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7th Annual Socially Relevant Film Festival Goes Online

Now in its seventh year, the non-profit Socially Relevant Film Festival will be streamed online ( to audiences this June 18th to the 28th. Tackling issues of oppression, identity, racism, and sexism, the Socially Relevant Film Fest has always been upfront on the issues it tackles. Increasing the viewer interactivity of the new digital version of the fest is Meetings with Filmmakers which will be featured on YouTube (, giving viewers a chance to see the people behind these films up close.

The film screening and panel Climate, Violence, and the Environment: Women Paying the Price, features six short film accompanied by a panel discussion. Films such as Like No Other and Mother Daughter Sister come from Pakistan and Bangladesh, and address hard hitting issues facing women around the world. 

Other narrative films and documentaries address gun control (Gun Show and Unsafe), online peer pressure (Butter), women entrepreneurs (Igniting Impact and Our Albertine), Tibetan exiles (Mother of Tibetans) and more.

To learn more, go to:

Socially Relevant Film Festival
June 18 - 28, 2020

The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts: Cinema, Drama, Music & More Online


Crystal Field and Theater for the New City normally present The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts as a three-day live celebration of performing arts. The 2020 edition will be streamed on ZOOM as a unique event May 22 - 24th starting 8 pm. Legendary local disruptor Phoebe Legere heads the lineup of 145 performers and arts professionals especially since the Theater for the New City celebrates its 25th Anniversary on May 23. Legere will play blues guitar and sing her new song, “Maple Syrup Blues” about being in love with a French-Canadian fireman, plus debut her new paintings, which are available exclusively at

Themed “Renaissance: Arts Alive 25” the fest demonstrates that the Coronavirus won’t suppress the artistic output of this fabled neighborhood. To view all these theater groups, artists, painters, sculptures, dancers, actors, puppet makers, poets, musical comedy stars, kid performers and street performers, go online to: for plays, dance, dramas, cinema, and more.


Dramas to be performed include:

  • Barbara Kahn, "The End of Time" performed by Jenne Vath

  • 13th Street Repertory Theatre, selection from "Handicapped God"

  • Toby Armour, "They Will Come" with Richard Quint

  • Susana Cook and Timo Hughes, "Are You There?"

  • Walter Corwin, "Curse of the Aging Fortune Teller"

  • Selection from "The White Blacks" by Melanie Goodreaux

  • "The Disputation," a play by Hyam Macoby, directed by Robert Kalfin, starring Theo Bikel

  • Anne Lucas, an original monologue


For fans of puppetry there’s:

  • Bread and Puppet Theater

  • Vit Horejš and Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre

  • Arlee Chadwick

  • Chinese Theatre Works (Kuan Yu Fang and Steve Kaplan)

  • Jane Catherine Shaw

  • Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre

  • Yuko Uchida


As well as a selection of feature-length films and shorts, curated by Eva Dorrepaal

  • "Don't Be Like Roy" by Julianna Schley

  • "Scumbag" by Mars Roberge

  • "Puta Libre" by Kevin Haeflin & Blaise Villars

  • "Ding-A-Ling-Less" by Onur Tekel

  • "Box of Nails" by Mark Borkowski

  • "Safe Harbour Amsterdam" by Jack Luceno

  • "Park 51" by Christopher Capelluto

  • "Neverland" by Erik Wegner

  • "Arlene's World Famous" by Jorge Torres-Torres

  • "Elegy" by Chad Gardella

  • "Final Position" by Nelson Farber

  • "Choke Artists," written by T.D. White, directed by Chad Gardella

  • "Tru Romance" by Celine Dayan-bonilla

  • "The Poet and the Professor" by Ariel Kavoussi

  • "The Lessons" by Alberto Ferreras

  • "Inside the Cage" by Kenichi Nakajima and Yuko Uchida

  • "Every End is a Beginning" by David McDonald


This is just a small portion of what the The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts has to offer viewers.

To learn more, go to:

The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts
May 22 - 24, 2020


Oscars On My Mind - To Worry About Them in This Age of Greater Anxiety


The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony
Dolby Theatre
Los Angeles
Feb. 9th 2020
Airs live on ABC starting at 8 pm

Photos by Brad Balfour

Yes, I have been anguishing over the upcoming Oscars far more than I should in light of all the other news: bad apps, impeachment blues, state of the union traumas, but the Oscars have been occupying lots of space in my brain. I ask why… Why are movies any more relevant than they have, or haven’t, been?

DSC03583 copyMaybe it’s because this year, I’ve been particularly diligent and managed at least to see all the best picture nominees. Here they are: Parasite, 1917, Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story, Ford v Ferrari and The Irishman. Nearly all the other categories in various productions draw on most of these films. I also managed to catch many of the nominees in the Documentary and International Feature categories. Missed a couple of the Animated Features but did see a smattering of shorts.

These nominations stimulate my passion for cinema. As much as I love television and watch lots of it, there’s something about the compactness of a film — and seeing it on a big screen — that stirs my juices. Of those Best Picture nominees, Todd Phillips’ Joker— offering a transformative origin story about Batman’s biggest foe — scored 11 Oscar nominations, including best director and actor for Joaquin Phoenix.

Following close behind with 10 nods each are Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (over three hours long and the third in his mob chronicle), Quentin Tarantino’s ’60s paean Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (an LA ode) and Sam Mendes’ 1917 — a war drama that puts audiences running alongside two soldiers in several unbroken takes. All three offer unique approaches to storytelling and employed specialized production techniques to make them possible. Ain’t that what the cinematic experience all about?

DSC08765 copyFour of the films were backed by Netflix, furthering the streaming service’s effort to change the production and distribution models that have driven the industry.

The others in the Best Picture lineup — Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story and Parasite compete on very contrasting terms. Although there are a few cultural advances in this year nominees — ie. the first Korean filmmaker to get this far in the awards cavalcade — female filmmakers were shut out of the best director race even there were deserving films made such as Harriet and the aforementioned Little Women that warranted further accolades. 

So the directorial nominees which included Phillips (Joker), Scorsese (The Irishman), Mendes (1917), Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Bong Joon (Parasite) offered no surprises.

Both Ford v Ferrari and Little Women stirred a sense of compassion for their tales of success against adversity. With the former, testosterone ruled as two men toil to prove their greater worth. In the latter, four sisters struggle to be better people and prove that some women can find ways to survive without depending on men.

While both Little Women and Marriage Story address the beginnings and ends in domestic situations, director Greta Gerwig’s rethink of this classic was touching and ultimately up-tempo — a feel-good film worthy of its nomination. The well-written divorce tale, Marriage Story, was juiced with characters full of their cleverly defined quirks. What matters is whether you care about the clash of two self-involved artists’ lives and their discontents. Ironically, or not, the most compelling characters were the divorce lawyers. What does that say about today’s Gen-X-ers

DSC04523 copy 2Violence and death ruled in Joker, The Irishman, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Parasite. No pretty picture in any of them, but no wonder since our society seems so fraught with shambolic characters from the White House on down.  

In the end, it depends on what you feel drives a worthy film. For joyfulness, no other picture provided as much as Little Women. For a fresh take on a very dark subject, JoJo Rabbit (based on a novel as well), proved that it takes a Jewish Maori New Zealander to put Hitler into a comedy. And for unique twists and turns, Parasite makes for a brilliant comic drama. At least the peculiarity that defined both JoJo Rabbit and Parasite — for very different reasons — transformed these two productions in uniquely insightful experiences.

Not all these films are the best works ever mustered by these veteran directors, but some come close. Ford v Ferrari is nearly as good as anything James Mangold has ever created and 1917 is a triumph for a guy who made quite the debut with American Beauty. For me, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood provides some of the best and not so best from master stylist Tarantino — but it made me both wistful for and terrorized by ‘60s recollections. 

So what’s the outcome for me? I think 1917 will win; my sentimental favorite is Jojo Rabbit. But if I had to recommend any of the films among all the nominees, I’d suggest you see Poland’s international feature pick, Corpus Christi, and best feature doc contender, For Sama. Both offer insights that should stimulate anyone to see a film in the theater.

MST3K Live Tours With Joel Hodgson For the Final Time


In the not too distant future, coming to a city near you, it’s the Mystery Science Theater 3000! The cult TV series about a rotating cast of humans held hostage on a space station and forced to watch terrible movies with only a handful of wisecracking robots to keep him company has been a favorite for decades. Now series founding member, Joel Hodgson, will headline the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live tour for the third and final time. Running September 14, 2019 to March 4, 2020, The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour brings Joel and his robot companions: Crow, Tom Servo, and Gypsy together to lampoon the schlocky No Retreat, No Surrender and Circus of Horrors for live audiences.

In No Retreat, No Surrender a self-conscious teen becomes a martial arts master under the tutelage of Bruce Lee's ghost. Featuring fresh-faced Jean-Claude Van Damme as a brooding hit man and a Bruce Lee lookalike, who looks nothing like Bruce Lee while Circus of Horrors is a garish 1960s British thriller showcasing colorful circus acts, plastic surgery, and animal attacks by stagehands in fur suits.

To learn more, go to:

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour
September 14, 2019 - March 4, 2020

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