Category Archives: Film

Saturday Odds & Sods: Love In Action

The Lovers by Man Ray.

I had hoped to have a full-blown Odds & Sods post this week. The fates have conspired against my plans. We’ll have to make do.

My old computer has been ailing for quite some time. I left it at home during our brief Ida exile and when we returned it was at death’s door. Last Monday, I ordered a new one directly from HP, but they use the dread FedEx as their delivery service. My new computer is sweltering in a trailer in Covington, LA. Oy just oy.

Since I’ve been on a Todd Rundgren/Utopia jag this month, our theme song is one of Todd’s signature tunes. It was written in 1977 for Utopia’s Oops Wrong Planet album. It has remained a mainstay in his setlists ever since.

We have two versions of Love In Action for your listening pleasure.

We’d usually try and stop love in action after the break but there’s no break today.

It can’t be stopped, it’s also the answer:

We begin our second act by skipping it altogether.

Our third act commences with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth:  This time two cartoon villains: Jeff Bezos and Dr. Evil.

Saturday GIF Horse: I had a lot of fun writing The Stapling about my head injury and the stories it inspired. I’m getting unstapled today,

I mentioned my newfound identification with Boris Karloff. It is not shared by his putative bride played by Elsa Lanchester.

Boris Karloff Horror GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Saturday Classic: One of my favorite anthology albums. Guess who the artist is:

The opening track asks the immortal question: Who’s the crybaby now?

That’s all for this week. The last word goes to Utopia circa 1977.

The Stapling

I love old horror movies. I’ve always been a Vincent Price kinda guy, but I now find myself identifying with Boris Karloff. Here’s why:

That was probably TMI for social media but there’s never enough I for First Draft. I rarely play straight man here but am willing to do so on the Tweeter Tube. My friends may be cruel, but they’re funny. Click on this link for more merriment at my expense. My Twitter handle is Shecky, but I feel more like Rodney Dangerfield right now.

Here’s what happened. It was the stupidest accident I’ve ever had and I’m a lifelong klutz. We soaked our trash bin to remove the Debrisville Post Ida Stank from it. I flipped open the lid, then tried to lean it over to pour out the schmutz. That’s when wet grass acted as a banana peel, and I did a pratfall. My head bashed into the rim of the open bin. That’s where things got bloody.

My forehead turned into a gusher reminiscent of the scene in Giant where James Dean strikes oil on Rock Hudson’s ranch.

Since I was doing dirty work, I was wearing an old t-shirt, which I turned into a tourniquet of sorts. Still, the blood flowed like the Monty Python parody of Sam Peckinpah:

I called not Elizabeth Taylor but Dr. A who took me to an Urgent Care joint to get stapled. I already needed a tetanus shot after stepping on a roofing screw at the cemetery cleanup in honor of my late friend Will. That’s what I get for doing yard work.

I’m at the stage of life where everything reminds me of a story. This is an odd one. Long ago and far away, I worked as a paralegal on a massive anti-trust case. All the users of cement were suing all the cement companies. I was firmly on the plaintiffs’ side.

I worked on the document production at Kaiser Cement HQ in Oakland. In the pre-digital age that meant micro-filming documents. I’d sort through the paperwork and select stuff for them to shoot. It was dull, laborious work. FYI, Shapiro worked at the home office as a coder. We go back farther than either of us is willing to admit.

You’re probably wondering where this is leading. Me too.

I spent a lot of time assessing expense accounts; some valid, others dubious. There was one sales rep who used a lot of staples. I dubbed him 12-staple McGahey. I’m not quite sure if that was the name but he was a Scotsman.

I’m certainly not a Scotsman but one could call me 6-staple Adrastos right now. I cannot wait for the stapling to end and for the scabbing to commence.

A closing message in the spirit of Karloff as interpreted by Phil Hartman:

FIRE BAD!

Wet grass bad too.

The last word goes to the Staples Singers:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Key Largo

This is a reprint of a post from 8/14/2014. It struck me as relevant as I just spent many days cooped up with Kitty Claire Trevor. Besides, Key Largo is the best hurricane movie ever. I give it 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A.

KEY_LARGO_22x28_B

Key Largo is not really pulp fiction, but I felt like stretching the definition a bit today to honor Betty Bacall. [She died two days before this was posted.] It was based on a 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson and the war in question was the Spanish Civil War but it was also an allegory about Fascism. The adaptation by director John Huston and future director Richard Brooks nails the political aspects as well as how damn spooky tropical systems are.

What’s particularly scary about the Big Blow depicted in Key Largo is that information was so sketchy. There were no spaghetti maps , no tracking maps, no local weather pukes shitting in their pants or advising you to go to the attic with an ax if there’s flooding. Dr A and I watch this great film as a form of reassurance when there’s something gathering in the gulf. Besides, the acting is sensational.

It goes without saying that Bogie and Bacall lit up the screen together but Edward G Robinson is spectacular in a role that implicitly revisits his first big hit, Little Caesar. He went from Rico to Rocco if you catch my drift. Speaking of name changes, he goyed up his name by changing it from Emmanuel Goldenberg. Unlike Betty Bacall, he liked his goyish moniker and was known to all as Eddie.

Lionel Barrymore is supposed to be a sympathetic character as Bacall’s dead hubby’s father but he reverts to snarly Mr. Potter mode for much of the film. Nothing kosher about this big slice of ham. He was lucky Rocco didn’t roll him off the pier…

The best performance in the film is by Claire Trevor as a washed up alcoholic canary in love with Rocco. He mistreats her rather badly. Anyone shocked? I thought not. Trevor, always a personal favorite of mine, won an Oscar for this part. She played a long string of femme fatales and hookers with hearts of gold. Her character in John Ford’s Stagecoach was a template for all the goodhearted whores and madams to follow.

A last word about Betty Bacall. There are some good Bacall articles floating about the net, but there are some that do not mention director Howard Hawks. You cannot write about Betty Bacall without mentioning Hawks. He took a chance on an unknown model and gave her a juicy role playing opposite one of the biggest stars in the world in her first film. His gamble paid off big-time for all concerned.

I showed you a lobby card above, here’s the highly evocative poster

Poster - Key Largo_03

Finally, here’s the trailer:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Paint It Black

Got Me Rocking by Ron Wood

The summer of our discontent continues with Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. A and I are planning to ride it out. I’m not eager to evacuate with Claire Trevor. She hates riding in the car and she’s a biter. She’s not as sweet as she looks but we love her anyway.

The weather is one reason I’m keeping this week’s entry short and focused. The second act is a tribute to the late, great Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Hence the Ron Wood featured image.

This week’s theme song was written in 1966 by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It’s as good an example of Charlie’s drumming as I can think of. Bim-bam-boom.

Since this is a tribute to Charlie Watts, I’m skipping the covers of Paint It Black and sticking to the Stones. A solid plan in my estimation. We have three versions: the studio original and live in 1990 and 2006.

I almost forgot this version by Charlie Watts with the Danish Radio Big Band:

Now that we’ve faded away and not faced the facts, let’s jump to the break.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Saul Bass

Artist/Graphic Designer Saul Bass was best known for his film work with such luminaries as Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcok to name a few. I featured his album cover for Anatomy of a Murder in this space 4 years ago.

Here are some more examples of Saul Bass’ album cover work:

Since The Smithereens are one of my favorite bands, I give you Blow Up via Spotify:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tired Of Waiting For You

The Chair Car by Edward Hopper.

There’s an environmental component to my righteous indignation this week. It’s fucking hot even for New Orleans. There’s a high keeping tropical stuff away from us but that puts us in the high Nineties. Oy just oy.

On to more pleasant things.

Ray Davies wrote this week’s theme song in 1965. It was one of the earliest Kinks hits.

We have three versions of Tired of Waiting For You for your listening pleasure: the Kinks original, a 1994 live version, and a brilliant cover by Dwight Yoakam in which he transforms it into something that would fit in on the Friday Cocktail Hour.

I assume that you’re not too tired to hear this swell tune by Dwight and Deanna Carter:

It’s time to escape Hopper’s chair car by jumping to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Summertime Blues

Two Boats by Henri Matisse.

I’m keeping the nautical theme this week. That harbor water looks cool as well as cooling. Anything to beat the August heat in New Orleans. Merci, Monsieur Matisse.

Dr. A is visiting family in Richmond, Virginia. She’s braver than I am and flew. She double masked on the flight and seems to have survived nicely. My goal during her absence is to convince young Claire Trevor to become a lap cat. Last night, she sat on an end table by the couch and nearly jumped in my lap. Close but no cigar. Stay tuned.

I did something last Monday that I never do on First Draft. I complained about restaurant service in a post about the difficulty of living in TFC: This Fucking City. It’s important to me since I come from a restaurant family. I suspect you’ve heard of Greek diners. My folks never ran one, but my extended family is honeycombed with restauranteurs.

In this case, a public complaint resulted in burying the hatchet (cleaver?) with the eatery in question:

Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written in 1958 by Eddie Cochran and his manager Jerry Capeheart. It’s been covered many times but I’m sticking to three versions. We begin with the Cochran original followed by Brian Setzer who played Eddie in the 1987 Richie Valens biopic La Bamba,

As far as I’m concerned, the definitive version of Summertime Blues is by The Who. It’s long been a highlight of their live shows, especially when John Entwistle was still with us.

We’ll continue our search for a cure for the summertime blues after the jump.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Sail On, Sailor

Fishing Boats by Georges Braque.

My birthday was last Thursday. We celebrated by going to Brigtsen’s a great restaurant in Uptown New Orleans. It was my first time eating out with a mask mandate in place and only my third time in an eatery since the lockdown. It was kind of weird but so am I.

As a result of the weeklong festivities, this edition of Saturday Odds & Sods will be somewhat truncated. Pity that I’m not a show biz kid so I can’t make this pun: “born in a truncated.” I guess I just did…

Cubist artist Georges Braque may not be synonymous with summer, but the Beach Boys are. This week’s theme song was written by Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and two dudes I’ve never heard of for the Beach Boys 1973 album Holland. It’s nautical yet somehow still naughty or some such shit.

We have three versions of Sail On, Sailor for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Ray Charles with the Beach Boys live, and Los Lobos from their new album of California songs, Native Sons.

Now that we’ve sailed the ocean blue but not in 1492, let’s jump to the break.

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Friday Catblogging: Noir Alley Broads

The only thing I don’t like about TCM is that they put Eddie Muller’s Noir Alley on hiatus during August. My Noir Alley broads don’t like that either. FYI, the image of the OG Claire Trevor driving in Raw Deal is part of the Noir Alley opening montage.

Another reason Noir Alley is so popular in my house is that Eddie is a cat person:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Dial 1119

Today is my birthday. I treated myself to a Film Noir collection. This was one of the movies. What’s not to love about a film with Sam Levene and William Conrad in the cast?

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

The Great Wave by Hokusai.

I’ve been having wild dreams lately. I actually dreamt about writing The Truman Myth. The opening line came to me in my sleep: “I was present at the creation of the Truman myth.”

Present At The Creation was the title of Truman’s Secretary of State and unlikely friend Dean Acheson’s memoir. It’s not quite as fanciful as Miller-McCullough Man but it comes close.

It’s been crazy hot this week. I’ve been huddling under ceiling fans with the AC roaring and I’m still sweating. Oh well, what the hell.

I realize that the featured image has become something of a cliche since it appears on tchotchkes and such. Don’t blame the Hokusai guy for that or me for using it. It fits the Beach Boys like a glove.

This week’s theme song was written by Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, and Mike Love for the Beach Boys finest album Pet Sounds. Even professional asshole Mike Love did something right from time-to-time.

We have two versions of Wouldn’t It Be Nice for your listening pleasure: the studio original, the Beach Boys at Live Aid, and Alex Chilton.

Nice was my mother’s favorite word. She used it to praise people, places, and things. She liked this nice song as well:

Now that we’ve made nice let’s jump to the break,

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Assault On A Queen

Assault On A Queen Poster

I’m a sucker for a good “caper” movie. Give me protagonists with shady pasts who devise brilliant schemes to make themselves and their buddies rich and man that is just good old fashioned entertainment. This movie, ASSAULT ON A QUEEN, is a 1966…well…at best okay addition to the caper cannon. Sinatra just kinda walks through it, the plan has you wondering why they do things the way they do, never explains away nagging incongruities, and the two best acting performances are supplied by supporting characters (Franciosa and Conte). But in terms of audacious plans it’s hard to beat raising a sunken submarine, retrofitting it, and making it your get away vehicle for robbing an ocean liner at sea.

I’m sure by this point you’re probably thinking “okay where’s he going with this”. Patience. Just like a good caper movie you need all the backstory.

The film’s ocean liner is a real ship, the RMS Queen Mary. When used for the filming it was in it’s next to last year as a seafaring vessel. Soon after the filming was completed Cunard/White Star sold the Queen Mary to the City of Long Beach in southern California where it has been permanently moored for the past 54 years. It has functioned as a hotel, convention center, and general tourist attraction for all that time.

The city had leased the ship to a management company who agreed to run the facility and keep it in good shape. “Just send us the check each month” seemed to be the municipal attitude. But Grande Dames, especially those of the ocean going variety, need constant maintenance and upkeep. Constant maintenance and upkeep costs a lot of money. For as long as tourists paid their way onboard to see how the other half once traveled or conventioneers thought it was a hoot to stay on a ship instead of a Sheraton things were fine. For the last year and a half though the tourists haven’t been coming. Neither were the checks. And an independent inspection of the ship’s condition showed that it needed over a hundred million dollars just to get it back to a state that would keep it afloat for the next 25 years. It would be close to half a billion dollars to retrofit it to last another hundred years.

The management company, when informed of the repairs needed, basically said “New phone, who dis?” and declared bankruptcy, leaving the City of Long Beach holding the proverbial bag and forcing the city council to debate what to do with the ship. By the end of the debate I’m sure most of the council members were wondering why in hell their predecessors had come up with this cockamamie scheme.

Their options, according to the Daily Mail, came down to three:

Option 1: Renovate and preserve the Queen Mary for 100 years 

It’s estimated that preserving the Queen Mary until 2120 could cost taxpayers between $200 million and $500 million. Extensive repairs and upgrades would need to take place on a dry dock and could take several years to complete.

Option 2: Renovate and preserve the Queen Mary for 25 years

Experts say short-term preservation could cut immediate costs to the taxpayer. Marine engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol says taxpayers will fork out $150 million and $175 million to keep the boat viable as a tourist attraction until the late 2040s.

Option 3: Dismantle and/or sink the boat

It is estimated that either sinking or dismantling the boat could cost upwards of $105 million because metal from the 81,000 ton vessel would have to be transported to a scrap facility or moved further out into the ocean

First of all it’s a ship, not a boat. A ship can carry a boat. A boat can never carry a ship. End of naval semantics lesson.

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Quote Of The Day: Boris Johnson’s Hair

Boris Johnson governing style is getting Trumpier and Trumpier by the day. He mishandled the pandemic, made the Brexit mess even messier, and allows headlines to change his mind on a daily basis. There’s never a plan, he just wings it. Sound familiar?

Unlike Trump, Johnson won an election fair and square but he’s pissing away that advantage as I write this.

One thing that Boris has always had in common with the Kaiser of Chaos is weird and silly hair.

Here’s ace Guardian satirist Marina Hyde latest salvo about the prime ministerial hairdo:

Johnson’s hair, always ridiculous, now seems to have reached animal rescue stage. The PM resembles one of those old English sheepdogs that charities put on sad-music fundraising adverts, with a voice saying: “When Boris came to us, his coat was so matted he was effectively blind … ” Or maybe he’s the star of an 80-minute Netflix movie in which the sheepdog somehow becomes president, and we end up learning a lot – if not about politics or ourselves, then definitely about the Netflix commissioning process.

Boris spends much of his time feuding with former aides. His former right hand man, Dominic Cummings, is now a sworn enemy of the man he made PM.

Cummings’ testimony before a parliamentary committee two months ago was a laugh riot:

Dominic Cummings has laid bare the “surreal” chaos in Downing Street in March last year as the government grappled with the Covid pandemic, portraying the prime minister as obsessed with the media and making constant U-turns, “like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”.

During an extraordinary evidence session to MPs at Westminster on Wednesday, Boris Johnson’s former chief aide targeted the prime minister for personal criticism, accusing him of being “unfit for the job”.

He claimed that Johnson regretted the first lockdown and held out against imposing later restrictions, despite the advice of many people inside Downing Street, and that overall, “tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die”.

Cummings told MPs the prime minister had repeatedly said in respect of the first lockdown, “I should have been the mayor of Jaws and kept the beaches open,” and confirmed reports that in October, Johnson said he would see “bodies pile high” rather than order a third lockdown.

Imagine wanting to be like Mayor Vaughn in Jaws who thwarted the efforts of Chief Brody to protect the town from sharks. Does Boris realize that Murray Hamilton who played the Jaws mayor was cuckolded by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate? Playing the movie analogy game is tricky.

Dominic Cummings is a professional asshole, but I wish more of Trump’s former aides would feud with him publicly. They prefer to be quoted without attribution like John Kelly. Better a brave asshole than a cowardly one

The last word goes to Split Enz with a song about sharks, not hair:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hamburger Midnight

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Dr. A is more disciplined that I am. She’d been on a rather stringent diet until she came home craving a burger but not at midnight. We ordered delivery from Shake Shack in the broad daylight. I’m not sure if the Nighthawks are eating hamburgers but I wouldn’t be surprised.

This week’s theme song was written by Lowell George and Roy Estrada in 1970 for Little Feat’s eponymous debut album. It’s a long-time favorite of mine; one that I used to request when I saw the band live. They ignored my pleas. And I wrote such a lovely tribute to Paul Barrerre in 2019. Oh well, what the hell.

We have three versions of Hamburger Midnight for your listening pleasure: the studio original, a 1973 live version, and a 2014 live version with guest vocalist Vince Herman.

Little Feat’s first single was Hamburger Midnight/Strawberry Flats. Here’s the B-Side:

Now that I’ve made you flat-out peckish, let’s jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Picture Snatcher

I thought I’d seen all of Jimmy Cagney’s movies. I saw Picture Snatcher for the first time recently on TCM. It’s not one of his better films but the poster is to die for. Smile for the Cagney Cam.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Let Go The Coat

The Concert by Johannes Vermeer.

July has been wet, wet, wet in New Orleans. As long as it’s not flood-level precipitation I don’t mind it. It keeps the heat down. That’s summer in the Crescent City: too hot, hot, hot or too wet, wet, wet. My needle seems stuck, stuck, stuck…

Pete Townshend wrote this week’s theme song for the Who’s 1981 album Face Dances. It’s a criminally underrated record that I’ve loved since the first time I gave it a spin. It was the soundtrack of my life in the year I moved from San Francisco to Washington DC.

Don’t Let The Go was inspired by Townshend’s guru Meher Baba who urged his followers to “hang fast to the hem of my robe.”

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Townshend’s demo, and the Who live on German teevee.

Don’t let go the coat as we jump to the break.

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Ashli Babbittry

Sinclair Lewis is back in fashion because of his parable of American fascism, It Can’t Happen Here. I’m not sure how many people have read the novel as opposed to posting pictures of the cover on social media. That’s more common than you might think. It’s gotten to the point where I ask errant social media commenters if they’ve read the post of mine they’re attacking. They usually have not.

I had a high school English teacher who was kin to Sinclair Lewis. I don’t recall the consanguinity, but her stock line was “Sinclair Lewis, not Upton Sinclair.”

People were just as easily confused in the 20th Century as they are now. I wish I could say that Twitter birthed mass stupidity, but its been with us forever. Hell, when I ran a Google search for Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair’s name came up almost as often.

That brings me to another Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt, which is a fine example of satire circa 1922. It was the story of a Midwestern real estate developer named George Babbitt. He was the epitome of vapid conformity and banal boosterism.

It’s every writer’s dream to coin a word or phrase that makes the dictionary. That happened with Babbitt, which is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:

“a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards.”

A mini essay at Merriam-Webster.com adds this thought about Babbittry:

The values, attitudes, and mores associated with the American middle class in the 1920s can be summed up in the word Babbitry. It derives from the protagonist of Babbitt, a satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1922. George F. Babbitt epitomizes the unimaginative and self-important businessmen that Lewis found typical of the provincial cities and towns of America. Despite his evident prosperity and status, he remains vaguely dissatisfied with life and makes tentative attempts at rebellion; however, in the end, he finds his need for social acceptance greater than his desire for escape.

To a great extent that describes the conformism that is Trumpism. Trumpers tend to trumpet the cliches they’ve heard on Fox News, Newsmax, Breitbart, and other wingnutty web sites. Trumpism is a conformist creed that relies on talking points instead of independent thought hence the anti-intellectual attacks on science and education. Who among us isn’t tired of hearing about cancel culture?

The anti-intellectualism of Trumpism is nothing new. George Wallace was fond of attacking “damn pointy-headed intellectuals who can’t park their bicycle straight.”

The Impeached Insult Comedian was never that witty.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Silent House

House By The Railroad by Edward Hopper.

Since the recent death of a family member, I’ve had mortality on my mind. Hence this week’s theme song and an appropriately somber featured image by Edward Hopper.

Silent House is a song about grief and loss. It was a collaboration between Neil Finn and Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, and Emily Robison of The Dixie Chicks. For more information about the song, click here.

The Dixie Chicks recorded Silent House first on their 2006 album Taking The Long Way. Crowded House cut their version for 2007’s Time Of Earth. Since I’m more of a Crowdie fan and prefer their version, we’ll start with it. Sorry, Chicks.

I hope everyone remembers the whole The Dixie Chicks controversy involving their opposition to the Bush-Cheney administration’s War in Iraq. In this Rodney Crowell song, the Yuppie neo-con narrator calls them out.

Now that we’ve heard Rodney sing “give it to me” repeatedly, let’s jump to the break.

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The Neutral Ground

The Lost Cause has long been a topic of interest here at First Draft. Shapiro wrote about it last Friday and it was a staple of my posting when the New Orleans monuments controversy was at its peak.

It’s back on my mind after watching CJ Hunt’s fine POV documentary, The Neutral Ground; so much so that I created a category for Lost Cause posts in case y’all feel like reading them. I had fun doing so last night. I’m not sure if that’s pathetic or egomaniacal. You decide.

CJ Hunt works for The Daily Show as a field producer. I haven’t seen much of his previous work but here’s his LinkedIn blurb:

Comedian and filmmaker living in NYC. He’s a field producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He has been a staff writer for A&E’s Black and White, and a field producer for BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede. CJ is a regular host of The Moth. Co-creator of Sunken City, an original series hailed as ‘the New Portlandia’ & featured on Indiewire’s list of web series that “could be the next ‘Broad City’.” CJ has rebranded the confederate flag for Jezebel, condensed the saga of school desegregation into a 3-page children’s book for FunnyOrDie, and created videos featured on Paper Magazine, Upworthy, Bustle, and Racialicious.

Hunt lived in New Orleans for a time, which inspired The Neutral Ground. His Daily Show background is evident in his approach to this material. There was a lot of absurdity surrounding the monuments controversy and a director who has done stand-up comedy is the right man for the job. He also does a good job as the film’s protagonist/presenter.

Watching The Neutral Ground reminded me of a funny story about the monuments flap. A friend, who has since died, was a howling liberal on every subject except the monuments. He belonged to one of those old New Orleans families who had been here since Bienville, the founder of the city. He got into a fight on my Facebook feed about monuments removal. The anti-monuments person called my late friend an “Uptown Garden District snob.”

His reply was classic, “Wrong. I’m a downtown Marigny snob.”

In either event, he was proud of being a snob.

Back to CJ Hunt’s documentary. Since I’m a New Orleanian, I’m going to focus on those aspects of the film although Hunt discusses monuments issues in the Commonwealth of Virginia. His side trip to Charlottesville during the infamous 2017 Lost Causer riot feels like a horror movie.

Hunt gets most things right about New Orleans, which is rare for a short-term resident. It shows that he did his homework. He even survived interviewing bombastic former mayor Mitch Landrieu and bombastic activist Malcolm Suber. I’m acquainted with Malcolm. He’s not one of my favorite people but he’s right on the monuments.

One of my favorite moments was when Hunt did the Civil War recreationist thing. He hung out with some hardcore Lost Causers one of whom is called Butterbean. I am not making this up. Initially, the bearded and bombastic Butterbean was impressed with Hunt’s open-mindedness, but his idea of reciprocity was going to Jazz Fest. Hunt didn’t tell Butterbean that his namesake isn’t served at the Fairgrounds.

I like Hunt’s serio-comic approach to the subject matter. It strikes the right tone. He also nailed the history of the white supremacy monuments in New Orleans and elsewhere.

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Summer Of Soul

I wanted to LOVE Summer Of Soul. The pre-release hype gave the impression that it was about the music rather than a cultural/political documentary. There are many documentaries about the 1960’s but what made Summer Of Soul intriguing was forty hours of unused footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. I wish there had been more music and less chatter but, taken on its own terms, it’s a good documentary. It could have been a great one.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s still a lot of great music in Summer Of Soul. But there’s not much *uninterrupted* music. By my count, there were only two numbers without any commentary: one by BB King early on and another by Sly & The Family Stone near the end. Ironically, the Sly tune was Higher, which was also featured in Woodstock.

I’m about to be guilty of something that led to a recurring argument between Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on their teevee show. Roger would often criticize Gene for reviewing the movie he wanted to see instead of the one that was made. I usually agreed with Ebert but I’m going to go Siskel on your asses in the next paragraph.

I think Summer Of Soul would have made a better 6 to 8 part docuseries. I watched it on Hulu, after all. There’s nothing wrong with the commentary; some of the talking heads are great, especially Billie Davis Jr, Marilyn McCoo, Mavis Staples, and Gladys Knight. I found it bizarre that those wonderful singers were talking *over* their own performances instead of before and after them.

As the movie progressed, I began flinching every time the voice overs returned. At one point I said, “Let Mavis and Mahalia sing.”

The main reason I thought Summer Of Soul would focus on the music is its director: Questlove who is a musician. But it’s his directorial debut and, oddly enough, he seemed not to have confidence in the power of the music to carry the movie.

There’s nothing wrong with the political content: I agreed with almost all of it, but much of it seemed to be a primer on Black pride/power politics for millennials. Questlove crams too much information into an hour and fifty-seven minutes. A different and longer format would have allowed both the talking heads and the performances more room.

Before writing this, I read an interview with Questlove. Here’s the money quote:

“Quincy Jones taught me early,” the affable, chatty Questlove said. “I interviewed him for my podcast, and when he’s talking about the process of (making Michael Jackson’s) ‘Thriller,’ and the fact that they had to go through 281 songs before they decided, these are our final nine. And he’s like, the common denominator was you got goosebumps. There’s a moment in the song that really touches your soul.”

Quincy Jones has had a remarkable career. He’s the bridge between the Basie/Sinatra/King Cole generation of American popular music and the MTV generation. He produced everyone from Sarah Vaughan to Donna Summer. He knows from goosebumps.

I wish there had been more musical goosebumps in Summer Of Soul, but I still liked it. It’s full of good intentions and great music but it needed more uninterrupted great music.

I’m proud of myself for writing this review without a single drummer joke. I reserve those for my buddy, Kyle Melancon but I’m sure Questlove has heard them all. 🥁🥁🥁

One thing that puzzled me was calling it a Questlove Jawn. I consulted with Mr. Google who led me to the Urban Dictionary, which defines jawn as “Philly slang for a person, place, or thing.”

Mystery solved.  Ahmir Khalib Thompson DBA Questlove is from Philadelphia. It’s his variation on the Spike Lee Joint theme.

Summer Of Soul is playing in theatres and streaming on Hulu. I give it 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B. I eagerly await the director’s cut: I want to see more of David Ruffin’s fur-collared jacket. Talk about hot fun in the summertime.