Category Archives: Film

“NAPLES IN VEILS”— Naples of Romance and Death

“Naples in Veils”  (“Napoli velata”) Naples of Romance and Death Amos Lassen Naples is a center of great art and architecture, but death remains a constant presence there. This is the Naples we do not see often or hear much about.
After a torrid night with Andrea (Alessandro Borghi), Adriana (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) is sure that he is “the one”. Then she is rather disappointed when he doesn’t to show for their date the next day. The good news is he did not stand her up intentionally. The bad news is that is dead. He wasn’t just murdered but  was  also blinded and disfigured. Filled with grief and disappointment, Adriana starts to see a man who looks just like Andrea all over Naples. Lucas (also Alessandro Borghi) was Andrea’s twin brother who was separately adopted out while both were still in infancy. Luca’s planned meeting with Andrea never happened and he needs little encouragement to pick up with Adriana where his brother left off. They agree to keep his presence in her life secret for fear that Andrea’s  killers will then come looking for him. This also includes the police and even Antonio, the detective who is falling for her. Much to her own surprise, Adriana also begins to feel an attraction to him as well, further complicating matters.
This is a psychological thriller with hints of the supernatural and many of the twists and turns come out of the city’s macabre lore.Director Ferzan Ozpetek masterfully commands the film’s seductive mood and even manages to pull off a surprise or two through misdirection. It is a film that has everything— sex, mystery, beautiful photography, great characters and an exciting story. Adriana is  a medical examiner from Napoli who meets Andrea at a party and spends one very hot and unforgettable night with him. Keeping in mind that everything in this movie is an enigma and that nothing is obvious, we follow ghosts down dark alleys like in the great thrillers of the ’40s and ’50s did. Ozpetek brings together ancient culture with modern sensibilities and keeps us guessing. Is Andrea losing her mind? Is she marked for death? Is she in love with a ghost?
Ozpetek celebrates the Naples as an ancient source of mystery and her Baroque palaces and streets are the moody backdrop to the story of lost love and repressed memories. It all begins at a party where an avant-garde play is being performed in a wealthy private home. Pasquale (Peppe Barra), dressed in ancient Roman togs, addresses his standing audience of sophisticates. The party is held in the apartment of Adriana’s intriguing aunt Adele (Anna Buonaiuto).  There Adriana is swept off her feet by the bold advances of blue-eyed Andrea and they spend the night together at her place. He’s sexy and masterful but he doesn’t show up for their first date at the archeology museum the following afternoon or answer his phone.In the hospital, while conducting a routine autopsy on a young murder victim, Adriana discovers an unmistakable tattoo on the youth’s loins that identifies him as Andrea.
The police are already on her trail, led there by some artistic nude photos Andrea took of her on his phone while she was sleeping. With all her latent fears set in motion, Adriana begins to see the dead man’s ghost on the subway and even in her garden, but something always prevents them from meeting until the ghost reveals himself as Andrea’s long-lost twin brother Luca. I cannot say any more about the plot without giving something away but I totally recommend an exciting evening with this film. It will keep you busy thinking about what you see.

“I AM NOT A WITCH”— A Feminist Look at Zambia

“I AM NOT A WITCH” A Feminist Look at Zambia Amos Lassen  Zambian-born Welsh director Rungano Nyoni’s “I Am a Witch” is a satire about witchcraft in contemporary Zambia. When nine-year-old Shula is accused of witchcraft, she is exiled to a witch camp run by Mr. Banda, a corrupt government official. Shula is tied to the ground by a white ribbon and told that she will turn into a goat if she tries to escape. As the only child witch, Shula quickly becomes a local star and the adults around her use her supposed powers for financial gain. Soon she is forced to make a difficult decision – whether to resign herself to life on the camp or take a risk for freedom.
This is spellbinding storytelling with flashes of anarchic humor.  Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) is taken around Zambia by her ‘state guardian’,  Mr. Banda (Henry BJ Phiri) who has her adjudicating court cases and performing various services, for which his financial benefit.  
The general tone of “I Am Not a Witch” is tragic and downbeat, there is are moments of warmth and even moments of the black humor, particularly in the beginning when a village congregation accuses Shula of witchcraft to a bored-looking, skeptical official. One man accuses her based on a dream he had of his arm falling off. Elsewhere, as Shula is expected to adjudicate a trial, the claimant bringing the trial to court can’t turn off his phone.
The film’s central themes of exploitation by elites, patriarchal control, and a lack of individual freedoms are universal, but in rooting the film in such a specific experience (that of Shula’s ordeals as a suspected witch), Nyoni is able to craft a film that speaks to the oppression of women everywhere. Mulubwa has a striking screen presence, her eyes able to switch from fury to confusion to fear in a handful of frames. The camera clearly loves her.
The film does not pass judgement on the cultural practices around witchcraft itself but instead targets the societal pressures around the perception and treatment of women accused of witchcraft, again making sure that the subject matter remains culturally specific while the themes are universal.  Young heroine Shula never says, “I am not a witch”. Even as her journey grows increasingly absurd, her situation more devastatingly dire, and the accusations and atrocities pile up, Shula’s unmoving, placid face observes the mess. Though set in a heightened modern-day Zambia, the structure of Nyoni’s plot is close to classically familiar witch-hunt tales. Following her initial accusation, Shula is abused by a system that simultaneously seeks to punish and exploit her. She finds moments of connection and kindness with others in her same situation, but she is thwarted by the system again, and then it all repeats in predictable ways.
The heart of the story is in the witch camp where Shula is sent both for protection and incarceration. The film’s opening moments show this camp, a mashup of fact and fantasy, where tourists stop to blithely take photos of accused witches. The prisoners sit together with spools of white ribbons tied to harnesses on their backs, attached to heavy pins in order to keep the women from flying off and committing awful, witchy business.
Shula’s story feels simultaneously particular and universal, showing the archaic ways that any society lords power over feminine bodies and lives, no matter the country. The fact that the violence and misogyny of this tale touches a child gives Nyoni’s message gravity. The  final moments give us a vision of brokenness that feels both inevitable and shocking, Nyoni saves the hope for her final image, one that speaks to the ridiculousness, the harm, and the emptiness yet beautifully reveals the true transformative power of Shula’s quiet, uprooted strength. The result is a release that refuses to ignore the cruelty, but also refuses to allow it to have the final say. BONUS FEATURES 
  • Interview with director Rungano Nyoni
  • Bonus Short Film – Mwansa the Great(Directed by Rungano Nyoni | UK/Zambia | 23 minutes | Nyanja with English subtitles ) – While trying to prove he is a hero, Mwansa does the unforgivable and accidentally breaks his big sister Shula’s special mud doll. He goes on a quest not only to fix it, but to finally prove he is Mwansa the Great.                         

“THE LOST VILLAGE”— An Expose of Greenwich Village

“The Lost Village” An Expose of Greenwich Village Amos Lassen Greenwich Village, the epicenter of the counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s, is being turned into an area of chain stores, banks and multi-million dollar condos. Filmmaker Roger Paradiso takes us on a journey through today’s Village as he tries to understand how this gentrification happened. He speaks to journalists, activists, shop-owners, professors and more and finds out how the landlords, politicians and NYU turned the Village into a place that is losing its heart and soul and uniqueness. In New York City beloved neighborhoods have lost their unique characters to the corrosive effects of commercialization and gentrification. This is particularly true of Greenwich Village, the former home of bohemianism that has become victim to these trends. One of the chief villains here is New York University, which has turned diversity into a private campus. We feel director Paradiso’s passion and righteousness but they are just not enough to make a satisfying film. Cohesion and rational arguments are missing here. This does not mean you ca not enjoy the film since you certainly can—- it just could have been so much better than it is.
The film argues that Greenwich Village has become decimated due to market forces. The film begins with images of “For Lease” signs on shuttered storefronts in the area as landlords have drastically raised rents. “Mom and pop” stores and restaurants have closed and have been, replaced by chain stores, banks and high-end retailers. NYU is a principal target here and it is called out because of its high tuition and dorm fees that force female students to resort to, in some cases, becoming sex There are endless complaints about how the school is only available to young people with trust funds but this argument doesn’t really hold since no one is being forced to attend NYU.
The film has many references to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire but to the point of overkill. We hear about the evils of corporate profits and income inequality and about how the presidential election was stolen from Hillary Clinton. A clip from an interview with Judith Malina, co-founder of The Living Theater complaining, “Instead of dealing with art, I’m forced to deal with money.” Haven’t artists always had trouble with money? St. Vincent’s Hospital, the only major medical center in the neighborhood, was torn down and replaced by luxury condos. The film features endless talking heads bemoaning what’s happened to their beloved neighborhood but the arguments are so strident and however sympathetic you might be to them, you begin to tune out. Unfortunately “The Lost Village” wastes  its noble intentions with its rambling, diffuse arguments.  The Village has never lost its mystique as a neighborhood of freedom and beauty but during the last years, it has given rise to a ritual that’s become depressing. A local eating establishment that’s been there for years is suddenly gone and probably forever. Even beloved restaurants have to play by the rules of capitalism and these places have done that— they were popular and profitable. Until, that is, the rent the proprietors were paying suddenly got jacked up by 50 percent. Overnight, the place becomes unsustainable, and it closes. Then it sits as empty and abandoned, for months or even years until the space is taken over by a bank, a chain drugstore, a Starbucks, or maybe a new restaurant, with high-end backing, that no one ends up loving, and a year later it too is gone. This is what is happening to Greenwich Village. We can’t see it happening, but one day we notice. Market forces are on the march in society, and director Paradiso gives us  a top-down analysis of what’s happened to the Village that’s more convincing than not. The film gets very macro, full of thoughts on the rise of the global moneyed elite, all of which is relevant. (They’re the people buying insanely upscale co-ops in the new Greenwich Village.)
Yet “The Lost Village” is a documentary that should have been an elegy for something, but the film doesn’t do the loving and detailed historical work of showing us what it’s an elegy for. It uses half of its 89-minute running time to the real-estate depredations of New York University, and it’s here that the movie is onto something incendiary but seems to be driven by a personal  agenda. NYU, situated in between the East and West Village, has been eating up property for a long time, and the film indicts the university for what it sees as exploitative greed. This is a national problem. NYU, like many other universities, has become a ruthless corporation, but when it comes to demonstrating how that fact has affected the character of Greenwich Village, director Paradiso shows us some modern “ugly” buildings the university has put up. and he interviews the NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller standing in front of a sports center that’s about to be torn down to make room for more faculty housing. NYU is powerful enough to be seen as a land baron but the issue of what’s happened to Greenwich Village is a vastly different story. It has to do with independent landlords and the way the city has allowed and enabled them to do what they are doing and that includes the gradual entropy of outsider culture; the migration of gay culture from the Village to Chelsea; and other factors. Some of this is mentioned in the film, but it’s only mentioned and not explored. There’s not enough in “The Lost Village” about the Village that’s disappearing and about what it meant to people, and maybe still means.  “The Lost Village” has some insight but the spirit of the Village gets lost here. DVD BONUS FEATURES include:
Five Short Films:
1. The Best of the Roman Empire by Anthony Gronowicz
2. Mark Crispin Miller and His Battles with NYU
3. Michael Hudson College Tour Guide from Hell
4. Student Protest Election Night 2016
5. Mandy’s Story

“OLANCHO”— Lawlessness in Honduras



Lawlessness in Honduras

Amos Lassen

Chris Valdés and Ted Griswold directed “Olancho”, a film about
the most lawless province of Honduras, the most murderous country on the planet. Here, the drug trade has taken its toll in human lives and economic damage. But to some musicians, the cartels provide an opportunity.

This is the story of a group of musicians who perform for the powerful drug cartels there. The songs they sing glorify the traffickers who have destroyed their country, and who sometimes threaten the
lives of their loved ones. But in a world where the cartels wield the most power, do the musicians have any other choice? “Olancho” has gorgeous photography and poignancy. This is a spin on the usual immigration story.
The film is about Los Plebes de Olancho, a narco band from Olancho who find themselves on the black list for their music. In their songs they praise drug lords  and they perform at narco parties. This means that either they flee or pay with their lives. “Enter if you want, leave if you can” says at the beginning what should show that you are on dangerous terrain, but that does not quite come over. We are introduced to the world of the musicians. Manuel, one of the singers who managed to escape to America,  wants to return to Honduras and tells his story on the radio. The band members always have a weapon with them, as if they have to sleep with their eyes open. The musicians are sympathetic and have to deal with the usual problems within a group, we do not see the dangers but we hear about
them. We see how the musicians are persecuted, but what we do not see is how the musicians are hunted and have to fear for their lives. Perhaps it’s better that we do not see this. Valdes and Griswold are caught in contradictions, because the danger is so
great yet the musicians show their faces on film. This is something of a
fictional documentary. Despite the predictable moments, Olancho is nice to look at aside from the animal killings and corpses. The Central American state of Honduras has been a land of violence for
years, dominated by rival, merciless Narco clans. The drug barons can be celebrated in songs and glorified, even though they destroy their own land. The band “Los Plebes de Olancho” are such musicians who write songs for the narcos and perform at their parties. A dangerous game, because not infrequently, the musicians themselves are targeted by the drug gangs. “Olancho” does not show enough of the imminent danger that the musicians expose themselves  to by their appearances in the cartels. The documentary is as urgent and potentially exciting as the subject matter is. It is a tension-free, anti-climactic and non-climactic work that cannot turn make the music of “Los Plebes de Olancho” into an equally interesting film. Unfortunately, “Olancho” falls behind its content.  

“ROMA”— The Banal and the Sublime

“Roma” The Banal and the Sublime Amos Lassen
From the opening image of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”, the banal and sublime walk hand in hand. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), works for the family of Dr. Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), a man who seems to be a guest in his own home. As a car pulls into the driveway, we get shots of the vehicle’s grille, tires, and gear shift making Antonio’s presence known. There is an entire dynamic between patriarch and his family that is established in the way the man’s wife, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), and their children gather to welcome him as if they are paying tribute to some visiting dignitary. 
Early on we get  a sense of this family’s perspective, but for the most part Cuarón is interested in Cleo’s point of view. She is an indigenous woman who speaks both Spanish and Mixtec and switches between the languages depending on whether she’s talking to her employers or to the other servants in the house. Though Sofia is never depicted as an uncaring or inattentive mother, it’s clear from the start Cleo is largely responsible for rearing Sofia’s children and they respond quickly to Cleo’s commands. Cuarón establishes the economic and class divisions of the Mexico City neighborhood where Antonio and Sofia live through scenes that place Cleo as one of many servants who work in homes and there is one long take during which the camera floats over the rooftop of Antonio’s estate as Cleo hangs laundry. We also see numerous other maids scrubbing and hanging clothes.
Cleo’s position  as second mother to Sofia’s kids is cemented further when Antonio moves in with his mistress under the guise of attending a medical conference. As Sofia realizes what’s happened, her grief and anger isolate her from her family thus forcing Cleo to increasingly take on responsibility for the well-being of Sofia’s children and this includes hiding their father’s abandonment. As Cleo deals with the added tension in her employers’ household, she must also deal with an unexpected pregnancy and the very sudden and violent rejection by her boyfriend, Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), who threatens to kill her and her unborn child if she makes him take responsibility as a father.
These relationship issues take “Roma” into a melodrama, where emotions are frequently held at a distance by Cuarón’s aesthetic approach in which he frequently dwarves Cleo in the frame via longshots. In a scene where the maid goes to confront Fermín over their child while he practices martial arts with other men in a soccer field, she’s just a speck in a massive shot that takes in a mountain that looms over the entire scene as the men do their drills. Cleo’s near-invisibility in this shot forecasts how much power she’ll project while dealing with Fermín and similar methods of shrinking Cleo in the frame shows her diminished authority in Antonio and Sofia’s household. Cuarón calls attention to the wealth of the family Cleo serves by highlighting the size of their home, placing Cleo in the middle distance and background of deep-focus images that make the house seem tremendous and the vastness of the space is subtly reinforced by the fact that in spite of the maid’s seemingly endless work, the place never seems to get clean.
Aparicio is a first-time actor who responded to a casting call and gives a performance that’s defined by halting mannerisms. That’s an approach that makes sense for the actress’s character, a woman who’s paid to silently handle the inconveniences of her bosses and who treats her increasingly prominent position in Sofia’s life with the caution of someone who’s trespassing and certainly knows her place.  Director Cuarón emphasizes Cleo’s helplessness, whether she’s caught up in a riot that abruptly breaks out during a civil demonstration or dealing with complications during the delivery of her baby. That delivery is an unbroken long shot that captures the entirety of the birthing process and is the film’s emotional high point. By framing the moment in this way, Cuarón forces the audience to notice everything in the delivery just as Cleo does and as her reactions change from pained to confused to panicked as problems arise.
Cuarón as writer, cinematographer, and co-editor exercises near-total control over every frame. His consistent efforts to use his formal mastery to foreground Cleo’s physical and social place is wonderful in itself. The film’s compositions and elegant camera movements can be, they consistently illuminate Cleo’s state of mind and social status, as well as give voice to all the emotions she lacks the freedom to openly express.
Cuarón mixes classical and modern modes of melodrama freely and we are reminded of old and new Hollywood techniques to craft stories that united nostalgia with social commentary. Cuarón confronts his own personal privilege, ruminating on the perspective of the sort of woman who helped raise him. In the end, “Roma” is autobiography as autocritique in which Cuarón appears to have rediscovered his identity as a filmmaker. His film both intimately small and epic as it looks at upheaval in the family and in the wider Mexican political context, from a philandering husband to a protest brutally suppressed by US-backed fascist sympathizers. Not once does the domestic story feel like the lesser of the two, Cuaron’s beautiful black and white cinematography gives grandeur to every shot, while incredible sound pulls us into the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The cast is universally superb, especially Aparicio, who carries the entire film with an astonishing debut performance. Every character is well drawn, and there’s lovable and layered child acting. “Roma” is brilliantly directed and is sure to be not only a movie of the year but one that enters the canon of great film.

“WATERWORLD”— A Post Apocolyptic Epic

“Waterworld” A Post-Apocolyptic Epic Amos Lassen “Waterworld” was the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release and through the years it has thrilled many with its awe-inspiring action scenes, gargantuan maritime sets and ground-breaking special effects. This post-apocalypse blockbuster stars Kevin Costner as The Mariner – a mutant trader who is adrift in a dystopian future where Earth is submerged under water and humankind struggles to survive on boats and in floating cities. The Mariner becomes mixed up with the Smokers, a gang of pirates who, led by villainous leader Deacon (Dennis Hopper), are searching for Enola (Tina Majorino, Na), a girl with a map to the mythical realm of Dryland tattooed on her back. 
“Waterworld” has become a key cult film of the 1990s, as an ecologically-minded blockbuster. This new release is presented in an exclusive new restoration of three different cuts, and with a wealth of extra material. Kevin Costner is as famous for his flops as his successes. He was a huge star in the late ’80 and early ’90s but stumbled with 1994’s “Wyatt Earp” and a pair of smaller-scale projects. “Waterworld” (1995) was an epic folly that sent Costner’s professional momentum in the wrong direction. “Waterworld” looks like a project of surreal idiocy, but at the time it must have looked like a risky but semi-sane gamble. The film cost a bundle, went way over budget, and had a famously troubled production history. It was a grim, joyless Kevin Reynolds-directed adventure that fetishized dirt and grime and boasted a “cartoonishly” theatrical villain. Costner is cast as a pee-drinking man-fish, a creature understandably unique to the film’s grim dystopian universe.
Costner here is introduced as a mysterious water-drifter urine drifter and while it is certainly possible that there are more off-putting ways to introduce the hero of a be blockbuster, this was pretty awful. The film has gone on to have for queasiest introduction of a stoic hero.
Costner’s urine-drinking escapade prepares  audiences for abundant distasteful behavior down the road. Later, Costner casually proposes killing a child (Majorino) as a way of lightening his boat’s load “before consenting to a creepy drifter’s offer to exchange paper for a half-hour’s worth of sexy-time explosions with a mortified Jeanne Tripplehorn.”
However, Costner flirts with  deplorable behavior but he’s too noble to follow through.Costner makes a living trading with other post-apocalyptic drifters in a nightmarish future in which the melting of the polar ice caps have left the world submerged in water. Costner eventually picks up some strange cargo in the form of sexy barmaid Tripplehorn and Majorino, a precocious child with a map to “Dryland”– a mythical paradise and apparently the last place on earth not covered in water–on her back. Costner’s efforts to lead Majorino and Tripplehorn to Dryland are threatened by the Smokers, a nefarious group of Earth-hating, pollution-loving bad guys.   
The plot is far-fetched. Can we believe that if the polar ice caps did melt that the world would be covered in water. Set hundreds of years after this particular cataclysm, “Waterworld” follows the journey of The Mariner, a man who is one step beyond human as he has the ability to breathe underwater and has webbed feet. “Waterworld” has a lot going for it. It’s everything an action/sci-fi movie should be and yet it flopped.”Waterworld” is action and comedy, a big budget one at that which works only if you ignore the storyline and just are entertained by the various action scenes and the comedy of Dennis Hopper as a bad guy. As such technically “Waterworld” is a bad movie because the storyline ends up being pointless, the dialogue often corny and seems to go nowhere for long lengths of time. But when you accept that there is no depth or deeper meaning “Waterworld” becomes entertaining.  The way “Waterworld” sets up the story makes us think that maybe the movie will have some depth, some environmental message as it takes us to the future. But there is no depth and what we get is basically an action story, a quest where a loner finds himself in the company of a woman and girl trying to find dry land while also protecting them from a bunch of bad guys. The minute you start to look for any depth to “Waterworld” is when it comes undone because it is completely devoid of any depth, any meaning or character progression. TWO-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS   New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative by Arrow Films, presenting the film in three cuts   Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo audio options    Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing    Six collector s postcards    Double-sided fold-out poster    Limited edition 60-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, archival articles and original reviews   Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper DISC ONE THE THEATRICAL CUT   High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the original theatrical cut    Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld, an all-new, feature-length making-of documentary including extensive cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage    Original archival featurette capturing the film’s production    Global Warnings, film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of ecologically aware Hollywood blockbusters   Production and promotional stills gallery    Visual effects stills gallery    Original trailers and TV spots DISC TWO THE EXTENDED CUTS [LIMTED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]   High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended US TV cut, which runs over 40 minutes longer than the theatrical cut   High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended European Ulysses cut, which includes censored shots and dialogue


“THE REVELATION OF LEE SCRATCH PERRY” A Documentary Amos Lassen This is the music documentary about the making of Grammy®-nominated reggae album “Revelation” by dub reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. Perry creates unique, category-defying taking his narrative from his spirituality and today’s global events. He is one of the most important figures in the history of reggae music who not helped he develop the early reggae sound captured in a number of important recordings, but he has also worked as an engineer, producer, songwriter, and performer pioneering a number of innovations, including dub reggae. This documentary is set at Lee Perry’s mountain top home and studio in Switzerland and features some of the actual sessions for the original studio recording of “Revelation”. The focus is on Lee’s work in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Steve Marshall. We also see some of the musical contributions of very special guests Keith Richards and George Clinton, along with Duncan & Green, Tim Hill, Dr. Sleepy, Alec Hay, elodieO & Abi Browning, and David Stewart Jones. Here is a visual feast of color and light, ritual and the mystical aspects of Lee Perry’s spiritual and worldly spontaneity. Above all else, it is a frank snapshot of his musical genius. The documentary also includes excerpts of a revealing interview of Lee Perry by Steve Marshall. The Revelation of Lee “Scratch” Perry is directed by Steve Marshall, photographed by John Palmer DVD extras include the complete interview of Lee “Scratch” Perry by Steve Marshall. Track Listing:
Used To Drive A Tractor In Negrille
Let There Be Light
Fire Power
An Eye For An Eye
Freaky MichaelWeatherman
  • Run For Cover
  • Books Of Moses
  • Revelation Revolution And Evolution
  • Money Come And Money Go
  • Holy Angels
Scary Politicians

“HOBBYHORSE REVOLUTION”— Teens, Tweens and Hobbyhorses

“Hobbyhorse Revolution” Teens, Tweens and Hobbyhorses Amos Lassen Hobbyhorsing is a lot like the horse competitions you’re used to seeing on TV, or in Olympic events.  Dressage, an equestrian sport, is the highest expression of horse training. In the events, we watch horse and rider perform a sequence of events from memory, including piaffe (a special kind of trot), and pirouette (a 360 degree turn). In the obstacle event, the horses jump over poles. Horse and rider are judged on how smoothly they go through the movements, and how willingly and with minimal cues the horse performs. In hobbyhorsing, the competitions are similar but performed with hobbyhorses: those toys for small children that are made up of a horse head on a broomstick.
The documentary, “Hobbyhorse Revolution” is a documentary that sheds light on this burgeoning community, and on the people who compete (who are older than you might think). Competitors “train” extensively and even though the hoses are props, they are given starring roles. Their ‘riders’ talk about them as though they are real: this one is ‘energetic’, this one ‘well-schooled.’ They are ridden with whips and put away with stable blankets (in case they get fake cold). I know how silly this sounds and to me it is not just silly but inane. The teen-aged girls interviewed for the film are almost all troubled in one way or another and this is surely not coincidental. Playing make-believe with toy horses is simply an extension of childhood. We then have to wonder if hobbyhorsing is perhaps not just a curiosity but a disturbing trend. There are some 10,000 hobbyhorse enthusiasts in Finland and that number is growing. We do not learn here why this is the case or even what is happening to these girls that they’ve left their peers and entered the safe but immature world of racing fake horses. Because we get no explanation,  “Hobbyhorse Revolution” is a hollow look at the topic.
by The enthusiasts are predominantly young women, tweens and teens alike, who ride wooden sticks with horse heads. The horses have names, idiosyncrasies, even lifespans (in a poetic externalization of personal growth. The hobbyhorses are billed alongside their riders in dressage tournaments that are surreal spectacles of girls bunny-hopping over fences while the crowd watches. Hobby-horsing is a strange subculture and I must admit that I do not understand and could really care less about. Finland’s “Hobbyhorse Revolution” isn’t the phenomenon’s origin story, although it does find a common thread among the hobbyhorsists it interviews: they’ve all been bullied. Although being a “hobbyhorsist” sometimes exacerbates the abuse, the therapeutic value of the pastime and its egalitarian social scene appear to make it important therapy. There is something quite punk about the hobbyhorsists and they are dorky, nerdy girls who retreat into the world of wooden horses rather than deal with the real world. Dressage, in equestrian terms, is the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance. It factors significantly into director Selma Vilhunen’s documentary on the most curious of Finland subcultures involving hobbyhorses and (mostly) tween girls. Over the past decade hobbyhorse riding has become a bit of a ‘thing’ and a way of life for thousands of young people who spend their time training obstacle courses and dressage competitions a horse head on a stick. Vilhunen uses this bizarre subculture as a looking glass to examine the intensity of the mindset children, particularly girls, at an age, where everything is, like, the most important thing ever. The girls are in that transition period where we are told to put away such childish things, for new responsibilities and issues but these girls cling to and adapt their evolving identities in interesting, complex, ways. Vilhunen follows three very different girls, Aisku, Alisa and Elsa, all between the ages 14 and 16, as they prepare for, and participate in, hobbyhorse competitions. Aisku, a girl of color, is in a youth home, and often runs away (and gets in trouble) in order to train other girls or practice her own riding. Elsa, the youngest, and most shy of the trio, is also the deepest role-player and hopes to study oil-painting in high school. Alisa sews and creates (and sells) the plush horse-heads to be mounted on short sticks. As kind of the elder statesman, her YouTube videos show the style and mood of Hobbyhorse culture and introduce it to a younger legion of enthusiasts. You see Alisa get her driver’s license at one point so we see that she is adulthood.
All three have been mocked, in one form or another, in the past by their schoolmates for their unusual and surprisingly athletic sport of essentially horseback-riding with toy horses. They are still wary of when and where they practice. I suppose that “Hobbyhorse Revolution” is kind of a manifesto to standing up to bullies and doing what you love. We see the girls age over the course of the time that Vilhunen shot the documentary, perhaps a couple years, both physically and in attitude, life-situations, and self-awareness. At that age, everything is in flux, and everything seems to be prioritized the same. One has only to look at how detailed and specific some of the Alienated, bullied, struggling with their home-lives, or dealing with depression, the girls find comfort within this child’s toy. Escaping through the fantasy of the hobbyhorse, the girls are able to forge lives for themselves. We watch as they grow as women, moving through life more comfortably with the support of the hobbyhorse and its community. Here is the redeeming value of the hobbyhorse. Vilhunen sympathetically explores the stigma these girls face, she equally looks to the delight and pleasure that hobbyhorses bring to them as they cope with the struggles of daily life. The girls express their joy, giving us an inside look into who they are.


LIVE PERFORMANCES, INTERVIEWS AND MORE! Available at Retail for the Very First Time on January 8th,  This 3-DiscCollector’s Set ($29.99srp) Features Five Decades of Performances, Unforgettable Highlights and Memories from Country Music’s Biggest Night, Including Performances by GlenCampbell, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, KennyRogers, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban  and more, Plus Newly Produced Interviews and Featurettes!
 For more than 50 years, the CMA Awards have spotlighted the top performers of America’s favorite music, capturing the songs and artists who have provided a soundtrack for our lives. Available at retail for the very first time, CMA AWARDS LIVE: GREATEST MOMENTS 1968-2015 brings home viewers from the early days of the CMA Awards when Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn topped the charts to today’s Country Music scene where top stars include Luke Bryan, Little Big Town and Chris Stapleton. 
The 3-disc collector’s set, a must-have for any fan of country music, includes a who’s who of country icons performing their biggest hits: Alabama, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Buck Owens, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, and dozens more!   
Highlights of the set include: 
  • 40 live performances from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” to Dierks Bentley’s “Drunk on a Plane” and Florida Georgia Line’s “Round Here.”
  • Unforgettable CMA Awards moments including Lionel Richie and Alabama performing “Deep River Woman,” Vince Gill and Patty Loveless performing “When I Call Your Name,” Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty performing “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” The Highwaymen – Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson performing “Highwayman,” and George Strait and Alan Jackson performing “He Stopped Loving Her Today” during the George Jones Tribute.
  • Awards Acceptance speeches from Country Music legends such as Glen Campbell and Charley Pride receiving their Entertainer of the Year awards, Loretta Lynn and Lynn Anderson receiving the Female Vocalist of the Year award and more!
  • Go behind the scenes on “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with candid interviews with Charley Pride, Blake Shelton and George Strait.
CMA AWARDS LIVE: GREATEST MOMENTS 1968-2015, which is also available in a single disc configuration ($12.99srp) that features a contemporary line-up of performers including Eric ChurchLittle Big TownDarius RuckerBlake Shelton and others, showcases the diversity of talent and the powerful songs that have made Country Music the heartbeat of America. About Time Life Time Life is one of the world’s pre-eminent creators and direct marketers of unique music and video/DVD products, specializing in distinctive multi-media collections that evoke memories of yesterday, capture the spirit of today, and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. TIME LIFE and the TIME LIFE logo are registered trademarks of Time Warner Inc. and affiliated companies used under license by Direct Holdings Americas Inc., which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or Time Inc. About the CMA Awards The first “CMA Awards Banquet and Show” was held in 1967. The following year, the CMA Awards was broadcast on television for the first time – making it the longest running, annual music awards program on network TV. The CMA Awards have aired on ABC since 2006. ABC is the network home of the CMA Awards and CMA’s other two television properties, “CMA Fest” and “CMA Country Christmas.”


“American Circumcision” To Cut or Not to Cut Amos Lassen Circumcision is a common surgery in America, yet America is the only industrialized country in the world to routinely practice non-religious infant circumcision. We can wonder why in America we continue to cut the genitals of its newborn baby males when the rest of the world does not? “American Circumcision” looks at both sides of the circumcision debate, including the growing Intactivist movement (intact + activist), which believes all human beings have a right to keep the body they were born with intact. This is the first documentary to comprehensively explore this cutting edge issue, which involves sex, politics, and religion.
“Intactivists” believe males should be given a choice whether to have the procedure done or not. The medical argument against waiting is that the benefits of circumcision are realized for infant boys through adulthood: if left until men can decide for themselves the risk of infections and disease is (slightly) higher.  We meet two evidence based medical scientists who talk about the health benefits of circumcision painted as evil and out of touch. They are contrasted with a parade of very passionate people making emotional arguments against the scientific evidence. They seem to be motivated by “a deep body horror that infant boys are being mutilated, that they can feel the pain of the operation, that it is somehow traumatic despite the fact that infant brains cannot remember pain. There is much discussion of the damage to sexual sensitivity done to boys and of the trauma of the operation.”
There is a modern practice of those who wish to reinstate his foreskin and they use a combination of pinching devices, weights, and elastin cream to stretch the foreskin. This is so that the penis will appear as though it was never circumcised. The descriptions of the intensity, time, and determination necessary to achieve this almost seem to put it into the realm of fetish practice.  The medical consensus is that there is some benefit in diseaserisk mitigation that results from circumcision, but mostly in cultures wherehygiene and education is less advanced than in the developed world. On apersonal level, I can say that being circumcised has had no impact on my lifeat all as far I can tell. There are some young (and older) men in thedocumentary who, upon reflection, have found cause for rage and recriminationtoward their parents for having it done.
“American Circumcision,” is a first feature project of director Brendon Marotta and it is as serious as political divisions brought about by gun laws, abortion, and transgender rights. America is often considered to be the only country in the developed world to indulge in circumcision and  whose opponents consider it barbaric and unnecessary even though this twenty-minute operation promotes hygiene, cosmetic concerns, even, ironically, an opening to greater sexual pleasures than should be expected by an uncircumcised male. The documentary does present both sides of the issue and director Marotta has captured dynamic footage of demonstrations in front of the U.S. Capitol and the White House, even an attempt in California to provide a law by referendum that would outlaw the practice just as sure as female genital mutilation has been illegal here since 1996.
Talkingheads express similar views and some break down in tears when they expressanger at both the society and their parents for allowing the surgery when theywere infants. Of course small children cannot make certain decisions bythemselves and parents have the right to step in to do what’s best. But in thiscase the decision to have a surgeon, or for a Jewish infant a mohel, remove asection on the head of the penile shaft is a choice that should be left untilthe infant is 18 years of age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as recently as 2012 expressed their view that the benefits outweigh the risks, a decision that should come from the parents or from a mature man himself. However, to insist that cutting part of the body, the part responsible for quite a share in creating the world’s population, is hygienic sounds absurd. Is there proof that circumcised people are cleaner in any way? More important as one activist shares is that the uncircumcised penis is capable of multiple orgasms.
It was going to be obvious that some Jews and presumably Muslims, whose faith also commands circumcision, would consider the opponents of the circumcision surgery to be anti-Semitic, but that is an argument that does not hold. This is an excellent documentary which may be criticized by those who are circumcised and who feel the obligation to defend what was already done. Even there, thankfully, there is a procedure to emulate the foreskin, but the length of time needed to do so and the painful process required would make that a choice of only a determined few.