Film Review Podcast: “Norman”

Posted: May 19th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There are many times when, during his lengthy film career, Richard Gere’s performances have seemed diffuse, somewhat cool, too understated as if he were distancing himself from his character.

Not so by a long shot in this intriguing little film with the full lengthy title, “Norman The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.”

The character is unique.

And Gere’s performance is the finest of his career.

This is a fascinating study of an earnest fellow in the New York business/ Jewish community, who wants to be a player, to get things done and to be well liked.

How it all plays out makes for marvelous cinema.

For more details, listen below:

Audio MP3

Film Review Podcast: “Free Fire”

Posted: May 11th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Truth be told, this is the kind of movie I generally avoid as if it were the reincarnation of the Bubonic Plague.

In a nutshell, it’s about a gun deal for some M16s in a grimy warehouse in the late 70s that ends up with a bunch of ne’er do wells shooting at a bunch of other bad dudes (and one woman, Brie Larson).

Half hour of set up.

Sixty minutes of gunfire.

And . . . that . . . is . . . essentially . . . the plot.

There are some clever bon mots tossed back and forth, the sort of banter people of this ilk in real life would never utter.

And that is the sum total of what you get.

I do provide some more insight, if curious, in the podcast below.

 

Audio MP3

The Monday After The First Saturday In May

Posted: May 8th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Ruminations, Today's Lesson Learned | 1 Comment »

Some days are traditionally and annually more difficult than others.

Perspective: I used to get really depressed at halftime of the Orange Bowl, when it was always played on New Year’s night. For decades I’d always had the last week of the year off, and it would hit me hard that the next morning’s wake up meant: Back To Real Life.

So has become the Monday after the First Saturday in May.

Even on a sunny, crisp day like today, when I’m blessed with few responsibilities.

There’s the fact that Derby is over. I don’t go to the track. Or the parade. Or the boat race. Or even to hear Drive By Truckers, though I was well intentioned to do so. But I love the energy around town, and know it is the most glorious time of the year for many in our burg.

We even had the sun shine through late Derby afternoon. Thanks to the spirit specters of Matt Winn and Irvin S. Cobb. Which beauteous weather lasted through Sunday for the brunchers and party hearty crowd that was still full tilt one more day.

And, for others like me, this Monday marks the end of my year’s gravtitational pull, the New Orleans JazzFest. I only went first weekend, ceding to the inevitable Old Folks Boogie, from which I naturally suffer thanks to the ever accelerating “maturation process.” Even though I wasn’t present in New Orleans this weekend as I was last, I still kept watching the clock, finally finding some relief at 8:00 Sunday, when I knew the last notes had been played, that the bon temps roulez had expired.

Thus, we come to today, in the Printemps of some disconsolation.

It really matters not that it’s glorious outside, that honeysuckle aromisizes the air, that the warmth and recreation of summer is just ahead. Today there is the let down that comes about when too much anticipation is focused on a singular event, and it passes.

Fortunately it is fleeting, not terminal.

(I am reminded of 1976. That was the year of my first JazzFest. I went down for a weekend. Then called work and advised I was slipping off to the beach for a week. Then called again and advised I’d be staying for the second weekend of JazzFest. Then returned for Derby week. All of which was fueled — in copious quantities — by the inebriants of the day. Even attended a big bash on the Sunday after Derby. Dealing with that Monday let down turned out not to be a problem. I went to sleep Sunday evening. Didn’t wake up until Tuesday morning.) Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review Podcast: “Their Finest”

Posted: May 5th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

One of the most difficult tasks in crafting a movie is the ability to tell several stories — all worthy — at the same time. While giving credence to all, creating legitimate connections and not losing focus.

“Their Finest,” on its face a film about the British film industry during the Blitz years of WWII, succeeds.

It’s also a romance.

And a film about shifting cultural priorities.

While being both very funny at times. And at other moments being quite bleak.

All of which might sound like too much but it’s wrapped up in a very charming bit of cinema.

For more, listen up:

Audio MP3

JazzFest ’17: A Soggy Sayonara

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

So my pal Marc — He’s the frat brother who introduced me to JazzFest in ’76 — and his bride Jill — Recall she’s a Louisville gal who hooked up with her groom at a Little Feat concert during Derby in the 70s — host what’s become an annual JazzFest/ Derby Crawfish Boil on the last Sunday in April.

It celebrates the end of the first weekend of JF, and the beginning of Derby Week. Which they return to every year. Marc’s actually been coming to Derby longer than I’ve been doing JazzFest.

At the Crawfish Boil, I got into a conversation with some friends of a NO friend. They seem to show up in NO during fest time every year. It’s addictive for many, as if you hadn’t already surmised that.

We were chatting about the acts we’d seen, who we liked, etc, etc, etc.

He wanted to know what I thought of Jon Batiste and Stay Human. I advised I was at another stage. (Economy Hall for the Pete Fountain Tribute.) Which choice I explained by saying I’d seen Batiste before, and was saddened how he’d become a Stephen Colbert sycophant, what Doc Severinsen became for Johnny Carson, the music guy at a great regular gig, forced to laugh at all of comedian’s jokes, funny or no. Said I loved Batiste, from one of the city’s first musical families, but was simply drawn elsewhere.

Then the fellow went on and on about Maroon 5, and what a great band leader Adam Levine is. I told him I hadn’t the slightest desire to hear that band with zero connection to New Orleans musical tradition.

Perhaps frustrated by my failure to veil my imperiously expounded upon musical tastes, he asked, “Well, what bands would you pay to see?”

I mentioned Van Morrison and Tedeschi Trucks immediately off the top of my head, then realized this . . .

. . . “Oh yeah, Richard Thompson, whom I have tickets to hear tonight in the Parrish Hall at the House of Blues.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17, Day II: Enchanting Peripherals

Posted: April 30th, 2017 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

There are times when the music plays a lesser — but still significant — role in the fest’s charms du jour.

Saturday was one of those interesting days, full of interactive interludes.

Not that there wasn’t, mind you, some righteous tuneage, which I’ll get to soon enough. But yesterday for me was more about the gathering of the tribes, cementing expanding friendships and glorying in the spirit forces the event fosters.

I hooked up with M and S and their krewe, who were camped at Congo Square, in anticipation of Usher with the Roots Band who’d close out the day at that stage. (Full names omitted to protect the arguably innocent.)

The Film Babe — who by the by couldn’t make the trip this year, but is confirmed already for next — and I met M & S four years ago as we were all strolling down Royal on the way to the Louisiana Music Factory. Kindred spirits from Connecticut and Kentucky, we connected and we’ve kept in touch.

(The couple missed last year’s fest, while visiting Barcelona, where their kid was studying. Even though in another of the world’s great and unique cities, M advised, “We made it through missing JazzFest, knowing we’d be back this year.”)

At one point during yesterday’s charming interlude of connection, Ms. S stopped dancing, turned to us and declared, “I need a Cochon du Lait Po Boy RIGHT NOW!” And was immediately off for sustenance.

While chatting them up yesterday, just as I was learning that M isn’t a lawyer — my misconception — a small group walked up that they’d met the evening before at a North Mississippi All Stars gig.

Turns out these folks were fellow Hebrews and of Iraqi descent. The fellow is a lawyer, of some note obviously since he just testified in front of Al Franken’s Senate committee on the environment. (And wouldn’t the guy who created Stuart Smiley be great to run into down here?)

Anyway, for some reason I simply can’t recall, the woman started regaling me with the history of how the Jews were the ones who carried on the folk musical traditions of Iraq. But were pushed out of the country in the 40s in the wake of the establishment of the state of Israel.

But when the royals realized that music was important and nobody was around to carry the tradition, they brought back numbers of Jewish folks to teach the songs at the Palace.

I mean really, who knew?

And what are the chances of getting into this conversation anywhere but JF, while while doing the rock & roll shuffle to Corey Henry’s Treme Funket? Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17, Day I: Souled Out & Sated

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

There’s a fundamental miscalculation that plagues just about all of the spate of contemporary retro-style R & B singers.

It’s a disturbing tendency for them to oversell their songs, an apparent belief that if they don’t go full James Brown or Otis Redding, their soulfulness might be questioned.

Two of the guiltiest are among the most popular.

Charles Bradley would be but an afterthought back in the heyday. Maybe an opening act on an extended bill featuring Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson and others far better. If he’s even worthy of that?

St. Paul and Broken Bones singer, bespeckled Paul Janeway also tries way way way too hard. That he looks like a pledge chairman of the KAs at Alabama and sings like the winner of a Fraternity Song Festival Otis Redding Sing Alike contest has carried him a long way.

Those two aren’t alone in their lack of subtlety.

Too many singers don’t comprehend that soul can be easy and still ring true to the bone.

Sam Cooke was smooth and easy. Sam Cooke was gold standard.

Which brings me to Leon Bridges, who mesmerized on the Gentilly stage this afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17: Let’s Get the Real Party Started

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | No Comments »

One last check in from the periphery. When I finish this I’m off to Day I.

But first I need to forgive.

Some folks, even if wearing garb proving their attendance at previous fests, don’t know what they don’t know.

I was on my way back to the hotel which is at the foot of Iberville from a hook up at the Louisiana Music Factory during the Jazz Vipers set.

LMF’s on Frenchmen Street at the other end of the Quarter. So I stopped at this little courtyard in the French Market by the Gazebo Café to rest my yelping dogs. (To bore you with woes about how my new walking shoes aren’t all they are cracked up to be would be over self indulgent even for a narcissist like myself.)

Anyway, the earnest but not really not very good band of old farts regaling the turistas with New Orleans standards broke into “Southern Nights.” One of my favorite tunes.

The guy sitting next to me on the bench turned to his wife/ GF/ inamorata for the weekend and pontificated too impress, “Wow, they’re playing that old Glen Campbell classic.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17: The Day Before My 30th

Posted: April 27th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

God, how I love this place.

New Orleans is, as New Orleans has always been, it’s own kind of spirit force.

May it never change.

The Professor — my pal not Longhair — who attended many Fests with his bride, will be happy to know that the Quarter, bless its historic nature and sybaritic presence, remains fetid.

Especially early in the morning when it’s waking up, and the guys are out in front of the titty bars along Bourbon, hosing away the excess of the night before.

When the baristas in their long skirts are speeding along on their one speed bikes to work.

When the school buses are lined up on Royal near the Esplanade end, unloading kids at school.

When turistas like me, most in much better shape, are jogging away last evening’s gustatory or alcohol overload, wearing their school colors. Sparty. Roll Tide. I’m in Cardinal gear.

It’s an odd affectation, running the Vieux Carré during these transitional early AM moments, but’s it what I love to do, confirming another year, another JazzFest, my 30th, on the morrow.

Of course, I also enjoy jogging Audubon Park, which I do in those years when I’ve stayed with my old college pal, who introduced me to this incredible sensory potpurri that is JazzFest, incredible food and too much — OK I’ll bring in the ever overused cliché — bon temps roulez. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest #30: It’s Too Late To Stop Now

Posted: April 24th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | No Comments »

The winter of ’05-’06 was not easy.

Every day or two I’d have a sad sad moment. I would suddenly abandon whatever was present and break down with uncontrolled sobbing.

It was not that my beloved Louisville Cardinal hoopsters were suffering through a mediocre at best campaign. The season ended with thirteen losses, the last one ignominious in the NIT. Though that was bad enough.

The real catalyst for my despair was that New Orleans, my beloved New Orleans, was vacant and drowning.

Six feet of water on the streets of Evangeline had come to truth again.

Would she survive? What would become of this, the most unique city in America, a town with as much personality as any around the globe?

A town where the holy trinity of cajun cuisine — onions, bell peppers and celery — is as revered as father, son and Holy Ghost.

A town where the quirky lingua franca pronounces the word calliope, cal-eee-ope not kah-lie-oh-pee.

A town that fostered musical icons, Satchmo Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino.

The town that time left alone to proceed at its own out of sync with the rest of the land pace.

The town that hosted the event that had become the gravitational pull of my year, the epicenter of my musical being, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Katrina had laid her low with a furious sideswipe. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review Podcast: “Fargo Season 3”

Posted: April 21st, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I love love love the Coen Brothers classic, “Fargo.”

Yes, ye Achiever acolytes, love it even more, much more, that “The Big Lebowski.”

So resonant was the film that it has spawned a franchise of mini-series on FX. They have been created by Noah Hawley, with the imprimatur of the Coen Bros. themselves.

Each series has a familiarity for those who have seen the flick. Yet each has a different plot with different characters, all played out in Minnesota.

The third season started this past Wednesday on FX, and the wonder shall be revealed over the next 10 weeks or so.

For more, listen up:

Audio MP3

Film Review Podcast: “Personal Shopper”

Posted: April 16th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

As I discuss more fully below, this strange, quirky film with the ever disagreeable Kristen Stewart on screen most all of the time poses an interesting question about film reviewers.

“Personal Shopper” has been just about universally lauded by reviewers.

But, any number of regular film loving movie goers were non-plussed by the flick. Including three people whose opinions I admire.

I liked parts of the film but I don’t think they serve its main focus.

For a more complete discussion of the movie, and a theory about the divergence of opinion on films between critics and audience, you’ll need to listen below.

 

Audio MP3