19 items from 2017
These fugitives on the run aren’t innocent young lovers. Still wanted for anti-war violence from years before, an ex-radical couple struggles to remain free just as their children become old enough to think for themselves. Screenwriter Naomi Foner and director Sidney Lumet’s fascinating movie is a sympathetic look at an untenable lifestyle.
1988 / Color / 1:85 enhanced widescreen / 116 min. / Street Date June 27, 2017 / available through the WBshop / 21.99
Starring: Christine Lahti, River Phoenix, Judd Hirsch, Jonas Abry, Martha Plimpton, Ed Crowley, L.M. Kit Carson, Steven Hill, Augusta Dabney, David Margulies, Lynne Thigpen, Bobo Lewis, Daniel Dassin.
Cinematography: Gerry Fisher
Film Editor: Andrew Mondshein
Original Music: Tony Mottola
Written by Naomi Foner
Directed by Sidney Lumet
1988 suddenly seems much farther in the past than it did just a few months ago. The small town high school in Running on Empty has a dedicated, classically trained music teacher on the payroll. He earns enough to afford a rather nice house. The public school system is not being undermined, with all the wealthy students going to new kinds of exclusive, alternative schools siphoning off public money. We all have our own ideas about what ‘making America great again’ means, I suppose.
It doesn’t happen any more, but we used to read about ex- radicals from the Vietnam War days surfacing to turn themselves in. Not that many were directly involved in violent acts, but some had lived for decades under assumed identities, while their wanted photos were posted down at the Post Office. Some of them tried to raise families.
“We are all outlaws in the eyes of America.
Everything they say we are, we are.
. . . And we are very proud of ourselves.”
— The Jefferson Airplane
Naomi Foner’s Running on Empty is basically a ‘what comes next?’ chapter in the lives of former political public enemies like The Weather Underground. An unusual family is on the lam. The parents are militant radicals from the Nixon years, who went underground when one of their bombs maimed a janitor. Now they are nearing their forties, and must move from town to town whenever they think the Feds have picked up their trail. The couple chose their life and has accepted the consequences, but where does that leave their growing children, who are likewise forced to live like gypsies under assumed names?
I should think that this good movie would have a tough time in today’s market. If the online mob harps on Wonder Woman for promoting non-traditional values, what would they make of a movie ‘glorifying terrorism?’ Half of America still wants to see Jane Fonda strung up by her thumbs, and death threats for ‘enemies’ singled out on the web are now routine. Our channels of information are so jammed with stories elbowing each other for attention, I don’t think anybody could rouse the general public to even consider the problems of this kind of fugitive. Who has time for scurrilous pleas for sympathy for ‘undeserving’ people, when the public responds better to patriotic pieces about veterans . . . or cute animals?
Always watching for signs of F.B.I. surveillance, young Danny Pope (River Phoenix) alerts the rest of his family through pre-arranged signals. Annie and Arthur Pope (Christine Lahti & Judd Hirsch) abandon their jobs, their belongings and even their dog and flee to a new state with Danny and their other son Harry (Jonas Abry). With new identities they start new lives. Arthur and Annie find off-the-books employment as a cook and a medical receptionist and the boys are enrolled in school with ‘previous transcripts on the way.’ We see the unusual preparations that must be made, with secret arrangements so that any family member can alert the others if they’re found out; we also see that the family is supported to some degree by a network of post-radical (or still radical?) sympathizers, such as a doctor (David Marguiles) who tends to political fugitives. But the Popes are cut off from their own families. Annie’s disapproving father (Steven Hill) can only see her in an extraordinary circumstance arranged by a third party. Potential trouble comes when former comrade Gus Winant (L.M. Kit Carson) drops by. He’d like to sleep with his old flame Annie, and is carrying guns in the assumption that Arthur will agree to rob a bank with him. But a more troubling problem is closer to home. Young Danny has inherited his mother’s musical talent, and his teacher Mr. Phillips (Ed Crowley) is encouraging him to apply to Julliard in New York. Danny is also stuck on Phillips’ teenage daughter Lorna (Martha Plimpton), a girl to whom he might be ready to commit. As far as Arthur is concerned, Danny can’t do any of those things because his first duty is to help his family in the undercover life. Annie doesn’t know what to do. If she leaves her son behind, she may never see him again.
Practically speaking, Running on Empty will only play well to a certain segment of the public. Are you the kind that sympathizes with draft deserters that fled to Canada, or the kind that wants to hand them long terms in prison? The Popes aren’t victims of injustice, at least not directly; they knew what they were doing when they went militant, and the injuries they caused can’t simply be dismissed as youthful idealism. They are also hopelessly associated with fanatics they inspired, like the Sla. And there’s no statute of limitations on armed insurrection. I think almost all of the radical fugitives that went underground are now accounted for. Some served prison time and others got off because courtroom prosecutions would reveal or publicize the government’s own illegal doings. Running on Empty dramatizes what might have been reality for just a few of these ‘outlaws in the eyes of America.’ Some radicals reportedly found it easy to live undetected while still on various Most Wanted lists. Others found ways to turn themselves in, square themselves with the authorities and re-commence academic lives interrupted years before to oppose the government. *
Running on Empty is a fascinating show, with a cast that clearly had to work hard to make their characters believable. Christine Lahti puts up with her bossy, security-minded husband. He himself gets drunk one night and starts shouting his real name loud enough to wake the neighbors. Judd Hirsch and director Lumet know that these can’t be ordinary people. He doesn’t try to make them Ozzie and Harriet types, somehow (sniff!) trapped by their youthful mistakes. No, they’re still promoting various Union and social justice causes here and there, although Arthur must back away whenever he becomes visible enough to appear in a news photo. Every year they celebrate a birthday to Sam, the man struck by their bomb. It’s not a joke, but a ritual so they won’t forget their crime.
At the center of the movie is the cult actor River Phoenix, who graduated briefly to good roles after his appearance as an adolescent space voyager in the fantasy film Explorers. Phoenix is excellent as Danny, a kid raised to never let down his guard. The show begins with Danny detecting a plainclothes tail and executing what must be ‘escape plan 9.’ The family is out of town in a matter of minutes. Danny’s a sensitive, smart guy. If he plays by the rules, he must keep himself a complete mystery to his new girlfriend Lorna. The boy is committed to his family, but feels the pull to go off on his own, where a decent future awaits. In a way, it’s not a situation wholly unique to these former radicals. This must happen all the time when someone breaks away from a strongly structured family, or a religious cult.
The movie’s tension level doubles when Danny takes the forbidden step of telling Lorna everything. How many of us living normal lives (well, reasonably normal lives) could trust our sweethearts with such a volatile secret: “I and my whole family are fugitives from justice. Anybody helping us is a potential accomplice. Just by letting you know, I’m putting you in legal jeopardy. Will you turn me in, or become a criminal with me?”
At this age Martha Plimpton might remind one of a teenage Lauren Bacall. A survivor of Goonies, she is featured in what I think is the best Cannon film, Shy People. Plimpton and Phoenix have several worthy melodramatic romantic scenes to play, and they’re excellent together.
With the ace director Sidney Lumet in charge the strange relationships seem credible, even when the flaky, reckless Gus Winant breezes through. The former radical patriot is now nothing but an outlaw bum. In a nice choice, Gus is played by L.M. Kit Carson, the original fake counterculture hero in the classic experimental faux-documentary David Holzman’s Diary. With dangerous idiots like Gus on the loose, the Popes can’t even consider themselves part of a noble creed. Some of their old colleagues are indeed armed and dangerous.
I don’t think the Popes would stand a chance of evading the cops in today’s security state. One can no longer simply find the name of a dead infant and apply for a new birth certificate and passport. The Popes aren’t hiding in a shack in the woods, but are out and about in the public, working and rubbing elbows with schools and doctors. I guess that back in the 1980s Arthur could become a cook and Annie a receptionist without references, but it’s less likely now, when one can’t buy bubble gum without leaving a data trail. Traffic and security surveillance cameras are now everywhere. Billions of smart-phone photos are taken at public gatherings, and routinely posted on the web. A high-level security agency could be (is?) scanning the web with face recognition software.
Sidney Lumet wrote that his movies Running on Empty and Daniel had the same theme: “Who pays for the passion and commitment of the parents?” This is an even-handed and insightful drama. Lumet made a wide range of great entertainments, and some of the best- ever ‘New York Jewish Liberal Movies.’ He’s also one of the few directors who could take on fundamentally controversial material like this, and continue to maintain a busy career.
The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray of Running on Empty is a good encoding of what was already a very good Wac Mod disc from just two years ago. The improved picture and sound reveals the expected quality of a top Sidney Lumet product. The small town we see is very attractive, a political landscape completely different from the corporate/banking rapacious wasteland of last year’s Hell or High Water. ‘Radicals unselfishly trying to stop a war in 1971’ is still anathema, while Mr. and Mrs. U.S.A. now considers it justifiable for ‘radicals to selfishly try to rescue their ruined finances.’
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Running on Empty Blu-ray rates:
Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? Yes; Subtitles: English (feature only)
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: June 21, 2017
* I remember a major case from 2001. A radical who had evaded capture for thirty years finalized arrangements to turn herself in, after a delicate negotiation aimed at running her quietly through the legal system to let her get on with her life. She was reportedly not personally responsible for any violent acts, and under her assumed identity had worked for decades in a socially productive job. I followed her story for a couple of days in the newspaper . . . and then 9/11 happened. In the storm of security-minded post-attack chaos that followed, her story thread just vanished from the media-scape. I don’t have a clue what happened to her next. The timing couldn’t possibly have been worse for a former Enemy of the State.
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- Glenn Erickson
Hello Again follows 10 fleeting love affairs across 10 periods in New York City history. The pursued becomes pursuer as they spin through daisy-chained vignettes that come together in one soulful circle.
The film stars Audra McDonald, Martha Plimpton, T.R. Knight, Rumer Willis, Cheyenne Jackson, Jenna Ushkowitz, Tyler Blackburn, Sam Underwood, Nolan Gerard Funk and Al Calderon. The screenplay has been written by Cory Krueckeberg.
There is no release date for the film yet, but it recently premiered at Italy’s Lovers Film Fest in Torino and will be making film festival rounds over the summer. »
- Ricky Church
There is a very niche swath of Broadway lovers and lesbians who will be over the moon to see Audra McDonald and Martha Plimpton share a seductive scene in “Hello Again,” a film adaptation of Michael John Lachiusa’s 1993 musical which released its steamy new trailer today.
Read More: Why the ‘Swiss Army Man’ Directors Backed the Psychedelic Comedy-Musical ‘Snowy Bing Bongs’
“Hello Again” tells ten love affairs set in each decade of the 20th century, following the sexual escapades of characters with names like The Whore, The College Boy, and The Young Thing. Lachiusa is best known for writing “The Wild Party,” which developed a cult following in the years since its Broadway debut in 1999. “Hello Again” is based on “La Ronde,” the 1897 play by Arthur Schnitzler which caused an uproar when it first played Berlin and Vienna in 1920.
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The movie stars six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, as well as similarly lauded theater actors Martha Plimpton, T.R. Knight, Cheyenne Jackson, and Rumer Willis. “Hello Again” is directed by Tom Gustafson from a screenplay by Cory Krueckeberg, the same pair behind the 2012 musical comedy “Mariachi Gringo.”
How many Broadway stars can you find?
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- Jude Dry
The 48-year-old comedian, whose wife Michelle McNamara died unexpectedly in her sleep in April 2016 and left him alone to care for their 8-year-old daughter Alice Rigney, headed to Disneyland with Salenger on Sunday. She shared photos of the fun date on social media, showing that the couple wore corresponding blue T-shirts featuring the vintage cartoon edition of Mickey Mouse.
- Stephanie Petit
The 48-year-old comedian posed on the red carpet with Meredith Salenger. Oswalt -- dressed in an all-blue outfit -- looked happy while holding hands with the 47-year-old actress, who was dressed in a floral skirt, leather jacket, black blouse and strappy heels.
A rep for Salenger confirmed that two are in fact dating, telling Et, "She is in love. They met not too long ago through their mutual friend, Martha Plimpton."
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While at the premiere, Salenger also shared a selfie on Twitter of herself and Oswalt inside the event. She also retweeted fans' excitement that they showed up together. "Patton Oswalt is hanging with my childhood crush," one Twitter user reacted to The Journey of Natty Gann star's night out with »
Network: ABCEpisodes: 29 (half-hour)Seasons: TwoTV show dates: March 2, 2016 -- March 14, 2017Series status: CancelledPerformers include: Martha Plimpton, Jay R. Ferguson, Noah Galvin, Mathew Shively, Bebe Wood, and Mary Hollis Inboden.TV show description: This single-camera comedy takes an inside look at a seemingly perfect family whose lives take an unexpected turn when surprising truths are revealed. Instead of ruining their family, the honesty triggers a new and messier chapter where everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.Eileen (Martha Plimpton), the matriarch of the O'Neal household, is highly regarded in the community for her volunteer work and fundraising skills. Eighteen years ago, an unplanned pregnancy and a shotgun wedding made a young Eileen get her act together. After reinventing herself as the perfectly put-together Catholic mom, »
Sorry, Kenny. ABC has cancelled their Tuesday night comedy series, The Real O'Neals after two seasons. The sitcom concluded its run in late March.A single-camera comedy series, The Real O'Neals revolves around an Irish Catholic family that seems to be living an idyllic life. Their lives are turned upside down when the middle son comes out of the closet and the rest of the family members come clean with their own secrets. They then start to live their lives more authentically. The show stars Martha Plimpton, Jay R. Ferguson, Noah Galvin, Matt Shively, Bebe Wood, and Mary Hollis Inboden.Read More… »
It’s been real, O’Neals.
Related2017 Renewal Scorecard: What’s Coming Back? What’s Getting Cancelled? What’s on the Bubble?
ABC has cancelled family sitcom The Real O’Neals after two seasons, TVLine has learned. Noah Galvin starred as gay teen Kenny, whose decision to come out sent shockwaves through his tight-knit Catholic family; Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) and Jay R. Ferguson (Mad Men) co-starred as Kenny’s parents Eileen and Pat.
O’Neals had an encouraging start to Season 2, landing an order for three additional episodes in November. But by the time it wrapped up its second season in March, »
“Imaginary Mary” starred Jenna Elfman as a woman in her 30s whose childhood imaginary friend — voiced by Rachel Dratch — suddenly reenters her life when she finds herself getting into a serious relationship with a father of three. It also starred Stephen Schneider, Nicholas Coombe, Matreya Scarrwener, and Erica Tremblay.
The series’ prospects were dim from the start, with ABC trimming its episode order from 13 to 9 before it even premiered. Its ratings also failed to live up to other ABC comedies. Its debut on March 29 after a new episode of “The Goldbergs” drew a 1.4 rating and 5.4 million viewers, well below the 2.0 achieved by fellow freshman series “Speechless” during its fall premiere in the timeslot. The following week, “Imaginary Mary” dropped over 30 percent in both key measures to a 0.9 rating and 3.5 million viewers. None »
- Joe Otterson
Keep up with the glitzy awards world with our weekly Awards Roundup column.
– The American Cinematheque has announced that the 31st American Cinematheque Award Sponsored by GRoW @ Annenberg, will be presented to Academy Award-nominee Amy Adams at the Cinematheque’s annual benefit gala. The presentation will take place Friday, November 10, 2017 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. The award presentation will be held in the International Ballroom and will include in-person tributes from some of Adams’ colleagues and friends. Other show participants will be announced as they are confirmed in the coming months.
“The American Cinematheque is extremely pleased to honor Amy Adams as the 31st recipient of the American Cinematheque award at our celebration this year,” said Rick Nicita, American Cinematheque Chairman. “Amy Adams is one of the most beloved, admired and respected actresses in movies today. Her credits range from critical favorites like ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Arrival »
- Kate Erbland
A fractured membership, breaking rank, warring factions — no, it’s not the Republican Party. It’s CinemaCon, the annual exhibitors’ convention that will run March 27-30 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
CinemaCon is always a crucible for change in the motion picture industry. It’s a four-day snapshot of the symbiotic and sometimes difficult relationship between distributors and the National Association of Theater Owners, which represents some 40,000 movie screens in North America and cinemas in 50 countries.
However, that partnership has never been more fraught than it is now. Studios seriously flirt with bringing first-run major releases into homes, while exhibitors fight tooth and nail to get the public’s butts back into theaters: Their mutual interests are no longer the same.
- Anne Thompson and Graham Winfrey
Keep up with the glitzy awards world with our weekly Awards Roundup column.
– Pflag National — the nation’s largest organization for families, friends, and allies of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (Lgbt) — will celebrate The Ninth Annual Straight for Equality Awards, celebrating high-profile allies who are moving equality forward for the Lgbt community, and transforming the way that Lgbtq people are understood and treated by using their talents in their respective fields to empower others to also become engaged on the issues.
This year, the event will celebrate Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Martha Plimpton, CNN political analyst Ana Navarro, and Alcoa. Attendees will also enjoy a performance from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Kinky Boots.” The evening will be hosted by comedian Fortune Feimster.
– Two-time Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts will receive the CinemaCon Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film Award, it was announced by CinemaCon Managing Director, »
- Kate Erbland
“Below Her Mouth” first premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Now, the lesbian romance will make its theatrical debut in April. Directed by April Mullen and written by Stephanie Fabrizi, the film co-stars androgynous supermodel Erika Linder.
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In “Below Her Mouth,” Jasmine (Natalie Krill) is a successful fashion editor who is happily engaged and planning her wedding with fiancé Rile (Sebastian Pigott). When she meets a lesbian roofer named Dallas (Linder), the two women embark on a steamy affair that makes both of them reevaluate her their lives and threatens Jasmine’s engagement.
Mullen’s film is among the first to receive an “F for female” rating on IMDb, as reported by Out, which first premiered the Us trailer for the film. In fact, it received a “Triple F” for being written, directed and starring women. »
- Yoselin Acevedo
The Real O'Neals finished its second season earlier this month, but what about season three? What do you think? Would you watch a third season of the ABC TV series?The sitcom revolves around an Irish Catholic family whose lives are turned upside down when the middle son comes out of the closet and the rest of the family members come clean with their own secrets. The cast includes Martha Plimpton, Jay R. Ferguson, Noah Galvin, Matt Shively, Bebe Wood, and Mary Hollis Inboden.Read More… »
After getting fed up with how women’s reproductive rights were being dealt with in our country, Martha Plimpton, 46, decided to turn her anger into action.
“After the 2010 midterm elections, when the Tea Party took over, we started to see a real dramatic upswing in anti-choice legislation,” she explains. “A group of women friends and I got together to brainstorm what we could do.”
Their end result was A Is For—a nonprofit organization founded in 2012 and dedicated to advancing women’s reproductive rights and ending the stigma against abortion care. The name was inspired by the classic novel The »
- Brianne Tracy and Mia McNiece
What's in store for The Real O'Neals? Recently, ABC released new photos and a synopsis from the series' upcoming season two finale.The sitcom revolves around an Irish Catholic family whose lives are turned upside down when the middle son comes out of the closet and the rest of the family members come clean with their own secrets. The cast includes Martha Plimpton, Jay R. Ferguson, Noah Galvin, Matt Shively, Bebe Wood, and Mary Hollis Inboden.Read More… »
Jordin Sparks is ready to party.
The former American Idol champion makes a cameo as herself on Tuesday’s episode of The Real O’Neals – and People has a sneak peek clip of her scene.
Sparks shows up in a dream sequence on the ABC sitcom playing a future version of herself who invites Kenny (Noah Galvin) to duet with her at a karaoke party but is sad to see still-teenage Kenny has lost his hair and appears decades older.
“That’s what love does. »
- Patrick Gomez
A catered luncheon at the Sundance Film Festival, celebrating women in film, turned into a tense discussion of race and privilege Saturday, with former “Daily Show” correspondent and rising star Jessica Williams both caught in the crosshairs and boldly stepping up to educate her elders on the prevailing beliefs of the contemporary feminist and anti-racist movements.
As reported in the L.A. Times, it all started when the conversation turned to the current political climate, and Salma Hayek, at the festival with Miguel Arteta’s “Beatriz at Dinner,” advised her fellow female Hollywood elite to “be careful that we don’t fall into victimization.” Shirley MacLaine chimed in, urging women to “find the democracy inside” and to explore their “core identity.”
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That’s when Williams stepped in, who turned to MacLaine and asked, »
- Jude Dry
Stanley & Iris
1990 / Color / 2:35 widescreen / 104 min. / Street Date January 17, 2017 / Available from the Twilight Time Movies Store 29.95
Cinematography: Donald McAlpine
Original Music: John Williams
Directed by Martin Ritt
There ought to be a place on a screen for every kind of film story. True, old movies fronted a mostly false consensus picture of the world, claiming that there was a ‘normal’ baseline for our lives. The reality of most social issues was ignored in favor of pleasant fairy tales where all conflicts could be solved on a personal level. After all, movies were considered entertainment first, and carriers of vital social truths maybe about 97th. But then and now, there »
- Glenn Erickson
19 items from 2017
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