Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ian McKellen As Rupert Murdoch?

If there is ever a theatrical biopic or TV miniseries planned on the life, times, and media empire of Rupert Murdoch, an excellent candidate to play the role would be Ian McKellen, who bears some resemblance to the media mogul.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Turning Movies Into Broadway Musicals

Broadway has turned several movies into musicals: Rocky, The Bridges of Madison County, La Cage Aux Folles, Bullets Over Broadway, The Color Purple, etc. I'm waiting to hear the news that Spike Lee's 1989 movie, Do the Right Thing will be turned into a musical.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

James Baldwin's 90th Birthday

This year will mark what would have been James Baldwin's 90th birthday. I wish he was still with us.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stuart Hall, Public Intellectual, Dies At Age 82

Until Michel Martin spoke with Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal about scholar Stuart Hall on her daily NPR show Tell Me More, I had never heard of Hall. Their brief conversation made me want to learn all I can about this public intellectual and "godfather of multiculturalism," who recently died at age 82 in England, where he had lived since emigrating there from Jamaica in 1951.

I look forward to seeing the  documentary on his life and work, which was premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. I also look forward to reading his books and articles.

The trailer for The Stuart Hall Project is available on YouTube.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Letting Dancegoers Interpret The Dance For Themselves

In April of 1989, avant-garde dancemaker and former architect Gus Solomans, Jr. collaborated with a team of Columbia University students in the creation of a dance work called Site Line, performed by members of the Solomans Company/Dance at the Danspace Project of St. Mark's Church in Manhattan's East Village. In a telephone interview, Solomans described the work as a dance with "a wall that would divide the dancing space in half. The audience on each side of the wall [will] see essentially a different dance. They'll be able to see the dancers on the other side. The wall is partly transparent, partly translucent, and partly opaque." Solomans said that he wants the audience to interpret what they see for themselves,"to make choices, to participate as viewers, not just sit there and [let the choreography] wash over them and be entertained. I try to make the visual atmosphere rich enough to get some stimulation."

In another dance work, performed at Danspace in January of 1990, Solomans's company presented a piece for five men whose title was  represented by a symbol described by Solomans as "an unpronounceable graphic gesture." Both the dancers and the musicians provided vocal sounds. And as with Site Line, the audience was expected to interpret for themselves what the vocal sounds and movement signified.

This article was originally published in the New York Amsterdam News. It was edited from two articles that were published in 1989 and 1990.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

African-American Cartoonist Morrie Turner Dies At 90

Morrie Turner, the African-American cartoonist, who drew the Wee Pals comic strip, died last month at age 90. The Los Angeles Times obituary writer (January 29, 2014) wrote that Turner started Wee Pals in 1965, "soon populating the strip with clever kids spanning a rainbow of races and ethnicities."But the writer neglected to mention that Turner contributed one-panel cartoons to the "Humor in Hue" page in Negro Digest magazine (renamed Black World) in the 1960s and 1970s. Negro Digest was published by the Chicago based Johnson Publishing Company that also published Ebony and Jet magazines. Turner's "Humor in Hue" cartoons always had an anti-racism theme.

For me the most memorable cartoon that he drew was one consisting of ten-panels called "The Invisible Black: A Study in White Color-Blindness" (Black World, June 1970). It depicts a white male and female, who in their travels in different venues, are totally oblivious to the black men and women they encounter performing various job titles: flight attendant, bus driver, firefighter, et cetera. That is, until they happen upon a intoxicated black man with a liquor bottle in his hand, sprawled out in front of an apartment building. "Look, Henry," announces the woman, with obvious disgust, "isn't that typical of them!!!"

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The High Cost Of Moviegoing

October 4, 2005

To the Editor:

I recently went to an afternoon press screening of Good Night, and Good Luck* and was relieved not to be bombarded in the first fifteen minutes with commercials and [trailers for] coming-attractions  as I would have been in a regular movie theatre. Now I read  that the E!channel is packaging celebrity news and gossip to add to this mix because of its lucrativeness. If this "pre-show entertainment" is such a moneymaker ($458 million), how come the ticket prices keep going up?

Sincerely yours,

Charles Michael Smith

*Note: This film is about CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow's on-air confrontation with the anti-Communist senator from Wisconsin Joe McCarthy, whose questionable tactics Murrow opposed.

I found a handwritten draft of this letter which was never sent. The draft does not indicate which publication I had in mind when I wrote it.