Say Her Name: The Life and Death Of Sandra Bland. In 2015, Sandra Bland was arrested for a traffic violation in a small rural Texas town. Three days later, she was found dead hanging from a noose in a jail cell. It was ruled a suicide, but according to Bland’s supporters, the circumstances leading up to her passing say otherwise. Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner began working with the family’s legal team to piece together what led to her arrest, what Texas authorities knew during her incarceration, and the wave of protests that followed. The most heartbreaking aspect of the doc is hearing Bland speak through the series of videos that she posted on her social media pages. It also highlights how Black women’s interactions with police have been just as traumatic- and, at times, deadly – as it is for Black men. A detective story as it is a doc, it’s a vital and important look at a key movement in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Say Her Name: The Life and Death Of Sandra Bland is available now on HBO, HBO Now and HBO Go. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Jeff Beck: Still On The Run. This new doc from Matthew Longfellow looks back the life and career to one of the guitarists to ever pick up the instrument. Done with Beck’s full cooperation, it looks back at his formative years in Wellington, England where he built his first guitars; his star making stint with The Yardbirds; the various incarnations of The Jeff Beck Group, the groundbreaking solo albums and his work as a hired gun for some of music’s biggest acts. It also covers his side gig that’s become almost as big as his career as a musician – building and driving old school hot rods. Featuring remembrances from Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, David Gilmour, Slash, Beth Hart, and other collaborators, family and friends, Longfellow has put together the most comprehensive portrait of one of rock’s most revered guitarists. Jeff Beck: Still On The Run premieres December 11th at 7:30 on Showtime. You can also go to www.sho.com for more information.
The Terror End Of Beauty by Harriet Tubman. After making fans wait seven years between releases, Harriet Tubman – the power trio featuring guitarist Brandon Ross, Melvin Gibbs on bass and drummer J.T. Lewis – have released a quick follow up to 2017’s critically acclaimed Amarminta. Taking its title from the late guitar great Sonny Sharrock, the group puts up the last guitar great’s sonic approach and presents a sweeping song suite rips through that covers everything from full on guitar workouts, tripped out avant garde explorations, reggae/dub infused jams and radically re-worked, yet anthemic covers. Adventurous, ambitious, and virtuosity to the highest degree, this is the sound of a band at a musical plateau that very few can match. One of the year’s best. The Terror End Of Beauty by Harriet Tubman is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major streaming services.
I Am American by Shelly Nicole’s Blakbushe. After wowing New York City audiences with her band and as a featured vocalist for Burnt Sugar, Shelly Nicole’s latest album is dialed in to what is happening in the world today. Produced by Vernon Reid (who also plays guitar on two tracks), Shelly and Co rip through 14 tracks that range from full blown Santana inspired workouts, a killer cover of The Doobie Brothers’ ‘Long Train Runnin’, and bold celebrations and declarations about being a Black woman in today’s America. Featuring appearances by Martha Redbone, Brad Walrond, Juakali, and Akie Bermiss, Shelly Nicole has crafted a breakout funk-rock masterpiece. I Am American by Shelly Nicole’s Blakbushe is available now through Amazon, Itunes, and all major streaming services.
New York City: Amazing Grace. Recorded live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972, Amazing Grace captured Aretha Franklin – at the peak of her artistic powers – making a return to her gospel roots. It became the biggest selling gospel album of all time and was also her most successful selling album of her illustrious career. The performances were filmed by Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack with intention to show it with Superfly on a double bill. Post production issues caused Warner Bros to shelve the film, and later, Franklin, for reasons never quite explained, took legal action to prevent the film from being released. Now, with the blessing of Franklin’s estate, fans will finally get to see the finished product. Backed by the legendary Reverend James Cleveland and some of the top session players in the business, Franklin mixes gospel standards (How I Got Over, Mary Don’t You Weep) with contemporary songs (You Got A Friend, Wholly Holy) as only she can deliver them. The centerpiece is an extended reading of ‘Amazing Grace’ that was so moving that even Cleveland – who was accompanying her on the song – broke down in tears. To see Franklin in the full bloom of her artistic talents sing the music she was born to play, cannot be missed. Amazing Grace will be at Film Forum December 7th through the 13th. You can also go to www.filmforum.org for tickets and more information.
New York City: Actor For Hire: The Other Side Of Orson Welles. Before he became one of cinema’s greatest directors, Orson Welles was an accomplished actor, making his Broadway debut when he was still a teenager and making the cover of Time Magazine when he was only 23. Welles would later take on a number of acting roles primarily to help fund his own directorial projects. Now as Welles’ decades in the making The Other Side Of The Wind has finally been seen by the masses, Quad Cinema will host a week long retrospective showing Welles’ work in front of the camera. It will include his now iconic role as Harry Lime in the noir classic The Third Man; The Long Hot Summer starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; the true-crime dramatization Compulsion (which won Welles the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival); the Academy Award-winning A Man Of All Seasons and much more. It’s a great chance to see one of Hollywood’s greatest triple threats flex his acting chops. Actor For Hire: The Other Side Of Orson Welles will be at Quad Cinema December 7th through the 13th. You can also go to www.quadcinema.com for tickets and additional information.
Los Angeles: The Contenders. The Hammer Museum and The Museum Of Modern Art have joined forces to present 10 films that were released in the past year that they feel will remembered during awards season or will achieve cult classic status. It will include Sorry To Bother You, with a post screening Q&A with writer-director Boots Riley; a discussion and presentation of The Front Runner with director Jason Reitman; Can You Ever Forgive with Melissa McCarthy, The Hate U Give with George Tillman, Jr and Amandla Stenberg and much more. It’s a great chance get caught up on some of the year’s best and meet the creative teams behind each project. The Contenders will be at The Hammer Museum through December 18th. You can also go to www.hammer.ucla.edu for a complete rundown of films, tickets and additional information.