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Flash Movie Review: Tar

I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED IN AMAZEMENT how composers create symphonic musical compositions. Not to take away any accolades from sonatas or cadenzas; but I cannot understand how a composer can hear all the musical instruments in their head, then put it all down on paper. My first exposure to a live, classical music concert was prior to me going into kindergarten. I remember it was a Beethoven symphony. The conductor was an older gentleman with salt and pepper colored hair. Just before he was to start, he tapped the top of his music stand with his baton, to get everyone’s attention in the orchestra. Up until that point, members of the orchestra were fiddling with their musical instruments; at least from my perspective as a young child, it appeared to me they were goofing around playing random notes. I did not know they were tuning and warming themselves up before they were to perform. With different sections of the orchestra making themselves known at different times, I did not know where to look first; it all seemed a bit magical to me. And then there is this one man, the conductor, steering the players from beginning to end. Granted when I was small, I was not clear on what exactly the conductor was doing. I was able to understand when he wanted the members to play louder or softer, but some of his arm gestures confused me. Nonetheless, sitting through that symphony sparked my interest in classical music to the point where I eventually took piano lessons.      SOMETIME SOON AFTER SEEING THAT CONCERT, I was going downtown on the train. We were sitting in the car where the conductor was stationed. They would go from one side of the train car to the other, depending on which side the doors were facing the train stations. It was their job to open and close the doors. I watched them at each stop, sticking their head out the window before opening the doors with a flip of one switch. They continued in that position until they determined it was time to close the doors and come back inside. As I was watching them, I made the connection that they and the orchestra conductor both had this power to move people into action. To me, it was like they had a special power like a superhero. Just with a flip of a finger the train conductor could grant or deny access to anyone they so desired. The musical conductor, with a wave of their wand, could make someone stop or start playing their instrument. I was curious to know how that power must have felt for them and how they managed it. If what I saw in this music drama is an indication, then I will need to rethink my feelings about orchestra conductors.      JUST AS A BOOK DEBUT AND live recording are about to take place, a famous conductor’s past reemerges to topple her greatest feats. With Cate Blanchett (Don’t Look Up, Thor: Ragnarok) as Lydia Tar, Noemie Merlant (Paper Flags, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) as Francesca Lentini, Nina Hoss (A Most Wanted Man, Phoenix) as Sharon Goodnow, newcomer Sophie Kauer as Olga Metkina and Mark Strong (The Catcher was a Spy, Shazam!) as Eliot Kaplan; this Oscar nominated film had as its driving force Cate’s performance. She was outstanding in the role. I thought the whole cast gelled well together, despite the weakness in the script. I encountered several confusing scenes, where I was trying to figure out who to be sorry for. From what I have been told afterwards, there are musical misconceptions in this picture. I also found scenes that were not 100% believable. There was a weird mix between stellar and weak scenes that prevented the story from flowing out like a beautiful concerto.                   

2 ¾ stars 

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Flash Movie Review: Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over

I APPRECIATE LISTENING TO THE SOUND of a beautiful singing voice. Even some speaking voices are wonderful to listen to, in my opinion. I tend to gravitate to those singers who have powerful voices, who have a wide range and can belt out the notes of a song. It amazes me how a vocalist can maneuver through a musical composition with perfect diction and tone. When I attend concerts to see musical acts, I expect the performers to sing live. When choreography became just as important as the singing, artists started to rely more on recorded tracks and simply lip synch the songs. As some of you are aware of, I am not a fan of lip synching or auto tuning at a concert. Though the staging and choreography play a strong part in live shows, I would rather have live singing be the focus. If I am spending money to see a performer simply lip synch to recordings, I could save the money and listen to their album at home. There have been several music artists I have seen in concert who are on stage performing for close to 3 hours, all of it live. To me they are the standard when it comes to live shows.      WHEN A MUSICAL ARTIST ACHIEVES A high level of success, I am highly impressed when they contribute to humanitarian causes, either financially, physically, or as spokesperson. There are singers and bands that are as well known for their charity work as for their performances. I admire the work they do and appreciate them more when they do not let their charitable work take centerstage. Then there are those artists who think just because they are successful in the musical world, they have the right to impart their opinions and thoughts on the general population. I frown on such actions because I do not equate musical success with world politics. An extreme example would be the musical artist who has been recently in the news for his antisemitic remarks. Just like I do not see certain actors’ movies due to their offensive actions, I do the same thing to musical artists. I never played in my fitness classes an artist’s music if they were racist, sexist or prejudiced, either the lyrics in their song or in their personal life. Feeling the way I do; I was taken by surprise while watching this musical documentary. Also, as a sidenote, I saw Dionne Warwick in concert in a small venue during the twilight of her singing career and she sounded as good as when she first started out professionally singing.      COMING FROM A MUSICAL FAMILY, DIONNE WARWICK was a trailblazer in her own right. She also was the older cousin to Whitney Houston. You might be surprised to see what Dionne was able to accomplish in her life. Directed by David Heilbroner (Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, The Newburgh Sting) and relative newcomer Dave Wooley, there were several times where I was taken completely surprised by the actions of Dionne. Granted, there has been a lot written about Dionne but there still were a few things I did not know about her. There was a segment in this film where a music rapper talks about the time early in his career when he met Dionne; it was priceless. There were other tidbits like this that Dionne shared throughout this movie. Where I said previously, I distrust artists who brag, I gained a new level of respect for Dionne as she shared some of her charitable work with the interviewer. Mixing in old footage with Dionne’s description of the time was a real treat. Hearing about the history of her songs and the things she fought for, I was left with a whole new appreciation for what she accomplished in the musical world.

3 ¼ stars 

Flash Movie Review: I Wanna Dance with Somebody

I WAS ATTENDING A DINNER EVENT where I knew everyone, for some years. Essentially, we had all grown up together. The dining room table was a long oval due to the 2 extra leaves that were added to it. On one end, pushed up to the edge of the table, was an aluminum folding table. Not that one would notice the metal; it was just because I usually was the one to bring it up from the basement and unfold it before the host would put a tablecloth over it. With both tables there was just enough room for all the guests to sit together for dinner. I was always grateful for it since I detested sitting on the sofa while balancing a dinner plate on my lap. The conversation at these dinner parties was always lively and fun. Everyone had an opinion and all of us respected each one’s opinion, even if there was a bit of ribbing and teasing involved with it. There was one guest, I have to say, who would get on my nerves. Maybe a better way to say it would be to say I found them exasperating. Everything was a joke to them, and they said the same jokes over and over. Literally, I have heard those same jokes for several years and can no longer try to laugh at them; there is nothing left that is funny to me. I find them more irritating to tell you the truth.      IT IS DIFFICULT TO REACT TO repetitive jokes and stories. I used to be better about it because I did not want to appear rude or indifferent. However, for example when a news story gets repeated over and over it begins to lose its impact on me. The same holds true when a person shares their same opinions constantly. I believe everything in moderation. It is not easy being around someone who is always telling you what they hate, or on the flip side, who constantly talks about something they love. I find it hard to carry on a conversation under these terms. Now, there are things I go overboard with myself, where I want to hear and see everything available about the subject. Loving our national parks, I will watch or listen to various stories about them. There is a legendary actor I am fond of who I have seen various telecasts about them; recently a documentary that surprised me because it shared things that I had never known about the movie star. It was a pleasant surprise for me. When I saw the movie poster for this musical drama, I wondered if I was going to find out something that had not been mentioned before about the famous musical artist.      FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS ROSE A YOUNG girl who would become a musical superstar. All within a short time. With Naomi Ackie (The Score, Star Wars: Episode IX-The Rise of Skywalker) as Whitney Houston, Stanley Tucci (Spotlight, Julie & Julia) as Clive Davis, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Bobby Brown, Tamara Tunie (Flight, A Journal for Jordan) as Cissy Houston and Nafessa Williams (Black and Blue, A Holiday Chance) as Robyn Crawford; this biographical picture was perplexing. Naomi did an admirable job of acting and lip synching as well as Stanley Tucci did with his acting; however, I did not learn anything new about Whitney. The movie for the most part was a highlights reel, showing both high and low lights from Whitney’s life. There was little character development or for that matter, emotional depth. I sat in my seat wondering what was the point of making this movie. This story was just a repeat of things the general public had been told before. If you are a fan of Whitney, then you might enjoy this film, if for nothing else the musical numbers. For me, I was bored part of the time, wishing I was home seeing actual video clips of Whitney doing some of her monumental moments                               

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Elvis

THE COUPLE SITTING NEXT TO ME were being rude. We were sitting inside the city’s stadium for a music concert and the opening act was performing. This couple did not pay any attention to the act as they continued with their conversation. I had no idea who the artist was; but I still wanted to listen to them perform. Even if I did not care for their style of music, I would have been considerate of the people sitting around me and not carried on a conversation. From a long time ago, I learned to pay attention to the opening acts because you never knew if they would become a success one day. My favorite example is Tina Turner. I had tickets to a concert where she was listed as the opening act for the star attraction. Her work with Ike was well known but that had happened a long time ago. None of us knew what she would be doing by herself. Well, you can see what she did based on how quickly she returned to being the headliner. As a warm-up act, she was utterly amazing. By the end of her set, I felt I had already gotten my money’s worth; she was as they say, a superstar. Because of that concert, I always pay attention to the opening acts at concerts. There was a singer songwriter I got to see early in their career as the opening act; they went on to have a #1 song on the charts.      EXPERIENCING A MUSICAL ARTIST AT THE beginning of their career journey and following them to the top of the charts is an awesome feeling. I remember seeing this one musical artist who came out on stage with her hair bound up in a scarf, dressed in old fashioned clothes, with a couple of backup singers and a small band; yet it was an incredible show due to the singer. Her personality and voice were both amazing. From that first time seeing her, I have followed her career as it ventured into movies and Broadway stages, not once being disappointed by her performances. She had something different I had never seen and with her talent, I was sure she was going to be a star. I even have photos of her in the early days of her career because in the initial stages of a musical artist’s career, I believe, they can be the most exciting times. If you do not believe me, feel free to take a look at this dramatic biography to see what it is like.      SOME MUSICAL ARTISTS CAN REACH THE top of the charts, but only a few can usher in a whole new movement. One of those artists is the subject of this musical movie. With Tom Hanks (News of the World, The Post) as Colonel Tom Parker, Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Dead Don’t Die) as Elvis, Olivia DeJonge (The Visit, The Sisterhood of Night) as Priscilla, Helen Thomson (A Man’s Gotta Do, Getting’ Square) as Gladys and Richard Roxburgh (Van Helsing, Moulin Rouge) as Vernon; this film was very lucky to have Austin as Elvis. If he had not been in the starring role, the first 1 ½ hours would have been more painful than they already were for me. I thought the quick cutting from scene to scene and the over-the-top dramatics took away from the performances. It almost appeared cartoonish. The last hour was the part that engaged and kept my interest. I say that because we finally got to see a more vulnerable Elvis as the scenes were given emotional depth. Up until this point I found Tom’s performance erratic; at times, his acting was excellent, other times it was off the mark. If for nothing else, it was worth it to me to see Austin’s singing performances. I felt like I was at a concert seeing someone who would be going far in their career.

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Marry Me

THERE IS THAT SAYING, “THE THRID time is the charm,” and I knew my friend was hoping it was true, but I felt it was not going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted her 3rd marriage to succeed; however, this current fiancé was no different than the other two I saw before. My friend is such a sweet, likeable person; but she has always been attracted to what I refer to as the “pretty boy” type of men. Each one she introduced me to was good looking and had a chip on their shoulder. My friend is a big game player who loves almost any type of game, from word ones to charades. I enjoy playing games as well and like most people enjoy winning; but if I don’t win it is no big deal to me. I am not that competitive with other people. However, her past husbands and this latest soon to be one were all intensely competitive to the point where I did not like playing with them. In my opinion, none of them played well with others; I would have thought that would have been a big clue for my friend to sit up and notice. Alas, she was very much in love with each of these men; there was very little I could say to her about it.      WITH MY FRIEND BEING A TALL woman, I understood why she preferred only dating men who were taller than her. There was a man she dated once who was maybe a couple of inches shorter than herself; I thought he was nice. She dated him for a month or two, but then found a reason why she no longer was interested in him. I thought it was due to the height, but she never admitted it to me. The other feature I noticed my friend was attracted to was fair skinned and light-colored features. With her having dark features, I could see she preferred being with someone who looked opposite of her; however, I did question her motives. How important really were these features? In the scheme of things, how do these requirements help find a good match? I tried persuading her to expand her field, that it was more important to find someone who was kind and respectful, instead of having someone who matched the image that was in her mind. For me, the things she was looking for were mostly surface things and for those of you who have known me a long time, you know I feel the surface stuff is just rental property, but the inside stuff lasts a lifetime. If you care to, you can see how things play out between the two ideas in this romantic, musical movie.      IT WAS PLANNED TO BE THE event of the year when musical artist Kat, played by Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers, Second Act), agreed to get married during her concert show and it was, but for all the wrong reasons as she discovered her fiancé had been cheating on her. How would she continue the show? With Owen Wilson (The French Dispatch, No Escape) as Charlie, musical artist Maluma as Bastian, John Bradley (Game of Thrones-TV The Brothers Grimsby) as Colin and Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, Battle of the Sexes) as Parker; this comedic drama’s story had a silly premise. However, what helped it was having Jennifer and Owen starring in it. They both had a likeability that came across easily. Now I will say I did not think playing their characters was much of a stretch; Jennifer was being Jennifer and Owen was just doing his usual type of character. There were some touching moments in this film, but there really were no surprises in the script. In fact, some of the scenes were out of place and odd in my opinion. The musical moments were fine, though I did think the song with the leather clad nuns was a weird concept. I give Jennifer credit for wanting to bring out a rom com this time of year; I only wish it had a better concept and script.      

2 ¼ stars 

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 

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: Respect

WE WERE WAITING FOR OVER AN hour past the designated time, before she walked out on stage. No announcement, no greetings; she barely even looked out at us. I was excited to see her perform live since I had been listening to her songs for some years. When she stepped out onto the stage all of us got up out of our seats and cheered for her, immediately forgetting the long delay. She was dressed in a long, peach colored dress that sparkled under the spotlights. Musicians flooded out from both sides of the stage, quickly making their way to their spots. A grand piano sat just off center of the stage that a man walked up to and sat down. He began to fiddle with a stack of sheet music he had carried with, pulling out several sheets that he placed on top of the piano. She stood next to the microphone stand, watching him with a look on her face like a mother irritated for reminding her child it was bedtime. With everyone settled into their spot, the man at the piano struck a key with his finger while the other hand moved up and down as he snapped his fingers. The band started and the singer turned her back to us as she began to sing one of her songs. Throughout the entire concert I only saw her face a couple of times.      AFTER THAT SHOW, I VOWED I would never spend money to go see her in concert. She was the first musical artist I ever saw live in concert who did not say one word between singing her songs. I was not the only one who felt this way. During her song “Respect,” someone sitting near me yelled out, “Why don’t you give us some respect?” I remember sitting there at one point and wondering if she had forgotten how a song gets to be #1 on the music charts. It gets there based on sales and downloads. In other words, it is the fans who buy and listen to the song that determine its rank. I understand everyone has a “bad” day; I know I do. However, I do not let my issues interfere with my job. It makes no sense for me to unload my frustrations onto someone else, especially since they have not been part of the problem. Despite my feelings about the musical artist Aretha Franklin, I went to see this movie with an open mind and as usual avoided hearing and reading any reviews about it beforehand.      AT AN EARLY AGE THERE WAS something special about the little girl’s singing. At times, it would be the only thing that saves her. With Jennifer Hudson (Cats, Black Nativity) as Aretha Franklin, Forest Whitaker (Black Panther, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey) as C.L. Franklin, Marlon Wayans (A Haunted House franchise, On the Rocks) as Ted White, Tituss Burgess (Then Came You, Are you Joking?) as James Cleveland and Audra McDonald (Hello Again, The Good Fight-TV) as Barbara; this biographical musical drama survived because of Jennifer and Forest. She was incredible in the role and I can see why Aretha hand picked her to play the role. The musical numbers were the highlight for me; as for the other scenes, they felt sanitized. It was as if every scene was done with the idea of scratching only the surface of the event to keep things clean and tidy. I felt the script, based on true events, was scrubbed of any scenes that would place Aretha in a “bad light.” It was as if scenes with strong emotions on display were being dialed down. Again, the performances were terrific as was the musical scenes; but by the end of the film, I was a bit numb about the whole thing—except the ending scene during the start of the credits.

2 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: 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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