A festive Ben Grimm in a hand-drawn Hanukkah message from the great Jack Kirby. Grimm is, of course, a Jewish super hero. The character’s early life was modeled after Kirby’s own childhood spent in New York’s Lower East Side.
Frequent readers of this blog know that California’s thriving medical marijuana scene is rather…uh… near and dear to our hearts. Tomorrow night in Los Angeles, at The 7th Annual Artivist Film Festival, there will be a free festival screening of director Kevin Booth’s How Weed Won the West documentary at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, at 7p.m. Booth will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. He will be joined by NORML’s Allen St. Pierre and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s Lt. Diane Goldstein. All screenings at the Artivist Film Festival are free, tickets for How Weed Won the West can be reserved here.
While California is going bankrupt, one business is booming. How Weed Won the West is the story of the growing medical cannabis/marijuana industry in the greater Los Angeles area, with over 700 dispensaries doling out the buds. As a treatment for conditions ranging from cancer and AIDS, to anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia, cannabis is quickly proving itself as a healthier natural alternative to many prescription drugs. Following the story of Organica, a collective owned by Jeff Joseph that was raided by the DEA in August of ‘09, the film shows that although some things have changed with Obama in office, the War on Drugs is nowhere near over. From Kevin Booth, the producer/director of Showtime’s American Drug War, How Weed Won the West puts California forward as an example to the rest of the country by documenting how legalizing marijuana can help save the economy.
Also screening for free at the Artivist Film Festival in a similar “herbal genre” is Hempsters, 9:00pm on Friday December 3 at the Egyptian with the director in attendance for a Q&A afterwards:
This lively documentary directed by Michael Henning, begins with the arrest of Woody Harrelson for planting four feral hemp seeds in Kentucky and his subsequent trial and acquittal, then joins traveling Hemp activist Craig Lee and a number of featured old-school Kentucky tobacco farmers who just want to grow the multipurpose crop as a way to save their farms. Viewers meet Alex White Plume, leader of the Lakota “Tiospaye” (family clan), and the first family to plant industrial hemp on American soil since the 1950′s. He makes a startling case that his right to grow hemp is a sovereignty issue. Julia Butterfly Hill goes to extreme lengths to protest the pulping of old-growth forests by living for over two years at the top of a 1,000 year old redwood tree in Northern California. Gatewood Galbraith, the fiery orator of the US Reform Party, attempts to bring to the public at large to its senses in his own inimitable style. A hyper-paced ride with a sizzling soundtrack, this motion picture puts hemp at the heart of just about every grassroots issue in America today. Featured players include Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ralph Nader and Woody Harrelson. More than a political study of cannabis, Hempsters is a rousing portrait of our country’s most spirited and sensible free-thinkers.
Get free tickets for the Hempsters screening here.
Sean Connery once remarked that From Russia With Love was his favourite Bond film, as it depended more on story and character than gadgets and special effects.
This is true but the film also had a great title song, sung by the incomparable Matt Monro, and outstanding performances from Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya in its favour.
By the time of making From Russia With Love, Lotte Lenya was a celebrated singer and actress, known for her pioneering performances in, husband, Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927) and the legendary Threepenny Opera (1928).
In From Russia With Love, Lenya played Rosa Klebb, a sadistic former SMERSH Agent who has joined SPECTRE to become Ernst Blofeld’s No. 3. You can uess what happened to 1 and 2. The name Rosa Klebb was a pun contrived by Bond author Ian Fleming, derived from the Soviet phrase for women’s rights, ‘khleb i rozy’, which is a Russian translation for ‘bread and roses’. Lenya’s perfromance as the sadistic Klebb is one of the most iconic of all Bond villains, with her poisoned tipped dagger, secreted in the toe of her shoe.
Lenya’s Klebb often overshadows Robert Shaw’s underplayed, though equally efficient Donald ‘Red’ Grant. Shaw was a highly talented man whose own personal tragedies (his father a manic depressive and alcoholic committed suicide when Robert was 12) and alcoholism hampered him from rightly claiming his position as one of Britain’s greatest actors.
Shaw established himself through years of TV and theatrical work, most notably his chilling and subtle performance as Aston in Harold Pinter‘s The Caretaker. He went on to throw hand grenades in The Battle of the Bulge (1965), and gave a deservedly Oscar-nominated performance as Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons (1966). He delivered excellent performances in Young Winston, and, as the mobster Doyle Lonnegan, in The Sting (1973), then gave two of his most iconic roles, the quietly calculating and menacing Mr Blue in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) and a scenery chewing Quint in Jaws (1975).
But Shaw’s success as an actor was countered by further personal tragedy when his second wife, Mary Ure, who had followed Shaw into alcoholism, died from an accidental overdose. Ure’s death caused Shaw considerable guilt and despair, and led the actor to become severely depressed and reclusive in his personal life.
Shaw countered this by continuing his career as a respected and award-winning novelist and playwright. His first novel The Hiding Place, was later adapted for the film, Situation Hopeless… But Not Serious (1965) starring Alec Guinness. His next, The Sun Doctor won the Hawthornden Prize. While for theatre he wrote a trilogy of plays, the centerpiece of which was his most controversial and successful drama, The Man in the Glass Booth (1967).
The Man in the Glass Booth dealt with the issues of identity, guilt and responsibility that owed much to the warped perceptions caused by Shaw’s alcoholism. Undoubtedly personal, the play however is in no way autobiographical, and was inspired by actual events surrounding the kidnapping and trial of Adolf Eichmann.
In Shaw’s version, a man believed to be a rich Jewish industrialist and Holocaust survivor, Arthur Goldman, is exposed as a Nazi war criminal. Goldman is kidnapped from his Manhattan home to stand trial in Israel. Kept in a glass booth to prevent his assassination, Goldman taunts his persecutors and their beliefs, questioning his own and their collective guilt, before symbolically accepting full responsibility for the Holocaust. At this point it is revealed Goldman has falsified his dental records and is not a Nazi war criminal, but is in fact a Holocaust survivor.
The original theatrical production was directed by Harold Pinter and starred Donald Pleasance in an award-winning performance that launched his Hollywood career. The play was later made into an Oscar nominated film directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Maximilian Schell. However, Shaw was unhappy with the production and asked for his name to be removed form the credits.
Looking back on the play and film now, one can intuit how much Shaw’s own personal life influenced the creation of one of theatre’s most controversial and tragic figures.
Bonus clips of Lotte Lenya singing ‘Pirate Jenny’ and Matt Monro after the jump…
“It’s a completely unique work,” he says. “Nobody else will ever do anything like that again.”
Farmer was once a fellow traveler of S. Clay Wilson, Gilbert Shelton and R. Crumb. In the mid-1970s, Farmer, along with Lyn Chevely, decided to counter the male chauvinism they dealt with in the world of underground comix, by publishing a title called Tits and Clits.Tits and Clits called it quits in the late 1980s. Farmer found work as a bail bondsman and cared for her elderly parents. Special Exits is a 208-page chronicle of their slow deaths.
Working from memory and old photographs, and using an old-fashioned dip pen, she sketched, inked and hand-lettered the entire book, panel by panel, page by page, with her face 6 inches above her paper and a patch over one eye. Special Exits took 13 years to create. She didn’t think anyone would actually publish the work; it was, simply, therapeutic.
At this point, if you’re going to have an advocate, it might as well be the underground comics giant Crumb, who made big waves last year with his illustrated “The Book of Genesis.” He liked Farmer’s new work a lot. Though they hadn’t seen each other since the ’70s, they’d kept up through letters. Farmer sent early pages of Special Exits to Crumb at his home in France, and he encouraged her to keep going. When the manuscript was finished, he contacted Fantagraphics in Seattle on her behalf.
The book, which had a healthy first-print run and generated a starred advance review in Publisher’s Weekly, is an almost uncomfortably honest memoir that’s dense with details. It’s also layered with meaning and sub-themes. There’s the family story, the firsthand account of shepherding ailing parents out of this world. But the book is also a not-so-subtle condemnation of nursing homes, as Farmer’s stepmother was treated poorly; soon after checking into a home, she took a sharp turn for the worse and died.
South Los Angeles itself is a character in the book, telling what it’s like to be one of the only white families in a predominantly African American neighborhood in the late ’80s and early ’90s. For a dark two-day period in April 1992, during the riots following the verdict in the Rodney G. King police brutality trial, Farmer’s sick, elderly parents hunkered down inside their house with little food and no electricity, eating soft ice cream and pies for breakfast until the turmoil settled down. Farmer doesn’t allude to it in the text, but she drew barely noticeable bullet holes in the walls of her parents’ home. “It’s just a little detail,” she says.
“It’s a very powerful story,” Crumb said in a telephone interview. “And the patience to draw all that — you have no idea what that takes!” He puts Special Exits up there with Art Spiegelman’s trailblazing Maus, as well as more recent heavyweights such as Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
As Crumb was about to hang up the phone, he sweetly told Vankin, “Tell Joyce she was very beautiful back then.”
Softcore sinema auteur Radley Metzger (no relation) turned out high budget, high class. visually luscious European art-house smut via his Audubon Films company in the 60s and 70s. He’s famous for such highbrow sex fare as Camille 2000, Carmen Baby and The Lickerish Quartet (which I wrote about here)
Metzger’s 1972 film Score was sourced from an off-Broadway play that spoofed swingers and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, set in Queens, NY, but the locale was changed to a mythical European country for the film adaptation (Sylvester Stallone had a small role in the play, but not the film. He wasn’t “European” enough). Score is the first film with any kind of a decent budget to explore onscreen male bisexuality. A lascivious pair of swingers makes a bet about seducing a naive couple. Hilariously forward Claire Wilbur (who was apparently ashamed of being known for the role) and Gerald Grant portrayed the jaded seducers. Cult film favorite Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, Shivers, I Drink Your Blood) and gay porn icon Casey Donovan (here called Calvin Culver) played their prey.
At one point, one of the characters says of her husband, “I like everyone here except him because he won’t take his pants off.” Do check out the clip, it’s one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. You won’t wonder what the film is about, that’s for sure…
A new HD version of Score has just been issued on Blu-ray and DVD by the Cult Epics label. An uncensored version including full-frontal male nudity and fellatio is also available.
TONTO (an acronym for The Original New Timbral Orchestra) is a massive electronic music production center built by Malcolm Cecil in the late 60’s and used on the two Tonto’s Expanding Head Band records, but most notably on the great early 70’s records by Stevie Wonder. Here’s a wonderful new clip of Cecil describing and demonstrating the mighty beast’s magical powers. Look, learn and (if you’re me) salivate.
The last batch of unsold Miles Davis paintings will be exhibited at the Gallery 27 space in London starting this week. I’ve seen some of his art “in person” in the past and some of it is just spectacular, exactly what you’d hope paintings by Miles Davis would be like. Not a disappointment in the least. If I was in London, I’d definitely make time to see this. Via MOJO:
Miles Davis - jazz legend, trumpet guru and dab hand with a pencil - spent the last decade of his life creating swathes of drawings and paintings that for the most part have been kept away from the public gaze. Until now…
A new exhibition at Gallery 27 in London’s Mayfair will open on December 7 and is set to unveil his last remaining 100 original drawings and oil paintings.
“As with his music, his artwork changed continually,” says exhbitor Andy Clarke, “from rapid, motion-filled drawings of dancers and robots to his later more Tribal work in oils on canvas. In the early 80’s his muse was Giulia Trojer, from whom part of this collection derives. In the last few years of his life, alongside his last partner, Jo Gelbard, he turned to painting citing Picasso a great influence alongside his African heritage.”
Miles Davis London Exhibition: Original Paintings and Drawings by the Jazz Legend runs from Tuesday, December 7 to Saturday, December 11 at Gallery 27, 27 Cork Street, London W1S 3NG.