Archive for Arts

DVD: “20 Feet From Stardom”

20 Feet_From_Stardom_posterI loved the documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom” a music and reminiscence filled ode to the back-up singer released last year on DVD.  Some added their voices to those early Phil Spector songs (Da Do Run, Run”) and Rock & Roll tunes featuring great vocals by Darlene Love and Patti Austen. They also did back ground for Elvis and rockers like the Rolling Stones. Anonymous trios and quartets still sing a few feet behind the main acts of today like Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder.

You may not know these singers by name or by sight, but you will know them by ear. A talented bunch, back in the day they sang everything, from “do wop, du wahs”, to the now classic line, “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away” (Merry Clayton on “Gimme Shelter” – called to the session late at night, she did 3 takes while dressed in night gown, fur coat & curlers).

2014 Oscar Winner for Best Documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom”, directed by Morgan Neville, never showed up at my local movie theater, thank goodness for the DVD, I would have missed a thoroughly entertaining chance to fit the names and faces to the background voices on some of my favorite songs. Included in the documentary are old concert footage, interviews with singers (those that tried to move 20 feet forward and those that enjoyed singing backup) and stars that hired the voices with great stories about the music biz – a lot of fun, a lot of memories. Watched it twice  🙂

“20 Feet From Stardom”                                                 

Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Patti Austen, Claudia Lennear, Táta Vega, the Waters, the Ikettes and many more.

FYI: “Da Do Run, Run” The Crystals, 1963



“Every Little Step” – What They Do For Love!

If you like the theater and/or you dance, sing, act – you know about the audition process and how nerve wracking it can be.

“Every Little Step” is a very entertaining documentary about that very same weeding out process – whittling from thousands, down to the very few special people who were chosen for the final tryouts to be in the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line”.

This legendary 1975 Broadway musical about dancers and their lives was conceived and directed by the late Michael Bennett.


The film gets the viewer involved and invested early on so that you start to root for them all to win the few prized spots in the show. In order to make the final cut, these young hopefuls had to be triple threat material – dancer/singer/actor.Their passion and hard work is awe inspiring.  These performers love what they do regardless of the disappointments. As one young lady said, “If you don’t have something to ‘fall back on’ you won’t fall back – you just keep going.”

Every Little Step – Excellent!

What I did For Love (by Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Lawrence Kleban):

“Kiss the day goodbye. Point me t’ward tomorrow
We did what we had to do. Won’t forget, can’t regret
What I did for love…”


Book Corner : “100 Years of Solitude” – Escape From Reality

This last week has seemed, to me, to be full of a “series of unfortunate events”. By Friday, the last thing I needed was another news show or tabloid paper.  I wanted to be taken away, out of the realm of current happenings. (I know, “reality shows” aren’t really, but even they weren’t fantastical enough.)

I found an old copy of one of the most fascinating fantasies ever – “100 Years of Solitude” by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Written in 1967, the book recounts the history of a family that presides over a South American town called Macondo. It is the perfect “did it happen or didn’t it?” story.

Critics refer to García Márquez as a pioneer of “magical realism”. His work is often time shifting, mystical and surreal, it takes the reader to a different space, a different time. (Which can be such a relief when the “real” world starts to crowd in.)

“100 Years of Solitude” is a magical story – a definite adventure, a great book.

Black Book Fair in the South West!

Tulisoma South Dallas Book Fair August 27 – 29, 2010

“Tulisoma,  Swahili for “we read”, is a community-based literary festival promoting literacy and the arts in the South Dallas/Fair Park area… the goal of Tulisoma is to create a dynamic event tailored to engage local families, avid readers, aspiring writers and visitors to the city.”

There will be a  Gospel lunch, a poetry “slam” and several other events for the whole family.

Tulisoma South Dallas Book Fair August 27 – 29, 2010

South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 South Fitzhugh, Dallas Texas

Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!

With Denzel, Viola and a terrific cast, August Wilson’s “Fences” is BRILLIANT!

The action takes place during the 1950’s in the usual location for Wilson’s plays, the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where many southern blacks migrated to settle and find work.  It’s tale of former baseball player Troy Maxon’s lost dreams and how that loss effected his life and those that surrounded it is still relevant and powerful today. This current production has been nominated for several Tony‘s, Best Revival of a Play, Lead Actor for Mr Washington and Lead Actress for Ms Davis.

As I have posted several times, August Wilson, (1945-2005) is one of my favorite playwrights. His plays speak to the varied layers and stages of the human condition which I think makes his work so emotionally available to all. He wrote a play for every decade of the last century to chronicle how black people dealt with their hopes and dreams – deferred or not.  How changes in daily life, and in the world, are met with humor, determination and courage by everyday folks is a universal theme and not just for people of color. “Change” and all that it creates and/or destroys affects everyone.

I’ll be watching and rooting for this very satisfying play by one of my favorite playwrights.

FYI – The original production of “Fences” won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize in 1985.
The image below is a poster from 1985 – starring James Earl Jones and Mary Alice (I love them too)    

Without Papers: “Dirty, Pretty Things”

dirtyprettythings“Dirty Pretty Things” (2004 DVD) is a movie that explores how “invisibles” get over/get by in a hostile environment. Illegal immigrants often perform work that nobody else wants to do, but are not really seen. Jobs are done without creating attention or much notice being paid – which works well for those who live in a foreign country without “papers”.

Directed by Stephen Frears, the film, with the help of a great cast- Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, and Sofie Okendo – tells a story of men and women so desperate to find a better life far away from their home, that poverty and humiliation is endured day after day. Everyone has at least 2 jobs if they’re lucky and manage without sleep. Their situations are precarious and they can be easily exploited. But, this is not a PBS documentary. There is humor, charm and suspense. The 2 likable lead characters, a Nigerian Taxi driver and a Turkish hotel maid, cleverly interrupt a black market scheme to harvest body parts for profit.

I found myself rooting for them to get over/get by – so that all their trials and tribulations were worth it. “Dirty Pretty Things” – I enjoyed the movie!

Cartier – Rocks Galore!

If you like baubles, bangles and beads, (or, you’re just a rock hound) the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco will excite you with “Cartier and America”.

Cartier legion of honor

“Cartier came to fame as the “King of Jewelers” during the Belle Époque for his beautifully made diamond and platinum jewelry created for the courts of Europe and Americans of the Gilded Age.

An example of the Cartier genius is shown here – “Tutti Frutti” Necklace, 1936 Paris – made with platinum, white gold, sapphires, rubies, diamonds and emeralds. (I think this can be worn today and it would fit right in).

Cartier and America” – until May 16, 2010

Legion of Honor – Lincoln Park
34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco, CA

August and Denzel!

August Wilson’s Pulitzer prize winning play, “Fences”, is scheduled for a Broadway revival this April. Not only am I excited about seeing another one of his brilliant pieces of theater – but it will also star DENZEL!  (Mr Washington is one of those people that only need one name to identify them)  He along with the amazing Viola Davis are in the cast.  (Tickets are already on sale – Cort Theater, NYC.)

The ambitious intentions of this playwright resulted in the impressive, and enjoyable, “August Wilson Century Cycle” box set. It consists of a play for every decade of the 20th century that would chronicle some part of the black experience in America.

Through the use of his great ear for dialogue, Wilson (April 1945 – October 2005) was able to give us some insight into the daily life – both struggles and triumphs – of an assortment of universal characters that his audience could easily recognize.

An ambitious undertaking, but, his huge vision was realized and, btw, it resulted in 2 Pulitzers and a Tony award. He accomplished a lot doing what he loved to do and perhaps more importantly, August Wilson left a powerful body of work that will be read and performed for years to come. Dreaming big has rewards of all kinds.

BTW: All 10 of August Wilson’s plays are collected in hard cover with a nice presentation box.  Each has an introduction by an actor, director or writer familiar with his work.

In 2005, August Wilson completed the ten-play cycle:
1900s – Gem of the Ocean (2003)
1910s – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984)
1920s – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1982)
1930s – The Piano Lesson (1986) – Pulitzer Prize
1940s – Seven Guitars (1995)
1950s – Fences (1985) – Pulitzer Prize
1960s – Two Trains Running (1990)
1970s – Jitney (1982)
1980s – King Hedley II (2001)
1990s – Radio Golf (2005)

“The Godfather” – Forever

godfather brando
“The Godfather” films by Francis Ford Coppola based on the books by Mario Puzo lives on. Parts 1, (1972) and 2, (1974), re explode every 6, 12 months on some TV channel.  If you don’t have 8 hours to devote to this great American story, you could plug in whenever – meal times, in between telephone calls or text messages – and remember dialogue and revisit scenes that have soaked into our collective bones without even knowing it:

“It was never personal Michael, it was just business”

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“I know it was you Fredo, your broke my heart!”

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

“They shot Sonny on the causeway”

“The Godfather” is #2 with a bullet on the American Film Institute list of 100 best. If not on TV,  there is always DVD and it just came out on Blu-Ray.