What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael. For nearly 25 years, Pauline Kael was America’s most influential film critic. Her passionate championing of films by Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Arthur Penn and Sam Peckinpah, played a key role in the ‘New Hollywood’ movement that dominated the 1970s. Now director Rob Garver looks back at Kael’s life career and influence in this new documentary. Told on her own words, it looks back on how Kael, a single mother living in a bohemian lifestyle in Berkeley, became a film critic for a number of California-based publications and public radio in the early 1950s, before moving onto McCall’s and The New Republic in the 1960s. When The New Republic refused to publish her positive review of Bonnie & Clyde, it was picked up by The New Yorker. It was Kael’s praise of the controversial Arthur Penn classic that helped make the film a box office hit – and make her The New Yorker’s main film critic for the next 23 years. The film also shows Kael’s never ending defense of her work from filmmakers, actors, publicists, editors and fellow critics, who weren’t prepared for a woman (in a predominately male field) that could write with such wit, precision, insight and historical context. Garver has full access to Kael’s archives, including writings (which are read by Sarah Jessica Parker), TV and radio interviews, home movies and photos to completely round out Kael’s career and life outlook. With new interviews with Quentin Tarantino, Paul Schrader, David O. Russell, Alec Baldwin and Kael contemporaries/disciples Molly Haskell, Joe Morgenstern and David Edelstein, Garver has crafted the ultimate salute to the greatest film critic of all time. What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael is at The Film Forum in New York and in select theaters nationwide starting this weekend. You can also go to www.paulinekaelmovie.com for more information.
The Degenerates. The new season of Netflix’s acclaimed stand up comedy series features Jim Norton, Nikki Glaser, Robert Kelly, Ms. Pat, Donnell Rawlings and Adrienne Iapalucci performing live in Las Vegas. As the title suggests, their brand of comedy is not for the easily offended with each comic tackling topics ranging from aging, parenting (and, in the case of Ms. Pat, grandparenting), and sex to flat earthers, plastic straws, feminism, R. Kelly and America’s endless fascination for serial killers. It’s another edition of a comedy’s ‘Murderer’s Row’ that leaves you laughing until it hurts and make look at sensitive subjects in a new context. A must see for all fans for take no prisoners comedy. Season 2 of The Degenerates is available now on Netflix.
Clemency. Alfre Woodward’s devastating performance anchors this new feature film from writer-director Chinonye Chukwu. Woodward stars as Bernadette Williams, a by-the-book warden who has gained a reputation for handling the death penalty process with tact and decorum. But internally, her psyche is scarred: Her marriage to Jonathan (Wendell Pierce) is quietly falling apart, she drinks heavily at the local bar, and frequently sleeps on the couch to avoid nightmares. When an execution gets botched – putting all of the agonizing final moments of the convicted on display – the cracks in her already fragile armor become harder to contain. Adding to her problems is the arrival of convicted cop killer Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge). His death penalty case sentence has WIlliams dealing directly with Woods, his legal team, former girlfriend and a barrage of protesters that she literally has to walk past daily to get to work. As the days to Woods’ execution draw near, all of the mental and emotional weight that she‘s been carrying all come to an astonishing head. Woodward, whose career has been loaded with dynamic performances (along with four Emmys), hits a new peak as a warden who comes to realize the full heart wrenching scale that her job entails. The rest of the cast – Wendell Pierce, Hodge, Richard Gunn as deputy warden Thomas and veteran character actor Richard Schiff as Woods’ lawyer – are also hitting on all cylinders. Danielle Brooks’ appearance as Woods’ ex girlfriend Yvette hits you like a shot to the stomach. Chukwu spend years researching the process and procedures involving all aspects behind public executions and its all there in its unflinching detail. It’s a film that packs quite an emotional punch that stays with you long after its over. Destined to make the rounds this awards season. Clemency is in select theaters now.
Westward by Deantoni Parks. The latest in Parks’ ‘Technoself’ series finds the acclaimed drummer and sonic alchemist mixing live drum beats with an array of sounds and samples from traditional country and western songs. As Ray Charles, Solomon Burke and Candi Staton did in the past with R&B and soul, Parks finds the common thread between hip hop beats, rock rhythms electronic textures and the nuances found in straight ahead country. It has to be heard to be believed, as Parks marries past with present to create a new sound for the new millennium. Another winner from a kick ass one man orchestra. Westwave by Deantoni Parks is available exclusively through Bandcamp (deantoni.bandcamp.com/album/west wave.
New York City: Winter Jazz Festival. 15 years after its inception, The Winter Jazz Festival has gone from a single day, one location program, to an itinerary that runs over two weeks covering venues all across downtown Manhattan. This year’s edition features their most expansive and eclectic lineup to date, featuring performances by Ron Carter, Robert Glasper, Alice Smith, James ‘Blood’ Ulmer, Seu Jorge, The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Morley, Lee Fields, DJ Logic and much more. There will also be panel discussions and talks devoted to social justice, mental health, substance abuse and all wellness issues. With a dynamic lineup spanning several generations, this is considered North America’s #1 Jazz Festival. The Winter Jazz Festival will run through January 18th. You can also go to www.winterjazzfest.com for tickets, a complete schedule of events and additional information.