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Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein

To what lengths would you go to save your child from the pain and possible death from cancer? Weed the People, a documentary that follows five families who, in a desperate effort to find treatment for their children’s cancer, obtain cannabis oils to give the young patients a better path to a cure. It was screened in Cambridge on April 8, 2019.

The team behind the film – director Abby Epstein, Emmy Award-winning TV host Ricki Lake, and producer James Costa, a Boston native known for the documentary Lunch Hour – was in town for the screening and question and answer session at the Landmark Square Cinema in Cambridge. The event was hosted by the Boston Globe’s Meredith Goldstein. It was a return to town, of sorts, as the documentary brought Lake and Epstein to Boston, specifically Harvard Medical School, where we see the medical efficacy of marijuana in cancer treatment is being studied.

The documentary, which was released late last year, also looks at the federal government’s reluctance to allowing marijuana to be accessible to all patients. (Currently 33 states allow medical marijuana and 10 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for recreational use.) Weed the People is available for download and online viewing. For more on the film, click here.

Before the screening, styleboston.tv and LeftCoast.LA caught up with Ricki Lake and asked her a few questions about the documentary, the need for medical marijuana, and Dunkin’ Donuts and her other Boston connections.

Q: This project started with a 7-year-old girl reaching out to you at a time when the opioid crisis was coming to the front and center? How have people been reacting to this documentary?

Scene from the documentary Weed the People

A: The reactions to this documentary have been incredible. People seem to be ready to open their hearts and minds to the true medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant. Yes, the film began with a seven-year-old girl who was a fan of mine from “Dancing with the Stars.” She was undergoing chemotherapy and there were very few options to treat her condition. My late husband Christian Evans had been researching cannabis oil and CBD for his grandfather and we thought it might help this little girl as well because of the anti-tumor properties of the plant. That experience was how our film was born.

Q: Was there anything from the filming that surprised you?

A: One of the most surprising things for me personally was to see how well cannabis can actually work and how little you need to get therapeutic effect. You see one child in the film who was taking six OxyContin a day plus other pain relievers and after two days of taking a sesame seed-size dose of the concentrated cannabis oil, he was completely off the OxyContin. So not only was his pain gone but he was sleeping and eating, where on the opiates he was just vomiting and deteriorating.

Q: Here in Massachusetts we have embraced marijuana, first medical uses and later recreational. But even here, in a super-liberal blue state, it seems like people still don’t “get” the potential of what marijuana can do and the benefits of legalization of it.

A: Yes, there is such an intense stigma around the plant it is incredibly hard to break through, even in the medical community. Doctors have been trained that this is a drug abuse and of course the public has also been brainwashed into thinking this is a dangerous narcotic and a gateway to other substances, which is untrue. That’s been the revelation of this movie and we have shown it in places like Oklahoma City and weeks later they passed their referendum on medical cannabis! The film is a really powerful tool to help people understand the real potential of medical marijuana.

Q: As filmmakers you looked at the choices available to patients and parents. Have you seen changes since you started filming in those choices that the patients’ families have? In the attitudes of the medical community?

Scene from the documentary Weed the People

A: We’ve seen so many changes since we started this film back in 2012. At the time, a lot of the families were getting medicine from underground sources, medicine that wasn’t properly tested and in one case in the film you see it actually contained rubbing alcohol! In California the regulations have helped improve quality and testing for patients, but ironically the regulations have also made it harder for patients to access certain preparations and strengths. We’ve definitely seen the attitudes of the medical community change but it’s still way too slow and it seems to be that money and the green rush is what motivates most of the public perception changes these days.

Q: You and Abby set up a GoFundMe account for those in your project and others. It seems like this film pushed you in ways that a “typical” film project might.

A: Yes we set up a GoFundMe account for the kids in the film. All of them still take a maintenance dose of cannabis oil and one of the children is still in treatment. Unfortunately even the maintenance dose can run these families around $1,500 a month and it’s just not affordable without help. Our website is weedthepeoplemovie.com And you can make a donation there under the “get involved” menu tab.

Q: OK, a few Boston-centric questions. We know you’ve been to Boston before and even filmed a movie here, do you have any favorite things to do? Go see? Do you load up the carry-on with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee?

A: Oh yes, I grew up in New York so definitely a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts! I absolutely love Boston and have the best memories of shooting “Mrs. Winterbourne” there. I’m excited to share this film with the community.

Q: There’s always Provincetown, but the Fast Ferry is fully running this time of year. Do you get back to the area when you are not?

A: Yes, I have been to the Provincetown Film festival a few times and we screened my earlier documentary “the business of being born” there. My dear friend John Waters invites me there all the time.

Q: Many people know you from so many different things in your varied career. We imagine that people approach you with all kinds of references in your background, but we hope that none of the really whacky people are from Boston.

A: I definitely have some amazing fans from Boston! It’s a fantastic city and I’m so proud of Massachusetts for making cannabis accessible.

Q: Will you be stopping by the recently opened marijuana dispensary in Brookline?

A: I would love to check out the new dispensary Brookline! We are very fortunate that a local cannabis company called Green Line is sponsoring our Boston premiere screening. I love how Green Line is integrating social justice into their company philosophy. They are including members of the Roxbury community on their board and helping to repair some of the harms of the drug war on communities of color. I believe that social equity needs to be a major component of marijuana legalization.

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By: Anna Paula Goncalves

 

Season 3 of TV’s number 1 drama (all around show really, if we’re being honest) is already giving us all the feels – as expected – with this first episode. With laughter, tears to some and a bit of curiosity, the touching stories and relatable characters is the consistently winning combination that makes this show the success it is.

It’s all in the “construct of the show,” as show creator, Dan Fogelman said during the panel discussion that followed the premiere screening. It’s a construct that he credits to the writers of the show (which he, and the cast, made a point to honor) for their brilliancy.

With a plot that lives in the past just as much as it does in the present (with this season expected to tackle glimpses into the “future”) there’s a level of excitement in learning about each character and what makes them, them. Like Chrissy Metz’ character, Kate, and how heartwarmingly real her character is depicted. Someone who “can’t catch a break” while battling her weight, guilt, loss, addiction, and how that all ties into her struggle with self-acceptance. Which to that point, Chrissy says, when asked how she feels about her storyline helping others facing the same struggles as she: “I just know things happen as they should. And that everyone has their really beautiful journey and we get to help each other along and through that journey.”

In the midst of laughter and “truth, dare, or ‘swear on Oprah’” (You need to watch S3E1 to understand the Oprah reference), the panel discussed the first episode and how it embraced a more light-hearted relationship between Randal (Sterling K. Brown’s character) and his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson’s character). They also each talked about their individual characters, the season’s construct and how we’ll “live in the past a bit” during season 3.  We will get to learn more about Jack (Milo Ventimiglia’s character) and his past, including his time in Vietnam, and also life following his death as Rebecca (Mandy Moore’s character) navigates as a single parent caring for teenagers. We can also look forward to upcoming “stand alone” episodes that will dive into specific characters that we know little about underneath, like Chris Sullivan’s character, Toby – a character who suggests something deep in connection to his dependency on anti-depressants and after this first episode, also speculates about the trajectory of his relationship with Kate into the “future”. Another character we can all look forward to seeing unfold is Lyric Ross’ character, Deja, now a season’s regular.   Described as “the truth” by her cast-mates after becoming a revelation to them while shooting season 3, and to us in this first episode as the embodiment of what boldness and hope looks like.

In true “This is Us” form, the first episode entitled “Nine Bucks”, which falls during the Big Three’s birthday (as it has consistently done in previous season premieres) gives us just enough to make us sink into our seats while looking forward to speculating what’s to come.

Thank you to NBC Entertainment Director Jeanette Eliot for the invitation.

Season 3 of This Is Us continues on Tuesday, October 2, on NBC.

 

Actor Taylor John Smith at SDIFF Film Insider Series

Left Coast. La was honored to attend the San Diego International Film Festival’s VIP Film Insider Series featuring HBO’s new “Sharp Objects” starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Taylor John Smith. The event was held at the  ArcLight Cinemas in San Diego, CA. 

Based on the book of the same name by The New York Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Dark Places”), “Sharp Objects” is an eight-episode series that tells the story of reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) who “returns to her small hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Trying to put together a psychological puzzle from her past, she finds herself identifying with the young victims a bit too closely,” according to HBO. In addition to Adams, Clarkson and Smith, the series features Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Elizabeth Perkins and Matt Craven. It is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from scripts by Marti Noxon and Flynn.

Heading into the theater no one knew what to expect, but by the end of the VIP preview the 200 person crowd was on the same page. This show is definitely a must see! “Sharp Objects” Premiers Sunday, July 8 at 9 p.m.
 
 

Tonya Mantooth, Taylor John Smith, Adam Loew

Kristian Forster, Careesa Campbell, Managing Director of Maserati & Ferrari San Diego, Vicky Carlson

Katharine McPheeDid you sit through the endless red carpet coverage?  I did.  I’m pretty sure I lost some IQ points and all I wanted to do was feed Giuliana Rancic a sandwich, but I powered through it.  Ryan Seacrest just needs to embrace his vertical challenge and start standing on a phone book because when he interviews people like Taylor Swift or Nicole Kidman, he looks like a 12 year-old.  It’s so awkward.  Kat McPhee looked like a deer in the headlights when she was interviewed by Seacrest.  I mean they KNOW each other right?  Why was she so weird?  I’m thinking it’s because she forgot to wash her hair.

Ariana Grande & Big SeanAriana Grande was interviewed with her new guy Big Sean and he was her biggest accessory. The level of cuteness was pretty high on the nausea scale, I mean she wanted everyone to know “this is my man and you can’t have him”. Look girl, if you want a man that will take your inevitable breakup and use it to write a marginally interesting song that will be played on radio stations everywhere, then you do you. I look at this and I think about my ex that I brought to my sister’s wedding. He’s in the pictures and I wish he wasn’t. I feel like when Ariana looks back at these pics after the public breakup, she will wish she hadn’t hung all over him like a cheap suit.

I’m not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, but here are my picks from the red carpet.

BEST: Taylor Swift, Chrissy Teigan, Jessie J and Gwen Stefani.

WORST: Rihanna (WHAT WAS THAT?) Iggy Azalea’s hair crown, Kim Kardashian’s bedazzled robe and Keith Urban’s ponytail.

New England Patriots will be on stage? What!! I had no idea. I was hoping for a Grammy Gronking, but Edelman and Butler did pretty well with a well-played interception joke.

Kanye West put on his best sweats to Auto-Tune his way through a crappy song. Someone please explain Kanye and his “art” to me, because I don’t get it.

MadonnaMadonna as a matador. I don’t think I need to say anymore do I? I love her, she does no wrong, haters to the left. She kept it classy on the red carpet as well…

Keith Urban has a ponytail? Stop. Just stop.

I felt the song with Paul McCartney, Kanye and Rihanna was all over the place. Matching black suits? Is it me or did Rihanna show NO skin this evening? Something is wrong in the world somewhere. The song is good, but I just can’t listen to Kanye sing. Mostly because he can’t. And Paul just looks so out of place. And constantly surprised.

The Grammy’s were far too long and peppered with performances that truly sucked (Usher singing Stevie Wonder) and performances that delivered (Madonna, Beyonce and Tom Jones) but it’s the one time where I will sit in front of the TV for hours on end that doesn’t involve Netflix.