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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Rick Alverson's New Film "The Mountain" Impressing Reviewers at Venice Film Festival

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 6:30 PM

Church Hill-based filmmaker Rick Alverson is starting to receive strong reviews for his latest film, "The Mountain," currently screening at the prestigious Venice Film Festival in competition against the likes of the Coen Brothers, Mike Leigh, Damien Chazelle, Julian Schnabel and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.

The movie set in the 1950s stars Jeff Goldblum and loosely is based on the life of lobotomist Walter Freeman, who traveled the country lobotomizing mostly women. The film also stars Tye Sheridan, Udo Kier, Hannah Gross and Denis Lavant and features the gorgeous camerawork of Mexican cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman ("Amores Perros" and "Heli").

From the reviews, it sounds like a fascinating film and another huge step forward for the Richmond filmmaker who is making a name for himself as one of the most talented and uncompromising indie filmmakers in the country. This is especially noteworthy considering Alverson recoils in disgust from typical Hollywood narratives and is more interested in formal aspects of filmmaking and working to challenge audiences, as I explain in this 2015 cover story about him.

Alverson told me from Venice that the film will likely have its theatrical opening in the spring. His last Richmond premiere of "Entertainment" packed the Byrd Theatre and featured a post-screening New York Deli comedy set by Neil Hamburger, who also starred in the film. It was a memorable night, almost like watching a movie character step off screen into reality -- I've never experienced anything quite like it.

Variety had this to say in its review of "The Mountain":

"The fifth and most austerely polished feature to date from American outlier Rick Alverson, this troubling fable about a shiftless young man (Tye Sheridan) falling under the charismatic influence of a rogue lobotomist (Jeff Goldblum) in the 1950s Midwest may take clear stylistic cues from Lanthimos and Lynch, but it’s no mere exercise in oddball arthouse posing: Alverson’s serene affectations serve a stern, stark thesis about our evolving understanding of mental health, as well as America’s dubious romanticization of its heartland.

Sure to prove polarizing on the festival circuit — it’s hard to imagine that Alverson is shooting for anything but — “The Mountain” should prove enough of a conversation piece to attract highbrow distributor interest, particularly given Goldblum’s recently raised mainstream profile. The star is almost too ideally cast in a more sober spin on his mad-scientist persona, applying signature gonzo tics and phrasing to the role of a brain doctor with more than a few screws loose himself.

The Guardian called it a film "with real cinematic language" and the Hollywood Reporter noted "the whole film is gorgeous to look at ... with Jacqueline Abrahams’ production design poised between realistic sets littered with amusing vintage objects and unnaturally spare hospital wards. A dreamy feeling emanates from DP Lorenzo Hagerman’s muted browns and greens and soft focus. All the clues are there that Alverson and his co-screenwriters Colm O’Leary and Dustin Guy Defa are after bigger game than spoofing 1950s America, as the oft-refrained “Home on the Range,” crooned by Perry Como, might suggest."

Below you can watch the press conference from Venice, featuring members of the cast and Alverson:

Gwar To Destroy "Rick and Morty"-themed DC Bar

Band will be turning it into a Gwar pop-up bar until Halloween.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 4:00 AM

The Washingtonian ran a story today that announced that Richmond's own metal institution Gwar will be appearing in Washington on Sept.6 for the sole purpose of destroying a Rick-and-Morty-themed bar that was shut down after legal threats from an animated company.

Apparently, "Rick and Morty" is some cutesy animated science fiction thing on Adult Swim.

Here's more from the article:

The theatrical heavy metal band, known for grotesque costumes and gratuitous fake blood, will wreak havoc on the Shaw bar on Thursday, Sept. 6. “They’re going to come in and kick some things around, and break some things, and let Gwar be Gwar,” says Drink Company President Derek Brown, a longtime fan. “We just want to make sure we follow the letter of the law.” (Stay tuned—there will be a video.)

That evening at 5 PM, one section of the three-bar space will reopen as Gwar PUB (Pop-Up Bar), featuring more than 30 years of the Richmond-based band’s real-life stage props and costumes. Not familiar with Gwar? “It’s a kind of sci-fi, horror, comedy show with metal and a touch of Damien Hirst,” Brown explains. Members of the band will make cameos on opening night. The pop-up will run through Oct. 31, when there will be a special Gwar Halloween party.

Monday, September 3, 2018

PICK: Reginald Chapman Album Release at the Vagabond on Wednesday, Sept. 5

Posted By on Mon, Sep 3, 2018 at 6:30 PM

Bass trombonist Reginald Chapman returns to Richmond this Wednesday for the release of “Prototype” [Fresh Selects].

It’s a rare appearance for a onetime local fixture, known for his horn and megaphone work with NoBS! Brass and leading a series of whip-smart small ensembles like UTV Chamber and Pressure Fit. Now Chapman is based in Brooklyn, finishing his doctorate, and stepping out onto the world stage with the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra.

From its angular cadenza opening, the new CD is a solid representation of Chapman’s musical charms. There are nods to standards with “You Go to My Head,” featuring Sam Reed, echoes of NoBS! In the reworked versions of the familiar “Hoodie,” and a timely, ambitious arrangement of “We Shall Overcome.”

The lineup is RVA-rich, including most of NoBS! Brass and Butcher Brown.

The all-star band in the Rabbit Hole features Devonne Harris on drums, trumpeter Marcus Tenney, bassist Andrew Randazzo, guitar wunderkind Morgan Burrs, and Charlottesville saxophonist Charles Owens. It might be a good idea to arrive early.

Reginald Chapman's “Prototype” Album Release show will take place in the Rabbit Hole, downstairs at Vagabond on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Doors at 8. Free admission, but bring money for the disc.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Va PrideFest 2018 To Feature Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters

Interview: Singer talks about playing Pride festivals.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 12:11 PM

Jake Shears could be a Bee Gee in drag. Or maybe he’s more Electric Light Orchestra in platform heels.

No matter whom you compare him to, you’re unlikely to encompass his musical talent that has been earning fans over the last decade.

You may know him from his leading role in the performance art show-turned international mega-hit, the Scissor Sisters. Or maybe you caught him in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway earlier this year. His debut, self-titled solo record dropped earlier this month and already is racking up hundreds of thousands of video views online.

And Richmonders will get a chance to see him perform when he takes the stage to headline Virginia PrideFest on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Browns Island.

“I like to think about people who are at Pride for their first time,” says Shears in a recent phone interview with Style Weekly. He points out that Pride festivals always make for a unique crowd and he knows plenty of folks will be wide-eyed and excited and maybe even unsure about what to do next.

“I’ve been out since I was 15 and you can get used to it, or take it for granted,” he says. “I really try and think of all those people who are experiencing it for the first time. And that includes straight allies as well.”

Growing up on the Pacific coast, Shears was one of those weirdo art kids that ended up floundering in New York looking for ways to express himself. He worked gay bars and the club scene under the Scissor Sisters moniker with fellow performers Ana Matronic, Babydaddy and other creatively named individuals.

Before long their throwback rock sound, mixed with gaudy stage performances, led to international fame. Their debut record, 2004’s self-titled “Scissor Sisters,” became an international number one hit and earned them legions of fans - but the members kept the focus on the music.

When Scissors went on hiatus in 2012, Shears looked inward to craft his first solo record, “Jake Shears.” The album returns to his love of southern rock and theatrical musicals, offering epic hooks as well as heavy hitting, funky bass lines. Each song was recorded with a full live band in a single take and it shows on the beautifully produced, spontaneous-sounding final product.

Standout tracks include “Big Bushy Mustache” which Shears says started like many other songs he’s written: while humming a tune walking into his house. He’d just gotten out of an 11-year relationship and moved to New Orleans to start his next phase in life.

“When you go through life changes like that, you want to look different,” he says. “So I grew this big mustache and I look down on my keys and there’s a mustache printed on them.”

From there he started humming what would become the song’s hook. But the lyrical meat of the song came from his experiences in the outside world, mustachioed and free.

“All these guys would see my mustache and approach me and tell me they loved it and wished they could grow one but their wives or girlfriends or whoever wouldn’t let them,” he says. “So the song is my call to everyone: If you feel like growing a mustache, just grow it out or stick one on.”

“It makes life more fun,” he says. “I mean, it ages me 10 years, but that’s the price you pay I guess.”

Jake Shears performs at Brown’s Island on Saturday, Sept 22 for free as part of Virginia Pride’s annual PrideFest.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Martin Luther King III Coming to Virginia Film Festival in November

Will join Larry Sabato in conversation after "Charlottesville" doc premiere.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 5:45 PM

The eldest son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be a special guest speaker at this year's Virginia Film Festival being held from Thursday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 4 in Charlottesville at various locations.

Martin Luther King III is scheduled to speak after a national premiere of "Charlottesville," a two-hour documentary from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics and Community Idea Stations, with major funding through the Virginia Foundation for Public Media.

The documentary covers the national tragedy that occurred in August of last year featuring firsthand accounts. Afterward, King will be joined by the center's director, well-known political analyst Larry Sabato, in conversation.

A lifelong civil rights activist, King served as the fourth president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the late 1990s. He was 10 when his famous father was assassinated in Memphis.

The VFF is the largest film festival in the state and this year it will feature more than 150 films and 100 guests (guests have included names such as Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, Danny McBride and Meg Ryan). This year's program is being launched on Oct. 2, with full details on Oct. 4, and tickets on sale to the public on Oct. 8. (Newbie Tip: If you plan on attending and staying the weekend, you should already have started booking rooms.)

The "Charlottesville" documentary will be one of the hottest tickets, but if you can't make it to the festival you'll still have a chance to see the special aired nationally on PBS stations. Until now, a short VICE news segment has probably been the definitive doc on the tragedy, but that could change with this effort.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Book People Celebrates Grand Reopening in West End

Posted By on Sat, Aug 18, 2018 at 3:30 PM

After a fundraising rally by customers, the four-decade old, independent bookstore, Book People, is holding a grand reopening on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 536 Granite Ave. in the near West End.

According to a press release, Book People founder Ruth Erb and new owner David Shuman are hosting a day of activities, stories and refreshments to welcome customers back.

“At first it was hard to watch my beloved shop get turned upside down during the renovations. But I’m thrilled with the results,” Erb says in the release. “And I’m especially happy that David is carrying on my vision as a place where people who love books can share their passion.”

The new store specializes in hard-to-find titles and offers new and used books, as well as a kid's corner of children's literature. The release noted that it offers "one of Richmond’s largest selections of science fiction and fantasy books."

Book People is one of the few independent shops that are still drawing loyal customers in Richmond.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Richmond's Christy Coleman Remembers Aretha Franklin

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 4:20 PM

Christy Coleman, Chief Executive Officer of the American Civil War Museum, used to live in Detroit, where she worked as CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

Coleman, recently named by Time magazine as one of the top 31 people changing the South, remembers a special guest who often came to the museum: the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who died today at 76 in Detroit.

"She loved Detroit, that was her hometown. She was always everywhere like a regular person," says Coleman. "When I worked at the museum she was a frequent visitor."

Coleman says that she expects Franklin's funeral will be one of the largest in the city's history, and that her former museum will likely do something in her honor.

franklin_9_cropped.jpg

"At that time the Charles Wright Museum was the largest African-American museum in the country. We had a lot of celebrities come through," she recalls. "Aretha was very down-to-earth. At the same time she was a no-nonsense kind of person. 'Just show me what's going on, don't give me all that froo-froo, but show me my respect.' You had to be real with her, but at the same time you had to be respectful that you were in the presence of the Queen [laughs]."

Coleman says that people were more than willing to bow down.

"Aretha was really a lovely woman," she says. "She could be very funny. And she was definitely one of our favorites we got to meet."

A Video Celebration of Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul has died at 76.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 1:00 PM

It's been coming all week.

We knew the undisputed Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was in hospice, so there's been some time to prepare. A steady stream of fans have posted memories, praise and well wishes (I recommend the New Yorker article "Aretha Franklin's American Soul" by David Remnick for more background on her life).

She died today from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, surrounded by loved ones.

Fans of her transcendent, once-a-century talent are mourning -- and if you're like me and bought tickets to see her in Virginia in the past, only to have the concert cancelled, it stings a little extra. Of all the legendary performers on my bucket list to witness live, she ruled alone at the top.

But we do have those essential recordings (if you're new, start with "Amazing Grace" and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)") plus a lot of video out there. And of course, there are the shining talents that she has inspired and will continue to inspire. But there will never be another quite like her.

In a way, it's hard to be too sad: This is a glorious day. Ms. Franklin was a person of faith and she's now set free. One can easily imagine that glorious voice, that soul-stirring spirit, alighting anew in the heavens, or across whatever timeless plain awaits.

As my friend Amanda Petrusich summed up for the New Yorker today, "To listen to Aretha Franklin now is to hear everything—everything that came before her, each strain of American blues and jazz and gospel and soul, all the musical traditions people leaned on to stay alive, and everything that exists now, all the singers she gave license to, everyone she taught. Her death is in all of us, as her songs are in all of us. She is as immortal as can be."

Monday, August 13, 2018

A List of Possible Interview Questions for Stormy Daniels

Famous porn star to appear at Paper Moon in Southside on Sept. 13.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 6:30 PM

The most famous porn star in America, Stormy Daniels, is coming to Paper Moon's Southside location on Thursday, Sept. 13.

Outside of porn circles, she is famous for having sex with the president of our country, Donald Trump. It happened in 2006, just after his wife gave birth.

Oh, and she’s famous for receiving a $130,000 payoff for a non-disclosure agreement arranged by Trump’s then lawyer, Michael Cohen. Trump first said in April he had no knowledge of the payoff – then his new attorney Rudy Giulani admitted in May that he did know about it.

Daniels has turned the publicity to her advantage, appearing on “Saturday Night Live” and numerous talk shows. We’re not sure yet if she’ll be available for a phone interview beforehand, but just in case, we’ve started on a few questions.

A List of Possible Questions for Stormy Daniels

1. So what was it like with…. Um, nevermind.

2. Did you know there’s a drink named after you at one of our finest restaurants, l’Opossum?

3. So who are you voting for in November?

4. Is Michael Cohen really as weasely as he seems?

5. What was the best thing you bought with all that hush money?

6. You’ve played roles from Baby Lee Johnson and Amber to Stripper #2 and the Virgin Mary, which one sticks out as the most demanding?

7. Have you ever just kicked back and had a beer with Monica Lewinsky?

8. How would you rate Bob Mueller on a sexy scale from “mouth vomit” to “toe curling”?

9. Do you think America will ever be great again?

10. Seriously, was there any one quirk that 45 did that was just …. Um, nevermind. I need some water. And mouthwash. Stat.

Review: Richmond Jazz Fest at Maymont

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 2:45 PM

“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

There were a lot of good, and some spectacular performances at the ninth annual Richmond Jazz Festival before the closing Sunday sets were washed out in a torrential thunderstorm. (According to Festival organizers JMI, discounted tickets for either day of next year’s event will be offered to qualified Sunday ticketholders. Details will be posted at www.richmondjazzfestival.com.)

Saturday was the festival at its sun-bleached best, from the local openers to the over-the-top closing set from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

Parliament Funkadelic with George Clinton.
  • Parliament Funkadelic with George Clinton.

Standouts randomly sampled in approximately eight miles of traipsing between stages included Charles Owen’s blazing opening set, Rudy Faulkner and F.R.E.N.S. all-star line-up, and the series of great acts at the farthest-out Dominion Stage - notably Evolution of the Groove, Deva Mahal and Butcher Brown.

Stage 3 was, as always, the most jazz-centric with phenomenal pianist Christian Sands, Kenyon Harrold, the very loud avant-garde trio, Harriet Tubman: The Band, and veteran Roy Ayers, whose signature song “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” was perhaps less true of an audience seeking shelter in an air-conditioned tent.

The big Virginia is for Lovers stage held a succession of celebrities: Joss Stone, Gladys Knight, and the O’Jays. All had polished, crowd-pleasing sets, but nothing like the ecstatic, one-of-a-kind weirdness of P-Funk. Seeing Knight was an event, being at the George Clinton stage was a happening.

Sunday started with the usual local sets. Pianist Calvin Brown’s group, featuring leading RVA vocalists Kenneka Cook and Sam Reed, was both soulful and stirring. Area demi-legend James Plunky Branch had a well-deserved mid-afternoon slot. The revelation was up-and-coming singer Jazzmeia Horn, whose set was full of vocal pyrotechnics, charisma, and seriousness of purpose reminiscent of Rene Marie.

There were, no doubt, notable things going on at other stages, but a densely-sequenced event involves tough decisions. The toughest on Sunday was around 5, when Red Baraat, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Kurt Elling were all scheduled to start. Instead, a line of storms blasted in. Maymont was evacuated after at least one in-park lightning strike.

Not quite the electrifying conclusion the organizers were hoping for, but those who missed out are promised a head start on next year’s event.

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