Linda Stirling Unmasked: The Black Whip

: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.



Wendy And Lucy Movie Review

Jonathan Raymond (writer)
Kelly Reichardt (writer)

Cast(patial list)

Michelle Williams ... Wendy
Will Patton ... Mechanic

wendy and lucy is a coming of age film of an adolescent girl who has elected to take a car trip with her dog Lucy up to Alaska where she hopes to find a summer job and reach adulthood en route.

This is an intensely moving film. Its emotional worth is achieved through the excellent acting of Wendy, Michelle Williams, in a most subtle yet striking performance, and the slow-elongated scenes reflective of the way most working class and bohemian people think and live their lives. There is always a palpable undercurrent, of disaster, an outbreak of over powering destructive force because of the steady course Wendy tries to steer. Her failures are many and yet in the end her achievement is remarkable.

An American 2008 film without glitter, without intensity of action without super this or super that and without the introduction of state of the art animation is a film to cherish, to support and to hope, that the human experience that allows the audience to feel what they want without being told through music or action is a delight. A relic of the past that will hopefully grow stronger, more plentiful next year

U.S. Theatrical Premiere Wednesday, December 10 at Film Forum, NYC

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective


The Reader Movie Review

Underage desire converges with perverse passions of the political sort, where in the case of one's country, love is basically blind. A remarkably brilliant and subversive guilt by erotic association thriller.



Other People’s Pictures
Directors: Lorca Shepperd & Cabot Philbrick

Review by Nancy Keefe Rhodes

When Syracuse native Lorca Shepperd and her husband/collaborator Cabot Philbrick set out to make Other People’s Pictures, they expected their documentary would focus on the trade in vernacular snapshots and albums that goes on at flea markets, auctions, antique and second-hand shops.

“We thought it would be about the economics and mechanics of that market,” she said by phone recently from New York City, where the couple both work in television documentary. “But the emotions that collectors had about these photographs were really the whole point. We realized that after we started – that this film transcends the niche.”

A casual, sometime collector of the odd “snap” herself, Shepperd was sent to Manhattan’s Chelsea Flea Market by a friend. There she discovered multiple dealers with bins and tables full of cast-off snapshots and regular, sometimes impassioned customers. She was struck by seeming contradictions – that people fleeing sudden disasters like fires can emerge with little more than pets and family albums, yet there’s a flood of recycled snapshots for sale.

Their buyers in turn wonder aloud about their hobby in un-hobby-like terms that recall early superstitions about photography’s eerie capacity to capture frozen likenesses. Are they stealing a stranger’s past? wonders one, while another – speaking to the power of a rapid, unexpected attachment – says she’s the “foster parent of ghosts.”

Shot on week-ends between November 2001 and the summer of 2004, Other People’s Pictures had a brief theatrical run that brought the filmmakers National Public Radio coverage and good reviews. It’s done well at festivals and won some awards. At 53 minutes – really sized for television – the film has screened on the Documentary Channel. Now it’s available on DVD, which may bring it the wider film audience it deserves, even though its commercial distributor, Cinema Guild, seems not to have been particularly energetic about getting it out there to some obvious outlets like Netflix.

Other People’s Pictures comprises overlapping interviews with snapshot collectors and dealers, along with interludes of stills drawn from particular sub-categories of images that people collect. One of the film’s many charms is that Shepperd and Philbrick seem to be equally fond of these quirky, compelling, largely anonymous images and the people who seek and cherish them. Largely filmed at the Chelsea Flea Market, Other People’s Pictures also takes us inside a few of these collectors’ homes.

We might call such collectors “vernacular curators” and each has evolved a specialty. Lisa, who says she can’t afford “real photographs” but second-hand snaps are within her price range, favors early 20th century images of “women with attitude,” often the proud early drivers behind the wheels of cars. The gallery drawn from her collection alone makes this film worth seeing. Japanese-American Don, transplanted to New York, collects images from his native Hawaii. Dan frames and hangs what he calls “banality of evil” photos – snaps of Nazis at weddings, in family groups and relaxing. Leslie collects what he calls the hidden history of male affection. And there’s Fern and Peter and Ken and Leonie, plus several dealers who expound on the virtues of their chosen display method – single images loose in bins, offered by category in boxes or albums, and that’s not counting the fierce debate over whether to break up intact family albums.

For all the flea market chaos, considerable selection is involved here. Shepperd says they scanned over 1,500 images during filming, then used about 300 in the feast that is the final cut. They also survey the range of sub-categories enthusiasts seek: pictures taken at beaches, pictures with flash “shadows,” train wrecks, blurred images of people in motion, photo booth snaps, Down Syndrome children, joke photos or visual puns, mutilated photos with a face cut or scratched out, even people eating watermelon.

That last actually comes from the DVD extras, which add almost double the material of the original documentary. Profiles of two dealers detail how far and seriously they search for wares. And there are several more collectors, including a travel writer, an artist who uses the notations on the backs of snaps in her exhibitions and – though identified here only as “Marty” for her collection of snaps of women with cameras – the photographer Martha Cooper, who pioneered photographic records of early Hip-Hop graffiti and more recently the related global phenomenon of B*Girlz dance battles.

Shepperd says she and Philbrick are “just tossing around ideas” for another film at this point. Meanwhile, Other People’s Pictures ranks as a Genuine Find.

“Other People’s Pictures” is available online for personal purchase at, which includes galleries of film stills & print resources on vernacular photography.




While not exactly the sexually suggestive The Man Who Came For Dinner, Twilight zones out on conjuring a defiant inter-species dating fantasy in the Obama era, that might be termed Close Encounters Of The Thirst Kind.


Changeling: 'Revealing, Insightful and Powerful'

Ms. Miller's recent review of Changeling by Eastwood almost moved me to tears, revealing a perspective on discrimination and abuse faced by women throughout recent history that I had never considered. Her writing helps me understand these issues from a point of view that escapes the male perspective and informs me of a tragic history that must not be forgotten.

Thank you, Ms. Miller for your efforts, insights and contribution to moving our country forward.

C. Nagle


Body Of Lies: A South African Perspective

I couldn't agree more with Ms Miller about the ridiculousness of this movie. After an extremely long time I left the theatre without watching the second half!

N. Khan
South Africa




Director: Lance Hammer
Cast: JimMyron Ross, Michael Smith, Jr., Tarra Riggs
by Nancy Keefe Rhodes

Like Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River, another first feature film that took honors home from this year’s Sundance festival, Lance Hammer’s Ballast tells the story of a near-the-edge family just before Christmas whose hard-scrabble lives occur against a masterfully shot, austere and sweeping landscape – in Hunt’s film, the frozen St. Lawrence River of northern New York and in Hammer’s, the Mississippi Delta.

Hammer opens his film with what amounts to a visual prayer. Twelve-year-old James (JimMyron Ross), a slight boy in a big parka, crosses a rolling open field, hurrying toward thousands of geese that start up suddenly from the frozen stubble, flying across the vast magic-hour horizon. It’s crucial this occurs first because what comes next – before the barest possibility that James’ hopes might turn out - is almost unremittingly difficult.

Ballast opened in New York City on October 1st and has theatrical bookings across the U.S. through the end of February. Unlike Frozen River, which recently did so well here in Central New York that it was held it over twice, Ballast will screen here just once – next Tuesday at 8:00 PM at the Westcott. I'm encouraging everyone to do whatever it takes so they can see it there on the big screen.

Ballast is one of those films in which it seems like not much happens – Hammer says he hopes the narrative “has remained minimal and unobtrusive” – until you try writing a plot summary and realize that the characters’ intertwined histories and ties look a lot like the ancient, vine-covered tree that James’ eyes rest on when his gaze comes back to earth after that first shot. Down that road lives Lawrence Baptiste (Michael Smith, Jr.), introduced in wordless grief before a buzzing TV set. His twin brother Darius lies in the next room, having gotten in bed and intentionally overdosed. When a neighbor checks – the brothers haven’t opened their convenience store in several days – Lawrence shoots himself. While he’s in the hospital, James breaks in, steals his pistol and, once he’s home, begins robbing Lawrence, immediately because James’ mother, Marlee Sykes, (Tarra Riggs, whose hare-trigger performance deserves notice at year’s end) can’t keep food in their tiny trailer; also because Darius was James’ father.

Some of the best scenes occur when Lawrence allows James to order him around at gun-point. Suicidally depressed anyway, the massive older man could easily disarm this jittery boy (later he does, in a quiet, quick move that proves the point but doesn’t detour into drama). Meanwhile, in the stillness between them, attention and curiosity start to flicker. After an unglamorous, frightening brush with some thuggish older boys – the pistol merely enrages them – James and Marlee move into Darius’ little house next door to Lawrence. Marlee, insisting upon her place in the scheme of things, re-opens the store and, one inch at a time, the three start over. This is nearly de-railed any number of times, none more wrenching than the night, while they share dish-washing, that Lawrence tries to embrace Marlee and she pulls away, furious, misunderstanding him, sure “this is all you were after.” Watching, James holds his breath – and we’re right there with him.

Hammer filmed Ballast in nine Mississippi Delta townships with a cast of mostly indigenous non-professionals, using available light, no music and a script evolving over two months of rehearsal. Trained as an architect, Hammer has an evident expressive ease with space that amplifies his characters’ sparse dialogue and low-key affect. Against the expansive landscape outside, inside scenes are sometimes filmed in silhouette, or characters occupy cramped rectangles of light in one corner of the screen – the view through a door or down a hallway. Or, for example, when seeking gang approval, James wheels his scooter down a narrow, garbage-strewn ally, you can see this path will be a wrong turn for him.

Both Frozen River and Ballast come from white filmmakers who portray communities of color. Hunt’s film vividly manifests the tensions between Akwesasne Mohawks and outsiders in the complicated, edgy bond between the two mothers. Hammer refrains from this, choosing a different emphasis. Lawrence’s white neighbor John Dixon (Johnny McPhail), benign, stops by because he’s worried, looks out for Lawrence’s dog and finally coaxes Lawrence out of the house to share a steak. But because of this, Hammer's film has the space to dwell more deeply on the Black characters’ relationships with one another.

Ballast comes to Syracuse and screens in the community courtesy of Dropped Frames, a film society based in Syracuse University’s Transmedia department that also hosted the second annual Upstate New York Film Festival in late September, a one-night showcase of short films and videos by regional artists. The L.A.-based Hammer, who wrote, produced, directed and edited Ballast, will speak on campus Tuesday afternoon and again after the screening Tuesday night. He is Dropped Frames’ third visiting artist this fall. In September Emily Hubley brought her animation feature, The Toe Tactic, and last month Ronnie Bronstein was here with Frownland.

A version of this review appeared in the 11/6/08 issue of the Syracuse City Eagle weekly.


Quantum Of Solace Movie Review:

Revenge as a dish best served with a cold Martini.