Rolling Stones Bass Player is "The Quiet One"

Bill Wyman grew up as William George Perks, Jr. to a working class family in southeast London. Bill's story is truly a rags-to-ric...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Rolling Stones Bass Player is "The Quiet One"

Bill Wyman grew up as William George Perks, Jr. to a working class family in southeast London. Bill's story is truly a rags-to-riches one and shows that anything is possible in this world. At eighteen, Bill purchased his first guitar and soon discovered that he wanted to try something else, so he bought a bass guitar after watching a bass player at a Barron Knights concert. Bill cleverly made his own fretless bass guitar and joined a band. From there on out, Bill's life would never be the same. 

In the biopic, we are given an intimate look at Bill's life. He was an observer, someone who loved taking pictures and recording video, documenting the life and times of his bandmates and travel companions, The Rolling Stones.

He said some things that stuck with me. He said, "You make your own way, don't you. You head in directions that you think are good at the time... something magical happens, something unusual, something rare." I think this message is just as powerful today as it was in the 60's when Bill joined The Rolling Stones.

The film follows Bill's pre-fame early life when he was raised by his grandmother and possibly had PTSD from serving in the war. It continues to follow his own solo career as an artist and his time spent in Paris with famous artists and writers like James Baldwin. 

The film touches on his relationship with his wife, Suzanne Acosta who has been a positive influence in his life. However, it doesn't spent any time delving into his immoral and odd relationship with his former wife, a woman named Mandy Smith who was only 13 years old when he first started dating her. 

I understand that Bill Wyman probably doesn't feel comfortable discussing this past relationship and marriage, but he should as an important member of the arts community and as someone who has had such a great legacy in rock and roll. I think it's his obligation to talk about his poor decision-making in forming a relationship with a 13 year-old girl and to admit the immorality of it. I think it's important to women everywhere that men in positions of power and authority are held accountable for their actions. 

Rating: B

Monday, July 15, 2019

Exclusive Interview with "Desolate" Director, Frederick Cipoletti

I had the opportunity to interview Director Frederick Cipoletti of the new thriller, "Desolate" featuring Tyson Ritter, James Russo, and Will Brittain. The film follows a family of farmers as they struggle to survive in a barren landscape marred by drought and riddled with danger. What I loved most about the film was the haunting landscapes and the desolate feeling that Cipoletti conjured with color correction and score. The film felt neo-noir, dystopian, raw and hallucinatory like something Ridley Scott or David Fincher would have concocted. 

Emily Clark: What inspired you to make the film? 

Frederick Cipoletti: I was living in Southern California about three years ago and there was a big drought going on. Me and my co-writer [Jonathan Rosenthal] were coming up with a concept. I was driving with my wife to go to Northern California and the rolling hills were all dried out and it sparked the backdrop of the film. We rolled with that. We [asked ourselves] what about a family of farmers surviving a drought? We thought that could make for a very interesting story...[a very] relevant [story.] What happens when you're trying to survive that and have a family? That sparked the writing of it. Obviously, [we were] trying to make it our own, make it interesting...and come up with each character's dynamic.

Emily Clark: I moved from Southern California about a year and a half ago and I do remember seeing the hills and everything.

Frederick Cipoletti: We filmed on location in Northern California. That was one of the hardest parts, honestly. Because the locations are so remote. It's not the easiest with an independent film to get the equipment out ... to locations. We spent the time meeting everyone and hear their stories and understand it from their perspective. A majority of the extras were from the town we filmed in--Gilroy California. Hearing their stories, we got a lot of locations from the locals and everyone was on board. Hearing their stories was really inspiring, understanding how this was effecting their livelihood. These farms have been in their families for forever and that was all they really they were going to get through this drought. That was the first step.  Going up there, talking to everyone and understanding the situation from their perspective. 

Emily Clark: We had The Dust Bowl and we had The Great Depression and all these things are part of the American landscape and our history. I noticed you have a lot of really interesting elements like the old technology...pointing to a bygone era like the rotary phones and the VCRs, and to me, watching it, it helped contribute to a feeling of isolation or a place that had been left behind in time. 

Frederick Cipoletti: I'm happy that you noticed that. I wanted to make that a point because it's accurate. When you're a farmer and you're living in isolation like that...they are very removed. It's interesting because in Northern California you have San Francisco right there but an hour away in these farm towns, they are very isolated. They don't really venture out of those towns that often. I found that surprising because you're right near a major city but they barely leave their towns. [We were] just walking to the houses and meeting with people. [With] the TV's that they have, you're almost going back in time. They don't have DVD players, they don't have flat screens, they don't have new technology. They have landlines. Their farm is everything, their family is everything, they're working nonstop. [And] especially a couple years into a drought, even if you did have technology, that's gonna be the first thing to go... it's almost like that drought has put you into even more isolation and you're becoming even more desolate as those things move away. People move out, technology moves out... you're left with nothing at the end of it. Where are you gonna go when you don't have any money to even move? That's...the real reason they're trapped there. Once they try to sell everything off, they're stuck there. The few that were left behind... that's what happened to them. 

Emily Clark: I think that it's really interesting that you had this group of brothers. The younger character, the Billy character and his betrayal by his brothers... what prompted that decision? 

Frederick Cipoletti: I watched a movie called "Shotgun Stories." I just love family dynamic. I think every family is so different. Every member of the family is so different the majority of the time. Living on the farm in this tough environment, the more brothers the move diversity you're going to have with those brothers and the harder it's gonna be for a young brother to try to go [along] his own path. Maybe it's that he didn't want to be a farmer any more and wanted to do his own thing and he moved away... that's where the dynamic came into play. Usually the younger generations are the ones who say, I have my life and happiness for me is, in Billy's situation, to be with my girlfriend Kayla and to try to get out of this situation and start a new life. So that's where the dynamic of the family came into play. 

Emily Clark: What would you say your process is like as a director? 

Frederick Cipoletti: Long, very long. Obviously it starts with the story and you have to be inspired by something. I like to come up with a location. Once you have that location you can build the characters and the world. Is it going to be present? Is it going to be past? Is it going to be future? ... We did near future... even a lot of the bikes that we had were from local shops up there, a lot of the picture vehicles were from locals up there. We didn't bring anything in. Whatever we had there were our resources, so we used those to make it as authentic as possible. That and then you're building up the characters and finding the locations. I think that's what took the longest because you have to cover that ground, you have to drive and a lot of the places are not on maps. So you say this road looks interesting! Let's turn left here and drive as long as it will go. Oh, there's a farmhouse there. Let's knock on the door and talk to them. Once we found those locations we could build the story a little more. We did rewrites on set nonstop. Just because the location might not have been how it was written in the script. 

Emily Clark: In working with Jonathan Rosenthal, had you written together before? What was that like as a collaborative process? 

Frederick Cipoletti: We'd never written anything together. We've wanted to work with each other for a couple of years. We finally had the opportunity. We decided to write together and come up with a different story, and throw a bunch of ideas out and watch a bunch of movies and figure out what we wanted to do. Honestly, we both saw eye to eye on this world that we wanted to create and went from there. 

Emily Clark: In terms of your casting choices and working with Will Brittain, tell me a little about that. Had you worked with him before? 

Frederick Cipoletti: No. Will was brought to me very early on. He was the first to come on board because the Billy role is so important and we wanted him to get that right. We cast Will first. We just sat down and we really hit it off right away. He was the first person I met with also. When you know you know...we just jumped on board and kept moving from there. Getting him on board early really helped with the character and gave him time to get in character, and understand the character and make tweaks to his physique. He wanted to lose a bunch of weight because obviously going through a drought there aren't all these food options... it gave him time to get prepared for the role... he was on board from the beginning. He really got it and we hit it off right away. 

Emily Clark: Any memorable moments on set? 

Frederick Cipoletti: The dynamic between all the brothers and [seeing] everyone's development. You know these people before, and to get on set they're completely different characters. A lot of them would stay in character throughout [the filming process.] [Seeing their interaction and how they behaved, how they became these brothers was interesting. 

You're all a family, you're in the middle of nowhere and everyone's doing their own thing that they would [normally] do on the farm.  
It was interesting to see them transform into their characters and make it their own and see where they took it. A lot of those things aren't written. You're going to venture off and find one person all the way in the hills laying in the field and another person working. It's interesting to see how they got into character. They're bonding.  There were so many [memorable moments.] The whole process [was memorable.] Being on location with everyone and everyone being together. I didn't want to leave. You get so close. Especially... being on location... We were so far out. The closest hotel was an hour away. There's nothing you can do but stay on set and bond and get to know each other. Even the crew, everyone was so close. Everyone got along. We had a lot of fun. The scenery is so beautiful. The sunset, the yellow hills. It's all dried out so all the grass is all yellow, the rolling hills and the sunset. Everyone's taking photos because it's so beautiful, and everyone's taking photos of each other and sharing those. Everyone felt like a family. It was just amazing. 

Emily Clark: You said that some people were working? You mean, working on the farm?  

Frederick Cipoletti: A lot of the characters would help the crew out a lot. They would see them carrying something and they would carry things. That's the character of a farmer. You help each other out. You move things and things are heavy. That's your help in some way. Some people would push a tractor around or push things around, or throw a couple bails of hay... they would throw those, get sweaty, get dirty...get that dirt under the nails... everything was very authentic. It was a cool experience. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Midsommar" is Disturbing but not Scary

Ari Aster has a new film and it's about the yearly soltice festival in Sweden that takes place twice a year, once in the winter and once at the beginning of summer.

"Midsommar" is a far cry from the excellent work Ari Aster demonstrated with "Hereditary." While "Hereditary" terrifies, "Midsommar" repulses. The film is completely gruesome and disturbing, but not scary.

I did find myself wondering if this film was subtly discussing questions about toxic masculinity, white nationalism, racism, and the shroom-taking festival culture Millennials around the world are drawn to.

To me it wasn't scary because of the extreme comedy in the dialogue and the absurdity of some of the scenes.  I became more curious about the actual customs of the Swedes during the course of the film and wanted to understand the Swede's pagan festival while the slow pacing of the film did nothing to raise the suspense.

The Haxan Cloak composed the music and it was hauntingly beautiful. Great performance from Florence Pugh (Dani) who seems able to summon every emotion no matter how raw, painful or extreme.

Rating: C

Thursday, June 27, 2019

John Lennon Would've Approved of "Yesterday"

:SPOILER ALERT: This review contains spoilers.

Danny Boyle presents a romantic comedy about a struggling British musician named Jack Malick played by Himesh Patel who, do to a surprising turn of fate, ends up getting into an accident during an mysterious world-wide power outage that lasts less than a minute. When he regains consciousness, he discovers that the world is just slightly off---Coca-Cola doesn't exist, neither does Harry Potter or... The Beatles. Flabbergasted, Jack sets off on a mission to introduce the world to The Beatles for the first time. However, he's struggling to remember the lyrics to their songs. The movie was funny and endearing. It raises a lot of questions about the legacy of a global sensation like a rock band and how it would survive today, had it only been introduced for the first time. I think the The Beatles themselves might have laughed at Jack Malick desperately trying to recall the lyrics of "Eleanor Rigby."

Rating: B

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Annabelle Comes Home

The latest horror flick from the makers of "The Conjuring" is a B movie at best. The jump scares are predictable and the strongest actors in the film, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, are relegated to one scene in the beginning and a short closing scene at the end. 

While there were certainly creepy moments scattered throughout, there is no making up for a poorly written script. 

If I had written the script, I would have had the hauntings in the house last for maybe 20-30 minutes at best and I would have had the hauntings follow the girls home and to school afterwards. I would have brought in Vera and Patrick back as the concerned parents who must admonish the kids for opening up the door to evil and I would have expected there to be severe consequences for their actions--aka at least one child should have been killed or possessed to the point where the demonologists had to intervene and save the child's soul.

The movie didn't take itself seriously, even seeming to make fun of itself, because at the end, everyone except for the audience (including the ghouls and the main characters) went home happy and clueless. 

This movie gets a D. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes" is a Treasure for all Music Lovers

Swiss filmmaker Sophie Huber offers jazz and hip hop lovers a treasure. In "Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes" the audience is given the in-depth history of the iconic record label, Blue Note Records and a daring, bold and beautiful look at jazz and its evolution into hip hop.

This documentary speaks volumes about how two people with a dream can make a difference in the art community that has an impact on the world. It's about how two Jewish men from Germany came to America and started a record company for their love of jazz. Behind this documentary is love, pure and simple. The founders never intended to make a hit record for the sake of making a hit, they just wanted to make a good record that they would enjoy listening to.

With interviews from Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Wayne Shorter, Nora Jones, Ambrose Akinmusire, and many other historic and contemporary jazz figures, we are taken to a place where jazz transports us emotionally, spiritually, historically and even politically. It's about how art can sometimes clash with commerce.

Herbie Hancock talks about his experience working with record label founders Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff. He said,  "I never got a sense of pressure from them to create in any particular way other than whatever might come out of me. What they were searching for was to get the heart of the individuals creating the music to have a platform for expression and that heart is affected by the times...because we were living in it."

Jazz becomes something bigger--it is about cultural heritage, human rights and the pursuit of freedom. It's about black America.

Like saxophonist Marcus Strickland says when speaking about the record label, "those artists reflect the times and what's going on. As soon as I put on the record, I'm transported to a certain time or a certain feeling or a certain understanding of the world."

No matter what time we're in, jazz has a profound effect and can get at the heart of our humanity and the struggles of our times.  As Herbie Hancock aptly said when speaking about the purpose of the label, "they [the founders] were trying to support the goal which we were always seeking which is to allow the music to emerge without being shackled."

Rating: A

"Shaft" Wins as Father-Son Story

"Shaft" is the latest action comedy sequel from the detective series that started in 1971. It features Samuel L. Jackson, Regina Hall, Jessie Usher, and Richard Roundtree.

We meet a young, nerdy FBI analyst named John Shaft Jr. (Jessie Usher) who embarks on an investigation to find answers to his best friend's sudden and mysterious death. While searching for answers, he meets with his estranged father, Shaft (Samuel L.) and embarks on a dangerous adventure through the streets of New York.

On the surface, "Shaft" appears to be solely about guns, violence, revenge, and objectifying women, but it's actually about the intricacies of a father-son relationship and male friendship. While many would be quick to criticize this film for its violence and sexual content, I would say that the violence and sexual content is not extreme compared to many popular TV shows today. While I wasn't a big fan of the macho show or the commentary on women, I wouldn't say that it completely ruined the movie.

Overall, it's a fairly entertaining popcorn movie with a great cast carried by Jackson, Usher and Roundtree as father, son and grandfather.

Rating: C