Monday, May 29, 2017

Arts Express: Camilla Hall Talks Copwatch; 96 Souls, Cannes, Sgt. Pepper At 50


** "There is a much broader debate in America, about whose right it is to tell a story."

UK filmmaker and journalist Camilla Hall is on the line from LA to delve into her documentary, Copwatch. Spotlighting just how activists have organized together to do counter-surveillance on the police across this country, who are engaging in perpetrating racist sanctioned brutality and murders - and as part of the evolving mass movement video revolution. And in particular, the police murder of Eric Garner, and the ongoing defense of Ramsey Orta who's been railroaded for filming that murder - in a series of retaliatory arrests and imprisonments targeting him. With music by The Peace Poets. A Tribeca Film Festival feature.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "The always wonderful Marion Cotillard returns from the dead, to briefly breathe life into a film that retrogressively celebrates the director's Peter Pan syndrome as a mark of genius."

Bro On The World Film Beat: Arts Express Paris correspondent Professor Dennis Broe, continuing his followup on location reports from the Cannes Film Festival. And what's been going down there artistically and politically, including: A scathing critique of Russian deep capitalism consumer society playing out post-socialism; the post-colonial projection on Bulgaria of Germanic might in direct relation to its Nazi past; the scenario of a new form of bio-medical exploitation benefiting Big Pharma; the worst film of the festival, sprinkling references to James Joyce, Melville and Hitchcock; and plenty of President Macron predictions offscreen, into the fall.

  
** "That sort of irreverence and willingness to experiment, and that courage and being willing to fall on their faces, I think that's part of what makes the music so exhilarating now."

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album. And phoning in to Arts Express to ponder the wild when not weird eternal legacy of the Beatles on this occasion, is Rolling Stone journalist and author Rob Sheffield. Reflecting on why their music has endured through the decades, and how the group transformed popular music as both entertainment and art. Sheffield's book on the subject is Dreaming The Beatles: The Love Story Of One Band And The Whole World.

** "There's a lot of over-medication going on out there - and maybe if that's tied to a story, it would make it something more than just being a sci-fi movie."

Filmmaker Stanley Jacobs phones in to Arts Express to talk about 96 Souls, his simultaneously surreal and hyper-sensory political sci-fi fantasy thriller - probing among other things, the oppressive power of pharmaceutical corporations over US society, universities, and experiemental scientific research. And, a rebel innovative bio-chemistry professor, dodging these establishment forces.

More information about the Tribeca Film Festival is online at Tribecafilm.com/festival.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Arts Express: Tommy Chong Talks 'Up In Smoke'

                 Up In Smoke: Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong

** "They asked me, the news, and I said that my bongs were the only weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Administration was looking for - And it got around, it got the ire of Ashcroft, and so I was doomed to jail for that one - And I was very honored by the way, that I was picked to do the time."

Tommy Chong Talks 'Up In Smoke.' And revisiting the enduring stoner classic, honored as the Opening Night feature of the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival in California this week. Chong phoned in to Arts Express to ponder what any of this may have to do with banana peels, Trump; Chong as the only person imprisoned under the DEA's Operation Pipe Dreams; his take on 'comedy as the ultimate truth; rejects and loners; and Chong possibly describing golf as a psychedelic experience - I think.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE


** "Okja is the best film I've seen at Cannes, a kids' ecologically minded, anti-capitalist fable."

Bro On The World Film Beat: Arts Express Paris correspondent Professor Dennis Broe is on location at the Cannes Film Festival - with his series report on the art and the politics of Cannes. While Vanessa Redgrave's 'Sea Sorrow' - a 'mundane liberal hand-wringing exercise' about global refugees - not so much. And where in a first, a film was booed on screen simply for its logo - that is, Netflix - with its entry in the festival, the South Korean socio-political fantasy Okja, about a multi-national commandeered pig. So is it a case of Netflix 'hogging' the proceedings, so to speak?  Also, what in the world is FANG, and is Netflix truly evil as part of that infamous quartet.  Stay tuned for Broe's in-depth analysis.

** "I think that it is an extremely human, universal feeling of just needing to be able to stop what you are doing and take another path - unscathed, unpunished, unexplained..."

Wakefield: A Conversation With Director Robin Swicord: First there was Hawthorne, then E.L.Doctorow, and now...Bryan Cranston, in Wakefield. And, the somehow simultaneously enigmatic, elusive and strikingly familiar figure that has apparently endured as emblematic of what is troubling about US culture and alienation through the centuries. In the case of this page to screen adaptation by writer/director Robin Swicord [The Jane Austen Book Club] of the E.L. Doctorow short story - there is an additional scrutiny by this female filmmaker of Howard Wakefield's conflicted male gaze. Along with his flight from a crippling suburban despair - Or does he? Swicord is on the line from LA to Arts Express to explain.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Arts Express: Chuck Wepner Talks Chuck, Muhammad Ali, Stallone, Rocky, Anthony Quinn

** "I drove up to Louisville, Kentucky to Ali's funeral, I was there when they wheeled the casket down - and I would say to him now, Champ - thanks for everything..."  


Chuck Wepner Talks Chuck: 'You don't know me. Well, you do know me - but you don't know you know me.' Such is the rather unusual life story of Bayonne, New Jersey boxer and local folk hero Chuck Wepner, who has always seemed to live in the shadow of others. From his identity as the man who went nearly 15 rounds against Muhammad Ali in the ring, Stallone's muse  on whom he modeled Rocky - and now disappearing as himself into the screen persona of actor Liev Schreiber in the dramatic biopic, Chuck. And Chuck - the real one behind the multiple incarnations for a change - is on the line to Arts Express to talk about the film based on his life - warts and all. Channeling memories of Ali, a lifelong obsession with Anthony Quinn and Requiem For A Heavyweight, Stallone, Rocky, what's behind moonlight as a poet for years - and why we disagreed about tough women holding their own in the movie's macho world of boxing too. A feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "You know, when we were making this film, there weren't many films that dealt with people of color - and we tried to give them a voice."

Killer Of Sheep 40th Anniversary Re-Release: A Conversation With Filmmaker Charles Burnett. Though the film world has opened significantly to the marginalized stories to be told on screen from communities of color in this country, it certainly hasn’t always been so. And those engaged in the struggle to diversify that national conversation in movies have scarcely received any more recognition than the narratives themselves ever have. But a previously unsung cinematic pioneer who has endured, standing the test of time in producing salt of the earth screen classics through the decades while all those massively promoted Hollywood blockbusters continually fall by the wayside, is filmmaker Charles Burnett - the director of such raw and truthful storytelling in movies like Killer Of Sheep, To Sleep With Anger, Nat Turner and Nightjohn. Burnett phones in from LA to talk about the current 40th anniversary return of Killer Of Sheep to theaters,  commercially unreleased for thirty years. The slice of life drama revolutionized and re-prioritized the camera’s conventional gaze upon black inner city life, ironically introducing an all-natural filming process capturing what was already there all along, beyond existing caricatures. Namely, the daily frustrations, conflicts, joys and comic moments of life in Watts, and the demoralizing, profoundly symbolic labor of local sheep slaughterhouse workers there. And, a decades long suppressed film later declared a national treasure by the Library of Congress in 1990.

** "In the name of the amulets of friendship and civilization, and against border bashing and manias for regime change - in the name of triumph over the curse of explosions and drones..."


The Arts Express heads over to preparations during Memorial Day week  for the Fugs musical exorcism of the White House. Returning to the scene of the crimes so to speak, on the 50th anniversary Vietnam-era cleansing of the Pentagon of all bad karma, to once again purge the demons of war contaminating the premises. And in conjunction with the upcoming Veterans for Peace rally there at the Lincoln Memorial in DC. Our Arts Express Best Of The Net Hotspot for this week.

More information about the Tribeca Film Festival 2017 is online at: Tribecafilm.com/festival 

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Arts Express: Actor Eugene Simon Talks Genius, Einstein, Game Of Thrones


** "I was drawn to the cauldron of emotional layering that was just such a calling to me - and to tell the story of an iconic man like Albert Einstein, they have brought Einstein in the flesh, in the form of Geoffrey Rush - or the other way around."

Tribeca Film Festival: On the line to Arts Express is young British actor Eugene Simon, as Einstein's mentally troubled son Eduard in the small screen dramatic series Genius, produced and helmed by Ron Howard. And, played here in the persona of Geoffrey Rush, Einstein is considered one of the greatest scientific thinkers who ever lived - yet as a Jew and with his socialist perspective of the world as well, was forced to flee Nazi Germany only to encounter a similar reception here from the FBI under the glare of McCarthyism. And that included a 1427 page FBI file and their investigation into charges that Einstein was working on a death ray, when not heading a communist conspiracy to take over Hollywood.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "Holding your nose and pulling the lever."

From the Arts Express Paris Desk, Professor Dennis Broe with his on location French Presidential Election Update Alert. Where the fuming French masses in the streets see nothing but 'a choice between fascism and capitalism.'

And, Bro On The Global Television Beat. Reporting from this year's Series Mania Television Festival: Euro-Noir In The Era Of Peak TV in Paris. Referencing corporate conniving; desolation in the wake of the failed economy of the world, surrounding the abundance of serial TV; and Russian humor that relishes the absurdity of impossible situations.

** "It's a strange moment in history right now..."

A Conversation With Alexander Nevsky - no, not that one. Rather, Russian actor Alexander Nevsky who produced, directs and stars in Black Rose - a crime thriller about a possibly Russian serial killer on the loose in LA, torturing and murdering young female Russian immigrants. And the famed Russian crime fighter played by Nevsky who is called in by the LAPD to help solve the case. But Nevsky has much more on his mind as well with Black Rose. Including challenging Russian caricatures on screen, and seeking world peace between the US and Russia. And in this both conventional thriller and subversive political noir, symbolically channeling false flags, US deep state intelligence subterfuge and the new Cold War - even if it's just a movie.

** "Revolution is in the wind."

More Dangerous Than A Thousand Rioters: The Revolutionary Life Of Lucy Parsons. Director Kelly Gallagher pays tribute to Lucy Gonzalez Parsons in this short film, as the buried history founder of May Day International Workers Day, celebrated everywhere around the world as a legal holiday - except here, its country of origin. The Arts Express Best Of The Net Hotspot for this week.

More information about the Tribeca Film Festival 2017 is online at: Tribecafilm.com/festival 

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

Arts Express: Steve Coogan Talks The Dinner


*STEVE COOGAN TALKS THE DINNER
*PARIS CAN WAIT: A CONVERSATION WITH DIANE LANE AND ELEANOR COPPOLA

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Two new films mix cuisine and socio-cultural conflicted conversation:

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "No man is an island, and we have to engage with things around us and speak our minds - and even though that means sometimes I'm going to invite a little derision and some negativity from certain quarters - but I'm okay with that."

Steve Coogan phones in to Arts Express from London to talk about his role opposite Richard Gere in The Dinner. And a film as much a mirror reflecting back critically on the audience as it is a movie, in how the drama challenges viewers regarding impulses that can compromise enlightened idealistic values versus self-serving behavior - whether tribal, familial or both - that dehumanizes and destroys those labeled as the "Other." And by extension, that could be referring to director Oren Moverman's native Israel in its treatment of the Palestinians, or the US inflicting horror on the people of any number of countries - all in the context of a ridiculously ostentatious and pretentious designer dinner.
A feature of the Tribeca Film Festival

** "I personally find it delightful to partake in an offering of a movie that is without aliens, robots, explosions, train wrecks, dire disease and plagues, or invasions from other planets."

That's Diane Lane, talking about her starring role along with Alec Baldwin as her emotionally self-absorbed spouse, in Paris Can Wait. Lane and the writer/director Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola, met with Arts Express to discuss how they explore through this film together in front of and behind the camera as women. And the journey beyond what is much more than a road movie, the predominant male perspective, filter, lens and narratives dominating cinema.

** Tribeca Focus: The Foster File: A Kurt Vonnegut page to screen allegorical tale of Wall Street money versus musical obsession. Spotlighting humble grocery clerk Herbert Foster 'who never owned more than one pair of shoes at a time' - and his mysterious alternate persona  Mr. Firehouse Harris, three nights out of seven.
A Tribeca Film Festival feature.

More information about the Tribeca Film Festival is online at: Tribecafilm.com/festival

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Arts Express: Philip Winchester Talks Chicago Justice, Remembering Bill Paxton

** "Bill saw that we were young and hungry, and he just took us under his wings - he was just this incredible guy who cared about the process, and he cared about storytelling."

Actor Philip Winchester Talks Chicago Justice, Remembering Bill Paxton: Winchester shares memories of Bill Paxton, who suddenly passed away at the age of 61 on February 25th. And, playing Paxton's son in the film Thunderbirds in 2004. Also, what the actor is up to in his telelvision series, Chicago Justice.

** "I think any director who says they don't come with any bias, is being a liar to the public."

American Socialist: The Life And Times Of Eugene Victor Debs. Filmmaker Yale Strom is on the line to Arts Express from San Diego to talk about his commitment with this documentary, to correcting the distorted when not buried truths about socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs. While referencing ideological truth telling; Marx, Engels and Utopian socialists; the Pullman strike versus the railroad oligarchs; Victor Hugo, Joe Hill, and the minimum wage movement today - and who really came up with the notion of the New Deal, And hint, it's not FDR. A feature of the Socially Relevant Film Festival.

** Sanders Does Debs. Eugene V. Debs: Trade Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary.
Sanders wrote, directed, and stars as Debs in his own production. Selected excerpts.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "I knew that if I was to wear a Veterans For Peace shirt, that I would get lynched - I felt that I would get lynched in this crowd."

Disneyland of War: More crime scene than convention, Iraq War marine combat veteran and Veterans For Peace activist Mike Haynes takes viewers on a disturbing and troubling tour of the Miramar military air show in San Diego, apparently aimed in particular at grooming the next generation of government trained killers - children. A Chris Smiley directed documentary, and another feature of the Socially Relevant Film Festival.

video

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Arts Express: Oscars 2017, War And Peace - A Tale Of Two Medics

  
** "A man on the battlefield who refuses to take a life so he won't touch a gun - I think that's really relatable and prescient today, in the world we're in."
Producer David Permut Talks Oscars, Hacksaw Ridge. Along with Roger Corman, Richard Pryor, Dragnet, and Punching Henry. And, in contrast to Hacksaw Ridge, did Al Qaeda just clean up at the Oscars with that other war medic movie, The White Helmets?

** "If you think that Amazon is above the fray, remember that each film they finance is not only seen as a film, but as a product that will induce people to join the service to use it to order toilet paper..."
Bro On The World Film Beat: The Oscar Wrap-Up Report From A Global Perspective. Arts Express Correspondent Professor Dennis Broe phones in from Paris to also talk about The Hollywood Unconscious, fluff, the big versus small screen cinema standoff, and film predictions in the new year worth mentioning - or maybe not!

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE 

** "Entities like the NSA, FBI, CIA, Department Of Defense, and sometimes the White House, attempt to influence film scripts."
Matthew Alford On What's Going Down With 'National Security Cinema' Today: How it's done, and why. The UK media analyst, author, professor and filmmaker talks 'How Independent Is Hollywood.' The Arts Express Best Of The Net Hotspot this week.

**What's Up With The Oscar Award Accolades For The White Helmets - Medics suspected of being aligned with terrorists in Syria. RT's Nadira Tudor and UK independent media reporter Vanessa Beeley weigh in.

FINAL WORD ON THE OSCARS...

** "Geisha Ink is really a story of rebellion, and what one would want to do without the consent of society."
Art Corner: Photographer Reka Nyari phones in. Exploring through her Geisha Ink works on exhibit, female tattoo storytelling body art, and as the visual life journey of a woman from an exclusively female perspective.

ROAD TO THE WELL MOVIE REVIEW

Mood tends to dominate over momentum in the somewhat revisionist millennial noir, Road To The Well. Writer/director Jonathan Cvack steers audiences down this metaphorical road primarily devoid of destination, and more a journey inward than otherwise.

A sullen, stagnant California landscape finds despondent small town bottom feeder corporate working stiff Frank (Laurence Fuller) crossing paths with an old acquaintance, mysterious drifter Jack (Micah Parker). And while life circumstances could not seem capable of deteriorating further for Frank, that well progressively deepens even more, as the presence of suspiciously malevolent omen Jack precipitates an unfathomable array of wild and wicked events. As murder, mayhem, shallow materialistic tendencies, suicidal impulses, secretive sex for sale, and rejection of the illusive American dream for a symbolic dispossessed generation all fatefully kick in. And not necessarily in any particular order.

And while conventional noir is primarily dramatically dependent on climactic narrative shock and awe, thwarted millennial pessimism here would appear to emotionally favor a lockdown, been there done that gloomy, fractured despair. Though this twisted ride to nowhere and back, serves up intriguing and impressive detours along the way.

Prairie Miller

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Arts Express: Cocoa Brown Talks Dying Laughing

            Cocoa Brown in Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club

** "Most comics are tortured souls - And to be able to go on stage and make people laugh, you're healing yourself in the process." 

Dying Laughing: A conversation with standup comic and actress Cocoa Brown - among the multitudes of comedians baring those tortured souls in this documentary. Delving into the alternately fascinating and conflicted psyches of standup comics. Including Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Lewis, and countless others. Brown phones in to Arts Express from LA to talk about the dark places she and other comics are coming from; surviving sexism on stage; the many characters she's played on the big and small screen; rejection, mirrors, Richard Pryor, and the philosophy of funny; and the Tyler Perry experience on For Better Or Worse, in navigating black identity humor.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE


** "It's the Native people that get it, and we need to look to them as teachers."
Water Is Life [Mni Wiconi]: Resisting The Dakota Pipeline. Earth Mum reports from the embattled front lines at Standing Rock. A presentation compiled from the Pacifica radio host's journeys to the ground zero heart of the pipeline resistance. Including movement eyewitness accounts, videos, images, and oral history audio interviews she gathered from the encampment. While the elders, spiritual leaders and assembled tribes speak about the importance of respecting Mother Earth. And as the struggle continues, no matter what. A treasure trove of material Earth Mum brought back, and an education moment. Jack Shalom reports

New Directors/New Films 2017: Menashe - Offbeat Orthodoxy Rules In Hassidic Brooklyn Tale
 'The Three Things That Bring A Man Happiness, Says The Talmud: A nice wife, a nice house, and nice dishes.'

So proceeds the uncommonly fascinating and vividly authentic Yiddish subtitled dramatic feature Menashe, as it balances both somber and quirky. And as the despondent and defiant widower in question, Menashe [Menashe Lustig], single father of young schoolboy Rieven [Ruben Niborski] resists the relentless attempts of his authoritarian religious community to procure him a new wife as quickly as possible - and while insisting that Menashe relinquish his son to the family of his late wife's disdainful brother until he does so.

Director Joshua Z. Weinstein impressively displays his background as a documentary filmmaker here, seamlessly blending a delicately layered journey through an actual Brooklyn Hasidic community depicted utterly unself-consciously by nonprofessional actors. And with a keen eye for capturing emotional truth rather than the typical anthropological when not exoticized outsider perspective, when delving into such typically hermetic traditional communities.

And within that dramatic landscape, Weinstein sets his measured pace to allow audiences to discover and decide for themselves just what is playing out along the way. Does the rebellious behavior of Menashe indicate a villain or victim - or an enigmatic force at work beyond the seeming stubborn selfishness turning his community against him, in his insistence on raising his son on his own - even if lacking in the security and comforts for his son to be offered by an intact nuclear family.

And what comes surprisingly to light, is the way in which forced marriages can psychologically scar males as well as females - who knew. And though the resolution may amount to something more realistic than satisfying, there is much along the way to infuse our collective soul and senses. Including bachelor-proof cooking recipes, a pet chicken fond of dancing atop heads, the paternal lovingly resolved dilemma of an excrement laden shoe, and a purchased painting of an esteemed local rabbi guaranteed to scare away household rodents.

Along with a euphoric scene captured among the Latino immigrant workers in a grocery story where the downcast dad likewise toils - as they along with Menashe drink themselves into song and sorrow together on a downtime backroom break - commiserating about male problems when it comes to surviving romance and other issues, in universally perplexing cross-cultural worlds everywhere.

New Directors/New Films 2017, in its 46th year, runs from March 15th through 26th at New York City's Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The film festival introduces audiences to the work of emerging or not yet established filmmakers here and internationally, and takes place at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and at The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA. More information about New Directors/New Films is online at newdirectors.org.


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

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.


LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "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


DYING LAUGHING REVIEW

Though weirder aspirations definitely exist on the planet, pursuing the vocation of standup comic certainly competes for that category of strange if not somewhat perverse professions. At least according to the supremely candid, combo dark, down and dirty documentary Dying Laughing. Directed by Paul Toogood and Lloyd Stanton, Dying Laughing somehow manages to assemble a nearly complete stellar treasure trove Who's Who of living standups in the hear and now, as they bare their souls, when not funny bones, raw and real on camera.

Functioning as a kind of metaphorical Freudian couch with intimations of Rupert Pupkin reveries, the film proceeds at a lively pace, soliciting surprisingly damaged soul introspective revelations from Kevin Hart, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Sarah Silverman, Cedric The Entertainer, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Steve Coogan, Mike Epps, Jerry Lewis, DL Hughley, Amy Schumer, and countless others. What led them down this path, what keeps them focused on making people laugh no matter what, and who are they, really? Not that there aren't plenty of punch line detours throughout, serving as a seemingly kind of psychological pressure cooker release periodically.

Meanwhile, brash self-parody intermingles constantly in conflicted fashion, with poignant interludes. And how these comics have steeled themselves for dealing with ridicule, shaming, sexism and racism on stage - and perhaps worst of all for many of them - audience silence, boredom and indifference. And in a kind of collective craving of approval nearly as essential to their lives as the air they breathe. While other revisited moments, like the more often than not bleak life on the road -  conjuring excruciating loneliness, alienation, dinner from vending machines and motels eliciting scary thoughts of being surrounded by imagined blood stains scrubbed from crimes scenes- are filled with uncommonly peculiar poetry in this movie.

Prairie Miller

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.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

** "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.

WHEELER
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.