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"Mad Hot Ballroom" is a documentary about New York City inner school kids who have ballroom dance as part of their curriculum. We follow three schools as they prepare for a huge competition. Along the way, we get to know the students and the teachers.The children are adorable, and the effect that ballroom dance has on their lives is remarkable. They learn goal-setting, discipline, good manners, grooming, and get to know the opposite sex in a safe atmosphere. These are children who could just as easily become gang members.The teachers are totally invested in the students, which is quite moving. It's sad to see the tears and crestfallen faces during different parts of the competition - but the teachers realize that's a life lesson that the kids all need to learn.Very uplifting, inspiring, with some very good dancing, "Mad Hot Ballroom" shows the positive value of having arts in the schools, as well as dedicated teachers who care.
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This sunny documentary on a rainy and gloomy afternoon was the perfect movie to watch. "Mad Hot Ballroom" directed by Marilyn Agrelo, who is working with her collaborator, Amy Sewell, will put anyone into a good mood because it's a disarming view at inner city children who have benefited a lot from this experience.What comes across in the documentary is the tenacity in which the teachers keep these children involved as they are exposed to another world many of them don't even know exists. The teachers one sees in the film are clearly people that ought to be commended for motivating children that otherwise would probably be in the streets hanging out and getting in trouble.Yomaira Reynoso and Allison Sheniak are seen openly crying when describing what they are trying to give these youngsters. It shows their devotion to the children that comes from their hearts. It's a rare thing to find men and women whose lives are given to the cause of shaping these youngsters under their care. The other teachers also have to be singled out for their dedication, especially Rodney Lopez and Alex Tchassov.Three public schools are shown preparing for the competition, but only three are singled out, one in Tribeca, one in Brooklyn and one in Washington Heights. The children featured in the different segments are caught being themselves. There seems to be an air of improvisation in the way Ms. Agrelo points the camera to whatever is going on. The kids come out so natural in being themselves, no small achievement for this, or any other director.It is to Ms. Reynoso's credit to dress all the six couples of her team in such a colorful, yet modest, way they have a dignified and professional look. These children of Washington Heights are poor, but they clearly show they are there to win, despite of competing with other, more affluent, schools. In a way, Ms. Reynoso has achieved in showing by her example how to be a better person.The dancing in all the different categories at the finals show all teams in great form. Some of the dancers show a grace and a joy for whatever they are dancing at the moment. This is reflected in some of the judges, especially Ann Reinking, who seems happily surprised by some of the kids on stage.The reaction of the audience at the session we attended couldn't have been more positive. The energy of the music and the dancing make a perfect combination. Ms. Agrelo is to be congratulated for capturing these New York school kids that show an amazing group of young and talented people that are a delight to watch.
"Solomon, you're Jewish?" Victor Pivert is so baffled at the very thought that his long-time driver was Jewish all along that he asked this question at least three times with a shocked look of disbelief. Solomon even mentioned that his uncle Jacob, coming from New York is a Rabbi. "But he's not Jewish" hopes Pivert, immediately deceived by Solomon's smiling nod. This brief exchange is one of the most memorable comedic movie scenes of French cinema and I admire Gérard Oury, who directed the film, for his equal talent as a writer. It's funny because no one would make such a big deal about having a Jewish driver and be so damn serious about it, and it's also smart because it sets the tone of our lead character: Louis de Funès as Victor Pivert, a racist, xenophobic and narrow-minded bigot. The scene is even funnier because he was previously attacking all the foreigners through their driving or mocking an interracial couple in a wedding, and even smarter because ten seconds before, the guy was stating that he wasn't racist. Not racist but glad though that his daughter is marrying a white, "very white even a little bit too pale" in his opinion.Only Louis de Funès could have played a despicable character with such comical appeal. Although we don't share Pivert's views, we feel sorry for his ignorance and only hope that he'll be taught a good lesson. And this lesson is very explicit in the film's synopsis: Pivert becomes the hostage of an Arab revolutionary leader named Mohamed Larbi Slimane (Claude Giraud) and to escape from some other Arab goons, both disguise as rabbis. In a nutshell, you have a Catholic and a Muslim passing for Jews. And beyond this ethnic premise, one of the funniest movies of French cinema: a comedy of slapstick and errors, but not without a subtle and poignant touch of social and political commentary."The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob" marks also the pinnacle of the collaboration between Gérard Oury and Louis de Funès, after three of the greatest French box-office successes, with a de Funès, at the top of his game with his hot-tempered mannerisms and all the expressions that elevate his talent to the level of Chaplin, Keaton and Donald Duck. Take the way he mimics the sound of a woodpecker ('Pivert' in French) when he gives his name, his devilish smiles, his body language, a true comical talent who alas would never be the same after "The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob". Indeed, Louis de Funès suffered a massive heart attack two years after the film, and would never have the same range of physical talent. But let's get back to the laughs."The Mad Avdentures of Rabbi Jacob" starts with a respected Rabbi leaving New York for the first time after 30 years, to celebrate his nephew's bar mitzvah. Rabbi Jacob is played by Marcel Dalio, Gabin's companion in "Grand Illusion", the croupier in "Casablanca", an underrated figure of French cinema, miserably exploited by the Nazi occupation to denounce the Jewish control on filmmaking. Rabbi Jacob is Dalio's last memorable role and what a fitting way to share it with another veteran actor. And involuntarily, it's Rabbi Jacob and his assistant who contribute to the misunderstanding, because they share the same physical features than Pivert and Slimane, so when the lead pair is seen at the airport by an old Jewish grandmother who can barely see, Pivert becomes Rabbi Jacob, and Slimane Rabbi Zeligman.The film is a spell-binding rodeo of gags, involving Pivert, Slimane, three Arab agents, three French cops, the Schmoll Family, Pivert's wife, from a chewing-gum factory to a dentist's room, from a synagogue to a Jewish quarter street, with an interesting running-gag involving Slimane's fondness on red-headed women. The film also features a series of unforgettable lines and moments now deeply rooted in French Pop-Culture. "Silence, Rabbi Jacob, he will dance!" shouts the grandmother with her strong Yiddish accent, and then starts the most emblematic moment of the film when Rabbi Jacob performs the Hassidic group dance. If you haven't seen the film yet, just watch this part on Youtube: a real classic of French cinema.The film is punctuated with more serious moments, particularly relevant in the context of the film (released right before the Kippur War) and even today, when both Pivert and Slimane bless the Jewish boy, and the powerful handshake between Sliman and Salomon, after Pivert genuinely asked them "Sliman, Salomon are you guys cousins?" Like the greatest comedies, the film knows how to loosen up, and it was a nice touch for Gérard Oury to think of such moments. "The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob" is also the proof that we can mock any race or religion, through caricature and stereotypes, without being labeled as racist or Anti-semitic. Oury, from a Jewish background, can hardly be accused of Anti-Semitism of course, but through his film, he proves that one of the most essential elements of Jewish humor is self-derision.The film features also one of the most memorable scores of French cinema from the Master Vladimir Cosma, the sight of New York with his catchy Yiddish-like tone is the film's most unforgettable signature, enriched with a more melancholic melody at the end. Speaking of the ending, it's a bit chaotic in the way it sweeps off many of the subplots with some deus ex machina resolutions or cringe-worthy dated humor, but it doesn't really affect the film, not after so many great laughs anyway. Now, I've always been perplexed by Slimane's statement : "When we ask a Jew question, he always replies by another question" I asked one of my Jewish friends about that, and his reply was : "What makes you think so?"
Nicole (Melissa Joan Hart) has her eye on a hunky basketball star. She makes the overtures but he casts his gaze on a cheerleader instead. Nicole has been the major planner for an upcoming community dance and now her choice of dates is taken! Meanwhile, next door neighbor, Chase, has been dumped by his eccentric girlfriend. He's sad. Melissa cooks up a compromise. If Chase will pretend to be her guy to make the basketball star jealous, she will do the same for him and his ex. But, first Melissa insists on giving Chase a makeover. Will their schemes result in mutual benefits? And, what about Nicole's absentee father? Will he ever be interested in his daughter's happenings? This movie would make a nice conversation starter for high school teens. Besides its entertainment value, it has some good messages and quandaries about what it means to be in the "in crowd" and the "out crowd". The stars are quite good looking and have good acting abilities, especially Adrian Grenier. Typical but nice costumes and settings compliment the film, too. If you would like a movie to watch with your teenage daughter or son about self worth and choices in life, this movie would be beneficial. And, you both just might end up giggling and touched. 350c69d7ab