Author Archives: Amos

“One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem” by Neil Tennant— From the Pet Shop Boys

Tennant, Neil. “One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem”, Faber and Faber, 2018. From the Pet Shop Boys Amos Lassen Over a career that spans forty years and thirteen studio albums with Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant has consistently proven himself to be one of the most elegant and stylish lyricists today. Arranged alphabetically, “One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem”is an overview of his chronicles of modern life: “the romance, the break-ups, the aspirations, the changing attitudes, the history, the politics, the pain.” The landscape of Tennant’s lyrics is totally British in character – “restrained and preoccupied with the mundane, occasionally satirical, yet also yearning for escape and theatrical release.” Surprisingly revealing, this volume is contextualized by a personal commentary on each lyric and an introduction by the author which gives insight into the process and genesis of writing. Flamboyant, understated, celebratory and elegiac, “Neil Tennant’s lyrics are a document of our times.”

“WHO WE ARE NOW”— Blu Ray Special Edition

“Who We Are Now” Blu Ray Special Edition Amos Lassen Matthew Newton’s “We Are Now” is the story of Beth (Julianne Nicholson) who was recently released from prison and now is working with her public defender (Jimmy Smits) to get her son Alec (Logan Schuyler Smith),  back from her sister Gabby (Jess Weixler) and Gabby’s husband, Sam (Scott Cohen), who was awarded legal custody while Beth was incarcerated for ten years. Soon after, she forms an alliance with Jess (Emma Roberts), an idealistic young protégé of the public defense team, who decides to take on Beth’s cause — whether Beth likes it or not.
Beth meets Peter (Zachary Quinto) and has sex with him but refuses to give him her phone number to go beyond being a one-night stand. Director Newton clearly has a very sharp ear for natural dialogue and knows when to include pauses without causing the film to become lethargic. This is a slow-moving drama, but it does not drag. He also knows how to incorporate exposition in a realistic way and when to trust the audience’s intelligence. This is a warm and wise character study with complex characters, even when it comes to the small roles. Beth is a fascinating character who has both likable qualities and unlikable qualities, but that makes her all the more interesting, real and relatable. Julianne Nicholson’s performance finds the emotional truth of the role and she carries it with her from start to finish. Newton and Nicholson ultimately achieve something far more valuable than any accolades can achieve: they help to ground the film in humanism. This isa well-intentioned story of a woman struggling for her rights. When she wentaway for manslaughter, she signed over custody rights, but she did it from ahospital bed and presumed she’d take the mother role back when she got out. Inthe meantime, her sister didn’t even tell the child about her mother, and hethinks Beth is his aunt.
The film is designed to be a character piece, but it’s also eager to make statements and willing to embrace caricatures. Of course, Jess’ mother is the materialistic opposite of her daughter and the counsel opposing Smits (Gloria Reuben) is cruel. Of course, we’ll learn the details of Beth’s crime in an emotional climax. “ We glimpse into the lives of two tenacious women who doggedly persist for their causes, aiming to emergevictorious despite disadvantages and setbacks. A film like this demonstrates howmuch we exaggerate our own issues. It explores heavy issues and it’sbeautifully subtle, delving into the lives of those on the periphery who areworking to help disadvantaged defendants.

“THE ADVOCATES”— Homeless in America

“The Advocates” Homeless in America Amos Lassen I doubt that many are aware of theseriousness of homelessness in this country. Today in the United States, there averover half a millionpeople who are homeless and 25% of them are in California. Breaking down this alittle more, we see that on even given night in Los Angeles there are 54,000people without homes. In this new film, three advocates with three differentorganizations show what “the lost ideal of care in the community looks likeamid a changing policy landscape.” “The Advocates” gives us  a sweeping look at the historic and currentcauses of L.A s unprecedented crisis that is largely due to defunded affordablehousing. We see L.A.’s homelessness crisis from the highly personal vantage pointsof a trio of outreach workers. The film strongly acknowledges the stubbornobstacles inherent in their efforts to make a difference.
The three we meet here are Rudy Salinas, a program director at HousingWorks, Claudia Perez, founder of L.A. on Cloud 9, and Monday Night Mission creator Mel Tillekeratne. Director Remi Kessler has a fine panel of experts at his disposal, including UCLA law professor emeritus Gary Blasi and veteran L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez. They provide the simple math leading to where we are today yet the situation proves more complex than the escalation of rent in proportion to the long languishing minimum wage. Sixty-fourpercent of the L. A.’s homeless population suffers from either alcohol or drugaddiction while an estimated thirty percent suffer from serious mental illness andthis means that housing alone won’t solve the mounting problem. Until state andlocal government manage to properly address those causes, “we are all in asinking boat and we’re baling it with a measuring spoon.”
The three L.A. organizers for whom the political is personal work primarily for private organizations to assist the ever-expanding number of people living on the street. People like these three activists are derisively referred to as “do-gooders.” Claudia Perez who, after yearsof substance as well as sexual abuse, and being homeless herself, turned herlife around and founded L.A. on Cloud 9. In the film, we meet volunteers of this private organization distribute food,clothing, hygienic articles, etc., to the homeless, and even provide some carefor their pets. Perez is sometimes overwhelmed and frustrated by the depths ofthe housing shortage but she’s a force when she’s out there helping the downand out. By the end of the film Claudia is hired by a government agency as asocial worker, and she continues her mission during her day job and in her freetime.
Rudy Salinas comes across as persistently, conscientiously concentrating on getting people off the streets and into their own homes. He is program director at a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, Housing Works. He worries about his clients, takes them around L.A. in his car, fighting to find them shelter, getting them off of substances, etc. Salinas’ motivation and inspiration comes from the more altruistic aspects of his deeply held Catholic faith. “This is a crisis,” says Mel Tillekeratne, who foundedthe Monday Night Mission and Shower of Hope. InLos Angeles County, he says, “we’ve never had a crisis response. Some citiesare literally doing nothing.” Working with other longtime advocates,Tillekeratne started the #SheDoes movement earlier this year. The social mediacampaign is designed to raise awareness of the plight of homeless women, whoare often victims of domestic violence  and experience high rates of sexual assault living without a permanentaddress. “There is scant evidence of any progress, no apparent plan or strategyto make progress, and no evident sense of urgency or attention to any effortsto make progress.” The movement’s supporters are critical of what they see as alackluster response on the part of elected officials to address the issue.
We also see some of the homeless people the organizers are advocating for. There are scenes of L.A. City Council meetings and measures regarding the housing emergency, which the film’s organizers criticize for not being properly funded and not doing and going far enough. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is seen at an event when one of those ballot measures is passed but is not interviewed onscreen per se. Garcetti’s Homelessness Policy Director Alisa Orduna is, however, interviewed, as are County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman David Ryu. We also hear from Academicand other expert talking heads who provide insights into the cause of thisfestering humanitarian catastrophe that former California Gov. Ronald Reaganaccelerated in the 1980s when he became president and dumped tens of thousandsof institutionalized mentally ill people on the street. UCLA Professor of LawEmeritus Gary Blasi points out that while this policy may have saved thegovernment money in the short term, in the long term it’s far more expensive totry providing for masses of people living on urban sidewalks. Paul Tepper,executive director of the Western Center on Law & Poverty, points out theeconomics of high rents (and you can add real estate costs) and stagnant, lowwages, as a source of the calamity. “Do the math,” he says.

“Outside Looking In: A Novel” by T.C. Boyle— Looking Back at LSD

Boyle.T.C. “Outside Looking In: A Novel”, Ecco, 2019.

Looking Back at LSD Amos Lassen With “Outside Looking In”, writer T.C. Boyle takes us back to the 1960s and to the early days of a drug whose effects have reverberated widely throughout our culture: LSD.  In 1943, LSD was synthesized in Basel. Twenty yeas later grad students at Harvard were gradually taken into the inner circle of renowned psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary. Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student and his wife, Joanie, were entranced by the drug’s possibilities and their “research” becomes less a matter of clinical trials and academic papers and instead became a free-wheeling exploration of mind expansion, group dynamics, and communal living. Boyle takes us through the Loneys’ initiation at one of Leary’s parties to his notorious summer seminars in Zihuatanejo until the Loneys’ eventual expulsion from Harvard and their introduction to a communal arrangement of thirty devotees (students, wives, and children) who lived together in a sixty-four room mansion and devoting themselves to all kinds of experimentation and questioning. So then what is LSD? Is LSD a belief system? Does it allow you to see God? Can the Loneys’ marriage survive the chaotic and sometimes orgiastic use of psychedelic drugs? We get a  look at the nature of reality, identity, and consciousness, capacities for creativity, re-invention, and self-discovery. The book is almost like a trip in itself. This book is kind of like an acid trip. It’s very entertaining and colorful, and reading it, you have lots of thoughts, but then when it’s done, it’s all kind of forgettable. But it’s very entertaining.

We have two narrators— Fitz, who starts out as a grad student, husband and father but who whose new life takes a toll on all of that and his wife, Joannie is deeply into psilocybin and then LSD at first. They become involved in this tight-knit little group and the start of the counterculture.
Boyle’s has created fascinating characters and that we care about and through them we become part of a moral dilemma. As author T.C. Boyle explores the first scientific and recreational forays into LSD and its mind-altering possibilities, the reader is treated to a well written read.

“ANTHEM OF A TEENAGE PROPHET”— Foreseeing

“Anthem of a Teenage Prophet” Foreseeing Amos Lassen “Anthem” is the story of Luke (Charles Monaghan) a teenager whoforesees the death of his new best friend Stan (Alex MacNicoll), the mostpopular guy in school. When this feeling becomes reality, Luke must deal with beingcalled “The Prophet of Death” and regarded as a freak by the entiretown. As if that is not enough, he’s fallen in love with Faith (Peyton List)who just happens to be Stan’s girl and he’s on the outs with his childhood bestfriend Fang (Grayson Gabriel). The premonitions just keep coming as ifadolescence is not enough to deal with. “Anthem” balances the teenageexperience of confusion, anxiety and rage with exceptional moments of clarity,self- discovery and human connection and explores the need to belong, theisolation of youth and the powerful mixture of fear truth and noise that isinside us all.

Based on the award-winning novel by Joanne Proulx, Anthem of a Teenage Prophet is a coming-of-age story with a twist that nails the timeless feeling of adolescence. Hormonal and funny, exhilarating and wise, Anthem intimately examines and amplifies the powerful mixtape of angst, hope, music, and noise that plays inside every teenager’s head.  

Set in  1997 in Stokum, Michigan on theshores of Lake Erie, we meet Luke Hunter who appears to be is a typicalsmall-town teenager. ˙He smokes weed, skateboards, listens to hip hop andsecretly lusting after his best friend’s girl.   Luke is tornbetween his stoner friends, including his childhood best friend Fang, and hisnew best friend Stan, the popular guy who has everything Luke doesn’t includingthe hottest girl in town. 
  Luke’s two worlds come together one night when Stan gets high with Luke and his other friends. Luke has a disturbing premonition that Stan will be hit by a car and killed. Everyone laughs at this until the next morning, when Stan dies just as Luke predicted.
Luke then isolates himself, keeping everyone including his parents, Fang, and even Faith—at arm’s length, and tells no one that the premonitions keep coming.  
The media moves on to an exposé of gay men cruising in a local park and while this is unrelated,  Luke and Faith grow closer, while Fang pulls further away and accuses Luke of moving in on his dead friend’s girl. Luke angrily denies this while not understanding what’s really going on with Fang. Luke and Faith are falling in love until Faith accidentally calls him “Stan” at the school dance and this confirms his worst fears that the only reason that Faith is  with him is to keep Stan’s memory alive. As Luke if filled self-doubt, he foresees Fang’s death.  Luke enlists Faith’s help and drags Fang out to a massive stone cliff on the outskirts of town that for a young Fang represented the ultimate conquest. Faith nervously watches as Fang and Luke scale the enormous rock face.  As they drive home, Fang reveals the secret that caused him to retreat: he is gay. He is, in fact, one of the men caught cruising in the park and is about to be publicly outed. With his friendship with Luke restored, Fang is able to face his worst fear— that life will end when the story breaks. Luke realizes that his visions are not the curse he believed them to be, but a life-affirming gift, that allowed him to save Fang’s life.  Director Robin Hays says that his film with death in a way that really celebrates life. It isnot easy being a teenager. It is quite a difficult journey and many have ahard time coping and figuring things out. There is drama throughout the film aswell as emotional crises but it is, in effect, a comedy, albeit one that dealswith a difficult subject in a way a lot of films don’t.

“ELECTRIC LOVE”— Four Couples

“Electric Love” Four Couples Amos Lassen Aaron Fradkinlooks at how four coupes in Los Angeles navigate the dating scene via apps likeTinder and Grinder, where the options are plenty, but aren’t always the bestmaterial.  Music video director Adam, (Zachary Mooren)spends his free time swiping left and right, trying to find the right girl… orat least a girl for right now. After connecting with Emma (Mia Serafino),an up-and-coming photographer, the two meet up and discover there’s animmediate connection. As they spend more and more time together, we meet  their friends and roommates as they come inand out of the story. Adam’s best friend Greg (Matt Bush) delivers pizza while cruising Grinderand his roommate, Dave (ByrneOwens) spends his time video talking to his long-distancegirlfriend (Sharon Pierre-Louis).
Fradkin cowrotethe film with Victoria Fratzand they both have a great sense of dialogue. Mooren and Serafino have terrificchemistry and they could have easily carried the entire film. They aresupported by a charming cast. 
People who are dating/rendezvousing in the modern technological age have lots of tools at their disposal: Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, and those are only three of the apps talked about at length in popular culture. The majority of the story is focused on Emma and Adam and how they find each other after a series of dates gone wrong. They spend a night together and quickly begin a relationship. Over the next few weeks, they have to find ways to make their blossoming courtship work as long as life, work, jealousies, and longtime friendships don’t get in their way. Through their various connections with roommates, friends, and former Tinder dates, we experience different types of people and relationships throughout the story.
This is a sweet romantic comedy with witty dialogue and awkwardsituations that come out of dates-gone-wrong and even some dates-gone-right. Assome of these people struggle through their insecurities, whether they stemfrom an unrequited ‘I love you’ or irrational jealousies because of a boyfriendand his platonic female friend, we are brought  into and become interested in theirinterconnected lives.
“ElectricLove” is an extremely relatable film.

“Zero Sum Game” by Stefani Deoul—- Sid Rubin, “Lesbionic Braniac”

zero sum game

Deoul, Stefani. “Zero Sum Game” Bywater Books, 2018.

Sid Rubin, Smartass

Amos Lassen

Sid Rubin is a very smart young woman and she wants to see the gender gap with reference to mathematics, science, technology and engineering narrowed and that the number of women working in these areas will be significantly higher than it is at present.  But before she can work on that, Sid are her pals come together with newcomer Ze in a frantic race against time to decipher the code of an online gaming heist and help save the life of a teenage gamer. Sid and the gang take us into the world of online gaming when she learns that her friend Vik’s gaming funds have been stolen.

We go on quite a trip that includes zombies and dungeons to get to what is going on with “Contagion” where an online brawl is taking place. Sid is the kind off friend that everyone wants and needs to have  simply because when help is needed she is there. Writer Deoul describes her wonderfully as a “high-flying lesbionic Brainiac”. Unfortunately Sid and her friends are grounded and must find a way to break out of  parental jail. Sid, Jimmy, Imani, Ari and Vikram enter a school robotics competition and just as things begin to get interesting, Vik learns that his super-star status and hard-won trophies from the online game “Contagion” have been stolen. If ever there has been an altruistic person, it is Sid Rubin who lets no one “mess with her friends.”

When she sees Vik falling apart, Sid is determined to find the trophy thief, no matter what it takes. Sid and the gang join newcomer Ze to save not just Vik’s bevy of stolen gaming goods, but also the life of a teenage gamer who is being held hostage. Everything is that much more difficult because the kids are grounded and are also part of a robotics competition.

Writer Deoul has chosen a unique way to look at the gender diversity gap in math and the scientists by setting her novel in the young adult world. She provides with a wonderful read for young people (and for everyone else) and she introduces us to a cast of characters that we feel we get to know. So it is not just gender diversity but also diversity of friends and these friends include our hero Sid as well as a biracial football player and a beauty queen to cite just three. All in all, this is a terrific read.

 

“Zero Sum Game: by Stefani Deoul— Sid Rubin, “High-flying lesbionic Brainiac”

Deoul, Stefani. “Zero Sum Game”,  Bywater Books, 2018. Sid Rubin, “High-flying lesbionic Brainiac” Amos Lassen Sid Rubin is a very smart young woman and she wants to see the gender gap withreference to mathematics, science, technology and engineering narrowed and thatthe number of women working in these areas will be significantly higher than itis at present.  But before she can work on that, Sid are her pals come together with newcomer Ze in a frantic raceagainst time to decipher the code of an online gaming heist and help save thelife of a teenage gamer. Sid and the gang take us into the world of onlinegaming when she learns that her friend Vik’s gaming funds have been stolen. We goon quite a trip that includes zombies and dungeons to get to what is going onwith “Contagion” where an online brawl is taking place. Sid is the kind offfriend that everyone wants and needs to have simply because when help is needed she is there. Writer Deoul describes her wonderfully as a “high-flying lesbionic Brainiac”.Unfortunately Sid and her friends are grounded and must find a way to break outof  parental jail. Sid, Jimmy, Imani, Ariand Vikram enter a school robotics competition and just as things begin to getinteresting, Vik learns that his super-star status and hard-won trophies fromthe online game “Contagion” have been stolen. If ever there has been analtruistic person, it is Sid Rubin who lets no one “mess with her friends.” When she sees Vik falling apart, Sid is determined to find the trophy thief, no matter what it takes. Sid and the gang join newcomer Ze to save not just Vik’s bevy of stolen gaming goods, but also the life of a teenage gamer who is being held hostage. Everything is that much more difficult because the kids are grounded and are also part of a robotics competition. Writer Deoul has chosen a unique way to look at the gender diversity gap in math and the scientists by setting her novel in the young adult world. She provides with a wonderful read for young people (and for everyone else) and she introduces us to a cast of characters that we feel we get to know. So it is not just gender diversity but also diversity of friends and these friends include our hero Sid as well as a biracial football player and a beauty queen to cite just three. All in all, this is a terrific read.

THREE MORE APARTHEID-ERA SOUTH AFRICAN CLASSICS IN THE “RETRO AFRIKA COLLECTION”

 

  The Retro Afrika Collection  ON DECEMBER 18, INDIEPIX FILMS DELIVERS  THREE MORE APARTHEID-ERA SOUTH AFRICAN CLASSICS IN THE “RETRO AFRIKA COLLECTION”  
CHARLIE STEEL  

REVENGE  

THE COMEDIANS  


Rarely Seen Outside South African Borders, These Three Digitally-Restored Genre Films Will Be Available on DVD ($24.95srp each), VOD and Digital, as Well the SVOD Service,IndiePix Unlimited  The RETRO AFRIKA COLLECTION, featuresthe forgotten and discarded classics of African cinema.  From light-hearted comedies, high-octane action films and provocative race dramas that were met with opposition from the apartheid government, these newly restored, small-budget films from Retro Afrika Bioscope, a label dedicated to restoring and re-releasing retro South African films from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, have rarely been seen outside their borders.    Paying homage to Hollywood action in groundbreaking B-movie style, the next trench of Apartheid-era films, which have all have undergone a highly-specialized digital restoration process for optimal viewing, includes CHARLIE STEEL, a thrilling lo-fi caper, the Zulu western, REVENGE, and the crime comedy THE COMEDIANS.  They will all be available on December 18 on DVD ($24.95each), VOD and Digital, as well as IndiePix Films signature streaming service, IndiePix Unlimited on Amazon Channels or at IndiePixUnlimited.com.  

CHARLIE STEEL (1984) — When Dlamini’s daughter, Dudu, is kidnapped for ransom, he calls on his old friend Charlie Steel, a renowned private investigator. Charlie attempts to infiltrate the gang responsible, but is soon exposed by Jimmy, one of his ex-army comrades and a vicious murderer. With help from gang member Tony, who has fallen in love with Dudu, Charlie manages to take the gang down, but at what cost?  Sol Rachilo is Charlie Steel, in this thriller written and directed by Bevis Parsons. (Zulu with English subtitles, 87 mins.)    REVENGE (1985) — In the old African Wild West, a peace-loving family man moves to a vacant farm in search of a new life, but his hopes are shattered when his son is badly beaten and his wife murdered by a gang of ruthless thugs. Left for dead in the dirt, he’s nursed back to health by a good Samaritan, who also happens to be a deadly ex-gunslinger, who agrees to train the man in the art of revenge in this intense Zulu Western. Direced by Coenie Dippenaar, REVENGE stars Alex Ngubane, Roy Dlamini, Vuzi Gudazi and Emmanual Shangasi. (Zulu with English subtitles, 56 mins.)   THE COMEDIANS (Circa 1980) – When Ace Bhona uses his friend’s magic ring under false pretenses to make himself a wealthy man, his greed and desire for more soon becomes uncontrollable.  He hires a group of thugs to steal from his friend, hoping to possess the ring for himself.  But the friend has a trick of his own up his sleeve, and counters Bhona’s greed with a curse.  And when Bhona awakes the following day to discover that his ill-gotten wealth and possessions have turned to dust, with the police knocking on his door, where can he possibly turn?  From director Japie can der Merwe comes this raucous, caper comedy starring Moses Makhathini and Matthews Monica (Zulu with English subtitles.   Looking for a deeper dive into Sollywood? Don’t miss the first three RETRO AFRIKA titles, all available now, including UMBANGO, one of the first Zulu Westerns and an Official Selection at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival, and FISHY STONES and GONE CRAZY, two outsized, humorous crime capers.   About IndiePix Films® Since 2004, New York-based IndiePix Films® has delivered a highly-curated collection of the best independent films from around the world. Offering a singular catalog of nearly 2,000 films across genres, the IndiePix team selects singular titles from the international festival circuit. Avenues for distribution include their newly-launched streaming service, IndiePix Unlimited, their dedicated commerce site, IndiePixFilms.com, which offers download-to-own, streaming rental and physical media direct to consumers, and via national retail channels and select theatrical exhibition. IndiePix also owns Festival Genius, the premier platform for connecting film festivals to audiences through online ticketing, calendars, iphone apps, and more.



“The Sour Fruit: Lord Byron, Love & Sex” by Vincenzo Patane— An Emotional and Exotic Life

Patane,Vincenzo. “The Sour Fruit: Lord Byron, Love & Sex”, translated by John Francis Phillimore, edited by JamesR. Schwarten, Rowman and Littlefield, John Cabot University Press, 2019. An Emotional and Exotic Life Amos Lassen In “The Sour Fruit”, writer Vincenzo Patane maintains that the emotional and erotic life of George Gordon, Lord Byron is a key element in understanding his powerful and passionate personality, as well as the society of his day. That society was scandalized by his behavior “even while being conquered by his extraordinary charm.”  This includes
Byron’snow generally acknowledged bisexuality in all its aspects, from his fleeting liaisons to his love-affairs, female (his half-sister Augusta, Caroline Lamb and Teresa Guiccioli) and male (John Edleston, Nicolo Giraud and Loukas Chalandritsanos). 
Patane gives us unusual and fascinating insights into Byron’s homosexuality, hitherto relatively unexplored, and reveals a more truthful picture of the poet. Byron was strongly attracted to boys, who are referred to in Don Juan as ‘sour fruit’. In his adolescence he had fallen for aristocratic contemporaries but would later be attracted to boys of a lower social station. He had several same-sex experiences in England that were encouraged by the circle he frequented at Cambridge, particularly his friend Matthews, as well as during his Grand Tour, during which he was able to freely live out behaviors frowned on at home. 

In early 19th-century England, homosexuality was a criminal offence punished with the pillory or even hanging, and Byron preferred to keep his transgressive experiences to himself or share them only with a small and restricted group of like-minded friends. There are numerous veiled references to the range of his tastes in his works and his letters that we are today better able to decipher. Innuendos are plentiful and point to aspects of his submerged life, to adultery, incest and, above all, homosexuality – and we can now more fully appreciate the wit of his letters as well as his love-poems. 

An appended chapter examines “Don Leon”, an anonymous work purporting to be by Byron himself and salaciously recounting his love-life, which was first published some forty years after his death and has been on more than one occasion banned for obscenity.