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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“Free Solo”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: February 22nd, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No 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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“Vice”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: February 9th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

I saw an interview with David Koechner the other day.

The very funny comedic actor, whose face you know if not his name, was asked who is the funniest person he knows? This is a fellow who has worked with Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carrell, Fred Willard, Kathryn Hahn, Seth Rogan, and Fred Armisen, all of whom have made somebody’s list as funniest person in film.

Koechner’s seriously surprising answer was Adam McKay, the guy who directed all of the above in the iconic “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”

Well, let’s just say Mr. McKay set aside the funny biz when writing and directing “Vice,” a searing cinematic portrait of former Veep, Dick Cheney.

Not that there isn’t some humor in the flick, but it’s point isn’t to draw laughs.

Mr. McKay, it is apparent, considers Cheney a not very likable fellow, actually an evil guy with a serious agenda.

If you have been skeptical of Cheney, his motives and modus operandi, well, this film will resonate.

On the flip side, it is reported that Ivanka and Jared walked out of the screening they attended.

For more about the movie, 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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Confessions of a Compulsive Blender

Posted: February 8th, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Food, Ruminations | 5 Comments »

The true depth of my affliction struck with a not so terrible swift sword just this morning.

As I have done for decades, I was stirring the contents of a large jar of Smuckers Natural Chunky Peanut Butter, which sits on the shelf in a state of separation. “Oil separation is natural,” it states right on the cap.

Before I go on, a bit of background. For breakfast every morning — every single morning, except for maybe a couple of really cold winter days, when a bowl of oatmeal calls my name — I eat a sliced apple, preferably Honeycrisp, smothered in peanut butter.

Natural peanut butter. No added oils. No added sugar. No added nothing. Except a pinch of salt. “Less than 1%,” according to the label.

For years, it was all Smuckers all the time.

Always chunky for the necessary hint o’ crunch.

Several years back, roaming the aisles of Whole Foods, I discovered their equivalent house brand. Simply called 365 Peanut Butter Crunchy. Dry Roasted Peanuts, Salt. Read the rest of this entry »


“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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“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” & “The Favourite”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: January 18th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

I’ve been laid up with a leg injury since October, as some of you paying close attention might know, so it’s great to be out and about, if not completely recovered yet.

Which ambulatory ability means I could stop reviewing fare I stream on the computer, and actually make it to the movie house.

Fortunately two films that have been out for awhile — and that I would have reviewed weeks ago under normal circumstances — are still on the big screen.

Hip hip hooray.

Both “The Favourite” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” feature strong female characters, all rendered exquisitely with the highest of craft.

Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the former, a period piece, set in England in the 18th century. Melissa McCarthy in serious mode as a fallen-on-hard-times writer, who finds a felonious way to use her talents and support herself.

For more reasons to see these films, listen below:

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“Bird Box”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: January 11th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Because I felt compelled to keep up with what’s happening in our that was soooo five minutes ago internet meme world, I viewed Netflix’s latest “horror” film craze, “Bird Box.”

It’s about this peril that all of a sudden inexplicably enshrouds the globe and any human that looks at whatever it is immediately commits suicide.

So the lucky few who survive the immediate onslaught take to living indoors with the blinds pulled and the windows shuttered. The thingamajig can’t get inside, or so it would seem.

And when those folks who do survive go outside they wear a blindfold so they won’t look at, you know, it. Whatever it is.

Which makes things like driving, or playing pitch and catch with your kid problematic at the very least.

So, the question becomes whether Ms. Bullock will survive? And what about the kid she is carrying when the film begins?

Sooooooooo, there’s the overview without spoilers.

For somewhat more detail, please listen:

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