The Filtered Excellence: May 4, 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:

 

Dear White People.  The success of Justin Simien’s blistering 2014 satire has led to a series adaptation for Netflix.  It picks up where the film left off, where a Blackface themed party at Winchester University adds more fuel to the racial and sexual tensions between its black and white students.  At the center of it all is Samantha ‘Sam’ White’s (Logan Browning), whose radio show, (also called Dear White People) takes to task all of the things she has to deal with as one of the few people of color on campus.  Along the way, she’s juggling lovers, racial identity, fragile and fractured friendships, administration officials, and public revelations in a post Obama world.  Simien, who also wrote and directed three episodes (and serves as the show’s executive producer), skillfully explores all of the dynamics and complexities involved in dealing with race, using a campus setting as a metaphor for community, if not the country.  Much like the film, the show leaves no stone unturned and spares no one – which is exactly how great satire works.  Simien also employees a diverse group of directors to helm several episodes including, among others, Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Tina Mary (Mississippi Damned, Queen Sugar) and Nisha Ganatra (Transparent).  A sharp, insightful, funny look at America’s ongoing racial dynamics and divide.  Dear White People is available now on Netflix.  You can go to http://www.netflix.com/ for more information.

 

Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait.  Pappi Corsicato directed this well textured and moving tribute to the acclaimed artist and director.  He constructs the film using a grand mix of archival material, newly shot footage of Schnabel on and off work, commentary from his children as well as such luminaries as Al Pacino, Bono, Laurie Anderson, Jeff Koons, Mary Boone.  Made with full cooperation from Schnabel, it’s the most complete and comprehensive look to date at one of our most incisive and provocative artists.  Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait opens in select theaters on May 5th.  You can also go to http://www.cohenmedia.net/ for more information.

 

Chuck.  Chuck Wepner was a Jersey based boxer who’s given the chance of a lifetime:  A title shot against heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.  He manages to go 15 rounds with the champ and Sylvester Stallone – who was in attendance – bases his film Rocky on the fight.  It makes Wepner an instant celebrity – and then it all goes south once his 15 minutes of fame are up.  Philippe Falardeau’s feature film has Liev Schreiber as The Bayonne Bleeder, who tries to get every ounce (and dollars) out of his brush with fame, but gets lost in a haze of partying, bad decisions and ultimately, prison before getting his life back on track.  Schreiber makes him a lovable, yet unlucky lug and his performance only reaffirms his status as one of the best actors working today.  Elisabeth Moss is also in terrific form as Wepner’s 2nd wife Phylliss, as is Ron Perlman (as Wepner’s manager Al Braverman), Michael Rapaport (as Chuck’s estranged brother John) and Naomi Watts as Wepner’s third wife, Linda.  Falaedeau wonderfully captures the 70s as its decadent, yet decaying best, peppering the piece with throwback clothes, period pieces and, of course, a killer soundtrack.  Definitely worth checking out.  Chuck opens May 5th.

 

Risk.  The latest from Oscar winning director Laura Poitras (CitizenFour) is an intimate and complex look at Julian Assange, the controversial and leader of WikiLeaks,.  Poitras spent six years with Asange, gaining the ultimate insider’s view of how Assange, under the threat of legal action from all corners of the globe,  gains access to, and releases information that can potentially alter the global political dynamic forever.  Poitras shows all sides of Asssange and his team at work:  Is he a whistleblower or traitor?  Patriot or pariah?  Poitras leaves up to the viewer in a pace that flows like a finely tuned spy novel or political thriller.  Don’t be surprised if it this film has Poitras’ name in the mix again during awards season.  Risk opens nationwide on May 5th.  You can also go to http://www.riskfilm.org/ for more information,

 

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide.  Strong buzz around this Judd Apatow-executiuve produced adaptation of the hit Off Broadway production.  You would think that the topics of anxiety, depression, therapy and suicide would be form the backbone of a comedy special, but Gatherd, who has more than his fair share of experience on all of these topics, turns the darkest aspects of his life into comedy gold without sacrificing the seriousness that comes wth each of these conditions.  If you are a fan of dark comedy, this is the special for the ages.  Career Suicide premieres Saturday, May 6th at 10pm Eastern on HBO.  You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.

 

Rodney King.  Roger Guenveur Smith teams up once again with Spike Lee to bring his latest one man stage play to Netflix.  Shot before a live audience, Smith presents a no-frills monologue that shows King’s mindset leading up to, and after, he was beaten by cops after he lead them a high speed chase throughout Los Angeles.  Of course, his arrest would not have been notable at all, except that George Holliday, a local resident, by accident and circumstance, videotaped the incident and sent it out to local media.  Smith conveys King’s unpreparedness with his newfound fame as he became the lighting rod to what led to large scale riots through Los Angeles in 1992.  Smith also channels King struggled with the political and inner demons – racism, alcoholism, depression, crime, divorce, poverty and alienation – once the riots ended.  Smith, as he did with his previous one man show, ‘A Huey P. Newton Story’, puts on a tour de force performance.  He presents King not as a someone from the past, but makes the connects between his plight and what is happening to those like him today,  As we look back on the 25th Anniversary of the L.A. riots, make sure to check out this important, powerful and vibrant work.  Rodney King is available now on Netflix.

 

LISTEN TO THIS

 

Humanz by Gorillaz.  When Damon Albarn was putting together the latest album from his ‘virtual band’, he and his team of collaborators worked off the premise of what would happen if Hillary Clinton lost the election.  When what was thought to be unthinkable actually happened, it made the  group’s fifth full length album comes off like a soundtrack to the impending apocalypse.  As with previous projects, the album is a collusion of Britpop, hip hop, rock, reggae, R&B and dance music, all anchored by Albarn’s well traveled, and often, world weary vocals.  It wouldn’t be a Gorillaz album with guest stars and, that too, looks like a generational roll call: Mavis Staples, Grace Jones, Benjamin Clementine, D.R.A.M,, Anthony Hamiltion, Vince Staples, Jamie Principle, Jehnny Beth, Pusha T and de facto members De La Soul are all aboard Albarn’s latest global musical express.  Part mix tape, part concept album and part social commentary, Gorillaz have once again delivered a mind blowing master work.  One of the year’s best.  Humanz by Gorillaz is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music outlets.  You can also go to http://www.gorillaz.com/ for more information.

 

READ THIS

 

The Awkward Thoughts Of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell.  This new book by the host of CNN’s United Shades Of America is both memoir and an extension of his brand of sociopolitical comedy.  It tackles everything from fatherhood, being in an interracial marriage, the fallacies with left and right wing politics, and, of course race relations.  Bell also reflects on his early struggles to find his comedic voice, especially when his brand of comedy didn’t necessarily ‘fit’ within either the Black and White comedy club circuit.  Loaded with great stories, insight, and candor laced with a ton of humor, Bell has crafted a tome that will only re-assert his status as one of the top comedic social commentators and comics working today.  The Awkward Thoughts Of W. Kamau Bell is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.  You can also go to http://www.wkamaubell.com/ for more information.

 

DO THIS

 

New York City: Blue Steel by Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh.  Ghanaian and American artist Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh pairs up with Okay Space and The Black Swan Projekt to present the latest chapter in existential narrative The Birth Of Tiro.  Taking inspiration from writers such as James Baldwin, Hunter S. Thompson, Colson Whitehead and Thomas Pynchon, Akwetey presents of a series of stunning paintings that explores what he describes as ‘imminent psycho-surrealities of American digital consciousness’ that coincides his futurist tale of liberty and theft.  By merging mythology, philosophy and technology with painting, 3D tech and performance, this exhibit firmly puts Akwetey as one of the great new voices in the world of Afrofuturism.  A must see.  Blue Steel will be at Okay Gallery through June 1st.  You can also go to http://www.okay.space/ for more information.

 

Want more excellence? Read last week’s The Filtered Excellence