Category Visual Arts

Six Magical Sundays: Ahmir Questlove Thompson’s “Summer of Soul”

Pretty much from its first moment to last, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul,” a film chronicling six magical Sundays of stirring soul music holding forth as the “Harlem Cultural Festival” at Mount Morris (now Marcus Garvey) Park in 1969, shows why it’s been a summer-long rage since its July debut streaming on Hulu and in theaters nationwide.

Thompson distilled some 40 hours of meticulously crafted footage shot by a four-camera crew led by the late Hal Tulchin into a 117-minute documentary that includes a laundry list of the greatest soul and gospel acts of the era. It all kicks off with 19-year-old Stevie Wonder playing drums and singing under a light rain in the film’s opening minutes as crew members follow him around the stage with an umbrella. (Did you know Stevie Wonder played drums? I didn’t…)

Things never stop moving from there as the Chambers Brothers, Sly & the Fami...

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Battling the Apocalypse Blues

On the very night that my beloved daughter was taking a red eye flight into New York City to attend a wedding this weekend, residents of that city were drowning in their basement apartments, being evacuated from flooded subways, and getting rescued from car rooftops by emergency responders boating through the streets.

All a result of yet more unprecedented extreme weather activity that was dumping more than 3 inches of rain per hour over the city at the storm’s peak.

The New York Times reports these additional

(Fortunately, my daughter was fine and enjoyed sunny, welcoming weather by the time she crossed the Brooklyn Bridge en route to her hotel.)

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In Texas, a recently approved law essentially outlawed ab...

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The Literary and Cinematic Triumph of “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”

A well-dressed and carefully coiffed man is poised on a plank in the middle of a bridge, surrounded by Union officers, all of them silent and stoic, mostly staring straight ahead. We hear birds chirping and water flowing in the river below, along with the clomp of soldiers’ boots and the rustling of ropes and ties as they move into position to bind the man hand and foot and neck in preparation for his hanging.

The atmosphere is solemn and silent, with but four words spoken (“First squad, stand fast!”).

The man casts his eyes about, fidgety, looking around himself and down to the water. He notes a piece of driftwood floating by and lingers with it for a moment. He tugs at the rope binding his hands behind him, gauging its give. Tears form in the corners of his eyes.

Nearly six minutes pass with this careful, excruciating preparation for an execution...

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A Dignified Dying in Love: Harry Macqueen’s “Supernova”

Hardly any of us want to leave this earth before reaching a ripe old age with plentiful living and loving in our memory storehouse and some inclination toward finally letting these noble but frayed vessels of ours go. Premature death always cuts us to the quick, exposing not only our own vulnerability, but also our sense of sadness and outrage when it takes someone we love and will miss.

The recent BBC Films release, “Supernova,” out a few weeks in theaters and as of yesterday on Amazon Prime, explores this theme in particularly poignant fashion, riding the superb acting coattails of Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth as Tusker and Sam, a longtime couple in their ‘60s coming to grips with Tusker’s early onset dementia.

He simply will not allow Sam’s life to be dominated by caring for someone who will not even recognize him in the near future, the richness of their past buried forever within the occlu...

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Jimmy Carter (Our First) Rock & Roll President

In a 2018 interview that opens the recently released documentary, “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President,” the now 96-year-old ex-POTUS places a vinyl record on a small turntable at his home in Plains, Georgia. The sight of a record, with the familiar red (“Columbia”) inner circle that tells you the album information, comes as almost a shock, a sudden time-warpy escort into a warm bath of nostalgia for people of a certain age.

And then Carter, with that trademark grin of a genuinely good and happy man, true Christian to his bones, settles into a chair and nods his head in approval as he remarks, “All right! Sounds familiar.” 

The sounds we hear with him are the opening guitar strums of Bob Dylan before he begins, “Heyyyy, Mr. Tambourine Man…”

A hilarious anecdote in this grin-inducing documentary involves bad boy gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson’s visit to the White House, a kind of refr...

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