Sometime this past April, I hit the five-year anniversary of my first CinemaDope column. It’s hard to imagine how many movies I’ve seen in those five years, or how much I’ve written about them—and no doubt I would reverse my opinions on a few things, given the benefit of hindsight. And while it sometimes seems that Hollywood is remaking the same few blockbusters over and over again, I would never truly describe myself as jaded. I love this job.
That said, even the best gigs have their drawbacks, and if you work in media, one of those is dealing with a deluge of press releases and public relations campaigns. At its best, PR is succinct and informative, and designed to stand out simply by making life easier for press hacks up against a deadline. At its worst—well, it can be so bad, in so many ways, that one suspects the biblical plagues were just a misguided PR effort.
But once in a while, you get a gem, and this was one of those weeks.
Up in Shelburne Falls, Pothole Pictures is kicking off its new season of films with a Three Stooges Film Festival this Friday and Saturday nights. Perhaps not much needs to be said about these classic early comedies—though they often play the whipping boys in discussions of cinema’s comedic history, the Stooges remain an important piece of the whipped-cream pie. But the most important thing to know is what made that standard-looking press release shine; in a small note at the end, the organizers were sure to add: “Special note—Larry, Moe, and Curley only—NO SHEMP!”
Also this week: Amherst Cinema offers a look at one of our modern era’s most fascinating artists when it screens Gerhard Richter Painting. In this documentary look at the creative process of the German master, the behind-the-painting footage—we watch as the nearly 80-year-old Richter creates a series of large abstract paintings using huge squeegees—is complemented with interviews and conversations with critics and collaborators as well as his American gallery representative. An unprecedented look at the creative process of an artist who transcends traditional boundaries (one of his paintings was used as a Sonic Youth album cover), this is a film for anyone interested not just in Richter’s work, but in the type of mind that makes it possible.
Also at Amherst this week is the re-broadcast of This American Life—Live!, which screens May 17 at 7 p.m. It’s difficult to imagine anyone in Western Mass. who doesn’t have at least a passing familiarity with the Sunday evening NPR staple and the voices that make it what it is: host Ira Glass is joined on stage at NYU by contributor David Rakoff and others in a live performance that will also include animation, illustration, dance and music. For fans of the radio show, this is a chance to put faces to the names.
And finally this week, Pleasant Street Theater is screening Turn Me On, Dammit!, a refreshingly frank coming-of-age film from Norway. Helene Bergsholm plays the teenaged Alma, a young woman whose blossoming sexuality finds her calling phone-sex lines and engaging in marathon sessions of self-gratification. (Her mom takes to wearing ear plugs.) But when a boy she lusts after doesn’t live up to her daydreams, the awkward fallout from their meeting becomes a very public affair in their little town of Skoddenhelmen.
Matter-of-fact but warm and shot through with a good dose of humor, Turn Me On, Dammit! is the kind of movie about young women that one hopes Hollywood is watching.
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.