In the Heights
Tempo grade: A
Storyteller Cinema 7
I dare you to keep from tapping your toes to the rhythms of the street in the new movie musical, “In the Heights,” a cinematic version of the Tony Award-winning theatrical production by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes.
The film directed by John M. Chu is at times intensely personal and at others an epic, sweeping depiction of New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood where Miranda grew up. At its heart, it’s about family, and friendships and clear-eyed hope. It’s virtually all-Hispanic cast are colorful, lively, immensely talented and wonderfully absent of a woefully typical Hollywood approach.
In a story for NBC News, Miranda explains how he and his co-writer “had to fight movie executives and producers who wanted to rely on worn-out tropes that have disproportionately portrayed Latinos as the help, criminals or individuals who only live trauma-ridden lives.”
Told with musical lyrics as speech, sometimes rapped, we follow the lives of an earnest bodega owner named Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic where he remembers the best days of his young life. Among his neighbors, friends and various relations are people who are struggling to pay bills, working toward a college education and looking for a better life for themselves and their familia.
There’s Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who has just returned to the neighborhood in hopes of taking the first steps toward a career as a fashion designer; Nina (Leslie Grace), who is in a quandary over how to pay for tuition to Harvard; Kevin (Jimmy Smits), who is Nina’s dad and owner of a successful chauffeur service; and Benny (Corey Hawkins) who is in love with Nina but knows she needs to find her own way in the world. There’s also Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), who is an employee of Usnavi’s that dreams of going to college but cannot afford it, mostly because of his father’s failings.
Underlying some of the issues these characters are facing is the specter of the U.S. Dreamer Act, which, under the Obama administration, was designed to protect certain immigrants who came to the country as children but are vulnerable to deportation. But, under the subsequent Trump administration, the popular program came under fire for aiding what it considered immigrants who are attempting to remain in the country illegally. Sonny is one of the characters who sees his future plans for education and success now in danger of being thwarted.
Other characters also deal with issues that could potentially lead into racially charged plot devices, but Miranda and Hudes recognize that ways to overcome these obstacles lie in the strength of their heritage and the deep roots of their culture and traditions. Some may argue this is giving a break to the institutional bigotry that keeps people like this at the bottom of the economic scale, but so overwhelming is the positivity and energy of the film’s message that it doesn’t have to be up front. In fact, the biggest conflict its characters will have to face is what happens when a citywide power failure grinds everything to a halt.
“In the Heights” is the kind of movie that will stay with you long after you leave the theater, filled with hope and the dream we can all move forward at last, something we certainly need right now.
This film is now showing at the Storyteller 7 Cinemas and on the HBO-Max streaming service.
“In the Heights” is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive references.
Also new at the Storyteller Cinema 7
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
Rated PG for some rude humor and action.
In this sequel to the Beatrix Potter-inspired animated film, the lovable rogue is back. Bea, Thomas, and the rabbits have created a makeshift family, but despite his best efforts, Peter can’t seem to shake his mischievous reputation. Adventuring out of the garden, Peter finds himself in a world where his mischief is appreciated, but when his family risks everything to come looking for him, Peter must figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be.
This film was directed by Will Gluck and features the voice talents of James Corden, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, Rose Byrne, David Oyelowo, and Lennie James.
These films are now showing at the Storyteller Cinema 7, 110 Old Talpa Cañon Road in Taos. For showtimes, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Taos Community Auditorium
The Taos Center for the Arts staff is pleased to announce that the Taos Community Auditorium has been reopened for live in-person viewings on its Big Screen. For details, read the announcement here https://www.taosnews.com/tempo/film/taos-community-auditorium-reopens-to-the-public/article_673484f5-acd0-5da5-bf69-eae5702f53a7.html.
Rated G for all audiences
Tempo grade: A+
One screening Friday (June 11), 7:30 p.m.
This was the first film Charles Chaplin directed. After taking a year to craft it, he debuted it and immediately captured the hearts of movie audiences 100 years ago. From the opening title card that reads “A comedy with a smile — and perhaps a tear,” we follow a story about a child who was abandoned by a “woman — whose sin was motherhood.” Desperate because she has no way to care for the baby, she leaves it in a car belonging to an obviously wealthy family. But, immediately afterward, the car is stolen and the thugs discard the baby as refuse. Then, along comes Chaplin as his iconic character The Tramp who takes it in and raised the child as his own. What follows is a funny but heartbreaking tale of the clash between the rich and poor, and the need for pure and simple love in the world. Incidentally, the Kid is played by Jackie Coogan, who would grow up to become one of the most prolific Hollywood actors in film and TV.
Rated G for all audiences
Tempo grade: A+
One screening Saturday (June 12), 7:30 p.m.
One of the funniest Marx Brothers comedies of all time. When the tiny nation of Freedonia goes bankrupt, its wealthy benefactor, Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), insists that the wacky Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) become the country's president. Sensing a weakness in leadership, the bordering nation of Sylvania sends in the spies Pinky (Harpo Marx) and Chicolini (Chico Marx) to set the stage for a revolution. As Firefly clashes with the Sylvanian ambassador (Louis Calhern), plenty of mayhem ensues, and the countries verge on all-out war.
Rated R for
Tempo grade: A+
One screening Sunday (June 13), 2 p.m.
The Paseo Project and TCA will present an in-house screening of this Netflix documentary, followed by a live Q&A with Jessica Blinkhorn and directors James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham. Discussion will be moderated by Taos Chamber Music Group Director Nancy Laupheimer. “Crip Camp” tells the story of teenagers with disabilities in the early ‘70s at Camp Jened, a ramshackle camp “for the handicapped” (a term no longer used) in the Catskills and the Disability Rights Movement. Blinkhorn is The Paseo Project’s 2021 Artist in Residence. A visual and performance artist based out of Atlanta, Ga., Blinkhorn is dedicated to the evocation of social empathy and advocacy for individuals with disabilities by way of visual works, performance, and writing. Admission is free to this afternoon screening.
The Taos Community Auditorium is located at 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For additional information about safety restrictions, ticket prices and upcoming films, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.