808: The Heart Of The Beat That Changed Music. Apple Music’s first original feature looks at how the Roland TR-808 drum machine -later known as the 808 – forever altered the musical landscape. Directed by Alexander Dunn and featuring some of the biggest names in hip hop, EDM, R&B and rock, the doc shows how a relatively affordable sequencer designed for making demos ushered in the era of D.I.Y. recording and created new genres in the process. Among the film’s many highlights: A new version of the hip hop/club classic ‘Planet Rock’ featuring Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force – a song that made the 808 the recording tool of choice for over 30 years. Whether you’re an aspiring recording artist, producer, or just curious about the creative process, this is a must see doc. 808: The Heart Of The Beat That Changed Music will be available starting this Friday exclusively through Apple Music.
The Bad Kids. Are some kids beyond saving? That question is at the heart of this new documentary from directors Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe. It covers one year at the Black Rock Continuation High School, an alternative school for students who have fallen so far behind in credits that they no longer have a chance of earning a traditional high school diploma. Seen through the eyes of Principal Vonda Viland as she coaches three at risk students: A young woman dealing with sexual abuse, a young man from an unstable home working through anger issues and a young father who cannot support his family. We see them all work through – and work out – all of their individual spirit crushing issues that threaten to keep them from achieving their diplomas. Fulton and Pepe employ a fly on the wall approach, allowing the pace and flow of the doc to be completely dependent on its subjects and it works well. Viland emerges as the film’s spiritual center, trying with all of her being to get these students through the emotional roller coasters each of them is riding to get their lives back on track. Through her, we also develop tremendous empathy for her students to the point where you are rooting for them to pull through. Fulton and Pepe have put together a moving and powerful doc that gives you a new perspective on kids that a community and a system were ready to give up on. The Bad Kids opens this weekend.
Look This by We Are Dark Angels. Its been an incredibly active year for Deantoni Parks. He’s released a critically acclaimed solo album (Technoself), two EPs, collaborated with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta) and John Cale and with long time collaborator Nicci Kasper, scored the Paul Schrader-directed film Dog Eat Dog starring Nicolas Cage. This latest project pairs Parks once again with Kasper and it continues the out-of-this-world collisions of live instrumentation with sequenced sounds. It truly has to be heard to be believed and takes you on a 17 minute audio journey that comes across like the soundtrack for the mind. Between this and their work on Dog Eat Dog, one can only wonder what a full length album would produce. Another winner from the Parks canon. Look This by We Are Dark Angels is available now through Amazon, iTtunes and all major music retailers.
No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1999 by Stretch Armstrong and Evan Auerbach. DJ, record producer and on-air personality Stretch Armstrong has been a fixture on the New York City club and hip hop scene for over 25 years. As one half of The Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito show on WKCR-FM, he played a key role in introducing Jay Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Eminem to mainstream audiences. Now Armstrong has teamed up noted hip hop historian Evan Auerbach on a book that pays tribute to the vibrant New York City scene that helped shape a generation. Before the internet, club DJs, promoters, club kids and performers spread the word through fliers that were handed out, posted and placed in prominent clubs and other places of business that dealt with club culture. Armstrong and Auerbach – drawing from their own personal archives and those heavy into the scene – puts together some of these fliers, which ranges from the basic to the tiny works of art to capture a moment of a city in a full artistic and cultural zenith. With a forward by Grammy-award winning producer (and former NYC club kid) Mark Ronson, Armstrong and Auerbach have put together a visual love letter and time capsule to a seminal musical moment that is still being felt today. No Sleep is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City: Never Seen It. For every classic film that even the casual fan can recite a line from, there’s someone who has never seen it, much less can reference it. Comedian Kyle Ayers hosts an evening where he asks comedians to rewrite the climatic scenes to iconic films they’ve never seen before, then, with a live band performing the score, act out the new scene. Jo Firestone will take on 12 Angry Men; Jean Grae will tackle Annie Hall and Will Miles will re-work the original Star Wars. Ayers will not only host, but will also put a blind spin on the Christmas classic Miracle On 34th Street. It has all of the makings of an unpredictable and hilarious night of comedy. Never Seen It will be at Union Hall on December 17th. You can also go to www.unionhallny.com for tickets and additional information.
New York City: Going Steadi: 40 Years Of Steadicam. Invented by Garrett Brown, the Steadicam combines the freedom of a handheld camera with the steadiness of a camera dolly. It gave directors the ability to do elaborate tracking shots at a quicker pace and became the tool of choice for such notable directors as Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino, among others. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of this game changing piece of equipment, The Film Society of Lincoln Center will host a 2 1/2 week retrospective of films that puts Steadicam shots front and center. The series will include Bound For Glory, the Hal Ashby classic that first used the Steadicam (and won an Oscar for Best Cinematography); Pulp Fiction, Boogie Nights, Jackie Brown, Goodfellas, Magnolia, Rocky, The Shining, Marathon Man, Carlito’s Way and much more. Garrett Brown will also be on hand to discuss his invention, its nuances, aesthetics and its impact on cinema. Its a new way to look at the filmmaking process from one of the industry’s unsung heroes. Going Steadi: 40 Years Of Steadicam will be at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, December 16th through January 3rd. You can also go to www.filmlinc.org for tickets, full list of films, runtimes and more information.
Los Angeles: Notes Of A Native Song. The latest project from the Tony-Award winning team of Stew and Heidi (Passing Strange, The Total Bent) is a multi-media salute to the life and writings of James Baldwin. Backed up by their band The Negro Problem, the show is a mash-up of songs, speeches, and visuals that also incorporates glam rock, jazz and old school rhythm & blues. Stew always takes the road less traveled and given the content, don’t expect that to change. In other words, you’re going to be doing a lot more thinking as much as you’ll be jamming out. Notes Of A Native Song will be at REDCAT in downtown L.A. through December 16th. You can also go to www.redcat.org for tickets and additional information.