Museum exhibit in Washington, D.C., explores history of black filmmaking through movie posters

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Arthur Dreifuss’s Murder on Lenox Avenue (1941), named after a major thoroughfare in Harlem, was a gangster picture inspired by Othello, and one of the many “race films” marketed to black audiences between 1916 and 1956. (Image Courtesy: DCist).

Since November 22, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has been hosting the exhibit Now Showing, which will be featured at the Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts gallery until November 2020, according to DCist. It is made up of more than forty movie posters and lobby cards from the Larry Richard Collection, a cache of more than seven hundred posters the museum acquired in 2013, and an app will play film clips and curator interviews for museum visitors in a classic theater setting. Curator Rhea Combs says posters from before the 1980s were works of art.

Palm Springs International Film Festival: Antonio Banderas to earn International Star Award

Antonio Banderas will be honored with the thirty-first annual Palm Springs International Film Festival’s International Star Award, Actor, for his performance in Pedro Almódovar’s Pain and Glory (2019), at the Palm Springs Convention Center Film Awards Gala, according to Deadline. Jennifer Lopez (Spotlight Award), Joaquin Phoenix (Chairman’s Award), Martin Scorsese (Sonny Bono Visionary Award), Charlize Theron (International Star Award, Actress), and Renée Zellweger (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress), will also be recognized January 2. Past recipients of the International Star Award include Javier Barden, Nicole Kidman, Helen Mirren, Gary Oldman, as well as Saoirse Ronan, and the festival will run from January 2 to January 13, 2020.

“Sight & Sound” calls Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” (2019) the top release of the year

Sight & Sound named Joanna Hogg’s semiautobiographical The Souvenir (2019), introducing Honor Swinton Byrne as a promising young filmmaker who falls for a charismatic (if self-indulgent) heroin addict, as the greatest film of the year, according to IndieWire. The BBC also listed it in the hundred best movies directed by women; in addition, Sight & Sound included Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019), Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019), and Jordan Peele’s Us (2019) in its top twenty. Neither Sight & Sound, nor Time with its top ten, recognized Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019), but both did Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019).

Feminist documentarian releases new anti-Mafia film

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Kim Longinotto’s other films document survivors of female genital mutilation in Kenya and misogynistic divorce courts in Iran. (Image Courtesy: The New Statesman).

Kim Longinotto’s documentary, Shooting the Mafia (2019), biographizes Letizia Battaglia, a Palermo-born eighty-four-year-old woman who left behind her life as an unhappy housewife in her forties to photograph Mafia atrocities for L’Ora, according to the New Statesman. Battaglia was the first female photographer to work at a daily Italian newspaper, and she would go on to take six hundred thousand pictures of the Costa Nostra as well as the devastation they wrought on Sicilian communities, where eighty percent of businesses still pay protection money. The filmmaker, whose other feminist documentaries include Divorce Iranian Style (1998) and The Day I Will Never Forget (2002), hopes her latest release will counterbalance Hollywood’s popular Mafia narrative, which still inspires young Sicilian men to join the Cosa Nostra.

The future of artificial intelligence in the film industry

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Deep fakes will become more of a concern with AI, as well as corporate gatekeeping of moviemaking resources, but special effects and animation will be enhanced. (Image Courtesy: Screen International).

As part of a screening for her documentary, iHUMAN (2019), at Tallinn’s European Film Forum, Norwegian filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei says while Artificial Intelligence (AI) changes media consumption, humans should still tell the stories, according to Screen International. With footage of more than eighty interviews shot over five years for her to edit into iHUMAN, Hessen Schei says an AI editor would have been more efficient, but at the price of unpredictability. “The best art in the world is created by error and human madness, and beautiful fantasy that we have,” Hessen Schei says, adding that the United States and China may be leading the AI race, but Europe should develop ethical guidelines for top-one-percent production companies.

Netflix review: Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993)

The Holocaust film can be like television: when it’s good, there’s nothing better; when it’s bad, there’s nothing worse.

There is Liliana Cavani’s erotic psychological drama, Il portiere di note (1974), the love story between a concentration camp survivor and her guard (yes, you read that correctly), which exploits the Shoah the most offensively this critic has ever seen.

Then, there is Agnieszka Holland’s Europa Europa (1990), a subtle, sometimes satirical study of racial politics in Nazi Germany.

As for Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993), it may be the most well-known of its ilk, but is it one of the greatest?

If you don’t know what to watch next, Schindler’s List is available to stream on Netflix. The historical period drama won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture as well as Best Director, out of twelve nominations.

Steven Zaillian’s Best Adapted Screenplay is based upon the 1982 novel, Schindler’s Ark, by John Keneally.

It is World War II Poland, and Oskar Schindler (Best Actor nominee Liam Neeson), an ethnic German from Czechoslovakia, opens an enamelware factory in the Kraków Ghetto.

Together with black marketeer Itzhak Stern (Sir Ben Kingsley), the businessman bribes local Nazi insiders and and hires Jews because he can pay them less, effectively saving them from the death camps.

Meanwhile, SS-Untersturmführer Amon Göth (Best Supporting Actor nominee Ralph Fiennes) supervises the construction of the Plaszów concentration camp, terrorizing Kraków.

John Williams’s original score, Michael Kahn’s editing, Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography, and Ewa Braun and Allan Starski’s art direction are the rest of the Oscars the movie took home, in addition to its sound, makeup, and costume design nods.

As with any Spielberg vehicle, it is a technical revelation. Its black and white photography contributes to the documentarylike, newsreel realism of its setting, inviting audiences into the Final Solution like few mainstream releases have before or since.

For all its feats of filmmaking, this Spielbergian epic is minimalistic by the director’s standards, which plays to the picture’s strengths.

As a member of the film school generation, his feature-length debut, Duel (1971), is his New Hollywood masterpiece, over Jaws (1975), which would be, if not for the corporatization of filmmaking its groundbreaking “summer blockbuster” status is responsible for.

But these two works force Spielberg to do more with less, keeping him from crossing the line from “crowd-pleasing” to “sentimental” and “saccharine” like he’s known to do, and this sugarcoating would have crippled Schindler’s List.

Still, it has been criticized for peripherizing Holocaust victims in favor of mythologizing a German capitalist. While Schindler’s heroism is indisputable, and came at the price of his safety, he was still an opportunist first, almost more of a sympathetic antihero.

The cast of Jewish characters are dehumanized into an unindividualized horde of props for his redemption arc – one of them would have made for a more sensitive protagonist, such as Stern.

But Spielberg is shrewdly commercial above all else, and Schindler’s List is much too important a moment in cinematic history to fade into obscurity because of a Semitic leading man; as wrong as it is, how many readers out there can say they’ve even heard of Europa Europa?

This is a story the masses need to hear, and it is a story that needs to be celebrated. With far-right ideologues rising to power globally as the memory of fascism dies off with the generation that lived it, streamers would do well to rediscover Schindler’s List.

Michael Jackson biopic will span singer’s life in all its “complexity”

Graham King, who produced Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), has acquired the rights to make a Michael Jackson biopic spanning his entire life (including the 1994 and 2005 child molestation allegations), as well as access to all his music, according to The Independent. John Logan, who wrote Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), will be the scriptwriter, having previously collaborated with King on Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator (2004). Jackson has been in the headlines this year ever since the release of Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland (2019), in which Wade Robson and James Safechuck come forward with new allegations against the King of Pop.