Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

On Location Tours: Seeing The Other Famous Side Of DC


Courtesy of On Screen Tours

Living in our Nation’s Capital means living in one of the most traveled to destinations in the country. We put up with tourists during Cherry Blossom season, spring, summer, full, and sometimes winter. As a result we have a strong market here for all kinds of tour companies, everything from double decker buses to segway people movers.

However earlier this month I got to go on a tour that is a bit different that your average tour company. On Location Tours, known for putting on tours of television and film location tours in New York City, has recently launched a new tour company that focuses on showing off DC locales that have been used in some of your favorite movies and TV shows. The tour makes sense since our city’s famous places are often filmed- it’s not too surprising to see a shoot on The National Mall or an explosion in Georgetown.

It all starts at Union Station (where all the tours usually start) where I went to meet the “local actor” that leads all of their tours. I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only was the tour guide a local actor but also my friend David Vargas who I recently worked with on Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Vargas did a great job interacting with the group and providing all the facts in an entertaining and enjoyable way. Having a working actor giving the tour also provided an insider look at how films are made;  David answered lots of questions fro the group about working as an actor on the set.

At first the tour took us to all usual tourist attractions: The Capitol, The Lincoln Memorial, and other sites along The National Mall. However what made it interesting, and frankly what I think is the greatest asset to the tour, are the movie clips that were shown in the bus throughout the tour. It made it really interesting to see a location and then instantly see it as depicted on the screen. What also impressed me during the tour was just the sheer number of films have actually been filmed in this city. On Location Tours did some great research and I was pleasantly surprised to learn about and visit locations from True Lies and Wedding Crashers.

Tours run every Saturday morning at 10 AM and lasts for 2.5 hours. While you may think that a guided tour maybe a touristy thing to do, the group I was in was actually full of locals who really enjoyed learning more about the area they work, live, and play in. If you are a fan of the movies, it’s definitely a different way to experience Washington DC.

On Location Tours

Not Invited To The Correspondents Dinner? Catch The Politics On Film Festival Instead!

Courtesy Politics on Film

Courtesy Politics on Film

It’s an odd weekend that’s packed with parties, politicians, and celebrities. And I’m not just talking about the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

This weekend also brings the Politics on Film festival, an annual weekend of bipartisan films that cover a wide range of issues. Last night the festival kicked off it’s inaugural run with an opening night party on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Ave. Among the party attendees were actors Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager) and Peter Riegert (Damages/The Sopranos/Animal House)  who both star alongside Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show) in “The Response“, one of the festival’s official selections.  Dan Glickman, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America and Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) were also on hand as they accepted awards from The Bipartisan Policy Center, the organization behind the creation of the new festival. The non-profit formed in 2007 was founded by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell. Unfortunately none of the founders were on-hand- I was really hoping for the off-chance to shake hands with Bob Dole.

While I’ve never been in a room with a mix of Washington insiders and west coast creative-types, I learned that they have a lot more in common than they thought.

David M. Edwards is the director of “Sprawling from Grace“, and he tells me that documentary is much more than simple story telling- it’s also a business. His feature documentary covers the today’s urban sprawl and the consequences on our infrastructure. A self-described “prorector” (A producer/director/editor) he essentially created his film mostly on his own, however he made some strategic partnerships in order to secure funding and support. Edwards explains by finding groups and organizations that share the same message and vision, you can create relationships that reduces the burden of creating a feature length indie without big studio backing.

“Sprawling from Grace”  looks at various growing areas of the country and points out how we need to change the way we design and develop our cities to run more efficiently. Arlington and Washington DC were used as locations in the film and we chatted about the role of public transportation and growing areas like Arlington. “You can expand a congested highway [think I-66] and for a little while traffic will go down, but next thing you know the traffic is back,” explains Edwards. He suggests focusing on public transportation like buses and metro, “It’s actually a great thing when you hear stories of The Metro reaching capacity, we should celebrate it.”

Other selected films in this year’s festival include Abraham Obama, an artist’s journey to plaster walls with images to support the Obama campaign; and What’s the Matter with Kansas, a documentary based on the book by Thomas Frank. The films will be screened all over DC, with many of the screenings held at the E-Street cinema.

Check out the Politics on Film website for complete schedule and ticket information.


Protectors of Crystal City: Superhero Outdoor Film Fest!

A truly brilliant Image by flickr User Ian Boyd

A truly brilliant Image by flickr User Ian Boyd

The Super-heroes of DC Comics have always taken place in cities vaguely reminiscent of ones in the real world, but with slightly fantastic sounding names:  Gotham, Metropolis, Keystone,… Crystal City?

Yes-just outside our Nations Capitol, criminals fear to walk this summer.  The most accessible metro stop in the city will play home to not one, but 4 Super-heroes and 2 Super-hero teams.  The Crystal City Outdoor Film festival embraces it’s inner geek (although it’s decidedly less geeky now) and pulls 21 titles of spandex and capes off of its DVD shelf and onto the big screen-combining my love of being a hording, comic loving recluse and my love for being outside.  Starting May 4th with Spider-Man, and finishing with the masterpiece that is Batman: The Dark Knight on September 21, Crystal City pulls no punches and ducks no movies.  The good, the bad (Superman Returns; The Hulk) and the somewhere in between (X-men) there is something for everyone…that is if everyone likes comic book movies.

True story:  Last year when Screen on the Green did the original Superman I watched it with someone who, quite literally, knew nothing about Superman.  I mean-nothing.  Didn’t know what he could do, where he came from, what his deal was-nothing.  At one point she said “What’s the glowing green stick”-Uh…Kryptonite?  “Oh…like the song!”  The madness that put into my head…beyond description.  I don’t expect people to be versed in the many different colors Kryptonite, what they do or that it actually originated in the radio plays not the comics-but come on!

So fear not citizens of Northern Virginia, and come get you some education on these, the modern folk heroes of these here United States of America one Monday night at a time.

Click here for full movies and information.

Time: Starting May 4th, Every Monday at Sundown

Location: 18th and Bell Street – Courtyard Across from Crystal City Metro Station & Marriott Hotel

On space and anarchy

orphans1We attended a screening of the new documentary Orphans of Apollo at George Washington University on Friday evening, and have been mulling ever since. On the surface, this is a documentary that tells the ill-fated story of a millionaire’s attempt to lease the Mir space station back in 2000. A bit deeper, it’s a thought-provoking look at why commercial access to space remains speculative fiction.

The tagline is “Join this band of rebels out to change the course of history in space, as they board a private Gulf Stream jet, fly to Russia and negotiate one of the most remarkable business deals of the final frontier.” The story is told in interviews with the participants, mixed with some great footage of this bunch of starry-eyed kids who grew up watching the Apollo landings and reading Heinlein. When they teamed up with MBAs intent on leveraging post-Soviet technology, they sidestepped decades of global politics. Watching it play out was fascinating (even if you’re not a closet space geek).

The underlying message, however, still makes me squirm. Our government dangles space as the future, promising scientific discovery, technological innovation, and life on the final frontier. But as one of the participants observes, “the government views anything you send into space as a weapon”. And of course, that’s true, but it’s also politics-as-usual and therefore complicated. Control of space for communications, global positioning, as well as more traditional weapons is a huge priority for our government, and the Outer Space Treaty is ticklish at best.

Me, I’d love to see Dancing with the Stars in microgravity. But I’m settling for great documentary films like this.

Read the blog, order the DVD, or post comments at

Midnight Movies at E Street

There are lots of good things and bad things about living in DC.  Of the good:  the E Street Cinema.  Cozy, cute, and convenient.  And whee! showing midnight movies for the next coupla months. No Rocky, but it’s a tantalizing list:

Quentin Tarantino‘s Pulp Fiction • Nov 7 & 8
Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas • Nov 14 & 15
Christian Bale is an American Psycho • Nov 21 & 22
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark • Nov 28 & 29
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters • Dec 5 & 6
David Bowie & Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth • Dec 12 & 13
Jeff Bridges in the Coen BrosThe Big Lebowski • Dec 19 & 20

Of the bad?  Finding a place to get a bite that’s open after a midnight movie. But hey, it’s better than it was, see listings at here and here.

DC Noir

No, not the book of short stories, edited by DC’s own George Pelecanos, which you may have seen.  Rather, the film festival at AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring.  There’s a festival of Film Noir classics which has been seen in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and now it’s come to DC metro.  (Via DCist.)   The festival, which runs from today through November 5, will include classics like Double Indemnity (trust me, if you’ve only seen Fred MacMurray in The Shaggy Dog or My Three Sons, you’ll want to see this), They Live By Night, and Sunset Boulevard, to name only a few.  I’ve already bought my tickets for next Saturday evening’s showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Strangers on a Train, partially set here in the DC of the 1950s.  The Pentagon was new!  The traffic circle round the Lincoln Memorial was open!   Just the anachronistic shots of city life back then, make the film worth watching.  Besides it being, you know, a Hitchcock classic with a great story!  

An added bonus will be that the film’s leading man, Farley Granger, will be making a personal appearance at the Saturday evening showing of Strangers.  Actually, the festival includes several films which star Granger, and I recommend watching at least some of them.  He was gorgeous in a Tyrone Power sort of way, and ended up with many leading roles that would have gone to David Niven had he stayed at MGM.  He’s also the star of my all-time favorite movie, the schmaltzy wartime romance Enchantment.  I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl!

Get your creative juices flowing on Saturday at the 2008 Arts on Foot

On any given day, if you’re craving a little art and culture, there is always an exhibit or performance or demonstration to quench your appetite.

Well this Saturday, plan to venture to Penn Quarter for an extravaganza of art and crafts and performances.  Bombard your senses with 2008 Arts on Foot, a one-day visual and performing arts festival that kicks off the DC fall season.

In addition to the outdoor festival on F street between 6th and 9th Streets, the following venues will also feature activities, exhibits and performances:

Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery: The museums will host booths at the street festival that offer hands-on activities for children.

National Theatre: Come to the inaugural performance of Saturday Morning at the National. Carrie’s Dream is a true story of an African-American girl growing up in the rural south. This interactive show features sing-alongs and reflects the humor and struggles of a family coping with life in a segregated society. Performances are at 9:30 and 11:00 am. Though free, tickets are required and will be distributed 30 minutes before the show on a first come, first served basis. The Helen Hayes Gallery at the National Theatre is located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Warner Theatre and Woolley Mammoth Theatre: Take a back stage tour of the theaters. See the Arts on Foot events schedule.

Old Post Office Pavilion: Enjoy live performances by the Levi Stephens Band (alternative soul), Phaze II (smooth jazz), Uncharted Waters (smooth jazz funk), and Kirk Lamkin & Pulse Level (smooth jazz). Performances take place on the Pavilion Stage and are free to the public.

Canadian Embassy: Picture enthusiasts will enjoy a collection of 330 images entitled – 50 Years of American Photojournalism. The photos capture moments from the civil-rights movement, the various wars from 1939 – 1989, and famous people.

Landmark E Street: The DC Shorts Film Festival presents free family films with genres ranging from animation to sci-fi to comedy to experimental. Free tickets will be distributed at the DC Shorts booth at 10:00 am on a first come, first served basis.

National Gallery of Art: At 12:30 pm, catch “O Dia do Desespero (Day of Despair),” a documentary style film about the final hours of Camilio Castelo Branco’s life. The movie speculates on the creative process of the 19th-century Portuguese writer.  Then at 3:00 pm watch “The Last Conquistador ” which follows the  controversy over sculptor John Sherrill Houser’s most important commission, the world’s largest equestrian bronze of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. Filmmaker John Valadez will be present to lead a discussion after his film.

National Museum of Women in the Arts: Visit the NMWA booth on 8th and F Streets to create your own unique artist’s accordion book.  All materials provided for you to create a masterpiece.

In addition to all the arts activities, don’t miss the wine tastings and culinary demonstrations. A fun-filled day for all ages!

Made in Hong Kong

Freer Gallery of Art Originally uploaded by ultra-K

One of the things I love most about living in DC is the film festivals.

If you’re in the mood for a little Chinese before the Olympics kick off, head over to the 13th Annual Made in Hong Kong Film Festival at the Freer Gallery. Tonight’s film, “The Postmodern Life of My Aunt,” will screen in the Meyer Auditorium at 7 pm.

If you miss this showing, the movie repeats on Sunday,  August 3 at 2:00 pm.

Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Up to two tickets per person are distributed one hour before show time.

Anthropologist Explains Crystal Skull Mystery

museum of natural historyFor those of you looking for answers, tomorrow afternoon Jane MacLaren Walsh will be available to talk about the Natural History Museum’s crystal skull on temporary display in the “Science in the News” case.

At noon, the documentary “Legend of the Crystal Skulls” will screen in the Baird Auditorium on the ground level of the museum. When the lights come up, Walsh will be available for what should be a very interestinga session of questions and answers

While the event is free, seating is first come, first serve.

The crystal skull is on display in the ground level of the Natural History Museum through September 1st. The museum is open until 7:30 pm daily thru the Labor Day weekend.

Screen on the Green: Arsenic and Old Lace

screenongreen.jpgThough Amy covered most of the city’s summer films a couple weeks ago, I want to shine a special spotlight on DC’s Screen on the Green.

I’ve been a big fan of this outdoor film festival since its debut nine years ago. I remember stuffing a blanket into my brown leather backpack, emailing friends with a meeting location before I left work, and finding a prime viewing spot by the Washington Monument (when the films were screened on the Mall between 12th and 14th Streets).

Little has changed in that time – except now the giant screen is set up between 4th and 7th Streets in front of the US Capitol.

There are three films left. Tonight’s feature is Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace

All of the films are shown on a gigantic movie screen in front of the Capitol Building and start at dusk around 8:30-9:00 pm. Diehards claim their spots on the lawn as early as 5 pm, so you might want to consider getting to the Mall an hour before the classic begins.

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