Tag Archives: Boston

I Am Jane Doe

12 Feb

A Portrait Of American Avarice, ‘I Am Jane Doe’ Brings Backpage Controversy To The Screen

Jane Doe 3 and her mother in Boston during the filming of "I Am Jane Doe." (Courtesy R. Schultz/50 Eggs)closemore

For anyone with a young daughter, the testimony by victims of human trafficking and their families in the new documentary “I am Jane Doe” will come as a bone cutter. Others too will be palpably moved and more so, outraged by the willful complicity of Backpage in helping relegate underaged girls into a purgatory of prostitution, drugs and physical abuse.

If you’re unfamiliar with Backpage (owned by the revered alternative newspaper company Village Voice Media), it’s a service like Craigslist where people exchange goods and services like sofas, cars, housecleaning and sex (disguised as escort services) with great autonomy. That freedom comes as a result of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (ironically also known as “Great Internet Sex Panic Act of 1995”), which essentially grants online providers impunity for the content posted on their sites by third parties. That said, illegal sex solicitation — minor or not — has to be reported, but Backpage instituted a policy of circumvention to knowingly sanitize posts so they would not get flagged by enforcement authorities, as noted by a former employee whose voice and identity are disguised in the film. Continue reading

Live by Night

14 Jan

Affleck Should Have Stuck To Directing For His Latest Boston-Based Film ‘Live By Night’

Ben Affleck, as Joe Coughlin, and Sienna Miller, as Emma Gould, in "Live By Night." (Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

Ben Affleck, the good-looking, locally-reared actor, who from time to time has projected a wooden on-screen presence, has turned out to be a reliably decent director. His debut, “Gone Baby Gone” back in 2007, transformed Dennis Lehane’s Boston-seated crime novel into a cinematic pulp noir. That edgy effort had cinephiles anxious for more and Affleck rewarded their patience with another gritty crime drama, “The Town,” in 2010 and then “Argo” in 2012. His latest effort, “Live By Night,” brings another Lehane crime story to the screen.

It begins during the Prohibition Era in Boston, where the Irish and Italians are locked in a blood feud over the bootleg trade, and later transitions to Ybor City, the developing section of Tampa, Florida, where Italian and Latino crime coalitions govern the town and control the flow of molasses — critical for rum.

Brendan Gleeson as Officer Thomas Coughlin in "Live By Night." (Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)
Brendan Gleeson as Officer Thomas Coughlin in “Live By Night.” (Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures) Continue reading

Patriots Day

19 Dec

Wahlberg’s Dramatized ‘Patriots Day’ Won’t Suture Any Wounds

Mark Wahlberg as fictional BPD Sergeant Tommy Saunders in "Patriots Day." (Courtesy CBS Films)

So here comes the big cinematic rendering of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that rocked the city for the better part of a week and now seems destined to be etched into our collective history just below city-defining headliners like the Boston Tea Party, busing in the ‘70s and the murderous legacy of Whitey Bulger.

The good news about “Patriots Day,” which opens Wednesday, is that it delivers a modicum of cathartic release as well as an intriguing look behind the scenes as an active crime investigation takes shape. The bad news, however, is that it knowingly injects fiction into the mix in a way that nearly subverts the project’s mission of “getting it right,” as Boston-bred star and producer Mark Wahlberg has said repeatedly. In the process, the dramatization shortchanges those that were there — the heroes and the victims — and the character of our fair city.

Three screenwriters, including the director Peter Berg, are credited with the script. The studio’s publicists informed me that the sources ranged from conversations with the Boston Police Department and other local agencies that responded to news reports and “60 Minutes.” What they’ve cooked up feels like a cobbling together of news feeds condensed and sanitized into a singular heroic narrative that regularly brims with the Boston Strong motto.

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Manchester by the Sea

23 Nov
Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck star as exes in Manchester by the Sea

 

Heartbreak and resentment fill nearly every frame of Kenneth Lonergan’s emotionally charged drama that delves into redemption and atonement in ways that are so bleakly real and to the bone, it lingers with you days later — something few movies have done so far this year with the notable exceptions of Moonlight, Loving, and The Handmaiden.

Manchester by the Sea begins with the tedious anguish of unclogging a stopped up toilet. It’s immediately apparent that the handler of the plunger, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), suffers from more than just the stench of the task at hand. Lee’s a quiet inward man who toils as a handyman/janitor in Boston until his brother’s weak heart beckons him back to the town of the film’s title — a 40 minute scoot north —where we learn that Lee had existed before in happier and more prosperous times. The gorgeous seaside town itself becomes a story of two sides, the well-to-do living in stately green-lawned manses while the working class fishermen nestle up in cozy, but cramped cottages along pot-hole marred lanes. Lee’s past there is a ghost he doesn’t want to confront and the cold chalky grey of winter descending poetically underscores his aching dread. Continue reading

Spotlight

7 Nov

Michael Keaton leads an ensemble cast in the riveting investigative drama Spotlight

Shine a Light

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Spotlight is rare journey into journalism that gets at the heart of its investigators’ subject without grandstanding the personalities or personal lives of those doing the poking around. Like the classic All the President’s Men and David Fincher’s Zodiac, Spotlight rides the rails of well-known history — in this case, the Catholic pedophilia scandal in Boston — but despite the anticlimactic nature of knowing how it ends, the film unfurls with intrigue, putting the viewer in the seat of those unearthing the unseemly truths, learning in the moment as the moment unfolds. The simple and earnest approach casts a sympathetic, but never maudlin, light on the victims of child sexual abuse during the 1980s and 1990s with a subtle poignancy that ultimately builds to a roar.

At the center of Spotlight looms the tribal, nepotistic nature of Boston, where hushing up crimes is easily accomplished with money and strong-arm tactics. It’s a world where the powerful prey upon the weak, in this case pedophilic priests targeting boys and girls from the city’s vanishing blue-collar neighborhoods. Many of these children were from broken homes without a stable male figure and riddled with substance abuse.

Spotlight takes its name from the Boston Globe investigative team that ultimately uncovered the massive church cover-up. At the center of the film is team editor Walter Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton). Like many Bostonians he was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic high school across the street from the Globe. And it’s not until the arrival of new managing editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), a solemn Jew up from Miami, that Robby and the Spotlight crew begin looking at the link between the abuse cases. Although you get the sense that Robby only reluctantly pursues the case at first, he and his team ultimately become dogged pursuers of the truth who are more than willing to go up against the iconic institution of their rearing, an institution protected by money, reach, and power.

Director and co-writer Todd McCarthy, who’s had great success plumbing the heart of everyday human drama with The Station Agent and The Visitor, succeeds again with Spotlight, thanks in part to his ensemble cast, including Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery, and Billy Crudup. In the end, McCarthy’s film is about truth and reckoning and the prospect of giving a modicum of vindication to those broken and tormented souls who suffered at the hands of those they most trusted.

Black Mass

17 Sep

The 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston

30 Apr

‘Gather Round’ For The 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston

A scene from "The Look of Silence." (Courtesy)

The tagline’s meant to underscore not only the concept of old fashion storytelling around the communal fire pit, but also the sense of community among filmmakers and filmgoers alike and the cross pollination of the two. Something the festival has had great success with in the past, bringing in such distinguished guests as Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley and groundbreaking documentarian Albert Maysles. Local boy Casey Affleck has lent to the fest’s cred too, serving as its creative adviser and the popular indie actress Lili Taylor, starring in the new TV series “American Crime,” sits on the advisory board.

The festival has become something of Sundance East, with lines from the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square stemming around the block as eager moviegoers chase that elusive last ticket or hope to snag that prized center seating. But with sellout after sellout, the festival is still changing and growing.

“We want to be more,” says executive director Brian Tamm, “we want to do more with the city of Somerville and the arts community. We want to be more of resource and community for filmmakers here in Boston and Massachusetts. We also want to expand more into Boston.”

Tamm cites the UMass Boston “Works in Progress” program and award given to a promising documentary not yet completed. There are also select screenings, he says, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, but Davis Square is the de facto hub of the fest with other regular screenings augmented at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.

A scene from "Results." (Courtesy)

That’s the future, for now IFFB has proven its mettle; for 13 years IFFB has operated on a wholly volunteer structure, but things have started to change. With the departure of longtime program director Adam Roffman (who remains on as a board member) last year, Tamm took on the newly created executive director role and longtime festival organizer, Nancy Campbell took over the reigns as program director. Part of the reason for the new structure, now capping its second festival, was to give prospective sponsors a conventional front door to gain traction with easily versus the “kibbutz” style, as Tamm jokingly calls the old “by committee” structure, that may have caused confusion with past potential investors and other backing organizations.   Continue reading