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Movies with meaning screening throughout the area

by Mark Burger

Timing is everything, and the RiverRun International Film Festival has the right film at the right time: An encore screening of Patrick Creadon’s critically acclaimed documentary IOUSA, which will take place Oct. 28 at Salem College.

The film, which earned a nomination for the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, was screened this past April during RiverRun.

IOUSA examines the explosive growth of the national debt and its potential consequences for the nation and its people. Featuring interviews with American taxpayers and government officials, the film lays bare the nation’s financial practices and policies — and the risks therein. Like I said, the right film at the right time.

“Because of the tremendous reception it received earlier this year at RiverRun, we always knew that we wanted to bring it back for an encore,” said Andrew Rodgers, the executive director of the festival. “When the economy really started going south a few weeks ago, it became a priority to get the film right away. It’s just serendipity that we were able to get the film for a screening one week before the election.

“With the economy on the top of everyone’s minds and the presidential contest reaching a fever pitch, we thought this was the perfect time to bring back one of the best-received films from our 2008 festival for a free encore and host an open and non-partisan discussion about fiscal responsibility,” he added.

(Gee, did anyone think of sending a screener to the White House?)

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring guest speakers Phil Smith, the national political director of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility within the federal budget (which, these days, almost seems like a contradiction in terms); and Jean Johnson, the executive vice president of Public Agenda, and the co-author of Where Does the Money Go?: Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis.  

Showtime is 7 p.m. at Hanes Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center on the campus of Salem College (601 S. Church St., Winston-Salem). Admission is free. Even these days, that’s a price anyone can afford!

For more information about this screening, or about any RiverRun events, see www.riverrunfilm.com

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Speaking of relevant movies, the Greensboro Historical Museum and UNCG’s Jackson Library have teamed up to present a free screening of the critically-acclaimed 2005 drama Good Night, and Good Luck, which earned six Academy Award nominations (including best picture) but, alas, went home empty-handed on Oscar night. The film will be shown at the museum (130 Summit Ave., Greensboro) at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19.

David Strathairn earned an Oscar nomination as best actor for his performance as CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, who spoke out against the controversial McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, thereby defying the widespread paranoia that proliferated during the Cold War era in the United States.

George Clooney, who co-wrote, produced and directed the film (earning Oscar nominations in all three categories), co-stars as Murrow’s producer, Fred Friendly. The all-star cast also includes Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise and Frank Langella, the latter as CBS president William Paley.

The screening will be hosted by Jeff Jones, an associate professor of Russian/Soviet history and world history at UNCG. Jones, whose book Everyday Life and the ‘Reconstruction’ of Soviet Russia During and After the Great Patriotic War, 1943-1948, is scheduled to be published in November, will discuss the historical context in which the film is set. Audience participation is encouraged.

The movie, which I included on my 10-Best list for ’05, is rated PG. Tickets are free, but because of limited seating, please reserve seats ahead of time by calling 336.373.2043 … and tell ‘em you read about the screening in YES! Weekly.

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Two years ago, I was on the press junket for the animated Disney film Cars held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, and it was there that I had my one and only encounter with the legendary Paul Newman, who died last week at the age of 83.

Cars would be Newman’s last feature film, but that wasn’t the indication at the time. At the press conference, he appeared relaxed and a trifle bemused. He discussed the possibility of retiring but thought he might have a couple more movies in him. He certainly wasn’t a young man anymore, but there was still something eternally youthful about him. And when he smiled, man, it lit up the room.

In addition to his stellar work as an actor, and later as both a producer and a director, Newman was also renowned for his philanthropy, his ideology, and his integrity. One of the true Hollywood liberals, he blazed a trail for politically and socially active actors and artists. He was outspoken but eloquent, and, in fact, his name appeared on President Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List”! (Newman took it as a great compliment, he said.)

The list of great Newman performances is a large one: Sweet Bird of Youth, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Slap Shot, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Verdict, Nobody’s Fool, The Color of Money and, what the hell, I’ll even throw The Towering Inferno in there… but, for me, the dark horse was 1981’s Fort Apache, the Bronx. A tough film but highly recommended.

Newman’s appeal was both timeless and universal. I have one actor friend, nearly 10 years younger than I, whose adulation of Newman knows no bounds. Whereas some people would question why my friend revered an “old” actor — a reprehensible attitude, in my opinion — he’d respond, firmly: “Because it’s Paul Newman.” End of discussion.

Evidently, his friends were unaware that Newman earned 10 Academy Award nominations during his career. I guess they were busy worshipping “new” talent.

Dale Pollock, the former dean of the NCSA School of Filmmaking and currently a faculty member, produced Blaze in 1989, in which Newman played the randy Louisiana governor Earl K. Long. Like many, Pollock was awestruck by Newman but delighted to have the chance to work with him, even though the film did not turn out to be a hit.

One anecdote he shared with me concerned a couple of studio executives who paid a visit to the location and had lunch with Newman. When one of them questioned Newman’s Southern accent, the actor simply told them to cast someone else. At which point, the backpedaling began — at full speed. End of discussion.

Newman will certainly be mourned and missed, but one of the joys of movies is that we can bring him back anytime we want, just by popping in a cassette or a DVD. In that sense, he’ll never really die. He won’t even fade away. And he won’t be forgotten.

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