Welcome to ‘The Big Tell’

New short-film competition presents 10 mini-documentaries offering distinct views of the central San Joaquin Valley

One of this weekend’s big events is “The Big Tell” film contest (doors open 6 p.m., films start at 7, Friday, Oct. 20, Warnors Theater, 1400 Fulton St., Fresno). You’ll get the chance to see 10 winning short films that celebrate life in the central San Joaquin Valley, all screened in a festival format in a big movie theater — and complete with a red carpet.

The event is free. Tickets are not required, but you’re encouraged to RSVP by registering here.

Filming
Filmmaker Troy Ruff, whose work in “The Big Tell” is titled “59 Days of Code,” at work on another project. Photo / Central Valley Community Foundation

Here’s a rundown:

The idea: This is the inaugural “Big Tell” event, and it represents the Central Valley Community Foundation’s first major investment in the art of filmmaking. (One of the missions of the foundation is supporting the arts through grants.) “We have so many talented filmmakers in the Valley that we wanted to support them,” says Gretchen Moore, the foundation’s director of community engagement.

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One confusing ‘Mother!’

On how I learned to love the year’s most divisive film, now making audiences swoon and sputter

Every now and then a film comes along that divides critics (and the public) so rigorously that I want to become part of the larger discussion. “Mother!” fits the bill for me.

This weird, violent, preening, metaphorically pugnacious and downright disturbing movie from director Darren Aronofsky is both loathed (The National Review’s Kyle Smith called it “the vilest movie ever released by a major Hollywood studio”) and admired (the New York Times’ A.O Scott, stressing the film’s creative energy and “highly symbolic, pictorially overloaded” style, said it made him laugh “harder and more frequently than just about any other movie I’ve seen this year.”)

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Put-upon wife: Jennifer Lawrence stars in “Mother!”

The granddaddy of bad reviews came from the New York Observer’s Rex Reed, who called it “the worst movie of the year, maybe the century.” Then, in a snub of the usual convention in which critics ignore the existence of others of their breed, Reed spent the rest of the piece bashing Scott’s Times review. He made particular fun of Scott’s use of the term “hermeneutic structure,” — a reference to a scriptural or Biblical interpretation — in an effort to out him, I suppose, as a pretentious intellectual.

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Reel Pride says ‘Hello’ to Audra

Fresno’s annual gay and lesbian film festival opens Wednesday with an indie film starring Audra McDonald

MOVIE REVIEW

My introduction to Michael John LaChiusa’s off-Broadway musical “Hello Again” was through Fresno’s Audra McDonald, who in 1998 included a song from the show on her first album, “Way Back to Paradise.” McDonald has always made it a point to salute and promote the work of talented young Broadway composers. I have always trusted her judgment, and for good reason: She knows a good song when she hears it.

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The Mistress and the Senator: Audra McDonald, left, and Martha Plimpton in “Hello Again.” Photo / Fresno Reel Pride

The song, titled “The Mistress of the Senator,” is distinctive, one of those numbers packed with specificity and an intricate plot, and as I followed the narrative — it’s about a confident woman having an affair with an influential lawmaker and the skill set she can bring to his political career — I would wonder about how it fit into the show for which it was written. It isn’t the kind of title that gets many community, collegiate, touring or regional productions, so I’ve never actually seen it on stage.

The best thing about the film version of “Hello Again,” which took nearly 25 years to hit the big screen, is that it is a chance to see the story for people like me: fans of smaller, more esoteric, non-mainstream musicals. I much appreciate the opportunity. And the 2017 film, which has not yet been released in regular theaters but is making a circuit of film festivals, is a very nice way to open the 28th annual Reel Pride LGBTQ+ Film Festival, considering the Audra hometown connection. This is not the kind of film that usually makes it to the neighborhood multiplex.

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