Whiskey and Popcorn Reviews: 5 Movies Directed by and Starring Black Filmmakers

Tuesday Mahrle and Kaely Monahan

—By Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle

With the death of George Floyd, Dion Johnson here in Phoenix, and many other people of color, conversations about race, racism, policing and the abuse of power are back on center stage. Hollywood has not been immune to promoting hurtful and tone-deaf narratives. The big studios have long promoted white, cis-gendered, male stories over those of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. In recent years we have seen efforts to make changes. Waves of “Oscars So White” and “Time Out” sought to varying degrees of success to change the conversations in Tinseltown. And while there have been efforts to increase the visibility of Black film in particular, there is still a very long way to go.

As two white women, one identifying as pansexual and the other as cisgender, we strive to be aware of our own inherent biases when viewing films. With that in mind, we want to introduce you to five Black-made films that you might not have seen, and that we love.

Blindspotting

Directed by Carlos López Estrada, Blindspotting is a 2018 comedic drama both written, produced and starring Daveed Diggs (who you might recognize from the Broadway hit Hamilton) and Rafael Casal. The film follows parolee Collin Hoskins (Diggs) as he finishes his last three days of probation. His best friend since childhood Miles, is short tempered and reckless. Having grown up on the rougher side of the San Francisco Bay, Collin and Miles experience the divides between race. While Miles can get away with acting tough and being a troublemaker, Collin faces prejudice, bigotry and racism. Through humor and drama, Blindspotting examines the complicated nature of race and racism and who belongs.

You can watch it now on Amazon Prime.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco 

In a semi-autobiographical story, Jimmie Fails longs to return to the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Each week he lovingly and covertly tends to the home, while avoiding the current occupants. When the homeowners are suddenly forced to leave the house, Jimmie seizes the opportunity to move in. But family secrets lay buried there and Jimmie realizes that family history isn’t always certain. Joined on his adventures by his best friend and artist, Montgomery, Jimmie searches for identity and belonging in a city that is ever changing.

The film was co-written by Jimmie Fails and JoeTalbot, and directed by Joe Talbot.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is one of our top picks from Sundance 2019.

You can see it now on Amazon Prime.

BECOMING; Courtesy of Netflix

Becoming

Michelle Obama is just as iconic as her husband President Obama, and in the Netflix documentary on her life, we get a close and intimate look at the First Lady’s life. For those who haven’t read her memoir by the same name, the Netflix documentary allows for a speed round of Michelle Obama’s life, through the lens of her book tour.

Directed by Nadia Hallgren, Becoming shows the First Lady reflecting on her eight years in office with her husband and children as well as all the years that led up to that time.

You can see Becoming on Netflix.

American Son

In this Netflix adaptation of the Broadway play by Christopher Demos-Brown, American Son the film version premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film festival. Starring Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale and Jeremy Jordan, the plot examines the unjustified killings of Black men at the hands of white police officers. A timely subject that is still exceptionally raw even today. Washington plays Kendra Ellis-Connor, a mother of a missing teenage boy. She is on the hunt to find out what happened to her son.

You can find American Son on Netflix.

Moonlight

The 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Moonlight explores three periods of life for Chiron. From young adolescence, to mid-teen and then to young adulthood, we see Chiron navigate what it means to grow up Black in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Chiron is shy and aloof, often observing his life instead of actively participating — at least until he is forced to interact. Bound up in this, is Chiron’s discovery of his sexuality as a gay man. Moonlight is poetic, stirring and beautiful.

Moonlight was written and Barry Jenkins, who also directed the fantastic 2019 film If Beale Street Could Talk.

You can watch Moonlight on Netflix.


Whiskey and Popcorn is a movie podcast by local film critics Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle. You can hear their full movie reviews on whiskeyandpopcorn.org.

Annual Women’s Film Festival Pivots to Virtual Event

LUNAFEST, a fundraising film festival dedicated to championing women filmmakers and bringing women together in their communities, has been rescheduled as a virtual event, set for Sunday, Aug. 2, at 4pm. It was originally scheduled to be held at Madison Center for the Arts in March but was canceled due to COVID-19 closures.

Hosted by Soroptimist International of Phoenix (siphx.org) for its fifth consecutive year, LUNAFEST is a unique film festival that highlights women as leaders in society, illustrated through seven short films by women filmmakers. The films range from animation to drama, and cover topics such as women’s health, body image, relationships, cultural diversity and breaking barriers.

All proceeds from the event will benefit local nonprofit Soroptimist International of Phoenix, whose mission is to empower women and girls by providing access to, and support of their educational objectives, and Chicken & Egg Pictures, a nonprofit organization that supports women nonfiction filmmakers whose artful and innovative storytelling catalyzes social change. Visit the event Facebook page at facebook.com/lunafestphoenix2020.

Thus far, the festival, which is created and funded by LUNA®, The Whole Nutrition Bar, has raised more than $5 million for nonprofit organizations across the U.S. and Canada. (lunafest.org)

Tickets for the virtual event are $20 per household and are available for purchase online at https://bit.ly/LunaFestPhx. A streaming link and password will be sent to all those that have purchased tickets the morning of the event. Purchasers will have 24-hour access to view the films until 4pm, Monday, Aug. 3.

The 2021 LUNAFEST is tentatively scheduled for March 7 at Madison Center for the Arts, featuring a return to the full cinematic experience.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself … Really?!

Rabbi_headshot2

Click to learn more about Rabbi Kravitz

By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

On the internet, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. We began our summer at the end of May 2020 and into June with reports and graphic images of violence, outrage, tears of pain marching across the USA and around the world.

Right in front of our eyes we saw, over and over, the killing of a Black man on a city street. People stood around and watched. Some videotaped. Some created a human barricade around the dying man. NOBODY moved in to help!!

There are excuses for non-action, usually weak answers to critical questions. Why didn’t anybody do anything? It has become too frequent in our country to stand around and watch, then to respond with complaints and anger and violence.

The violence of the action of killing someone in real time and plain view does not seem to motivate the same kind of response as after the fact. What is wrong with this picture? Why don’t human beings reply to horrific events immediately, or work to prevent them? Why are we so jaded as to become voyeurs? Where are our values?

After the event, we will hear calls for “love your neighbor as yourself,” and we will listen to offers of assistance in the cleanup of the communities’ splinters and ashes. Where were the voices of support and caring prior to these acts? Where were the offers to reshape our society into a civil land for all, prior to devastation, riots and burnings?

Absent are the voices of national leadership. Missing are the offers to try and heal the historical pain of dysfunction that prompts these revolts. Lacking is an honest desire to create a planet with peace and harmony FOR EVERYBODY.

And sadly, when the terrifying acts and horrible images of death and fire soon become part of history, who will stand to truly love their neighbors as themselves?

Will you join me?


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. Serving as a volunteer police chaplain for more than 30 years, he regularly addresses civic and religious gatherings on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

PVSchools to Host Virtual Job Fair July 9

For the 2020–21 school year, the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools) is looking to hire certified full-time and part-time teaching positions, as well as employee support professional positions, including bus drivers who are paid based on K–12 driving experience.

PVSchools will hold a Virtual Job Fair Thursday, July 9, from 10am to 1pm.
Prior to the job fair, applicants may explore the district’s school sites and departments, view current vacancies, share their employment interests directly with administrators and apply for positions.
During the job fair, applicants may view vacancies, share their information, apply for positions, attend live meeting rooms with administrative teams and may be selected to participate in personal interviews.

To learn more about open positions and available benefits, visit pvschools.net/jobfair.

HER Certified Review: 2021 KIA Seltos SX Turbo AWD — See Ya in a KIA

Click to learn more about Cathy.

By Cathy Droz –

Several years ago, there was a KIA dealer in Phoenix who did his own radio and TV commercials. His voice was much like the character George Costanza in “Seinfeld” and he would end all his commercials (in a high-pitched voice) with “See Ya in a KIA.” It was so irritating, but it became an iconic phrase like “Where’s the Beef?” or “Just do it.” Folks would use that phrase to say goodbye after a lunch meeting or leaving the office. “See Ya in a KIA” … Talk about great marketing.

Well that was then, and this is now. The KIA brand, along with its model lineup, does not need a quirky saying or a hamster to get your attention.

KIA has brand recognition because they listen to their customer base, strive to be on every person’s shopping list and have created outstanding vehicles. Taking cues from other luxury and utilitarian vehicles, they have come up with some winners. The Sportage, Niro, Soul, Sorento, Rio, Forte, Optima, Stinger, K900, Sedona as well as the “impossible to keep in stock” Telluride and my test vehicle, the 2021 Seltos.

The Seltos is a very good-looking vehicle. My test vehicle was white with a black roof. It caught my attention immediately as it did other drivers on the road. I was stopped at a red light when a woman, lowering her window, asked me what kind of SUV I was driving. When I told her she yelled back, “How much?” And I said, “Under 30,” where she immediately gave me thumbs up.

The KIA warranty is one of the best in the mass market brand with 10-year/100,000 Mile limited Powertrain — 5-yr/60,000-Mile limited basic warranty and 5-yr/60,000 Mile Roadside Assistance.

You need to test drive the Seltos and see for yourself if it will meet your needs. My friends (empty nester golfers) took mine for a spin and then tried to get their golf bags in plus other accessories. The cargo area, when the back seats are down, is huge.

You have a choice of driving “feels.” The Drive Mode (DMS) made a difference in how the vehicle responded, once I changed from Eco to Normal, I felt the ride was smoother for me. The “golfers” went to my friend’s KIA dealership and wound up purchasing a Kia Sorento, finding the Seltos a tad small for their needs. I say test drive several! It is like Cinderella’s glass slipper… test drive until the right one fits.

In the case of my “golfer” friends, I suppose we could say “See Ya in a Kia” as they also own a Sportage.

For more information go to kia.com or for more reviews go to hercertified.com

Here are some of the outstanding features of the 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD:

  • 6L Turbo 4-Cylinder Engine, 195 lb.- ft Torque, 175 Horsepower, 7-Speed Quick-Shift DCT Automatic Torque. All-Wheel Drive w/Center Lock Drive Mode Select (DMS)

KIA Drivewise Driver-Assist Technology

  • Forward Collision -Avoidance Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist Rear
  • Rear Cross Traffic Warning Lane Keeping Assist, Lane departure warning, driver attention warning, high beam assist.

SAFETY

  • Dual Front Advanced Airbags, Dual Front Seat Mounted Side and Full- Length Curtain Airbags
  • ESC and Downhill, Brake/Hill-start Assist Control

INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR HIGHLIGHTS

  • 8” Touchscreen w/Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Rear Camera, USB Multimedia Port, heated front seats, 60/40 Split-Folding and reclining, dual level cargo floor.
  • 18” Alloy Wheels, roof rails, fog lamps, upgraded grille with integrated LED light bar, compact spare tire

SX Turbo AWD Features – All Included in price 24 items – Here are the Highlights

  • UVO Link w/Navigation, 10.25 Display, Bose Premium Audio, sound connected lighting, smart cruise control W/stop and go, highway driving assist, Sofino Seat Trim, 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, remote star (on Key fob), wireless phone charger, rear USB charge port, cargo cover

EXTRA
Clear White with Black Roof Paint: $345
Carpeted Floor Mats: $130
MSRP: $27,890
AS TESTED: $29,485
Fuel: 25 mpg City and 30 mpg Highway


Founder of H.E.R. Certified and co-founder of Smart Women Series USA, Cathy Droz has test driven over 520 cars for manufacturers and reviewed them on her website, hercertified.com, radio, TV, YouTube and print.  She is a consumer advocate for women car buyers and training expert for the auto industry.  Her book, A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car with Confidence and Street Smarts — Don’t let these High Heels fool you, is an easy and informative guide to car buying. 

Providing the Essentials for Arizona’s Foster Children

Many hands make it work

Today, in the state of Arizona, there are 14,000 children in foster care. When a family is in crisis, and the Department of Child Safety steps in, it is often another family member who is called upon to temporarily care for children. But all too frequently, that family member may not be able to provide for some basic needs at a moment’s notice, which is where Arizona Helping Hands steps in.

“Arizona Helping Hands is the largest provider of essential needs to children in our foster care system, though our core program is providing children with a safe place to sleep,” says Dan Shufelt, president and CEO.

Shufelt says that in 2013, at what he describes as the height of the foster care crisis, the organization learned that many families in urgent foster situations had no one to turn to for essentials, so, they shifted their mission.

“We stepped in back in 2013 and started providing foster families in that type of situation with twin beds and cribs to give those children a safe place to sleep. And that was our toe in the door of helping children in foster care throughout the state of Arizona. And we haven’t looked back.”

In 2019, the organization provided 2,582 children with twin beds. Cribs were provided for 978 infants, many of whom Shufelt says were released into foster care from neo-natal intensive care units after overcoming substance abuse.

A volunteer sorts items in the organization’s 18,000-square-foot warehouse

In addition to beds, Arizona Helping Hands provides clothing, diapers and personal care items, as well as back-to-school items and even safety items to encourage other families to step up and become foster homes.

The organization also wants to make sure that children know that they are loved, which is why it launched a Birthday Package program.

“We want these kids to have a sense of self-esteem and want them to feel loved and supported and we want them to celebrate their birthday,” says Shufelt. “I’ve had many children in foster care who have never celebrated a birthday, and it’s not right. We have to do better than that.”

A representative for any child in Arizona’s foster care system can apply online for a birthday gift package. Pre-COVID-19, volunteers would head into the office every day and, taking the submitted applications, they “shop” throughout the organization’s 18,000-square-foot warehouse. Whether it is a Barbie doll or craft set, games, books or stuffed animals, volunteers find the perfect items for each individual child. The gifts are then wrapped and placed in bags with special messaging, “to let those kids know that they are not forgotten; that they are loved.”

“In 2019, we provided 3,596 children with a birthday package. Ten children every day of last year received a birthday package because of the work that we are doing at Arizona Helping Hands.”

A volunteer wraps birthday presents for Arizona foster children.

Volunteers are instrumental in the birthday program but also assist in other ways. Last year, 1,400 volunteers donated 13,000 hours of service. Of course, the coronavirus changed everything. After closures in March, volunteers began coming back in early June. The organization hopes to increase the number of participants this month and possibly reopen its doors the first week in August. Residents who are interested in volunteering can complete an application at azhelpinghands.org.

Another way that residents can support foster children is to donate to the organization’s Back-to-School Drive. Any donor can go online at ahhbacktoschool.org and make a $35 contribution, which will buy a backpack stuffed full of educational tools to help kids start the school year prepared for success.

“We rely on the generosity of our community in everything that we do, and everybody has the opportunity to utilize their time, talents and treasure to help others in our community,” says Shufelt. “And that’s what we rely on, generous people who have chosen to support an organization like ours that truly makes a difference for children who have been abused and neglected.” |CST


Photos courtesy of Arizona Helping Hands

Arizona Governor Announces New Restrictions Amid Rise in COVID-19 Cases — Bars, gyms and other businesses to pause operations effective 8pm tonight

“Arm yourself with a mask. It’s your best defense against this virus.” — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

At a press conference this afternoon, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced new statewide restrictions as positive COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.

Executive Order 2020-43: Pausing of Arizona’s Reopening — Slowing the Spread of COVID-19, includes pausing operations of bars, indoor gyms, fitness clubs or centers, indoor movie theaters, waterparks and tubing operations, effective 8pm tonight, June 29. The state has a “targeted” reopening date of July 27.

The governor stated that, “This will help relieve stress on our health care system and give time for new transmissions to slow.”

Today’s announcement stated that in order to reopen, the establishments must attest to and adhere to all public health regulations, and post it for the public to see. The governor said that enforcement will be led by local public health officials and local authorities.

The Executive Order also limits mass gatherings.

“Effective June 29, 2020, organized public events of more than 50 people are prohibited unless the city, town or county in unincorporated areas has approved the event, and only if adequate safety precautions are implemented, including physical distancing measures.”

Guidance is also offered for public and private pools. Read the full Executive Order here: https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/eo_2020-43.pdf

Also issued today is Executive Order 2020-44: Protecting Public Health for Students and Teachers. The Order delays the start of in-person classes for the school year that begins July 1 until Aug. 17, “but schools may begin the school year on their regularly planned start date prior to August 17, 2020 through distance learning.”

The governor stressed that Aug. 17 is an “aspirational” date and that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman continues to work with district superintendents and other stakeholders on plans to educate students safely this school year.

Read the full Executive Order here: https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/eo_2020-44.pdf

Dr. Cara Christ, director of Arizona Department of Health Services, provided updated guidance for Independence Day, encouraging residents to celebrate with “immediate household or daily contacts” and to protect vulnerable family members and friends by sharing time virtually.

She also shared that the state is partnering with Banner Health and Arizona State University**, among others, to increase availability and timeliness of testing statewide.

Also announced today, by the end of this week, the state will have in place a program to provide access to masks for every Arizonan.*

Ducey closed the press conference with this reminder: “Arm yourself with a mask. It’s your best defense against this virus.”

WATCH today’s press conference in its entirety here. |CST


[*This story is developing and will be updated.]

[** Link updated July 9, 2020.]

Nearly 700 Students, 30 Teachers Displaced Due to Metrocenter Mall Closure — Phoenix Conservatory of Music seeking interim and permanent space

Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM) announced June 20 that its nearly 700 students and 30 teachers will be displaced due to the permanent closing of Metrocenter Mall on June 30. PCM learned of the closure Friday, June 19. The organization has used the space for its school and music studios since 2011. According to the press release, PCM must vacate the premises by July 15.

Executive director Regina Nixon says that while unexpected, this transition has been something the organization has been expecting given the state of the mall in recent years. At present, PCM is functioning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so operationally it can continue to serve its students.

The school says that it plans to return to normal in-person operations as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the interim, it needs to find a place to store musical instruments and classroom/office equipment; and ultimately, a permanent home for the future.

Its basic and immediate needs include 6–10,000 sq. ft. of space with classroom, performance and office areas, ideally — but not limited to — the City of Phoenix boundaries. PCM is looking for a partner who is willing to donate in-kind facilities to support our nonprofit educational mission. PCM is a 501(c)(3) organization.

In addition, the school will need logistical help to facilitate a move at the end of June.

Base needs include:

  • 4–6 Lesson Rooms (approx. 80–100 sq. ft. each)
  • 4–5 Music Classrooms (approx. 400–600 sq. ft. each)
  • 1 Parents/Student Waiting Area (approx. 2 sq. ft. each)
  • 1 Large Admin Space (or two classroom sizes)
  • 1 Private Office or 1 classroom space dedicated as an office
  • Storage (2 classroom spaces or 500-plus sq. ft)
  • Access to Restrooms
  • Ability to install phones and internet
  • Access to performance space preferred

PCM added, “In addition to this, we are needing to raise monies to help us with this unplanned move. We have a go fund me page set up.”

For additional information about PCM, visit pcmrocks.org.

FOUND:RE Launches #Together4PHX

Community invited to submit photographs for visual storytelling project

COVID-19 has forever changed the lives of people around the world, and FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel wants to help tell the stories of those lives, but with a local focus. With this goal in mind, it launched #Together4PHX, a visual storytelling project designed showcase in an effort to unite people through their unique photographic experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. The company is seeking submissions to be displayed on the hotel’s six-story exterior video wall.

“Our goal is to create a digital art photography experience for the community, created by the community — because we are all in this together,” says Tim Sprague, managing partner of FOUND:RE Phoenix. “We’re seeking photos that embrace a myriad of emotions such as bravery, compassion, selflessness, resilience, and spirit as well as images that showcase fun, entertainment, unique quarantine activities and more. This captivating, large-scale light installation will essentially become our gallery without walls that lights up the night and instills a sense of pride for how we as a community have overcome challenges of this new normal.”

Photography professionals and novices of all ages are invited to submit their high-resolution, vertical photographs.  The resolution must be at least 2MB. Photographers are encouraged to submit as many photos as desired.  After a photograph is approved, the photographer will be notified via email.

Images should reflect touching personal experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. Photos must be received in vertical format, and community members are welcome to submit as many photos as they wish via foundrehotels.com/submitart. The images will rotate on the property’s six-story exterior video wall in an effort to bring art, community and a visual “story” of the pandemic into the downtown landscape for all to experience.

FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel is located at 1100 N. Central Ave. For more information, visit foundrehotels.com.


Photo: ID 18878636 © Erik Reis | Dreamstime.com

Local Apparel Company Lucia & Marie Now Offering Handmade Face Masks

Photo courtesy of Lucia & Marie

Lucia & Marie is a clothing brand made in Arizona. Cindy Lonnstrom, owner, operates an online Etsy shop for accessories and “fur baby” apparel. Although, currently, she is creating handmade face masks and is selling the products within the U.S.

“Since the quarantine period began, I started selling handmade face masks to consumers and donating some to medical professionals who were looking to preserve their N95 masks,” said Lonnstrom. “With the understanding that handmade cotton face masks are not medical-grade or FDA approved masks. When a consumer buys two, we gift one to healthcare workers fighting to save lives of patients with COVID-19.”

For additional information, call 480.479.5057, visit luciaandmarie.com or find the boutique on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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