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Serially entertaining

Actors and screen-writers are busier these days than they have been in some time. There are “streaming” shows, 100s of cable outlets producing both series and movies, and of course Hollywood and the Indie scene all requiring their talents and services.

We are the beneficiaries of all this production. We will be enlightened, entertained and excited by the films they produce.

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than binge watching Divorce?

Gifted, the movie with Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace, and not so incidentally Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, and Elizabeth Marvel, is touching without being maudlin. It is generally intelligent, with a sterling performance by young Ms. Grace, and until we saw it last night on HBO, I had not heard much about it.

The assignment for Black History Month can include the excellent Get Out, Jordan Peele’s genius defies and reinvents the “horror” genre. It should also feature a viewing of Birth of a Nation, perhaps both in its regressive D.W. Griffith 1915 version and Nate Parker’s 2016 “remake.” The contrast between a paen to the Ku Klux Klan and to Nat Turner’s slave rebellion may prove edifying. Add Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (although not our personal favorite) to your list of films for 2018. (In the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham expresses a different view, especially of Parker’s film.)

Art is meant to engender controversy, stimulate and even incense and enrage. We should not be passively diverted in its presence. It is here to help us ponder life’s (and history’s) biggest issues.

Thanks to films and serial dramas we have a lot to consider and enjoy. And we are treated to some terrific performances in the bargain.

Posted in based on a true story or event, drama, serious subject

"Miss Lead"

Dawn Jamieson, Dylan Carusona, Nancy McDoniel,
Tyree Giroux, Tanis Parenteau, and Michelle Honaker in
“Miss Lead”
at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Steve Bartel

As EPA standards lessen, land and water, as in the headlines about West Virginia, is polluted by companies safely unaccountable for their misdeeds. Going back to recent history, in the 1940’s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was able to use WWII as an excuse to allow mining for lead on Native grounds. In that case, as in the current headline events, the government is complicit.

Mary Kathryn Nagle’s “Miss Lead,” at 59E59 Theaters, in an Amerinda production, through January 26th, looks at a combination of the historic mismanagement by the BIA and the fact that large companies have been allowed to ride roughshod over communities, particularly Native American ones, around the country.  Unfortunately, all the sympathy for those vicimized cannot make sense of the jumbled plot.

Tanis Parenteau in “Miss Lead”  at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Steve Bartel

It is nearly Thanksgiving in a mining town, and the family owned Tri-State Mining Company is trying to put a brave spin on impending law suits and EPA SuperFund excavations. Meanwhile, the effects of lead poisoning may already have hit close to their own home.

The device of using a writer, Katie (Tanis Parenteau), as the central character and sometime narrator only serves to distance the viewer from the tragedy at the heart of the story. “Miss Lead” is an unconvincing drama.

Kudos to Elizabeth Rolston, who as Rebecca, has to deliver a polemic with fluidity and ease. Among the large cast, Stuart Luth, both as Fred and as David, and Claire Louise Burke as Ruth are the most natural.
Also in a dual role, as Glenda and Aunt Mallory, Nacy McDoniel gives some broadly comic relief.

For more information about “Miss Lead,” please visit 59E59 Theaters.