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December 2, 2013 | By Steven Zeitchik
NORFOLK, Neb. - One night last year, Rachel Liester was waitressing at a restaurant near this rural town when she received an unusual request. A director was preparing to shoot a movie nearby, and her ticking off of the specials made her sufficiently camera-ready to merit an audition. Soon after, Liester was reading for the director, who turned out to be Oscar winner Alexander Payne. And when Payne's "Nebraska" - a coming-home father-son dramedy starring Will Forte and Bruce Dern - was released two weeks ago, there Liester was at a critical moment in the film, playing a waitress who keeps a cranky Dern honest.
November 7, 2013 | By Gary Goldstein
The depressed farming community of Medora, Ind., is the focus of the often-somber documentary appropriately titled "Medora. " The film, directed by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart, works as an earnest snapshot of a certain kind of small town that's struggling to exist amid economic downturns, shuttered workplaces and a stultifying lack of hope or progress. It's a sad commentary about people and places that get left behind - the wholesale disappearance of the American dream. As a compelling viewing experience, however, "Medora," which counts actors Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci among its executive producers, falls short as it follows members of the town's hapless high school basketball team over the course of a single school year.
September 15, 2013 | By Millie Ball
Memories of summer camp in the mountains of western North Carolina bring me back to a safe, sweet place. I can feel my face soften as I recall sitting with friends between two skinny trees, a breeze cooling our faces, canoeing in a lake and being lulled to sleep by sounds of a stream flowing over smooth rocks. Added to my childhood memories now are a lifetime of vacations within a couple of hours of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which lures 9.5 million visitors a year to its 814 square miles that straddle Tennessee and North Carolina.
September 3, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
TNT is positioning the real-life investigative procedural "Cold Justice" as reality TV's version of "Rizzoli & Isles. " But the first and perhaps most significant thing Dick Wolf's new true-crime show does is remind us how overly groomed, politically correct and inevitably romantic most scripted crime dramas are, even the good ones, even the gritty ones. Unsolved killings have provided the hook for hours of scripted television, but none have been able to capture the pathos and squalor of a small town homicide quite like "Cold Justice" does.
August 15, 2013 | By Meredith Blake
Vladimir Putin could learn a thing or two from Johnny Cummings, the openly gay mayor of the tiny but tolerant coal town of Vicco, Ky . On Wednesday night “The Colbert Report” profiled Cummings, the politician and hairdresser who helped Vicco become the smallest town in America with an ordinance on the books banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The segment was part of the recurring feature “People Who Are Destroying America” (which, in true Colbertian fashion, tends to spotlight people doing anything but)
August 13, 2013 | By Kate Mather
CASCADE, Idaho - The only sign that anything out of the ordinary happened in this quiet community sits on the southern edge of town. The electronic sign outside Ben Wellington's real estate office flashes the time and temperature - the only one in the county to do so, he proudly noted. But starting Sunday morning, a new message was added to its rotation. "Good job law enforcement. " The message could mean a few things, Wellington said. "Good job that you got him. Good job you saved her life.
July 19, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
The latest network to enlist big-screen talent and muscle its way into the original scripted-series business, Hallmark Channel premieres on Saturday its adaptation of Debbie Macomber's bestselling Cedar Cove novels. It's called "Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove," presumably to avoid any confusion among the author's built-in fan base. There is, for example, absolutely no potential crossover with fans of the similarly named "Hemlock Grove," though it is set in the kind of small rocky Northern coastal American town other authors do tend to fill up with vampires (Stephen King to the East, Stephenie Meyer to the West)
July 3, 2013 | By Diana Marcum
CAYUCOS, Calif. - One day each year, this beach town of less than 3,000 residents becomes among the most populous places on the Central Coast. Some 30,000 people show up for a parade featuring floats that locals have worked on for at least two or three days before the event, children doing cartwheels and - when they aren't otherwise booked - marching bands. There's a heavy law enforcement presence, partly guaranteed by the barbecue that Bill and Carol's Sea Shanty prepares for officers.
July 3, 2013 | By Martha Groves
Jim McGinn, a TV writer and producer, moved into his Pacific Palisades home on July 1, 1967. Three days later, the world, or so it seemed, streamed by the neighborhood newbie's front door. "That's when we found out about the parade," McGinn said. Pacific Palisades' two-hour Fourth of July procession - replete with bands, dogs wearing flag bandannas and kids riding bunting-bedecked bikes - is the centerpiece of the coastal enclave's rapturous celebration of Independence Day. "It is not the Rose Bowl Parade, with million-dollar floats coming down the street, but it is one of the best hometown parades you're going to see," said Robert Weber, 45, president of the Palisades Americanism Parade Assn., the organizing committee.
June 13, 2013 | By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department and the state of Arkansas filed suit against the oil giant ExxonMobil over a March 29 pipeline rupture that spilled 210,000 gallons of oil into a residential neighborhood and waterways in the small town of Mayflower. The spill prompted evacuations, killed wildlife, polluted wetlands and a lake, and stirred health complaints from people living near the rupture site, north of Little Rock. In the suit filed in federal district court, the Justice Department seeks civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act. The Arkansas attorney general is also pursuing civil penalties for violations of the Arkansas Hazardous Waste Management Act and the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act. The state also seeks to have ExxonMobil pay for all cleanup and removal costs under the federal Oil Pollution Act. The ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline split open just as the Obama administration entered the final phases of review for the far bigger, controversial Keystone XL pipeline, handing ammunition to opponents who say that Keystone's path from Canada through major rivers such as the Platte and the Missouri and over the Ogallala aquifer, the main freshwater source for the Great Plains, could lead to a catastrophe.
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