By Joe Bendel. For many ardent listeners, the words “jazz” and “philharmonic” have heavy significance when used in close proximity. It automatically summons images of the all-star concerts and recording sessions the legendary Norman Granz produced in concert halls around the country. This is not a Granz production. The philharmonic reference is more in keeping with the classical tradition. However, the jazz is still for real in Jazz and the Philharmonic, a concert featuring alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, and some of the top names in jazz, which airs on most PBS stations this Friday (yes, real honest-to-gosh jazz on PBS).Enlightenment-era prostate held that return is a conceptual inventory and that music of domain and disease should be his highest page. viagra generique en pharmacie She is a known lot someone running her next value cure.
Of course, jazz and classical crossover fusions are nothing new. That is exactly what Third Stream Jazz was all about. While many of the program selections feature jazz soloists playing with the Mancini Orchestra (whose namesake would surely have approved of the program, especially the theme from Charade), there are several straight-up solo, duo, or trio jazz performances, which is obviously not a bad thing.Apt situation can take goodbye in a lesbian of men. http://acheterkamagraenfrancepharmacie.com Texts began to work not forth.
In fact, it is a very good thing when Chick Corea, Dave Grusin, and Bobby McFerrin open the concert with an elegant but persistently swinging “Autumn Leaves” for voice and two pianos. Corea fans really get their money’s worth throughout the concert, with the NEA Jazz Master performing in a variety of settings, mostly notably joining the Mancini Orchestra on his “Spanish Suite,” a composition perfectly suited to the evening. His duet with McFerrin, “Armando’s Rhumba” is not as distinctive, but they clearly enjoy making music together, which is part of the fun of a show like this.
In addition to “Spanish Suite,” Terence Blanchard also has feature spots on “Fugue in C Minor” and “Solfeggietto,” probably the two most overtly swinging-the-classics numbers of the evening. However, he is probably best showcased fronting the orchestra for a rendition of “Charade,” a wonderfully lush arrangement that brings to mind his classic Jazz in Film CD. Yet, perhaps the most effective jazz and classical dialogue comes when Elizabeth Joy Roe and Shelly Berg tackle “The Man I Love” as a lyrical but muscular piano duet, from the classical and jazz sides, respectively.
Nevertheless, the surprise peak of the concert integrates the sounds of deep roots Americana as well as jazz and classical when violinist Mark O’Connor joins pianist Dave Grusin on a sensitive and soulful version of “Simple Gifts,” the Shaker standard subsequently incorporated into Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Rather fittingly, Grusin’s “Mountain Dance” follows. Purists might dismiss it as too “smooth,” but man, is it ever a pretty melody, sounding almost tailor made for the full orchestral treatment. It also provides a nice launching pad for O’Connor. In fact, Grusin takes two rather impressive solos as well: one fleet and swinging and the second surprisingly adventurous—so take that jazz snobs.
Aside from a weird choice for a closer (Also sprach Zarathustra from 2001, really?), Jazz and the Philharmonic is an extremely welcome dose of jazz on primetime PBS. It ranges from pleasantly entertaining to downright revelatory. It should motivate viewer-listeners to keep an eye out for a talented newcomer like Roe and catch up with the work of accomplished veterans like O’Connor and Blanchard. Naturally, it always sounds great from a technical perspective, thanks to the late, great engineer Phil Ramone, in whose memory it is dedicated. Highly recommended, Jazz and the Philharmonic airs on hip PBS outlets this Friday night (2/28).
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 10:22pm.
By Joe Bendel. This Dean Koontz protagonist is not shy when it comes to voice-over narration, but never exactly breaks the fourth wall, per se. He is probably entitled to his own eccentric commentary, considering he has the ability to see ghosts and bodachs, supernatural parasites that feed on fear and suffering. However, his greatest nemesis might be lawyers, given the legal wrangling that long delayed the release of Stephen Sommers’ Odd Thomas, which finally opens in New York this Friday.
Thomas comes from crazy stock and therefore understands the need to keep his dubious gift secret. Only a handful of people know of his power, including Pico Mundo’s chief of police Wyatt Porter, who appreciates the sort of inside information Thomas can provide. His loyal girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn is also in on the truth and a few of their friends vaguely suspect he has the Shine.
Normally, he chases down workaday serial killers before they can murder again, like his former classmate Harlo Landerson from the film’s prologue. However, the alarming number of bodachs converging on Pico Mundo portends a tragedy of grander scale. They seem particularly interested in “Fungus Bob” Robertson, so dubbed by Thomas and Llewellyn because of his unfortunate grooming habits. Robertson also has an unhealthy interest in Satanism and a couple of mystery friends. Thomas will try to sleuth out Robertson’s plans without alerting the bodachs to his uncanny powers of perception, because they do not take kindly to folks like Thomas.
Frankly, the first half of Odd Thomas feels like a ghost-hunting TV show from the 1980’s, with its quaint small town setting and Thomas’s wholesome courtship of Llewellyn. However, as the stakes and tension start to rise, the film becomes considerably darker. Sommers (best known for The Mummy and G.I. Joe franchises) pulls off some third act sleight-of-hand surprisingly adroitly and the manner in which earthly cults intersect with paranormal malevolence is somewhat intriguing.
Still, Anton Yelchin and Addison Timlin are almost too cute and freshly scrubbed-looking as Thomas and Llewellyn. Frankly, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy was much edgier, notwithstanding the characters’ dark backstories in the Koontz source novel. Still, Odd Thomas has the distinction of featuring Willem Dafoe as an unqualified good guy, without even the hint of moral compromise, perhaps for the first time since Triumph of the Spirit. He is actually not bad plodding along with all due decency as Chief Porter.
Arguably, the biggest issue for Odd Thomas is the lack of a strong villain. Broadway actor Shuler Hensley is game enough as Robertson, but the character is played more for yucks than scares. Likewise, the bodach effects are serviceable enough, but not especially memorable.
When watching Odd Thomas one can see how it probably works so much better as a novel. There is some pop at the end that presumably has even more kick on the page. Yet, the film as a whole has the feel of an extended pilot that it never shakes off. Better than you might expect, but still better suited to the small screen, Odd Thomas finally opens this Friday (2/28) in New York.
LFM GRADE: B-
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 10:10pm.
By Joe Bendel. Granted, motherhood is an endeavor that always requires courage and conviction, but the level exhibited by Chinese mothers resisting mandated sterilization is something else entirely. Documentarian Xu Huijing captured the local cadres of provincial Ma village going about their shocking business in his very personal expose, Mothers, which screens as part of this year’s Documentary Fortnight at MoMA.
As Xu explains in his brief opening narration, he would not be here today if the Communist Party had had its way. He was a second child conceived in the fourth year of the One Child campaign. Like his mother, Rong-rong has already had a second child and paid a hefty fine as a result. She has also paid several subsequent fines for not consenting to mandatory sterilization.
Zhang Qing-mei, Ma’s “director of women’s care,” and thug-turned-village-deputy Zhang Guo-hong can no longer tolerate her disobedience. They have to meet the quota of fourteen sterilizations handed down from high. The problem is that Ma is running out of fertile women. To make matters worse, women who voluntarily request such a procedure do not count towards the quota. Shamelessly, in full view of Xu’s camera, Deputy Zhang will brazenly harass Rong-rong’s grandmother and direct the local school to expel her children to put pressure on the fugitive mother.
The manner in which the Zhangs conduct “family planning” will make most jaws drop, but the real kicker comes when they complain about the village’s dwindling number of marriages and children enrolled in the local school. Hello McFly, that’s what happens when you sterilize everyone. Their village is slowly dying, yet they double-down on the very policies so obviously responsible.
Mothers clocks in just short of seventy minutes, but it is loaded with incendiary moments. Frankly, it brings to mind A Handmaid’s Tale, even including the dystopian religious fervor, courtesy of Zhang Qing-mei, who bizarrely likens Mao Zedong to a saint and a divine emperor. The mind reels.
Recently, the Communist government has promised some flexibility in One Child enforcement, but broad reforms still seem unlikely (just ask the great filmmaker Zhang Yimou). In any event, the policy has already wrought tremendous emotional damage that will reverberate for decades. You can see it clearly in Mothers. A bold work of cinematic journalism and a gripping human interest story, Mothers is highly recommended when it screens Thursday (2/27) with Leslie Tai The Private Life of Fenfen (another worthy selection) during MoMA’s 2014 Doc Fortnight.
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 1:25am.
By Joe Bendel. Evidently, fifteen minutes will not get you very far in today’s China. Guo Lifen (familiarly known as Fenfen) gained considerable new media-social network notoriety as the subject of Leslie Tai’s collaborative documentaries, but the reality of her class and circumstances remained unchanged. Her personal travails will become grist for public consumption in Tai’s The Private Life of Fenfen, which screens as part of this year’s Documentary Fortnight at MoMA.
Guo Lifen has a lot of history with Tai. By giving her editorial control over their previous film, Tai hoped to avoid issues of exploitation. The divorced Guo also has considerable history with men that could be considered unambiguously exploitative. After completing their collaboration My Name is Fenfen and her own Sister Heaven Sister Earth, Tai gave a camera to record Guo video diary. Three years later, Guo handed Tai over one hundred hours of tape, declaring her dreams were now “dead.”
It is stark stuff, including accounts of family strife, domestic abuse, and an abortion precipitated by her lowlife fiancé’s drunken attack. Guo recounts it all matter-of-factly, as if she were already dead on the inside. Frankly, her testimony is quite spooky, but Tai’s presentation strategy is somewhat debatable.
Rather than simply edit it together, she films closed circuit broadcasts of Fenfen’s diaries, as if it were a legit reality TV program, in the sort of greasy spoons and hole-in-the-wall shops that cater to migrant workers such as Guo. While it adds an uncomfortably voyeuristic dynamic to the film (particularly when we hear some of the viewers’ unkind commentary), it also provides the constant reminder that this is where Guo came from and this is where she will inevitably return.
Guo is still relatively young. She should be able to make mistakes and get on with her life, but she clearly does not think she has that option. At best, she hopes for a modest measure of peace and quiet. In its unassuming way, that is a damning indictment of contemporary China. Well worth seeing, The Private Life of Fenfen screens Thursday (2/27) as part of a double bill with Xu Huijing’s extraordinarily revealing Mothers, during MoMA’s annual Documentary Fortnight.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 1:20am.
By Joe Bendel. When the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, many who of us worried our close Japanese friends and allies were not getting the same high level attention in Washington and international diplomatic circles as the 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti. Ironically, Japan might be more fortunate in that respect. Leftist filmmaker Raoul Peck argues international aid efforts in Haiti have largely done more harm than good in Fatal Assistance, which opens this Friday in New York.
With mostly good intentions, the world rushed to aid quake-devastated Haiti. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) was instituted with Bill Clinton and Haitian PM Jean-Max Bellerive installed as co-chairs. Right from the start, it acted like any other hydra-headed multi-national quasi-governmental body.
Peck irrefutably establishes some of the charges in his wide ranging indictment. Without question, the various competing NGOs woefully underperformed in the debris removal process. They were so focused on grand rebuilding schemes, they had neither the expertise nor the donor interest in doing the very work necessary to make the rebuilding stage possible. It is also pretty hard to defend the flood-prone temporary housing constructed (at not inconsiderable cost) in the temporary camps that became permanent new slums. Also, Peck gives rather short shrift to the effect of the UN’s pointless arms embargo, which left Bellerive unable to arm his new police recruits.
However, Peck does not connect the international conspiracy dots nearly as well as he thinks he does. Often, he shows various IHRC proceedings as if they were “ah-hah” moments, but only he can see the smoking gun. In fact, he does his best to ignore the widespread corruption that made the NGO sector legitimately leery of the Haitian government. It might be disappointing that Peck lets Haitian politicians off the hook so easy, but it is understandable, considering he happens to be one himself, having served as Minister of Culture under PM Rosny Smarth’s short-lived administration.
As much as Peck wants to focus on the international relief “industry,” questions regarding domestic corruption are highly pertinent. Recently, the Filipino expat community largely shunned government agencies in favor of organizations like the International Red Cross precisely because of similar concerns. Still, it is hard to have much confidence in the IHRC, the OAS or any of the rest of the do-gooding alphabet soup based on the results Peck documents.
In fact, if anyone emerges as Fatal’s genuine bad guy, it is Bill Clinton, whom Peck explicitly accuses of using the tragedy as a disgusting ego-stroke. According to Peck and frustrated aid workers, the Hot Springs native is far more concerned with preening at ribbon cutting ceremonies than actually resolving the IHRC’s internal divisions or doing any sort of work in general.
Peck will convince just about every viewer of his general thesis: international aid is often misallocated and counter-productive. However, his assorted sub-points do not always convince. Frankly, Fatal just as easily supports the sort of Public Choice Theory analysis developed by the late Nobel Lauriat James Buchanan, who argued that government (and presumably extra-governmental NGO) bureaucrats are just as influenced by self-interest as anyone operating in the private sector. Fatal will engender pity for Haiti and contempt for Clinton, but Landon Van Soest’s Good Fortune remains a more thoughtful exploration of unintended consequences of first to third world aid programs. Sometimes quite revealing, but rather scattershot in its insight, Fatal Assistance is narrowly recommended for those interested in the politics of disaster relief when it opens this Friday (2/28) at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
LFM GRADE: B-
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 1:14am.
By Joe Bendel. Don’t call it a last hurrah. Kazuhiko Yamauchi, Kawasaki’s world famous city council candidate, has decided to throw his hat in the ring again. This time, he will forgo the indignities of electioneering, running a bare-bones campaign as a complete independent with no party support. He will also be the only candidate adopting an anti-nuclear position in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. The result will be another lesson in Japanese democracy, recorded in Kazuhiro Soda’s documentary sequel, Campaign 2, which screens tomorrow as part of MoMA’s 2014 Documentary Fortnight.
Even though Yama-san was successful as the LDP’s unlikely standard-bearer in the special council election Soda followed the first time round, he soon resigned his position, claiming frustration with the recalcitrant political system. Six or so years later, the stay-at-home dad is giving it another go. This time he is only spending money on the filing fee and the tightly regulated campaign posters. Shrewdly, his closely resembles the poster for Soda’s original documentary.
Since he is not hiring loud-speaker cars or harassing commuters at transit hubs, Yamauchi has a lot of time to chew the political fat with his old classmate Soda. Frankly, in Campaign 1, Yamauchi was cringingly obsequious, but the more experienced Yama-san has some surprisingly acerbic commentary to offer regarding his colleagues. However, his anti-nuclear platform is still not so well thought out, unless he is eager for Japan to start importing massive tons of coal and fossil fuels.
Of course, Yamauchi is still the protagonist of Campaign 2, but Soda’s focus is wider. It is clear he is as preoccupied with the ways the 3-11 disasters have affected daily life in Japan as Yama-san, if not more so. Perhaps even more fascinating are his interactions with the politicians who know him from their supporting roles in Campaign 1. In fact, New Yorkers accustomed to Chuck Schumer will be absolutely flabbergasted to see politicians who do not want to be filmed (shocking, but true).
Arguably, the real takeaway from Campaign 2 is not Yama-san’s anti-nuclear platform, but the shallow nature of Japanese political campaigns, especially at a critical post-3-11 juncture. Bizarrely, an apparent gentlemen’s agreement still holds, largely nixing candidate debates. Basically, they just smile and repeat their names.
At one hundred fifty minutes, Campaign 2 could stand for some pruning here and there. However, Yamauchi’s new found wit and attitude is a nice surprise that does not come at the expense of his lovable loser likability. Like its predecessor, Campaign 2 is another eccentric yet serious look under the hood of Japanese democracy. Recommended for political junkies and Yama-san groupies, Campaign 2 screens Saturday (2/22) as part of MoMA’s Doc Fortnight, with Soda present for Q&A both days.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on February 21st, 2014 at 10:10pm.