Farewell, Herr Schwarz
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Although Yael Reuveny was born in Israel 35 years after the end of World War II, her formative years were nevertheless substantially shaped by events that had transpired half a world away during the Holocaust. For, she and her mother had both been raised around an embittered concentration camp survivor who had never been able to forgive the Nazis.
After all, her grandmother Michla’s entire family had perished in a death camp in Poland, or at least so she thought. However, there had been a rumor that her brother Feiv’ke might have survived; but Michla lost hope when he failed to materialize at a rendezvous at the Lodz train station that had been arranged by an intermediary.
So, Michla made her way to Tel Aviv where, despite being plagued by nightmares, she would marry and have three kids. Unfortunately, she was also widowed at a young age, and eventually went to her grave still harboring a grudge against Germany.
Meanwhile, her brother changed his name to Peter Schwarz, and married a German gentile with whom he had three children. And not only did he hide the fact that he was Jewish from his offspring, but he continued to live in Schlieben, the town where he’d been imprisoned in a Nazi death camp.
When Ms. Reuveny caught wind of the existence of another branch of her family tree, she became obsessed with tracking down her long-lost relatives. That five-year quest is the focus of Farewell, Herr Schwarz, a bittersweet documentary detailing an attempt to reconcile a pair of siblings’ polar opposite response to the Holocaust.
After examining the divergent behavior of siblings Michla and Peter, director Reuveny devotes attention to how the pair’s second and third generations have adjusted to life. It is quite a surprise to learn that Peter’s grandson Stephan’s dream has been to move to Israel ever since learning that he is a quarter Jewish. And by contrast, filmmaker/narrator Reuveny opts to settle in Europe, feeling perfectly at home there upon completion of her labor of love.
A fascinating, generations-spanning genealogical journey!
Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew, German and English with subtitles
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Kino Lorber
DVD Extras: None
To see a trailer for Farewell, Herr Schwarz, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKZ1tPunFvw
The “Insidious: Chapter 3” Interview
with Kam Williams
Shaye at Play!
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Lin Shaye loved storytelling for as long as she could remember and knew that she was destined to act. She performed in many plays in college at the University of Michigan, and then moved to New York City when she was accepted into Columbia University’s Master of Fine Arts program. Remaining in NYC after graduation, she further honed her skills with celebrated stage directors like Joseph Papp and Des McAnuff, appearing in such productions as Tartuffe, at the New York Shakespeare Festival, as well as in The Tempest and The Taking of Miss Janie.
She made her film debut in 1975 in Hester Street, which was shot on location in Manhattan, and featured Carol Kane in an Oscar-nominated performance. But when Jack Nicholson cast Lin in Goin’ South, she relocated from New York to L.A. Her other early films included The Long Riders, Brewster’s Millions and Extreme Prejudice, all directed by Walter Hill. In 1982, she and a dozen fellow thespians formed a theater company called the Los Angeles Theater Unit, which produced only new plays over the course of its decade-long existence. She earned her a Dramalogue Award for Best Actress for her work in the troupe’s staging of Better Days. The Farrelly Brothers recognized Lin's extraordinary talent and cast her in a series of memorable roles in their films, among them Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and, perhaps most memorably, as the overly-tanned neighbor in There’s Something About Mary. Her other notable comedic roles include the KISS-hating fanatic mother in Detroit Rock City and the head of the Bikini Tanning Team in Boat Trip. Lin has almost 200 screen credits to her name, including Snakes on a Plane, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ouija, The Hillside Strangler, My Sister’s Keeper, The Signal and Corrina, Corrina. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Elise Rainier, the heroine of Insidious: Chapter 3, in the latest installment of that vaunted fright franchise.
Kam Williams: Hi Lin, I'm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Lin Shaye: Well, thanks, Kam, and vice versa.
KW: What was it like being directed by your co-star Leigh Whannell this go-round in what amounted to his directorial debut?
LS: He was a fantastic director. We were both a little nervous when we started filming, because you always are, even if you're a veteran actor or director. But we obviously had already forged a wonderful friendship and relationship making the first two films together. Leigh, being a performer himself, had a different directorial style from James [Wan] who is more of a cinephile. Leigh's was more emotional and more informational, since he'd created the characters as well. So, he probably knows more about Elise than anybody, although he said, “No, I don't,” when I tried to tell him that. [Laughs] But making the film with him was wonderful, because he could step into the shoes of any of the characters, if necessary. He was also open to anything you had to say, and there was never a sour word out of his mouth, even at the end of a 17-hour day. He was just amazing! And you know, when you're the director, everybody on set wants something from you. Leigh handled it like a true prince.
The “And the Good News Is…” Interview
with Kam Williams
Dana Marie Perino was born in Evanston, Wyoming on May 9, 1972, where she grew up herding cattle at the crack of dawn on a cattle ranch. In college, she moonlighted as a country music DJ while majoring in Mass Communications. And after graduating from Colorado State University-Pueblo, she went on to earn a Master’s in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Dana made history as the first Republican female to serve as White House Press Secretary. After seven years in the George W. Bush administration, she was recruited by the Fox News Network to co-host a new show, The Five, which has become one of the most highly-rated programs on cable TV.
Christians in word and deed, Dana and her husband, Peter, devote considerable time to philanthropy causes, traveling to Africa on numerous occasions to volunteer with charities ranging from Living Hope to Mercy Ships. The former is a faith-based organization working with AIDS victims, while the latter is a state-of-the-art floating hospital which sails down the Congo River to bring free medical care to desperate people living is some of the poorest countries in the world.
Here, she talks about her life and career, including the time spent as President Bush’s official spokesperson.
Kam Williams: Hi Dana, thanks for the interview. How are you?
Dana Perino: I’m pretty good, thank you.
KW:You know, I feel like I already know you, from seeing you on The Five everyday.
DP: That’s one of the favorite things I hear a lot on the book tour. I think that’s a huge compliment to The Five.
KW: Even though I’m very liberal, I still enjoy the show, especially because you and Greg Gutfeld aren’t predictable in terms of your political stances.
DP: I know what you mean. Bill Shine, an executive at Fox, once said, “Who would’ve ever thought that it’d be Dana Perino always defending the unions and the TSA?”
KW: Or coming to the defense of Obama administration White House Press Secretaries. What were your expectations, when you agreed to do The Five?
Bass Clef Bliss
Film Review by Kam Williams
Before Terrence Partridge turned 2, his parents first noticed an arrest in his development of age-appropriate social skills. In fact, he actually started regressing soon thereafter, as words he had already been using began to disappear from his vocabulary.
But it would still be a couple more years before they would receive the devastating diagnosis that their son was autistic. Unfortunately, the marriage would not last, as is so often the case with families touched by this affliction, and the burden of raising Terrence alone would end up falling entirely on his mother Therese’s shoulders.
Since early intervention can be critical in a kid’s prognosis, he was lucky she committed herself to giving him the love and support of even more than two parents. And she resolved to become an expert in autism, since it can manifests in myriad ways, making what might be a viable protocol for one child, totally inappropriate for another.
In Terrence’s case, he exhibited an early interest in music, being among the 1 in 10,000 people blessed with perfect pitch. His attentive mom recognized his talent which she proceeded to cultivate with the help of Louise Titlow, his trombone instructor. Under his patient teacher’s tutelage, the boy blossomed into a promising prodigy to the point where he would one day play in San Diego’s New Youth Classical Orchestra as well as jazz in a combo led by trumpeter Gilbert Castllanos.
Louise modestly explains away her student’s seemingly miraculous achievements with, “All it takes with Terrence or any autistic child is a little bit more love, a little more time, and a little more faith.” Perhaps of greater significance is her further assertion that, “He can be an angel of healing self-expression through music, and heal others as he’s uplifting himself.”
Directed by Patrick Scott, Bass Clef Bliss is an alternately heartrending and uplifting biopic chronicling the tight bond between a mother and son as together they confront an assortment of daunting challenges associated with autism. Scott makes a most impressive debut here, as he oh so delicately balances the access he was afforded to his subjects ‘daily lives with their plausible concerns about personal privacy.
Besides focusing on Terrence and Therese’s trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs, this informative documentary features a cornucopia of facts and figures about autism, courtesy of both experts and anecdotal evidence. Did you know that in 1985, 1 in 2,500 babies developed the disorder, and that today the number is about 1 in 68?
Thus, autism is now, effectively, universal in nature which makes a labor of love like Bass Clef Bliss certain to resonate deeply with any spiritually-inclined soul compassionately attuned to other than self.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 70 minutes
Distributor: Dance House Productions / Passage Productions / BKLYN2LA Productions / Drama House Productions
To see a trailer for Bass Clef Bliss, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiWffnyp1so
Film Review by Kam Williams
Cash-strapped Katherine McCoy (Vivica A. Fox) is holding down a couple of jobs to make ends meet while praying that her sons stay on the straight and narrow path until they can make it out of the ghetto. Though grown, both boys still live at home, yet neither is helping their struggling single-mom much financially.
At least the younger one, Michael (Robert Ri’chard), is close to graduating from college and works part-time at a diner as a short order chef. But he hasn’t even been able to save enough from that minimum wage position to have his car fixed, so he has to get around Los Angeles by bicycle. By comparison, his 30 year-old brother Chris (DeRay Davis) is a trash-talking hustler who shows more of an interest in hanging out on the streets than in finding gainful employment.
The siblings’ fortunes change the day they decide to patronize the local gentlemen’s club. For, while Michael is relieving himself in the men’s room, he’s approached by the owner (Michael Jai White) about stripping there on Ladies’ Night.
Initially, the handsome hunk hesitates out of concern about how his girlfriend (Imani Hakim) and his Bible-thumping mother might react to his moonlighting in his birthday suit. However, after taking the time to watch girls go wild over buff beefcake (played by Tyson Beckford, Ginuwine and others), he decides to throw caution to the wind.
So, on the advice of his brother-turned-promoter, he’s given the stage name “Sexy Chocolate.” I suppose taking “Magic Mike” might have been a tad too transparent even for this unapologetic rip-off.
Despite soon raking in the big bucks, Michael’s life nevertheless starts to come apart at the seams. His grades plunge from As to Fs. His mother worries about whether her son’s sudden gains are ill-gotten. And his girlfriend gets the surprise of her life the evening she shows up with her BFFs.
Written and directed by Jean-Claude La Marre (the Pastor Jones franchise), Chocolate City is basically a blackface version of Magic Mike that trades shamelessly in the same sort of titillating fare which made that flick a runaway hit a few years ago. A derivative, estrogen-fueled, overcoming-the-odds saga strictly recommended for females interested in seeing sepia-skinned Adonises gyrate while disrobing to mind-numbing disco music.
Good (2 stars)
Rated R for profanity, brief violence, partial nudity and pervasive sexuality
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
To see a trailer for Chocolate City, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42HA58cBHAM