The Filtered Excellence: December 8, 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

The Newspaperman: The Life And Times Of Ben Bradlee.  The life and career of the legendary Washington Post editor is the subject of this new HBO documentary.  Directed by John Maggio and using audio Bradlee recorded for his memoirs, it traces Bradlee’s journey from growing up in a prominent Boston family;  through his Naval days during World War II; a life changing stint as a foreign correspondent in post-war Europe; and how he turned The Washington Post from a struggling local newspaper to one of the best in the world.  At the core of the doc are three stories that came to define Bradlee’s run at The Washington Post:  The landmark Supreme Court case that allowed the paper’s publication of The Pentagon Papers; The Washington Post relentless reporting of Watergate, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Nixon; and a Pulitzer Prize winning Janet Cooke story about an 8 year heroin addict that was later to be found to be completely fabricated.  Maggio also looks extensively at Bradlee’s close ties to John Kennedy and Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham as well as his relationships with his three wives and his children.  Anchored by home movies, remembrances from family, friends, contemporaries and rivals, and Bradlee‘s own straight forward narrative, this is a comprehensive look at a print media titan.  The Newspaperman: The Life And Times Of Ben Bradlee is airing now on HBO and HBO Now.  You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.

I, Tonya.  The bizarre, wildly absurd story of Tonya Harding’s improbable rise and spectacular fall from Olympic grace is makes its way to big screen.  Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars & The Real Girl), it stars Margot Robbie as Harding, a self-professed ‘redneck’ from Portland, Oregon who loves figure skating, heavy metal, chopping wood and driving trucks.  Joining her is husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who shares her passions for trucks and Lavona Golden (Allison Janney), Tonya’s profane, chain smoking stage mom from Hell (Allison Janey).  Harding’s talent is undeniable – she’s able to pull off the difficult triple axel with ease.  But her trailer park presentation is a turn off to judges and U.S. Olympic team officials, who prefer the more traditional ice princess potential in fellow teammate/rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).  Hoping to clear the lane for Harding to win Olympic gold , Gillooly hires a man to break Kerrigan’s leg at the National Figure Skating Championships, and what happens next became history.  Working with an exceptional script by Steven Rogers, Gillespie breaks all rules and conventions with this film – casting against type and playing fast and loose with narrative and timeline.  Everyone involved has a chance to speak up, even breaking in at various points to say that the event we’re watching didn’t happen.  Robbie humanizes Harding, coming off more victim of circumstance than an opportunistic villain.  The movie shows that Harding’s deck was stack from birth, dealing with a verbally abused mother, a physically abusive husband, and constantly being judged for her appearance and lifestyle rather than her talents on the ice.  Robbie channels her insecurities and frustrations perfectly while still finding room to make her points with bile, bite and yes, comedically.  Stan also goes all in as the oily Gillooly, the ringleader behind the crew that makes the Keystone cops look like Scotland Yard.  Janey all but stills the movie as the acidic Lavona Golden.  She pulls off the amazing feat of being both Harding’s chief motivator and tormentor.  Janney’s all but a lock for Best Supporting Actress – she’s absolutely electric.  It’s a dark, comedic look at one of the outrageous moments in sports – and American – history.  I, Tonya opens nationwide this weekend.

LISTEN TO THIS

Songs of Experience by U2.  The follow up to 2014’s Songs Of Innocence was met with some life changing events.  First, there was Bono’s bicycle accident in Central Park, which required five hours of emergency surgery to repair several bone fractures.  Then there was the U.K Brexit vote and the 2016 Presidential election, which saw a shift in power toward conservatism.  These factors altered the focus of the album towards themes dealing with mortality, the importance of family and songs that underscore the current political landscape.  Working with a score of producers – including Danger Mouse and a reunion with early U2 producer Steve Lillywhite – U2 has put together an album that echoes previous triumphs but firmly places the group in the present.  Songs Of Experience is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music outlets.  You can also go to www.u2.com for more information.

Courtney by Allan Rayman.  The latest from the mysterious singer-songwriter features material that he’s been road testing for the better part of the last year.  The material continues his explorations into fractured love and the ramifications that come with it, but with a sound leaning a bit more into rock along with his R&B, alternative and even a move towards dream pop.  While fans eagerly awaited a formal follow up to his critically acclaimed album Roadhouse 01, this EP will more than wet their appetite.  Courtney by Allan Rayman is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.

Tauhid/Jewels Of Thought/Summun, Bukmun, Umyum by Pharaoh Sanders.   Serving as a bridge between John Coltrane and Kamasi Washington, Pharoah Sanders brand of devotional jazz has been thrilling audiences for over 50 years.  Sanders influence has extended beyond the world of jazz:  He served as a primary influence on the worlds of fusion, rock, and hip with artists such as Carlos Santana, Return To Forever and A Tribe Called Quest referencing his work.  Now Anthology Recordings has just reissued three of Sanders seminal works in this new deluxe set.  They all show Sanders emerging as a formidable bandleader after being mentored by some of the best in the business. These three albums – Tauhid, Jewels Of Thoughts and Summun, Bukmun, Umyum reveal a number of musical sides ranging from the ‘sheets of sound’ approach that he developed working with Coltrane, the incorporation of Eastern philosophies and instrumentation, right down to touches of Latin and R&B flourishes.  The set includes such classics as ‘Upper Egypt/Lowe Egypt’ and ‘Let Us Go Into the House Of The Lord’ and features appearances by Leon Thomas, Alice Coltrane, Henry Grimes, Sonny Sharrock, and Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Haynes, Idris Muhammad, and Gary Bartz, among others.  Essential listening for any those looking to get into the best that jazz has to offer.  The deluxe edition, as well as the individual albums are available now through www.shop.mexicansummer.com

Perfect Angel (Deluxe Edition) by Minnie Riperton.  After finding modest success as a member of Rotary Connection and as a solo artist, Minnie Riperton was essentially semi retired from the music business.  Living in Florida, married with one child and another on the way (that child would be future comedy and film star Maya Rudolph), making another album was not on her radar.  Steve Slutzah, a college rep for Epic Records, was a huge Riperton fan and tracked her down to see if she was still making music.  A 4 song demo reached the higher ups at the label and also found its way into the hands of another long fan, Stevie Wonder.  Due to his commitments at Motown, Wonder would produce the album on the down low under the name ‘El Toro Negro’.  Released in 1974, Perfect Angel would be Riperton’s breakout album, anchored by the #1 hit, ‘Lovin’ You’.   Riperton would release several more critically and commercially acclaimed albums before dying at the age of 31 from cancer.   This new reissue of Riperton’s signature album captures her at her artistic zenith, working along Wonder, who was also at the peak of creative powers.  Along with the original album, it also has a full disc of extended jams, studio chatter and alternative versions that show just how much Riperton, Wonder and his band were in a creative zone.  With a mix of funk, reggae, folk and soul, this shows the best work of an artist who left us much too soon.  The deluxe edition of Perfect Angel is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.

DO THIS

New York City.  Counter narratives by Alexandra Bell.   Media coverage of matters pertaining to race has always come under scrutiny, so graphic artist Alexandra Bell decided to set the record straight.  She took actual New York Times stories on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the Olympic scandal involving the U.S. Men’s swim team and recontextualized them to paint a more accurate account as to what happened, while also highlighting how even a paper that’s supposed to be the standard bearer of journalistic integrity subtly – and not so subtly – plays into racial stereotypes.  Several of her pieces made their way onto various spots around the city, which caught the attention of MoMa curators.  A number of her works are now on display in the courtyard of MoMA’s satellite location, PS1 in Long Island City.   It will make you rethink the way news is presented and give you a window into the other side of the story.  Counternarratives by Alexandra Bell

New York City.  Club 57: Film, Performance And Art In The East Village, 1978-1983.  Located at St. Mark’s Place, Club 57 was founded by Susan Hanaford, Tom Scully, Keith Haring and Ann Magnuson as a no budget venue for music and film exhibitions.  It went one to become on the epicenters of the downtown New York City arts scene.  A new exhibit at The Museum Of Modern Art looks back at this vibrant and critical movement by recreating the basement vibe of the club, along with a number of films, posters and other pieces from the scene.  It wonderfully and vividly honors those who helped fuel and drive one of the last great art movements.  Club 57 will be at MoMa through April 2018.  You can also go to www.moma.org for more information.

New York City.  MTA Nostalgia Train.  Just in time for the holidays, the MTA will be rolling out vintage trains to celebrate the long and storied history of the city’s subway system.  This year, in conjunction with the 1st Anniversary of the 2nd Ave line, classic cars will start downtown at 2nd Ave and Houston and run through the Q line from 63rd St Lexington Ave and up through 96th Street.  In addition to traveling back in time, there will added live music from the period aboard select trains.  Always a holiday favorite.  The MTA Nostalgia Trains will run each Sunday throughout the month.  You can also go to www.mta.info for more information.

 

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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.

1 Comment

  1. elephant.droid

    December 8, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Little known fact: I, Tonya is the first movie to star both Allison Janney and Allison Janey.