In April, On Location: Memphis International Film Festival screened the Morgan Freeman-involved film Prom Night in Mississippi. The feature-length doc examines the racial relations in the small town of Charleston, Mississippi (pop. 2,100, "A Good Place To Live").
Charleston High School wasn't integrated until 1970. And even then the school continued the practice of holding separate white and black proms. Charleston native Freeman offered to pay for an integrated prom in 1997 but was rebuffed by the school board. He tried again in 2008 and was finally accepted. Prom Night follows Freeman's endeavor, the kids' reactions to his offer, and some of the parents' actions against it.
(Read more of the Flyer's coverage of the documentary.)
Now, The Hollywood Reporter has news that Jennifer Aniston is looking to bring a fictionalized account of the events to the big screen with Holler.
But I've got to admit that SuperFan, the brainchild of Tickle.com founder Rick Marini, is pretty cool. Basically, it's a one-stop spot that serves as a platform for music, photos, quizzes, and videos, as well as social networking (kinda like a combination of Flickr, MySpace and Facebook). Accumulate enough points by becoming a "fan" of your favorite sports teams, movie stars, and music groups, and you can become a "SuperFan."
Memphis-related pages for Memphis Slim, Lucero, Chris Bell, Jay Reatard, the Box Tops, the Grifters, Gangsta Pat, Egypt Central, Ingram Hill, Judge Joe Brown, and, yes, the U of M Tigers are already up and running, although you have to create a profile (or use your Facebook log in) to check 'em out.
Memphis-born filmmaker Courtney Hunt has penned an excellent viewpoint titled "Is a New Women's Cinema Emerging?" for the London Evening Standard today. In it, Hunt recalls being raised by her single mother, who frequently took her to art-house cinema and whose influence can be felt in her debut feature Frozen River.
The Flyer talked to Hunt last year prior to Frozen River's debut. Hunt talks about her mother taking her to the Memphian, the art-house theater where Playhouse on the Square currently stands, and about a potential future film set in West Tennessee. Frozen River won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and garnered Oscar nominations for Hunt (Best Original Screenplay) and star Melissa Leo (Best Actress).
(photo: Chris Buck for New York magazine)
The new Lucero album, the Memphis band's first for major-label Universal/Republic Records, will be released on October 6th. The title is 1372 Overton Park, named after the address of the band's longtime living space, a second-story loft at the corner of Overton Park and Cleveland, to which the band is new bidding farewell.
Recorded at Ardent with producer Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem) and the introduction of a horn section arranged by local sax great Jim Spake, 1372 Overton Park adds a dose of Memphis soul to the band's already varied and ambitious punk/country/classic-rock mix.
For a first taste of what the new album sounds like, you can listen to the track "The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo" — Springsteen meets Southern rock — on the band's web site, LuceroMusic.com.
The Memphis Music Foundation elected former Stax Records executive Al Bell as its new chairman this week. Bell takes over from longtime board chairman Phil Trenary.
"Economic empowerment and economic development," Bell responds when asked what his focus will be. "When I say empowerment, I'm talking about individual. When I say development, I'm talking about institutions and businesses. Everything I do will be about that."
Bell praises the city's "diverse, authentic music base" and asserts, familiarly, that one challenge is to get locals to appreciate the city's cultural assets as much as people around the country and around the world.
Bell's long, historic music career is best know for his period as an executive and eventual co-owner of Stax, leading the label during the era marked by Isaac Hayes' rise to superstardom and the historic WattStax concert.
Memphis filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox (Blue Citrus Hearts, OMG/HaHaHa) has been named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in the Summer 2009 issue of Filmmaker magazine. Fox is the third Memphis filmmaker — following Craig Brewer and Kentucker Audley — to be so-honored.
"I knew several months ago that I was short-listed, then I found out a couple of weeks ago that I'd made it," says Fox, who was interviewed and photographed for the story but decided not to talk about the honor until Filmmaker released it. The story is now up online. Hard copies of the magazine should be hitting local newsstands soon.
Filmmaker writes of Fox:
Memphis-based Morgan Jon Fox is still getting comfortable with the label of being the voice of the YouTube generation. Since premiering his third feature, OMG/HaHaHa at NewFest in New York City last June, his low-tech improvised/Web cam/quasi-documentary hybrid of a group of gay, straight and transgender Memphis teens has struck a chord with young festivalgoers as well as critics. The film has taken home Best Feature awards at both the Memphis Indie Fest as well as the Chicago LGBT Film Fest.
Just last Saturday, I was driving past the old Plastic Products building on Chelsea — where Sun, Chess, Meteor, Atlantic, ABC-Paramount, MGM, and Stax singles were actually manufactured — and started thinking about Memphis' relationship with the 45 r.p.m. record.
Now, 60 years after the 45 made its debut — and about a decade after it was phased out of existence — the folks at Rhino have decided to bring back the A-side and B-side via digital downloads such as Otis Redding's posthumous, chart-topping release "(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay"/"Sweet Lorene" and Sam & Dave's iconic "Soul Man"/"May I Baby."
In the category of things I'm looking forward to (along with James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover and the doc It Might Get Loud): The Pacific, the 10-episode miniseries follow-up to the magnificent Band of Brothers, is coming to HBO next year. The series is produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
Trailer. "I believe in ammunition."
The trailer indicates that The Pacific fits the formula Spielberg and Hanks have found with Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. Good thing I happen to like that formula.
This week on The Chris Vernon Show my "Movies" list was Teen Romantic Comedies, based on I Love You, Beth Cooper, which is new (if not quite big) at the box office.
The result is probably the most Eighties-centric list I've done. More recent teen comedies are disappointingly broad and I don't think there was much good that fits the genre from earlier — Beach Blanket Bingo? Love Finds Andy Hardy? The Eighties, of course, were a golden age of sorts for teen cinema.
1. Say Anything (1989): Cameron Crowe's first and still best film, about the unlikely summer (and then some?) fling between valedictorian Diane Court ("a brain trapped in the body of a game-show hostess") and shiftless everyman kickboxer Lloyd Dobler. The leads, as played by Ione Skye and John Cusack, are indelible. But there's plenty of great stuff around the edges in one of the movies' very best portraits of high-school (or post-high-school) life, including a terrific Lily Taylor as Lloyd's best friend and the all-time-classic gas-station-parking-lot scene. A remarkably smart and kind teen comedy.
Just in case you've ever wondered where all the awesome is stored, it's in a warehouse on Jefferson Street in West Memphis, Arkansas.
This place right here is the best website on the Internet right now and for the next week-plus. In celebration of the impending 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon (you remember the one: Neil Armstrong, American flag, footprints, sound stage in California), the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is recreating the event as if it were happening in realtime in our techno-geek age. Website, Twitter updates, photos, audio, and who knows what else will unspool 40 years to the moment after it really happened.
The launch is July 16th at 8:32 a.m. CST. Right now everything is in the prelaunch stage. Armstrong put boot to moon on July 20th.
When gonzo British satirist Sacha Baron Cohen last descended upon these United States, in the guise of former Soviet Bloc journalist Borat Sagdiyev, his great subject was America's cultural isolation. The recurring joke was that if you claim to be from someplace like Kazakhstan, you can do pretty much anything and most Americans will just assume that's normal "over there."
But now as Bruno, the Austrian fashionista and host of the (fictional) show Funkyzeit Mit Bruno, Cohen (again assisted by guerrilla director Larry Charles) aims at twin targets. In portraying a flamboyant and sexually aggressive gay man, Cohen's latest creation borders on queer minstrelsy and the film is obviously meant to provoke and expose homophobia: Within the first 10 minutes, Bruno assaults the audience with the most clinical and obscene buttsex jokes ever displayed on a multiplex screen.
Who could've guessed that 20 years after the dust has settled, the Roxanne Wars would warrant a Wikipedia entry?
Or that today, millions can still recite the devastating rap laid down by then-14-year-old MC Roxanne Shante:
After shelving her music career to get her PhD in pyschology, Shante has occasionally resurfaced in the record bins, most recently with 2006's "Yes Yes Y'all," a collaboration with British-born beatmaker Mekon.
At 5:30 p.m. today she'll be appearing at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street as part of the Memphis Music Monday free concert series, staged by the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission (MSCMC).
"Roxanne is in town on business. We were fortunate to run into her at Citadel Broadcasting, and we invited her to come on by the Hard Rock tonight," says Johnnie Walker, executive director of the MSCMC. "The first thing she said is, 'You know I'm not performing.' We plan to get her onstage to share some things with the audience."
Also on the bill: DJ Crumbz from Q107.5 FM, who plans to spin a special Roxanne mix, gospel singer Carla Tolbert Taylor, Restricted, Barbara Jefferies, and I'sis Hamilton. For more info, call 576-6850.
Coming out of a month-long NBA Draft coma with records piling up. Let's start with these three:
Together Through Life — Bob Dylan (Columbia): "I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver/And I'm reading James Joyce/Some people they tell me/I got the blood of the lamb in my voice," the Bard of Hibbing sings near the end of Together Through Life. It's a classic self-description, but one of the few real quotables on this album from a man who will be remembered primarily for his words. In its casual musicality and vocal playfulness, Together Through Life is a less momentous companion to Dylan's 2001 masterpiece "Love & Theft", a compilation of folk rock, 12-bar blues, and crooner pop this time supplemented by some Tex-Mex accordion courtesy of Los Lobos' Dave Hidalgo. Unfortunately, the songs — simpler, more romantic — don't hold up like those on "Love and Theft" (or even the more recent Modern Times): The mystery doesn't deepen, the jokes don't retain their snap. A good record made better by its relatively snug 10-song/45-minute length and gathering momentum, but minor Dylan. ("I Feel a Change Comin' On," "It's All Good," "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'")
Make that sing-a-long chorus, "I love stacking dough," or "I love smoking 'dro."
Yes, Memphis gangsta rapper Yo Gotti channels Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' circa-1981 hit "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (which was actually a cover of a 1975 tune penned by British group the Arrows and produced by Mickie Most) for his soon-to-be-released collaboration with local hard rockers Saliva, as heard in the video below. Fast-forward to 1:15 to hear the track.