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers and former FBI agent Brad Orsini, who is currently security director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Meyers says that, based on the rise of anti-Semitic crimes in the U.S., the massacre was sadly inevitable. “To many, we will always be ‘other’ and not welcomed here,” he adds. Orsini has difficulty holding back tears, as he remembers witnessing the carnage at the scene of the crime, and he describes his current work in helping train synagogues in protecting themselves from these crimes in the future. Rabbi Elisar Admon of the Jewish Burial Society holds up a copy of a Hebrew Bible and shows a bullet hole that cut right through the word “God.” Admon says it’s a sign that even under the threat of violence, Jewish people “have to keep going” and never lose hope.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton believes that “economic stagnation” and a “feeling of powerlessness” fuel the anti-Semitism that has been on the rise in America. Meanwhile, former white supremacist Arno Michaels admits that when he was in a hate group, he would usually target young white Christians who had something wrong in their lives—whether it was an abusive home or other lack of support system—and tell them warped lies to feed their insecurities that their problems were caused people who aren’t white or Christian. Other people who weigh in with their observations about anti-Jewish hatred in America are “Antisemitism: Here and Now” author Deborah Lipstadt, journalist/CNN host Fareed Zakaria, conservative political commentator George Will and Eric Ward, an expert on bigotry-related violence.

In one of the most memorable sections of the documentary, director Goldberg travels to Hoke County, North Carolina, where he interviews former chemical engineer Russell Walker, who ran for the North Carolina State House of Representatives as an openly white supremacist Republican. Even though Walker lost the election, he still managed to get 37% of the votes. During the interview, Walker shows Goldberg one of his campaign signs. On one side, it says, “What’s Wrong With Being a Racist?” and on the other side it says, “God Is a Racist.”

The interview is an example of what several people mention is the documentary: Bigots don’t just look like the radicals seen marching at hate rallies or committing terrorists acts. Many of the worst bigots are friendly and polite to the faces of people they hate (as Walker is when he interacts with Goldberg), but behind closed doors, they are plotting dangerous ways to eliminate the people they consider enemies because of their races or religions.

Many of these bigots are running for political office and using patriotism to disguise their hate-filled beliefs. Some of the people in the documentary mention U.S. President Donald Trump and Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as two examples of politicians who have influenced the rise of anti-Semitism. (Some of the murderers who have committed the worst anti-Semitic crimes have quoted remarks made by certain politicians in power.)

The documentary’s Chapter II shows what many people outside of Hungary do not know: Hungarian native Soros, who has made sizeable donations to liberal politicians and liberal causes, has been labeled as the biggest Jewish enemy to Hungary. There are anti-Soros billboards, display signs and ads almost everywhere in Hungary that describe Soros as a Jewish “boogeyman/puppet master,” and Orbán frequently makes public remarks denigrating Soros. Hungarians interviewed in the documentary say that anti-Semitism in Hungary has been increasing for the past four years.

Chapter III of the documentary shows that in the United Kingdom, anti-Semitism has become more noticeable in the left-wing Labour Party, which has prided itself on having a “justice and equal rights for all” image. However, people interviewed in the documentary, such as former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Margaret Hodge (a Labour Party MP), say that economic uncertainty has fueled anti-Semitism for many British people who are on the far left of the political spectrum. Communist/Socialist-leaning left wingers who don’t like Western capitalist policies often see Israel as an ally to the West. This belief also plays into negative stereotypes that Jewish capitalists are greedy.

The documentary mentions that British politician Luciana Berger resigned as MP and left the Labour Party altogether in 2019. She says she quit the party because of anti-Semitism. Berger is now a member of the Liberal Democrats political party. Labour Party MP/chancellor John McDonnell says the Labour Party “hasn’t been quick enough in dealing with [anti-Semitism].” Many believe that Corbyn’s open distaste for Israel is based more on anti-Semitism than based on political beliefs. Several people in the documentary have cited Corbyn’s criticisms of Israel as causing divisions in the Labour Party and being one of the reasons for Corbyn’s downfall.

Chapter IV of the documentary has gut-wrenching descriptions of hate crimes targeting Jews in France, which experts in the documentary say is the nation with the highest-levels of anti-Semitism in Europe. Hate crimes against Jews in many other countries are often perpetrated by people who identify as Christians. But in France, the most high-profile hate crimes have been committed by people who identify as Muslim/Islamic.

One of the people interviewed is Jean-Luc Slakmon, who was an employee working at Hypercacher kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, France, on January 9, 2015, when a radical Islam held 19 people hostage and murdered four of them. Slakmon, who is shown in the documentary taking a Krav Maga self-defense class, believes his life was spared because of his diminutive height and because he fully cooperated with the gunman. Slakmon goes back to the scene of the crime, and his anxiety is visible, as he says being there is like reliving everything all over again. It’s obvious that he wants to break down and cry on camera, but he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Valerie Braham also gives an emotional interview about the devastation caused by anti-Semitic hate crimes. Her husband of nearly 10 years, Philippe Braham, was murdered in the Hypercacher massacre. She describes what kind of man he was (a great husband and father) and how the family will never recover from the loss. Simone Rodan-Benzaquen of the American Jewish Committee in France says that it’s common for Jews in France to constantly think about moving out of the country.

What should people take away from seeing this movie? This is what director Goldberg said in a statement: “I am a filmmaker and journalist, not an activist. We tried very hard to make a documentary that was not just a report but an actual feature film people would want to see. Many asked us if we had a ‘call to action’ for how people could help fight antisemitism, or if we offered solutions. We purposefully did neither. I have always believed that a well-educated populace is where we need to begin for people to make the best decisions.”

Dark Star Pictures released “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” in New York City on February 21, 2020. The movie’s U.S. theatrical release expands to more cities, as of February 28, 2020.