The Filtered Excellence: April 27, 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.



Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story.  Danny DeVito executive produced Daniel Raim’s love letter to one of Hollywood’s most influential – but highly unrecognized couples. Harold Michelson storyboarded seminal works for Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments), William Wyler (Ben-Hur), Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds, Marnie), Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus), Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski and many more. He also served as art director for films by Francis Ford Coppola, Mel Brooks, Warren Beatty and John Hughes, among others. Harold met and married his wife Lillian shortly after World War II and, after raising three sons, she became a successful film researcher. Together, they helped shape some of the most memorable images and scenes ever committed to film. The couple became so revered within Hollywood circles the creators of Shrek named The King and Queen after them. Using interviews with the couple, DeVito, Coppola, Brooks along with classic film clips, home movies, love letters and animated clips, Raim has put together a moving, sometimes heartbreaking salute to an unsung Hollywood power couple. Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story opens in New York on Friday and in select theaters starting May 12th.  You can also go to for more information.


Last Men In Aleppo.  The horrors of the Syrian civil war are front and center in this powerful new documentary by Feras Fayyad. The film follows The White Helmets, an organization of ordinary citizens who rush in to rescue those who have been hurt in explosions. At the heart of the group are its three founders – Khaled, Sushi, Mahmoud – who somehow try to balance their work with family duties. But as the war intensifies, they are conflicted with the choice of either fleeing the country with their families or join the fight to save their country. Fayyad puts you on the front lines of the Syrian conflict as The White Helmets go into the belly of the war beast to save the most vulnerable. To say it’s heart-stopping suspense would be an understatement. There are moments you truly believe that neither the “Helmets” nor the crew will survive the assaults. The scenes away from the damage are just as poignant as Fayyad reminds you that these are every day people with families – and those moments with them are heartbreaking. Whether you have a full grasp on the Syrian war or looking to get more in tune with what’s happening there, Fayyad presents a stunning work that’s a rush of urgency and humanity. Documentary filmmaking at its best. Last Men In Aleppo opens in New York on May 3rd and select cities starting May 5th. You can also go to for more information.


The Circle.  Will social media push us closer to totalitarianism? That’s the central question that looms large in this big screen adaptation of the Dave Eggers best seller. Set in the not so distant future, it stars Emma Watson stars as Mae Holland, a young tech worker who lands the job at The Circle, a powerful social media company. At first, life in The Circle is good: Mae enjoys all of the perks that come with being in the company and she quickly rises within the ranks. So much so that the co-founder and leader Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) asks Mae to take part in an experiment in which every aspect of her life will be broadcast online. She agrees to do it, but as the project progresses, Mae realizes that the lines between privacy, ethics and personal freedom are quickly becoming blurred – effects that can have social, political and ultimately global implications. Watson, continuing her transition into more adult roles post-Harry Potter excels as Mae, wrestling with the good and the bad of being part of a social media giant. Hanks puts in a skillfully nuanced performance as The Circle‘s leader. Underneath the always calm, measured, reassuring tones, Hanks plays Bailey like a savvy chess player, playing two steps ahead, giving Mae – and the audience – enough rope to get hung up in The Circle‘s ultimate game plan. John Boyega lends solid, yet crucial support as Ty, Mae’s co-worker who knows a lot more about The Circle than he lets on and reveals to Mae the true inner workings of the company. With crisp direction from James Ponsoldt, The Circle works as both a thriller and a warning. It opens nationwide this weekend.  You can also go to for more information.


Warning: This Drug May Kill You.  Prince’s sudden and shocking death last year from an opioid overdose was the tip of an iceberg of an epidemic that the DEA is now calling ‘a global threat’. This devastating new documentary looks at how the prescription medication designed to relive pain from various injuries ends up doing more harm than good. Centering on four families, the doc shows how the slow building but ultimately devastating effects these medications can have on even the most strong willed person. A vital, must see film. Warning: This Drug May Kill You premieres May 1st at 10pm Eastern on HBO. You can also go to for more information.




Sights in the City: New York Street Photographs by Jamel Shabazz.  In 1980, Jamel Shabazz, on the advice of his photographer father, began shooting the New York City landscape as he saw it. Covering everywhere from Harlem to the Lower East Side, Times Square to Downtown Brooklyn, Shabazz was able to capture the day-to-day beauty of those living in a city still reeling from a fiscal crisis, a Crack epidemic, the AIDS crisis and more. The majority of the photos have made their way into several books, album covers, and into permanent collections at The Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum and The Bronx Museum Of The Arts. But with this new book, Shabazz presents 120 previously unseen black and white photos that display a startling new wrinkle in his visual journey through the city. It shows a master photographer both at his ascendancy as well as at peak form, providing a time capsule of a city that has long disappeared from view. Sights in the City: New York Street Photographs by Jamel Shabazz is available now through Amazon and all major book retailers.




The Cornell Hip Hop Collection.  Bill Adler is one of hip hop’s true unsung heroes. As the publicist for Def Jam and Rush Artist Management, Adler ran the ground game that turned rap into a global and cultural phenomenon. Fortunately for those who love hip hop, Adler maintained a massive archive, which he recently donated to Cornell University. The first wave of the archive has been digitized and can now be viewed online. Along with the personal correspondences, photos, press clippings and fliers, it’s the odd collisions that Adler helped engineer that really made this worth viewing: LL Cool J having separate sit downs with Paul Simon and Mayor Ed Koch; Flavor Flav hanging with Sinead O’Connor; Public Enemy performing at Rivers Island; the inner workings of rap’s first Grammy boycott and much more. With unprecedented access to some of hip hop’s biggest stars, this is a must see for any true hip hop fan on a cultural and educational level. You can go to to browse and view.




New York City:  A Celebration Of The Music Of Jimmy Webb.  The writer behind such hits as ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix‘, ‘Galveston‘, ‘Up Up And Away‘, ‘Wichita Lineman‘, ‘The Worst That Can Happen‘, ‘All I Know,’ and of course, ‘MacArthur Park‘ will be given a star-studded salute at Carnegie Hall. Art Garfunkel, Judy Collins, Graham Nash, Amy Grant, Hanson, Dwight Yoakam, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Johnny Rivers, Ashley Campbell (daughter of Glen Campbell) and Webb himself are all scheduled to appear in this concert benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association and the I’ll Be Me Alzheimer’s Fund (in honor of the greatest interpreter of Webb’s songs, Glen Campbell). This is going to be nothing short of an amazing night of music and all for a great cause. A Celebration of the Music Of Jimmy Webb will take place May 3rd at Carnegie Hall. You can also go to for more information.


New York City; The PEN World Voices Festival Of International Literature.  While preparing for the 13th Annual edition of this festival, organizers chose the theme of “Gender and Power” anticipating the election of America’s first female President and the advances made in civil and human rights as a whole. But now the festival opens with an intense backlash on those hard-earned rights here and abroad. The urgency of the moment is front and center with Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Patti Smith, Salman Rushdie, among many writers and poets scheduled to appear to make their words and voices heard. The lit world has always been on the front lines of any resistance and this year’s festival – founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks – stands to be the most politically charged festival to date. The PEN World Voices Festival Of International Literature will take place May 1st through the 7th.  You can also go to for a complete rundown of events, tickets and more information.


New York City: Santana Redux.  The Black Rock Coalition Orchestra celebrates Cinco de Mayo with a musical salute to one of Mexico’s favorite sons, Carlos Santana. As with all of their retrospectives, the BRC will mine the entire Santana catalog including his forays into jazz fusion, deep cuts, radically reworked cover versions and much more. Featuring some of the top players locally and internationally, it will be a perfect way to get your Cinco de Mayo groove on. Plus, it’s a FREE show. Santana Redux will be at BAMcafé on May 5th. You can also go to or for more information.


Chicago:  Exhibitionism by The Rolling Stones.  After blowing away audiences in London and New York, The Rolling Stones interactive exhibit now sets its sights on the Windy City with an extended stay at The Navy Pier. Fans will get the chance to take a dazzling journey covering the band’s salad days in a small, cramped London flat to gracing the biggest stages as The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band In The World.  It also shows the Stones’ influences and impact on the worlds of fashion, film, art and stage design featuring the works of Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Godard, Hal Ashby, Robert Frank, Alexander McQueen, Andy Warhol, Gucci, Dior, Shepard Fairey and much more. Vintage guitars, intricate re-creations of studio setups, personal items, short films, and a chance to remix classic songs, this is the ultimate Stones experience. A can’t miss event. Exhibitionism runs at The Navy Pier in Chicago through July 30th. You can also go to 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

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