Culture Maven on Film: “A Long Strange Trip”

Posted: June 15th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

You may love the Grateful Dead. Perhaps even be an acolyte.

You may hate the Grateful Dead, even if a music buff. Have found their music thin, lacking soul.

You may never have heard a note of their music, or may or may not be aware of the extent of the band’s cultural and social relevance.

So, the idea of a five hourish documentary on the band and the culture surrounding it might pique your interest. Or, causing a yawn.

Never a Deadhead, but having heard the group any number of times, and being an observer as I say of the passing scene, I am fascinated by this excellent documentary.

For more, listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan”

Posted: June 9th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Native Louisvillian Wendy Whelan was for years the prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet.

She retired from that heralded company a couple of years back.

This is a fascinating and quite intimate documentary about how all that came about.

There is engrossing footage of Ms. Whelan’s craft, displaying why she ascended to the top of the world of American ballet. But also her emotions as she contemplated the end of her run with the company.

The film is currently scheduled for but five showings in Louisville next weekend only, June 16-18 at the Speed Museum Theater.

For a more in depth analysis why you should see this film, listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “Wonder Woman”

Posted: June 2nd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

In the early 80s I had a crush on a woman who looked just like Lynda Carter, who was the Wonder Woman of the ’70s TV series.

Which is of zero consequence here, other than to say I enjoyed the new film release of “Wonder Woman.”

To the extent that I only dwell on my self indulgence but for a short interlude at the commencement of my review. But then proceed to spend most of it actually talking about the movie.

OK, there’s one other diversion.

But also an incisive look at the film, which is, more importantly, entertaining.

Listen up:

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Film Review Podcast: “Wizard of Lies”

Posted: May 30th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Falls of the rich and famous from grace never seem to fail to fascinate.

Given the amount of money Bernie Madoff stole from people — billions of dollars — to live a lavish lifestyle and turn himself into a financial superstar, the story of his comeuppance remains captivating a decade after the fact.

This HBO film, starring Rober DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Hank Azaria, depicts the fall, focusing on what happened to the Madoff family.

It’s based on interviews with Madoff, after he’d gone to prison.

Did Ruth and the sons know?

Well, watch the film. I do hint at the answer in my podcast review below:

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Meditation: In Memory of Gregg Allman

Posted: May 29th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | 11 Comments »

‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes/ And faster things.

Pop up thunder showers this Memorial Day Saturday.

It’s not unusual in my neck of the woods.

So I chose a movie over one or another of a couple minor music fests.

Part of the way through the flick, my phone buzzes with a text, then another, a flurry. Unusual. So I step outside to find out why the commotion?

Gregg Allman. Gone.

He’s now the fourth of the original, iconic, innovative and transcendent Allman Brothers Band to pass, joining his brother Duane, drummer Butch Trucks and bass player Berry Oakley in the rock & roll beyond.

Memories insist. Though I stay the movie becomes an afterthought. I recall there was such a pop up shower that intercepted the first set of Allmans’ music I ever heard, which was, what, wow, just short of a half century ago.

Atlanta Pop. 1970.

The rain interrupted “Mountain Jam,” the loosey goosey but ever euphonious noodling around the band ended sets with back in the day, hooked on the end of “Whipping Post.”

There’s no reason to cite the details, but that interlude allowed for a significant turning point in my life.

In fact, that whole Independence Day weekend was transitional. I had finished law school and taken the bar exam the week before. Not having properly prepped, I figured there was no way I’d pass.

On the threshold of adulthood, I hadn’t the slightest idea what came next in my life. I was without rudder.

Yet there I was reveling about in a musical wonderland at a raceway in deep Georgia. Skinny dipping. Eating nickel peaches. Savoring in their fullest the sounds — Jimi, Col. Bruce, Chambers Bros., Procol Harum, et al — and sensory enhancements of the day.

And at the first evening’s sunset, hearing the band that caused the plates to shift, that was to provide unrequited joy, ballast and succor in the decades to come. Read the rest of this entry »

Film Review Podcast: “Baywatch”

Posted: May 26th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

What I shall assume you are expecting, if you choose to listen to the podcasted review below, is a pithy dismissal of this cinemazation of the iconic TV series that made Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff famous.

Think again.

Of course, there’s not much there there with this iteration of Baywatch, featuring The Rock, Zac Efron, Kelly Rohrbach and Alexandra Daddario.

What did you expect, the filmmakers to turn this into something Shakespearean?

Despite the obvious and expected deficiencies, I found “Baywatch” way more than palatable.

Of course, it ain’t gonna win any awards.

But, at the very least, it will allow us to determine if Dwayne Johnson has what it takes to win the presidency in 2020?

Do listen below:

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Film Review Podcast: “I Love Dick”

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Here’s what I’m going to admit from the get go.

This review is arguably the most unprofessional I’ve ever posted.

Not because of the perspective I give on the subject matter, an Amazon Prime TV series titled “I Love Dick.” I try to be true about that.

But because of the haphazard way I went about recording the review.

Frankly I’m not sure why I didn’t uphold the usually high standards to which I aspire? I just didn’t. It’s late in the afternoon. I have someplace to be. I’m a bit cranky. No, actually a lot cranky.

Etc, etc, etc.

So, if I haven’t pushed you away already, feel free to listen to the free form review below.

But here’s what is important: The series, “I Love Dick,” is worth checking out. If, of course, you have Amazon Prime.

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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:

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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.


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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:

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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 »