Film Review http://culturecatch.com/film en The Misery of Life http://culturecatch.com/node/3912 <span>The Misery of Life</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>January 21, 2020 - 10:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/797" hreflang="en">drama</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YFfdlLW9Rwg?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><em>Les Miserables</em> -- not to be confused with the musical nicknamed <em>Les Miz</em> or truth be told the Victor Hugo novel from which it takes inspiration -- is incendiary.  Literally. It takes place in a neighborhood outside Paris. There the detritus of French society live in housing projects that look like prisons or human warehouses. The film focuses on three mis-matched plain-clothes homeland security cops -- one a foul-mouthed white bigot who looks a bit like Putin, one a black cop who grew up in the hood (he bears a physical resemblance to Jesse Green from <em>Law &amp; Order</em>) and the newbie, a recently transferred cop who has both a moral conscience and a Gallic nose. On the other side of the law are the immigrant kids who over-run the 'hood, and the competing corrupt interests of the "mayor," a drug lord and a Muslim Imam.  </p> <p><em>Les Miserables</em> resembles the first act of <em>Slumdog Millionaire</em> or the recent indy film <em>The Florida Project</em>. It is hard-hitting, relentless and dystopic. It's a documentary-style portrait of a teeming underclass of kids without hope. One of the film's episodes concerns a lion cub stolen from a circus -- the cub is treated with more humanity than the kids. But in the end, the kids get their revenge.</p> <p>There's nothing more unsettling than seeing the faces of these children. They have fun, they laugh, they bluster, they cower, they act out -- like children everywhere.  Like our children here on the Upper West Side experimenting with skateboards and cigarettes and sex in the park. Except our children have a future. The children in <em>Les Miserables</em> do not.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3912&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="j02WiwAQdgQITNkValvpaCIbxb1rmcHvTeptKObckUE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 21 Jan 2020 15:57:19 +0000 Mark Weston 3912 at http://culturecatch.com Trans Teens, American Muslims, and Harriet Tubman Get Their Due at Cinematters http://culturecatch.com/node/3910 <span>Trans Teens, American Muslims, and Harriet Tubman Get Their Due at Cinematters</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>January 16, 2020 - 13:11</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/832" hreflang="en">LGQBT</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="515" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-01/allrise_photo_primary.jpg?itok=8Nrmb1cR" title="allrise_photo_primary.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Frame from Anthony Mandler's All Rise</figcaption></figure><p>Before "Jokering" around, Joaquin Phoenix noted in the 2005 documentary <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk9Hac7cnL8"><i>Earthlings</i></a>:<i> </i><i>"</i>Since we all inhabit the earth, we are all considered earthlings. There is no sexism, racism, or speciesism in the term 'earthling.' It encompasses each and every one of us: warm- or cold-blooded, mammal, vertebrate or invertebrate, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish and human alike."</p> <p>In a far better world or, more realistically, only in a sci-fi novel, such a state of congenial existence with no negative "isms" might be achieved. We're not there though, and consequently salamanders, sardines, and koalas don’t have it easy. However, <a href="https://jccmanhattan.org/arts-film/film/cinematters?utm_source=Film&amp;utm_medium=CFF-email-1-8&amp;utm_campaign=CFF2020">Cinematters: NY Social Justice Film Festival</a>, which runs from January 16–20, is a new annual event that limits its focus to just humans and their plight. Even with that narrow focus, the event has its hands full.</p> <p>Opening night showcases Anthony Mandler's <i>All Rise</i>, a true tale of a black honors student charged with felony murder. Jennifer Hudson and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (<i>Waves</i>) star.</p> <p>Leana Hosea's doc, <i>Thirst for Justice, </i>dives into America’s contaminated water crisis, focusing on communities in Flint, Michigan, and Sanders, Arizona, and the accompanying health effects such as ovarian cancer and lead poisoning. (One in four of your fellow U.S. citizens are currently sipping and bathing in possibly pestilent H2O, but you already knew that, right?)</p> <p>Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance's <i>Slay the Dragon </i>takes on gerrymandering; Linda Goldstein's <i>We Are the Radical Monarchs </i>follows a group of moms and their daughters as they create an alternative to the Girl Scouts where minorities do not feel left out, and so forth and so on.</p> <p>As for Adam Zucker's vibrant <i>American Muslim</i>, this hard-hitting doc<i> </i>bristles forth with facts such as "nearly 60% of Muslims living in in the United States are first-generation immigrants," most of whom have become American citizens, with the majority living in New York City. The film, shot in the time immediately after Donald Trump passed his travel ban affecting seven Muslim countries, captures the plight of those affected and those trying to help the same in communities such as Ozone Park, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="679" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-01/american_muslim_photo_2.png?itok=vsfb7yLz" title="american_muslim_photo_2.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Frame from American Muslim</figcaption></figure><p>Amidst footage of 5,000 men praying in a parking lot, interviews about being female and Muslim, fundraising for indigent families, speeches in a synagogue, plus a marshmallow-in-the-mouth stuffing contest, there are chats about the Koran and belief systems: "Religion is personal. It's how you connect with your inner self. Your creator."</p> <p>There are also community dances to protest Trumpian policies plus tales such as that of a father picked up by the authorities while his daughter, a 7th grader, was in school. What grief did she come home to? Yet the film’s message is: "Do not despair. Have hope." Luckily, there are signs of progress as one man observes: "Our neighbors don’t think we’re as strange as they used to."</p> <p>This is a timely doc that addresses an ignorance-fueled hatred embraced by so many FOX-aholics. Yet if any of these MAGA-capped folks would ever watch Zucker's applaud-worthy offering, their bigotry might be decimated. The chances of them purchasing tickets for this screening? Nil. I know. I’m related to a bunch.</p> <p>Michael Barnett's <i>Changing the Game</i>, a moving documentary on three trans-teens competing in the sports arena, also incorporates a reaction or two to Trump, here though to his vilification of the non-cisgendered.</p> <p>Mack Beggs is a Texas high-school wrestler forced to wrestle girls while he considers himself a boy. Does being on testosterone give him an unfair advantage? Some of the media, a few of Mack's opponents, and many of their parents certainly feel so. And what happens when he wins the state championship?</p> <p>Intercut with his journey is Sarah Rose Huckman's. She's a transgender female skier, who sometimes holds back from winning her events to avoid criticism that it's inequitable for her to compete against cisgender girls her age because of her biology.</p> <p>Andraya Yearwood is a runner, who also faces similar hostility. An old-school feminist, attending one of Yearwood's runs, rants that this teen has "made a mockery of women's sports."</p> <p>Thankfully, these determined athletes all have support from their parents, guardians, friends, and coaches. Yet in a world when coming out as just gay or lesbian is still not a walk in the park, to be trans seems that much harder. According to a 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics and as reported by the Human Rights Campaign, "more than half of transgender male teens who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. Among non-binary youth, 41.8 percent of respondents stated that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives." As Beggs' grandfather notes, "There's always some redneck against [them]."</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GdSKR1nPwz4?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Yearwood's mom agrees and explains why athletics must be open to her daughter and other trans teens:</p> <blockquote> <p>"This is important. We’re talking about life or death. It scares me the numbers what she's up against. What my child won't be is suicidal. What my child won't be is on drugs. If track gives these young kids an opportunity to be living their truth, how dare we take that away from them. So for me that's being unfair. That's more than being unfair. That's cruel."</p> </blockquote> <p><i>Tales of the </i>City's author, Armistead Maupin, once noted, "The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives." This is what <i>Changing the Game </i>is about . . . as is Cinematters.</p> <p>The fest's closing night feature is the highly successful Harriet Tubman bio that has just earned its star Cynthia Erivo a Best Actress Oscar nom. With the emotional restraints of a Lifetime movie, <i>Harriet,</i> though no doubt thoroughly researched, has a way of making the truth seem counterfeit. Did Tubman really get on her knees every ten minutes and ask God whether to go left or right with the slaves she was trying to free? As filmed and as directed, you’ll have to take a leap of faith to accept Harriet’s own faith as depicted.</p> <p>For example, here's a scene taken directly from the screenplay, in which William Still, known as the "Father of the Underground Railroad," is attempting to convince Tubman to give up endangering herself.</p> <p><b>Still: I won't have you captured and killed. I'm removing you from the network.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: I got my own network. I'll team up with John Brown. He’s . . .</b></p> <p><b>Still: I can't lose you.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: You tol' your wife that?</b></p> <p><b>Still: Don't be cruel.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: You de cruel one.</b></p> <p><b>Still: If I had met you first . . .</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: I'm not your type.</b></p> <p><b>Still: How could you be? I never dreamt God made such creatures.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet is moved. They stand close to each other, the air electric between them, dwelling for a moment in intoxicating possibility . . . before reality sobers them up.</b></p> <p>Yet, if you can overlook the awkward moments as written by Gregory Allen Howard (<i>Remember the Titans</i>) and Kasi Lemmons (<i>Eve's Bayou</i>), and Lemmons' often embarrassing direction (e.g. cardboard villains), <i>Harriet </i>can still serve as a powerful introduction to the topic for young folk.</p> <p>And with an impressive list of events and a noteworthy slate of films, the much-needed Cinematters, launched by the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, is clearly making an equally powerful debut on the fest circuit. (Tickets can be purchased online.)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3910&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="gJzG2Iw02bfOdm8HwKGTbWwhx5F2a0kk2QRbybgAdBg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 16 Jan 2020 18:11:43 +0000 Brandon Judell 3910 at http://culturecatch.com The Bridge Between a Film and Its Music http://culturecatch.com/node/3903 <span>The Bridge Between a Film and Its Music</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/6777" lang="" about="/user/6777" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Isabella Huang</a></span> <span>December 23, 2019 - 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/778" hreflang="en">soundtrack</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-12/jkaetmiv.jpg?itok=9m00j6uZ" width="1200" height="1601" alt="Thumbnail" title="jkaetmiv.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>The chances of finding two suspects on the run are quite slim in a remarkably populated city like Manhattan. What does NYPD detective Andre Davis do when he faces this dilemma in 21 Bridges?</p> <p>Chadwick Boseman's character, Andre Davis shuts down all 21 bridges connecting the island of Manhattan to find the suspects, while trying to understand the unfolding conspiracy involving him. Directed by Brian Kirk and produced by the Russo Brothers, this film is a fast-paced thriller that keeps the audience drawn to the characters as their morals and values are in question. When it is difficult for the characters to communicate their thoughts, the captivating film score by Alex Belcher and Henry Jackman tells the unspoken complexities of both the protagonists and antagonists.</p> <p>With credits on many fan favorite projects such as <em>Captain America: Civil War</em>, <em>Kingsman: The Secret Service</em>, and the Netflix sci-fi thriller<em> IO</em>, Alex Belcher is a storyteller that uses music as his medium. Recently, Alex granted us an opportunity to have ask him some questions.</p> <p><em>What approach did you take to compose for 21 Bridges? Did you have any inspirations for the score?</em></p> <p>Yes, quite a few. [We listened to] Bernard Herrmann's score for <em>Cape Fear</em>, Quincy Jones’s score for <em>Money</em>; [the score for] <em>The French Connectio</em>n; the David Shire score for <em>The Taking of Pelham One Two Three</em>; as well as <em>Taxi Driver </em>-- an American classic -- all of these films from an era that we [Henry Jackman and I] love. We weren't trying to completely imitate the score from these films. We wanted it to be a nod in that direction while still putting our own spin on it because we're not those legendary film composers, and we don't write exactly like they do. We had a blast writing the score because it is music that you don't get to write a lot.</p> <p><em>Howard Shore, a composer for The Lord of the Rings, once mentioned that some of his favorite moments to score were the heartfelt moments between Frodo and Sam. Were there any dynamics between certain characters in any of your projects so far that you adore the most?</em></p> <p>In <em>21 Bridge</em>s, there was a very captivating dynamic between Andre [played by Chadwick Boseman] and Michael [played by Stephan James], the two main characters. One of them is a cop, the other is a bad guy. It’s a very generic relationship but within that there is so much more. They are both two people who are in something that is over their head, they're trying to make sense of it all, and they're against each other. That to me artistically was a lot of fun because of the good guy versus bad guy dynamic, and we all know that type of music, but relationships like that of Andre and Michael are more nuanced than that.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="777" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-12/v1.jpg?itok=a1IQrksz" title="v1.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1152" /></article><figcaption>Chadwick Boseman, 21 Bridges</figcaption></figure><p>They're both interesting to each other. They both have really developed characters and intricate personalities, and the way that those two characters play off each other on screen really allowed us to write some music that dived into that existential being. This is a lot of fun because you're not just playing what you see on screen, you get to play music that fit their emotional depth. It really opened up a lot musically as to what we could do and write in a way that you may not be able to do for other films.</p> <p><em>You've worked with Henry Jackman on many projects such as 21 Bridges, Captain America: Civil War, and the two Kingsman movies, and many more. Can you talk a little bit about your work relationship with Henry Jackman? Is there a story behind how you started collaborating?</em></p> <p>Henry and I met almost 10 years ago. At the time, his career was just starting out and I had just moved to LA and started working here at Hans Zimmer's place. He was looking for someone that could help him out and make some noises, mess around with some synths, play some guitar here and there. That's really where our professional relationship began.</p> <p>We had a shared love of a lot of the same films like I talked about with <em>21 Bridge</em>s. A lot of our inspirational aspects come from that era, so we bonded over that and our professional relationship snowballed to where it is today as collaborators [...] I was a young guy starting out and he taught me a lot. I made a lot of cool sounds, he liked what I was doing, and we worked well together. We've both been very lucky in our careers, and I'm very lucky to have a mentor like him because that's critical [when you're getting] yourself through that door and establishing yourself as a composer here in Hollywood.</p> <p><em>What sparked your interest to become a composer?</em></p> <p>Growing up, I worked at a theater as an actor while also pursuing music, so at a pretty young age it was pretty quick for me to combine those two loves for storytelling and writing music. I stumbled upon the profession in college when I was studying composition and realized that it allowed me to sort of hang on to the feelings of theater that I loved so much.</p> <p><em>Are there any exciting upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?</em></p> <p>At the moment I am doing <em>Made in Ital</em>y, which is a film by the actor James D'Arcy, and it is his directorial debut for Lionsgate. It's a wonderful film. Henry [Jackman] has a long relationship with the Russo Brothers, and through that we will be continuing to work with them on Dhaka, which we’re doing right now. This is a really intense film, and we are super excited for the audience to watch that and hear our score.</p> <p><em>21 Bridges</em> is now in theaters.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3903&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="htdNRCLmt5Kmk02BvOa53561TIFRS-oskNzDcLvM188"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 23 Dec 2019 15:00:00 +0000 Isabella Huang 3903 at http://culturecatch.com Music for a Story Running Out of Time: A Conversation with Simon TaufiQue http://culturecatch.com/node/3894 <span>Music for a Story Running Out of Time: A Conversation with Simon TaufiQue</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/6777" lang="" about="/user/6777" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Isabella Huang</a></span> <span>November 11, 2019 - 16:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/styV7QQpCRU?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>The latest offering from<i> </i>Independent Lens, PBS's weekly documentary television series, is Andrés Caballero and Sofia Khan's <i>The Interpreters</i>, a hard-hitting chronicle of what happened to three of the 50,000 local interpreters the U.S. military employed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and then mostly left behind, unprotected by the government that promised them a rosy future.</p> <p>As the filmmakers have noted, "Making this film made us feel a little less hopeful in humanity despite having good outcomes. The reality is that most interpreters are still out there, in hiding, being targeted and killed as they wait for their visas."</p> <p>As Sgt. Paul Braun notes in the documentary:</p> <blockquote> <p>"The interpreters were considered traitors to their country . . . traitors to their religion. They either had to wear a mask over their faces or use fake names. But after a while, people found out who they were."</p> </blockquote> <p>So how does one tell the story of people in time-crunch of their lives? And how does one find the right musical notes to accompany such fear and bravery?</p> <p>Co-producer and composer Simon TaufiQue rises to the task, masterfully enriching the tale of these heroes who put their lives at stake. The British-born, award-winning TaufiQue, who has 53 credits for the scores he wrote for various features features and shorts, took a moment off to sit down for a phone chat with us last week. </p> <p><b>You've have worked on quite a variety of projects such as <i> Jesus Henry Christ, She's Lost Control, </i>and<i> Are You Glad I'm Here</i>. How did you get involved in this project?</b> </p> <p>This is through filmmaker Sofian Khan, the director of this movie. I met him when I was the program director for the South Asian Film Festival 11 years ago . . . . [T]he festival [was] inspiring to young south Asian filmmakers. One of those was Sofian Khan. He was the director of photography for a film called <i>Ramchand Pakistani</i>. . . . [W]e became friends from that point on. . .  and we just stayed in touch. When he had some projects that matched my style of music, we started working together.  After I produced <i>Imperium</i> [with Daniel Radcliffe], we connected and discussed this project. I was so moved by the story and the mission of <i>The Interpreters</i> . . . that I offered whatever I could do to help. I wasn't thinking musically, but as a producer, a fan of his work, and as someone that wants to help tell this story. Along the way I became the composer of the film. That was a couple years ago, meeting for coffee trying to catch up and being swept away by the story. Khan was just shooting it because he wanted to highlight stories that weren't being told.</p> <p><b>How did the soundtrack of <em>The Interpreters</em> evolve?</b> </p> <p>We realized that the story is a very much a real-life thriller. These are people that put their lives on the line to help the US troops and coalition forces, and they are being seen as traitors by fellow countrymen because they are helping the "invaders." They believed in the mission of democracy and changing their country for the better with the help of the United States and other countries. So they took that chance, and then when their turn came to leave the country, when the Americans left, and they knew there'd be a bullseye on their back, they were promised a chance to leave, and the promise wasn't kept.</p> <p>We were trying to tell the story of how these people survived and made sense of that, and how the Americans on the other side were trying to get these people out. It's a ticking-bomb scenario type of film because you don't know how it's going to end or if the people will find their way to safety. That was the impulse behind creating the music for this film. Not just telling the story of Iraq or Afghanistan but telling the story of people who are in a very scary place. They are in a pressure cooker, so they don't know if they'll make it out in time. That sense of urgency, anxiety, but also the story of kinship and love between the Interpreters and their American partners who wanted them to be safe were the impulses behind the music of the film. </p> <p><b>How did you start composing and how did you recognize you wanted a career in composing?</b> </p> <p>Both by accident. I didn't realize that I could be a composer for film until I was asked to write music for film. I got into music by chance, and the thought of having a career in music was a fantasy, and not something I never thought I could be.</p> <p>As a first generation immigrant and first in my family to go to college, there were a lot of expectations that I would have a very stable and secure career, and so I was pursuing political science and economics, double majoring in NYU with the intention of going to law school or graduate school for a career in foreign service. I wanted to be a diplomat, an ambassador, and change things for the better.</p> <p>Along the way in my undergraduate studies, I became really good friends with a young filmmaking student. It turns out he was M. Night Shyamalan. We just were best friends, and he would take me to his film classes, and introduce me to his composer and his team of collaborators.</p> <p>While that was happening, I was becoming more immersed in music as a hobby. I was writing songs; I was playing in band just for fun. Along the way, he asked me to write a song for one of his films, and I got to see how tangible creativity could be as a long-term goal. I thought then that "if I saved enough money, if I got to practice enough, I could someday record some songs and maybe an album or something." Then [Shyaman's] career took off, and we stayed friends; I got to visit his sets. I got to visit the post-production. I got to see how his composer was doing stuff. So just because of being a supportive friend and just being really excited for him, I, by accident, was soaking up all these lessons about creativity and collaboration.</p> <p>Seeing his trajectory from doing stuff that was small scale and easy to digest, and seeing all that catapult and explode into very large scale stuff, but still seeing the same person, creativity, and root source behind it all was very inspiring to me. When I was asked to write music for a friend's film, I jumped at the chance even though I didn't know what I was doing. But because of all of that exposure, I knew what I needed to do. I knew what the film needed, and I somehow was able to cobble together music that made that film a better story.</p> <p><b>I've read that one of your methods of composing is muting the television and playing your guitar along with it. Russian composer Mussorgsky did something similar for his piece "Pictures at an Exhibition." According to Leonard Bernstein, Mussorgsky "tried to compose music that would describe them, in other words, do what a painter would do with paint." How would you compare that to your experiences composing along muted TV Shows?</b> </p> <p>I didn't know that. That is fascinating to hear! It's really inspiring because I was not doing it with the intention of scoring a TV show. I was just practicing guitar and the TV was on, and it was interfering with what I was hearing, so I turned down the volume and just played my scales or chords while looking at the TV, and it influenced what I was playing without me knowing it.</p> <p>So the creative influences and spark of painting a visual with sound is what I ended up doing without real understanding of how to do it or what I was doing in that moment, and then when my now wife came into the room, she said, "Wait! That's not coming from the TV? You're doing that?" That's when I got the idea that something was going on here that I was not aware of; I was channeling some inspiration there that I wasn't aware I had the ability to do. I think we will always try to channel that raw instinctive impulse, and our technique allows us to shape it into a form that makes sense but without that spark. I don't think the technique can ever make up for that. I think that it's just the shaping of the initial idea. - </p> <p>(<b><i>The Interpreters</i></b> first airs on PBS this Veteran's Day at 10 PM EST.) Check out the trailer here: <a href="https://www.pbs.org/video/trailer-interpreters-p9m4yo" target="_blank">PBS</a></p> <p><i>Miss Huang</i><i> is a st</i><i>udent</i><i> of </i><i>Macaulay's Honors College at CCNY and an online writer. </i><em>This is her first article for <a href="http://culturecatch.com/">CultureCatch.com</a>.</em></p> </div> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-add"><a href="/node/3894#comment-form" title="Share your thoughts and opinions." hreflang="en">Add new comment</a></li></ul><section> <a id="comment-1436"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1574113985"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1436#comment-1436" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">It&#039;s incredible to see a…</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>It's incredible to see a professional musician's creative process incorporate something as commonplace as TV! It makes me think of what other activities in my daily routine I can use as a source of inspiration in my writing. I look forward to your future articles, Ms. Huang!</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1436&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="kPJJiGnjmkVl2h64uf1fQGkCaqqtaLqSul_S3FhzpnQ"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/user/0"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/extra_small/public/default_images/avatar.png?itok=RF-fAyOX" width="50" height="50" alt="Generic Profile Avatar Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> <p>Submitted by <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kelvin S.</span> on November 14, 2019 - 22:27</p> </footer> </article> <a id="comment-1462"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1574351365"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1462#comment-1462" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">This was an excellent…</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>This was an excellent article on a very sad central issue. The ability for a composer like Mr. TaufiQue to convey to the viewer the genuine fear, tension, anxiety, and stress felt by these Interpreters as their new reality of being ostracized by their own neighbors and community members dawned on them is pivotal to the show's mission of bringing the world's lens on their plight.</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1462&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="JxAjvakVVUQbWURUyKW5am8Ai0dLkGWI1ya0FQ2djUU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/user/0"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/extra_small/public/default_images/avatar.png?itok=RF-fAyOX" width="50" height="50" alt="Generic Profile Avatar Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> <p>Submitted by <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">S. N.</span> on November 20, 2019 - 20:04</p> </footer> </article> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3894&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="AtZyDkFH6F-i_JELtT05npQndk2J27_cq-poA7eNjOU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 11 Nov 2019 21:55:36 +0000 Isabella Huang 3894 at http://culturecatch.com Trump's Mentor http://culturecatch.com/node/3890 <span>Trump&#039;s Mentor</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/6767" lang="" about="/user/6767" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dennis Rohatyn</a></span> <span>October 31, 2019 - 15:43</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lTrHL7Vo_SQ?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, no recent film could be more congenial to anyone with a heart or a brain than <i>Where's My Roy Cohn?</i>  (2019, dir. Matt Tyrnauer). Tyrnauer, whose repertoire includes <i>Citizen Jane: The Battle for the City</i>, <i>Studio 54</i>, and <i>Valentino: The Last Emperor, </i>presents us with a disarmingly simple thesis: Donald Trump was made in the image of Roy Cohn (1927-1986), the "sinister" sidekick of red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who was as "evil" as he was brilliant, both as an attorney in high-profile cases and in his private life. I will not argue about Cohn, because the point of the film is not that Cohn was a sleazy, corrupt, no-holds-barred bastard (he was), but that he and he alone taught Donald Trump everything that Mr. Trump knows about lying, cheating, stealing and (for the most part) getting away with it without the slightest remorse or shame. That is the thesis of this documentary -- indeed, the only one. The analogies are certainly there, and are worth examining. But the thesis is so one-sided, so formulaic, and so reductive that it invites refutation.</p> <p>For one thing, it leaves Trump's father out of the picture (<i>sic</i>) entirely, yet everyone knows, and Trump himself admits, that his father had a formative influence on him, both as a person and as a "builder" in the real estate construction industry (see Mark D’Antonio, <i>The Truth About Trump</i> [2016] and <i>Never Enough: Donald</i> Trump and the Pursuit of Success [2015], for all the relevant biographical details).</p> <p>For another, it doesn't deal with the fact that Mr. Cohn was a gifted lawyer, notably erudite, exceptionally well prepared, armed with a photographic memory (which only deserted him in the last stages of his life, when he was dying of AIDS) and a rapier-like wit, plus a keen ability to reason from premises to conclusion without committing <i>non sequiturs</i> that even Mr. Spock might envy.</p> <p>Whereas, Donald Trump has none of these (or any other) mental attributes, or else he keeps them well hidden.  Which raises the question, how (if at all) did Roy Cohn manage to teach Donald Trump anything besides being a jerk? Or was that somehow innate in both men -- all in their respective genes? Trump's greed and rapacity seem downright instinctual, whereas Cohn's were acquired (as the film shows) as a consequence of diasporic exile, re-enacted in the Bronx, where Cohn grew up, and within the walls that imprisoned him at home, like Kafka's wandering fly, darting every which way to avoid being swatted. Trump was to the manor born; Cohn was from an upper-class family whose wealth he squandered. How could a bad businessman serve as an exemplar or role-model for someone who constantly boasts of his wealth, and calls everyone who is not quite as rich "losers"?</p> <p>The similarities between Cohn and Trump are strained to the breaking point, before they are even drawn. Instead of insight, we get interviews with important people who knew Cohn when, observed him for many years, were wronged (or appalled) by him, scarred by him, are still (rightly) embittered, and see clear resemblances between Cohn and Trump, which leads them to issue dire warnings, echoing a Greek chorus, even as they prophesy about the past -- that is, things Trump has already done. The problem here is not one of bias: or, if it is, I share it. Rather, it's that you can't connect all the dots when there aren't that many to connect, and they veer off in ways that defy Rubik to erect a new cube -- a high-rise, open only to lawyers for Cosa Nostra and their sleazy clients.</p> <p>What's left isn't even a polemic, but a rant -- an<i> a priori</i>  judgment, based on scant evidence mixed with spite. It is not propaganda, but something far worse:  shoddy journalism, which plays right into the dirty hands of ideology. The search for "Citizen Cohn" is both fascinating and undeniably important. But you need a search warrant, or else the whole project is bogus and invalid.</p> <p>Lest I be accused of doing the same (vague generalities, as opposed to making specific criticisms supported by verifiable claims), I present some pertinent items for public inspection. Here are some of the many errors of omission and commission that mar this film, and make it unworthy of being called documentary, except in a fanciful or Pickwickian sense:</p> <p>1.  No mention is made of Cohn's touchy and troubled relationships with the two Kennedys, dating from his appointment in 1951 as McCarthy's chief aide, when Hoover chose him over Robert Kennedy, to his censure by the Senate in 1954, on a date when Senator John Kennedy was hospitalized and therefore conveniently unable to vote. RFK disapproved of Roy Cohn's methods but liked him personally, as did so many others. They worked out an uneasy truce; Bobby never disavowed him openly, nor refused any assignments. They were seated together at most of the televised sessions of HUAC, in 1953-54. JFK did not wish to appear “soft” on anti-Communism, nor to betray a fellow Irish Catholic, and risk alienating both church officials and his Massachusetts followers. His operation for Addison's disease was behind him by the time that McCarthy came up for censure, but he lingered in the hospital to avoid having to appear on the Senate floor and cast a ballot. As Eleanor Roosevelt said of him in 1957, "he needs less profile and more courage." A concise synopsis of the man, and of the book he didn’t write (as Sorensen confessed, much to the dismay of Jacqueline Onassis, when he could no longer keep it a secret).</p> <p>2.   Cohn helped Ronald Reagan defeat John Anderson in the 1980 NY State Primary. But Anderson's campaign had problems of its own, from start to finish. No money, poor showings in various states, a trip to Europe to burnish his foreign policy credentials that cost him precious time at home, wooing voters who didn't care about that, and didn’t even know his name.</p> <p>The idea that Cohn was responsible for Anderson's downfall is ludicrous. Anderson would be the first to admit it -- and he did. Similarly, the idea that Cohn was the "fixer" who was instrumental in getting Ronald Reagan into the White House is preposterous, not because Reagan deserved to win, or because he had clean hands, but simply because it didn't happen that way. Cohn's role in Reagan's victory was minimal. Jimmy Carter was the architect of his own defeat: he beat himself, from OPEC to the Iranian hostage crisis, and from Bert Lance and Hamilton Jordan to the ill-fated "malaise speech." No further analysis or explanation of the decisive phase in Reagan’s ascent to power is necessary.</p> <p>3.  Geraldine Ferraro had IRS woes, a loose tongue (racist remarks), and purported connections to organized crime. Her boat sank as it left port. Again, whatever Cohn did to her is nothing compared to what she did to herself.   </p> <p>4.  Thomas Eagleton was a victim of prudery and prejudice (against psychiatry). McGovern lost his nerve, and his senses -- he should have gone to a shrink.  Eagleton was not "improperly vetted," as some allege; but Robert Novak's column tarred him with a broad brush ("amnesty, abortion, acid"). Unfortunately, Eagleton handed Novak the brush, thinking it was confidential and "off the record." Yet he was more sinned against than stupid: replacing him with Sgt. Shriver was the height of absurdity. So was doubting his mental state or stability, compared to Richard Nixon. Roy Cohn was not the issue. The chaos within the party (left over from 1968) was.</p> <p>5.  The lawsuits involving Trump's apartment houses were settled between 1975 and 1978, not (as shown in one piece of footage) 1982. This is a very minor point, but it illustrates the sloppy editing and lack of diligence that are apparent throughout.</p> <p>6.  Photographs of Cohn during various phases of his life always show him in an unflattering, unfavorable, hideous and threatening light. Granted, he wasn’t a matinée idol, but the mugshot approach is overdone. Alas, poor Nixon: only the five o'clock shadow knows how hideous (and damning) the aberrant lens can be, even when it reflects upon its own refractions, rather than distorting by default, let alone, demonizing us by design. If Cohn stepped from the grave to complain about his close-ups, he would have a very compelling case. It is obvious that he was framed -- but the audience is still a captive.</p> <p>7.  G. David Schine wasn't in the military, but (as was customary among select and privileged post-war peers) he wore crisp, neatly pressed uniforms to appear both authoritative and patriotic. In a nation of images, be <i>it I Love Lucy</i>, the Kefauver hearings or the Army-McCarthy trials, it was already imperative to have one that was spotless, all-American, and therefore above reproach. Unlike Donald Trump, Schine was not a con man or (as Holden Caulfield would say) a spoiled and vapid prep-school "phony," devoid of taste and bereft of character and intellect. But the regalia was part of his act, and (like the Music Man, minus the trombones) it did work, at least as a shield -- now there's an idea that Trump may put to defective use. Pity he didn’t think of it when he was of draft age -- or was Cohen unavailable to guide him through the Vietnam era, in such style that he might have faked it "perfectly," all the way from a Marine landing on China Beach to being "first responder" on 9/11, and on to being "chosen" to play (<i>sic</i>) the Messiah, coming to a resurrection near you.</p> <p>But then, Trump only went to the Wharton school at U. of Pennsylvania. (Cohn went to Columbia.  He got his law degree at age twenty -- as the film recounts, he was too young to apply for admission to the NY State bar! Young Joseph McCarthy was smart, too, as all of his biographers attest.</p> <p>Smart in conventional terms: so is Trump, which is why he outsmarts himself -- every day of the week. If he weren't such a fool, it might be fun to watch. Since we pay for his mistakes, we're the "morons," not Trump. How dim-witted can you get? Ask George Bush, but don't wait for an answer). </p> <p>Like Alger Hiss, who typed his epitaph when he "Whittiered" Richard Nixon's ravenous appetite for vengeance (or blood sport), Schine was a Harvard man, class of 1949, and (like Roy Cohn) part of the old <i>echt</i> Jewish Borscht Belt<i> bourgeoisie</i>. Is that why they hit it off, and became such good friends, if not more than good friends?</p> <p>Like Cohn, whom the film all but denounces as a "self-hating Jew" (an accusation hurled at any number of individuals, including Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Barenboim, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman, and me), Schine was eager to assimilate, given the Hiss case, not to mention the Rosenbergs.</p> <p>He married a Swedish woman in 1957, a former Miss Universe (<i>echt </i>gentil), fathered several children, and became a prominent movie producer as well as an accomplished musician. He and his wife died in a private airplane crash in 1996, in a plane piloted by one of his sons, who died in the same accident.</p> <p>He never discussed his involvement (if any) with Cohn after 1957. Was he gay? Some say yes, others say no. At the very least, he was, uh, bisexual. My guess is that his relationship with Cohn was asexual, but had homoerotic overtones, analogous to (e.g.) Leopold and Loeb, or (as a fictional archetype) Billy Budd and John Claggart. Indeed, if Cohn's malignity is the master trope, Melville is your main man-- no need to chase after white whales, "self-hating Jews," or Machiavellian masterminds.</p> <p>8.   Finally, what about Dora?  As it happens, Dora was the pseudonym of one of Freud's most famous patients. But the film makes her out to be the mother of Satan -- or Adolf Hitler, to be precise (doting mother, an indifferent father, spoiled from an early age, yet insecure, lonely, sexually ambivalent).</p> <p>But let's not exaggerate those parallels, either, or jump to absurd conclusions.</p> <p>Where is Mr. Spock when we need him? In his absence, I must rely on my all too human logic, which tells me that there's no equivalence -- only some coincidences.</p> <p>The difference is, Hitler was . . . poor. Hence his hatred of the rich . . . Jews, in particular. However, Hitler has a lot more in common with Donald Trump than with Roy Cohn. But that is not the point. Rather, the depiction of Dora is a textbook case (<i>sic</i>) of literary misogyny, posing as historical fact. I am sure she had flaws, and was in denial about many aspects of her son's life -- not just sex, but what he did for a living, how he 'earned' his money, and who all his friends were.</p> <p>But from the moment she is introduced, we hear nothing but bad things about her: ugly, unattractive, overbearing, can't get or hold a man except through parental intervention (and extortion), bad marriage, more or less frigid, and saw or heard no evil, especially where her only child was concerned. Is there nothing about this woman that is even slightly redeeming? Did anyone bother to ask, or find out? </p> <p>Is this a documentary or a film noir, with <i>cherchez la femme</i> as its classic: sexist signature? </p> <p>And what of the (absentee) father, the judge whom we dare not judge, lest we be judged, too?</p> <p>Add it all up and what do you get? A film that is half-baked, half-done, and totally bad.</p> <p>Not only does it raise more questions than it solves, but it indicts itself more than it succeeds in portraying Donald Trump as the protégé of Roy Cohn. Trump may be many things, but when it comes to being a political sorcerer, he was never a mere apprentice, even to his own father. It is tempting to reduce a complex individual to a simple formula. In Trump's case, there is only one formula that fits him: he wants to be all things to all people, because he is no one, even to himself.</p> <p>Roy Cohn was a despicable individual, but his battered, bartered and bruised soul was his own. Trump has no soul, no heart, and no brain: only the will to power, and an abiding faith that there is a sucker born every second, waiting to be cradled in the arms of a con man. The question is, will we make a liar out of him before the sad truth sets us free? </p> <p><em>Mr. Rohatyn is a retired philosophy professor in California who writes poems, plays, essays, and is now meditating on a book about Descartes.</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3890&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="LTyqV2J5G1ZtaW89XpnwGK6QwVJGtqUaHakU9709250"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 31 Oct 2019 19:43:28 +0000 Dennis Rohatyn 3890 at http://culturecatch.com Under-Stated Portrait of Genius and Loneliness http://culturecatch.com/node/3882 <span>Under-Stated Portrait of Genius and Loneliness</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>October 6, 2019 - 11:26</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/831" hreflang="en">biopic</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/98t7aXRaA6w?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>It could have been an over-the-top disaster.  Or a cheeky send-up.  It could have been a snooze.  Instead, it is a devastatingly under-stated portrait of genius and loneliness.</p> <p>What stays with you in Renee Zellweger's fearless embodiment of Judy Garland in "Judy" is the eyes - the fire that burns in them when she is on stage in front of an adoring (or at times not-so-adoring audience) and the weariness in them when she is not.  What the film and that performance do is something quite unexpected, they peel away the star trappings and reveal the fragile person inside.  And that is quite unlike most biopics that bounce off the glassy surface of their celebrity.  Here, the camera is unmercifully close to the eyes of its subject, and lingers there.  And we experience the emotional injuries, the terrible loneliness and the harrowing fear of what it is like to be an icon.</p> <p>You will hear a lot about how this is an Oscar worthy performance by Zellweger.  But what most critics won't tell you - focused too much on the horse-race handicapping of the award - is why.  The why is in the bravery of a performance that is so vulnerable as to be an open wound.  Yes there are moments of thrilling triumph in the London stage performances, but they are no match for the pain of  watching Renee/Judy pluckishly trying to overcome a broken life in full view of a tabloid world.</p> <p>Judy Garland was not a great singer, a great dancer, a great actor or a great beauty.  What she had was a great big heart.  And when she sang that big heart of hers was full to bursting with raw emotion -- thrilling and exhausting and completely devoid of artifice. And Zellweger uncannily captures this -- the raw genius  that fueled Judy's stardom.</p> <p>Other parts of the film are not as successful, falling into many of the traps of the celebrity biopic, with incomplete relationships, ancillary characters and too much pop psychology.  But these are quibbles next to Renee Zellweger's career-defining performance.  It's in those gorgeous eyes.  Those haunting, gorgeous eyes.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3882&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="_H0p-dliHM5EYp9nt12Ub8gt6cmG4UpYue7-ZTbsjm4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 06 Oct 2019 15:26:03 +0000 Mark Weston 3882 at http://culturecatch.com 3 Gay Films http://culturecatch.com/node/3875 <span>3 Gay Films</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>September 12, 2019 - 13:49</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/832" hreflang="en">LGQBT</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ELA_DhBp6qg?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong>Three of the Year's Best Films So Far Are Queer</strong></p> <p>Argentina, Brazil, and France over the past several months have served up some rather hard-hitting, astutely directed films, each with a distinguishable personality, each exploring varied aspects of the homosexual in modern times. Although, surprisingly, their plot lines, all situated in the now, wouldn’t feel out of place in several other decades with just a few alterations.</p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WF0h-HymbY" target="_blank"><i>The Blond One </i>(<i>Un Rubio</i>)</a><i> </i>is Marco Berger's sixth feature, no doubt the reason for its assured unhurriedness and its ability to make the most commonplace conversations (e.g. "Was it you who fixed the bathroom tap?") and actions (e.g. drinking yerba mate) rife with tension.</p> <p>The simple setup has the amber-locked Gabriel (Gaston Re) subletting a room from his co-worker Juan (Alfonso Barón) in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. They, both hard-bodied and in their thirties, are employed in a wood-cutting factory. Gabo, as he's called, is a widower with a young daughter in the second grade. She lives with his parents in the country.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="731" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-09/the-blond-one-film-still.png?itok=Bii0LuzT" title="the-blond-one-film-still.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Marco Berger’s “Blond One” showcase Love Brazilian Style</figcaption></figure><p>The brunet Juan, an unequaled womanizer, has numerous guy pals popping in regularly for beer chats and to watch soccer games on TV. When not ranting about their machismo conquests, one chap might spout, "I'd kick this dyke's butt so hard she'd be flying over Buenos Aires" or "weak fathers bring up queer sons."</p> <p>How come then, as the days and night swiftly fly by, is Juan adjusting his crotch in front of his new roomie, posing at the door, and walking about nude in the hallway, especially after his female conquests have left?</p> <p>What follows is a half hour of one of the most erotic seductions you have experienced in filmdom. The innocent Gabo is confused but seemingly intrigued. Is he himself gay? He certainly waters plants a lot. But as Juan appears to be moving in for the kill, pouncing to and fro like a boxer ready for the kill, the blond seems to be looking forward to being KO'd.</p> <p>Finally, there's the touch of the crotch with one daring finger, a few more digits go past the waistband, and so forth. A night of passion arrives, but what follows is never quite what you might expect. Was Gabo just a conquest? Can Juan commit?</p> <p>As John Lennon, among others, have noted:</p> <blockquote> <p>"Life is what happens to us while you're busy making other plans."</p> </blockquote> <article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-09/blond_one_film_still_2.png?itok=n8DrD0UY" width="1200" height="1001" alt="Thumbnail" title="blond_one_film_still_2.png" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Differentiating this tale of two guys searching for completeness within each other, besides its several unexpected twists and its Argentinian take on homophobia, is the stellar acting by Re, Barón, and the rest of the cast, plus the finesse of the production.</p> <p>Clearly, these last few years have been a robust time for imposing LGBTQI moviemaking, and writer/director/editor Berger, with his deliberately observant scenes that are often unafraid to be dialogue free and that are all beautifully shot by Nahuel Berger, has extended this blissful run. His message? A subtle take on "Come out, come out, wherever you are."</p> <p class="text-align-center">----------------------------------------------------------</p> <p>Alexandre Moratto's feature debut, <i>Socrates</i>, which was created in conjunction with the UNICEF-supported Querô Institute in Brazil, a non-profit that aids teens from low-income communities through filmmaking. With a crew of 16 to 20 year olds, which includes the co-writer Thayná Mantesso, you're not surprised then by the overpowering vistas of the slums of Sao Paolo as depicted and the aching emotions they provoke.</p> <p>The film, which made an impressive showing at this year's Indie Spirit Awards, including nominations for Best Male Lead and the John Cassavetes Award, immediately opens with the death of the mother of 15-year-old Socrates (Christian Malheioros). From that moment on, we can only hope the young man’s tale will avoid high tragedy, causing him to follow in the steps of his namesake.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hikXt_qVLlE?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>But how can Socrates earn a living when the minimum age for hiring is 18? Will he be evicted? How can he avoid being sent to a home? Where is his next meal coming from? Will the young man he falls in love with respond in same? Why is Socrates avoiding contact with father? What is it to be young and gay in a religious, heteronormative society with absolutely no one trustworthy to lend a helping hand?</p> <p>To reveal more is to ruin your "Socratic" experience. This brave little film, a tale of an uncomprehending hero whose every step seemingly is a misstep, is not unlike the best offerings of Italian neorealism of the post-war years. <i>Socrates</i> rubs all of your senses raw. Malheioros and Tales Ordakji, who plays his love interest, are quite extraordinary as is Moratto's helming.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="712" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-09/socrates-film-still.png?itok=ZjodZkTz" title="socrates-film-still.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>SOCRATES (CHRISTIAN MALHEIOROS) MOMENTARILY FORGETS HIS HUNGER PANGS WITH THE ENIGMATIC MACON (TALES ORDAKJI).</figcaption></figure><p class="text-align-center">----------------------------------------------------------</p> <p>There's been quite a few memorable films about male prostitution. John Schlesinger's <i>Midnight Cowboy </i>(1969), Paul Morrisey's<i> Trash</i> (1970), and Greg Araki's <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Lp5v4oQZRw" target="_blank"><i>Mysterious Skin</i></a><i> </i>are prime examples. Joining their ranks is writer/director Camille Vidal-Naquet's <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU8dwjRsO4g" target="_blank"><i>Sauvage</i></a><i>.</i></p> <p>Félix Maritaud, who was last seen on these shores as a French AIDS activist in <i>BPM</i> <i>(Beat Per Minute)</i> (2017), plays Leo, a 22-year-old hapless street prostitute, who's looking for love in all the wrong places. Basically illiterate, a habitual drug user, often homeless, he's surprised when a doctor says he should change his ways. "Why would I?" he wonders aloud.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/wcV7Hk-OqsE?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>As Leo wanders the streets, with his winsome looks, like a battered kitten left to fend for himself, we meet the young man's clientele, a cornucopia of gents showcasing the fact that some homosexuals can be bastards like anyone else, while others can give St. Francis of Assisi a run for his money. Or didn't we know that already?</p> <p>The film is erotic, shocking, tender, brutal, funny, and bears repeated viewings. Four times so far for me. Just watch Leo cuddle up with a septuagenarian widower while a photo of the man's wife looks on kindly. Then there's the barbaric gay couple trying to stiff our hero of his wages after violating him brutally. And so forth. Sex for survival. Sex for bliss.</p> <p class="text-align-center">----------------------------------------------------------</p> <p>After screening all three, you can't but wonder whether Leo's back story is Socrates' future, or whether either of these young men will ever meet a Gabriel, who will cherish them, hopefully before they are too broken to love him back.</p> <p>(<i>The Blond One </i>is ended a week's run in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall on September 12th. <i>Socrates </i>is now on DVD and VOD. <i>Sauvage/Wild </i>has also made it onto DVD.)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3875&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="ed5-kSW7IDljXEuoLmadH3s-VOZ6sQ7kRS-WAKNNgJY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 17:49:44 +0000 Brandon Judell 3875 at http://culturecatch.com Coming Attractions! http://culturecatch.com/node/3871 <span>Coming Attractions!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>August 28, 2019 - 11:32</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ve-dkztGutk?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Sir Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror, genre-defining movie masterpiece <em>Alien</em> gets a long overdue documentary about all of the gory details that went into making it. <em>Memory:  The Origins of Alien</em> unearths the largely untold origin story behind Scott's cinematic masterpiece, and reveals a treasure trove of never-before-seen materials from the archives of <em>Alien </em>creators Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger -- including original story notes, rejected designs and storyboards, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, and O'Bannon's original 29 page script from 1971, titled <em>Memory</em>. The documentary also takes fans on an exploration of the mythical underpinnings of <em>Alien</em> and dedicates focus on the film's iconic “Chestburster” scene.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3871&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="mvemyNT2By40LsT51KCPH_Baa9bUKEDSrN_onkBwa3E"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 28 Aug 2019 15:32:12 +0000 Dusty Wright 3871 at http://culturecatch.com Cinema’s Thoreau Is Begging You Not to Make a Movie or Write a Book http://culturecatch.com/node/3868 <span>Cinema’s Thoreau Is Begging You Not to Make a Movie or Write a Book</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>August 23, 2019 - 22:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/500" hreflang="en">celebrity interview</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-08/aquarela_2_photo.jpg?itok=NJVHUw1K" width="1200" height="800" alt="Thumbnail" title="aquarela_2_photo.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Victor Kossakovsky has no time for fools, especially when it comes to directors and cinema. He's even came up with ten rules for would-be helmers, the main one being: "Don't film if you can live without filming."</p> <p>He nods. It's 10:30 AM, and the no-frills Russian filmmaker, with his graying beard, disheveled silver locks, and bohemian charm joins me in a Mondrian Park Avenue Hotel suite. A publicist monitors the door as the director/screenwriter/editor/cinematographer and winner of 100 worldwide awards for his past work, chars up his critically acclaimed paean to tumultuous water, <i>Aquarela</i>. <i>Variety </i>describes this current effort as a "grandiose, sense-pummeling documentary ride." The <i>British Film Institute </i>settles for "poetic and multi-sensorial . . .  a thundering technical achievement."</p> <p>Back to his rule: "I guess I steal it from Tolstoy," Kossakovsky laughs, which he does a lot. </p> <blockquote> <p>"I believe Tolstoy wrote something somewhere in his diaries or somewhere. . . . This my way. I believe we live in a time when there are too many products, too many films, too many books, too many music . . . and it's actually pollution, intellectual pollution. . . . Every piece of crap has someone who likes it. With every piece of shitty music or crap film, someone will go, 'Ohhh! What a good film!' … So I say to everyone, you should not make good films, only incredible films, only unique. . . .  That's why [filmmaking] must be necessity. Must be like you cannot live without it. You wake up with necessity to grab up camera and show something to people. Otherwise, why? Otherwise, why?"</p> </blockquote> <p>Why, indeed!</p> <p>"You know people always say good films contain story, good characters, and an original way of doing it. This is cinema language. Character, story, and language, right? I would say it's always missing something else. Magic! Magic! For me, it's not enough to have these three components. I need magic."</p> <p><i>Aquarela</i> -- which boasts few words and no framing devices to inform you whether the frozen lakes, pounding seas, death-defying floods and hurricane winds are in Greenland, Russia, or Mexico — wants to showcase a nature untamed. With its numerous international crews and its unexpected scenarios, Kossakovsky woke up each morning thankful that no one had died the day before. Well, almost no one.</p> <p>An exception is in the opening segment on Lake Baikal. The footage was not supposed to record a death. First there is the beauty of white upon white upon white. Then we see two men scraping away at the ice on the frozen water. A car has sunk. There is a body under that ice. How did this shot come about?</p> <p>In his earlier film, the never-less-than-stunning <i>¡Vivan las antípodas!</i>, a young 11-year-old girl exclaims if she could be reborn, she would come back as water.</p> <p>"And I put camera in exactly the same spot where she said it," recalls Kossakovsky. "The first shot in <i>Aquarela </i>after the credits was exactly there. The same place. So actually I came to Baikal to see beautiful ice, the cracks on the ice, and all this, but suddenly on the first shooting date appears this car, and then a person dies just accidentally in my frame, and I realize I cannot continue the film in the same way as I was planning so I just forgot the script and I start [anew]."</p> <p>However, before the viewer can realize what's happening, before the camera comes upon the tragedy caused by the folly of men driving an auto over ice, there is some comic music on the soundtrack.</p> <p>"You know why? Because it's actually . . . in  the patterns of our lives," he explains. The men who live there are so confident that when I said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t go there, they say, 'Come on. You don’t teach me. I was born in Baikal. I know ice like the lines on my palm. I can see on ice. I can see the cracks, and I know if I should go or if I shouldn’t. You don't teach me, boy.'"</p> <p>"This is overconfidence. This is what we are doing in the world, right? We are all overconfident. We know everything," Kossakovsky chuckles. "We think we can do whatever we want. That's what happened to us but unfortunately. That’s why after this moment, of course, I was not able to continue with my plans."</p> <p>"My original idea was this one," he notes, "to show at least one thousand powers of water. . . .  It's a kind of film that changes you, right? I became a different person because of this film. I realized that we are not the most important creatures. So what do we say say? We say we can live without water for five days. That’s abstract. But when you make film like this and being in an extreme situation, you really measure yourself [against water’s] power, and you really understand that we are really tiny."</p> <p>As for Kossakovsky’s next film, <i>Krogufant</i>, with which he is currently in final edit, "it's about pig, chicken, and cow."</p> <p>Pig, chicken, and cow?</p> <p>"No people," he insists. "No slaughtery. No concentration camps. Nothing like this. Only chicken, pig, and cow. How they are. How they really are. No voice over. Nothing."</p> <p>This animal epic was shot around the globe. "Pig I film in Norway, I film chicken in Whales, and cows I film in Spain."</p> <p>Why no imagery of animals being slaughtered?</p> <p>"I understand that people are filming such stuff, and it doesn’t help," Kossakovsky insists. "It doesn't help anything. It's like people still don't think. They just ignore and they don’t want to know. That's why I decided to do it this way. People like to worship the dolphin or the elephant or chimpanzee, and I say, "No! No! No! I will show who is cow. Who is the other kind. You think chickens cannot teach you. Chickens can teach you how to survive, and cows can teach you to survive, and pigs can teach you to survive." And Kossakovsky can teach you if you will only watch.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3868&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="j42MeOX3nB47-9bRzMPM12vVK-H9C-JzmkCWEtY3xmQ"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 24 Aug 2019 02:54:41 +0000 Brandon Judell 3868 at http://culturecatch.com Deja View http://culturecatch.com/node/3867 <span>Deja View</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>August 16, 2019 - 09:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ln9dtQ8tuKk?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Croz was just in New York City, full of joy, bigger than life. The 77-year old David Crosby played a spectacular set of music mixing in CSN&amp;Y, solo, and new material at Lincoln Center's Guggenheim Bandshell at Damrosch Park on Sunday night, August 11th, with his new band Sky Trails -- lead guitarist Jeff Pevar (Steely Dan, Phil Lesh, Marc Cohn, et al.), drummer David DiStanislao (David Gilmour, Don Felder), Mai Leisz (Greg Leisz' wife ), keyboardist/vocalist Michelle Willis,  and musical director/keyboardist/son James Raymond. Historic in the fact that it was 50 years prior that he and CSNY debuted at Woodstock. As I sat there I couldn't believe how amazing his voice sounded, how tight the vocal harmonies were, how hard he and his band rocked  "Ohio" (encore) and "Wooden Ships." His passion for sharing his music is infectious and defies his tumultuous personal life -- addictions, love lost, prison, broken friendships. Even his failing health can't keep him down.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/e4T1nNxoJEE?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Wandering around the VIP section at the outdoor venue was writer/producer/filmmaker Cameron Crowe, producer of David's new heart-wrenching documentary <em>Remember My Name</em> (Sony Pictures Classic). I mentioned to him that we share a friend in common and I was planning on seeing his documentary soon.  </p> <p>Well, I saw it on Thursday afternoon, day one of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. It is not a perfect documentary, but then no documentary on David Crosby could be. Our heroes are not perfect. None of us are perfect. Yes, he's left in his wake too many broken relationships; his own insecurities fueling his drug addictions and self-sabotage. There are no interviews with any of six children or current interviews with Neil Young, Graham Nash, or Stephen Stills. He torched those bridges with his musical comrades and has yet to rebuild them. And yet he's very contrite and honest in sharing his reckless regard of those very precious friendships. The doc most certainly functions as a massive mea culpa to anyone he has wronged, both living and dead. </p> <p>Regardless of his own personal demons, one can't deny his influence on seminal rock acts The Byrds and Crosby, Stills &amp; Nash/Crosby, Stills, Nash &amp; Young/Crosby &amp; Nash. His first solo album <em>If Only I Could Remember My Name </em>(1971), written in the wake of the tragic loss of his true love Christine Hinton, remains a timeless and <em>difficult-to-categorize</em> classic. Graham Nash has gone on record stating that the loss of Christine was massive: "I watched a part of David die that day." And so did a piece of David's heart and his ability to process fame and stardom.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TeZS3gpk2aI?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Born and raised in Hollywood, his father Floyd was an Academy Award winning American cinematographer for the movie <i><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabu:_A_Story_of_the_South_Seas" target="_blank" title="Tabu: A Story of the South Seas">Tabu: A Story of the South Seas</a> </i>and shot the movie <em>High Noon</em>, et al. He claims in the doc that his father never told him or his brother that he loved them. Perhaps that fueled his "anger" and his anti-authoritarian and impetuous behavior throughout most of his career. And yet as David's life winds down and he deals with his health -- liver transplant, heart attacks and stents, diabetes -- his need for music and playing it live remain front and center, even if it means he might not make it back home to his wife Jan and his dogs.</p> <p>When pressed by Cameron Crowe in the documentary:</p> <blockquote> <p>"If I were to say, no music but you get <em>extreme</em> joy in your home life... do you make that trade?"</p> </blockquote> <p>Without hesitation, David replies:</p> <blockquote> <p>"No music? No, not interested. It's the only thing I've got to offer, really."</p> </blockquote> <p>In the spirit of Woodstock, I would implore you to witness David's tour and watch Cameron's must-see documentary. I found myself singing along with so many of the classic tunes and even misting up when David bared his soul. If one must suffer for one's art, then David's life has been fueled by undeniable chaos even while delivering so many memorable and heartfelt musical moments.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3867&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="fx5VkyzeZ_GqSL-lACJ5pal4Dafv7BEZzkEP3sCA0xY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:56:10 +0000 Dusty Wright 3867 at http://culturecatch.com