Monday, February 25, 2013


It's Oscar Monday and although I have a few thoughts about a few things, I'm only going to quote Ben Affleck as he stood on the stage when Argo was announced as Best Picture by Michelle Obama.  There was something quite humorous about Jack Nicholson handing the honors to the First Lady.  An odd duo, indeed.

Given the winner was a film about the collaboration between Hollywood and the government to rescue six Americans who were given safe haven by our Canadian friends in November of 1979, that the announcement came from the White House, although originally not thrilled with dragging anything political into this celebration given the dire state of this union, was a poetic hand off of the statue to the producers.

The best line of the night:

"And it doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life; that's gonna happen.  All that matters is: you've got to get up."  ~ Ben Affleck

Emphasis is mine.  As it happened, I watched the movie the night before.  I recall saying, "That's the winning film."  My statement was somewhat jaded.  Why WOULDN'T Hollywood award itself for its stellar behind the scenes involvement in what was a gutsy move by a man named Tony Mendez.  The book is being downloaded to my Kindle/iPad as I type:

ARGO:  How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History.

The movie was compelling.  The story is compelling.  The man is a hero.  The Canadians proved to be true allies.  It's the stuff of movies.  And it was real life.... the lives of six Americans, likely saved by Mr. Mendez.  I saw Flight (everyone remember the "chemobrain" clip I posted several days ago?) but I'm not much for movies so it's odd that I had any knowledge of anything beyond wardrobe malfunctions.

Given a comment by Charlize Theron, whom I happen to think is beautiful and genuine and one of the most talented actresses out there..... and a fabulous dancer.... and VERY tall.... I was disappointed that the documentary award was not given to "Mondays at Racine."

Since many of us pay little (or no attention) to those documentary films, I am going to get my hands on this film.

Racine Salon is located on Long Island.  They can be found on Facebook.  They are heroes and they are winners.  There are many places in this great nation where people can be found helping people.  Check that.  I'm sure I could rephrase that from "great nation" to "around the globe."  But the fact is, Racine Salon is in my backyard and that makes it extra special for me.

I need a touch up and I need a haircut and although this salon doesn't fit my usual first line criteria (no more than ten minutes from home), I will be scheduling an entire day pampering myself at their salon.  THIS is what advocacy looks like. THIS is what compassion looks like and I'm not, I'm really really really NOT taking a dig.  But THIS is what it looks like when you "buzz your head" ..... for anyone who might "highly recommend" that all women do this (buzz thing) at least once in their life.

The movie should be scheduled to be on HBO sometime soon.  Watch the trailer and then, reprinted in full from Magazine is the story behind the film.  Thank you Cynthia Wade for telling the story and thank you most of all to Cynthia and Rachel and thank you MOST especially to all of the breast cancer patients whose stories empower all of us.

They all "got up" and kudos for Cynthia Wade for noting that sometimes a story is just story and sometimes you end up being an "unintentional activist."  Here's to the (S)heroes and here's to the activists who make sure their stories are shared.

Mondays at Racine—Official Trailer from Cynthia Wade on Vimeo.

Mondays at Racine Documents Beauty Salon for Cancer Fighters

CreativeCOW presents Mondays at Racine Documents Beauty Salon for Cancer Fighters -- Indie Film & Documentary Feature

Santa Monica California USA

©2013 All rights reserved.

Filmmaker Cynthia Wade - who previously won an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject for Freeheld - has recently finished Mondays at Racine, a moving piece about two sisters who open up their beauty salon every Monday to cater to breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Focusing on two characters, the film delves deeply into the emotional lives of the women and how the salon, Racine, serves as a place of nurturing and companionship.

An Academy Award nomination isn't new territory for director Cynthia Wade, whose short subject documentaryMondays at Racine is nominated in that category. Among the numerous short documentaries she's made, she collected the gold statuette in 2008 for Freeheld.

This year, she's attending the Oscars with Mondays at Racine and some of this short documentary's main characters: Cynthia and Rachel, the two brassy Long Island sisters who open up their hair salon, Racine, every Monday to offer free beauty services for women undergoing chemotherapy, and Cambria, one of the women in the film undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Academy Award-winning Director Cynthia Wade
Mondays at Racine was an on-again and off-again project for almost three years, says Wade, who has been making films for almost 25 years. "HBO gives filmmakers so much freedom," she says. "I could have said I'll do it in six months or eight months, but sometimes these films are a labor of love and they don't look over your shoulder at HBO. It was a pleasure to take the budget and stretch it. A lot happens in 39 minutes." 

What attracts her to a project? "There are two types of documentary filmmakers: activists and storytellers," says Wade. "Sometimes the story is just a story, sometimes you end up being an unintentional activist. I like high stakes and tension and drama in the film with a strong subject and strong characters, and to do tell a powerful story of people facing insurmountable odds in a short film."

Wade found the story in Mondays at Racine from painstaking research. "This was my fifth film from HBO in a decade," she says. "It began from a side conversation about someone we knew who had to shave her head. Originally we thought it might be about nurses caring for patients going through cancer -- and there is a film that needs to be made about nurses. But my spider sense told me it was a more emotional film." 

"Then I found out that women either shave their heads in the privacy of their own home with loved ones, or in the salon where they've shared secrets and triumphs for years," she continues. "The relationship with a hairstylist can go on for years and be very close so it makes sense to go there. We started looking at salons that cater to women with cancer, and when we saw the Racine website, we called and they asked us to show up. We found two sisters with sass and humor who had lost their mother to cancer in the era when nobody used the word cancer. The fact was that they'd been offering these services quietly for ten years, and I thought that would be a good place to structure the film."

The characters of the sisters Cynthia and Rachel -- who brought some joy and levity into the film with their liveliness and humor -- also sparked her interest. "Casting is my strength -- to find the right people to tell a story that sheds light on the societal issue," she says. "The people and the connection and relationship to them is what really makes the work pleasurable and fulfilling to me.

Wade went to Racine every Monday for nearly two-and-a-half years as well as support groups and met many women over the weeks. "I chose two women whose stories complemented one another, " she says. "It's all about waiting, being patient, shooting, listening, and even following stories that don't end up in the film. You find out in editing what to keep and what to let go."

She shot Mondays at Racine with the Canon XL H1. "It is the last tape-based camera that I have used," says Wade, who also owns a Canon 5D and Canon 7D. "We started it just as shooting on cards was coming into existence and by the end, it was a bit of an outdated camera. But I was going for content over gloss and the Canon XL H1 is a workhorse camera. Given the longitudinal study of the film and that I shot a lot of it myself to get as much as three times the number of shooting days as was budgeted, this camera was the right choice." Wade also gave the women cameras to shoot video diaries and wove that footage into the film.

Working on a FCP 7 system, David Teague (who was also Wade's co-director of cinematography) worked with Wade to edit Mondays at Racine. Teague had edited several Wade documentaries, including the Oscar-winning Freeheld as well as the short documentary Born Sweet. "David and I have worked a lot together," she says. "We have the same vision. When we started this project, we both had offices in the same building in Brooklyn. By the end of the project, I was living in the Berkshires, so he ended up working alone. But I didn't need to be over his shoulder because we share the same brain. It was a pretty smooth process because we know each other so well."

Alex Noyes, who has a small sound studio, resound POST, in Brooklyn, completed the audio work. The team went toFinal Frame for the color correction, and Brian Bowoman at Nice Shoes did the animated titles, both in New York City.

After the Academy Awards, Wade is returning to a full plate of work. Freeheld is going into production as a fiction film directed by Peter Sollett and starring Ellen Page; Wade is a producer. "This is my first fiction film and I'm excited," she says. "I've always worked in non-fiction, and shooting it like fiction. It may be that I want to go into fiction. I'll have the chance to watch them work and see what that process is like. Then I'll be able to make up my mind." She is also developing a new documentary project for HBO, about an ecological disaster in Indonesia. And she continues to shoot commercials, which are informed by her work in documentaries. "I've increasingly been doing the docu-commercial work where it's real people in a setting," she says. "It's very high paced and all about the skill of casting and finding the story. It uses all my documentary skills in a commercial setting and delivering a story to a client that's selling something...but it also feels organic and natural."

Post-Oscars, Mondays at Racine is slated to air on HBO. If you like your documentaries full of heart and sass, sadness and humor, make sure to check it out.


  1. dear anne marie,

    this was a great post. now we can't wait to see. "ARGO". and i love the ben affleck quote - so true, so true.

    i just watched the "MONDAYS AT RACINE" trailer and it made me cry. such kindness, such kick-ass women. it's good you are planning a day there - cannot even imagine the vibes of THAT gig!

    i've been meaning to tell you that the new photo on yur blog is so beautiful; and i played the "TIME EQUALS LIVES" spot and it was wonderful to hear your sweet voice!

    hope you had a good monday - and that all's going well with mom.

    much love, XOXO,

    karen, TC

    1. Dearest Karen,

      HIGHLY recommend ARGO. It was excellent and I knew it was a shoe in winner. How would Hollywood NOT vote for the movie where "Hollywood" was heroic and so instrumental in the safe passage of those six Americans???!!

      Thank you for the sweet words about my photo and the video I did for Faster Cures.

      Monday was good, mom is good.... And I'm trying to see about a "new" organizing system..

      Stay tuned on that! This is about the tenth attempt at organization.....

      Much love to YOU,


  2. Awesome documentary! Also loved Argo ... and the quote by Ben!

  3. Mondays at Racine sounds like a really good film. I'm sure it is poignant, just from what's been said about it. I don't know if I could watch it without crying. I do want to see Argo.

    I've been hiatus from writing and commenting as of late, so it's good to be back. I hope your mother is doing OK. I think about you and your family often.



Something to add? Do Share!