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Darleen Ortega

Stories by Darleen

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Feeling the Punch

Working class upheaval on the Ashland stage

It often takes a generation or more before we can grapple very honestly with our most complicated stories, especially if they involve people at the margins, or people who aren't in a position to control the dominant narrative.

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Summer Season Highlights

If you haven't gotten a chance to head down to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer, Judge Ortega points out what you shouldn't miss on your next trip down.

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The Genius Who Powered the Beach Boys

‘Love and Mercy’ shows singer’s darker side

What I loved best about "Love and Mercy," the new film about Brian Wilson, the man whose genius powered the Beach Boys, is that it felt true -- deeply, complexly true, whether or not it is factually accurate -- yet also left me convinced that I don't and can't know the whole story of Brian Wilson's life.

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Unshackling an Imprisoned Soul

‘Marie’s Story’ resonates for its victory over crushing defeats

The film is based on the true story of Marie Heurtin, born five years after Helen Keller in Vertou, France.

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Wrapped Up in Humanity

Oregon Shakespeare Festival works stir heart and soul

Love. Loss. Longing. Hope. Treachery. Resilience. All are the stuff of human existence -- and also the stuff of theater.

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Journey into Humanity

‘Salt of the Earth’ brings lens to farthest reaches of the globe

For most of the last 40 years, acclaimed photographer Sebastião Salgado has been traveling the globe and focusing his practiced photographer's eye primarily on the experiences of people at the margins -- the poor, the dispossessed, refugees, the starving, the homeless.

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A Sharp Focus to Controversy

Some new documentaries worth waiting for

The last 11 docs that I saw at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C., this month represent a range of quality, too. None are in theaters or online yet, but several are worth watching for.

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Riveting Conflicts to Uncomfortable Truths

Full Frame brings out best in documentaries

The Opinionated Judge takes on the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

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Something for Everyone

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s diverse new season

There's something for everyone at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, year in and year out. It's always worth a trip down to Ashland, for the high quality of the productions, and also because the plays themselves are so thoughtfully selected, produced, and cast to bring a variety of voices and cultures to the stage.

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Living a Life That Matters

Legendary trumpeter shows the way in ‘Keep on Keepin’ On’

The heralded film “Whiplash” depicts—realistically, I expect—a world of hungry aspiring jazz musicians.

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Living a Life That Matters

Legendary trumpeter shows the way in ‘Keep on Keepin’ On’

The heralded film “Whiplash” depicts—realistically, I expect—a world of hungry aspiring jazz musicians who are easy prey for a brutal, sadistic conductor who deliberately pits them against each other, feeds and then assaults their fragile egos, and continually moves success just beyond their reach.

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A Vampire to Capture You

Surrender to a mood of appreciation

Something about the idea of a class of immortal beings, lurking in the shadows and choosing victims among the living because they must, persists in our collective imagination, fascinating terrain for exploring our own shadow regions.

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Window into Oppression

Human spirit refuses to be crushed in ‘Timbuktu’

Gorgeous, poetic, pointed, and profound, this story of a small African community's experience of jihad manages to tell a political story without polemics, to portray with depth and insight how its victims actually experience religious extremism, and, at the same time, to unforgettably illustrate how the human spirit resists attempts to crush it.

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Counterpoint to the Oscars

My top 10 films of 2014

Judge Darleen Ortega eschews the whitest Oscar's in recent history and chooses her own top 10 of year.

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World in Focus

My best to worst favorites at PIFF

Judge Darleen Ortega goes through what's hot and what's not at the 38th Portland International Film Festival.

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Savoring Cultures and Perspectives

International Film Festival an opening to the world

Every February, I travel the world--and so can you, or virtually so, because the Portland International Film Festival offers the most culturally diverse film event of the year, beginning this week.

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Riveting and Inspiring

‘Selma’ wisely depicts struggle for civil rights

What a treat, then, to watch “Selma”—and by a treat, I mean that I was riveted and inspired, and that I wept through most of it. For once, I found an insightful depiction of what working for social justice looks like. And what it looks like is broken bodies, fear, treachery, risk, mistakes, choices between terrible options, and unthinkable sacrifice. And it involves many heroes, not just one.

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Confronting Harsh Realities

Third world drama ‘Metro Manila’ one of the best films of 2014

I saw "Metro Manila" back in February at the Portland International Film Festival and was so blown away by it that I hoped, against hope, that this taut and carefully constructed tale of a Filipino family trying to survive the harsh realities of life in Manila might actually get a U.S. theatrical release, though the commercial prospects for a tale in Tagalog seemed doubtful. My hopes failed to materialize, but the film is now available on Netflix and iTunes and Amazon, and I'm determined that everyone should see it. It's one of the best films I saw in 2014.

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'Gone Girl' Dreadfully Disappoints

Film short on believability and promotes stereotypes

Is this a movie or an endurance test?

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Right Kind of Discomfort

“Dear White People’ takes on privilege, identity and race

When was the last time you saw a film that challenged your assumptions about identity? Or one that depicted anything like the variety and complexity of identity struggles and micro-aggressions experienced by people outside the dominant culture(s)? Or one that managed both to make you feel understood and to make you squirm?

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Misfits and Hidden Gifts

'A Wrinkle in Time' invites self-acceptance and discovery

Oregon Shakespeare Festival's "A Wrinkle in Time," invites audiences to travel through worlds of imagination and meaning.

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‘Calvary’ grasps for a World beyond Fairness

A priest’s faith is tested as life hangs in the balance

Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega on the film 'Calvary', "This film deals with the question of faith in a challenging way, which also involves dealing with the question of fairness."

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Right Kind of Reverence

Biopic on James Brown gets it right

From the sheer energy in the musical performances, to capturing some of the harder parts of the cultural icon, the biopic on James Brown, 'Get On Up' "makes you feel it," says our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega.

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Real Life Drama

Capturing the soul of growing up

"Never has a film so poignantly captured the sweet ache of family life, of parenting, and of the passing of childhood." Our Opinionated Judge reviews the film Richard Linklater film, "Boyhood".

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Family Album

Rock musical brings outsider voices to art and relationships

Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews Oregon Shakespeare Festival's premier production of "Family Album," a rock musical that tackles the struggles for authentic expression in art and relationships.

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Play about broken relationships and other works highlight Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Our 'Opinionated Judge' takes on the Oregon Shakespeare festival play 'Water By the Spoon' examining the sometimes messy and beautiful connections that make family relationships.

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Emotional Journey

Film ‘Ida’ keeps its focus on a family’s history

Our 'Opinonated Judge' reviews the film 'Ida'

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Finding Vivian Maier

Mindful curiosity to an odd and ordinary life

Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega critiques the film "Finding Vivian Maier''--that probes mysteries about the human experience with a vigorous curiosity that may be deemed obsessive.

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Lorraine Hansberry’s Wisdom

Oregon Shakespeare Festival revives play by African American playwright

Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega reviews Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of the late Lorraine Hansberry play "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window".

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Navigating character, tradition and fate

‘In Bloom’ has teenage friends dealing with the world on their own terms

Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega reviews "In Bloom", a film that sees teenage friends dealing with the world on their own terms.

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The Oscars and My 10 Best Films of 2013

Some wonderful films get the attention they deserve

Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega reflects on her 10 favorite films of 2013 in preparation for this years upcoming Oscars

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Favorites to Watch

It’s the final stretch for Portland International Film Festival

Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews films from the final stretch of this year's Portland International Film Festival.

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Portland International Film Festival Comes to Life

Screenings get past weather warnings

The Portland International Film Festival trudges on through all kinds of weather -- and I found a decent turnout at the screenings I attended

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International Films Hit Portland

Diverse lineup promises another great run

It's time for one of Portland’s highlights of the year: The Portland International Film Festival. For the last 37 years, the Northwest Film Center has been hosting PIFF and its diverse array of films to screen over two glorious weeks in February. It's such a brilliant opportunity to see films from all over the world, most of which you won't ever see in wide release and many of which may be hard to find after the festival runs its course.

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Connecting with ‘Her’

Joaquin Phoenix navigates technology in search for love

A lovely and heartfelt film

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Tearing Up All Over Again

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ renews Mary Poppins charm

Opinionated Judge Darleen Ortega reviews the Disney blockbuster

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Exactly Right

‘American Hustle’ delivers on laughs, characters and fashions

Our 'Opinonated Judge' reviews the David O. Russell film, "American Hustle"

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Beautifully Crafted Movie

'Inside Llewyn Davis' rich in storytelling and music

Joel and Ethan Coen have another hit with 'Inside Llewyn Davis' their feature film about the struggles of a young folk singer who navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

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Courageous Discourse

Hannah Arendt’s riveting search for the truth

A riveting and inspiring film about a visionary thinker with the courage to rigorously examine hard questions and to express and then hold to her perspective on those questions, even in the face of withering criticism.

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Rust Belt Dignity

Stellar cast gives ‘Out of the Furnace’ much to savor

Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews the film 'Out of the Furnace' starring Christian Bale.

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Soulful Journey

‘Nebraska’ uncovers a father and son’s humanity

Our 'Opinonated Judge' reviews Alexander Payne's new film Nebraska.

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Police Power Run Amuck

Documentary “Let the Fire Burn’ painful and riveting

"Sometimes it seems the most appalling episodes in history are the ones most destined to fade into obscurity. Only if we are lucky does some skillful writer or filmmaker find the means to bring such neglected stories to our attention," says our Opinionated Judge on the film 'Let the Fire Burn'

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‘12 years a Slave’

Focused and realistic film enriches a neglected truth

" It's hard to imagine a film that the world needs more profoundly than "12 Years a Slave." For the first time --150 years after the abolition of American slavery -- a major motion picture devotes focused and realistic attention to an American slave narrative, without mitigating the story with a white hero or cheapening it with overly easy, dramatic resolutions of the problems served up by that story. It’s the most important film to be released this year and a master class in how film can enrich and deepen understanding of a neglected subject." --Opinionated Judge, Darleen Ortega

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Inspired Determination

‘Wadjda’ offers windows into Saudi (and American) life

Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews a film with a rare window into everyday life for Saudi women and girls

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Re-imagining the meaning of family

Inspiring film deserves an audience

" "In the Family" (#10 on my list) played in Portland for less than a week. First-time director Patrick Wang, who also wrote and stars in the movie, distributed the film himself and now has self-released it on home video. The lack of a distributor makes me really sad because this careful film so deserves an audience." ---Our Opinionated Judge, Darleen Ortega on the movie "In the Family"

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Lesson in Mindfulness

Our Opinionated Judge on the poetic film ‘Museum Hours’

I despair of conveying just how rich and profound an experience watching "Museum Hours" can be.

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Painful Truths

Oregon Shakespeare Festival wades in where angels fear to tread

"It's hard to imagine a setting for a play more challenging and complex than the slave trade. It's a history that we as a culture carry in our collective DNA; our very economic system was built, quite literally, on the backs of human beings who had been kidnapped and transported under unimaginable conditions into lives that explicitly denied their status as human beings. We have barely begun to scratch the surface in our collective consciousness about the implications of this past for our present. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has waded in where angels fear to tread with a new play this season, "The Liquid Plain."

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Gender Oppression Confronted

Our Opinionated Judge examines 'The Tenth Muse'

The play centers on three young women who find themselves taking refuge in the convent: Jesusa, a Mestiza (half-Spanish and half Amerindian) who has come to care for an ailing nun; Tomasita, a timid Nahua Indian who has come to serve in the kitchen; and Manuela, a noblewoman whose arrival is occasioned by circumstances that are not immediately explained. The three are relegated to the basement storage room and are instructed not to open a locked armoire that sits in the corner. Oppression and class fuel the story.

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Provocation on Transit

Film strikes a chord in African-American experience

The story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant who was killed lying face down by Oakland police in 2009 is the star of the film "Fruitvale Station". The movie will be released this week to a country knee deep in the conversation of racism; how will it affect the debate?

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Our Opinionated Judge on 'The Invisible War'

Outrageous Military Conduct

Why you should care about this documentary