Friday, July 3, 2020

History Has Its Eyes on You: Hamilton Bows on Disney+

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 4:28 PM

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I have a confession and a prediction.

First, the confession: Before watching the film of the Broadway show now streaming on Disney+, I had never seen Hamilton. I had added the cast recording to my iTunes library, where it languished after one perfunctory listen. It’s not that I don’t like musicals. On the contrary, I’m much more into musicals than most middle-aged white guys; I’d much rather go to a musical than a football game. I would have loved to have seen Hamilton live on Broadway, but the truth is I was too broke to afford a pair of $500 tickets. When the touring company came to the Orpheum, I came up empty in the press pass lottery.

Maybe I could have scraped together the dough, but I wasn’t motivated to, because as a passionate student of American history, I’ve never been a big fan of Alexander Hamilton. The founder of the country’s first central bank and probable closeted royalist has always come across as an ambitious schemer to me, even as I generously quoted Publius, the pen name he used while writing the bulk of the Federalist Papers. For me, Hamilton has always represented those who love America more for its capitalism than for its democracy. The penniless immigrant from the Caribbean turned self-made statesman was ripe for a reputation renovation, but it was his status as proto-capitalist that allowed Hamilton the musical to see the light of day. If you don’t believe that’s true, let me tell you about my thwarted plans for an epic musical biography of five-time socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs. “Wall Street thinks you’re great,” sings Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.). “You’ll always be adored by the things you create.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton and Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton and Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton
But it is Hamilton’s moral ambiguity that makes him such a rich character in the hands of Lin-Manuel Miranda. There’s a lot of sappy, second-rate musical theater, which hits big on the strength of melody and sentiment. (Andrew Lloyd Webber, I’m looking at you.) Hamilton is the opposite. Part of Broadway’s cultural function has traditionally been to assimilate different popular music traditions, and Hamilton’s integration of hip-hop with show tunes is the perfect example. Miranda uses the lyrical density to weave a decade-spanning story of wartime heroism, political intrigue, and personal ambition. Rap cyphers turn out to be the ideal format to dramatize George Washington’s confrontational cabinet meetings.

Manuel’s music and story sit among the greatest of Broadway history. It’s easy to craft inspirational songs about revolutionary fervor — just look at Les Misérables. But creating a song about the ugly political wrangling that comes after a successful revolution is something else entirely. The first act of Hamilton is filled with bangers like “History Has Its Eye on You,” but the depth of Manuel’s genius is revealed in the second act’s “The Room Where It Happens.” Sung by Burr, the story’s heel (and a right bastard in real life), it’s a show-stopper about the creation of a national banking system and the geographical placement of Washington, D.C. Who even knew such a thing was possible?
(left) Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr
  • (left) Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr
Now, the prediction. In a few years, once we’ve fought COVID-19 to a draw and film production can resume, The House of Mouse is going to drop $100 million to make a blockbuster version of Hamilton. They’ll film in Independence Hall (the room where it happened) and “Guns and Ships” will be staged at a lavishly recreated Battle of Yorktown. But it won’t have a tenth of the power of the version that just dropped on Disney+.

Thomas Kail, who directed both the Broadway musical and the film, uses techniques pioneered by Jonathan Demme in Stop Making Sense, cutting together footage captured over three nights of shows at the Richard Rogers Theatre in June 2016. The original cast had been the toast of the town for a year at that point, and the show had just set records at the Tonys and was about to take home a Pulitzer. From the first close-up of Miranda as Hamilton, backed by a chorus singing “What’s your name, man?,” it’s clear that these performers are on fire. Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry as Hamilton’s sister-in-law Angelica, roars onto the stage for her introduction in “The Schuyler Sisters.” Christopher Jackson as George Washington visibly chokes back sobs when the crowd leaps to their feet for “One Last Time.” After the duel that claims Hamilton’s life, the fires of victory turn to ashes in the mouth of Odom as Burr. No soundstage-bound film will ever match the blood-and-guts heroism of these glorious humans facing a full house on a Friday night.
Renée Elise Goldsberry (center) as Angelica Schuyler
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry (center) as Angelica Schuyler
Hamilton bowed on Broadway in August 2015, three months after the decade’s other towering masterpiece, Mad Max: Fury Road, hit movie theaters, and only a few weeks after Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign. Like Fury Road, the cascading catastrophes that began in 2016 have deepened Hamilton’s meaning. For all the flaws of the Founding Fathers — and they had many — their experiment in government by the people, for the people has endured and brought hope to the world. Hamilton lived at a moment when the old order was breaking down and an opportunity for a new, more just alignment of power became possible. 2020 now looks like one of those times. In Hamilton’s day, the young Republic was threatened by the personal ambitions of powerful men. So, too, is it in our day. In Manuel’s telling, Hamilton’s ambition is both his driving force and tragic flaw. Nevertheless, he recognized the dangers of a president driven only by the will to power when he swallowed his pride and endorsed his longtime rival in 1800. “When all is said and done/Jefferson has beliefs/Burr has none.”

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tell Me A Memory: Jon Bryant Crawford's Video Portraits of Memphis

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 2:00 PM

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Memphis has always been a refuge for misfits and outcasts, which is why a queer community quietly thrived here in the underground for decades. Nowadays, things are far from perfect for LGBTQ+ folks, but they can live openly and tell their stories like never before.

Filmmaker Jon Bryant Crawford used his residency at Crosstown Arts to collect stories from queer Memphians young and old. Tell Me A Memory collects the stories, told simply and honestly, without embellishment by the filmmaker. Crawford's relentless focus brings out the inner beauty of honesty in his subjects.

Here's Memphis historian Vincent Astor telling Crawford one of my favorite Bluff City stories: The legend of the first legal (well, semi-legal) drag show in Memphis.


Crawford's work is featured this week on the Indie Memphis Movie Club. Tonight, (Tuesday, June 30th) Crawford will speak about his work with guest moderator Tony Horne on Indie Memphis' weekly Q&A event. You can watch at 8 p.m. CDT via Eventive, YouTube, or Zoom, but you'll need to RSVP for the Zoom conversation here. 

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Music Video Monday: Tony Manard

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 11:03 AM

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Music Video Monday is keeping hope alive.

Like most people, Memphis songsmith Tony Manard and his friend Rice Drewry spent the spring in coronavirus lockdown. They co-wrote "Together Alone" about the experience, and recorded it remotely. "The song is about reaching out to your people, even in isolation. This idea is to use your phone for something other than a portable anxiety factory," says Manard.

Vincent Manard, Tony's son and keyboard player, directed the music video with graphic help from Asayah Young. The shoot took a single afternoon. "We had to get creative to keep everybody safe," says Manard.

The song and video invites you to hang out on Manard's front porch, which becomes a beacon of hope in troubled times.


If you'd like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Director Jeanie Finlay Opens Up About Her New Documentary Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth

Posted By on Sat, Jun 27, 2020 at 6:00 AM

Freddy McConnell in Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth
  • Freddy McConnell in Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth
Jeanie Finlay’s 2015 film Orion: The Man Who Would Be King was a natural fit for the Indie Memphis Film Festival. It was the story of Jimmy Ellis, a masked singer from Alabama who gained a cult audience in the late 1970s by starting a rumor that Elvis Presley had faked his death and was releasing albums under the name Orion. The brilliantly structured documentary-as-mystery-story opened a lot of doors for the Nottingham, England, filmmaker. “I usually hunt down a story, get access, find funding, blah blah blah. Years later, you end up with a film,” she says. “But the last two films I made, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch and Seahorse came to me.”
Jeanie Finlay - PHOTO BY JO IRVINE
  • photo by Jo Irvine
  • Jeanie Finlay
The Last Watch was a huge project, conducted completely in secret, that followed the cast and crew of Game of Thrones as they filmed their final season. Ironically, it was better received than the show it documented. Finlay says when she was reading the negative buzz that surrounded the franchise’s finale, “we thought we were going to get crucified.”

But the documentary turned out to be a hit. In Belfast, where the series was filmed, HBO arranged a pair of theatrical screenings for the film. “The demand was so much that it broke the websites of both cinemas … I think The Last Watch helped a lot of the people who had worked on the show to say goodbye. That wasn’t what I intended, but it was a really lovely outcome.”

Amazingly, while shooting The Last Watch, Finlay was simultaneously filming another project. And this one was much more risky. Freddy McConnell is a trans man from the tiny coastal town of Deal, England. “Freddy met with lots of directors because he was looking for someone to tell his story. He wanted to get pregnant, and he knew he’d seen a lot of bad films about trans journeys. Freddy was able to articulate his transness after watching videos of young trans men on YouTube. He’s also a journalist, so he understood that there could be power in telling his story in a way that was open rather than relying on rubbish tropes of trans storytelling, where the transition is treated like a magic makeover, and you hear the trans person’s deadname.”
Freddy McConnell
  • Freddy McConnell
McConnell’s quest to become a parent was long and arduous. A trans man giving birth is more common than one might think, but it is still a rare and difficult process. “When we all signed on to do [it], we said, ‘Well, he might not ever get pregnant. He might not get his period back. He might not be fertile.’ I mean, I have a friend who has been trying to get pregnant for eight years. It felt risky. There were conversations where we said, 'Do we have a film if he doesn’t get pregnant, or if he loses the baby?' We joked, 'Well, it’ll be a short film.' But it was amazing how quickly it came together in the end.”

McConnell’s pregnancy, achieved through a private fertility clinic, was fraught and difficult. Finlay alternated her time between Belfast, where "dragons and explosions" were happening constantly, and Deal, which was much quieter. “You have to be super patient,” Finlay says. “I was training for a half-marathon, so I used to run along the seafront in Deal. Freddy didn’t always want to film, because he felt so bad. So I would just wait and wait. And run and meditate on the film, trying to think what his gender dysphoria felt like, and trying to compose images to translate that for an audience.

“For me, it was an opportunity to think about what it was like when I got pregnant,” Finlay continues. “My daughter’s 16, but I had not really reflected fully on the experience. Pregnancy is a weird club that you only share with other people once you’re pregnant. People start taking you to one side and you get let in on all the secrets. So there was a bit of unknownness. I just had so many questions for him about being pregnant, but also about stopping testosterone. The process of transitioning in the UK, if you want access to testosterone, is a very long process. You can apply for a gender recognition certificate which is a long and arduous process. You have to see a doctor over 18 months before you can even start. It was like, wow, he’s going to pause that for a while. How is that going to be? And at the beginning of the film, he’s like, 'Wow, this is going to be great!' Then as soon as the testosterone stops, he’s like, 'This is horrendous. I hate it.' Then when he gets pregnant, he’s, ‘Oh my god, what have I signed up for?’”
Freddy McConnell and his mother Esme.
  • Freddy McConnell and his mother Esme.
Finlay’s patience paid off when she was able to capture pure and emotionally open moments from her subjects. “There’s an interview in Seahorse with Esme, Freddy’s mom, where she’s sitting down and crying. There’s not really any interviews in the film but that one. When I got there, she said, ‘Come over. I want to talk’. She was just ready. It’s about knowing what doors are marked ‘push,’ and going there.”

One of the most difficult moments to capture was the birth. Finlay and producer Andrea Cornwell had long negotiations with the NHS hospital before securing permission to attend the birth. But when the day came, and Finlay showed up with her cinematographer, the deal almost fell apart. “Esme, Freddy’s mom, came out and said, ‘Jeanie, it can only be you.’ I was like, no pressure! I just hoped it would be okay, and I was having a very emotional experience myself. I was crying, trying to focus the camera, then crying some more, trying to see if the baby’s okay. It was wild.”
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Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth is one of the most enlightening and moving explorations of the trans experience ever put to film. It currently has the much-envied 100 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Much of the film’s success is a result of the chemistry between the subject and the director. “Because he had spent so long thinking about transitioning, Freddy was able to articulate that very fluidly. He was often a spokesman for trans stories on TV. However, the pregnancy was so new he didn’t always have the language to describe what he was feeling. He’s the most British person I’ve ever met. He is very reserved, and middle-class and quiet. I think he found it bracing that I was there, and being quite Northern and brusque. ‘C’mon, Freddy!’ He opened up, but I think it was really, really hard. Now, he’s able to articulate it freely. He’s got a story he’s ready to tell. But capturing that in the moment was really hard. It’s an enormous act of bravery to take part in a film like this, and open yourself up to that. I think it is such a difficult process to articulate your emotions in the moment, to not allow yourself the freedom to collect yourself. Freddy’s always articulate. He’s a very verbally dexterous person. But he was articulating experiences in the moment that he had never had before, and I think that’s very brave.”

Finlay says making the film was an incredible learning experience for her, and she hopes it will be for the audience as well. “I realized a lot of the language we use to describe the trans experience is just wrong and completely out of date. It was written by cis people who have no understanding. The idea of ‘born in the wrong body’ is daft. Freddy has always been a guy. Now his outside reflects who he is as a person. I remember feeling very moved when I saw the archive of Freddy as a young child. I was looking at a little boy … I’m a cis woman making this film, but I made it with him, not just about him.”

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth is available on Video on Demand services in the United States. Through July 2nd, you can also see the film, along with seven other documentaries by the director, in The Museum of the Moving Image's online retrospective People Everyday: The Films of Jeanie Finlay.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Music Video Monday: Jeff Hulett

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 10:45 AM

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Hop on the Zoom call with Music Video Monday.

For many people, online videoconferencing has become the dominant form of human interaction during the pandemic. Jeff Hulett's new video for "Pints & Quarts" was created by director Noah Glenn. The song is from the album Safe@Home, which Hulett and Jacob Church recorded remotely during the quarantine lockdown of March and April. The video captures the spirit of being alone together, connected by images and voices on the internet.


If you'd like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Friday, June 19, 2020

HBO’s Watchmen Series is Chillingly Relevant

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 1:51 PM

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Dr. Manhattan in HBO's Watchmen limited series.
  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Dr. Manhattan in HBO's Watchmen limited series.
Alan Moore named his 1986 comic Watchmen after a quote from the Roman poet Juvenal: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “Who watches the watchmen?”

When Moore and artist David Gibbons reworked some moribund characters from the defunct Charlton comics, the Reagan ’80s were in full swing in America, and Margaret Thatcher was imposing austerity in the artists’ native Britain. Three years earlier, when Moore was first pitching the story to DC, the NATO Able Archer 83 military exercise had almost led to a full-on nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The work, which would later be called “the moment comics grew up,” was suffused with apocalyptic fear and profound disillusionment. The institutions we had created to protect us were out of control and threatening to destroy human civilization. Moore’s thesis, that the comic book superheroes we loved were secretly fascist thugs, was echoed in the other big comic book hit of 1986, Frank Miller’s Batman reboot The Dark Knight Returns. But Miller celebrated violent vigilantism because it made for good comic images. Watchmen was Moore’s warning about a fascist future.
The Seventh Kavalry
  • The Seventh Kavalry
When HBO tapped producer Damon Lindelof to create a sequel series to Watchmen, he cast around for a contemporary issue that would resonate as deeply as the reckless rush to nuclear war had in 1986. Moore was out of the picture — he has not endorsed any adaptation of his work since the disasters that were the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen films. Besides, Watchmen was explicitly a comic about comics. Even though the 2009 Zack Snyder adaptation of Watchmen was successful when it strove to faithfully reproduce scenes from the comics (I cried when Dr. Manhattan went into exile on Mars), it was still blasphemy as far as Moore was concerned.

What Lindelof came up with was the persistence of racism as an organizing principle of American society. Now, nine months after its debut on HBO, Lindelof looks prescient. The Watchmen series is so much better than we ever could have hoped for. And now, for Juneteenth, HBO has made the series available for free outside their paywall.
Regina King as Sister Night
  • Regina King as Sister Night
Like the original, this Watchmen features a sprawling cast of characters. The most vibrant and poignant of the bunch is Sister Night (Regina King), aka Angela Abar, a former officer in the Tulsa police department who now fights crime as a costumed vigilante. The Commissioner Gordon to her Batman is Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), the Tulsa chief of police whose suspicious suicide by hanging sets off an investigation that will expose both a deep-seated white supremacist movement in government and a plot to regain the power that created quantum superhero Dr. Manhattan (played in different stages of life by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Zak Rothera-Oxley, and Darrell Snedeger).
Tim Blake Nelson as Looking Glass and Regina King as Sister Night
  • Tim Blake Nelson as Looking Glass and Regina King as Sister Night
What’s most eerie about watching Lindelof’s Watchmen in 2020 is the police department’s use of masks. After the events of Watchmen (the graphic novel and the film adaptation), the superheroes who had been outlaws were accepted as adjuncts of the police.
Universal masking was adapted after an incident in which the racist terrorists The Seventh Kavalry, inspired by the posthumous writings of the Watchman Rorschach, had murdered police officers in their homes. Now that masks are de rigueur in the real world, it connects the fiction to our own apocalyptic atmosphere.

But the series’ critique of race relations in America is what really resonates in the long, hot summer of 2020. Allies emerge in unexpected places, and the villains are hiding in plain sight. Opening the series with a recreation of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, in which white supremacist gangs destroyed an affluent black neighborhood, turned out to be a stroke of genius.

Since comic book superhero narratives have become the dominant onscreen form in the last decade, it’s a relief to see something as meaty and timely as this. I’ll fully admit that I was extremely skeptical of the endeavor — let’s just say I have not been a fan of Lindelof’s previous work — but this Watchmen is a most worthy successor to Moore’s masterpiece.


Watchmen is being re-broadcast on HBO this weekend in its entirety. It is also available on HBO Max streaming service.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Four Memphis Arts Organizations Receive NEA Grants

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2020 at 3:56 PM

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It's a tough time for the arts. With performance venues shuttered by COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn hurting donations, arts nonprofits are struggling to make ends meet. Four Memphis arts organizations got some welcome relief this week when they learned they have been selected to receive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

All four grants were awarded through the Art Works program. The New Ballet Ensemble was selected for a $40,000 Arts Education grant. Opera Memphis will receive a $25,000 grant. In the theater category, Hattiloo Theatre was chosen for a $25,000 grant. And Indie Memphis will receive its first-ever NEA Media Arts grant worth $20,000.

In total, 18 grants worth $1.2 million will go to arts organizations in Tennessee. The largest is the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which is slated for a $75,000 Our Town grant for design. The Dogwood Arts Festival and the Big Ears experimental music festival in Knoxville were also chosen. Among the 10 organizations in Nashville chosen for grants are the Nashville Children’s Theatre, the Nashville Symphony, and Vanderbilt University. By far the largest grant this funding cycle went to the Tennessee Arts Commission, which received $846,100 as part of the State and Regional Partnerships program.

In all, more than $84 million in competitive grants were awarded across all U.S. states and territories. The NEA is also supplying technical support for these organizations to help them adapt their programming to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

 

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Monday, June 15, 2020

Music Video Monday: Ego Slip

Posted By on Mon, Jun 15, 2020 at 11:09 AM

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It's a duotone Music Video Monday!

Jerry King, Philip Cole, and Brian McLendon are Ego Slip. The moody rocker “Revelation” features Joy Brooke Fairfield on violin. For their first Music Video Monday entry, King created this video in stark black and white. Windmills rise above a bleak landscape, and the road-tripping band visits James Dean's grave. But don't worry, in the end, there are puppies.


If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Malco Theatres Begins Phased Reopening

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2020 at 12:43 PM

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After three months of shutdown, Memphis-based Malco Theatres has announced a plan to reopen all of its movie theaters. Malco owns 33 theaters with more than 340 screens across six states in the Mid-South.

Beginning on Monday, June 15th, Malco will reopen four locations in Mississippi: The Desoto Cinema Grill in Southaven, the Olive Branch Cinema Grill, the Tupelo Commons Cinema Grill, and the Renaissance Cinema Grill in Ridgeland. In Tennessee, the initial wave of reopening includes the Smyrna Cinema; while in Kentucky the Owensboro Cinema Grill will begin screenings on June 15th. In Memphis, the Malco Summer Drive-In remains open seven days a week with a slate of double features across its four screens.

"Malco is very excited to re-open theaters and welcome our customers back,” says Malco President/COO David Tashie. “We have been diligently working on implementing new measures and protocols to ensure the safety of our guests and employees, and we cannot wait for everyone to enjoy a night out experiencing movies on the big screen again.”

At this point in the year, we should be seeing mainline Hollywood studios rolling out their big guns for the summer season, But since the coronavirus pandemic shut down public gatherings in March, the studios have either rescheduled releases or shunted films into streaming services or video on demand. A handful of drive-in theaters across the country have been the only outlet for new releases. The current box office leader is The Wretched, a low-budget horror from IFC that became the first film to sit at number one for more than five weeks since 2017's Black Panther. The Wretched has brought in $1.1 million since its release on May 1st. For comparison, Black Panther earned $700 million domestically and $1.1 billion worldwide.


The initial offerings include new releases The King of Staten Island, starring SNL alum Peter Davidson and directed by comedy auteur Judd Apatow, and The High Note, a musical comedy featuring Dakota Johnson and Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross. There will also be summer classics such as Jaws, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, Madagascar, and the Indiana Jones trilogy, as well as pre-COVID 2020 releases The Invisible Man, Trolls: World Tour, and I Still Believe.


Malco plans to reopen a new batch of theaters every week, with the goal of having the entire network operational by July 14th for the release of Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated, sci fi spy film Tenet.

You can purchase tickets for reserved seating in advance and review the newly implemented pandemic safety measures on the Malco website

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Takes Home Top Prize at Oxford Virtual Film Festival

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2020 at 2:09 PM

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlin
  • The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlin

The Oxford Virtual Film Festival announced the winners of the Hoka awards Saturday night in a Zoom session that united filmmakers from Tokyo to Mississippi.

This year's festival, originally scheduled for mid-March, was one of the first in the nation to face cancellation as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. Organizers of the 20-year-old festival acted quickly to move films, panels, and parties online, with the help of Memphis-based Eventive ticketing platform. The virtual festival ran for seven weeks, setting an example for festivals all over the world.

“In a year of so much uncertainty and figuring out how to re-invent and innovate and not just look forward to how we would do things in the future when it came to presenting and celebrating film and the people responsible for making those films, we knew it was vital to demonstrate our appreciation for the films we did select this year," says Oxford Film Festival executive director Melanie Addington. "This film festival has always tried to be a leader in our industry and this state and following through with the presentation of our awards virtually was in the plans from the beginning of our decision to pivot to our weekly virtual fests and OFF to the DRIVE-IN screening events. We are intensely proud of these films and filmmakers and are thrilled to officially recognize them as prize winners.”

The winner of the Narrative Feature Hoka is The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, director David Midell's dramatization of a 2011 police killing of a Marine veteran in his White Plains, New York home. The award also includes a $15,000 camera rental package from Panavision.


Beat Documentary went to Hope Frozen from director Pailin Wedel, which tells the story of the youngest person ever to be cryogenically preserved, a two-year-old Thai girl who died of cancer, and the controversies that surrounded the family's decision. The Best Documentary Hoka also comes with a Panavision rental package and pro bono consultation from editor Joe Shaprio for the filmmakers.


Kyle Taubken's "The Brother's Brother" won Best Mississippi Short. Taubaken is a Memphis-based filmmaker whose "Soul Man" won Best Hometowner Narrative Short at Indie Memphis 2019. Best Mississippi Feature went to Larissa Lam for Far East Deep South. The Mississippi Documentary Feature award went to Getting To The Root by Larissa Lam.

The $15,000 Artist Vodka award, which was chosen by audience vote, went to Javier Molina for his short film "Wonder."

Best Music Documentary went to Travis Beard's Rockabul, which documented the rise of Afghanistan's first heavy metal band. Best LGBTQIA+ Feature went to From Baghdad to the Bay by director Erin Pamquist.

Giulia Gandini's "My Time" was chosen by the jury as Best Narrative Short film, while the documentary shorts jury chose Johanis Lyons-Reid, Lorcan Hopper for "The Loop." Best Music Video went to "Pain” by Bandrunna Gwaup, directed by Katrina Blair.


A full list of the award winners is available on the Oxford Film Festival website.

The Oxford Film Festival also announced the films for the inaugural weekend of their new drive-in theater located at 100 Thacker Loop in Oxford. On Thursday, June 11th, the theater will officially open with a bit of classic drive-in fare: Ed Wood's so-bad-it's-good Plan 9 From Outer Space. Friday and Saturday nights feature more serious fare with The Evers, a documentary about the family legacy of Civil Rights martyr Medgar Evers by Loki Mulholland.

Submissions are now open for Oxford Film Festival 2021. 

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Music Video Monday: Pezz

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 11:47 AM

Ceylon Mooney on the road with Pezz.
  • Ceylon Mooney on the road with Pezz.
Music Video Monday keeps going!

Pezz, the Memphis punk legends, have been spreading their hardcore gospel for thirty years. Marvin Stockwell, Ceylon Mooney, Scott Bomar, and Nic Cupples played their first show as Pezz on June 11th, 1990 at the Singleton Community Center in Bartlett. That September, they made their debut at the Antenna, where their all-ages free-for-alls would become iconic moments in Memphis music history.

Bomar left the band after recording two EPs to become the bassist for surf-rockers Impala. He is now a producer and Emmy-winning soundtrack composer, and was instrumental in founding Memphis soul revivalists The Bo-Keys. But Bomar was just the first of dozens of Memphis rockers who cut their teeth on stage with Stockwell and Mooney.

“Pezz was one of the bands that made me want to play music,” says Christian Walker, longtime Pezz bassist and music video director. “Back then it was still a revelation to me that normal people could play music, and not only that, that they could play music and say something important. They promoted the idea that if you had a platform, it was your obligation to say something important. All these years later, we still feel that way.”

Pezz's discography includes 14 full lengths, EPs, and singles. The group toured relentlessly in the 1990s and early 2000s, playing thousands of shows all over America.

“We really wanted to play a show to commemorate 30 years of Pezz, but when COVID made that impossible, I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate this milestone than by finally digitizing old tour footage and sifting through all of these moments in the 30-year history of the band?” Walker says. “Honestly, I could have used more time to gather long-forgotten VHS tapes from people, but I believe I found plenty of material that represents different eras of the band, and the people who have played with us and friends we've made along the way.”

Currently at work on their sixth full-length album, the punk ethos that has animated the band for three decades has not faded.

“For this video, we had in mind a sickness of the heart and a condition of isolation and disconnection, but here we are with the disease of police violence as well, and, as always, it’s more deadly to people of color than the rest of us,” says Ceylon Mooney. “Don’t wait any longer. Do what your conscience demands and what your resources allow,” he said. “You can give your time to the struggle, your body to an action, your support to the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, and your money to the Black Lives Matter bail fund.”


If you would like your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Music Video Week: Don Bryant

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 5:20 AM

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Music Video Week is taking it back home.

We're closing out Music Video Week with Don Bryant and the Bo-Keys. Bryant was a Memphis music staple in the 1960s and 70s, fronting Willie Mitchell's band and co-writing the hit "I Can't Stand The Rain" with his soon-to-be wife Ann Peebles. In 2017, after decades of retirement from secular music, Bryant returned with the supergroup the Bo-Keys to record Don't Give Up On Love, one of the Memphis Flyer's Best Albums of the Teens.

In 2018 Bryant and the band recorded this video for Beale Street Caravan's I Listen To Memphis series. Director Christian Walker captured them playing in a sacred space for Memphis music, Wild Bill's juke joint. Here's hoping we can all soon go back there, and to all the other live music venues that make Memphis such a special music town.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Music Video Week: Sunweight

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 4:34 AM

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Music Video Monday of Music Video Week is expecting.

Sunweight is a trio of proggy Memphis guitar rock stranglers. These guys love their noisy guitars. And I do mean love. As you will see from this clip for "Birth," directed by Nathan Woloshin, it's a long-term, committed relationship.


Stay tuned for more Music Video week! 

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Music Video Week: Julien Baker

Posted By on Sun, May 31, 2020 at 4:49 AM

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Today on Music Video Week, we look at Julien Baker's brilliant decade.

Along with his Music Issue cover story about Memphis musicians coping with the pandemic, Memphis Flyer music editor Alex Greene compiled a list of the twenty best Memphis albums of the 2010s. Julien Baker's 2017 Matador album Turn Out The Lights made the cut.

Baker got her start playing pop punk in Midtown before going solo in 2014. This early video gave us a sense of her power. Alone in a cavernous parking garage, she easily fills up the space with just her guitar and voice. Notice that this video is a one-shot. It's just her and director Breezy Lucia alone and live.


In 2015, director Sabyn Mayfield created this clip for "Sprained Ankle", the title track for her first solo album. Around the same time, Baker was the subject of a Memphis Flyer cover story by Eileen Townsend: "If VH1 ever makes a Behind the Music: Julien Baker, it will play out something like this: A small girl with a big voice grows up in the far suburbs of Memphis. She works a night shift through high school, spends her free time hanging out at the skatepark; she smokes cigarettes, plays hymns at her small church, and figures out an electric guitar in her dad's living room. She forms a punk band with her friends. They call themselves 'The Star Killers' and play all-ages shows in community centers and neighborhood pool houses. She gets a girlfriend, gets into drinking, gets some dumb tattoos. Starts touring when she isn't in school. Applies herself. Makes it to state college, where she records a lonely record. The record is really good. People hear the record, share the record, and she gets signed. What's next is history."


Baker's big break came with this spectacular performance on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts series, which turned a lot of heads.


Two years later, Baker recorded her second solo record, Turn Out The Lights, at Ardent Studios. This video by director Sophia Peer was shot in Memphis with a local crew that included Breezy Lucia, who had first introduced her to the world.


Baker toured extensively with Turn Out The Lights, playing to festival crowds all over the world. Here she is at last year's Best Kept Secret festival in Belgium.


Baker found time to join her friends Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus in Boygenius, a supergroup of women singer-songwriters. Here they are at plying for Pitchfork in Brooklyn.


Baker's latest song, "Tokyo", came out on SubPop last October. She's been doing livestreams on her Instagram account during the pandemic, and you might even catch her trying out a new song.


Music Video Week returns tomorrow. 

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Music Video Week: Junior

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 6:09 AM

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Music Video Week continues with a very special episode.

Photographer Jamie Harmon has put a face on Memphis' COVID-19 response with his quarantine portraits. His often haunting images have made appearances on CBS News Sunday Morning and the cover of Memphis Magazine.

Junior is a band from Missoula, Montana which counts Harmon's sister-in-law Carolyn Keys as a member. They asked their locked-down friends to sing along to the first single from their album Warm Buildings. Editor Marshall Granger created this video for "Goddamnit" by combining the clips with Harmon's Quarantine Portraits. It captures the mood of our time perfectly.


Stay tuned for more Music Video Week! 

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