Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Indie Memphis Pays Tribute to Legendary Director Agnes Varda

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 2:01 PM

Director Agnés Varda in Faces Places
  • Director Agnés Varda in Faces Places
Last March, Agnés Varda passed away at age 90. She was a filmmaker's filmmaker, known as the "Godmother of the French New Wave" because her early work in the 1950s was hugely influential on first her countrymen, like critic-turned-director Francois Truffaut, then the rest of the world.

Varda had a restless spirit, an unerring eye for beauty, and a flagrant disregard for film conventions — except when she was deliberately violating them. Perhaps even more significantly, she was adamant about breaking down the walls of the filmmaking boy's club.

For the last two weekly screenings of June, Indie Memphis has scheduled a tribute to Varda that will include three of her classic films that are rarely seen on the big screen in America.

Tonight, June 19th, the program begins at Malco Ridgeway with Le Bonheur. The 1965 narrative feature is one of her most explicitly feminist films, coming at a time when the Sexual Revolution was calling old assumptions about relationships into question. Francois, a happily married man with young kids, is carrying on a clandestine affair with a young postal clerk. The repercussions will upend the lives and haunt the future of all three members of the love triangle. The surface beauty of the film and the cheery Mozart score belie a darkness at its center. Tickets are available here.


Next Wednesday, June 26th, a double feature of Varda's peerless documentary work will screen at Studio on the Square. In the late 1960s, Varda moved to Hollywood with her husband, director Jacques Demy. She soon discovered that she had a long-lost relative living in California. When she went to meet him, she filmed Uncle Yanco, which is both a personal film about family and a strange, experimental documentary that serves as an excellent introduction to Varda's "cinematic writing."


In 1979, Varda returned to L.A. to film Mur Murs, an exploration of the rich intersection of visual arts and street culture in the City of Angels. It's like visiting the beach with your awesome aunt. You can get tickets to the double feature here.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Music Video Monday: ZZ Top

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2019 at 12:31 PM

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Today, Music Video Monday takes you back to the beginning.

Last Thursday, at Flyer columnist Chris Davis' retirement party, we had a conversation about the first independent film from Memphis. The earliest one we could come up with was I Was A Zombie For The FBI. Made in 1982 by a group of Memphis State University students, led by director Marius Penczner, the film is a loving homage to monster B-movies of the 1950s. The ambitious film involved an extensive stop-motion animation sequence of an alien monster that fought the G-Men. In the '80s and '90s, it became something of a cult classic, and counted among its fans no less than Bob Dylan, who saw it during its long run on the late night cable TV music video show Night Flight. Here, in a segment produced for WKNO's screening of the film on Professor Ghoul's Horror School, some of the folks involved remember the production.

Across town, at the same time Penczner was making his opus, ZZ Top was at Ardent Studios recording their smash album Eliminator. The music videos that made them superstars, like "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man," were filmed in Los Angeles. But Penczner and his crew leveraged their work on I Was A Zombie For The FBI to land the contract for "TV Dinners." The video, which is one of, if not the, earliest one made in Memphis, features the stop-motion monster, video games, and a very, very bad meal. Check it out:


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

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Win Tickets to a Punk Rock Classic: Suburbia at Crosstown Arts

Posted By on Tue, Jun 11, 2019 at 1:05 PM

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Before she was the director of Wayne's World, Penelope Spheeris was the cinematic poet laureate of punk rock.

She grew up in trailer parks in Louisiana and Orange County, California, and put herself through film school working as a waitress at IHOP. Her first feature, The Decline Of Western Civilization, was the first documentary about the West Coast version of the international punk rock scene. Where documentaries like The Song Remains The Same depicted Led Zepplin as golden gods of music, Spheeris told the unvarnished truth about her subjects: They were mostly poor, living in squalor, and using the radical music as a way to express their frustrations and to transcend their crappy lives.

Roger Corman, the low-budget producer of exploitation films who gave everyone from Jack Nicholson to James Cameron their first break into the industry, made a deal with Spheeris to make a fictional film set in the obscure world of punk squats and $5 shows. As usual with Corman, the only real requirements were some gratuitous sex and violence he could use to attract the prurient.

Given free rein, Spheeris made a social realist ensemble piece masqerading as a gritty exploitation flick for the drive-ins. Suburbia was largely ignored by mainstream audiences upon release in 1984, the year of Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, and Purple Rain, but it quickly became an underground classic in the video stores, as small town punks all over America passed the word around.

The film has more in common with tales of squalor and struggle like Roberto Russolini's Rome Open City  than it does with John Hughes, but it's kind of like The Breakfast Club if all five characters were variations of John Bender, the juvenile delinquent Judd Nelson character. Today, if you know it at all, you probably remember it as the movie where Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers puts a live rat in his mouth.

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Crosstown Theater is screening Suburbia as part of their weekly film series on Thursday, June 13th at 7:30 p.m. Like a punk show, it's a $5 cover, but if you're as broke as the OC punks, you're in luck! The Memphis Flyer is giving away tickets to the show! To enter, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. Two lucky folks will win two tickets each to the screening at the beautiful new Crosstown Theater. So get those entries in and see a postmodern punk masterpiece!

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Music Video Monday: Sweet Knives

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 12:43 PM

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Music Video Monday is coming in hot!

Today, we've got a world premiere from Sweet Knives. The group grew out of the wreckage of Lost Sounds, the legendary Memphis band that counted the late Jay Reatard as a founding member. Alicja Trout, Rich Crook, and John Garland got back together and added Eli Steele and Lori McStay to write and record new music. "Sweet Knives' new batch of songs sounds different from the Lost Sounds dark-wave synth punk sound," says Trout. "With this song in particular Rich [drums] wrote the core of the song and the guitar solo, then I built the melodies and lyrics from there. It's a new approach for us. We don't want to sound like Lost Sounds. We are a new band, though our set still includes a few old Lost Sounds songs."

"I Don't Wanna Die" has a personal meaning for Trout and the band. "Jay, as we know, died of substance complications. All of us are concerned for our health, and I think I speak for the band that we want long, healthy lives; we don't want to live recklessly and have our lives end early as Jay's did," she says.

The video was directed by Laura Jean Hocking, shot by Sarah Fleming, and stars Shannon Walton as a pilot facing a bad situation. "This was a really enjoyable collaboration," says Hocking. "The concept was Alicja's idea, but I was given free rein. I'm very attracted to the image of a woman set adrift alone in the world."


Sweet Knives sets out on a two-week tour of the Southwest and West Coast this week. Here's where you can catch this don't-miss live show.

-Friday, June 14, Little Rock, AR - White Water with Stifft Beat

-Saturday, June 15, Oklahoma City - Blue Note with Psychotic Reaction

-Sunday, June 16, Albuquerque, NM - Launchpad with The Ordinary Things and nowhiteflag

-Tuesday, June 18, San Diego, CA - Whistle Stop

-Wednesday, June 19, Long Beach, CA - 4th Street Vine with Assquatch

-Thursday, June 20, Los Angeles, CA - Cafe Nela with Guilty Hearts and Tenement Rats

-Friday, June 21, San Pedro, CA - Recess Ops with Lenguas Largas

-Saturday, June 22, San Francisco, CA - Parkside with Control Freaks and Dots

-Monday, June 24, El Centro, CA - Strangers

-Tuesday, June 25, Tempe, AZ - Yucca Tap Room with Lenguas Largas

-Wednesday, June 26, Tuscon, AZ - Club Congress with Lenguas Largas

-Thursday, June 27, El Paso, TX - Monarch Theater with Lenguas Largas

-Friday, June 28, Austin, TX - Barracuda outside with Lenguas Largas, Wiccans, more tba

-Saturday, June 29, New Orleans - Circle Bar with Manatees and Dummy Dumpster, Ponk Dance party DJs

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

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Music Doc Talk, Superpowered Black Girls, and Donna Summer This Week At The Cinema

Posted By on Tue, Jun 4, 2019 at 3:11 PM

Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw as Ruth, a reluctant superhero, in Fast Color
  • Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw as Ruth, a reluctant superhero, in Fast Color
It's the first Tuesday of the month, which means it's time for Indie Memphis' Shoot and Splice series of filmmakers speaking on filmmaking. This week, it's Southern Music Documentaries with Negro Terror director and University of Mississippi's Southern Documentary Project head John Rash and documentarians Mary Stanton Knight and Rex Jones. Photojournalist Andrea Morales will be the moderator for the discussion. The free event starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Crosstown Arts.

On Wednesday, a different kind of superhero film at Studio on the Square. Fast Color is director Julia Hart's acclaimed film about Ruth, a woman on the run played by Doctor Who veteran Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw, who is trying to reunite with her long-lost daughter and mother. The three women have mysterious superpowers that might just save the world from environmental disaster, but they need the help of a friendly sheriff (David Strathairn) to evade a scientist (Christopher Denham) who wants to learn their secrets. You can get your tickets here.


On Thursday, you can get ready for the end of the week with the latest installment of the Crosstown Arts film series. Saturday Night Fever may be the definitive document of the disco era, but Thank God It's Friday is a close second. Released six months after John Travolta sashayed across the screen, the film was co-produced by disco powerhouse Casablanca Records and Motown. It uses the American Graffiti frame of one eventful night in the lives of a group of loosely connected young people, except instead of cruising in small town California they're flocking to a Los Angeles disco called The Zoo. The real point is the soundtrack, which was a triple album (!) produced by Giorgio Moroder and featuring the 1977 Academy Award Winner for Best Song, "Last Dance," performed by Donna Summer. The film starts at 7:30 at Crosstown Theater.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

Music Video Monday: KadyRoxz

Posted By on Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 12:00 PM

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Today's Music Video Monday will smooth your way into the week.

KadyRoxz is a purveyor of smooth R&B sounds who recently graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music. The Memphis singer's new EP Colored hit the streets back in April. The dreamy, colorful video for "Orange 2 Blue" was directed by Jas Marie of NuJass Productions will get you in the mood.


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

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Forty Shades of Blue and Time For Ilhan

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 4:40 PM

Representative Ilhan Omar in the documentary Time For Ilhan
  • Representative Ilhan Omar in the documentary Time For Ilhan
In 2005, when Hustle & Flow won the Audience Award at Sundance, another movie with Memphis roots won the festival's Grand Jury Prize. Ira Sach's Forty Shades of Blue is the story of Alan James, a Sam Phillips-inspired music producer from Memphis, played indelibly by Rip Torn. Alan has a new girlfriend named Laura (Dina Korzun) who is from Moscow, and much younger. In fact, she's roughly the age of his son Michael (Darren Burrows), which causes problems when...well, you'll see. Forty Shades of Blue will screen tonight at the Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grille as the finale of the Indie Memphis and Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission's Memphis in May movie series. Director Ira Sachs will be on hand to answer questions afterwards. Tickets are available here at the Indie Memphis website.

Tomorrow night at the Crosstown Theater, Indie Memphis presents the political documentary Time For Ilhan. Director Norah Shapiro and cinematographer Christopher Newberry followed candidate Ilhan Omar through her successful run for Congress during the 2018 election. The film is in the tradition of Primary, the 1960 documentary about John F. Kennedy's presidential run that is a classic of American film. You can get tickets at the Indie Memphis website.

TIME FOR ILHAN - Official Trailer from Flying Pieces Productions on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Booksmart

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2019 at 11:21 AM

Beanie Felstien as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart
  • Beanie Felstien as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart
Every now and then, a movie comes along that is so of its time that it comes to define its time. Rebel Without A Cause caught the energy of the early rock and roll era. In the 80s, John Hughes films both reflected high school reality and helped shape it. As I came out of Booksmart, I felt like I had just seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the first time. Olivia Wilde’s directing debut has the potential to be one of those generation-defining high school films.

Part of that is by design. Booksmart is very specifically about the class of 2019, and BFFs Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are about to graduate at the top of it. Amy is a do-gooder lesbian who drives a vintage Volvo with a Warren 2020 sticker on the bumper. Molly is the anti-Bart Simpson: the product of a distinctly working class home who is an overachiever at everything. On the last day of school, as class president, she’s more interested in going over year-end budget numbers with her jock VP Nick (Jason Gooding) than finding ways to celebrate.
When the FOMO hits.
  • When the FOMO hits.
But right before cap and gown time, they are suddenly struck by an acute case of late blooming FOMO. They set out on their penultimate high school night to find the ultimate high school party, and maybe finally put the moves on their respective crushes while they’re at it. The two have a Ferris/Cameron dynamic. Molly, utterly convinced of her own smarts, is constantly talking the reluctant Amy into escalating the hi-jinx, while Amy immediately lives to regret it. Feldstein, who shone as Saoirse Ronan’s best friend in Lady Bird, fully emerges as a major comedic talent. Dever plays it tighter to the vest, but the two characters are such fully intertwined teenage best friends you can’t really call her the straight woman.

We follow Amy and Molly, and root for them to have fun, and for their friendship to endure. But Booksmart rises above the usual teen movie cliches by fully humanizing all of its supporting characters. First and foremost is Hollywood royalty Billie Lourd giving off strong Jeff Spicoli vibes as Gigi, the drug addled rich girl who serves as Amy and Molly’s spirit guide for their procession through progressively less lame parties. Jared (Sklyer Gisondo) drives an 80s Firebird with a FUK BOI license plate. His taste in hats echoes Pretty In Pink’s Ducky. Booksmart kicks into high gear at the epically unsuccessful party he throws on a docked yacht, and keeps that momentum going all the way to the end, wrenching unexpected twists from the Superbad-like premise.
Billie Lourde as Gigi (left) taking Amy for a ride.
  • Billie Lourde as Gigi (left) taking Amy for a ride.
Working from a whip smart screenplay by four women writers, Wilde lovingly shepherds Amy and Molly through the best/worst night of their lives. The way she precisely balances out Fieldstein’s manic energy and Devers thin veneer of calm is reminiscent of how John Landis handled Belushi and Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers. Most crucially, editor Jamie Gross, who worked on MacGruber and Popstar: Never Stop Stopping, two of the decade's best comedies, delivers a cut so tight you could bounce a quarter off it.

So much contemporary comedy feels clutching and desperate for a laugh. They’ll just throw in five vaguely amusing gags and hope you fall for one of them. Booksmart feels loose and spontaneous, and it looks like everyone’s having a good time on the set, but the laughs flow naturally from the characters and situations. Even when something truly, Porky’s-level outlandish happens, it feels earned, and not mean spirited. It’s hard to do comedy well in these politically fraught times, but Wilde gets the tone just right, so it feels like an authentic voice of Generation Z, or whatever the hell we’re calling the kids these days.

And what kind of portrait of the "kids theses days" emerges from Booksmart? Pretty darn good, all things considered. The politics of the moment are integral to everything. Molly is focused on changing things from within the system, and planning to move to Washington to get into politics after she graduates from Yale, which conveniently fits her personal ambition in with the greater good. Amy, who sports a denim jacket with patches that say “SISTERS”, is going to go to Africa to help women there directly. You know that their idealism will get roughed up when they run up against the real world, but the kids’ determination to shape it in a new and better image is the spark that gives them life. And consider this: Even at the end of John Hughes most optimistic film, The Breakfast Club, the social barriers remain in place, even if the characters themselves got to see around them for a time. In Booksmart, once social barriers are confronted, they’re revealed to have been mirages all along. If that’s how the class of 2019 sees the world, we’re all going to be better off.

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Music Video Tuesday After Memorial Day: Kafé Kirk

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2019 at 10:55 AM

Kirk, Kortland, and Kameron Whalum
  • Kirk, Kortland, and Kameron Whalum
Yesterday was Memorial Day, but music videos never sleep, so we're kicking off your 20-percent shorter work week with Music Video Tuesday After Memorial Day!

On Sunday, June 2nd, Memphis musical legend Kirk Whalum is staring a new series called Kafé Kirk at the Crosstown Theater. Here's what he says about it:

"The language of music speaks more powerfully, clearly, and profoundly to more people, across more boundaries and in more diversely creative ways than any other language. There’s no fear in the music! The wider the gulf between cultures, faith traditions, preferences…the better. And this is the spirit of Kafé Kirk! A groovy musical hang where it’s O.K. to be other, and super-O.K. to be unabashedly spiritual. Do. Not. Miss. This. Kafé Kirk is a musical, spiritual hang with special guests from all over the world, at the brand-new, state-of-the-art Crosstown Theater here in Memphis. Between sets I sit down with my special guest to chat about their spiritual and life journey. Then, we make more music!"

Whalum's first guests for Kafé Kirk will be his nephews, Kortland Whalum, a vocalist who teaches at the Stax Music Academy, and Kameron Whalum, trombonist for Bruno Mars. Here's the Whalum clan wailing on a spiritual on the stage of Crosstown Theater.

Kafé Kirk with Kirk Whalum, Kortland Whalum & Kameron Whalum from Crosstown Arts on Vimeo.

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

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Real Stuff: William Eggleston's Stranded In Canton Screens at Crosstown Arts

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2019 at 1:26 PM

Furry Lewis in Stranded In Canton
  • Furry Lewis in Stranded In Canton
Telling folks about their past, their cultural heritage, the artists who shaped how we think today, is usually the job of people like me. But writers and documentarians, no matter how hard we try to tell the whole story, are always doomed to tell only part of the tale. We decide what's most important (which describes what our job entails in a nutshell) and edit out the rest. Rarely do general audiences get to see the unfiltered stuff, the raw material out of which cultural history is made.

In 1976, Memphian William Eggleston was the subject of a blockbuster exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Until that time, color photography was not held in high esteem in academic and "serious" art circles. Eggleston's haunting, egalitarian photos of the Mid South changed that forever.

At the time, Eggleston had been seriously pursuing photography since the mid-1960s. While he was being feted in the highest circles for his ravishing prints, his interest had turned to video. Sony had just released a brand new video camera that taped to an open-reel deck. It was portable, but just barely. Eggleston got his hands on one and started obsessively shooting anything that was in front of him.

For years, the tapes lay dormant until they were assembled into a film called Stranded in Canton by director Robert Gordon. Today, even the press releases supporting the film refer to it as "infamous". This is not a work with a narrative arc. It is more like being a fly on the wall at a particularly strange time and place. Memphis attracts eccentrics, and Eggleston hung out with the best of them. And by "best" I mean "weirdest". Eggleston's friends included Furry Lewis, Alex Chilton, Tav Falco, and a host of other hard partying artists. The photographer catches them with their guard down—if, indeed they had guards to drop in the first place. Much has been written about that time in Memphis cultural history, but this film puts you in the room with the people who were making that history, warts and all. Imagine Salvador Dali's home movies, and you have the beginning of a sense of what Stranded in Canton is like

The film will screen tonight (Thursday, May 23rd) as part of the Crosstown Arts weekly film series. After the film, The Alex Chilton Revue Band featuring Ross Johnson and The Klitz will perform period-appropriate music at The Green Room. You can get tickets here at the Crosstown Arts website. 

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Onscreen Women Dominate Indie Memphis

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 10:51 AM

Eileen Townsend in "Two Whole Days of Nothing But Uppercase F*CK!"
  • Eileen Townsend in "Two Whole Days of Nothing But Uppercase F*CK!"

Indie Memphis' salute to the Bluff City in May continues this week with two programs featuring strong women.

On Tuesday, May 21st, Indie Memphis' venerable Microcinema series presents a selection of shorts by women directors from Memphis.

The program doubles as a who's who of Memphis female filmmakers, including Rachel Taylor's fantasy "Avarice," Sarah Fleming's whimsical travelog "Carbike," Munirah Safiyah Jones' savage comedy "Fuckboy Defense 101," Aisha Raison's "Girls Like Me: A Self Love Story," McGehee Montieth's Memphis Film Prize winner "He Could Have Gone Pro," Melissa Anderson Sweazy's childcare parable "John's Farm," Sissy Denkova's "Sabine," Nubia Yasin's Youth-Fest sensation "Sensitive," Kathy O. Lofton's "Tether," Laura Jean Hocking's surreal mood piece "Two Whole Days Of Nothing But Uppercase Fuck," and Deaara Lewis' "What If?"

Show starts at 7:00 PM at Crosstown Arts.

TETHER OFFICIAL TRAILER from Kathy O Lofton, MBA, MPA on Vimeo.


Then, on Wednesday at Studio on the Square, Memphis' indie originator Mike McCarthy is celebrated with a screening of his 2000 magnum opus Superstarlet A.D. McCarthy's career has been defined by taking high concept film, culture, and feminist theory and wrapping those ideas in the cinematic language of the low-budget, drive-in grindhouse. Nowhere is that more evident than in this post-apocalyptic romp.

Tickets are available at the Indie Memphis website
, but don't take the kids to this one.

Superstarlet A.D.
  • Superstarlet A.D.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Game Of Thrones Ends With A Meditation on the Horrors of War

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 1:30 PM

Drogon is silently judging you.
  • Drogon is silently judging you.
Game of Thrones was a great show that grew to love the wrong thing. Its early adopters worshipped how it fully realized its alternate universe. Its increasing budget to film battle sequences (off-screen in the manner of a stage play at first) became what its makers thought its true worth. Seduced by the dark side of their production schedule, spectacle became their master, writing their afterthought. Details grew fuzzy, their beautifully constructed dollhouse fell apart, as its audience watched not with desire but light hatred, not in fire but ice.

But even in its death throes, the penultimate episode took time to be true to itself and deflate its heroes. It numbed the viewer with endless shots of medieval civilians running from dragon firebombing by former savior, Daenerys Targaryen. Innocents ran down corridors, caught on fire, and turned to ash. Modeled after U.S. and British massacre of German civilians in Dresden during World War II, it was disgusting. All-powerful ninja Arya and stern-faced warrior Jon Snow ran around helplessly while Daenerys and lieutenant Grey Worm went mad. It may be garbled Cliff Notes for an ending George R.R. Martin may never write, but I’ll hold onto it the way a housecat does a dead mouse: long past the point of usefulness. I loved this show.
It is not normal for TV shows to end well, especially sci-fi fantasy. Lost and Battlestar Galactica adopted religious smokescreens for their inability to come up with secular answers to long-posed riddles. Game of Thrones didn’t, completely abandoning the lore of its competing in-universe faiths. Instead, it built to tough-guy nihilism, followed by happy outcomes for the majority of its action heroes and some light Tolkien-style epiloguing. Bran is king, for some reason.

There are many popular theories about why, outside of outpacing their source material, the writing quality of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss has gone from more thoughtful than most fantasy to exactly as loose and empty as much of it. Cocaine and burnout are solid options, as is a desire to move onto their recently-announced Star Wars trilogy, or the cosmic injustice of a cruel god. I think that, just as they relied on assistant-turned-writer Bryan Cogman for heavy lore lifting in the first seasons, they are relying on a different one now, Dave Hill (who helped elevate the character of Olly), and he's just not as skilled at helping them craft sturdy plots.
A victorious Daenerys Targaryen addresses her troops in the ruins of King's Landing.
  • A victorious Daenerys Targaryen addresses her troops in the ruins of King's Landing.
As many have pointed out, the series dilutes the antiwar message of the novels by its sometimes glorification of the hard-bitten warrior. How cool the Hound looks fighting the Mountain with a dragon flying behind them registered more strongly than his late assertion to mass-murderer Arya that revenge is hollow. (Likewise the online cry of "Cleganebowl!" was initially ironic: people mocked treating a death fight between brothers like an organized sport, until repetition made them sincere). The point shouldn't be that Daenerys went crazy and killed civilians: it should be that all mass violence leads to noncombatant death, and warriors and states use it far too freely, with increasingly meaningless justification.

Director Miguel Sapochnik and Emilia Clarke did excellent work selling that slaughter. But the lack of characterization in Dany's turn from a protector of the common people to their mass murderer made the moment nonsensical. Her reasons work when written out: a need to rule by fear, losing advisors and dragons, and numerous surrender bells frustrating or stimulating her bloodlust. Onscreen it creates a disconnect, that does clumsily get the nature of being bombed right. One minute you're following the propaganda of a government at war, the next you're being indiscriminately killed. Violence does not resolve character arcs. It just ends you.
Iron Throne? Not so much.
  • Iron Throne? Not so much.
Martin's ongoing suggestion is that this would happen with any king or queen in the right circumstances. The show’s unfortunate implication is that Dany is worse than her formerly gray, also-murderer co-heroes because she is female, from a foreign land and rides magic lizards. It’s special pleading that the other warriors suddenly care so much about collateral damage.

For the American audience, the use of Dresden as source material is a quiet self-indictment. Your tax dollars prop up one of the most powerful militaries in the world. My favorite show is saying that all war is immoral. If only the comfort and catharsis its audience found in that message could translate into peaceful action by us.

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Music Video Monday: Marcella & Her Lovers with Spooner Oldham

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 12:37 PM

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Today's Music Video Monday's got soul to spare.

Last year, Marcella Simien got a temporary new addition to her band, Spooner Oldham He's a keyboardist, songwriter, and producer who has worked with Chips Moman at American Studios in Memphis and FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The studio produced hits like The Boxtops' "Cry Like A Baby" and Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally."

Oldham joined the Lovers at the Midtown-famous P&H Cafe to shoot a live video for Beale Street Caravan's I Listen To Memphis series. The song they performed was "I'd Rather Go Blind", a song Rock-and-Roll-Hall-Of-Fame-inductee Oldham first recorded with Etta James. Prepare to get smoky with this video, directed by Christian Walker and produced by Waheed Al Qawasmi.
 
If you'd like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Dr. William Ferris Brings Voices of Mississippi to Crosstown Theater

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2019 at 10:08 AM

Dr. William Ferris with his camera in Mississippi in the 1970s.
  • Dr. William Ferris with his camera in Mississippi in the 1970s.

In the early 1970s, William Ferris was a graduate student studying folklore at the University of Pennsylvania. His specialty was studying the rich musical culture of North Mississippi. “I was doing field recordings and photography, and coming back and presenting that. I felt I couldn’t communicate the full power of the church services and juke joints I was working in. Film would be the best way to do that. No one there was willing to help me, at the film school. So I got a little super 8 camera and began to shoot footage and do wild sound on a reel-to-reel recorder. I put together these really basic, early films, which in many ways are the best things I ever did. It’s very visceral, powerful material. I brought those back, and people were just blown away by them.”

Ferris was particularly interested in the proto-blues fife and drum music tradition kept alive in Gravel Springs, Mississippi, by Othar Turner. “I was trying to finish a film on Othar Turner that I had shot, and David Evans had done the sound. Judy Peiser was working at public television in Mississippi, and she interviewed me. I told her about the fife and drum film, and she said she would like to edit it. That led to the creation of the Center for Southern Folklore in 1972, and to a long history of working on films. I would spend my summers in Memphis when I was teaching at Yale. We would work on films and other projects. I made a lot of wonderful friends that I’ve been close to ever since.”

Dr. Ferris, with the help of Peiser and others, acquired progressively better equipment and, over the years, created a series of short documentaries immortalizing the artists and traditions of the Mississippi Delta. His successful academic career would go on to include a stint as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Currently, he is a Senior Associate Director Emeritus at the Center for Study of the American South at the University of South Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Center for Southern Folklore, which he and Peiser founded, became a beloved institution in Memphis. “The Center has made a mark, and continues to make a mark with its festivals and exhibits. Judy Peiser has continued it. She’s an anchor for all this work and Memphis, and really a national treasure.”

On Friday, May 17th, Indie Memphis will present “Voices of Mississippi,” a collection of Ferris’ now-classic short documentaries, beginning with “Gravel Springs Fife and Drum.” “Ray Lum: Mule Trader” introduces us to the title character, who Ferris calls “an amazing raconteur.” Ferris recorded the auctioneer’s stories and tall tales in film, and with an accompanying book and soundtrack. “There are two soundtracks. You can hear the wild sound, and his voice. I don’t think that had ever been done before. All of that was published and produced through the Center. I think it was really ahead of its time in terms of media and film.”

“Four Women Artists” documents writer Eudora Welty, quilter Picolia Warner, needleworker Ethel Mohamed  and painter Theora Hamblett  “Bottle Up and Go” records a Loman, Mississippi, musician demonstrating “one strand on the wall,” a precursor to the slide guitar that makes an instrument out of a house. “It’s one of the earliest instruments that every blues singer learned on as a child, because it was free,” says Ferris. “He also did bottle blowing. Both of those are sounds that have deep roots in Africa and are the roots of the blues.”

Dr. Ferris will bring along some of his Memphis-based collaborators and sign the Grammy-inning box set of his life’s work. He says that for him, this Memphis screening is like a homecoming.“To me, Memphis is the undiscovered bohemian culture,” he says. “You have black and white, rural and folk voices coming out of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, meeting this formally educated group of musicians and artists like Sid Selvidge, William Eggleston. Music and photography was a big part of the scene. The photography, because of Eggleston and Tav Falco and Ernest Withers, makes Memphis unique. It just has so many pieces that you don’t find in the French Quarter in New Orleans, where William Faulkner went to write. You have Julian Hohenberg, this very wealthy cotton broker whose heart is in music. He was involved in the music scene for many, many years. It’s the escape valve for people who love the arts. It’s really funky and countercultural. Everything they couldn’t do in these little towns and rural areas, they do in Memphis — and they do it with a passion.”

"Voices of Mississippi" will screen at 6 PM on Friday, May 17 at the Crosstown Theater. RSVP for a free ticket at the Indie Memphis website

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

N-Secure Intrigue, Women of Punk This Week At the Movies

Posted By on Tue, May 14, 2019 at 1:30 PM

Cordell Moore in N-Secure
  • Cordell Moore in N-Secure

Indie Memphis and the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission continue their Memphis In May bicentennial series of films with Memphis roots this Wednesday at Studio On The Square.

N-Secure
is a paranoid thriller filmed in Memphis by director David M. Matthews in 2009. Commercial Appeal film writer John Beifuss will be on hand to conduct the Q&A and put the film in context for the audience. You can get tickets on the Indie Memphis website.




Then, on Thursday, the new Crosstown Arts film series continues with a cult gem from the punk age. Contemporary with Rock and Roll High School, The Decline of Western Civilization, and The Great Rock And Roll Swindle, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains is one of the earliest onscreen depictions of the movement that was not an anti-punk screed like the infamous Quincy episode.

It's also the only one to embody early punk's feminist side. Starring Diane Lane as bandleader Connie Burns and a pre-Blue Velvet Laura Dern as a member of the sarcastic garage band who become media sensations with caustic music and incredible eye makeup, the low-budget cult film also includes cameos from Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and The Clash's Paul Simonon.

It sank quickly at the box office in 1982, but became a cult classic from years of cable TV screenings. It also just feels dangerous, like punk should. The screening begins at 7 PM on Thursday night at the Crosstown Theater.


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