David Bowie: The Last Five Years. Commissioned shortly after his death, this doc originally on the BBC before getting picked up by HBO. Directed by Francis Whately, it looks back on the last five years of Bowie’s life, emerging from a serious health scare and a self imposed exile to write and record two new studio albums and oversee the production of a musical, Lazarus. Putting together this documentary became even more challenging because there wasn’t a lot of material to work from. From 2004 until his passing, Bowie did no interviews, made few public appearances, and the recording sessions were done with such secrecy that there was little to no documentation to show for it. Nevertheless, through intense research, Whately was able to use archival material (much of which has never been seen), new interviews with long time collaborators (Tony Visconti, Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick, band members (Gail Ann Dorsey, Gerry Leonard, Sterling Campbell, Zac Alford) recent recruits (Maria Schneider, Donny McCaslin), stage producers, videographers, actors and friends, along with rare audio to capture Bowie’s final, brilliant creative spurt. What makes this doc even more remarkable is how Whately was able to make the connection between past and present work to show that despite all of the chameleon like changes, there was a running thread throughout all of the work. The stories behind Bowie soldiering on through his illness and still delivering the goods will move you all over again. A fitting coda to an all time great. David Bowie: The Last Five Years is airing now on HBO and HBO Go. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. After being away for nearly 3 years, David Letterman returns to the public eye with this new Netflix interview series. Former President Barack Obama will be his first guest, making his first talk show appearance since leaving office. The two will discuss life after leaving the White House, family life, and what issues are most pressing to the nation. Without the trappings of a traditional talk show format and being able to focus on one guest, this is Letterman at his most relaxed, loose and most importantly, entertaining. Dave is back and we are all better for it. My Next Guest Needs No Introduction premieres this week on Netflix.
Crashing. The 2nd season of this critically acclaimed HBO series returns this weekend. Pete Holmes stars as Pete, who after discovering his wife and childhood sweetheart has been cheating on him, moves to New York to become a stand up comic. He hits a lot of roadblocks along with way and as the title of the show suggests, he survives by crashing on the couches of friends and fellow comics. This season has him still climbing up the often unforgiving comedy ladder, while also attempting to rebuild his social life. Yet again, the show pulls back the curtain to capture the nuances and neurosis that comics have to deal with on and off stage while still managing to make us laugh. Artie Lange is back as Holmes’ brutally honest guide through the circuit, with Gilbert Gottfried, Doug Benson, Dave Attell, Penn Jillette, Bill Burr and other comics slated to make appearances. A must watch show for fans of comedy. The 2nd season of Crashing premieres Sunday night at 10:30 Eastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Nasty Gal by Betty Davis. The latest in the reissue series centers on the album that showcases Davis at her creative and commerical peak. Davis wrote and produced this funk-rock epic that shows her at her most revealing, sensual and, at times sensitive. This new reissue – the first time this album has had a proper retrospective – contains the original album, artwork, lyrics, and new liner notes by writer John Ballon. Nasty Gal was the project that cemented Davis’ status as a true rock/funk/pop pioneer laying the groundwork for such artists as Grace Jones, Madonna, Meshell Ndegeocello and Lady Gaga. Rediscover a true musical icon. Nasty Gal will be available this Friday through www.lightintheattic.net.
Teatro – The Complete Sessions by Willie Nelson. Released in the fall of 1998, Willie Nelson’s 51st studio album marked another stark departure for the country music legend. Produced by Daniel Lanois (Bob Dylan, U2, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Neville Brothers) and recorded in an old California movie theater, Nelson re-visited a number of songs that he wrote and released back in the 1960s, but with a sound that recalled the many dancehalls and bars that he played along the Tex-Mex border. Anchored by his sister Bobbie on piano and long time band member Mickey Raphael and featuring Emmylou Harris on backing vocals, Teatro was a hit with country and rock fans introducing him to a new generation of fans the same way Lanois-produced albums did for Bob Dylan and Harris. To mark the 20th Anniversary of its release, Light In The Attic Records has released a deluxe edition featuring the original album, 7 previously unreleased tracks, a booklet featuring lyrics, and interviews with Nelson and Lanois. There’s also a bonus DVD featuring a concert performance of the album filmed at Teatro and directed by Wim Wenders. An alt-country/Americana classic has just became better. A must have for any music fan. Teatro – The Complete Sessions by Willie Nelson is available now through www.lightintheattic.net.
New York City. Downtown Abbey: The Exhibition. Fans will be transported back to Post-Edwardian England with this new exhibit dedicated to the popular BBC series. Attendees will be able to see original sets, table settings, authentic artifacts used for the show and over 50 costumes. It’s a display that will appease long time and first time fans alike. Downtown Abbey: The Exhibition is open now at 218 West 57th St. You can go to www.downtownexhibition.com for tickets, hours of operation and more information.
New York City. Gordon Parks: I Am You, Part 1. As a photographer, writer, composer, and director, Gordon Parks’ legacy is still being felt over a decade after his passing. The first half of this two part exhibition will focus on Parks’ work as portrait and fashion photographer. The portrait series shows Helen Frakenthaler, Alexander Calder and Alberto Giacometti in their artistic element, creating new works in their studios. The fashion portion captures Parks at the height of being one of the most in demand photographers in the field. Most people know Parks for directing ‘Shaft’, ‘The Learning Tree’ and ‘The Super Cops’. But here’s a great opportunity to see check out his game changing skills as a photographer. Come see the work of an true renaissance man. Gordon Parks: I Am You, Part 1 will be Jack Shainman Gallery through February 10th. You can also go to www.jackshainman.com for more information.
Los Angeles. Batman ‘66. Before the Christopher Nolan trilogy took the Batman story into a darker, humanist realm and Tim Burton successfully brought the series into the film world, the ABC 1960s TV series took the Caped Crusader into the world of camp with cool gadgets, twisted dialogue and a blizzard of guest villains and cameos. To coincide with the anniversary of the show debut over 50 years ago, More than 50 years The Hollywood Museum is presenting the most comprehensive exhibit devoted to the show to date. It will kick off with a VIP Gala featuring cast members Burt Ward, Lee Merriwether and Julie Newmar and will feature a slew of costumes, props and collectibles. There will also be recreations of the Batcave, Wayne Manor, a full gallery featuring all of the guest super villains, and, of course, the Batmobile and Batcycle will be on display. Campy, but ultimately super cool, this is the most comprehensive salute to the series to date. Batman ‘66 will be at The Hollywood Museum through March 17th. You can also go to www.thehollywoodmuseum.com for tickets and additional information.