Anya Taylor-Joy in THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

Despite the economic hit movie theatres have taken due to COVID-19, both streaming studio features and cable films have done their best to fill the entertainment void.


Writer-director Scott Frank has created a masterful, multi-part series featuring a mesmerizing Anya Taylor-Joy as 60s orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon. It has become Netflix’s most watched scripted series, thanks to Frank’s color-dense production design and the grip of Walter Tevis’s original book, about a young woman who relies on her own chemical addictions to excel in the male-dominated world of chess competition.


Nathan Grossman has a…

BELUSHI, directed by R.J Cutler (Michael Gold, via Showtime)

The upside for the downtrodden, due to the pandemic, is that one can view the best of film from the comfort of a desk chair or couch in one’s home. The nation’s largest documentary film festival, DOC NYC, has once again provided some of the top documentary features of the year, including many available via cable or online in the coming weeks.

Zappa/dir. Alex Winter

Alex Winter, given full access to the voluminous archives of musician-composer-producer-activist and inimitable iconoclast Frank Zappa, has fashioned a long overdue feature that does well in covering his wide range of music and activities. From…

DOGHEAD by Momo Takenoshita (courtesy: Ottawa Intl. Animation Festival)

One unconsidered advantage of a pandemic is that film and theatre not normally available online becomes as close as your fingertips. The Ottawa International Animation Festival, among the top events of its kind, made available its visually resplendent and imaginative work, as well as panels and interviews.

Undone, Ep. 2 “The Hospital” (series, USA)

In series competition, the Amazon metaphysical brain teaser Undone, directed by Hisko Hulsing, takes you through a multiverse of possible realities inside the head of a young woman who was in a car accident and is (or isn’t) talking with her dad (Bob Oedenkirk) who didn’t…

Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group

Perhaps we live in an age where people can say anything out loud that comes into their heads. And if someone objects to lack of taste or inaccuracy, the protestation can be chalked up to political correctness or the far more insidious “fake news.”

So, if a reviewer sees, for example, the financially successful musical The Book of Mormon at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles and is somewhat repulsed by its ugly, unrelenting need to shock when it should be amusing its audience, there will be plenty of naysayers.

Consider however, momentarily, that Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s…

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Finland/Latvia)

It’s 31 years since the desert resort bloomed a film festival that now presents more international Oscar nominees that any other in the United States. Here are the highlights of the recently completed Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (USA/United Kingdom, dir. Ric Burns)

Just as compassionate as he was odd, Dr. Oliver Sacks led a life of sexual confusion and alienation that set him up to show great understanding of patients who either had trouble communicating or could not do so at all. …

ANOTHER DAY OF LIFE, courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Another Day of Life (dirs. Raul de la Fuente, Damian Nenow)

This animated feature, co-produced by Poland, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Hungary, is a beautifully poetic and tragically violent recounting of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński’s coverage of the war in Angola. Based in fact, it brilliantly uses a touching inner monologue and wild visuals to elevate this far beyond the typical biographical movie.

Bombshell (dir. Jay Roach)

While The Loudest Voice limited series on TV covered much of the Fox News meltdown, this feature is scintillating, thanks in large part to Charles Rudolph’s excellent script. It’s also a bounty for…

Between Riverside and Crazy, Fountain Theatre. Credit: Jenny Graham.

We close the end of this decade with one critic’s ongoing top ten theatre list, typically not numbered, due to the commitment and hard work of so many talented Southern California theatre artists.

Miss Lily Gets Boned (Rogue Machine, Venice)

Bekah Brunstetter’s inventive drama is about a virginal woman (wonderfully offbeat Larisa Oleynik) whose faith is tested, just as a doctor tries to communicate with an elephant that has crushed a related character. Robin Larson’s staging, right down to a giant pachyderm puppet, enthralls.

Between Riverside and Crazy (Fountain Theatre, Hollywood)

This Pulitzer winner from Steven Adly Guirgis is most…

MIDNIGHT FAMILY (Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

The annual DOC NYC documentary film festival in New York has an impressive array of features worth noting. Additionally, unlike foreign film festivals, where top notch films may never see distribution in the US, the below titles are generally guaranteed audiences via pay cable and streaming services.

MIDNIGHT FAMILY (Dir: Luke Lorentzen)

There are only 45 government-sanctioned ambulances for Mexico City’s nine million people. Lorentzen captures the difficulties of the Ochoa family, barely surviving as private paramedics. The family dangerously speeds to arrive before the competition, has to haggle with the families of the injured to be paid and is…

Cast of FEFU AND HER FRIENDS, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (photo: Enci Box)

When this writer first saw a 1980s production of Fefu and Her Friends, by the late Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornés, he gloried in its structure. The eight female characters played together for the first and last scenes; but for the middle, the theatre created four separate rooms so that the audience, divided into quarters, could spy on the action, sometimes mere inches away from the performers, who repeated their supposedly private conversations four times.

In the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s revival, a second theatre in the complex has been reconfigured for this remarkable work. But beyond its novel conception is…

Another Day of Life (courtesy Cannes Film Festival)

Every year, two film festivals usher us into summer with exceptional programming, most particularly in the realm of international documentary production. The Seattle International Film Festival, the largest in the US, and AFI Docs, in our nation’s capital, both exhibited three noteworthy releases this year.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld, dir. Mads Brügger (Denmark)

Journalist and filmmaker Brügger leads us on his powerful personal investigation into the plane crash in the Congo in 1961 of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. The director’s convoluted path eventually yields undeniable and startling results: With the help of a National Security Agency employee and members of…

Brad Schreiber

Author, screenwriter, journalist, playwright, literary consultant. Books include REVOLUTION’S END and BECOMING JIMI HENDRIX.

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