Currently Listening to the hilariousness that is CHICKEMAN and recalling my love for the age of Radio

I was born after the age of Radio Drama had long since passed away.  But I grew up with a natural love for the medium of radio, even though I was born in the age of television. My Dad before going to work, would listen to the radio, talk radio. Talk radio back then, wasn’t like talk radio today. It wasn’t code for people spouting hate and intolerance.

It was mostly talented radio jockeys, trying to entertain their viewers, who were hardworking early risers, who were making their way into the work day. Like my Dad, who got up before the sun, in those pre-covid, pre-Resident Trump, pre-the fall of reason — days. The program that stuck with me, that was a skit, that would come on between the talk part, of talk radio, was a show called CHICKEN MAN. An irreverent comedy skit, in bite size segments, I absolutely was enthralled with this skit as a kid.

And it was one of the things that sparked my love for old time radio dramas (such as THE SHADOW, SUSPENSE, INNER SANCTUM)  and audio books, and podcasts. But it starts with this wacky irreverent show called… CHICKENMAN.

Listen to the first episode here:

And listen to all episodes here:

CHICKENMAN

 

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Currently Watching : TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) courtesy of KANOPY Streaming!

 

What a great film noir. And the lead actress is in the running for one of the most fatal… Femme Fatales. However watching this on streaming tonight, was a bit of a pain, The Picture kept losing quality and buffering. See this is the reason, for all the people screaming the death of physical media, that my physical media collection is not going anywhere.

I’m actually stockpiling the must have movies and TV series, that I do not want to rely on streaming, or licensing agreements, to be able to view.

Streaming when it works is great. But you have so many gate-keepers and potential points of failure and degradation between the supposed high quality 4K presentation you are paying for, and the actual variable picture quality you end up getting.

Streaming is absolutely fine for discovering new things and trying new films and TV shows, but as far as enjoying or re-watching a beloved film or tv show in a satisfying and quality manner, when and where and how you want, there simply is no replacement for having physical media at your fingertips.

And on top of that one reason streaming is as good as it is, is because it has the standard of physical media (Dvd, Blu-ray, 4K) to compete with, to keep it honest.

What happens when physical media is not an option, when studios have a captive audience, that has no alternative to the variable and at times disappointing real world quality of streaming?

You get the same kind of inferior presentation as you get from over the air Digital tv/Antennas.

Yes you get the benefits of far more channels than the old analog over the air television gave you, but you get less reliable quality then what you got from Analog tv. And anyone who has spent anytime watching Digital over the air tv sees the variable quality I speak of.

Business is happy to give us more, but better? In the absence of true choice and alternatives, better, is a cost that increasingly companies do not want to pay.

So to that end, if you decide you love this movie, you might want to get the Blu-Ray here!

Currently Watching: THEY REMAIN (2018) courtesy Kanopy Streaming Channel

They Remain (2018)

A few minutes in, and I’m— engrossed. I like how it is shot. I like how the camera moves. I like its economy of storytelling, of a mystery that both slowly reveals and slowly deepens. I like the beauty of its frame.

Fast-forward 90 minutes or so, and I have completed the film. Which is more than I do with most films these days, but this one kept my attention till the scrolling of credits. Credit that to strong performances and real chemistry between the leads, real heat, and a suitably gripping mystery. That said I don’t think the mystery was satisfactorily explored. I do not like films that are too esoteric, or that too much rely on a back story or a source material, that they don’t translate to the film. And yes, I get cosmic horror is about the unknowable, but the successful works, whether literary or cinematic, couches that in a framework that is ultimately to a large extent satisfying and mystery encountering.

Ultimately if you need to read the source material to get the film, it has to some extent failed as a film.

That said I was still intrigued up to the very obscure ending, but it is not a film I am likely to go back to, because of that ending. It feels incomplete and unsatisfying. So because of that I have a hard time recommending the film, but I would reiterate that up to that non-ending, this is a film of Bressonnian expectation and unease in nearly every frame. It is worth experiencing just for that atmosphere it creates, and the performances.

Grade: I’m glad I saw it. I’m not crazy about the obscure non-ending. But chop off that ending and it is a lot of wonderful and compelling film-making going on here. You have to make up your own mind it that is something that sounds worth your time and energy.

 

Criterion Blu-Ray of the Day : Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)

 

 

Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) was a game changer when it first came out over three decades ago. It is a testament to the high craft of the film-making and Lee’s vision, that the film remains, three decades later, no less visionary and caustic and ground breaking.

Starring, at the time,  a cast of largely new faces and under known character actors, Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING, did not just put everyone on the map, including its young director, it put Hollywood and the larger world on notice.

30 years later and that notice is as timely and necessary as ever. A great film up there with the Director’s best (BLACKKKLANSMAN , INSIDE MAN, 25TH HOUR, MALCOLM X, SUMMER OF SAM, DA 5 BLOODS) presented finally in a feature rich, and exquisite and meticulously designed package by Blu-ray  label, Criterion.

Get your copy here!

Movie Posters of the Day! And How to deal with Multiple Streaming Options!

 

 

Tell Me a Story (2018)Still Here (2020)Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous (2020)https://static1.cbrimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Lovecraft-Country-Motion-Poster.jpg?q=50&fit=crop&w=960&h=500

Really looking forward to Jordan Peele’s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. But like the excellent WATCHMEN series, I’ll wait till it hits Bluray. I am not paying for another streaming service. THREE SERVICES IS THE LIMIT IN OUR HOUSEHOLD. Currently that is amazon prime, netflix, disney/hulu.

however, what i will likely do is once a service gets cold, drop it and replace it with one that has accumulated a lot of content i want to watch.

right now the disney/hulu service is the one i watch the least, so if hbo max starts accumulating a lot of content i want to watch, i’ll drop disney/hulu and pick up hbo max. then when disney/hulu accumulates a bunch of shows/movies i’ll swap back to them. so that third spot will just be a rotating spot.

Criterion Blu-Ray of the Day : Jeffrey Wright on the phenomenal film RIDE WITH THE DEVIL

Like the war it pivots around, Ang Lee’s RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, is a troubling property.

A box office failure on its release in 1999, the film came and went from theaters, virtually unseen. The release of the movie on Blu-ray, from respected Blu-ray Boutique label Criterion, finally gives audiences a chance to (most for the first time), see and explore what may be the most challenging film, from a director known for taking on eclectic and challenging material.

It is not an easy film, filled as it is with absurdities, and contradictions and stupidities reflective of the time. However stick with it, as it is a rewarding film, as much for what it says about the mistakes this nation has made, as it is prophetic and timely about the mistakes this nation is currently making.

Is it a great film? It has moments of greatness, and is never quite what you think it is.

It is ultimately a film I bought simply upon Jeffrey Wright, mentioning it as one of his favorites; and one I am very glad I bought. The beautiful criterion release offers a great interview with Jeffrey Wright, snippets of which I have provided below. However, please watch the film before indulging in the full special features.

In an age of streaming, this Criterion release of RIDE WITH THE DEVIL makes a case for physical media just in the gorgeousness of the gestalt. From the striking and handsomely designed packaging, to the overflowing with special features director’s approved and remastered release, to the eye-catching booklet filled with informative essays on the film; in every way this film is as much a tactile and dimensional experience, as a visual one.

A must own release. Grade: B+.

 

“I think that’s what separates this film from other films about the civil war, and other films that deal with historical racial dynamics in this country, that Ang was open to the complexity of it. That war is a seminal event in the character of American history, and it continues to inform who we are today, and who we will become. The story is a non-conventional look at historic race relations in this country. “

“I understood the attack they had planned, and I understood the subtlety of the character they had drawn. Holt, the character I played, that Ang described as an emerging character, and I thought it worked on multiple levels, relative to the film. Interestingly that was the first role I got, not having had to audition. Ang said that he had seen my work, he had seen Basquiat prior to that and maybe some of my stage work and said ‘There was something in your eyes that I saw, that was right for the character.’ That as well gave me a lot of confidence in the way that he worked, and  the way he understood what acting was.”

“Black folks in the south, in the years before the civil War did not have a voice. Holt, is reflective of the nature of Black folks relation to society at that time. And ultimately as he emerges out of that silence, what he does say is all the more heightened, and all the more powerful.”

“I think it has gained a core audience since then — an expanding audience, it’s a film that’s going to survive. RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is the last film about the Civil War of the 20th century, and I think the arc from BIRTH OF A NATION, at the beginning of the 20th century to RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is an evolution of our ways of portraying this critical and defining point in our history, through cinema.”

Get your copy here!

GREAT FILMMAKER SERIES : The Essential Cinema of Haile Gerima

 

I met Haile Gerima, years ago; I was a young, writer/fan; covering a film showing, in the waning days, of the last great American metropolis.

I ended up interviewing Mr. Gerima for a paid writing gig, and rereading that article today (in a copy of the magazine it appeared in; in preparation for writing this blog), it is one of the things that I am happiest–  I was a part of.

What amazed me about mr. gerima, not just as a film-maker but as a person; was his solid understanding about, and dedication to, the part that telling your own stories, makes in the health of a people and a civilization. His films are a fantastic testament to the craft of the storyteller, and the importance of the story.

And if you have not seen his films (that all deserve to be picked up and released in a feature rich Criterion OR INDICATOR blu-ray version), today is the day you should correct that. Get the Dvds that are currently available, while they are available. click on images below.

 

***** Here begins the rant, feel free to skip this section, and go to the images; you can click them to get the movies********

Particularly SANKOFA is an absolute masterpiece. I don’t like the film ROOTS, I just don’t. If you do that’s fine, for me while ROOTS deals with an important historical issue, I find it is not enough to have an important topic, but film, being a visual medium has to be told in a visual way (otherwise it is better served via book). SANKOFA deals with the Holocaust (slave trade), in a way that only Haile Gerima could have done. It is where the horrors, are only outshone by the hope. and the ugliness, only out-paled by the screen drenched beauty.

From a people of magical realism, how else could the story be told, but with magical realism. It is one of the most exquisite, and wrenching, and impactful, and yes beautiful films i have ever seen, and I have seen everything from Demille to Lang to Ford to Kurosawa to Lean, and SANKOFA stands easily with the best of them.

Self-financed, self-made, self distributed, anathema to a Hollywood that wanted no parts of it, Gerima (one of the  UCLA class that helped define the Independent Film Movement), has made one of the great films in SANKOFA. And unfortunately it is, as of today, completely unavailable.

What an absolute crime. A crime against art, against history, against culture,

Now I have a copy of SANKOFA. Because I make it a point to buy challenging, and unique films by and about populations of color.

Films (or tv shows) that challenge the stereotypes, that mainstream media would have us accept as the truth; are always an endangered species.

I realize these films of color, these Pan-African films, are the films that rarely get financing for physical media releases, and if they do, it is only in very limited print runs, with historically no future printings. And worse are those filmmakers like Ousmane, whose best films never get a physical media release, and can only be viewed via cost prohibitive screening licenses. 

This is the type of marginalization, and lack of pan-african cinema (true independent cinemas going extinct in the last 4 decades, replaced by the franchised multiplexes), lack of visions of color, that Gerima made SANKOFA to address, and almost 30 years after its filming, SANKOFA itself has become a victim of this cinematic apartheid, this still simmering Holocaust.

During the days of Oscar Micheaux, a hundred years ago, he alone made over 40 films (how much over, is unclear) and most of the films we do know about, no longer exist/are available. That is a lot of history, burnt up.

So these days when I hear of a filmmaker like Gerima, or Mambety or Ousmane or Gordon Parks, whose best work is unavailable, and under represented, and under-championed; I buy these films (physical media), when I see them. Because I understand, for the most part, these are not the films the mainstream is going to make time to preserve.

For all the talk of physical media is dying, I trust the tangibility of physical media over the licensing deals and changing agendas of streaming.

So you and I, by the simple act of owning physical media, and talking about these films and filmmakers; we do what generations of collectors before us have done, who saved countless radio shows, and movies, and tv shows, that would otherwise have been destroyed by the very studios that made them.

We help art and cinema, persist.

 

Here endeth the rant. Below are links to the films in question.

***********End of RANT*****************

SANKOFA is a film I am going to continue jumping up and down for, until the film gets the quality, feature rich, physical media release it deserves. That is one of my missions this year.
Currently his other two films, TEZA and ADWA are available. Don’t wait till those two, also disappear. Pick them up, by clicking on the images below.