Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Arts Express: Vincent D'Onofrio Talks 'In Dubious Battle'

** I think yeah, it means something to contribute to a story about human rights, it just always does - and there's just never a reason not to do it."

In Dubious Battle: A conversation with actor Vincent D'Onofrio. The star of this John Steinbeck novel to screen adaptation about farm worker uprising in Great Depression California, is on the line to Arts Express to talk about his passion to take on the character of a rebel labor leader in this James Franco directed dramatic feature. And "the thrill of guerrilla shooting of the film, down and dirty, and no frills." While being part of a film, not unlike his roles in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Spike Lee's Malcolm X, and starring as Abbie Hoffman in Steal This Movie, that speaks as well to the troubled times of this historical moment today.


** "I'm a journalist, that's what I do, speaking to people whose opinions are totally different to mine - kind of having them shout at me, that's what I live for."

My Scientology Movie: Filmmaker Louis Theroux phones in. The BBC satirical journalist ventures into the murky depths of the intimidating religious corporate empire. Casting himself as the protagonist on a co-journey with a former leader turned whistleblower defector, Marty Rathbun. While uncovering why the Feds gave a pass to the church despite their many civil rights violations charges, and what it might have to do with 'consensual self-abasement'; and what's up with the possible connection of Scientology to ISIS and even McDonald's - as a corporate franchise serving up spiritual burgers instead.

 ** "Thank you to the Academy for endorsing the truth of what the film says, which hundreds of thousands of people in this country know - that the most vulnerable and poorest people are treated by the government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful."

Best Film of The Year Not Coming To the Oscars Anytime Soon: Esteemed UK veteran director Ken Loach has just been honored for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards in Great Britain, in addition to multiple international accolades and the Palme D'Or top prize at Cannes. But the kind of movie about social and economic oppression routinely snubbed by the Oscars for conventional fare instead. Loach in his award speech denounces just who is responsible for the brutality of the system seen in his film - and we'll hear exactly whom he blames and why.

Arts Express: Airing on the WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Arts Express: Stephen Dorff Talks Wheeler

Adam Clayton Powell, Jim Crow Capitol Hill; Trump, Clint Eastwood, Deplorables; Popular Front Westerns, Travis Bickle, PTSD, The Communist Party, Class Warfare, Hollywood, The Great Depression

** "The election is what it is, and we're all in a Fellini movie right now."

Stephen Dorff Talks Wheeler: The actor perhaps best known for portraying possibly the fifth Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe in Backbeat, is on the line from LA to delve into his new movie which he co-wrote, stars in, and composed the music for. And an innovative style of filmmaking that arose out of the songs first, with drama then following spontaneously - and what might be termed a musical mockumentary road movie. In which Dorff as the aspiring country musician title character Wheeler, journeys from Texas to Nashville in a quest for creative human connections and understanding. Along with disguising his appearance and interacting with real heartland people along the way for real - and who had no idea. While discussing as well, Trump, immigrants, Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, deplorables, and anonymity versus fame.


** "He ignited the Civil Rights Movement before there was a Civil Rights Movement."

Theater Corner: Adam. A one man show immersed in the life and extraordinary achievements of mid-20th century pastor, political activist and Harlem Congressman, Adam Clayton Powell. Actor Timothy Simonson, who depicts the charismatic civil rights leader on stage, in a conversation about Powell's legacy and challenges - including the struggle to desegregate Congress itself, the cafeteria, barber shop and gym there, deeply entrenched in Dixiecrat Jim Crow mandates back then. And Simonson basically portraying Powell in his own words as, "an elegant figure on the stage with only a chair, coat rack, and a few change of clothes." Chris Butters reports.

** "The problem was that there was not a sufficient presence of a left wing repudiation, so they ended up finding a voice within the right."

Book Corner - Taxi Searchers: John Wayne, Robert De Niro, And The Meaning Of America. Author and self-described stamp collector raised by wolves, Andrew Stewart of the Rhode Island Media Collective plummets the depths of what's wrong with US society right now, in its rabid turn to the right. Which is the subject of his new anthology of culture and politics channeling American gun culture and the militia mentality, John Ford's designated Popular Front westerns, Travis Bickle, PTSD, the Communist Party, Trump, class warfare, Hollywood and the Great Depression.

An unusually conceived production that may be referred to as a musical mockumentary road movie, Wheeler stars Stephen Dorff, who also co-wrote and composed the music for the film. Which actually uniquely and spontaneously arose out of the country music first created for this movie.
The regional, emotionally raw salt of the earth heartland journey from Texas to Nashville, follows the creative aspirations of the title character, in search of human connection and creative understanding -  and not simply recognition.
Dorff may be most familiar to audiences in his offbeat turns as the star of John Waters' Cecil B. Demented, as Candy Darling in I Shot Andy Warhol, and the very possibly fifth Stuart Sutcliffe in Backbeat. But with Wheeler, the multi-talented actor musician was in search of something very different to convey on screen, while mingling in facial disguise with real people along the way - who had no idea.
The on screen proceedings drop hints regarding Dorff himself of celebrityhood versus anonymity that come with the ambivalence of fame. And a possibly personal closeted desire to slip into another person's random skin and out of the limelight, for a change.
All of which presents an intriguing concept for a movie, though with mixed results. Where the audience is fully aware of what's taking place - though the clueless cast may be a plot device more prone to distraction than depth.
Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on the WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Arts Express: Algee Smith Talks Untitled Detroit Project

** "I want people to understand that there hasn't been a change in 50 years, what you see in this movie is still going on today. And it's really a reflection of how far we haven't come."

Actor Algee Smith Talks Untitled Detroit Project: And his starring role in Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow's historic urban uprising drama to be released this summer, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion. And while possibly dropping hints that he may, or may not, be playing Stevie Wonder in the movie.
The 22 year old actor/musician talks as well about starring in The New Edition Story television mini-series, in which his real life character R&B singer Ralph Tresvant, along with Bobby Brown, rose out of the inner city Roxbury boy group in Boston. Currently airing on BET.

** "Important to me was that we could represent ourselves, the way we were."
Remembering Mary Tyler Moore.
On the line to Arts Express is Susan Silver, one of the original writers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as Maude and other '70s sitcoms back then. And in fact, one of the first of women writing sitcoms in that male dominated television world, period. Silver shares memories of how she and Moore provocatively redefined the images and perceptions of women on and off the small screen, forever. Including having something to do with Norman Lear's ex-wife and Bea Arthur, and the male sitcom writers wanting to walk around the office in their underwear. And, one NY Times fake news revelation Silver at first hesitated to share.

** I'm seeing some encouraging dynamics that are coming through the midst of all this chaos."
Sister Station Conversations: An exchange with WBAI Radio's Savona Bailey-McClain, host of State Of The Arts
. And the timely topics on the table with Arts Express co-host Mary Ann Miller, are hopes and predictions in the arts this new year. Touching on creative trends, the Trump effect, and factoring in one Chinese curse described as a blessing.

** "I think we can expect more escalation, more hawkish policies, more turmoil."
In the Arts Express Book Corner, Middle East foreign correspondent and author Reese Erlich
phones in from Boston to discuss his new book from the inside looking out, 'Inside Syria: The Backstory Of Their Civil War, And What The World Can Expect.' Referencing US propaganda techniques around the world; the colonialist creation of false borders in Syria; the refugee crisis and the humanitarian excuse; getting shot at by the Israeli military during the First Intifada; and Erlich's own experience himself as a victim of fake news.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Women Film Critics Circle Nomination Award Picks For 2016

The Women Film Critics Circle Nomination Award Picks For 2016: Hidden Figures and Loving Sweep The Nominations 

The Women Film Critics Circle has announced its 2O16 nominations for the best movies this year by and about women, and outstanding achievements by women, who get to be rarely honored historically, in the film world.
The Women Film Critics Circle is an association of 80 women film critics and scholars from around the country and internationally, who are involved in print, radio, online and TV broadcast media. They came together in 2004 to form the first women critics’ organization in the United States, in the belief that women’s perspectives and voices in film criticism need to be recognized fully. WFCC also prides itself on being the most culturally and racially diverse critics group in the country by far, and best reflecting the diversity of movie audiences.

Critical Women On Film, a presentation of The Women Film Critics Circle, is their journal of discussion and theory. And a gathering of women’s voices expressing a fresh and differently experienced perspective from the primarily male dominated film criticism world.

Certain Women
Hidden Figures
20th Century Women

Certain Women
Queen Of Katwe
The Dressmaker

                           AVA DUVERNAY, DIRECTOR OF 13TH

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt
Equity, Amy Fox
Maggie's Plan, Rebecca Miller
13TH, Ava Duvernay

Rebecca Hall, Christine
Taraji P.  Henson, Hidden Figures
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

                                 REBECCA HALL IS CHRISTINE

Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Matthew McConaughey, Free State Of Jones
Christopher Plummer, Remember


Sasha Lane, American Honey
Roylaty Hightower, The Fits
Madina Nalwanga, Queen Of Katwe
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge Of Seventeen

Judy Davis, The Dressmaker
Sally Field, Hello My Name is Doris
Greta Gerwig, Maggie's Plan
Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters

The Handmaiden
Things To Come
Toni Erdmann

Audrie & Daisy
Miss Sarah Jones
The Eagle Huntress

Certain Women
Hidden Figures
Queen Of Katwe

Neighbors 2
Nocturnal Animals [The obese naked women dancing]
Zoolander 2

Free State Of Jones


Dirty Grandpa
Frank & Lola
Zoolander 2


Hidden Figures
The Dressmaker
20th Century Women


Ava Duvernay, 13TH
Janet Grillo, Jack Of The Red Hearts
Meera Menon, Equity
Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
Rebecca Hall, Christine
Zoe Saldana, Nina

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against womenAmerican Honey
Audrie & Daisy
The Uncondemned

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America

Hidden Figures

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman's place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
Hidden Figures
Things To Come

*THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD: [Performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]

Lily Gladstone, Certain Women
Rebecca Hall, Christine
The women of Hidden Figures
Theresa Saldana, Nina



Emma Watson, Colonia
The women of Free State Of Jones
The women of Ghostbusters
Wonder Woman: Gal Gadot in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Mila Kunis, Bad Moms
Laura Linney, Nocturnal Animals
Emma Thompson, Barney Thomson
Renée Zellweger, The Whole Truth

"I believe the characters we read on the page become more real than the men who stand beside us." - Jackie



Geena Davis: She has put in many decades of political service to feminist causes and has never held back even when speaking out could potentially harm her career. Her screen roles reinforce her beliefs. The Geena Davis Institute does research and advocacy.

Jane Fonda: For a lifetime of activism both on screen and off. 

Emma Watson: UN Goodwill Ambassador, tells the UN General Assembly that universities need to be a safe space against campus sexual and racial assault, for women and people of color.

Shailene Woodley: For standing with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and jailed for her activism there.

Julia Andrews
Annette Bening
Martha Coolidge
Viola Davis

Hidden Figures

Finding Dory
Your Name  

Hidden Figures
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Queen Of Katwe

WFCC Hall Of Shame
Women Dating Their Rapists In Movies:
Frank & Lola
Sunset Song


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Arts Express: James Baldwin, The Other John Brown, Iceland Uprising, Class And Cyberspace

    The Other John Brown: Aaron Briggs And The HMS Gaspee

 **I Am Not Your Negro: Director Raoul Peck completes the late African American writer James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript in this speculative documentary. A memoir in tribute to Baldwin's three assassinated Civil Rights era comrades, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. While Samuel Jackson remarkably disappears into the persona of Baldwin on screen. At the NY Film Festival and opening in theaters later this year. A commentary.

**Filmmaker Andrew Stewart Talks Aaron Briggs And The HMS Gaspee.
Delving into the buried history of Northern slavery. And a very different John Brown linked to a shameful and brutal Rhode Island past of chains, ships, sugar cane and molasses used as slave trade currency, and the roots of globalization funded by slavery back then.


**"You're Not The Master Of The Universe." Australian actor James Frecheville phones in from LA to discuss the cyberthriller, I.T. And going toe to toe as a young hacker have-not, with the filthy rich financier played by Pierce Brosnan. While Frecheville and I disagree.

**Autumn Lights: Actor Guy Kent in a conversation about his dramatic feature filmed in Iceland, in search of an emotional landscape amidst the remote isolation, dark themes, and endless surreal light of the midnight sun. Along with what Kent encountered about mass uprising against the Icelandic bankers, and the victorious emergence of the rebel Pirate Party shaking up the government there.

More information about the NY Film Festival is online at

 LOVING: "All this talk of civil rights. You need to get you some civil rights."

Hollywood stories on screen about courageous struggles against social injustice are rare. But dramas delving into workingclass life from their own perspective, particularly when true, are even fewer and far between.

Which is exactly what renders the dramatic biopic Loving a unique moment in movies - indeed in film culture itself. The true story of the Virginia interracial, salt of the earth couple The Lovings, who challenged the Virginia criminal statutes against their marriage back in the mid-20th century as the Civil Rights Movement uprisings loomed and exploded, is uncommonly compassionate, raw and real on screen.

Playing out in rural Virginia back then, Jeff Nichols' Loving with its determined and resonant double meaning as a title, revisits the tragic but ultimately triumphant events that befell Richard and pregnant Mildred Loving when their forbidden marriage in the Jim Crow South but performed in DC, is discovered by local authorities. Following their arrests, the couple, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Neggia, flee to inner city DC.

But Mildred, homesick for the only rural life she ever knew, insists they and their three children  return and live there in secrecy. But not before Mildred, inspired by images of the Civil Rights Movement protests on television, contacts Robert Kennedy Jr. for legal assistance. And his referral to the ACLU eventually leads to the historic US Supreme Court case overturning all existing laws against interracial marriage across this country.

But this enormously inspiring story is also noted for it's genuinely conceived, salt of the earth portrait of blue collar culture - and bricklayer Richard Loving's politically unconscious sense of the world -  yet vividly etched in terms of an adamant and unrelenting notion of right and wrong. There is as well within this narrative much that is conveyed, however tacitly, about race relations and racial identity, even under the oppressive weight of Jim Crow segregation.

And in particular for Richard, a white man reared along with other whites there, in a predominantly black rural community existing rather remotely from the institutionalized brutal racism going down in Virginia. Rendering in a larger, tremendously optimistic context, how spontaneous racial harmony and relations can actually be, when untainted by politically motivated repression unnaturally imposed on people through manufactured difference and fear.

And that these two characters, Richard and Mildred are played with such exquisitely conveyed humanity by an Australian and Ethiopian actor respectively, lends additional resonance and enlightenment to a planet in great need of such hope in these troubled times.

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network And Affiliate Stations

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Arts Express: Rapists In The White House

**Accused Rapists In The White House - No Matter Who Wins The Election. Whether Donald Trump, or co-president and aspiring First Lewd-y, Bill Clinton. CNN reporter and The Uncondemned filmmaker Michele Mitchell on the hot seat.

** "I'm a journalist first and a human being second"
The Lennon Report: A conversation with Jeremy Profe, the director of this dramatic feature revisiting the night John Lennon died. Along with an indictment of an out of control commercial media and celebrity culture.

** "Don't worry about me" Tom Hayden, The Last Interview.


**Bro On The World Film Beat: Arts Express Paris correspondent Professor Dennis Broe phones in. Delving into the politics of horror in movies, leading up to Halloween. And referencing the stifling of all collective feeling; the history of military and religious fanaticism in the western; the contemporary US urban nightmare; villainizing the masses; and a sadism reflecting Middle East colonial wars.

** "Please don't call rape a sex crime"
CNN reporter Michele Mitchell is on the line to Arts Express to talk about her documentary, The Uncondemned
. Detailing internationally unprecedented war crimes trials in Rwanda, indicting rape as a weapon of war. While fielding questions during the interview, about why this country has always evaded or ignored their own war crimes charges. Along with accusations against CNN and the corporate media, of biased news. And Accused Rapists In The White House - no matter who wins the election. Whether Donald Trump, or co-president and aspiring First Lewd-y, Bill Clinton.


Delving into the life, work, politics and literary imagination of African American writer and activist James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro mixes recollections, period footage of both the writer and historical events primarily surrounding the turbulent years of the US Civil Rights Movement - and readings from Baldwin's work delivered by Samuel Jackson. Who seemingly in a bid not to overshadow the iconic scribe with his own dramatic charisma, has disappeared so entirely into Baldwin's persona as to create a mystifying lost and found entity of himself within this production.

That said, Jackson is perhaps one of the most intriguing elements within the crafting of this screen memoir. A somewhat disorganized collage constructed by Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck which, rather than building political and dramatic momentum and comprehension, shifts indecisively at repeated moments just when a propulsive point is about to be made. And an implication concerning the cinematic outsider's point of view about US culture that can often be an asset objectively speaking, but with the potential of, on the other hand, lending itself to unfamiliarity and uncertainty as well. 

I Am Not Your Negro is based on Remember This House, an unfinished manuscript at the time of Baldwin's passing in 1987, that had been compiled as a memoir of his recollections of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. And for this both personal and political record of the Civil Rights era, Peck has impressively amassed assorted historical and literary material 

What is ultimately lacking, is a coherent fusion of what has been gathered, along with serious omissions. Including a nowhere in sight ideological embrace by Baldwin of a social struggle going beyond race to advocate a massive societal shakeup and revolution - as exemplified in the parallel ideological class conscious evolution of Martin and Malcolm on whose lives this film is based - and actual significant factors leading to their assassinations, in effect turning against the entire system itself. Why Peck chose to ignore this essential evidence is disappointing, but here it is in Baldwin's own words at a District 65 union meeting:

"...It is not simply a question of equality. It is impossible for any Negro in this country to be fitted into the social structure as it is. The structure must be changed...The point is that neither party can move on this question. Both are useless in this revolution."

Leading to Peck's objectionable conclusion that Baldwin would have felt his life work and struggle against racism complete were he still alive, with the ultimate election of a black president, Barak Obama. Indeed. A leader who has done nothing to improve the lives of African Americans, while presiding over a society and economy further impoverishing people of color and continuing to incarcerate them in the millions, while having nothing to say as they are murdered in the streets by the enforcers of an evolving police state.

Along with a dubious, enormously positive critical response to the documentary so far, which begs the question of Baldwin's intent to disturb and provoke, not placate the mindset of white privilege and guilt-free self-satisfaction when it comes to racism.  And with the apparently ironic effect of the film twisting the notion of The Other, not as oppressed people of color in this alternate pandering context, but instead as not me, but 'those whites over there.'

So the question of I Am Not Your Negro, might have been posed by Baldwin, directly to Peck instead.

Prairie Miller
Host and Executive Producer, Arts Express
WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations