Archive: April, 2011
"I've been 30 years" in the practice of the traditional African religion, proclaimed one woman during yesterday's Q&A with Robert "Bobby" Shepard, cinematographer and co-director of When the Spirits Dance Mambo. She was visibly moved while telling Shepard that she wanted to thank him, that she never thought she'd see her religion represented so fairly and beautifully on the screen. Shepard smiled broadly, crossing his arms over his heart to receive the praise, and as the commenter finished by saying she wished her mother, who had initiated her into the religion, was still here to see this, Shepard beamed, "She is." As Shepard allowed to another commenter, yes, being in the presence of so many spiritual people had a profound and lasting effect on all working on the movie.
Clearly When the Spirits Dance Mambo goes far beyond the colorful rhythm-driven typical Cuban music and dance documentary. Those elements are there, but shown in their natural place, as part of the religious experience. Anytime you have three practitioners of a religion you get four opinions, and the traditional African sects are no exception. The film does an excellent job of showing each opposing view in its best light. Some priests are thrilled that people travel from around the world to be initiated, paying fees for their instruction. Others say, this makes it nothing more than a commodity in the marketplace — cut to the orisha dolls being sold on the street. One batá priest mutters that everybody in Cuba is a drummer and no, batá drumming is not open to all comers. On one topic all spoke with one voice. They declare that no matter which branch you follow, this is a religion of caring for family and community. Bad actors are not welcome by true believers.
The film has been out long enough to be available on DVD, with both the original Spanish-only and the English subtitled versions in the same box. Seeing the exquisitely researched archive material, centuries-old ink drawings of natives and enslaved people in Cuba flash all too briefly across the big screen tempts the acquisition of a private copy for the chance to linger over the details at leisure. Lovers of modern Cuba will appreciate the shots of churches and shrines that accompany the discussions of how Yoruba religion was preserved by cloaking it in Catholicism. Watching the dancing scenes of the Fiesta in Santiago de Cuba, it is asserted that without the contributions from Africa, there would be no Cuban culture as it is known today.
Shepard is a warm and approachable man, and the winner of numerous awards for his cinematography. In the Q&A he happily shared production details. He and co-director, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, to whom Shepard humbly gives all praise, arrived in Havana with a script. "After the second day we abandoned the script" and shot whatever the ancestors and the spirits lead them to. They ended with over 50 hours of film which they pared down to 90 minutes, working on it two or three times a week. "When we learned that the film had to debut in Havana in 10 days we looked at each other and said it's done." How often will you encounter that kind of candor from a star in the business? To learn more about the mechanics of shooting a documentary, attend Shepard's workshop tonight at Scribe Video Center.
The Art of Documentary-Style Cinematography, Wed., April 6, 7 p.m., $25, Scribe Video Center, 4212 Chestnut St., Third Floor, 215-222-4201, scribe.org.
Monni Must is a photographer who has portraited hundreds of Holocaust survivors. Together, these faces make up her Living Witnesses project — a nonprofit book series that preserves the stories and faces of those who triumphed over trauma. While Must’s first book, Living Witnesses 1, looked at survivors living in the Detroit area, her follow-up book has taken a broader view, compiling the photographs and stories of survivors across the world. Must is coming to Philadelphia on April 10 for a collaborative project with local high school students; she'll take the photos, and students will write up the stories of survivors. (If you know someone who would like to participate, call Must at 248-867-4884.)
City Paper: What made you start this project?
Monni Must: In 2007, my daughter died tragically and suddenly, everything stopped. I’m a portrait photographer. I found a strong connection with Holocaust survivors, because they too lost their families suddenly, without any chance to say goodbye. They reassure me that year later I will still be able to remember my daughter. So, it has slowly become a life’s mission for me and has helped me heal.
CP: Were you involved with Holocaust survivors before you started?
MM: Actually, I didn’t know anything about Holocaust survivors. I had friends whose parents who had accents and numbers on their arms, but I really didn’t have a sense of the scope.
CP: What are your interviews with survivors like?
MM: Well, I’ll give you an example from when I was in Germany. In Munich, we showed up at a survivor’s house and it was a couple. The wife spoke English and I thought it was just the man who was the survivor — it turned out both of them were. Their entire families were annihilated in the world. They didn’t have a single relative. Not until the interview was mostly over did I realize the wife was a survivor, too. When I asked her, she didn’t want to talk about it. Eventually, though, she decided to show portraits she still had and the pictures were a way for to open up and share with me.
CP: How is taking picture of survivors a different experience?
MM: Because I’m a portrait photographer, I watch every movement you take I want to watch your eyes, your hands, your facial expression. From that, I get a sense of who they are and how I can capture that in a photo. The difference is that in my studio, I’m controlling the environment. But when I’m in their house, it’s their house and it’s about them, so I always try to incorporate that into the shot. I want to capture their personality, who they are. I don’t want to represent just their their pain, because it’s about them being survivors.
Kevin Smith should feel right at home in Philly. He’s amassed a legion of deeply devoted fans — the type of people who have named their dogs Brandi Svenning and Loki, or own a closet full of Silent Bob trench coats. It’s only natural that his Philadelphia fans would be just as loyal to him as they are to, well, everything else.
Before the big guy (actually, not so big anymore, as he’s shed 65 pounds) even took the stage, watching the boozed-up crowd of fan boys and girls was already worth the trip in entertainment value. Batman and Superman tees, replica Mooby’s uniforms a la Clerks 2, “Jay” wigs complete with fake blond tresses, and an assortment of Flyers jerseys littered the 1,300-seat Keswick. As soon as Smith walked on stage, he quipped that the Devils beat the Flyers, and all hell broke loose.
Smith is known for his easy-going sensibilities and everyday-man persona. He sauntered comfortably around the stage wearing a jersey and jean shorts (really, Kev?) and spent the first hour or so discussing his new film, Red State, which is inspired by the so-called villainy inherent in many fundamentalist religious organizations, particularly the Westboro Baptist Church. Smith was never haughty or even particularly fervent about the background of the film and the adventures of filming or promoting — he just talked about what happened along the way. And the things that happen to him along the way are often funny as hell.
After his Red State spiel, he opened up the floor for audience questions. The first came from a guy who asked Smith how his dogs were doing (so enveloped in Smith’s life that he knew the dogs weren’t doing so well). Instead of seeming fazed by such a personal question, Smith launched into an almost-15-minute account of the health of each of his dogs. There was the distinct impression that we were watching two buddies talk over beers. That’s just the kind of guy Smith is.
And then we saw the softer side of the dick- and fart-joke director. An audience member asked Smith to talk about some of the stars he had worked with, and he responded with story after story about the late George Carlin. He mentioned that Carlin was exceptionally detailed in his acting approach, more so than Smith could ever imagine was necessary on his type of movie. He said that Carlin taught him that it was OK for intelligent people to curse, and that above all, the man “didn’t just execute, but elevated everything he did.” Then, Kevin Smith got choked up.
The legend of King Arthur is captivating from the start. A boy is spirited away at birth, grows up not knowing he’s the king’s son, and ends up taking the throne himself. From there, the story’s loaded with all kinds of adventure, romance and tragedy, because it’s actually many legends — the stories of each knight of the Round Table — for the price of one. For these reasons, the tale has been reworked in literature for centuries. So why is Disney’s The Sword in the Stone still the closest thing we have to a definitive film version?
Being an avowed King Arthur nerd, I get excited whenever a new movie adaptation of the stories comes out, so I was eager to see Camelot, a series that debuted on Starz last week.
With The Tudors a hit, the time was clearly ripe for another gratuitously sex-fueled romp through British history. The trailer suggested it would be just that: The Tudors set a few hundred years earlier. My hopes were shaken.
At the start of the show, my doubts seemed justified. It was seriously melodramatic, and the writing was so clichéd — Merlin, dramatically bowing: “The king is dead. Long live the king” — that it made good actors look absurd. The anachronisms were blatant: Would a man in 600 A.D. have a shaved head and goatee? Would a young Arthur really unleash sarcastic phrases like “thanks a lot”? Also slightly bothersome was the fact that Arthur, as played by Jamie Campbell Bower, looks like the love child of Chris Martin and the middle Hanson brother. How had Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green, two respectable actors, gotten themselves into this mess?
But despite myself, as Camelot went on, I began to accept it on its own terms — putting my surface concerns aside to enjoy aspects of the show. It remained difficult to fully suspend disbelief and immerse myself in its world; not for a moment was I unconscious of the existence of actors and writers. But if you ignore the haircuts, Camelot has plenty of visual appeal, with its rich depictions of the countryside, medieval villages, and ruined castles. Beyond that, it effectively explores what may be the legend’s most important, and often forgotten, theme: national unity. Arthur comes to power at a time when British warlords are killing each other left and right, and it’s his task to bring them together. But, as T.H. White’s Merlin points out in The Once and Future King, it takes more violence to end the bloodshed. Is that violence justified? Does Arthur have a right to impose his will on the country for its own good? Camelot looks poised to reflect on such questions.
Meanwhile, I did start to like Bower’s Arthur for his mixture of wide-eyed uncertainty and a desire to do right. Maybe it’s just because I’m addicted to the legend — but I’ll give this show a chance.
City Paper intern Bianca Brown set her iPod to shuffle. This is where it led her ...
1. "Cards to Your Heart," Groove Armada, Black Light
I first heard this song in a clip by erotic arthouse filmmaker, The Black Spark. It's an electronica soul-thumper you can only dance to with one other person.
2. "Apologize," Timbaland ft. One Republic, Shock Value
The first thing that drew me in was the piano. Timbaland is a master at mixing beats, something a lot of otherwise enjoyable artists lack in their music. Combined with One Republic's vulnerable lyrics and intense vocals this makes for a perfect song.
3. "Ching A Ling," Missy Elliott, Step Up 2 the Streets soundtrack
Missy Elliott is always fun to listen to. I love her somewhat surreal flair, which is more obvious in her music videos. This is a party song, but it's also clever (gotta love those rap metaphors) and naughty.
4. "By the Way," Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way
Red Hot Chili Peppers make consistently good music, and with this song there's an adventure implied — like a weekend bender or road trip. From the ambiguous lyrics to the rapid tempo, it's always a great listen.
Do you remember Monster Magnet (as in, “Space-Lord, Motha-Motha!”)? They were briefly famous for being at the right place at the right time at the dawn of rap-metal, but their true genre-at-large was good old-fashioned stoner rock. And, by stoner-rock, I want to be clear that the music has nothing (necessarily) to do with drugs (okay, MM was a bad example). It means metal that’s been slowed down to a head-bob. Think Soundgarden, especially their more mid-tempo stuff.
Anywhoo, a few years ago I was on a Monster Magnet message board (yes, I just typed that, and now you’re reading it) looking for other good stoner-rock bands worth checking out. One name that surfaced a few times was The Black Angels. They seemed important.
I checked them out, and sure enough they were everything I was hoping for. Symbol-riding bass kicks followed by statuesque snare hits. Low-tuned, minor third-heavy guitar lines fuzzed out to the absolute max. Interpol-worthy vocal drone. Endlessly repeating riffs getting drowned out by psychedelic ornamentation, but not before hooking your cortex into it’s spongy, supple insides. A warm saline bath for harsh cold audible reality.
As someone who never particularly got into recreational drugs--I probably give myself away as an unbalanced codependent who relies on music for my pseudo-spiritual cathartic moments. If this describes you too, you will enjoy these guys. The Black Angels — who get their name from Velvet Underground’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and whose sonic experience, I should point out, is not entirely unlike that first time you had Venus in Furs on repeat at 2 a.m. — will be playing their spaced-out low-rock at The Church tonight.
Tonight, Tue., April 4, 8 p.m., $13, with Suuns, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 877-435-9849, r5productions.com.
WHEN & WHERE: Tue., April 5, 9 p.m.-2 a.m., Silk City
WHO: Lady Alma, Reef The Lost Cauze, Dave Ghetto, Ultraviolet, Hezekiah, Foxx Boogie, John Robinson Ne'a Posey and more!
WHAT: Philly’s longstanding DJ/production crew, the Illvibe Collective, have put together their debut group album — the excellent and multi-faceted “All Together Now.” To celebrate this fresh release, the Illvibe boys and GL Productions are throwin’ a dope party! Highlighting the album, there will be plenty of DJ action and live performances throughout the night to keep ya movin’ and groovin’. Hit it up to get down with the sounds!
WHY: Homegrown hotness makes you swerve n’ sweat.
All Together Now release party, hip-hop, funk/soul, one-off, $10 (cover includes copy of CD), Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St., 215-592-8838, silkcityphilly.com.
Tuesday: In the event that Dan Bejar’s luscious sounds seeped into the First Unitarian Church’s walls after last night’s Destroyer show, The Black Angels are without a doubt the band to serve as sonic exorcists. Though their most recent album, last year’s Phosphene Dream, streamlined the band’s doom-rock sludge into a more palatable Nuggets style, The Black Angels can still bring the fuzz in abundance. With chilly atmospherics and warbled, processed vocals, the Angels fill every crevice (including those tiny folds in your inner ear) with a booming haze. w/ Suuns, 8 p.m., $13, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980.
Wednesday: Take a break from the subtle and spend your night with MEN, the garishly fun dance-rock project from Le Tigre’s JD Samson. Originally a DJ and remix-production duo featuring Samson and fellow Le Tigre album Johanna Fateman, MEN became a proper band a few years ago. In February, Men released their debut album, Talk About Body, which features the aggressively political and socially conscious idealism that Le Tigre fans would immediately recognize. Since the group was conceived (and effectively operates) as a performance art collective, you know that they were meant for the stage. w/ Romy, 8 p.m., $12, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919.
Thursday: If Glenn Tilbrook is forever known as the leader of new wave icons Squeeze, well, he could do a lot worse. When not prepping for a new Squeeze album with co-founder Chris Difford, Tilbrook performs on his own and with his backing group, The Fluffers. These intimate performances are often showcases for untested material and acoustic arrangements of Squeeze favorites. They also serve as great opportunities to hear Tilbrook sing lead on “Tempted,” as he totally should’ve done on the classic recording (sorry, Paul Carrack). 8 p.m., $25, Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St., 215-928-0770.
Friday: Even if you haven’t yet heard anything from TV On The Radio’s new album, Nine Types Of Light (which, by the way, comes out mere days after this show), you should still have an idea of the album’s quality and meticulously assembled mastery. Their fourth proper release, Nine Types Of Light features all the luminaries of TVOTR’s output: danceable beats, souful jams, vocal variety thanks to Kyp and Tunde, impossibly catchy grooves and irresistible rhythms. And, given the acclaim that their previous records have rightfully garnered, selections from Dear Science and Return To Cookie Mountain should be plentiful. w/ Celebration and Saturn Never Sleeps, 8:30 p.m., $30.50-$40.70, Electric Factory, 421 N. 7th St., 215-627-1332.
Saturday: Like any good gang of bodily fluid-soaked garage punks, The Black Lips have been quite busy since the release of 2009’s 200 Million Thousand. Aside from a continuous string of their infamous live shows, they’ve been working with mega-producer Mark Ronson on a new record (due out this summer), and embarked on a number of delectably grimy side-projects. Now that the band’s back on the road, there’s no telling what particular demonstration of mayhem is in store for attendees of this show. You might want to bring a towel if not a full change of clothes. w/ Vivian Girls and Moon Women, 9 p.m., $17, Trocadero, 10th & Arch Sts., 215-922-6888.
Sunday: By now, you should recognize Loudon Wainwright III for more than just his last name. The patriarch of the Wainwright-McGarrigle has dabbled in everything from bawdy sea chanteys to movie soundtrack recordings in his over forty years of activity. One of Loudon’s most fascinating projects of late is High Wide & Handsome, a Grammy-winning multimedia tribute to 1920s banjo player Charlie Poole. Last year, Loudon released an album of new original material inspired by the recent economic upheaval. In addition to his musical knowledge, Loudon offers a wealth of amusing and touching stories from throughout his career. Talk about a music lifer. w/ Carsie Blanton, 7:30 p.m., $33 - $47, World Café Live, 30th St. & Walnut St., 215-222-1400.
This weekend I was laid up with severe sciatica pain — presumably the delayed result of ill-advised full-tackle snow football back in January. So it was mostly a web-surf and DVD-centric weekend.
(Which is to say, somewhat ordinary.)
Sleeping in Airports
This website is exactly what it sounds like: a consumers guide reviewing which airports are the most comfortable for catching Z’s while you’re waiting around. Apparently, Vancouver Airport is a narcoleptic’s nirvana. Unfortunately, our loud Philadelphia International Airport ain’t exactly the Waldorf Astoria. I don’t know why I love spending so much time on this site. I rarely fly and I’ll never visit most airports. I think there’s just something anthropologically satisfying about witnessing the Internet manifest destiny in this manner.
The opening scene where Quentin lectures the rest of the guys about Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is emblematic of his ability to tie down larger-than-life characters to relatable situations like shootin’ the shit at the diner. Until Inglorious Basterds came out, R-Dogs held up as my favorite Tarantino joint (but now it’s either a tie or the Basterds for the win).
A new blog run by some comedian friends, dedicated entirely to local comedy in Philly. WitOut offers access to a lot of great videos, and a pretty thorough roll-call for Philadelphia comedy-shows and available comics/groups. If you’re looking to try telling jokes, they have a great open-mike guide as well.
I haven’t yet worked in the food service industry, but if it’s anything like what they depict in Waiting, well, then it seems like most other jobs I’ve had. Ryan Reynolds channels his Van Wilder to create a depraved, young Shatner-esque frat-a-saurus alpha-male of the food industry. Supporting laughs are provided by Louis Guzman, John Francis Daley, Andy Milonakis, Chi McBride, David Koechner, Justin Long (as the straight-man) and others. Unlike with some lowbrow comedies, I don’t really mind when this one tries to get serious during the third act. Long’s performance is believable enough to earn some leeway when spaces between laughs get extended. Besides, isn’t that what life’s all about? Existential connundra punctuated by dick jokes?
A perfect complement to weekly dude column "Man Cave," Jillian Weir-Reeves' "I Am Woman" adds a feminine touch by chronicling the weekend adventures of a single social butterfly in the city of sisterly love.
As an urbanite in my early 20s, the idea of suburban life has the potential to shock me into an early menopause. But hustle-bustle city life can leave a girl a little restless. I felt the need to shake things up a bit. My wallet wouldn't allow me to take an extravagant trip to Vegas or L.A., so I settled for the next best thing: my father’s time share in upstate New York. As a family we never use it — most of the time it's rented to older couples or teens wanting to play “house.”
Luckily for me, the house was open this weekend. I decided to leave my girlfriends in the city, and instead invited my kinda-sorta-boyfriend-type-thing. We had a good time during the road trip from Philadelphia to the Adirondacks; it was fun in a cheesy-license-plate-game-playing, cranking-up-the-Spice-Girls, pass-the-Twizzlers kind of way.
When we arrived at the cabin, the first thing I wanted to do was walk along the water. I forgot just how beautiful the scenery was around the house. It sits on a back corner lot that faces a clear lake rimmed with evergreen pine trees. The shore was decorated with a sprinkling of gray and chestnut rocks. It was romantic, even through the overcast. The rest of the weekend was spent in typical log-cabin fashion: full-course meals, white wine, roaring fireplaces, hikes and fishing. It was the city-life antidote I didn't even know I needed.
- Arts Events
- First Person Fest
- Last Chance
- On the Fringe
- Philly Artists
- The Curator
- Visual Art
- Arts News
- Artist Profile
- Arts Preview
- Street Art
- Been There, Done That
- Big Ups
- LOL With It
- Critical Mass
- Friday Fill-in
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Just Do It
- Just Opened
- Art Phag
- Film Fest
- Movie Review
- On set
- 10 Track Mind
- Album Review
- Concert Review
- Local Support
- Now Hear This
- One Track Mind
- Philly Bands
- Somebody Else Was There
- The Showdown
- concert photos
- DJ Nights Blogged
- Night Watch
- Now See This
- Poetic License
- Printed Matter
- What We Heart
- Idol Hands
- Mad Men
- True Blood
- Useless Lost Recaps
- Couch Potato
- Shore Trash
- Turned ONN
- Video Games
- Free Online Game
- PlayStation 2
- The 1-Upper
- Web Junk
- CAGE MATCH
- Free Online Toy
- Weekend Omnibus