One of the first recent titles made for the big screen whose debut on a premium cable channel came immediately in the wake of Covid 19 self isolation is one of Hollywood’s odes to itself, made by a director defined by his affection for B movies.
Rather than cite classics that I turn to again and again, I’m going to browse through my nine years of Almanac Weekly reviews and offer digested-down descriptions of some movies that lifted my spirits. Maybe they’ll perk you up as well.
Anya Taylor-Joy, who previously made a strong impression in horror vehicles like The Witch and Split, does a splendid job of embodying this off-putting eventual heroine in the newest movie version (oddly titled Emma., making “period movie” a literal thing).
Although he left the Hudson Valley to pursue the performer’s life almost two decades ago, actor-writer-director Josh Ruben, Onteora Class of 2001, is realizing hard-won dreams back on home turf. He spent 14 days last winter in a Cooper Lake cabin, directing and starring in his self-penned horror comedy Scare Me, his feature debut. AMC’s streaming horror platform, Shudder, acquired the work, which screened at Sundance in January (one reviewer called it “exceptionally funny”).
Harrison Ford does as professional a job as a viewer could ask in the (greatly expanded from the book) role of John Thornton, a kindly prospector who becomes Buck’s human sidekick for a time. It must have taken some deliberate focus to deliver dialogue with sincerity when talking to a dog that wasn’t there.
How do you make a modern film noir that’s worldly enough to tackle the strange shape of today’s undulating economics? We checked in with producer Bill Horberg, a Woodstock resident, who’ll be screening his latest work, The Burnt Orange Heresy, at Upstate Films Woodstock as a benefit for the Woodstock Film Festival at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, February 29 at Upstate Films Woodstock, 132 Tinker Street.
Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 27-Mar. 1, Mar. 5-8: As Agnes is packing up the contents of the family home, she finds a module Tilly had written for D&D, transmuting her high school friends into allies on her Hero’s Journey and her tormentors into monsters. Agnes decides to seek out the help of a Dungeon Master to play the game as her sister designed.
Saturday/Sunday, Feb. 29/Mar. 1: “The repertory is varied and engaging – a spectacular celebration of dance in all of its forms,” says VRDT director John Meehan, professor of Dance who holds the Frances D. Fergusson Chair at Vassar. “We are very excited to bring back Larry Keigwin’s Caffeinated, which The New York Times described as ‘a hilarious, jittery mix of aerobics, cheerleading, ballet and boxing that seems to use every note of Philip Glass’ Glasspiece No. 3.’”
Saturday, Feb. 29: The Ancient Law is a landmark in Weimar cinema. It is the story of a rabbi’s son who leaves his shtetl home in Galicia and makes his way to Vienna, where an archduchess at the imperial court falls in love with him. The movie draws a complex portrait of the tension between tradition and modernity. Alicia Svigals is founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics. Donald Sosin has performed his silent film music at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art and the Kennedy Center.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a true work of art.