Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child (2010)

ab11b4bfa6668b57123079b6e62192e8_largeWhen Jimi Hendrix arrived back in the states from England, he along with his new backup musicians, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, came back as rock stars. In Britain, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded a series of singles including, Hey Joe and Purple Haze. In 1967, the Experience came to America and really hit it big at the Monterey Pop Festival with Hendrix famously setting his guitar on fire. After the festival, the band went on tour with  the headlining teen pop group, The Monkees, which Hendrix nicknamed, the Plastic Beatles. It was an odd pairing to say the least. The crowds were mostly fans of The Monkees, young teenybopper girls and their mothers. The site of the psychedelic rock threesome with their wild clothes, permed hair and hard rock music must have shocked the mothers in the audience out of this house dresses. They must of thought the group ranked to the left of obscene.    Continue reading

Tab Hunter Confidential (2015) Jeffrey Schwarz

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Tab Hunter Confidential is an insightful and personal look at a man who despite the Hollywood system managed to find a path to inner peace and happiness. His honestly and sense of self come clearly through. The film is also an excellent look at the Hollywood system’s inner workings into the making of a star and the secrets that are buried. We learn how he was groomed for stardom as the clean cut, boy next door type. His face appeared on the cover of hundreds and hundreds of fan magazines. He dated beautiful starlets including Natalie Wood. He appeared in hit films and recorded number one charting records. Yet, Tab Hunter was not real. Continue reading

BIll Cummingham New York (2010) Richard Press

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Photographer Bill Cunningham admits he is no artist. He is neither a commercial photographer like Bert Stern nor a documentarian such as Dorothea Lange. But what he does, he does well. Cunningham is a well-known photographer in the world of fashion but don’t pin that label him either. That’s not what he does. He emphatically says so himself. He says this though he has worked for Vogue, the original Details and currently works for The New York Times. Continue reading

Tomorrow Night: “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” on PBS

LangeTomorrow night on the PBS American Masters series at 9PM (check local listing for exact time and date in your area), the premiere of a full length feature documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange. According to press releases “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” will feature “newly discovered interviews and vérité scenes with Lange from her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, including work on her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.” The film is produced, written and directed by Emmy award winning Dyanna Taylor, the granddaughter of Lange and her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor. Continue reading

Rock Prophecies (2009) John Chester

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Ever since the birth of Rock and Roll, behind the scenes there have always been the shooters, the camera guys with the long lens photographing the musical gods in action. From its earliest days, when William “Red” Robertson captured a young sensuous, gyrating Elvis Presley on a Tampa stage in 1955, to today’s photographers shooting our musical idols on stage and behind the scenes, rock and roll photographers have provided us with the moments we remember long after the show is over. In some cases, those behind the lens have become famous themselves like Bob Gruen, Lynn Goldsmith, Jim Marshall and Robert M. Knight.    Continue reading

Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story (2007) Jeffrey Schwarz

The first film I ever saw of William Castle’s was “13 Ghosts” back in 1960 at a local theater in Brooklyn called The Culver. Audience members were given viewers containing both a red filter and a blue filter that you would look through depending on if you wanted to see the ghosts or not after being prompted to do so by the movie. While it worked, the entire idea was not exactly state of the art special effects, even for 1960. But it was fun and “Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story” is even more fun and filled with memories, interviews and plenty of footage from Castle’s classic “B” filmography. For younger viewers and the uninitiated, terms like “Illusion-O,” “Percepto” and “Emergo” will be new but don’t worry it’s all engagingly explained.

Those familiar with only Castle’s horror films may be surprised to discover his earlier films and his association with Orson Welles. He was a second unit director for “The Lady from Shanghai.” Castle had purchased the screen rights to “If I Should Die Before I Wake” by Sherwood King, the source novel the film was based on,  and asked Welles to pitch the story to Harry Cohn of Columbia with the idea Castle himself would direct. It didn’t work out that way though with Cohn deciding to go with Welles directing. Continue reading

These Amazing Shadows (2011) Mariano and Norton

 The PBS series, “Independent Lens” is giving film lovers a real holiday treat on December 29th with the television debut of the documentary, “These Amazing Shadows,” an entertaining and informative look at the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Unlike the Oscars and other award shows the National Film Registry is not just an excuse to create another list or TV special.  The films chosen have “stood the test of time,” as one of the interviewees tells us early on. They represent a group of films that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

The selected films are far reaching in range from the Hollywood classics you would typically expect like “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Searchers,” “The Godfather” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” to many  less recognized works ranging from the avant-garde, to historically important home movies along with some unexpected rarities and oddities. From the spectacular large Hollywood productions down to scratchy 8mm films and everything in between, the National Film Registry has collected and preserved works that tell our history, celebrate our lives and reflects what we as Americans were, are and how film, whether they are works of art or entertainment, reflect our lives, influence our thoughts and define our culture. Continue reading