Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Arts Express: Prescription Thugs, Native American Jim Crow; Workplace Satire On The Small Screen

**Prescription Thugs: A Conversation With Director Chris Bell. So what exactly is going on with the deadly prescription drug epidemic in this country. And the filling of overflowing prisons with the incarcerated serving draconian sentences for illegal drugs, seemingly to make way for the legal prescription thug peddlers - pharmaceutical corporations in league with doctors and drugstores - moving in and taking over the business. And raking in billions in the process. Filmmaker Chris Bell talks Prescription Thugs, taking it personally as well as publicly in this documentary, with the related tragic death of his own brother. Welcome to 'The United States of Addiction.'


**Mark McKinney Talks Superstore, Saturday Night Live: The Canadian born actor, writer and comedian, best known for SNL and Kids In The Hall, is on the line from LA to talk about the working stiff audience appeal of stinging workplace comedy after hours, in Superstore. And a small screen satire in which he stars as a befuddled boss along with America Ferrara's department store drudge, and touching on hot topics including race, gender and labor unions. Also, terror and fear on SNL; differences between the American and Canadian sense of humor linked to geography The Sopranos and what led McKinney into acting; and depression in comedians connected to a broken world and possibly fascism.

**Nicholas Sparks Discusses The Choice: The popular novelist phones in to Arts Express to talk about the page to screen, latest adaptation of one of his books. Sparks also fields questions about his First Nation surrogate father, how that relationship has informed his life journey, and what he learned from him about Native American Jim Crow in this country. Also, why writing the last page of a book is always the most fulfilling moment of writing for him.

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY and the Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Arts Express - Star Wars: The Emperor's Old Clothes

                                           Banksy On Target

First, the disclaimer that no, I am not now nor have I ever been a Star Wars junkie. Which may make for a far less receptive critique in the face of those throngs of worshipful masses in question. But on the other hand, an exceedingly more impartial position viewing a film that should stand on its own merits, and not propped up by a built in fan base. Or for that matter, clearly intimidated critic colleagues who may say one thing publicly, but whisper something quite different off camera. Though which situates any neutrality in the discomforting position of say, an atheist taking to the podium at a church service.

Brandishing both a wand and a wink at audiences and splitting itself in catch-all mode somewhere between colossal and cartoonish, the latest, future ironically as past preaching to the choir Star Wars saga continues with this seventh entry billed as Episode VII - The Force Awakens. And the first financed by Disney.

Embarking as a brand new trilogy, and make no mistake with equal if not more emphasis on brand as in merchandising, The Force Awakens follows as aftermath to Return Of The Jedi.The inter-generational proceedings find Ford's Solo and Carrie Fisher's Leia mixing in with newcomers John Boyega as black intergalactic superhero combat soldier turned whistleblower Finn. And Daisy Ridley's fierce female insurgent Rey, with an obedient robotic boy toy following behind. Along with a hide and seek narrative as second fiddle to the main character centerpiece - war and weaponry - encircling a lost and found plot point quest for Luke Skywalker.

And though slim plot points are dangled before enraptured audiences who essentially need none because just being there is what it's all about, the real main attraction as the farce awakens so to speak, is blowing things up. And in more ways than one, whether the interminable explosions or offscreen blown out of proportion franchise collectibles to come. Or have very likely already arrived.

So what inevitably ensues is less of a focus on all the paradoxical cartoonish carnage and mayhem in progress on screen, than interest in what's up with the popcorn and Kool-Aid ingesting swooning audiences in the theaters. And the strange notion of this breathlessly anticipated theatrical event in a nation traumatized by endless wars in the real world - in a country that even before its founding has been at war for 214 out of the 235 years of existence. And with most in the audience never knowing a time in their own lives without US wars, assaults and invasions around the planet.

So why the massive flocking to theaters to pay for more war and massacre, military slaughter, fear and terror as spectacle - and dare I say, entertainment. Perhaps in bizarre, safe space psychological mode, akin to controlled demolition of buildings - as opposed to say, the helplessly unanticipated public trauma of 9/11.

And war itself, co-starring state of the art weaponry, as the biggest moneymaker for this country enriching both the military industrial complex and Hollywood. Along with the Pentagon's lucrative sideline as the major props department in movies, with inevitable final cut privilege over how they get portrayed. 

Okay, my two cents, there it is. And likely the fate that awaits this intrepid critic: Let the haters be with you. Bring it on.

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY and the Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.

*George Lucas Thumbs Down Review Of The Force Awakens - But He Won't Be Told Like Me, That His Vagina Hurts

The Dark Side Of George Lucas' $4bn Star Wars Sale: Filmmaker Compares Disney To 'White Slavers'...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Arts Express Global Television Beat: Paris, Copenhagen Phoning In

Director Joshua Oppenheimer Comforts Indonesian Victim Survivor At The Screening Of The Look Of Silence

**Broe On The World Television Beat: Professor Broe on location in Paris, is on the line to Arts Express conceptualizing how the post-9/11 world order is restored each week on the small screen. Broe also reports on updates regarding the fallout from the Climate Conference, French martial law, and the latest developments regarding the refugee crisis there.


**Joshua Oppenheimer Talks The Look of Silence: The director phones in from Copenhagen to discuss the documentary followup to his provocative The Act of Killing. Naming the names of Indonesian genocidal anti-communist death squads and the shadow government there, enabled by CIA intervention. And this sequel focusing on the victims and survivors of the government sanctioned atrocities.

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY and the Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Women Film Critics Circle Award Nominations 2015

        Carey Mulligan Nominated as Best Female Action Hero

The Women Film Critics Circle has announced its 2O15 unique nominations for the best movies this year by and about women. And outstanding achievements by women, who rarely get to be honored historically in the film world.

The Women Film Critics Circle is an association of 75 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.

The Keeping Room

Diary Of A Teenage Girl: Marielle Heller
Mustang: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Suffragette: Sarah Gavron
The Second Mother: Anna Muylaert

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
Carol: Phyllis Nagy
Mustang: Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour
Room: Emma Donoghue
Suffragette: Abi Morgan

Alicia Vikander: Testament Of Youth
Carey Mulligan: Suffragette
Cate Blanchett: Carol
Charlotte Rampling: 45 Years

Abraham Attah: Beasts Of No Nation
Andrew Garfield: 99 Homes
Bryan Cranston: Trumbo
Eddie Redmayne: The Danish Girl

Bel Powley: Diary Of A Teenage Girl
Brie Larson: Room
Dakota Fanning: Effie Gray
Saoirse Ronan: Brooklyn

Amy Schumer: Trainwreck
Greta Gerwig: Mistress America
Maggie Smith: Lady In the Van
Melissa McCarthy: Spy

The Second Mother

Mad Max: Fury Road
Testament Of Youth

Everly: All the women
Jurassic World: Bryce Dallas Howard
Fifty Shades Of Grey: Dakota Johnson
Trumbo: Helen Mirren

Bridge Of Spies
Lady In The Van
Mr. Holmes

Magic Mike XXL
Steve Jobs
The Big Short

Sworn Virgin
The Book Of Negroes
The Dressmaker

The Second Mother


Angelina Jolie: By The Sea
Sarah Gavron: Suffragette

*COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]
Brie Larson: Room
Julianne Moore: Freeheld

*THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD: [Performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]
Julianne Moore: Freeheld
Alicia Vikander: The Danish Woman

He Named Me Malala
India's Daughter
What Happened, Miss Simone?

45 Years: Charlotte Rampling/Tom Courtenay
Freeheld: Julianne Moore/Ellen Page
Iris: Iris Apfel/Albert Maysles
Room: Brie Larson/Jacob Tremblay

Mad Max: Charlize Theron
Sicario: Emily Blunt
Suffragette: Carey Mulligan
The Keeping Room: Brit Marling

Cinderella: Cate Blanchett
Diary Of A Teenage Girl: Kristen Wiig

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women
He Named Me Malala
India's Daughter

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America
The Keeping Room: Muna Otaru
What Happened, Miss Simone?

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

ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: Adrienne Shelly was a promising actress and filmmaker who was brutally strangled in her apartment in 2006 at the age of forty by a construction worker in the building, after she complained about noise. Her killer tried to cover up his crime by hanging her from a shower rack in her bathroom, to make it look like a suicide. He later confessed that he was having a "bad day." Shelly, who left behind a baby daughter, had just completed her film Waitress, which she also starred in, and which was honored at Sundance after her death.

JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: The daughter of a laundress and a musician, Baker overcame being born black, female and poor, and marriage at age fifteen, to become an internationally acclaimed legendary performer, starring in the films Princess Tam Tam, Moulin Rouge and Zou Zou. She also survived the race riots in East St. Louis, Illinois as a child, and later expatriated to France to escape US racism. After participating heroically in the underground French Resistance during WWII, Baker returned to the US where she was a crusader for racial equality. Her activism led to attacks against her by reporter Walter Winchell who denounced her as a communist, leading her to wage a battle against him. Baker was instrumental in ending segregation in many theaters and clubs, where she refused to perform unless integration was implemented.

KAREN MORLEY AWARD: Karen Morley was a promising Hollywood star in the 1930s, in such films as Mata Hari and Our Daily Bread. She was driven out of Hollywood for her leftist political convictions by the Blacklist and for refusing to testify against other actors, while Robert Taylor and Sterling Hayden were informants against her. And also for daring to have a child and become a mother, unacceptable for female stars in those days. Morley maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Trumbo: Naming Names - Richly Satirical Roll Call Outing The Hollywood Blacklist Persecutors Instead

While most movies are just movies and nothing more, there are some that stand out, not only as exemplary social artifacts succinctly representative of their historical moment in time. But in the case of a raw visionary work like the striking dramatic feature Trumbo, a mainstream film that could in no way have been made before now.

In other words, it took another century and a generation at least once removed from the traumatic  state terror of the 20th century McCarthy period in the United States, to grasp a clear sense of the repression and harm done to the ensuing damaged population and soul of a people. And to at least have partially recovered from that reeling PTSD emanating from the anti-communist purges in this country back then. And oddly enough, without a collective clue, subconsciously or otherwise, as to why or how it all ended up this way.

And a shameful US history so concealed and buried, that any collective consciousness sense of recall is a blurred vision of a barely conceived political reality today. In which nowhere beyond the left and alternative media in this country, is there a discussion or even awareness of why communist candidates flourish in national elections elsewhere around the world, but in the United States a mainstream politician would be as likely to declare themselves a communist ideologically, as running on the pedophile ticket.

But Trumbo, as courageously and candidly scripted by John McNamara and based on the Bruce Cook biography, unearths that repressive time when, following WW II during which the Soviet Union in the vanguard of defeating Nazi Germany and an ally and friend, became demonized instead as an emerging world power and a formidable ideological competitor to capitalism. And suddenly those Americans with communist ideals and affiliations were deemed criminals, and were in substantial numbers systematically destroyed economically, imprisoned and driven into exile or suicides.

And among those were the politically outspoken Hollywood filmmakers like Dalton Trumbo, brave and unrepentant, and willing to sacrifice their careers and even freedom as political prisoners, and known as the Hollywood Ten. And as conceived with cartoonish satirical flair by director Jay Roach in 'I'm a communist and it's okay' Trumbo, these movie martyrs are afforded not only celebratory redemption from a dark period in time, but in the stinging wit devised to 'name names', there's a bold switchup in exposing by roll call instead, the Hollywood honcho and actor villains who perpetrated the horror.

Likewise commendable, is that while most conventional and misleading recollections of that period tend to portray HUAC's accused communists as either dupes or a case of mistaken identity, this film not only defiantly declares personal ideological convictions to be a civil right, but that one can be a communist and proud. A point which is perhaps most vividly emphasized in a conversation Trumbo has with his young daughter in one scene where she asks, am I a communist too. And he replies through a compelling anecdote that, yes you are if you share your lunch with a hungry classmate in school.

And Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, who winks his way with determined honor and devilish dignity through the subversive escapades as Trumbo, disappears so thoroughly into this role - as Trumbo himself triumphantly did when demolishing the Blacklist by continuing to write scripts under assumed names - that if he doesn't grab this year's Oscar for Best Actor, there's no justice at that podium. Along with supporting actor John Goodman as a producer and Trumbo ally, who relishes a more furiously confrontational approach to dealing with a studio red baiter stopping by.

And a stage in question which sixteen years ago, shamefully saw the lavish honoring of the Blacklist's supreme snitch, Elia Kazan, while many Academy members immune from that convenient memory lapse protested during the Oscar ceremony. So will the Oscars this year celebrate a movie that not only emphatically redeems their persecuted colleagues but ironically accuses and shakes up Hollywood itself as the perpetrator? An Academy Award moment that will surely be indelibly inscribed in movie history.

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY and the Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Carey Mulligan Talks Suffragette: 'Feminism Isn't Anti-Male'

**Exclusive: Carey Mulligan, the female action hero extraordinaire star of Suffragette, is on the line to Arts Express to describe the tremendous effect of this most important passion project for her. And above all, being part of movies that matter in the world. Along with the privilege of portraying a workingclass female swept into the struggle for women's rights in England a century ago, and ''the chance to play someone ordinary who becomes extraordinary, finding her own voice despite everything."
 And not unlike in some ways, Mulligan's own struggle in the male dominated film world, enduring "a fair number of years in my career just trying to sort of be polite. And you know, worrying about having my voice heard. Or, worrying that I couldn't get my voice heard. Or that I would need to sort of man up to get my voice heard."
Mulligan also praised the courageous red carpet rebel female takeover protesting domestic violence at the London premiere of Suffragette. And that "if people want to use the film as a platform to talk about things that matter, then that's brilliant."


**The Activist: A political thriller surrounding the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee, and starring Lakota Nation actor Michael Spears. A conversation with the film's director, screenwriter and composer, Cyril Morin. And touching on Nixon, Nam, economic sacrifice zones, uranium, tanks, Leonard Peltier, Brando, Johnny Depp and 12 Angry Men.

**Hard Labor: A socio-economic workplace horror thriller conjuring the metaphorical legacy of fascism and repression in Brazil. Filmmakers Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas phone in to talk about the fusion of politics, history and horror in the movie, delving into joblessness, werewolves, money, racism, slave shackles, interrogations, Brazilian historical amnesia surrounding military repression, and the beast behind the merchandise rack in a local grocery store.

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY and the Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Arts Express: Halloween Visitation, Yiddish Death Of A Salesman, Musical Muse On Stage

**Halloween Visitation: Cult Horror Director Sam Raimi Drops In. Delving into the various dark motives fueling his new small screen series debuting on Halloween weekend, Ash vs. Evil Dead And joined by the star and longtime collaborator, Bruce Campbell, as they hold forth on why movies should be hard to make; the joy and fulfillment of frightening audiences with the unknown; mirrors; pause buttons; and the art and challenge of leading actors off the cliff in movies.

**Death Of A Salesman In Yiddish: A radically new theatrical interpretation. This emotionally stinging story of a man caught up in the illusions of the American Dream, achieves a further resonance touching on the plight of immigrants, and performed with English super-titles projected on stage. Included in this segment are interviews with the current director and star of the Arthur Miller play, and a compilation of past clips of the various productions with recorded reflections and conversations with the late Arthur Miller, on this centennial commemoration year of his birth. And touching on his struggles against the Blacklist, and against Columbia Pictures as well in its McCarthyite attempt to bury the film and its anti-capitalist elements.


** Music Corner: Multi-talented classical concert pianist, poet, singer and filmmaker Hannah Reimann performs her tribute to music legend Joni Mitchell, recreating her body of work on stage. Arts Express stopped by to catch the show, and talk to Reimann about why Mitchell resonates as her chosen muse; how the piano led her down the creative path to poetry, and raising awareness about Alzheimer's with a film she's putting together in tribute to her dad - My Father's House. And how of all this in one way or another helped her heal, and 'allowed me to feel whole again when I felt broken into a million pieces.'

Prairie Miller

Arts Express: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY and the Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations.