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As the filmmaker's latest collaboration with Spike Lee becomes the must-see movie of the moment, we talk to Kevin Willmott about BlacKkKlansman, race in America, the purpose of satire, and his own life story, which begins in Junction City, Kansas. This hour-long interview is part of our Portrait Session series.

  • Kevin Willmott, filmmaker and KU professor of film and media studies

Bleeker Street

The history of literature and film is strewn with stories of protagonists who don't fit in. This weekend's set of recommendations from Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary Film Critics suggests outcasts are still in vogue. Whether their alienation is rooted in psychology, sexuality or something else, these movies all feature characters who struggle — with varying degrees of success — to find value in their individuality.

Steve Walker

"McQueen," R

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Royal Theater, once called The Fox Theater, opened in Atchison, Kansas, in 1912 as a vaudeville theater. It later showed films on the silent screen, complete with an in house piano player. They added talkies when they came along in the 1920s.

Erin Johnson

The Berlin Wall was six years from falling when “The Day After” premiered on television in 1983. The film, shot in Lawrence, follows three Kansans as they fight to survive the immediate aftermath of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. 

Erin Johnson, a sound and video artist and a visiting assistant professor of art at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, revisited the film and its legacy for her video installation, “The Way Things Can Happen,” at the Lawrence Arts Center.

Focus Features

Director Spike Lee’s "BlacKkKlansman," which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is finally opening in theaters nationwide. 

Lee's co-writer is University of Kansas film professor Kevin Willmott, who spoke with KCUR's Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann about the movie, which is based on a true story.

Josh Ethan Johnson / A24

With the Kansas City Royals languishing and the Chiefs off to a disappointing preseason start, sports fans looking for respite (and not willing make the drive to see Sporting KC contend for the Western Conference) might consider a trip to their favorite cinema. Up To Date's Film Critics have offered up a selection of movies for your weekend consideration. What they lack in home runs and touchdowns, they more than make up for in heart.

Cynthia Haines

"The Cakemaker," not rated

Fred Rogers wearing his trademark sweater sitting next to a toy trolley car on the set of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
Focus Features / Comcast

The summer is winding down and throughout the season we've kept you abreast of the best in art house circuit movies. Before school is back in session, our film critics offer their picks of the best flicks of the week. 

Steve Walker

"Leave No Trace" PG

  • "Winter's Bone" director Debra Granik steers this taut drama about an Iraqi war vet, played by Ben Foster, and his teenage daughter living off the land in an Oregon park until the authorities try to quash their lifestyle choices.

"Generation Wealth" R

Rural Movie Theaters

Jul 31, 2018

Movie theaters are more than a place to watch the latest blockbuster. They're a place of first dates. A place to get out of the rain. A place where communities can share an experience. But what happens to a small town if they lose that theater? On this episode, we explore what's causing rural movie theaters to close and learn about the efforts to keep them alive. 

Scott Patrick Green / Amazon Content Services LLC

The August primaries are quickly approaching. Soon heads will be spinning in a last-minute frenzy of deciding which candidates deserve a vote. Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary Film Critics have recommendations for the best movies of the weekend. Better take one in before your mind grows overcrowded with election thoughts!

Steve Walker

"Hot Summer Nights," R

The King / Oscilloscope

According to the "Farmer's Almanac," we're in the throes of the so-called "dog days of summer." Basically, summer is here and it's hot. But how to stay cool? If you're tired of finding relief at an overcrowded pool, we suggest the coolness of your local movie theater. Luckily, the Up To Date Film Critics are here to help you out with their suggesions for the latest and greatest in indie, foreign and documentary films showing this weekend. 

Steve Walker

"The King," R

Scott Green / Sundance Institute Pro

In the middle of another blockbuster summer you may find yourself feeling entertainment fatigue. Up To Date's Film Critics, though, have a remedy for the mainstream movie circuit. They've got recommendations for the best indie, foreign and documentary flicks with a cerebral punch that you can catch this weekend in your local cinema. 

Steve Walker

"Leave No Trace," PG

Segment 1: A look back at Kansas City soul music.

Johnny Starke goes hunting for old 45s — recordings of soul music made in Kansas City. He's the subject of a new film that followed him on his quest to find the perfect record. We also hear about KC soul music and why it's almost a "secret history" to some.

Bill Ingalls / Wikimedia Commons

Janelle Monáe will headline “The Weekend” performance in Swope Park on Oct. 13, according to an announcement today by Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

“The Weekend” is part of Open Spaces KC, a two month effort to attract visitors to Kansas City and host art events.

Monáe released her latest album, Dirty Computer, in April along with an accompanying short film. She’s created two other albums. Her hit songs include Yoga, Make Me Feel and Q.U.E.E.N. The Kansas City, Kansas native also starred in Moonlight and Hidden Figures.

The Orchard

Animated superhero sequel "Incredibles 2" has stormed box offices, raking in the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time for an animated film. But if you're not in the mood for a theater packed with kids (and young adults trying to reconnect to their childhood), Up to Date's indie, foreign and documentary Film Critics assure us there are still plenty of things to see on area screens this weekend.

Steve Walker

"American Animals," R

LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library

Who in Kansas City remembers AIDS activists smashing vials of HIV-positive blood in City Hall, and abortion opponents trying to display fetuses in coffins at Planned Parenthood protests?

It was 25 years ago, so you’d have to be a certain age to remember. And you’d need to have been paying attention to the news.

A blonde woman is pictured against a neutral wall. The image shows her from the shoulders up.
Rockhaven Films

Father's Day is on Sunday. What are you and dear ol' dad getting up to this weekend? If you don't feel like rushing out to a department store to get him yet another tie (we're pretty sure he already has too many), an afternoon at the movies could be just the thing — tickets and popcorn on you, of course! He should probably get to pick the flick, too, but there's no shame in nudging him toward a movie that's bound to be good, at least according to Up To Date's Film Critics. 

Steve Walker

Robert Viglasky / Bleeker Street

There's always something fun to do over the weekend in Kansas City, and this one is no exception — especially if you love ethnic food, beer or sweet air guitar riffs.

courtesy: Susan Emshwiller

Is Robert Altman’s 1996 film “Kansas City” responsible for the preservation of the 18th & Vine jazz district?

Jazz historian and KCUR Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix says the answer is yes.

Segment 1: A talk with Kevin Willmott about his new film.

"BlacKkKlansman" just won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. It's based on the true story of a black cop who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. We catch up with the KU professor who collaborated on the film with Spike Lee.

Segment 2, beginning at 17:09: Looking back at the filming of "Kansas City."

Wikimedia Commons

Hulu is casting the pilot for a TV show called "Kansas City," which will be filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The concept for the show is dystopian. According to KMBC, it will be set in Kansas City, in a future in which the city is deeply divided between liberals and conservatives with a wall between the two sides.

Sony Pictures Classics

In a summer movie scene of genetically engineered dinosaurs and ultra-violent comic book blockbusters, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the subtler films coming to the silver screen. Fortunately, Up To Date's indie, documentary, and foreign Film Critics have picked out some of the lesser known gems worth seeing this weekend.

Steve Walker

“The Rider,” R

Two women stand in a hallway. One woman touches the face of the other woman.
Bleecker Street

It's Memorial Day weekend and, while many will venture out to a lake for celebrations, there are some who don't want to risk returning to work with a scathing sunburn. For those folks in the latter group, what better way to spend the long weekend than taking a well-deserved break at the local theaters? But what to see? The latest set of recommendations from Up to Date’s indie, foreign, and documentary Film Critics are always a good place to start.

Cynthia Haines

"Let the Sunshine In," not rated

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

As a kid growing up on his family’s farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed just wanted to perform.

He wore his mom’s heels, a cinched-up shirt as a dress, and a wig to entertain visiting seed salesmen. He also choreographed dances for the hay crew.

“As kind of a slightly effeminate little kid, (farming) was hard, it was masculine, and I didn’t know that I really fit in. I kind of felt like a little bit of a square peg,” Reed told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg works at a cluttered desk.
Magnolia Pictures

Social media is abuzz with news of this weekend's royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. If, like a lot of us, you're sick of hearing minute details about floral arrangements and napkin rings, you may be looking for a distraction. Lucky for you, Up To Date's indie, foreign, and documentary Film Critics have just the solution: Go see a movie. Here are their top picks, available at local theaters this weekend.

Bob Butler

​"Let the Sunshine In," not rated

Charlize Theron sits with a pregnant belly.
Focus Features

Segment 1: Will Missouri lawmakers move to impeach Governor Eric Greitens?

This evening, the Missouri legislature will convene for a historic special session to determine whether to bring forth articles of impeachment against Gov. Eric Greitens. But how complicated is the process, and how will it unfold in the coming weeks? We sat down with two political watchers to ask what could be next for the governor.

David Wayne Reed

May 18, 2018
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

He's an actor, writer, storyteller ... and now, filmmaker. While growing up on his family's farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed used to dress in drag and perform shows for the hay crew and visiting seed salesmen. He became a founding member of KC's Late Night Theatre. And in his new film, he returns to his farm roots.

Magnolia Pictures

Graduation season is upon us, which means long trips, awkward family gatherings and unbearable ceremonies. Looking for a break from the tedium? You're in luck. Up To Date's indie, foreign and documentary Film Critics can't change your weird relatives, but they can recommend which movies to catch around town this weekend. Here are their picks to help you make small talk at the next commencement dinner.

Cynthia Haines

"Itzhak," not rated

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

They say you can’t go home again. But what if you bring drones, quilts and a marching band?

On a warm, sunny Saturday last October, David Wayne Reed was in a machine shed on his family’s farm near Louisburg, Kansas, giving instructions to about 60 people who were helping him film his movie “Eternal Harvest.” Reed had gathered friends, family members and the Louisburg High School Marching Band. He’d had asked the band to  leave their instruments at home and wear a specific type of clothing.

Wikimedia Commons

People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City doesn’t intend to inspire a revolution with their upcoming performance. They’re not even aiming for civil unrest.

No, the band’s leader, Brad Cox (piano and accordion) says they just wanted to compose a new score for a really beautiful old film, “Battleship Potemkin,” but in the band’s own style, what Cox describes as “modern freaky jazz.”

Greenwich Entertainment

Warmer weather in Kansas City means it's time to start prepping some small-talk fodder for this spring's weekend barbecues. That means it's time to head to the movies! Up To Date's indie, documentary, and foreign Film Critics have picked out their favorites for you, and we're betting they'll inspire lots of grill-side chats.

Cynthia Haines

"Itzhak," not rated

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