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Tag: Full-length Feature

March 3: “12 Years a Slave” and “Slavery And The Making Of America” (Revised)

Ordinarily, I’d be posting a video for History Monday, but not today.

Today I’m posting the link to the 2014 Best Picture Oscar Award-winning 12 Years a Slave. I’d post a link to the movie itself, but I’m certain it will return to theaters in the very near future, and I encourage you to go see it.

12 Years a Slave is a tough watch because it presents the terrible, cold, hard, unshakable reality of slavery. Solomon Northrup’s story is Roots for today’s world.

Movies like these bring home the truth, whether people want to hear it or not. It is important to tell these stories, especially today, when people like Arkansas state representative Jon Hubbard can be so remarkably unclear about the cost that they can suggest  slavery was a “blessing in disguise” and sites like Save Our Heritage (which I refuse to link to – you can go find this one on your own) post the sort of revisionist history that would have you believe being a slave isn’t so bad, and that we ought to return to those times.

You can complain about reality all you want, but you can’t alter it. That’s why it’s reality. It’s what happened. And what’s happening now, today, here in the US and abroad. That’s how I dedicate my Mondays this year: To recognizing the truth.

[Revised to add…]

So, because I haven’t got a live link to either 12 Years a Slave or Roots, I give you a different documentary, entitled Slavery and the Making of America. Yeah, it’s long. It’s also important. And I’m adding it here after the initial posting date, because I found it after I posted.

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February 3: Journey to Freedom; Alfre Woodard & Cicely Tyson ~ “Ain’t I a Woman”

Before I post the following three videos, I’m going to say something that stands a chance of making me unpopular. Shocking, I know.

Morgan Freeman, in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in December, 2005, said “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.” I agree. I’m not confining my exploration of history to a single month. I chose Monday to highlight the subject entirely at random. But it’s clear after Google celebrated Harriet Tubman’s life with a Google Doodle, folks aren’t so keen on American History that they know who Harriet Tubman was or what she did to earn her place in history.

To gain an understanding of the Underground Railroad and its accomplishments, you can watch this documentary on the subject, from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Sojourner Truth has a similar place in American history, and equally hazy recognition. She is best known for her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, given at the Women’s Convention in 1851. Tubman and Truth, Cady Stanton and Anthony. They helped lay the foundations on which we stand and continue to fight for equality.

I owe a great deal to all four of these women, who fought for equality at a time when we were considered property, not free to pursue our own destinies. So do all the women in this country who enjoy the freedom to vote, to work, to own property and to live independently.

Here are two interpretations of Sojourner Truth’s famous speech:


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January 29: Choreography by Balanchine. Prodigal Son (Parts 1-4)

Today’s highlight, a 1979 performance of George Balanchine’s ballet, “Prodigal Son” in four parts, features Mikhail Baryshnikov in the title role.

My first exposure to his work, in the 1977 film The Turning Point, made me a lifelong fan. I was privileged to see his work live in 2003, when he performed at the Festival of the Arts in Columbia, MD.

I believe this is the first time I’m featuring Baryshnikov’s work, but I guarantee it won’t be the last. His diversity of style, classical and modern, and his on-screen presence places him at the top for his generation of ballet dancers, and in my opinion one of the best ever. Watch for future career highlights throughout the year.

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January 28, 2014: A special tribute to Pete Seeger…

When I went to bed last night, a rumor was circulating on Facebook that Pete Seeger had died. I went where I usually go, out to the larger Internet, to substantiate the rumor, and I couldn’t find anything to prove it was true, so I went to sleep. This morning, Morning Edition confirmed what a sizeable chunk of my FB Friends now know is true.

Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

My father is largely responsible for my introduction to folk music. Without his reel to reel tape recorder, I wouldn’t have known about Pete, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Phil Ochs, Peter, Paul and Mary, Woody Guthrie or any of the other musicians who made up the fabric of my early childhood.

search for Pete Seeger on You Tube generates hundreds, if not thousands of links to his work. For me, a visit to the Hudson Valley as a young child (in Woodstock, after THE concert) landed my closest association with the man as I recall sitting on his lap. I also remember watching his series Rainbow Quest on PBS, when they broadcast the series in 1967-68.

[Full movie requires rental from YouTube or other site.]

Last year, I made a point of attending the Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival and I got to thank him again, in person. Didn’t have enough time to say it more than once, but I noticed he was all over that festival. I saw Toshi, once, while we were waiting for the Richie Havens memorial to begin, and I knew then that she was quite ill, but I also saw that he stayed with her until that concert started. Their devotion to each other, for just shy of 70 years, was inspirational.

He remained active right up through this year, but was too ill to attend a parade he helped organize:

Seeger’s dream for King comes true in Beacon; activist had to cancel appearance

So, in the spirit of Twofer Tuesday, in this special edition, have a second cut, with Buffy Sainte-Marie, who I also saw last summer at the festival. Explore the clips on YouTube. And take comfort that the folk movement isn’t dead so long as we pass our values on to the generations to come. After all, that’s how the music remains with us. Pass it on.

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October 8: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Yes! This, folks, is THE RSC (that is, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, an in-joke you get best when you’ve had ANY exposure to the London theatre scene). Not to be confused with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Really.)

I attempted to see this show when I was there in 1992, but by the time I found the darkened corner of the West End, we were halfway through the show and I hate walking in late. Fortunately, they’ve been to the Kennedy Center multiple times, and now I have the (autographed – HAH!) script of the show. Of course, it’s not as zany (or as wet, if you sit near the front of the stage) but I’ll take it anyway.

Another compilation of Shakespeare’s complete catalog, warts and all.

I’d suggest watching this quick, before someone figures it out that the show’s posted on YouTube. And, well, because it’s funny as hell, too.

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September 21: Imagine – From Pencils To Pixels (2003)

Dang it! Another with embedding disabled. Curse you, YouTube!


An embarrassingly long time ago, I attended a Smithsonian program highlighting John Lasseter’s role with P*I*X*A*R, The company was just starting to come into its own, with Toy Story it’s first full-length release. Since my first encounter with the art of computer animation through Animation Festivals in the early and mid 1980s, I’ve remained a staunch fan, even when the stories weren’t as good as I thought they ought to be. *cough*Cars 2*cough*

Lasseter said something during the event that has stuck with me. The stories they produce aren’t written with an audience in particular in mind. They’re written to entertain themselves. The idea is simple – if I like it, chances are, other people will like it, too. And it works. The majority of short and full-length features have a major thing going for them – they speak loudly to adults as much as kids.

In this age of reality TV, it’s a wonder movies still exist at all. Thanks to the talented folks at P*I*X*A*R, the art of animation has improved dramatically. Brave was a spectacular departure from the buddy films and gives every Disney princess a run for her money.

The full-length feature here talks about giving line character. The “pencil test” is a form of rough animation that is one level up from storyboarding – rough cut animated cells that give a sense of the action without fully fleshed out art. In a lot of ways, I prefer these to the final full-color versions.

Click the link to watch the piece.

For added information about P*I*X*A*R, see these two additional pieces. The first is an interview of P*I*X*A*R founders:

The second, made with an Apple Mac ][, includes Lasseter as “Coach.” I wonder if the original story line came from him.

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September 19: Koyaanisqatsi and Home

I started out hoping to embed the movie “Home,” but embedding is disabled. And the full-length version of Koyannisqatsi is not available online. So here are two movies that should be EASY for people to see, made more difficult by the distribution companies

No matter. Take this to heart, especially now, with the flooding in Colorado, a hard push to allow the Keystone XL project and fracking: We are risking the only home we have. Unless you have access to your own private greenhouse, your ability to feed yourself and your family is in jeopardy. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

I watched Koyaanisqatsi when it originally circulated in 1982 and I was floored, not just by the soundtrack from Phillip Glass, but by the visuals. Life out of balance indeed. The Blu-ray version is coming this winter. If you haven’t seen the whole movie, I suggest it’s worth the time.

Home, one of many, many environmentally conscious films to come in recent times, gives you a little more perspective on where you are. If we screw up this place, we still have to live here, unless we suddenly decide that suicide is legal and okay. For the vast majority of us, going somewhere pleasant to escape the nastiness simply won’t be possible. And water contamination can only be reduced so far. No matter what you believe about where you’ll go from here after death, your human goal is to stay here as long as possible.

That could be a long, long time. Watch this.

Home – Full-length film

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September 18: Life In A Day

Need a little perspective in your life? Feeling run down or under life’s thumb?

This amazing film was edited from a crowd-sourced selection of 80,000 submissions amounting to 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries. That it is only 95 minutes long says as much about the editor as it does about what was submitted.

It serves as part of my inspiration for this blog. As much as possible, I am pulling material from YouTube. It’s there because someone thought it was interesting enough to share. In this case, over seven million viewers have watched at least some portion of this film. It’s a slice of life, from a single day (July 24, 2010) as experienced around the world.

Is it earth-shattering? No. Action packed? Yes. Violent? Sometimes. (If you haven’t watched, take note that some of the scenes are graphic and depict animal slaughter.)

More information about the film’s creation and creators is here:

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September 17: Sita Sings the Blues

This ground-breaking animated feature, not just for the material or style of the storytelling, but for the way its originator has decided to share – by instant public domain – her work with us. The website ( has a lot to say about how we reach out and share our creative works with others. Aside from the brilliant artistry, enjoy this fresh take on non-commercial art and (if you enjoy it) consider supporting the artist through the methods she suggests on her site.

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September 16: The Thief and the Cobbler

The Thief and the Cobbler (renamed Arabian Knight by a certain movie production and distribution company with a rodent as a mascot) was visually stunning but had a troubled history. I was surprised to discover the original cut (cobbled together from cutting room footage and raw sketches where the actual footage is missing).

It’s an ugly story, but a real one, of studio greed and production values. Much as I love Jonathan Winters, he wasn’t necessary to the tale. But these are some of the hazards to be expected when a work of art is presented for commercial gain. Someone’s bound to lose in the end.

Whether you’ve seen the original movie release or not, take the time to watch this version. You won’t regret it.

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September 15: The General

Time for a major change-up in theme, again.

While searching for material to highlight, I’ve discovered a wealth of cinema – full length movies – on YouTube. These aren’t your First Run favorites. Rather, they are groundbreaking, silent era, modern animation, thought-provoking documentary or fascinating takes on real world life.

We start with Buster Keaton’s 1926 classic, The General.

I was tempted to feature Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) or Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (1923), but this one caught my attention first.

I’m studying film and what makes it so effective as a medium. Netflix has a lot of what I’m watching, but not all. And the wonder of YouTube is that it takes the whole process and puts it in your hands. As we’ll see later this week, some of the results of that control are simply amazing.

If you’ve never taken the time to watch a silent classic, here’s a great place to start. In fact, make the time to watch all three. They’re among my favorites.

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January 3: Strictly Ballroom – Final Dance

Technicality. It’s January 3rd, so I’ll post today’s video and then I’m going to crash for the night. If you’ve never seen Strictly Ballroom, let me know. I’ll arrange a private viewing. In fact, don’t watch this, because it’s full of spoilers. Just come on over. (Thanks, Izolda!)

But wait! There’s more! Now the whole movie is on YouTube!

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