“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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“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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“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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“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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“Free Solo”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: February 22nd, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 2 Comments »

It would seem a given that “RBG,” the documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will win the Oscar for Best Documentary.

It is most excellent.

But, ever the contrarian, I would posit that there’s a better documentary nominated, about an achievement even more noteworthy than Justice Ginsburg’s ascendency to the highest court in the land.

Some of you may have heard of Alex Honnold, while many of you have not, or have but a vague notion of reading his name.

He climbs rocks. He climbs rocks better than anybody.

And he achieved something many in the know were sure would not ever successfully happen.

Without any ropes or equipment, using only his hands and feet, he climbed the most daunting rock on the globe, Yosemite’s El Capitan.

This taut film “Free Solo” documents his life, his preparation, and the climb itself. Which was filmed by a crew, world class climbers all themselves, tethered precariously on El Cap, as he ascended.

Though we know Honnold did it, it is to the filmmaker’s credit, that tension reigns anyway.

This is a captivating film putting on display what is arguably the greatest athletic feat ever.

It’s available on Amazon Prime, and perhaps elsewhere.

For further discussion, listen up:

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“Cold War”: Culture Maven on Film

Posted: February 8th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

How enchanting that a resonant tale can be told in 89 minutes, in black & white on a screen with old school squarish aspect ratio.

But it is so with the import from Poland, “Cold War.”

It is a movie which crisply and uniquely tales the tale of love and the politics and culture of the time and place.

We never quite learn the whys and wherefores of Zula.

Or of her lover Wiktor.

Or, even the how did they come to fall in love.

But that mystery is all part of the fascination with this unique cinematic adventure.

For more on the film, listen up:

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“Who Will Write Our History”: Film Review/ Podcast

Posted: January 31st, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

The pen is mightier than the sword. 

No, not Shakespeare, Edward Bulwer-Lytton actually from a play he wrote about Cardinal Richelieu, or so I’m advised, but it remains a cliché of consequence nonetheless.

Meaning, of course, there is this truth: That there are circumstances where combat in its classic sense isn’t as effective chronicling a situation which the world needs to know about.

Such as, it would seem, was the situation the Jewish people imprisoned and tortured in the Warsaw Ghetto. Though there was a resistance of sorts in the classic sense, the Nazis, as was their wont, murdered with impunity for fun and sport and their belief in the “Final Solution.”

Realizing that the situation was dire, that most inhabitants of the enclave would not survive, that there wasn’t any manner to match the German captors with firepower, a group formed to gather diaries of first hand accounts of the terror, photos, written accounts, journals, anything that could provide future generations and historians a realistic look at the horrors taking place.

All done clandestinely, for obvious reasons.

The group was called Oyneg Shabbes, “the joys of Sabbath.”

It was an endeavor as audacious as it was courageous.

Roberta Grossman’s documentary, “Who Will Write Our History?,” using the words of those who were there, newsreel footage and some reenactment, tells the fascinating and important tale. We learn how the group met its goals, how their work was retrieved from the rubble after the war.

The well-crafted and intriguing movie is among many at this year’s Jewish Film Festival, which starts February 7..

“Who Will Write Our History” will be shown at Bellarmine’s Wyatt Hall at 7:30 on Saturday, February 9.

For further information on this film and the others being shown, google up Louisville Jewish Film Festival.

And, listen to the podcast below:

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