“Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorcese”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: June 14th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

The other evening I attended a panel discussion on Hunter Thompson, which included much discussion about his propensity to make things up, and mix in that fantasy with “facts” about whatever he was covering.

The consensus take away was that Thompson’s indulgent inventions added legitimate perspective and an element of “truth” to his reportage.

Which I thought of as I fully considered this incredible film about one of rock & roll’s most iconic tours.

The Netflix movie includes all the great concert footage and glimpses backstage of the traveling medicine show that the audience has anxiously been looking forward to.

Plus there are current interviews with Dylan and Joan Baez, looking back at the mid 70s tour.

As well as other interviews, which are — spoiler alert — trickeration.

Dylan remains ever mysterious and vague and crafty. Scorcese, realizing it’s part of the deal, plays along, presenting some perspectives while faux that still add to the “truth” of how things went down.

This film, one guy’s opinion, is nothing less than one of the best ever made about rock & roll.

For more insight, listen below:

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Film Review Podcast: “Big Little Lies S2”

Posted: June 13th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I get the pushback.

For some viewers enough is enough. After a season long tease, we learned in the final episode of the first go round of “Big Little Lies,” who died at the school fund raiser and how.

Yet, the aftermath could prove to be just as delicious.

If only for more of the superbly crafted characterizations by Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz.

And how the insulated community of the Monterey Peninsula deals with them. How they each deal personally with emotions after the incident. As well as how their relationships with each other play out.

For more on what to expect in S2 of “Big Little Lies,” listen up:

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— c d kaplan


“Destroyer”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: June 4th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Don’t get me started on the strange ways of the Hollywoodland movie industry, and how & why some movies open on too many screens, and others with compelling story lines and award winning acting never find a distributor.

Which is my fairly obvious way of saying that what might very well be Nicole Kidman’s best career performance should have been available for more audience to savor on the screens of cineplexes in every town.

But “Destroyer” never made it to the silver screen in my town, and probably not yours. Which is why we’re lucky that it can viewed at Amazon Prime.

Kidman plays an obviously way down on her luck homicide detective out to solve a murder mystery and track down the bad guy responsible. We learn soon enough they have a history. And even more cleverly as the back and forth plot unwinds, the treacherous nature of their relationship.

Kidman’s character is not very likable, which makes it all the more fascinating how she is able to draw in the audience to want to learn what happened and what happens.

For further details, listen to the podcast below:

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— c d kaplan


“Booksmart”: Film Review and Podcast

Posted: May 28th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

Not all teen movies are the same.

Certainly not “Booksmart,” the engaging directorial debut of Olivia Wilde.

It’s the last day of high school for BFFs Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever (Amy and Molly in the flick, though their real first names should have been used.)

Much is revealed to them as they let loose for the first time in their teen years. Especially how they’ve misjudged many of their peers.

Which is to say that this flick is not only funny and entertaining, but also full of insight.

For more detail, listen to my podcast review:

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Film Review Podcast: “Under the Silver Lake”

Posted: May 20th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

That I am able to review “Under the Silver Lake” is a testament to the new dynamic in the world of cinema.

The trailers for this film showed a year ago or so at the eight screen cineplex in my town that used to show indie films and small films and what used to be known as “art films.” Operative phrase: “used to show.” Now it’s all Avengers all the time, along with other lowest common denominator popcorn flicks. And the film itself never showed.

Sigh. Such is the nature of the biz.

So, if it weren’t for Netflix and Jeff Bezos Prime and their ilk, we’d never have an opportunity to see such as “Under the Silver Lake” and other oddities of interest, but not enough interest to make it to the Heartland on a big screen.

It’s the yin and yang of life.

So, I’m grateful, if somewhat exasperated.

As for the film, more details about which you can learn from listening to the podcast below, well, it intrigues, if not providing total satiation.

Andrew Garfield is an underachiever in LA, who meets Riley Keough one evening, when she’s swimming in his apartment complex pool. They flirt, cuddle and make plans to hook up the next day. But she’s gone, and her apartment is empty.

Garfield commences an odyssey to find her, and discover the meaning of other mysteries abounding in his neighborhood. Along the way, he is bombarded with decades of pop culture references.

For more insight, listen up:

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“Amazing Grace”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: May 10th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | 1 Comment »

Concert footage of the iconic 1972 Gospel Concert by Lady Soul Aretha Franklin has finally been released, under the title, “Amazing Grace.”

It languished in the vaults for decades, essentially because director Sydney Pollack didn’t know how to film a concert. Only when digital editing allowed the visuals and sound to be synchronized was the raw concert footage able to be turned into a film.

And, then, for reasons which remain somewhat mysterious — though I offer a possible explanation in my podcast — Ms. Franklin herself forbade its release before her passing.

It is a blessing that it is finally in release, and will be showing dozens of times in my town at the Speed Museum Cinema between now and the end of May.

Though the film is to be seen and savored by anyone who cares about music, in my podcast below, I discuss some oddities about the filming of this concert that temper my enthusiasm somewhat.

Please listen:

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“Long Shot”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: May 7th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

Yes I was seriously predisposed to like this film.

It is after all a romantic comedy, in which a nerdy writer — Seth Rogen — ends up connecting romantically with the woman who babysat for him in his youth, who happens to be Secretary of State, and who happens to be running for President, and . . . most pertinently . . . who happens to be Charlize Theron.

I mean, a guy can hope, right?

That’s what movies are about most of the time, entertainment, fantasy.

The two connect as actors, making this whole rom com work, even if the plotline is familiar.

They are aided by a brilliant supporting turn by Bob Odenkirk, who plays the sitting president.

For more details, listen up:

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“The Sopranos”: A Look Back

Posted: May 3rd, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

Well, truth be told, for me, it’s not a look back.

The mea culpa: I never watched an episode of the iconic HBO TV series when it first aired for six seasons. (Which I realize is yet another diminishment of my adopted moniker, the Culture Maven. Fake sobriquet? Arguably.)

Anyway, since there’s been some buzz on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the series about the Family Soprano, and the Jersey mob, run by patriarch Tony, and/ or Uncle Jr., I decided it was time after this score of years to check it out.

So, I’ve been streaming it season by season on Amazon Prime for the last couple months.

What you will hear below are my observations, colored by hindsight.

Let’s be clear though, as much as I’ve been taken in by “The Sopranos,” especially the universally marvelous characterizations and acting, I still consider “The Wire” a cut way above anything else that’s ever aired.

You should still listen to my observations.

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JazzFest ’19, Day 4: If You Don’t Go, You Don’t Know

Posted: April 30th, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

(My apologies for the late post. Had a Sunday night Crawfish Boil. And I chose not to drive and type at the same time while on my way home Monday.) 

I’m reminded of an evening years ago, at dinner with my krewe after a day at the Fest.

We pulled out our wrinkled Cubes and extolled the experience of the groups we shared and one upped each other on the ones we heard when we went our separate ways. It’s the nature of the beast, given how much music plays at the same time on so many stages. There’s more great stuff you miss, than you can possibly hear.

So, at this dinner the night I’m talking about, all of a sudden I start laughing while I peruse my scribbles for the day.

“What’s up,” my pals inquired?

“Oh, just that I totally blew off Ray Charles.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’19, Day 3: Crescent City Faves, Then & Now

Posted: April 28th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

Context: New Orleans, the world’s most musical town, is a piano town and it is a horn town.

Kids don’t hide at their friend’s homes in the afternoon to avoid piano lessons.

It is a place where making the roster of the school band is not onerous but an honor.

The spirit force of Satchmo and Jelly Roll is strong, passing from generations to the next.

At this 50th Fest, there are lots of put together sets, honoring the icons of the past, who have influenced and continue to influence the citizenry and providing a harmony in the air down here.

In the Blues Tent before a throng busting its seams was The New Orleans Piano Professors Celebration. Current Masters of the 88s paying homage to their forefathers. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’19, Day 2: Sometimes Enough is Enough

Posted: April 27th, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

There are now two days at JazzFest when I have been simply sated, had my fill even though there was tuneage left to be heard, when I was OK to bid adieu before the music stopped.

In 1988, I felt comfortable enough to return to the indulgent charms of New Orleans and rejoined the Fest for the first time since I’d cleaned up my profligate act six years earlier.

I couldn’t get enough, running from stage to stage, heading into the night for more on the Riverboat. By the time the Neville Brothers Band, then at the height of their power took the stage the last day, I was just about consumed . . .

. . . then I heard for the first time Aaron, with only brother Art accompanying him on the piano, singing the lustrous “Arianne.”

Swooping. Soaring. Soulful. Shiver inducing. The Ultimate Aaron.

There was room for nothing more. I was full with satisfaction.

I turned, walked to the car, where I waited for an hour or so for my pals who stayed until the day’s end.

There was a redux of sorts this Friday. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest Day 1.2: Muck & Marvelous Music

Posted: April 26th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

Inexorable. JazzFest shall not be deterred.

Gates opened an hour and a half late, thirty minutes past noon.

Music and precipatory deluge poured forth.

Muck ensued. Frolic prevailed nonetheless.

Tis the yin and yang of the deal.

Much ado has been made that this is the 50th JazzFest, and there was serious what goes around comes around context on Day One.

Early on in the Gospel Tent, Cynthia Girtley, a mean pianist and singer in her own right, was paying tribute to New Orleans’ and the World’s First Lady of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson.

Soon enough she got around to “Closer Walk with Thee,” a pivotal point in the lore of JazzFest, as Quint Davis and JF founder George Wein mentioned later on in their interview at the Allison Miner Stage.

The first Fest was in what is now Congo Square, then known as Beauregard Square. About three hundred people showed up. Lots of money was lost. But Wein had commissioned Duke Ellington to write and perform “New Orleans Suite” for an evening performance.

In the afternoon, Wein corralled Sir Duke and Mahalia to join him for a walkthrough of the daytime festivities. They came upon the venerable Eureka Brass Band. When they broke into the aforementioned Jackson classic, Mahalia took the mic and sang the song.

It is said that JazzFest was truly born that moment.

Some of us have been making that closer walk an annual rite. Read the rest of this entry »