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Flash Movie Review: Mr. Saturday Night

MY FIRST APARTMENT WAS IN A neighborhood known for its nightlife. There were a multitude of bars and clubs, with most of them all on the same stretch of road. Though they each served pretty much the same alcohol and beverages, they were distinct based on the clientele. There were the clubs that attracted the young crowd, those barely legal by the state’s standards. Other bars were known to attract minorities which I always found odd. There was one place where the patrons were Hispanic for the most part. When I would go there, I would sit and try to figure out what made the place attractive for Hispanic people. It had a similar setup to other bars with colored flashing lights, a dance floor, mirrors and a live DJ. It made no sense to me; yet there was another club where the patrons were mostly Black. Again, I did not find anything distinctive about the place that would, to tell you the truth, attract any minority. Now before you think I am some big-time drinker; let me tell you, I do not drink alcoholic drinks; I never liked the taste of them. If I did not ask for a glass of water, I usually got a clear carbonated drink with no ice or straw. It is weird, but I have encountered people who would get an attitude if I did not have a drink in my hand. It was as if they thought I must be there for some nefarious reasons because I was not drinking anything.      DESPITE THESE ESTABLISHMENTS DRAWING DIFFERENT CLIENTELE, there was one place where everyone was welcome, and they showed up in droves. It was the disco. I had never seen such a place; walking into it was like entering a different universe. There were the usual-colored lights and mirrors; but they had fog machines and confetti canyons, besides live statues. I still remember this one statue who was dressed all in silver including painting their skin in the same color. They stood perfectly still on top of a large pedestal for several minutes before moving stiffly like a robot, into another position. Periodically they would burst into a dance routine, then suddenly come to a dead stop and be motionless again. The dress code was anything and everything. I had a couple of pairs of shoes that I would only wear when I visited this club. Looking back, I cannot believe I used to wear these copper-colored metallic looking pants that appeared iridescent. Funny, no one even batted an eye when I was on the dance floor. There was such an energy in the place with people moving on the massive dance floor; I used to think I wanted a job there because it was an uplifting place. It has been years since I have been to a club, but I felt like I had while watching this fun, musical documentary.      ONE MAN HAD THE IDEA TO sell the music first before coming out with the movie and it changed the whole world. Directed by John Maggio (The Perfect Weapon, American Experience-TV) this film was about Robert Stigwood, the producer for such films as Evita and Tommy, besides being the manager for the musical groups the Bee Gees and Cream. This movie focused on the creation of the hit film Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta (Grease, Pulp Fiction). If you were not a fan of disco music, I do not know if you will enjoy this picture as much as I did. Honestly, I can remember buying the musical soundtrack to this film and hearing the songs playing wherever I went; that is how popular it was. Seeing how the movie came into existence, with the little tidbits of information scattered throughout this film, I enjoyed watching this documentary. I will say it did start out a bit slow, but just hearing the music from that time and seeing the archival scenes; this was just a great blast from the past that I settled into for the night. And who knows, if you choose to see this movie, you might want to get up out of your seat and dance for a bit.     

3 stars 

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible

I JUST DO NOT GET THESE extreme sports/activities that people willingly do. There is High Lining which is crossing from one cliff to another by balancing and walking on a single rope. Free solo climbing is another activity that makes no sense to me, as well as a 6-day marathon that crosses 154 miles through Morocco, I believe. Why would anyone want to do something so dangerous? There was a documentary I reviewed some time back about a man who does free solo climbing. Seeing him climb without any safety apparatus seemed crazy to me. Granted, the extent of my climbing achievements was climbing trees when I was a kid. The highest I ever went was to the level of a 2nd floor of an apartment building. I understand a person who wants to be the fastest runner in the world or hit the most home runs in baseball; but doing something just for the sake of saying you did it, is not a good enough excuse for me to risk my life. I hope this is not coming across like I am judging, because it is not my intentions. I just do not understand the appeal of such an activity and to tell you the truth I am sure those who participate in such activities do not understand why I like to sit and watch movies.      ON THE OTHER HAND, I APPRECIATE individuals who do remarkable things. For example, I enjoy more individual sports than team ones. Someone who can lift more weight or run the fastest or hold their breath underwater the longest are things that I admire because it is humans doing nearly unhuman things. Since I have been active in the fitness field for decades, I appreciate such activities because I am looking at the upper limits of what a human body can do. Seeing the body do unhuman things fascinates me; I think that is the main reason why I like that traveling circus with the different acts from around the world. The acts seem to be always pushing the limits of their bodies. I can remember a student from elementary school who was double jointed. They could bend their arms and legs in all these weird positions that no one else in class could do. So, you might be wondering why, knowing what you know about me, would I sit and watch this documentary. It was not on my radar; however, someone told me about it, and I was curious to see the scenery. And let me tell you, climbing a mountain would be the last thing I would want to do, unless they had a designated easy trail and gift shop/restaurant along the way. But I must tell you I was mesmerized by what I was watching in this thrilling adventure film.      WITH SOME OF THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN peaks in their country’s backyard, a man from Nepal feels the world does not fully recognize what role his country has played in the activity of mountain climbing. He wants to change the perception by doing the unexpected. Directed by Gabriel Clarke (Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, Finding Jack Charlton) and Torquil Jones (Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager, The American Fall), this award nominee was a thrilling and awe-inspiring movie. Nirmal “Nimsdal” Purja, the mountaineer from Nepal, was something to see with his infectious personality. The filming was exquisite to the point I felt I was experiencing the location without leaving my couch. I admit the idea for this audacious project was borderline insane; but I appreciated the message Nirmal was trying to convey. And a shoutout to his wife, who at least in the film supported his plan. I know it is hard to compare any one feat from another person; but I have to say, this movie will show you something that you have never seen before and I am guessing will be glad you got to see it. Several scenes had Nepali spoken with English subtitles.

3 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Madame X

I KNEW GOING IN THERE WOULD be a good chance my ears would be ringing by the end of the night. It was part of the event. We would be sitting with anticipation in a cavernous stadium with 20,000 people who all came for the same reason. Sometimes there would be a wall of speakers on both sides of the stage; other times, they would be hidden behind some type of fabric or paper scenery. I knew if there were added speakers suspended from the ceiling then the sound would be massive. Either way we knew we were going to hear music; we just did not know if it would be clear based on the acoustics of the arena. I loved going to concerts so much, that at one point, I was going nearly every weekend during the summer months. The places would be either enclosed or outdoor spots, though I preferred indoor so I would not have to worry about any precipitation. Those times when we could use public transportation to get to the concert, were extra memorable because the train cars were usually full of other concertgoers. There was such a festive atmosphere on the train; some people singing, others dressed up like one of the members of the band. Going to a concert was truly an event.      WHAT DRIVES ME TO ATTEND A music concert is the theatrics of it. I expect to experience more than just the artist singing their songs. I once went to a concert where the singer either sat on a stool or stood up to the microphone stand and sang a list of their music hits, with little talking between the songs. It was like listening to their album, which I could have done at home. Though they had an abundance of top ten hits, I never went to see them again because their concert was boring. After attending concerts where I witnessed a laser light drawn eagle take flight above my head and where King Kong appeared with the singer draped over the gorilla’s hand like Fay Wray, I want to be totally entertained. For that reason, I have seen a few of Madonna’s concerts. Putting her singing abilities to the side; she is nothing but one of the best at marketing her brand. Full dance numbers, costume changes and acrobats are just a few reasons her concerts tend to be spectacular. Going to one of her concerts one never knows what to expect, except for a full theatrical production. And for that reason, I was excited to see this musical documentary.      MADAME X, PLAYED BY MADONNA (EVITA, A League of Their Own), is a secret agent who travels the world fighting for freedom. Directed by Ricardo Gomes (Union Bay, Urban Sea) and newcomer SKNX, this concert filmed in Portugal was filled with a variety of singers and dancers who joined Madonna on stage. Both the video clips and stage productions were tight and well performed; however, I found the filming of the concert annoying. It was choppy due to the quick shots jumping from front to back and side to side. The music predominately consisted of Madonna’s more current music which was not as appealing to me as her earlier stuff. In her earlier days her political statements were fresh and heartfelt; at this stage they came off a bit to theatrical and seemed as if they were on a long list that she was checking off as the show went on. I never considered her a great singer, more a great performer; but in this concert tour, I never felt the sense of excitement like I experienced in her other ones. Maybe if the editing had been less frenetic and she had included a few of her older songs, I would have enjoyed watching this film. Standing on its own, I know I would have been upset if I had paid for a ticket to go see this show in person. 

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Julia

IT WAS NOT LIKE I WAS seeking her out; she just appeared, sounding out of breath. I was flipping through the television channels, stopping at anything that would keep my attention. As the television screen went from frame to frame like a slideshow, this large woman appeared on the screen with a modulated voice that spiraled and swooped in tones. She was behind a cooking island that was covered with different kitchen utensils and food items. I was curious because of the food, keeping in mind that my only interest in food was the eating of it. Her theatrics were something I had only seen on a comedy show. Here she was holding up a cooking chicken by its wings as if teaching it to stand for the very first time. Cooking was never part of my thought process, yet I was curious to see what she would do with that chicken after she was done playing with it. I used to watch my relatives cooking in the kitchen, but none of them acted like this woman on television. There was joyfulness, a happiness to her preparations of the food. Some of the kitchen utensils she was using, I had never seen before. I was being drawn into her world.      FROM THAT FIRST VIEWING, I BEGAN watching her on TV consistently. Ironically, I still had no interest in cooking a meal; but I was fascinated with the whole process of it. What looked like these random dissimilar food items, that then got thrown together to be stirred, beaten, folded, whisked, mixed, poured, blended or pureed; that then got dumped into some type of vessel to bake, freeze, grill, boil, chill, fry or cook that turned it into a scrumptious looking plate of delicious food amazed me, each and every time I watched her. It was rare for her to make something that I was familiar with which you would think is odd, but it was not. If anything, it showed me a new world of possibilities. I cannot remember how many of her shows I watched but her flair for presentation has always stewed in the back of my mind. Fast forward a few decades and I am finally delving into the world of cooking. I have been active for years with baking but ventured very little into creating a meal that required more than a microwave oven. There is a new sense of satisfaction I have been experiencing when I see what I was able to do from start to finish with foods. I owe this to the first superstar of cooking I accidently found on television years ago. I had such a sense of joy as I got to visit with her again in this beautiful documentary.      JULIA CHILD DID NOT SET OUT to change the world per se; she just wanted people to enjoy their food as much as she did. Directed by Julie Cohen (RBG, My Name is Pauli Murray) and Betsy West (RBG, My Name is Pauli Murray), what I loved about this movie was the fact that it presented multiple sides of Julia. Using archival footage and pieces of her and her husband’s correspondences, a charming and sweet story was presented to the viewer. When I thought about the variety of cooking shows and celebrity chef run restaurants we have presently, it amazed me how Julia for her times was a trendsetter, if not the very first celebrity chef. The layout of the scenes was done in such an easy thoughtful way that I felt were unbiased and direct, touching on many aspects of Julia’s life. Through the years, I have gleaned a variety of tidbits about Julia’s life to the point I felt I knew her quite well. Gratefully, this documentary provided me new insights and turned into a rich viewing experience without the calories.

3 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Four Hours at the Capitol

WHILE WE WERE LINING UP INTO groups, the line monitors kept reminding us not to engage with any protesters. I thought it was ironic since we were about to stage a protest march. There were thousands of people maneuvering into place; I had two friends with me in my group. The volunteers who were chosen to be the line monitors were handing out a list of safety tips to everyone who walked into the staging area, along with reminding us to stay hydrated. Every group I could see from my location had people in them holding banners and signs. While we waited for our start time, volunteers dressed in those yellow hazard vests kept walking by to remind us that this was a peaceful march. Since I was curious about what kind of protesters are we supposed to not engage with, I stopped one of the volunteers to ask him. He told me there was a group of protesters who were known to instigate physical encounters so they could then file legal suits against individuals, protest organizers and city officials in the hopes of getting money either by winning the lawsuit or agreeing to a settlement. I was appalled by this and had to ask how these protesters incite reactions. He said they shout out a variety of vulgarities to rile up a person, besides spitting at them. I was not looking forward to crossing their path.      WE WERE ALL IN PLACE BY our start time. There was a certain energy in the air that felt exhilarating to me. Being in the middle of a mass of people with like minds was heady; each of us were there to focus on a common issue we all shared. The beginning of our walk was easy to navigate as we had quickly moved from a park to a main thoroughfare. There were photographers and news reporters scurrying back and forth as they were trying to document and catch a perfect moment. It was not long before I heard a different tone of sound coming up ahead. I was used to the different chants and sayings being uttered around me; however, this sound had an ominous note. A line monitor was shouting reminders to not engage. There up ahead was the group of protesters we were warned about. They were pointing at individuals in the march, yelling obscenities at us. The homemade signs they held in the air depicted vile images. The level of hatred being displayed was unsettling to me. We were protesting for better rights and these people were wishing us dead; it made no sense to me. It was so extreme that I could not wait to pass them by. I did not think I would see such extreme behavior on display ever again, but that was not the case since I watched this eye-opening documentary.      WHILE ELECTED OFFICIALS WERE INSIDE THE capitol to certify the presidential election, a mob of people were outside trying to get in. Directed by Jamie Roberts (The Fires That Foretold Grenfell, War Child), this film used a variety of footage and recordings from both the individuals inside and outside the capitol building. I am sure most of us have seen footage shot on January 6th; but I must tell you, the scenes and conversations I saw in this movie were a different level of disturbing for me. It did not appear as if the movie studio tried to sway the story favorably to one side or the other; it just came across as a series of live events that got captured on camera. While I try to avoid any political debate, I just want to say I still cannot get over the level of extreme emotions I saw in this picture. It left me sad that there seems to be absolutely no middle ground in this country. I will keep my personal feelings to myself and simply say I am not comfortable seeing hatred at such an extreme level.

3 ¼ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Pray Away

THERE ARE TWO MEMORIES THAT ARE as vivid and fresh in my mind as when they occurred, when I was in kindergarten. I remember I was the only one in my class who was left-handed and there was only one student who had red hair. He stood out more than I did. His hair was the type of red that looked like flames, bright with an orange tint. There was a smattering of freckles across his face that looked like one of those connect the dot coloring books. He wasn’t the nicest of students but looking back I now may understand why. Rarely was he asked to come play with someone on the school’s playground. While students were playing tag or tossing a ball back and forth, he was sitting on the school’s stairs or on the ground with his back up against the playground fence. The other students, I do not want to say avoided him per se, would interact with him if they were together on an art project or at assembly. However, I think he was a loner not by choice but because of the students confused with his red hair. I know that sounds silly, but I cannot come up with another reason. Maybe kids did not like the way he looked; to me even back then that would be a ridiculous notion.      THE IDEA THAT A PERSON IS judged by their looks is something I find appalling. Back in that kindergarten class, I remember tearing up when the teacher was teaching the class how to use a pair of scissors to cut colored, construction paper. I saw the other kids were able to do it, but the scissors felt funny in my left hand when I held them the way the teacher told us. The boy sitting next to me asked me if I was dumb because I could not manipulate the scissors like the other kids. The tears were increasing in size, ready to fall out of my eyes. Luckily a girl on my other side showed me how I could cut paper using my left hand. From that incident, I have never forgotten what it feels like to be different. That red haired boy who stood out in class, me being a lefty and the girl who wore unusual clothes; we did not fit in the way people felt we should fit in. The arguments I hear about people’s looks or actions that they were born with are completely offensive in my opinion. What does it matter what two consenting adults feel for each other or someone has a different skin color? There is only one classification and that is human. Watching this documentary was a disturbing experience. I felt I was witnessing a crime.      A MOVEMENT FORMED THAT WAS RELIGIOUS based, that believed a person could pray away something they were born with. This group would try to make a person conform and fit in, no matter the cost and the cost was high. Directed by Kristine Stolakis (Where We Stand, The Typist), this was a startling revelation for me. I will do my best not to give much away, but I have a hard time with anyone who tries to convert someone to their own religion or control someone else’s body by creating laws or considers a person less than themselves because of their skin color. This was a powerful and frightening story. Though I was fully engaged in this movie, I wished they had devoted more time to the victim’s stories or should I say journeys. The impact would have been more powerful in my opinion. The scenes that had the sermons in front of the congregation were sad to me; all I saw was hatred for someone being different than themselves. I appreciated seeing the interviews with the individuals who came to terms with themselves and survived; however, it would have been interesting to talk about the ones that did not survive. Once again, we are all human.

3 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Val

AFTER THE MEAL WAS DONE AND the dishes were washed, the lights would be turned down and the show would begin. Except for dessert, this was my favorite part of family get togethers. The first movie projector I ever saw was at a relative’s house. I cannot remember how young I was when I saw my first home movies, but I know it was before I was in kindergarten. The movie projector would get set up in the living room; opposite of it, my relative would unroll a movie screen that was perched on top of a tripod. All the kids would be sitting on the floor while some of the older relatives squeezed together on the sofa. The other family members would either sit on one of the various chairs that were set up around the room or simply lean up against a solid surface. Every time the movie projector was turned on, I enjoyed hearing the film reel being spooled through the projector because it sounded like the sound I would get when I clipped a playing card to the spokes of my bicycle wheel. With the tick, tick, tick sound steady in the background the first few frames of each movie reel always had what I took to be static; random scratches and lines briefly appearing on the screen before family members would materialize.      MY COUSINS AND I WOULD GIGGLE whenever we saw a much younger version of one of our relatives. No matter where or what was being filmed, every reel always had scenes of family members waving at the camera. I discovered that waving usually meant they did not want to be filmed, especially anything that required any physical exertion beyond waving. Then there were some relatives who loved to perform in front of the camera by either singing, dancing, demonstrating a tool, cooking or some other type of activity. To me, I did not care what they did because I was just excited to see a piece of family history. I had this fascination with studying the relatives who had died before I was born. It was one of my ways to find a connection to the past. Not that I wanted to live in the past, I just wanted to see the same things my older relatives had seen. Being able to see a past relative in one of these movies brought life to the photos that we had in our old family photo albums. I can not only appreciate what the subject in this documentary has done throughout his life, I can also relate to it.      THROUGHOUT HIS ENTIRE LIFE VAL KILMER (The Doors, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) filmed everything he was doing, even when he was the one being filmed. Directed by first time directors Ting Poo and Leo Scott, this biography was a fascinating study of an actor’s life. Spanning approximately 40 years, I enjoyed the cameos from movie actors such as Kevin Bacon and Marlon Brando. The idea of Val having not only filmed so much of his life, but to have saved all of it was remarkable; but seeing it in contrast to his life now was especially emotional. I felt I was getting a history lesson in multiple subjects and I mean that in a positive way. Seeing a brash young actor at one moment, then realizing the scope of his acting journey as it unfolded in this movie provided a solid base for Val to touch on many subjects which I appreciated. Hearing what he wanted to make a particular scene more authentic gave me new insight into his capabilities and insights. Even if one is not a movie fan, this film provides enough entertainment along with poignant moments for any type of viewer.

3 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SWAY from side to side. Everyone around me was doing it to match the singer’s movements up on stage. With an arm up in the air, I moved to the beat of the music. There is something about being in the middle of a crowd of people who all came together for one purpose—to enjoy their favorite musical artists. At a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, it is such an uplifting feeling to be amongst people who all share something in common with their love of music. I firmly believe music has healing power because it goes beyond political, ethnic and religious lines; there is no hidden agenda, just a melody of notes and a beat. Isn’t there a saying about music soothes the savage beast? The thing I enjoy about musical festivals is the assortment of performing artists. If an attendee is lucky, they might hear someone who is new to them. Then there are the artists who have not had a current hit in years, but a large established following who will come see them time and time again. Because I am a coupon clipper, I feel music festivals are simply discounted concerts. I ask you, where can you pay one price to see so many different artists?      NOW THE ONLY TYPE OF MUSIC festivals I have attended have been city run ones. The city closes off several blocks of a street to put up multiple stages and porta potties. There is a huge music fest held every year in my city, but I have never gone to it because it is held in a field. The idea that if it were to rain, I would be forced to walk and stand in mud is not appealing, at all. I like having restaurants and bathrooms close by to me and if it were to rain, I could stand under a store’s awning. The average price I have paid to attend a festival has been between $15-30.00. To see around a dozen different acts for that price is a major bargain to me. I will say, I am always amazed at those who try to sneak in for free. The less money collected means the less opportunity to book decent acts to the festival. I have been to some fests where the musical performers are either so old, they cannot carry their tune that was poplar decades earlier; or, they have little experience and cannot figure out how to project their voice over the crowd. My complaints seem minor though, compared to the festival goers in this documentary.      PROMOTERS THOUGHT THEY HAD A WINNING proposal to create a massive musical festival to honor what was achieved musically decades earlier. However, they did not understand people’s musical tastes and the times can change. Directed by Garret Price (The Daily Habit-TV; Love, Antosha), this film seemed to have suffered a bit from a split personality. I was hoping to see some great sets from the musical artists of the time, and I did to some degree. The issue I had was there was this one side being shown of the promoter’s point of view and another view was about those who attended. The two sides formed a weird juxtaposition in my opinion. Despite many of the musical acts not part of my playlist, I would have enjoyed getting more back story to what they were thinking about the whole festival. There were a few interviews; but not enough that provided me with a stronger connection to the story. On the other hand, there was certainly an element of shock that I was not expecting while watching this movie. Before I even got to the end of this picture, I already knew I was meant to only experience live music on a city block.

2 ¾ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Woman in Motion

EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS DURING A TRAGIC event; I do not think anyone would disagree with this statement. The news agencies are quick to report such events, sometimes right as it is happening. More so now than when I was younger, some sad occurrences get the star treatment. I am referring to telethons. Over the past several years there seems to be more of them; I have seen some for childhood hunger, hurricane and flood victims, the homeless and a variety of others. The goal for all of these is to get people to pledge money to their cause. Usually they will get a stable of celebrities to help; some to perform, others to say a few words and some to help on the phones. It will get reported how the celebrities gave their time to the cause. There is a part of me that appreciates their effort; I have always assumed the celebrities have waived their fees, but I do not know for certain. But here is the thing and maybe I am wrong to think this way. Having a celebrity get up and ask the public for money is not a tough job in my opinion. Truthfully, a star could limo over to the broadcasting site, walk right through to the stage, read from a teleprompter, thank everyone, turn around and walk right back to their limo to take them home. That is essentially it. I feel it would have so much more meaning if they would also pledge their own money to the cause.      MAYBE I AM TOO MUCH A skeptic, but there are times I see these celebrities on these shows, and I feel they are just being self-serving. It looks good to be charitable and maybe they are in their own way; however, some do not come across as being genuine to me. I feel the same way about celebrities in commercials. Just because they are pitching a product does not mean I am going to run right out and buy it. Unless there is proof the celebrity is a user of the product, all I think they are doing is getting an easy paycheck. I remember after Hurricane Katrina, there were several celebrities who flew down to Louisiana to help the victims. Some started companies with their own money to help rebuild the city. To me, that is a celebrity who puts their money where their mouth is, as the saying goes. A celebrity like that is someone I can admire. I also have a whole new appreciation for the celebrity in this amazing documentary. Especially, because this is the first time I am hearing about this aspect of their life.      FROM PLAYING A FICTIONAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER on a television show to changing the minds of space scientists, Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) redefines the term “working actor.” Directed by Todd Thompson (Christmas for the Nations-TV movie, Pre Fab!), this film surprised me in the most positive way. First of all, I found Nichelle to be such an engaging and likable individual. Listening to her talk about what she had planned to do for a career and then what she wound up doing totally shocked me. Then to hear what she did to alter the mindset/perceptions of people/organizations was incredible. There was not one time I lost interest in listening/watching her unfolding story. The director did a perfect job of mixing old clips with interviews from scientists and celebrities such as George Takei and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse. Seeing how history unfolded behind the scenes made me feel like I was an insider who was told a secret. This was such an enjoyable movie watching experience about a remarkable woman. From playing a character on a game changing TV program to becoming a game changer in real life; she has an amazing story to tell.

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Summer of Soul

I AM SITTING IN A TINY NIGHTCLUB at a time when people could still smoke inside. The air is hazy, making the stage look like it is behind a translucent veil. Everyone in the place is squeezed around small black tables; I can barely get my hand up to take a sip from my drink. I agreed to go the club to see what magazines were referring to as an “up and coming” comedian. When he got to the stage, the crowd was still somewhat noisy with conversation. It did not last long. He quickly commanded everyone’s attention with his ability to quickly change from one dialect to another in his stories and jokes. At one point he was speaking like a Russian; he then quickly changed to a British accent before talking like an innocent 5-year-old. It was extraordinary to witness the lightning speed he jumped from one character to another, all the time zinging out joke upon joke. The crowd, including myself, was mesmerized with his performance. Sweat had formed on his forehead and was slipping down his face while his shirt darkened with the sweat being generated over his torso. The evening was a major triumph; I thought for sure this guy was going to be a major star. It was not a long wait before my thought became reality. The comedian was soon after performing at major concert halls, starring in movies and even became one of the founders of a televised charity event. I felt so lucky that I was a witness to his historic rise.     I AM NOT SURE EVERYONE FEELS this way, but I love being a witness or participant at an event that becomes historic. Having been part of a peaceful march that became a bellwether to changing times makes me feel honored and proud. Something as simple as a museum exhibit’s record-breaking run gives me joy when I can say I was there. There is an iconic singer who has sold out the world’s biggest stadiums, who starred in film and even has been the subject of a Broadway musical; that I can say I saw her when she was a warmup act. I was there at the beginning; I like the way that sounds. The other aspect about this that gives me such pleasure is the randomness of it all. One might not know they are becoming a witness to a monumental event. Think about those who were at the Berlin wall when it toppled or saw Elvis’ last concert or saw The Beatles when they first were starting out in Liverpool; it absolutely excites me to no end. I feel the same way about this documentary; how I wish I could have been there live to see history being made 100 miles away from the Woodstock festival.      ON A HOT SUMMER DAY, A PROMOTOR created and put on a festival in a park in Harlem. What was recorded at that time has never been seen before, until now. Directed by musical artist Questlove (The Roots), this movie was a treasure trove of gold star musical performances. I thought for a directorial debut Questlove did an amazing job of mixing the footage with current scenes; especially when the current artists were seeing themselves from 50 years ago. Some of the musical acts shown were Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, The 5thDimension and Nina Simone. I loved everything about this musical picture; the way it weaved in history, politics and the magic of music. The thing that I found most startling was the fact that this festival footage has never been seen before. Nowhere in history have I ever heard about this festival that was created to celebrate African American music. I hope the entire concert footage comes out on DVD or streaming; I would love to see what took place back in that park in 1969. Too bad, I no longer have any bell bottom pants to wear.            

4 stars     

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