“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 »


JazzFest ’19: Day I, Part I

Posted: April 25th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

Back in the days before the Google, before computerized Radariffic Positrack Weathercast, you could go out blindly into the foray without any real certainty of nature’s intrusions.

No more, of course.

It is the first day of JazzFest, and the gates are, actually were, set to open in about forty minutes from this moment as I sit at the keypad. But those vexing Crescent City skies, as they are wont to do from time to time, have burst forth in abundance.

Arrivez les deluge.

Soooooooo, we are in a holding pattern down here in New Orleans.

I’m reminded of a day years ago, when my krewe breakfasted at Cafe du Monde, sprinkling our apparel with powdered sugar, and our tummies with fried dough as delicioso as there can be. The raindrops that morning were similarly softball sized.

My fellow festers then were not as obsessed as yours truly. One pair decided that a movie or trip to a museum was a more discerning option. But Ms. Phyllis, the most conservative of our gang, said, “let’s do it.” Her hubby agreed. Since which moment I’ve thought of her differently and considered her even more fondly than I had before.

(Meanwhile, as I write, OZ is airing a Henry Butler JF performance from ‘o2. The irony is that the fabled NO piano master  is covering “Riders of the Storm,” at this moment. Henry Buter? The Doors? Have I mentioned how much I love this cockamamie town?)

Of course, I’m reminded of serious inclemencies from the past. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest 2019: The Day Before

Posted: April 24th, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Music | No Comments »

There is a burning question for those of us obsessed with the anecdotia of rock & roll, especially that of New Orleans.

Why is that Allen Toussaint, a fellow on the Mount Rushmore of American music, a bespoke, dapper fellow, who was alway dressed impeccably in the finest if elegantly flamboyant, superbly tailored suits, a dandy; why is that the Mr. Toussaint, with never a thread out of place, always wore sandals with white socks.

If it weren’t for his musical eminency, such an apparel quirk would never have cut it.

To find out the answer to this nagging query about my favorite musician — that’s Toussaint and me at the top of the c d kaplan Culture Maven Facebook page — I went to the source.

Allen Toussaint’s haberdasher.

Ozzie Hunter is also immaculately attired, if considerably more conservatively, given that he’s been a salesman to the stars and New Orleans gentry (and turista) for decades at Rubenstein’s. Which family owned Crescent City store at the corner of St. Charles and Canal continues to clothe men for whom New Orleans is more than a thing, but a way of life.

“I catered to Allen’s tastes for over twenty years,” advises Hunter. Read the rest of this entry »


“Private Life”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: April 19th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

When you have actors who are at the top of their considerable games — like Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti — and a writer/ director like Tamara Jenkins with a firm grasp of her purpose, even the mundane can become special.

So it is withe the independent film, “Private Life,” observing the far from razzmatazz tale of a literate NY couple with fertility issues and their quest for parenthood.

The emotions, conversations, relationship twists and turns are all very real here. So much that, as close as they feel to actual life, they prove revelatory.

This is a slice of life film, devoid of contrivance. It’s also quite funny.

The characters and the exigencies of their daily lives fascinate, simply because of the craft of the filmmaker and portrayers.

There are several visuals that are so subtly resonant, including a final one shot without dialog. Which may be the best final shot I’ve seen in a long while.

For more on “Private Life,” available on Netflix, listen up:

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“Bathtubs over Broadway”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: March 5th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Every once in awhile, a movie has a title that is so unique and curious it reaches out and grabs you by the collar and screams, “See this movie. A S A P.”

A title as evocative as, say, “Bathtubs over Broadway.”

Every once in awhile, there’s a documentary that covers a fascinating subject, about which you more than likely had no prior knowledge.

A documentary about as unique a topic as, say, “Bathtubs over Broadway.”

If you are like me, you probably have never heard of the theater genre known as “industrial musicals.” Lavish singing and dancing, big budget stage productions meant to be seen once in front of a sales meeting for, say, Johnson & Johnson, or an annual meeting of Chevy dealers.

Well, they existed big time in the post WWII economy, and to some extent still do.

And, David Young, a comedy writer on the Letterman Show for years, became fascinated with this subgenre of the American stage in the 90s.

It became an obsession.

This illuminating and truly charming documentary follows his path as he learns more and more about this niche art, eventually tracking down those who created it.

“Bathtubs over Broadway” is funny and sweet.

For more, listen up:

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“Green Book”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: March 1st, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

So what we have here — not “a failure to communicate” which is a line from a truly worthy film — is the flick that slipped away with the Oscar for Best Picture, much to the chagrin and disbelief of many.

That many includes critics, cineastes, Spike Lee, and a portion of mainstream movie goers.

There are lots of reasons why this was a surprising winner to many, and why there are legitimate plaints about the film’s worthiness.

Make no mistake, “Green Room” is not without charm, as trite and manipulative as it may be.

I found myself cringing — literally — at some of the scenes, all of which anyone above the age of, say, three years old, could see coming ahead of time.

I would call out to myself — quietly of course — are they really going there? To find out within moments, the answer was Yes. Always.

Nary a trope was left in the cutting room.

But, all that naysaying notwithstanding, I succumbed. And, really didn’t hate myself for enjoying it.

But, “Best Picture”?

Gimme a break.

My podcasted take on the film is more specific, nuanced, and, to be brutally honest, quite entertaining.

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