Monday, October 31, 2011

Slideshow: Irvington Halloween Festival

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow)
Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow) Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow)

Irvington Halloween Festival (Slideshow)

The largest and the oldest Halloween festival in the nation - with over 35 Halloween-related events and 150 vendors - breaks an attendance record.

By Mike Allee

Click to View 13 slides

NUVO was on the scene Saturday for the 65th annual Irvington Halloween Festival. The festival caps off a week of over 35 Halloween related events in the Eastside community. It is the largest and oldest Halloween festival in the nation (we're taking their word for it).

Four blocks of East Washington Street between Arlington and Ritter Avenue were blocked off Saturday for the event; over 150 vendors set up tents and sold food, artwork and the unusual. The festival began at 10 a.m. with the annual Pleasant Run Run 5 mile race and ended with a parade of costumed participants down Washington Street led by an honor guard, fire engine and marching band.

A variety of other events took place throughout the day including a window painting contest, musical performances on multiple stages, visits from mayoral candidates Melina Kennedy and Mayor Greg Ballard, a costume contest and a bicycle polo match.

The 65-year-old festival draws five to ten thousand people each year, and at four o’clock it was announced that the previous record for attendance had been broken.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Angel Boo-lesque at Crackers

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:00 PM


Crackers Comedy Club (Broad Ripple); through Oct. 30

Boo-lesque at Crackers (slideshow)
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Boo-lesque at Crackers (slideshow)

Indianapolis' Burlesque Show That Never Ends -- a.k.a. the entire autumn season -- continues to heat up with a spooky and deliriously entertaining Halloween show from Angel Burlesque.

By Paul F. P. Pogue

Click to View 18 slides

The age of angels and demons and dress-up is the perfect time for burlesque; and indeed, the schedule is so packed it seems like the Indy Burlesque Show That Never Ends. The Angel Burlesque troupe continued what has been a fantastic season for all things fishnet and corset-y with "Boo-lesque: Things That Go Bump And Grind In the Night," which opened Thursday at Crackers in Broad Ripple and continues with performances at 8 and 10:30 Friday and Saturday.

Master of ceremonies Jeff Angel played the role of hapless husband to the hilt — think every man-of-the-house in a sitcom ever, from Tim Allen to Everybody Loves Raymond, except looking like they just stepped out of the ninth circle of Hell. And the general theme gave the troupe and its leader, Katie Angel, the opportunity to fine-tune every skit to a creepy hue — lots of serial killers, zombies, devil dolls and the old stabby-stab-stab were at play here. Seriously, who knew you could make Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" into a scary tune?

All-star burlesque performer Ray Gunn from Chicago joined in for a few routines that were simultaneously exhilerating and creepy, displaying a breathtaking skill at athletics and acrobatics and a subtlety that could change the mood with a turn of his head or a wink.

I particularly liked the pacing of the show — keeping things moving and interest high for a 90-plus-minute burlesque show is tougher than you think. Jeff Angel and company had great fun with the between-skit patter and a running joke about cheap candy, and I particularly liked the patient progress of the final half-hour, in which every lady took a quiet moment after each dance to don gloves and mask under red light. (You'll just have to trust me on that part — it sounds underwhelming to describe, but it's really cool in practice.) It all leads up to the finale of masked-and-gloved performers having their way with each other — a bit like all the scenes Kubrick didn't show you in Eyes Wide Shut. A bravura performance, and certainly a worthy one for Indy's finest burlesque season yet.

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Go & Die (formerly known as Go & Do)

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Heres Johnny!
  • Here's Johnny!

Sure, there are a few things to do this weekend that aren't steeped in all things gothic and horrific; we'll cover them at the close of this roundup. But this weekend is all about haunted houses, haunted plays, haunted improv, haunted documentaries, haunted community festivals; we could go on. So unless you've enlisted in the War against Halloween — which is, after all, a pagan holiday devoted to mischief and the worship of malevolent spirits — then there's plenty of fun to be had and screams to be unleashed this weekend.

First up, click here for all of our haunted house reviews, exhaustively investigated by our crack team of Halloween reviewers, most of whom came back alive. Five star reviews went to Indy Scream Park (the "summer blockbuster movie thrill ride of the season," according to Paul Pogue) and Asylum House, which is distinguished by, according to Pogue, its "in-your-face actors, who go full-contact, full-bore horror and aren’t above throwing the occasional visitor under Jack the Ripper’s bed."

And then you have all manner of other non-haunted house fun. There's theater, including NoExit's Frankenstein, a faithful-to-the-book production with pretty nifty puppets; Q Artistry's Cabaret Poe, a song-and-dance interpretations of Poe's horror tales; ComedySportz's improv riff on the Headless Horseman tale; the Morris-Butler House Museum's From Dark Pages, an interactive mystery play that stars Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Watson (Holmes has recently died); and an interactive mystery dinner at The Propylaeum.

And then there's film: Haunting at Fox Hollow Farm, Dan Hall's documentary on his paranormal investigations of a Westfield home once inhabited by a serial killer will screen through the weekend at the downtown IMAX, and Kubrick's The Shining will play the IMA Friday. And then there's spooky ballet (the Indiana Ballet Conservatory's Phantom at the Opera at the IMA Sunday), spooky festivals (the Irvington Halloween Festival, whose weeklong program closes Oct. 29 with a street fair on Washington Street), spooky proms (a Zombie Prom at Birdy's Friday, with proceeds going to an orphanage in Nepal, because zombies can be concerned about social justice too).

And we still haven't mentioned the Indianapolis Art Center's Day of the Dead commemoration on Oct. 29, a day-long festival featuring plenty of music, dance, and a talk by featured artist Salvador Jiménez Flores.

Finally, for those who are, for whatever reason, averse to the empire of Halloween, there are a few other blood and underworld-free choices. Jericho, which tells the story of Beth, a New Yorker whose husband died in the World Trade Center, in a poignant exploration of how we, as Americans, grieve individually and on a national level, opened yesterday at the Phoenix; it runs through Nov. 20. And the DePue Brothers Band, a violin four-piece that includes ISO concertmaster Zach DePue, will bring their genre-blending mix (mostly bluegrass and rock) to the Indiana History Center Sunday.

As always, consult our calendar for even more options. Good luck keeping your head on your shoulders, what with the Headless Horseman circling town.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: NoExit's 'Frankenstein'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Two Frankensteins — in puppet form and as played by Matthew Goodrich — accost each other in NoExit's 'Frankenstein.'
  • Two Frankensteins — in puppet form and as played by Matthew Goodrich — accost each other in NoExit's 'Frankenstein.'

NoExit, Wheeler Arts Center, through Oct. 29

I came to see the puppetry, which Frankenstein director Patrick Weigand workshopped this summer at a national puppetry conference in Connecticut. And it is pretty impressive: Think of a life-size wooden artist's model, covered in white plastic wrap, operated by three puppeteers, bringing to life key moments in the life of Frankenstein's monster (his creation, several murders). Sure, it lacks a certain uncanny, I-can't-believe-it's-not-human feel, but that just leaves more brainpower to attend to the rest of the production, a from-the-book interpretation centered around a tortured standoff between the Doctor (Matthew Goodrich) and his creation (Matt Anderson), staged (as in Shelley's book) on an ice floe somewhere in the Arctic.

Goodrich and Anderson counter-incriminate each other with the anger and angst of Bergman heroines, with the monster single-mindedly motivated by revenge after being spurned and the doctor still taking notes about the remarkably life-like behavior of his spawn (while sneaking in digs about his soullessness).

The soul of this NoExit production is in the give-and-take between the two leads — Anderson's creature incarnates our efforts to make sense of the bag of bones which we each inhabit, while Goodrich's Dr. Frankenstein illuminates the limitations of science in the absence of compassion. Flashbacks featuring supporting players tend to compromise the claustrophobia of this standoff.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slideshow: Midwest Fashion Week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Scenes from Midwest Fashion Week, including a kickoff party at the Skyline Club and a fashion show at (where else?) the Fashion Mall.

Midwest Fashion Week (Slideshow)
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Midwest Fashion Week (Slideshow)

Area fashion enthusiasts gathered at the Fashion Mall and Skyline Club to celebrate Midwest Fashion Week.

By Mark A. Lee

Click to View 10 slides

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Review: 'America in Primetime'

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 7:00 AM


America in Primetime
8 p.m. Sundays
WFYI (Channel 20)

Television is, as Howard Beale said in the film Network, “the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world.” Therefore, from time to time, it deserves some scrutiny and perspective.

For that, let’s turn to America in Primetime, a four-hour, four-week PBS series that focuses on character types — Independent Woman, Man of the House, The Misfit, The Crusader — to show how they have evolved on television and how we, the viewers, have changed along with them.

On the surface, this series is pure entertainment, a chance to see clips from many of the greatest television series ever and to hear from a staggeringly impressive array of brilliant television practitioners. From Jerry Mathers to David Lynch and Ron Howard to Larry David, we hear broad, intelligent views on why these shows were/are special.

Beyond that, we get a glimpse into the thought processes of those who made the shows. So David Chase weighs in on Tony Soprano’s constantly conflicted role as the head of the household, Norman Lear discusses the world shifting under Archie Bunker’s feet, James L. Brooks talks about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi and The Simpsons, and so on.

No one offers any stop-the-presses observations, but they make points worth knowing. Former NBC executive Warren Littlefield reminds us of a scene in The Cosby Show pilot where Theo tells his dad he should accept him for who he is — a D student. Regular folk. Not a doctor or a lawyer like his parents.

Tom Werner, a co-creator of the show, said the audience applauded at that moment because they were conditioned to clap for a boy standing up to his father.

“Theo,” his father responded, “that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. You’re going to try as hard as you can, and you’re going to do it because I said so.”

Littlefield said he felt a wave of approval from the audience. Werner said the reaction was, “Oh, my God. The parents have taken back the house.”

If I’d been producing America in Primetime, the next clip I would have shown was Tony Soprano acknowledging to his wife that neither of them had much leverage over their children. But that’s me.

Instead, the producers of America in Primetime — Tom Yellin, Lloyd Kramer, Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson — take us through a range of shows and parenting approaches. Homer Simpson, Bernie Mac, Ray Barone, Cam and Mitchell (from Modern Family) and more.

Independent Woman — the first and probably best of these four hours — shows us the broadest changes in television: from perfect moms like Donna Stone and June Cleaver to Lynette Scavo of Desperate Housewives, who hates being a mother, and from Laurie Petrie (who wasn’t allowed to sleep in the same bed with her husband) to the women of Sex and the City and the woman of Weeds. The makers of Roseanne — including Roseanne Barr herself — make a strong case, too, for the importance of having a TV character who was overweight, overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.

In The Misfits, we learn that Rainn Wilson’s family apparently isn’t all that different from Dwight Schrute’s (scary) and that The Larry Sanders Show was about a group of people who love each other, except that show business got in the way (a funny observation/description).

The fourth hour, The Crusaders, covers a significant range of types — Jack Bauer, House, Omar from The Wire and Dexter among them. The last of those leads to the only real dissent in the series — whether Dexter, about the serial killer who works for the police department, has redeeming qualities. The Wire’s David Simon doesn’t think so.

No series like America in Primetime can be complete, of course, and you’ll undoubtedly end each hour saying, “Yes, but what about …?” But this series is smart, topical and highly enjoyable. Well worth an hour of your Sunday night.

Also this week:

Allen Gregory (8:30 p.m. Sundays, WXIN-59), a new animated series, stars Jonah Hill as the voice of a pretentious, spoiled 7-year-old boy. Allen has two dads, and when the second dad is forced to go to work and stop home-schooling, Allen must go to — gasp! — public school, where he doesn’t come close to fitting in.

It’s a cute idea, and I’d like to be able to tell you whether I thought the pilot episode was good, but I can’t say one way or the other. I had no reaction at all. Didn’t like it, didn’t hate it, might watch it again, or not.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Geocaching: a high-tech treasure hunt

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow)
Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow) Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow)

Geocaching on a Sunday afternoon (Slideshow)

Veterans and newcomers alike gathered at an introduction to geocaching, learning all about the phenomenon that's essentially a worldwide, high-tech treasure hunt before setting out to find a few caches hidden especially for the event.

By Paul F. P. Pogue

Click to View 13 slides

Geocaching! Sometimes referred to as a high-tech treasure hunt, where the whole world is your gameboard. Millions of caches — or, to keep with the metaphor, hidden treasures — are located in plain sight around the world, with thousands in Marion County alone. It’s easy enough to get into — all you need is a GPS receiver - which most smartphones have these days anyway - a login to and some time. Overcoming the addiction is a lot harder.

Veterans and newcomers alike gathered at the southside's Resurrection Lutheran Church last week for an Introduction to Geocaching event, with a variety of special caches hidden for the occasion.

What I love about geocaching is that it applies Super Mario logic to the real world. It’s the cheat codes of reality. Wander around, jump on the right platforms, walk in a circle in just the right place, and poof, you have a box of swag. Or maybe a sliver of a plastic container just barely large enough to fit a tiny list of names. Then again, you’re not doing this for the toys — spend ten bucks at a party store and you can get more knickknacks than you might find in a year of caching — but for bragging rights and fun. For that matter, when you take something from a cache you’re supposed to leave something of equal value, which is why most geocacher’s travel kits have anything from plastic toy soldiers to little trinkets they made themselves.

Imagine trying to do this with 2001 technology and a GPS receiver and a bunch of numbers. The advent of iPhones with satellite tracking and Google Maps integration has made geocaching a lot easier, but in the end, it comes down to your eyes.

“The margin of error in a GPS receiver is still several feet or more,” says Mitch Philips, who assembled the event. “Once you get close, you have to rely on your eyes.”

I joined geocaching veterans Jennifer Hagerman (7,500 finds to her credit) and Adam Vibbert (6,090) as they led a team of families and newcomers around the site searching for caches.

“I love going somewhere new,” Vibbert says. “A lot of times you’ll come across a place only the locals know about. There’s always something new and interesting.”

Check out the photos above for the team’s adventures, and look for more in-depth geocaching coverage in an upcoming issue of NUVO.

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Reflections on Maxwell Anderson's exit

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Maxwell Anderson in 2008
  • Maxwell Anderson in 2008
The news that the Indianapolis Museum of Art's CEO, Maxwell Anderson, has decided to leave the city for a post in Dallas promises to be as close to a seismic event as it gets in these parts.

It's a measure of Anderson's impact that so many of us have simply gotten used to thinking of the IMA as the go-to destination for an up-to-date, cosmopolitan perspective on what's happening in the worlds of visual arts and design. That this has been accomplished in a mere five-and-a-half years reflects the extent of Anderson's seemingly unquenchable ambition, as well as the hunger a significant portion of the local community has developed for the kinds of experiences that were previously only been available in other cities.

Ambition is the key word here. Anderson brought it — and did so without apology or embarrassment. This set him apart in Indianapolis, where being a so-called "team player" has been traditionally valued above all other virtues. Anderson's elbows could be sharp, and this caused some among his peers and colleagues to wonder about whether he truly "fit in."

In fact, Anderson demonstrated the way a cultural institution can not just put itself on the map, but bend the contours of its geography. This was not always a comfortable, or a uniformly successful process. There was some overreaching, some initiatives that looked good on paper but failed to sustain themselves. That being said, Anderson got what few local cultural administrators have ever fully grasped — that the key to institutional success cannot be based on never-ending appeals for support but, rather, on knowing how to make real, legitimate news.

The IMA has been making news in its field and has attracted the attention of people around the world. This is Anderson's legacy, and it represents a challenge to his successor, whoever that may be.

But the major challenge now lies with the IMA's board. Let's hope their ambition for the institution they represent is equal to Anderson's.

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Go & Do: Your arts weekend, Oct. 21-24

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Great reason to go to B-town: Abraham Lincolns Big Gay Dance Party!
  • Great reason to go to B-town: Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party!

We have a ton of Halloween events going on, including our ongoing coverage of haunted houses. In fact, if you just click on this here "haunted houses" link, you’ll find them all. And next week in print we’ll have a quasi-guide to all-things-horrific.

This will be a noble addition to the scararama:

Night of the Living Dead at IndyFringe: Acting up Productions’ debut is Night of the Living Dead: Part 1, a zombie-licious and action-packed production that serves as the perfect complement to the Halloween season.

Super excited about anything NoExit Performance does, due to their adventuresome qualities. Their production of Frankenstein opening this weekend, will be a spin on the classic yarn, via the talents of director and puppeteer Patrick Weigand. That’s right I said “puppeteer.”

Curator Lee Marks presents a collection of portraits with a creative twist. ABOUT FACE features the photo-based works of 11 artists, each offering a unique interpretation of the portrait form. The exhibit includes self-portraits from the likes of legendary artist Chuck Close. Way to go Garvey | Simon!

Going to B-town? Here’s a good reason: a three-day celebration of gay culture and history, highlighted by performances of Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party by the cast and crew of the Indiana University Players. Other weekend activities include an academic panel titled “Queer History in ‘Real America,’” a presentation by Rachel Mattson on teaching gay history to K-12 students and a blowout “Big, Gay Dance Party” at Rachael’s Café (300 E. Third St.).

Filmmaker Dan T. Hall enlists the help of a paranormal investigation team to document the spooky goings-on at Fox Hollow Farm, an estate just north of Indianapolis where Herb Baumeister, a business owner, is alleged to have killed and buried more than 10 people in the early 1990s.

Clear your Sunday afternoon calendar for this book-signing event, as hometown hero Chris Lytle inks copies of the recently released UFC Encyclopedia at the Traders Point Books-A-Million. The book is the first and only official and fully illustrated encyclopedia of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Engaging and insightful prose-master Richard Rodriguez heads to Butler for a speaking engagement that’s part of the university’s Visiting Writers Series. The Mexican-American essayist gained fame and acclaim for Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, an autobiographical exploration of the challenges he faced — most notably alienation from his family and culture — during his journey from socially disadvantaged child to highly accomplished scholar.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anderson steps down as IMA CEO

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM

Anderson in a 2009 file photo.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art announced today that its CEO and director, Maxwell L. Anderson, will vacate his position December 31. Anderson has been appointed the director of the Dallas Museum of Art, a position that he will assume Jan. 9, 2012.

The IMA Board of Governors will establish a search committee in the coming weeks. In the interim period, the IMA's senior management team will work in concert with the Board of Governors to manage the museum.

A press release cited Anderson's achievement during his five-and-a-half years with the IMA, including the establishment of the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park; the opening of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus; the selection of the IMA as a commissioning institution for the US Pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale; and the organization of several traveling exhibitions, including this year's Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial.

NUVO's most comprehensive interview with Anderson came a year into his tenure; in it, David Hoppe chats with the director about his favorite museums, his vision for a 21st-century museum and his plans for the then-nascent Art & Nature Park. We'll have more on the story as it develops.

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Review: Sin's Last Stand at the Athenaeum

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Veronica Belvedere revisits the 1950s.
Sin's Last Stand: A Night of Historic Burlesque Acts
October 18, Athenaeum Theatre
Five stars

The folks who put together Sin’s Last Stand certainly knew what they were doing, right down to the cops in 1920s garb and the members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union who admonished anyone who was drinking before the show. After all, It's just not really a burlesque performance until the fuzz show up. And all kidding aside, the stagecraft effectively brought to life a history of burlesque in these United States, with a supplemental program answering the FAQ about the artform for the uninitiated.

Respect for all that's come before has always been inherent in the neo-burlesque movement. This event reached perhaps the zenith of that respect, as members of Bottoms Up Burlesque, Crème De Les Femmes and Angel Burlesque delivered their renditions of classic routines and brought to life classic performers ranging from Gypsy Rose Lee to Bettie Page.

The presentation itself was stunning, right down to the live music and singers. Watching a crooner in a tux belt out a perfect rendition of “Minnie the Moocher” while a dancer does a striptease behind a white screen really manages to sum up why burlesque was invented to begin with.

Burlesque in Indianapolis started more or less with a bunch of Punk Rock Night regulars sitting around in Punk Rock Night founder Greg Brenner’s living room with a stack of Bettie Page DVDs, trying to figure out how the hell to actually make this work. If Sin’s Last Stand is any indication, things have turned out pretty well for those intrepid founders.

Rosie Rivette pays tribute to Gypsy Rose Lee.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Heartland reviews: Take two

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 4:45 PM

Romantics Anonymous
  • "Romantics Anonymous"

Our second batch of Heartland reviews includes some excellent documentaries and an adorable narrative feature about nervous French people falling in love. Check out our first round of reviews here. And go see some of these on the big screen: Screenings run Oct. 15-Oct. 23 at AMC Castleton Square 14 and AMC Showplace Indianapolis 17. A complete guide and schedule is, of course, available on Heartland's website.

Romantics Anonymous
4 stars
A comedy of discomfort. Angélique, a masterful chocolate-maker afraid of just about everything and everyone, takes up a job at an outmoded chocolate factory. The owner of the factory, Jean-René, is also a bashful, anxious sort. Their courtship is amusingly and painfully awkward, filmed and paced with the light, whimsical, Gallic touch of films like Amélie and, not uncoincidentally, Chocolat. The original title, Les Émotifs Anonymes, doesn't translate easily: It refers, in part, to Emotions Anonymous, a real-life support group attended in the film by Angélique and dedicated to helping the emotionally impaired. —Scott Shoger

Crime After Crime
4 stars
In 1983, domestic abuse victim Debbie Peagley was arrested for her involvement in the murder of her vicious boyfriend. Although Debbie rightfully admitted to manslaughter, she was convicted of premeditated murder. What followed was 25 years of lies, witness tampering and misconduct at the hands of the California DA’s office. Then in 2009, prison doctors diagnosed her with terminal cancer. The poignant documentary follows Debbie as she and her pro bono lawyers race to get her released. This on makes us care, it raises questions and it captures the determination needed to create any sort of change in our hopelessly monolithic America. —Derrick Carnes

The Redemption of General Butt Naked
4 stars
During the Liberian civil war, hundreds of militias fought in the streets for power. Among the most feared were the Butt Naked Soldiers, blood drunk mercenaries who charged naked into battle and preferred to kill their enemies with machetes. Their leader was known as General Butt Naked. But at the height of his power, the General vanished, returning from exile years later claiming to be a converted Christian. This film follows the General as he visits his victims, one by one, begging their forgiveness. There are so many moving moments that you may begin to feel desensitized to them, but never to the greatness of this film. —Derrick Carnes

Becoming Santa
  • "Becoming Santa"

Becoming Santa
3.5 stars
After Jack Sanderson’s parents died, he found it hard to get excited about Christmas. Then a friend showed him a picture of his father playing Santa at a neighborhood party. Following his dad’s example, Jack grows his beard, dyes his hair and tries to discover what it means to be Santa Claus. There’s not a lot at stake here, but that doesn’t stop us from watching. The scenes of Jack at Santa School are hilarious and the history of our Christmas traditions is fascinating. At the core, this is a documentary about humanity and what it means when we give to each other selflessly. —Derrick Carnes

Family of the Wa’a
3 stars
Kimokea Kapahulehua is on the verge of fulfilling a promise that he made to his late uncle years ago. His promise: to travel the 1750-length of the Hawaiian islands. And for the first time in history, Kimokeo and his team try to accomplish this feat in an outrigger paddling canoe (or “wa’a”). After one 400-mile stretch, the paddlers’ hands have turned to hamburger. After another, a teammate discovers that he has cancer. The film is convoluted at times, but even though its story is unfamiliar, it’s never hard to relate to: it’s a universal tale about creating meaning for your life that wasn’t always there. —Derrick Carnes

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