The Filtered Excellence: June 29, 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.


Baby Driver.  Writer-director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz) much hyped music-heavy spin on the heist movie rolls out this weekend.  It stars Ansel Elgort (The Fault In Our Stars) as Baby, who, literally lives for music.  Well, he pretty much has to:  As a child, he was the only survivor of a car accident that killed his parents and left him with a permanent case of tinnitus.  To drown out the constant ringing in his ears, Baby is always listening to his series of iPods, each one featuring tracks to match his current mood.  It also heightens his focus and reflexes as a getaway driver for a crew of bank robbers overseen by criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey).  When Baby falls in love with Debora (Lilly James), a waitress he met in a diner, he’s ready to ride off with her to start a crime-free life.  But when Doc reminds Baby that he still owes him money on an outstanding debt, Baby must pull off one last, elaborate job.  The only problem is that his team is led by loose cannon Bats (Jamie Foxx), hard partying Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Buddy’s equally reckless girlfriend Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) – and that’s the easy part.  Wright, who had previously poked fun at zombie films and cop comedies, is able to breathe new life in the crime heist genre with snappy dialogue, an eclectic, time-spanning soundtrack, and car chases that have to be seen to be believed.  Elgort delivers a breakout performance as Baby, the introverted wheel man whose soundtrack tells every facet of what’s going on in his head.  James is a perfect counterpart as Debora, whose mix of innocence, curiosity and clarity pushes her into a love affair and into the inner workings of a criminal enterprise.  Spacey brings an icy, yet casual cool in his role as the mysterious kingpin who oversees the ragtag crew and holds the key to Baby’s future.  Foxx, Hamm and Gonzalez are firing on all cylinders as the offbeat, red hot, yet ice cold bandits.  With a great cast, incredible car chases and a mesmerizing mixtape, Wright has put together all of the elements of what is looking to be the sleeper hit of the summer.  Baby Driver is in theaters now.  You can also go to for more information.


The B-Side.  Renowed filmmaker Errol Morris’ latest doc looks at the life and career of legendary portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman.  Shot primarily at Dorfman’s backyard garage-turned archive, Dorfman recalls how her life as a secretary at Grove Press put her in contact with many of the Beat poets of the 50s and 60s.  After a stint working as a teacher, she would turn her attention to photography, setting up shop at her house on Flagg Street.  Using a rare 20 x 24 Polaroid camera (there are only 8 in the world), Dorfman would spent the next 50 plus years shooting everyone from kids, couples and families to Beat poets, rock stars and, at various stages of her life, herself.  Morris also focuses on how Dorfman’s portraits of those suffering from cancer and AIDS highlighted their grace, dignity and their humanity.  The film also chronicles Dorfman’s initial struggles to keep shooting in the 20 X 24 format even as the photography world shifted from film to digital.  Told with warmth, humor and with great perspective towards life and her craft, Morris’ has put together a moving tribute to an artist who thought globally, acted locally and has left an incredible mark on the world.  The B-Side opens in New York this Friday and in select theaters nationwide July 7th.  You can also go to for more information.


Mali Blues.  The DNA of what we call the blues can be found in Mali.  Many of the traditions that came from this West African nation made its away through the transatlantic slave trade and lived on cotton fields in the U.S.  But even as the music has become a global phenomenon, the Mali musicians who have carried on the work of their ancestors face an even bigger crisis.  Radical Islamic fundamentalists have taken control of the northern region, banning all forms of secular music, destroying instruments and actively pursue musicians who still perform it.  This new documentary from Lutz Gregor looks at four musicians who managed to escape:  Pop star Fatoumata Diawara; Street rapper Master Soumy; Bandleader and guitar virtuoso Ahmed Ag Kaedi; and traditional griot/celebrated ngoni player Bassehou Kouyate.  Whether as individuals or in collective situations, they have combined the traditional with the contemporary to show how music can combat extremism and promote peace.  By profiling artists across generational lines, Gregor’s film serves as a history lesson, a warning against intolerance, but ultimately an inspiring look at how the love of the arts can overcome all idealogical boundaries. A must see doc.  Mali Blues opens in theater this Friday,  You can also go to for more information.


The Skyjacker’s Tale.  Ishmael Muslim Ali has been on the FBI’s Most Wanted Life for over 30 years.  Convicted of murdering eight people on a Virgin Islands golf course owned by the Rockefellers, Ali (then known as Ishmael LaBeet), while on appeal, successfully hijacked an American Airlines plane full of passengers to Cuba on New Year’s Eve 1984.  He’s been there ever since, but with extradition back to the States looming, Ali’s story – which charges of police brutality against people of color as a backdrop – is back in the headlines.  In this new documentary by Jamie Kastner,  it recounts the story of the daring hijacking, the original trial that led to his conviction, and reveals several factors that indicate that a much wider miscarriage of justice is in play.  Criminal or victim?  That’s left for the audience to decide.  What is more chilling is how the film shows how government and law enforcement officials attitudes towards people of color hasn’t changed much in the three decades since this case unfolded.  An intense, thought provoking doc that will stay with you longer after the film has ended.  The Skyjacker’s Tale opens in New York on Friday and in select theaters nationwide on July 7th. You can also go to for more information.




Astrophysics For People In A Hurry by .  So you have an interest in astrophysics, but  don’t have a lot of time to get into it in depth.  As often the case, has the answers to all of your questions about the cosmos.  His latest book gives quick, succinct answers about black holes, The Big Bang Theory, quantum mechanics, the nature of space and time and one’s place in the universe in a manner than can be resolved while you’re drinking your morning coffee.  Told with wit, candor and clarity, deGrasse Tyson has written a book that easily quenches one’s thirst for astrophysics without taking up all of your busy day.  Astrophysics For People In A Hurray is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.




New York City: Magnum Photos Presents Protest!  As part of its 70th Anniversary celebration, Magnum Photos has teamed up with The Milk Gallery for a new exhibit spotlighting the agency’s coverage of political protests throughout its run.  It covers everything from the American Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1960s; Vietnam War protests; the 1989 student-led uprising in China, right through to Arab Spring in Egypt, the Russian-Ukrainian conflicts, and the recent marches and rallies that happened around the world after the 2016  U.S. Presidential elections.  Featuring the works of some of the finest photojournalists past and present, this exhibit perfectly demonstrates that the struggle for human rights is an ongoing one in every facet of the globe.  Protest! will be at the Milk Gallery through July 15th.  You can also go to for more information.


New York City: Southern Gothic.  Beneath the veneer of respectability, manners and charm, the American South has carried its share of shocking secrets, family conflicts and crimes of passion that range from strange to psychotic.  It’s also been a great inspiration for filmmakers and this new series – coinciding with the release of Sophia Coppola’s new remake of The Beguiled – looks at how Southern Gothic has been translated to the big screen.  Classics such as Night Of The Hunter, Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Reflections In A Golden Eye will be featured alongside new classics such as To Sleep With Anger, Eve’s Bayou and Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil.  No retrospective would be complete without the works of Tennessee Williams and four adaptations of his work – A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Baby Doll and Suddenly, Last Summer – are featured throughout the two week run.  The original version of The Beguiled – starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Don Siegel – will also return to theaters for a short run.  With stories of forbidden love, feuds, and other lurid goings-on happening below the Mason-Dixon Line, this is a great series for those whose want a peek at the other side of the Southern curtain.  Southern Gothic will be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through July 11th.  You can also go to for more information.


New York City: Simply Streisand.  Quad Cinema will mark the 75th Birthday of Barbara Streisand with a three day look back at her career in front of, and behind, the camera.  16 films will be featured including her Oscar-winning performance in Funny Girl, The Way We Were, What’s Up, Doc? and A Star Is Born (which one Best Original Song for ‘Evergreen’).  The series will also look at Streisand’s work as a director, with The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Prince Of Tides and Yentl – in which Streisand became the first and only woman to win the Golden Globe for Best Director.  Comedies, musicals, and dramas are on the plate for this retrospective, which is the ultimate salute to an entertainment icon.  Simply Streisand will be at Quad Cinema July 4th through the 6th.  You can also go to for tickets, full schedule and more information.


Los Angeles: American Horror Story: The Style Of Scare.  Go inside the creative minds of writer-director-producer Ryan Murphy and award-wining costume designer Lou Eyrich in this first ever exhibit of the hit FX series.  It’s the largest exhibit that the Paley Center for Media has presented to date, with costumes, set pieces, props, iconic pieces and multimedia presentation covering each season.  Guests will be see the wardrobe worn by residents of The Murder House, inmates of the Asylum, witches of the Coven, curiosities of the Freak Show, guests of the Hotel, victims of Roanoke and much more.  Whether you are a hardcore fan or new to the show, you will go gaga (all pun intended) over this exhibition.  American Horror Story: The Style Of Scare will be at The Paley Center for Media through July 30th.  You can also go to for 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

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