The Filtered Excellence: December 21, 2017


Bob Geldof once asked us, “Where is the filtered excellence!?” It’s right here. Once a week we take a break from comedy to bring you this week’s picks of the best things to watch, the most interesting things to do, great things to try, the best picks to read, our favorite things to listen to and more.


WATCH THIS

Phantom Thread.  Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s 8th film has already drawn strong awards show consideration and its easy to see why:  it captures a master filmmaker at the peak of his powers.  It stars Daniel Day Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, who along with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), are at the top of the British fashion food chain – designing and dressing royalty, heiresses, socialites, debutants and movie stars.  Reynolds lives a comfortable, cultured bachelor’s with the women in his life often provide inspiration and short companionship.  One weekend, while eating a restaurant near his weekend getaway home, he encounters Alma (Vicky Krieps), the new waitresses.  Impressed with her sharp memory and attention to detail, Reynolds invites her to dinner and later, to his studio to model for him.  In short time, Alma returns with Reynolds to London and becomes his latest muse and lover.  But even as Alma fuels him personally and creatively, her strong willed personality comes in direct conflict with Reynolds’ carefully controlled and proper lifestyle. It slowly builds to clashes that have startling consequences for them both.  Anderson is firing on all cylinders as writer, director and cinematographer pulling us into the London that has starting to thrive again after World War II but is on the dawn of the cultural revolution that will emerge in the 1960s.  In short, the film – which owes a great debt to Hitchcock and Kubrick – looks fantastic.   Lewis, in what he has said will be his final film, once again gets completely absorbed in the role as Reynolds.  Detail, nuance, emotion, detachment, Lewis absolutely nails it.  Krieps more than holds her own playing Reynolds’ strong willed muse and Manville is a formidable presence as Reynolds, brooding, always present sister.  Anchored by another gripping score by long time collaborator Jonny Greenwood, Anderson has added another great film to his already legendary resume.  Phantom Thread opens on Christmas Day.  You can also go to www.phantomthread.com for more information.

The Post.  Three Hollywood powerhouses – Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks – join forces in this new film about a key moment in American history.   Hanks plays Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who is looking to gain access to, and publish the remaining series of highly classified documents about the American involvement in The Vietnam War.  The New York Times had begun the process, only to be halted by The Nixon Administration citing national security concerns.  Bradlee turns to Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Streep) for support and together, wrestle with the decision whether or not to defy the President – and go before the Supreme Court – to expose the so called Pentagon Papers.  Its a decision that puts their personal and professional lives at risk and calls into question the role of the power of a free press.  Spielberg treats the topic for what it is – a political thriller – and leaves no stone unturned when it comes down to capturing even detail of the period.  Hanks captures Bradlee perfectly – confident, aggressive, at times arrogant, but determined to graduate the Washington Post to big newspaper status, and above all, have the truth revealed.  Streep puts on another tour de force performance as Graham, the first female publisher of a major newspaper.  She effortlessly conveys Graham’s emotional roller coaster of being the only woman in a male dominated field as well as all of the personal and national ramifications behind what is ultimately her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers.  Backed by a terrific script by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer and scored, as always, by long time collaborator John Williams,  Spielberg has put together a powerful love letter to power behind a free, independent press.  The Post opens in select theaters this weekend.

All The Money In The World.   The latest from Ridley Scott is generating more headlines almost as much as the story from which the film is based.  The movie was in the can when word of several incidents of sexual misconduct surfaced against original co-star Kevin Spacey.  Rather than shelve the project, Scott pulled off a minor miracle by re-shooting all of Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer, then re-editing it all in less than a month.   Based on a true story, it stars Michelle Williams as Gail Harris, who, after learning her son, John Paul Getty III has been kidnapped, desperately attempts to convince his grandfather, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Plummer) to the pay the 17 million dollar ransom.  When the frugal Getty refuses, Harris teams up with Getty’s bodyguard – and former CIA operative – Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to help set him free or to convince his boss to change his mind.  Scott, who at 80, is on a creative streak better than directors half his age, has put together a tight, taunt political thriller driven in part by Plummer’s performance.  Getty was tight with a dollar and emotionally distant, but the veteran actor mines his humanity and brings rationale behind his shocking decision.  Williams continues to show why she’s one of the best actors working today, delivering a solid performance as the anguished Harris.  Wahlberg puts in another strong turn as Chase, who has to put all of his CIA training into play with this three way chess match between the elder Getty, Harris and the kidnappers.  It’s another winner from one of cinema’s best directors.  All The Money In The World opens this weekend.

LISTEN TO THIS

 

No One Ever Really Dies by N.E.R.D.    Pharrell Williams takes a break from his producing and solo artist to resurrect his musically adventurous side project N.E.R.D.  Teaming up once again with his Neptune production partner Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, the group’s fourth album moves away from the alt-rock/funk sound of previous efforts in favor of a more electro funk, hip hop flavor.   It’s also the group’s most political album to date, with songs addressing police brutality (‘Don’t Don’t Do It’), the current administration and its accompanying political climate (‘Deep Down Body Thrust’, ‘Secret Life Of Tigers’), along with the plight of refugees (‘Kites’).   It’s also the most guest heavy N.E.R.D production on record, with Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Andre 3000, M.I.A, Future, Thundercat, Gucci Mane and Wale all making guest appearances.  It’s the group’s most audacious album since their 2002 debut, a dance album with political undertones.  A great return to form.  No One Ever Really Dies by N.E.R.D is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.

READ THIS

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown.  In 1983, Tina Brown arrived from London to do what was thought to be impossible:  Save Vanity Fair, Condé Nast’s flagship magazine from the chopping block.  She did so spectacularly, breathing new life into the publication and reclaiming its status a monthly must read.  Fortunately for us, Brown kept diaries during her near decade run, forming the basis of her latest book.  It gives us a front row seat that captures the New York publishing world at its most excessive, competitive and back-stabbing best.  Brown gives us the inside stories on some of Vanity Fair’s biggest stories and covers including the ending of Princess Diana and Prince Charles marriage, Annie Leibovitz now iconic nude photo of a pregnant Demi Morre and much more.  It also chronicles Brown’s adjustments to life in the States and how the bonds that became stronger with her husband and their young children during this period.  Full of heart, insight and humor, it’s a compelling snapshot of a successful woman’s life at the height of glitter and excess.  The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.

The Essential Marilyn Monroe: 50 Sessions, Milton Greene by Joshua Greene.  In 1953, photographer Milton Greene did his first shoot with Marilyn Monroe for Look Magazine.  Blown away his candid, but easygoing photos, it began a friendship that quickly extended into a business relationship.  Greene played a key role in helping Monroe gain more control in her career, assisting her in the formation of her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions.  When Monroe re-located to the East Coast in the hopes to be taking more seriously as an actress, she stayed in the guest portion at Greene’s home in Connecticut.  Greene would shoot over 5,000 photos of Monroe during this transitional period – the majority of which form the basis of this new book by his son Joshua.  It’s the net result of a 20 year restoration of Greene’s extensive archive and the book captures Monroe at the height of her career.  Over the course of the 250 photos – over 100 of which have been been published – we see Monroe at home and at work, ranging from film sets to the bedroom, a great photographer with his greatest muse.  The book serves as fitting tribute to the ultimate screen icon and a son’s salute to his father’s artistic legacy.  The Essential Marilyn Monroe: 50 Sessions, Milton Greene is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all major book retailers.

DO THIS

New York City.  : Sandemonium.   Now a year end tradition, actresses, comedian, radio talk show host, singer and all around badass Sandra Bernhard is back for a week long stint at Joe’s Pub.  Backed by the Sandyland Squad Band, she’ll tackle everything from art, life, and of course, politics in a way that borders between the sacred and the profane.  Bernhard has never pulled punches on any of these topics, so expect the unexpected that will often be swimming with insight, satire, song and plenty of cringe inducing laughs.  Sandemonium will be at Joe’s Pub December 26th through the 31st.  You can also go to www.joespub.publictheater.org for tickets and more information.

Want more excellence? Read last week’s the filtered excellence.

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Earl Douglas is a writer/photographer based in New York City. A frequent contributor to The Interrobang, Earl is also Executive Director for the New York chapter of The Black Rock Coalition. Earl worked in radio for nearly two decades at WNEW-FM and XM Satellite Radio, which included being the on-air producer for Carol Miller, Scott Muni and Ron & Fez, and a contributor to Opie & Anthony. Earl has also independently published a number of books including Black Rock Volume 1, Urban Abyss, Mobile Uploads, and For Shimmy. His latest project is the photojournalism magazine PRAXIS, which is available exclusively through Blurb.com.

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