Monday, April 23, 2018

Music Video Monday: Don Lifted

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 10:42 AM

Today's music video will have you cruising into Monday.
The second single from Don Lifted's new album Contour, "Muirfield" is an older song revitalized by feature artist Healy. The video was shot by Kevin Brooks.

Don Lifted says this song is special to him. “Every time I listen or watch the video it puts me back to 17. Dropping you off before curfew, walking back to my car, and rolling my windows down and playing In Rainbows driving home. Every sense heightened in ways I didn’t know possible. I could smell the air and feel each instrument and vocal inflection by Thom Yorke as if he was singing in the car with me. I’d take the longest way home to feel for longer, close my eyes and put my hands out the window, sing, yell, cry, and be thankful for what I was feeling. For it was new and pure and untainted and we were new pure and untainted. Hope you enjoy.”

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Friday, April 20, 2018

"1,300 Men: Memphis Strike '68" To Screen At Main Library

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 3:28 PM

Reporting the story of the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike is a lifelong obsession for journalist-turned-director Emily Yellin. Her parents David and Carol Lynn Yellin were founding members of a group dedicated to reconciliation and commemoration in the wake of the April 4, 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. Yellin was six years old at the time. “The first meeting of the Memphis Search for Meaning Committee was in our house on Park Avenue across from Audubon park. I begged my mom to go to the meeting, but she said no. I guess I was persistent enough, so finally she said I could come, but I couldn’t speak, only listen. I could be the secretary, and told me to take notes. At the end of the meeting, she asked to see my notes. The notes read ‘We had a meeting’…I consider that my first reporting work. I reported the facts, and I learned a very important journalism lesson: Listen more than you talk.”
J. L. McClain, a Memphis Sanitation worker who was among the 1968 strikers, is featured in "1,300 Men". - DARIUS B. WILLIAMS FOR STRIKING VOICES
  • Darius B. Williams for Striking Voices
  • J. L. McClain, a Memphis Sanitation worker who was among the 1968 strikers, is featured in "1,300 Men".

In the 1990s, Yellin was reporting for the New York Times on assassin James Earl Ray’s quest for a new trial. “The big reporter who came to town [from New York] took me out to dinner before we started working on that case. I said to him, ‘Yeah, I’ve been reporting on this since 1968.’”

David Yellin founded the Film and TV department at the University of Memphis. “He had the foresight to go to the TV stations and ask for the film they shot during the sanitation strike. There’s 25 hours of film—it wasn’t video, it was film, much of which they would have thrown away—of the strike and the aftermath.”

Now, 50 years later, Yellin has used that rare footage and combined it with contemporary interviews of 30 surviving strikers and their families for Striking Voices, a multimedia project that tells the stories of the forgotten foot soldiers of the strike that changed Memphis and America. “We’ve gotten our funding from locals who believe in this project,” says Yellin, who organized the nonprofit project with the help of Community LIFT.

The premiere of Yellin’s web series “1,300 Men: Memphis Strike ’68” on coincided with the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the walkout on February 12th. The 10 episodes trace the story of the strike from the point of view of the men on the streets and the women and children who supported them. “One of our overriding goals was to give a human dimension to these men who, if you knew about them at all, you only knew them as men walking down Main Street carrying I AM A MAN signs. There are whole stories there, and I think it will be very important for everybody to take time to know these people’s stories. It’s a lot deeper than you might have thought.”
  • Darius B. Williams for Striking Voices
  • Striker Baxter Leach
Yellin’s crew were all Memphians, including editors Laura Jean Hocking, Kevin Brooks, and Suzannah Herbert; producers May Todd, Kierra Turner, Asia Sims, director of photography Richard L. Copley, and photographers Stephen Hildreth and Darius B. Williams. “My instincts told me that, as a white woman who grew up in East Memphis, that I was not necessarily the best person to do this project,” says Yellin. “At every step of the way, I had to consider that and be sure I wasn’t imposing my world view on somebody else’s story.”

This Sunday, April 22nd, “1,300 Men” will screen at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library. “We’re really looking forward to Sunday, because that’s our chance to show what we’ve produced for a national audience to a local audience. We’re gong to binge watch the story that we created for The Root for a local audience, and we’re going to have some of the sanitation workers and their wives there for a talk,” says Yellin.

In addition to the “1,300 Men” screening, an photography exhibit called "Striking Voices: The Portraits and Interviews" will be on display at the library adjacent to the screening room. “We interviewed more than 30 people, the men, their wives, and their children. Everyone we interviewed, Darius B. Williams took portrait photographs,” says Yellin.
Putting this long-gestating project together brought home the immediacy of the Civil Rights era, and the work that continues to be needed in Memphis. “There’s a legacy of [white supremacy] that we’re living with here more than almost any other city in the country,” says Yellin. “We think of the the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow as being something that happened to another generation. But what I really see is that it’s still happening in our generation right now.”

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Music Video Monday: Stephen Chopek

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 8:21 AM

Today's Music Video Monday paints a pretty picture.
Stephen Chopek played all the instruments on his new double-A side single, "The Battle of Cash and Dean" and "Radio Caroline," recorded at 5 and Dime studio and mixed by Doug Easley. The latter song is a salute to a British pirate radio station from the 1960s that broadcast from a ship in the English channel. Chopek also created this video, a masterclass in how to keep it simple and compelling.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Music Video Monday Special Edition: Live From Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Apr 9, 2018 at 11:23 AM

Today we bring you a very special episode of Music Video Monday featuring the work of Christopher Reyes and Live From Memphis.
For eleven years, from 2002-2013, Live From Memphis shone a light on the endless creativity of Memphis' music, art, and film communities. At once a website, a media outlet, and a community organization, LFM was run out of Christopher Reyes' loft at 1 S. Main, which became a meeting place and hub for Bluff City creatives. Reyes was a pioneer of web video production, and Live From Memphis' YouTube channel features thousands of videos spanning a decade of Memphis art.

One of Reyes' highest visibility projects was recording Gonerfest every year. His videos, often shot under less than ideal circumstances, helped raise the music festival's profile into national prominence. Here's a clip of Memphis garage lords The Oblivians reuniting at Gonerfest 9.

One of LFM's most popular features were the pop up art festivals the organization ran in Downtown and Midtown. The Ink Off pitted two artists against each other to create different halves of one canvas.

Another long running LFM feature was 60 Seconds, where Memphians were given one minute on video to do whatever they would like. This web video series was eventually copied first by music review site Pitchfork, then by NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Here's Memphis reggae stalwarts Chinese Connection Dub Embassy laying down a fat, one-minute groove.

Reyes is also a bicycle enthusiast who builds his own bikes. One of his creations was the Mobile Music Machine, which he used to pedal musicians around town for moving concerts. Here's Memphis' own Valerie June on the MMM:

And here's Paul Taylor's experimental electronic act Interrobang cruising around a pre-revitalization Crosstown Sears Building.

And finally, and most relevant to Music Video Monday, Live From Memphis produced the Music Video Showcase, a music video competition that was first associated with Indie Memphis, then became an independent festival that attracted video creators from all over the world. Here is a music video for Lord T. and Eloise directed by Reyes and featuring Memphian photographer Tommy Kha.

Today, Reyes, his partner Sarah Fleming, and their two small children are threatened with eviction from 1 S. Main by Aparium Hotel Group, a Chicago hotel company who recently bought the Madison Hotel. There will be a rally today in Civic Center Plaza protesting the eviction and the treatment of the artists who have been working for years to improve Memphis' image.

If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, thank Christopher Reyes for his tireless work, and send an email to

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Music Video Monday: Lanita Smith

Posted By on Mon, Apr 2, 2018 at 12:20 PM

Today's MVM celebrates our city's outsized musical impact.
Memphis is only a city of a million people, but when it comes to music, we punch much higher than our weight class. From Aretha Franklin to Elvis to Juicy J., expat Memphians have enriched the music scenes wherever they go. One of our latest exports is Lanita Smith, a Memphis-raised singer who is currently residing in Los Angeles. Smith, who started out singing in Memphis churches, was picked by legendary producer Don Was for the Guitar Center Singer/Songwriter award, and has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's late night show.

This video, the second for her song "Love Can Do", was created by Los Angeles choreographer Liezel Marie and director David Yanez with Wise Owl Media Group. It's a buoyant and uplifting pean to diversity that we all need as we start out MLK50 week in the Bluff City. Enjoy!

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Friday, March 30, 2018


Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 1:23 PM

Like a lot of people who follow political news way too closely, I’ve been thinking a lot about Russia lately. I’ve found myself regarding the country’s broken democracy as a kind of collateral damage from the Cold War. When the Soviet Union’s politically repressive system disintegrated, it was replaced with a system of economic repression that only vaguely resembled capitalism as its most fervent adherents describe it. Under the rule of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, it has become essentially a mafia state run by and for the benefit of oligarchs. Putin’s interest in installing Trump in the American presidency is his version of “promoting democracy”. His goal is to extend the rule of oligarchs indebted to him to our hemisphere. In other words, its our turn to experience Cold War collateral damage.

Maryana Spivak as Zhenya
  • Maryana Spivak as Zhenya

In Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, collateral damage looms large and spreads wide. The person most damaged is Alexy (Matvey Novikov), son of Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin). The Leningrad couple is in the midst of one of the most bitter onscreen divorces since Kramer vs Kramer. We first meet Alexy in a long, symmetrical shot of the front door of his school. Kids run free at the dismissal bell past a Russian flag hanging limply from its pole. Friends chatter and conspire excitedly, but Alexy walks home alone through the winter woods, past a frigid pond. When he finds a discarded streamer in the leaves, he is at peace for a few precious moments between the torture of school and the emotional black hole at home.

Boris, who has a well-paying sales job in an anonymous cube farm has a new, pregnant girlfriend named Masha (Marina Vasilyeva). Zhenya has a new, rich boyfriend named Anton (Andris Keiss). Neither one of them seem to care much about Alexy. Zhenya mentions casually to Boris that, once she sells the couple’s apartment, she plans to ship the boy off to boarding school and then the army. “He’s starting to smell like his father,” she tells her stylist as she’s getting waxed.

Aleksey Rozin as Boris
  • Aleksey Rozin as Boris

When Alexy goes missing, no one notices for two days. When the police get involved, they’re not much better. The chief inspector in the case says “the little dolt is probably hiding in a mall somewhere.”

But, he’s not. The bitterly bickering couple is reluctantly pressed together again to look for a son they don’t even really like, aided by cops who seem put out that they have to do their job. The search for Alexy gives viewers a tragic tour of contemporary Russia, from ruined Soviet facilities that wear their socialist optimism like a tattered old coat to the countryside where Zhenya’s bitter mother (“She’s a mixture of God and the Devil”) clings to vodka and fundamentalist Christianity. For a Western audience, there are moments of stunning recognition (“Look! Russians have bad sex just like we do!”) alternating with moments of profound alienation and sadness.

Zvyagintsev’s clearly an acolyte of Kubrick and the giant of late twentieth century Russian film Andre Tarkovsky. He knows when to use Kubrickian symmetry, and when to get up in someone’s face—one shot of Alexy crying bitter tears while hiding from his mom behind a door will stay with me for a long time.

Matvey Novikov as Alexy
  • Matvey Novikov as Alexy
This is a gut wrenching human story, but it’s also clear that Zvyagintsev and his frequent collaborator, writer Oleg Negin, see this film in political terms as well. The action takes place against a backdrop of propaganda barely disguised as news broadcasts that will be chillingly familiar to anyone who has listened to right wing talk radio or watched Fox News. I am sure that there are many sly moments of cultural commentary that flew completely over my head, but would land for a Russian audience.

Loveless, won the Cannes jury prize and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar. It’s a wrenching, deeply thoughtful film that, once it casts its spell, makes it impossible to turn away.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Music Video Monday: Ben Abney and the Hurts

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 11:20 AM

Music Video Monday is missing you.
The name of veteran Memphis rocker Ben Abney's newest group says it all. With The Hurts, Abney has created a heartfelt country sound around songs that do what you want a country song to do: Cry into its beer. In "Goodnight Man", Abney laments the time spent on the road, and the personal toll it takes on his relationships. The video is directed by Christopher "Woodsy" Smith of JaWoo Productions. Better get out your hankies before you check it out:

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Palestinian Women, a Social Justice Doc, and the Return of Cybill Shepherd

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 at 12:01 PM

A big week for movies in Memphis kicks off tonight at 7:00 PM at Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill. Three Palestinian roommates living in Tel Aviv must navigate the conflicts between the modern and the traditional in In Between. The film, which has been getting great reviews from the festival circuit, will be followed by a discussion featuring Memphis-based Palestinian-American artist Yasmine Omari and attorney Paola Palazzolo, who was born in Haifa. This screening is presented by Indie Memphis and Memphis Women in Film.

Tomorrow night at Crosstown Arts, Indie Memphis presents a pay what you can encore screening of one of the best films of last year's festival, Marvin Booker was Murdered. You can read a little bit about the film that won the 2017 Soul of Southern Film Award in this Memphis Flyer cover story.

On Sunday, Indie Memphis pays tribute to one of Memphis' favorite daughters with a double feature of Cybill Shepherd at the Halloran Center. At 7 PM, Rose, Shepherd's new film, will have its Memphis premiere. Shepherd plays a woman in a wheelchair who discovers she may be dying and sets off on a long journey of self-discovery across the New Mexico desert. Veteran Rod McCall directs Shepherd, Pam Grier, and James Brolin in this heartfelt drama.

Cybill Shepherd gets serious in Rose
  • Cybill Shepherd gets serious in Rose

Shepherd will make a rare public appearance in Memphis to talk about the film, and the one that preceeds it. At 3 PM, Memphis, a 1992 television adaptation of Shelby Foote's novel September, September will hit the big screen for the first time ever.

See you at the cinema!

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Elvis Presley: The Searcher

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 2:51 PM

On Saturday, a new HBO documentary was previewed at The Guest House at Graceland. Elvis Presley: The Searcher is a three-hour look at the entertainer with particular focus on his music — his influences, his favorite tunes, his top songwriters, his styles, and how he changed throughout his career.

There are extensive images and clips of Elvis and considerable performance footage. Among the sources heard in “The Searcher” are Priscilla Presley, David Porter, Tom Petty, Red West, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Ferris, Preston Lauterbach, Emmylou Harris, and Robbie Robertson. The first part of the documentary premieres Saturday, April 14 at 7p.m. Central on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

Attending the event were executive producers Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling, and producer/songwriter David Porter. In a red carpet interview with the Memphis Flyer, the three gave us a look at what the documentary aimed to cover.

Dave Porter

The documentary is Elvis’ life with music in totality. There was quite a bit of involvement with me knowing him all the way back to the Flamingo Room when we were younger. I first saw this young kid — I was a bit younger — hanging around those clubs and everything just getting that energy. He had the spirit of Beale Street.

Later I saw him as a record producer myself and was honored when he asked Isaac Hayes and me to do a jam session when he brought Priscilla to Memphis, so we did that for him at the Manhattan Club with the Willie Mitchell Band. That was a bit of synergy there, then he later produced the record, at Stax in 1973 at the same time I was producing the Sweet Inspirations in Studio B, he was recording at Studio A, so we were always bumping into each other.

A tremendous amount of his influences were rooted in what he got out of Beale Street. He had a great respect and love for artists like Roy Hamilton, who he was a huge fan of, as well as Jackie Wilson. He was a fan of what was going on on Beale Street because during those times there was the energy, and entertainers were truly entertainers. Joe Tex, Jackie Wilson, James Brown all of these great, great artists would come to the clubs and these small venues in that area and you had opportunity, if you were ambitious, to come and really not only talk to them, but learn so much from them. Elvis certainly took advantage of that.

The thing that was paramount about music and entertainment at that time was black artists had to deal with truly being sure they were marketed right because they were entertaining for people at that time when oppression and bias and racism were so prevalent. So to have the artistry to make people feel comfortable and forget was a true, true amount of power and Elvis was able to come and see that kind of energy happening and make it work in such as way that was special for him. I believe his true identity was in having emotional connectivity with audiences.

Jerry Schilling

Elvis Presley: The Searcher is totally put together differently. I’ve produced more documentaries on Elvis than anybody. It is more from his point of view and it's more behind the scenes, even the professional side. It's the struggles he had to go through, with the triumphs. The other voiceovers are embellishing what Elvis is saying. And with Thom Zimny, the director, you get a very sensitive viewpoint. I think it's the most honest, definitive, look at my friend that there is. It tells why we're still talking about him and also tells why maybe he's not here. Out of greed and disappointments.

Priscilla Presley

Jerry and I talked so many times about the books that are out there, the professors that are out there giving their viewpoint about who Elvis Presley was. They come up with some kind of clever thing that he was this or that or he was guiding his career in such a way, then all of a sudden he lost it, or that he happened to be at the right place at the right time, and that's just lucky him. No. I'm sorry. It's just not that way at all. He knew that he was unique. From a very young age he knew that there was something different about him.

Elvis was able to know not just what was good music, but that what came out of him touched his soul. He was so influenced by country, rhythm and blues, and gospel, which he says in the documentary. He pulled it all together because it truly touched him. And he loved rock and roll, but ballads really touched him. What 10-year-old boy would sing “Old Shep”? Have you considered that song? I mean, for a variety show? But even at age 3, he would go on that stage and rock out with gospel music and felt it, putting his hands up. It was already in him. You can't tell me that he was just in the right place at the right time. He knew what he loved, and that was the feeling that came out of that music.
On the red carpet at the screening of HBO’s “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” (from left): producer Kary Antholis, music producer David Porter, director Thom Zimny, executive producers Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling, and Sony music executive John Jackson. - JON SPARKS
  • Jon Sparks
  • On the red carpet at the screening of HBO’s “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” (from left): producer Kary Antholis, music producer David Porter, director Thom Zimny, executive producers Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling, and Sony music executive John Jackson.

Music Video Monday: Don Lifted

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 10:16 AM

A world premiere from Don Lifted makes for a glorious Music Video Monday!
Artist, musician, and filmmaker Lawrence Matthews, aka Don Lifted, produced our top music video of 2016. His new video, "Poplar Pike", begins his most ambitious work yet. "'Poplar Pike' is the first single of my coming album Contour, set to release this September. It is also one of eight videos created for the album by a collaborative group of filmmakers and writers including Nubia Yasin, Kevin Brooks, Martin Matthews, and myself," he says. "The story of Contour takes place my senior year in high school through my freshman year in college. For this video, I intended to have a back yard bonfire party with a bunch of different people trying to create a fictional high school reality, one where I was cool and popular, and people came to my house in groups, and we road bikes and drove cars and danced around the fire, like how they do in high school movies. During the planning I told everyone wouldn’t it be sad if nobody showed up to the shoot... and on the two shoot days, exactly that happened. I took it as some ironic moment of art imitating my true high school experience."

Don Lifted will debut some songs from Contour at MCA this Friday, March 23 at 8 PM. Here's "Poplar Pike":

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Friday, March 16, 2018

It's A Hitchcock Weekend! Time Warp Drive In and Turner Classic Movies Present Four Classics From The Master of Suspense

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 6:57 AM

If you've ever wondered what was so great about Alfred Hitchcock, this is the weekend to find out. Was the master of suspense the greatest filmmaker of all time? The four films playing in Memphis this weekend make the strongest case possible for Hitch's GOAT status.
Alfred Hitchcock
  • Alfred Hitchcock
Saturday night, the Time Warp Drive-In will devote its season's first full show to Hitchcock. Cinephiles will go round and round on which of his films is the best, but the Time Warp is leading with my pick: Rear Window. This amazingly compact work takes place in one giant set. It has Jimmy Stewart at his most laconic, literal queen Grace Kelly at her absolute sexiest, and a classic supporting performance by the great Thelma Ritter. Just look at the way Hitch introduces the setting and almost every character in the film in the opening three minutes. 

Next up is North by Northwest, the template for thousands of action movies. Check out this trailer, in which Hitch prefigured Deadpool's marketing campaign by six decades.

Next on the super-genius parade is The Birds, a deeply weird horror film that today can be read as a kind of proto-zombie movie. The events of the film are never really explained, but as you can see from this classic clip, these are some really pissed off birds!

On Sunday at the Paradiso, Turner Classic Movies presents a 60th anniversary screening of Vertigo, Hitchcock's masterpiece which, in 2012, bumped Citizen Kane from the top spot of the decennial Sight + Sound Best Films Of All Times poll. You can judge for yourself at the Paradiso on Sunday, March 18 at 2:00 PM.

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Seven Days In Entebbe

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 5:02 AM

It’s not often that you get to see the making of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode in real time, but I feel confident that at some point a guy in a movie theater with a couple of robots is going to make fun of Seven Days In Entebbe.
Mossad commandos stroll casually into battle in Seven Days In Entebbe
  • Mossad commandos stroll casually into battle in Seven Days In Entebbe
This film, directed by José Padilha, is the fourth made about the June-July 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane by a combined force of Palestinian and German terrorists. The plane was flown from Athens, Greece to an airport in Entebbe, Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria. There, the 254 passengers and crew were held hostage with the help of Idi Amin’s army. The terrorists demanded the release of prisoners from Israeli jails, but instead they all got bullets in the head from a force of Israeli commandos. All but one of the passengers were rescued in the daring raid, and the men behind it—Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres—became national heroes. Even today in Israel, the events of that summer have repercussions: The only Israeli casualty was the brother of current Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
Regret-filled passengers file from the plane.
  • Regret-filled passengers file from the plane.
The first of Seven Days In Entebbe’s many faults lies in its attempts to tell all sides of the story at once, and failing in every respect. Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brul play Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfred Bose, a pair of radical Red Army guerrillas who led the mission. Kuhlmann and Bose were the last of the breed of militant leftists who grew out of the 1960s. Their comrades in the infamous Badher-Meinhof group were all dead or in prison, and since they were stuck in a Libyan training camp with no prospect of returning home alive, the hijacking was an act of desperation.
Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike hijack a plane because they have nothing better to do.
  • Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike hijack a plane because they have nothing better to do.
The hijacking goes smoothly enough, but the passengers, all decked out for the 1970s, appear to have been imported directly from an Airport movie. The self-parody is completed with Denis Menochet as the no nonsense flight engineer, who would have been played by George Kennedy if this had really been 1976. He gets great lines like “A plumber is worth five revolutionaries!”

On the other side is the Israeli government, led by Lior Ashkenazi as Rabin and Eddie Marsan as Peres. The pair of politicians leave no cigarette unsmoked and no brow un-furrowed, but at no time are they believable human beings. Even worse is the shoddy looking defense ministry headquarters, which looks like a 1960s-era Doctor Who set where everyone tells each other what they already know, unconvincingly. Most pointless of all is a subplot where a young commando played by Ben Schnetzer has to miss his girlfriend’s godawful modern dance performance because he’s off rescuing hostages. The only person who looks like he’s having any fun in the entire movie is Game of Thrones vet Nonso Anozie, and I suspect that’s because his portrayal of Idi Amin is secretly a Donald Trump impersonation.

Seven Days In Entebbe jumps out in front in the race for the most pointless (least pointed?) film of the year so far. Padilha is an acclaimed action director who somehow forgot how to film a good action scene since his uneven Robocop remake. His film failed to make me care about the passengers, the hijackers, the decision makers, or the soldiers. The only question is, why would anyone pay good money to remake a Charles Bronson TV movie from the 1970s, and do it so badly at that? For that, I have no answers. But one day, someone's going to thank them for the lulz.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Music Video Monday: Tori WhoDat

Posted By on Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 11:46 AM

It's Monday, and there's no limit to what you can achieve!
...except for all the usual limits. But no matter, we're here to celebrate Tori WhoDat's music video for "No Limit, My Boo"! Tori's new song was produced by Chris3000. Director Isaiah Conyers of Iconick Films shot this banging music video at Midtown's Studio688, with the assistance of a bevy of dancers. Check out the smooth sounds here:

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Wrinkle In Time

Posted By on Sat, Mar 10, 2018 at 11:01 AM

In situations such as we find ourselves in now, I like to remind readers of Alfred Hitchcock’s attitude towards literary adaptations. When asked by Francois Truffaut if he would ever make a movie of a great novel such as Crime and Punishment, he said no. “In Dostoevsky’s novel there are many, many words, and all of them have a function.”

A great book does more than just tell a story. The writer’s use of language itself is a part of the magic. Having the voice of the author whispering in your head is an entirely different experience than sitting in a theater watching a moving image with an audience. What works very well in one medium will not be as effective when translated into another medium. The best books for adaptations are tightly edited page turners with strong stories. Hitchcock’s observation is boiled down to the dictum “Mediocre books make the best movies.”
Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit walks the meadows of the utopian planet Uriel in A Wrinkle In Time.
  • Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit walks the meadows of the utopian planet Uriel in A Wrinkle In Time.

A Wrinkle In Time is not a mediocre book. Therein lies the problem with the Disney-produced, Ava DuVernay-directed screen adaptation.

A Wrinkle In Time was a Harry Potter-sized literary sensation when it was first published in 1962. Author Madeline L’Engle drew on her own experiences as an awkward late bloomer to create Meg Murry, the thirteen year old protagonist. Meg begins the novel in the midst of a hurricane of sadness and self doubt that seems to have become an actual hurricane outside the cozy old house where she lives with her brother Charles Wallace and her scientist mother. Her father has been missing for four years, which is the source of much of her angst. The neighbors and the kids at school gossip that he was a deadbeat who ran out on his young family, but, given that he was a rouge NASA scientist who was studying higher dimensional physics, the Murry family hopes that he went somewhere more otherworldly, and might one day return.
Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which and Storm Reid as Meg Murry
  • Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which and Storm Reid as Meg Murry
DuVernay’s casting instincts are good. Storm Reid plays Meg with a confidence that belies her age. The otherworldly trio of Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) , proto-Time Lord, alien/angel hybrids who travel the cosmos by folding space with their minds, are all spot in. But much of their work in this visually dense film was done in solitude against green screens, and it shows. The same goes for former Peter Pan, Levi Miller, who plays Meg’s companion Calvin, and Deric McCabe who plays Charles Wallace. Faring much better is Zach Galifanakis as The Happy Medium, the oracle the children consult on their search for their missing father, who is played by the ever versatile Chris Pine. The Medium’s world of precariously balanced crystals is one of several compelling visual moments DuVernay and her crew conjure, but the film is so disjointed that it cannot sustain any momentum for long.
Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who
  • Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who
L’Engle’s prose is masterfully compact and often lyrical. She never talks down to her young audience, but uses the limitations of the children’s book to her advantage. But the novel is very much of its time. She was a devout Christian with the education to understand cutting edge science; one way to look at A Wrinkle In Time is as her attempt to reconcile the revelations of cosmology and quantum mechanics with old fashioned American transcendentalism. Her philosophy and imagery were absorbed by the kids of the early sixties, resurfaced when those kids got psychedelicized after the Summer of Love, and later incorporated into New Age mysticism. Her descriptions of the rolling, otherworldly fields of the planet Uriel are rewards themselves. But when they’re rendered as Disney-fied CGI, and characters just stand there and look at them, they’re not so interesting.
Mega Oprah
  • Mega Oprah
The root of her vision of evil is the false happiness of enforced conformity, and that’s not a can of worms the capitalist Disney corporation wants to open. L’Engle’s strength is the internal struggles of her young characters, but that’s not something that translates well to the screen, which is all about external appearances. Instead, L’Engle’s admonitions to embrace your weirdness are reduced to forced whimsey.  While I have no doubt the message is needed by America’s young women of color, there’s only so much empowering affirmation you can take in one sitting, even when it’s coming from a 30-foot Mega Oprah. A Wrinkle In Time was long thought to be unfilmable, and this version suggests that conventional wisdom was right.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Memphis Filmmakers Extoll The Virtues Of Barbecue With New Short

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 12:01 PM

You know what brings out the A-list Memphis filmmakers? Barbecue.
We in the film community are united in our admiration of the glories of our civic dish. Local hero Craig Brewer got together folks like editor Edward Valibus, producer Morgan Jon Fox, cinematographer Ryan Earl Parker, and sound enginner Kevin Houston to produce this two-minute short film for Memphis Travel. Let this whet your appetite.
Behold, "Memphis Que", then head out for lunch to your favorite barbecue joint.

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