Monthly Archives: December 2016

“David Doesn’t Get It” by Vi Cao— Meet David

Cao, Vi. “David Doesn’t Get It”, Webcomic, 2016.

Meet David

Amos Lassen

David is 33-year-old asexual Vietnamese American who has a straight older brother, Mai an asexual younger sister, Miriam, and gay younger brother, Connor. We go into the life of David and learn of his family life, his abusive childhood and the emotional crises. The story is really about what it is to be a first generation Asian American, discovery and personal growth and how one deals with what happens to kinds and how this influences their later years. This is really about forgiveness as we meet the multigenerational Nguyen family. David’s father has remarried and there is tension between his dad, his stepmother and their real mom. Through flashbacks we get the family’s refugee history, their grandparents’ experiences, and vignettes of the siblings’ lives growing up. There seems to have been child abuse and David and his siblings had to deal with beatings, yelling, sexual abuse, and threats from adults.

In the past we have not heard much about asexuality. Only of late has it been recognized as a sexual orientations. Many young asexual folks struggle with people trying to fix them, telling them that their sexuality is only a phase and will pass with time. We read of constant questioning by the characters about sexuality and what the various identities mean and if the stereotypes attached to them are real. David shares how he realized that he is asexual only after he went through a bi-curious and gay questioning phase. The siblings are close and give each other solace as they remember how they have been abused and how that abuse has caused them to become who they are.

We see the blending of American and Vietnamese cultures and learn how they feel about racism. David and his family look at how Vietnamese family relationships differ from Western families and how in Vietnamese families there are differences between people from North and South Vietnam, and how this impacts the Nguyen family.

“Making the Elephant Man: A Producer’s Memoir” by Jonathan Sanger— Telling His Story

Sanger, Jonathan. “Making the Elephant Man: A Producer’s Memoir”, McFarland, 2016.

Telling His Story

Amos Lassen

We have been astonished over the years by the story of John (Joseph) Merrick (the Elephant Man). In 1978, producer Jonathan Sanger was sent a screenplay from two unknown writers about a horribly disfigured man who refused to fall victim to despair and who chose to become an example of human dignity. Sanger was then determined that Merrick’s story would be told. In this book  is Sanger’s unvarnished first-person account of how the “The Elephant Man” (1980) came to be made. Many of us who saw the film had no idea how the movie was put together and how it became, like Merrick, an example of human dignity. As producer, Sanger had to become involved in special effects, scheduling conflicts, location issues and many risky decisions. He brought together a team made up of Mel Brooks (executive producer), David Lynch (director) and actors John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.

Sanger is s an Academy Award winning producer, film, theater and television producer and director, media advisor, and entertainment financial consultant. He has written for magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and filmmaking handbooks yet in this his memoir about an exciting and landmark film, he really lets us into his world.

Most of us who go to the movies are unaware of what goes on behind the scenes even before a movie is made. It involves taking an idea to the page and then finding a director and producers, funding, a cast, costume and art directors and so on and then the work after the shooting is done—editing, scoring, wooing the media and so on. Now we have all of that in this book since anger shares it all with us and it is fascinating.

Using his experience with “The Elephant Man”, he begins a discussion on the evolution of cinema that is almost the same as a master class. When Sanger found a script written by Christopher DeVore and Eric Bergren he realized that it was exactly the kind of story he wanted to make— the biography of a very sad man who was able to have an extraordinary life even though he was terribly deformed. John Merrick had been known as the Elephant man and in a sideshow in London who was treated by a Dr. Treves. Sanger brought his idea of a film to Mel Brooks who then helped get the idea to director David Lynch. Then the work began with finding the best crew and cast including John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller and Anne Bancroft. Then they had to find locations and deal with deadlines and the anxieties that go along with them as well as, the technical problems of creating a film about character like Merrick and dealing with the situation that a dramatic stage production about Merrick was being produced at the same time. This is really the story of a man staying with his concept from the very beginning to the very end.

While this is the story of a particular film, it is also the story of bonding and we certainly see that here throughout the book. We are very lucky that Jonathan Sanger has such a great memory and that he is able to share the details of his adventure with “The Elephant Man”.

The film won many awards (including Best Picture at the BAFTA awards), eight Oscar nominations and numerous other international awards. It also gave a huge boost to Sanger’s career.

Sanger begins his memoir by telling us his dream of one day becoming a successful producer. Sanger’s memoir starts off with his dream of making it as a producer some day. One day his children’s babysitter asked him to read a script her boyfriend wrote. He agreed to do so but put it on his desk where the forgot about it for a few months but when he remembered, he could not let go. He shares why the script was so important to him (it reminded him of his childhood) and his empathy soon becomes our own.

Sanger’s writing is absolutely fascinating as he are taken inside the film industry and are with him every step of the way until this picture is made.  As I said this is so much more than a book about making a movie— it is about compromise and the little jobs that are drudgery and not giving up when the future is dim.

I love the many photographs and reading about those in the film imagery who have achieved greatness in their lives. This is a story of hope and motivation and a read that will stay with you long after the covers are closed.

“On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories” by Mark Seliger— We Are One

Seliger, Mark, photographer, “On Christopher Street: Transgender Stories”, Rizzoli, 2016.

We Are One

Amos Lassen

On Christopher Street there are limitless sexual orientations and gender identities and no end to potential. We have “transgender, transsexual, non-binary, genderqueer, femme, butch, cross-dresser, drag kings, drag queens, and many other identities that shift, adapt, and challenge our understanding of gender”. The gender binary seems to be gone with the wind. Christopher Street sits in the middle of New York City’s Greenwich Village and is considered by many as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. When we reach the intersection of Christopher and Hudson Streets, we see that it has been renamed “Sylvia Rivera Way,” after the pioneering trans-activist who dared to challenge the police at Stonewall. New York’s annual LGBTQ pride parade ends on Christopher Street, where the revolution began at the Stonewall Inn.

Renowned photographer Mark Seliger is best known for his portraits of celebrities, musicians, and artists and he has lived in the West Village home for almost twenty years. His curiosity inspired him to shoot a handful of portraits in hopes of capturing the color, flamboyant characters, and theatre of a famous, but vanishing neighborhood and these portraits became his next book, “On Christopher Street”. Upon setting out with his camera, he found something of a street carnival— every night there were parades of people who, often, without saying a word, give a “visual discourse” about sexuality and just how widespread transgender people are today. With the new freedoms, it is as if they have been given license to leave their homes and come out of the shadows that they have had to live in for so long. Seliger brings seventy-four beautiful, black and white portraits that have never before been published. We also get their stories and we are reminded once again that, in reality, none of us are free until all of us are free. The very presence of this community emphasizes the need for safe places and spaces all of us can call home. As we see them, we think about them and realize we are all one big community and we no longer can stay silent and ignore them. We know fear and we know prejudice— we also know toleration which is just not good enough. They are redefining “what gender means to people who may be meeting even the idea of transgender for the first time in this book”. Seliger gives us “a unique slice of life in the neighborhood where the LGBT revolution started at the Stonewall Inn.” 

Ask yourself where you would you go if you just wanted to be yourself. Seliger, says in a brief statement that “he noticed the freedom of expression and gender identity” that was once everywhere in the neighborhood is disappearing from the area. Seliger wanted to capture it before it was gone and that is just what he did. His camera is his storyteller says, using his camera as storyteller.

“Christopher Street has ‘a dark side,’ with drugs, prostitution, and harassment. That means that for LGBTQ youth who comprise 40 percent of the nation’s street kids, it isn’t always safe…”

The snapshots we see may feel random but natural; some people are identified, some are not, and not all of them have something to say. Those that do relate stories that hit us hard and there maybe more to say but goes unsaid because of the difficulty to verbalize feelings and emotions.

“The Matinee Idol” by Owen Keehnen— Back When in Hollywood

Keehnen, Owen. “The Matinee Idol”, Wilde City Press, 2016.

Back When in Hollywood

Amos Lassen

How many times have we heard that the tinsel in Hollywood has tarnished? We have all heard the stories of lies and deceit that have taken place there and how so and so screwed his/her way to stardom.

Owen Keehnen is a writer I have been reading for years now and I have enjoyed whatever he has written. In “The Matinee Idol” he takes us back to Hollywood in 1925 and we meet Raymond, a young man who has left his home in Iowa to come to Hollywood to become a star. One night while at a beach party, he meets Brick, a guy from Montana and the cowboy of Raymond’s dreams. From that initial meeting the two fell in love and soon were living together. Then Raymond’s career took off and he had to made a decision between Brick and becoming a star. It is quite easy to see that if he had chosen Brick, the story would be over but Ray found ambition to be more powerful than love only to realize that the regrets he feels will be with him forever and he has not just wounded Brick but himself as well.

While this is fiction, it could also be a true story when we think about the homophobia of Hollywood, even today. I wonder what happened to the destiny that Ray once felt with Brick and why was it so easy to toss it aside.

Ray becomes a star but he soon is swallowing opiates prescribed by a doctor so that he can give the kind of performances his audiences want to see as well as uppers so that he can look fresh and peppy on the screen but working eighteen hour days under the influence has its effect on him and the he begins to spiral downward. He soon loses his status as a matinee idol. He loses everything and will do whatever it takes to stay alive and he finds Brick again and the two reconnect. We see by this the love that Brick felt for Ray and I know that had it been me who had been pushed aside for a career, there would not have been a reconciliation. Evidently the love the two men shared was very, very strong.

This is an easy read and will appeal to everyone is in concerned with Hollywood gossip. I looked beyond that and saw that once again Owen Keehnen has created very real characters with very real situations and while this is melodramatic, it has some very hot sex scenes. Forgiveness never comes easy as we are all aware and the love the two shared lasted even though separation.

“SEASONS”— How It Was

“Seasons” (“Les saisons”)

How It Was

Amos Lassen

At the end of the Ice Age some 80,000 years ago, wild animals lived in what has become known as the Golden Age of the forest. It was a time when everything moved in sync with the changing of the seasons. Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (“Winged Migration”)directed this eco-drama of the early story of Europe as it unfolds within one distinctive place that many animals consider to be their home. This documentary was shot in the forests of France, Norway, the Netherlands, Romania, and Scotland and we see a variety of beautiful and entertaining vignettes of wild animals going through ordinary days — the birth of a baby doe and revel in the playful antics of other newborns such as a fox and ducklings; the playfulness of birds leaving the nest and learning to fly; footed wolves chasing wild horse; the majesty of Ice Age bison and the battle of bears for dominance.

During spring and summer we see the celebration of life and renewal in the forest of wild animals. Winter is difficult workshop for the creatures as they struggle to find food and shelter and fall is a transition from warmth to cold, from light to days with more darkness. Humans first enter the forests as intruders and instead of reacting in wonder and awe, “Man has become a geological force. He modifies nature and the seasons.” As they hunt animals, we understand that deaths devastate all forms of life. This “progress” for humankind leads to power plants and a deforested landscape where even animals are forced to leave and look for a new home elsewhere and become Europe’s first refugees. We begin to connect to the animals with their own intrinsic worth and goodness and their own unique experiences. Animals were with the same breath as humans and we need to be reminded of their kinship with us.

Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzard give us with a study of life itself, using the expanse of European forests to identify animal interaction and survival as it moves from a realm of activity to one where human influence has reduced the beauty and splendor of nature. “Seasons” is about environmental concern and shows us a strange new world where the wild is being threatened with extinction after having for thousands of years.

There was a time when Europe was covered with forests. Apparently, Europeans have not pursued nature conservancy as proactively as we have in America. We see some incredible up-close moments and use the changing of the four seasons to represent the passing of 80,000 years in the forest and show the wasteful folly of man as represented in impersonal dramatic recreation scenes.

 

“Seasons” is a near-silent look at the ice age origin of animal activity in Europe as it remains inside an enormous forest and nearby lands to inspect the circle of life in its purest form. The narrative track tells us of the development of early man as tribes become societies and gradually claim the land for themselves as hunter begin to rise up in power, testing boundaries. The human factor remains in a state of curiosity, allowing the animal kingdom to continue doing business as usual (the tireless war between predator and prey) as we see multiple examples of pursuit and consumption.

The animal footage, I understand is not staged, yet it does have a theatrical quality. Cameras track movement and walk through habitats, spotlighting individual behaviors and power plays. We see nature display its complexity without disruption.

The title “Seasons” has a double meaning—at first we move though calendar years to get a sense of quarterly adjustment and the opening of the picture experiencing an explosion of new life with mothers giving birth all over the forest (including the introduction of a wobbly fawn taking its first steps). The other meaning highlights man’s influence on Earth, creating his own seasons as survival that lead to farming and an industrialized world that strips the land bare. We see the aftermath of deforestation, hunting, and extermination with a connection between chemical development and the death of bee populations. To see nature as it was and how it is today is a difficult comparison to make and the chills we feel are intended.

While the film may appear to be yet another natural world inspection, it uses the art of cinema and the wonders of animal behavior to create an understanding of the passage of time and the draining of resources. While it is harrowing, especially during a final summation of the world’s ills, it is also illuminating, with Perrin and Cluzaud presenting a meditative look at the ways of the world, and how man has influenced this balance of life.

Bonus Features (subject to change) include:

– Making of Documentary (52 minutes)

– Behind the Scenes Featurettes

– Orchestra Featurette

– Animated Image Gallery

– Panel Discussion with the Filmmakers

“No One Can Pronounce My Name: A Novel” by Rakesh Satyai— Immigrants and Outsiders, Passions and Fears

Satyal, Rakesh. “No One Can Pronounce My Name: A Novel”, Picador, 2017.

Immigrants and Outsiders, Passions and Fears

Amos Lassen

Set in a suburb near Cleveland, Ohio, Rakesh Satyal brings us the story of outsiders— Indian/Americans who try to find their place not only in American society but also in their own families.

Our characters are on the fence between their two cultures. America can be a bewildering and alienating place and it is upsetting that coworkers can’t pronounce your name but will eagerly repeat the Sanskrit phrases they learn in yoga class. Harit, is a an Indian immigrant in his mid-forties and lives with his mother who has been having a rough time since Harit’s sister, Swati died. Harit tries to keep both his mother and himself sane by wearing a sari every night and passing himself off as his sister. Ranjana, another Indian immigrant also in her mid-forties, has just seen her only child, Prashant, off to college and she is worried that her husband has begun an affair and so she seeks solace by secretly writing paranormal romances. When Harit and Ranjana’s paths cross, they begin a strange yet necessary friendship that helps their passions and fears.

Love comes in all kinds of way and here we see it as unpredictable. Satyai writes about being who you think you are and who you just might become. His characters are wonderful and pull you into the story as you both laugh and cry with them. It seems that human nature is about wanting to belong and we see how others deal with that here. This is a multigenerational novel that shares wisdom about life. For those of us who were born in America, we learn about this country being one of strangers seeking connections, opposing desires yet held together with the very strong emotion of love. It is challenging to be an individual where society and culture have already determined who we should be and we cheer for our characters who challenge that. Ranjana and Harit find each other and learn to reconcile their culture and traditions with their own dreams and desires.

 

“BOYSTOWN” SEASON TWO— The Boys are Back

“BoysTown: Season Two”

The Boys Are Back

Amos Lassen

I want everyone to know that “BoysTown”, season two is now available to order and will be released on DVD on January 3, 2017.

“BoysTown” was created in 2005 with a pilot episode that had went great success at film festivals and was released on DVD. Now some twelve years later, Ricky Reidling, the creator of the show, felt it was the time to bring to show to life.

“BoysTown” revolves around eight men living in Southern California who are always finding themselves into situations that they can’t get out of!The show is currently airing on the television network OUTtv in Canada, Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden.

In Season 2 are still getting themselves into situations they can’t get out of and they have drama and comedy in each episode. We have been waiting for years for season two and most of the original cast from Season 1 is back, including J. Hunter Ackerman, Jesse Seann Atkinson, Eric Dean, Albertossy Espinoza, Jim Patneaude, Ricky Reidling, Patrick Tatten and Peter Welkin.

“Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol” by Solomon Ibn Gabirol— The Realm of the Intellect

 

Ibn Gabirol, Solomon. “Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol”, translated by Raymond P. Scheindlin, Archipelago, 2016.

The Realm of the Intellect

Amos Lassen

Solomon Ibn Gabirol was an 11th century Hebrew poet who was an intellectual and wrote heavy poetry of lament, complaint and praise, devotional and love poetry, descriptive meditations on nature, and epigrams. He was a man who was obsessed with the impediments of the body and the material world and often dreamt of leaving the corporeal constraints and launching his soul into the realm of the intellect. His poetry was written in a style that did not conform to the esthetics of his age but that today is part of the way we live. Ibn Gabirol thought of himself as a “vulture in a cage” and yearned to elevate his soul to his heavens. His poetry proved to be influential and we can even say that he provided the framework that others would use. His poems are filled wit and imagery as well as beauty and his devotional poems are gorgeous. His poetry is also a window to his own life as well as a tribute to his Judeo-Arabic culture. This volume is the most extensive collection of Ibn Gabirol’s poetry ever published in English. I never really thought about Ibn Gabirol in English; I studied him in his beautiful Hebrew and of course this limits his popularity. We can open that with this book more will discover him and he will be as much of a poet of the people as he is a poet of intellectuals. I remember some thirty years ago at an Esther Ofarim concert in Tel Aviv, the singer opened with an Ibn Gabirol poem set to music, “Ani HaSar” that from that night became one my favorites. Listening to it makes it easy to understand how he came to be regarded as one of fathers of Hebrew poetry.

Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabirol an Andalusian-Hebrew theologian, philosopher, and poet during the 11th century, was responsible for a body of work made up of meditations on the nature of the sacred, and the relationship between himself and the divine. divinity. These poetic writings on himself are seen through the lens of selfhood as he strives to understand the transcendental and the mystical as experiences that are part of and inseparable from the personal reality of the individual. His descriptions are brilliant as he portrays the majesty of the cosmos through the complexity of the individual.

He sees himself as a person being trapped and angry because he is unable to be free from whatever holds him back. At the time that he lived (the 11th century), poetics were anti-expressions of strong emotion and those around him were accustomed to presenting strongly held ideas and deeply felt emotions in a literary style and in poetic forms that are reliant upon and bring about harmony and balance. We understand that he was an extreme figure but we have no clue as to why. It is believed that he was born around 1021 in Málaga and died in Valencia in 1058. His parents died when he was fairly young, and he was sickly during his short life. He lived for a time in Saragossa, where his patron was Yekutiel Ibn Hassan (d. 1039), a prominent Jewish courtier and their brief relationship had its ups and downs, as it seems that all of his relationships did. He was also involved with an older contemporary— the great Jewish statesman, poet, and rabbi Samuel the Nagid, in Granada. Ibn Gabirol wrote about other patrons who cannot be identified. As a philosopher, he specialized in metaphysics and logic and engaged in Biblical exegesis. He wrote in verse on Hebrew grammar and wrote poetry both secular and sacred and came to be considered one of the greatest poets of the Hebrew Golden Age. His liturgical poetry was preserved by communities that incorporated it into their religious services and included it in their prayer books.

Ibn Gabirol claims to have written many prose books, but only three, all written originally in Arabic, have survived. None of these works has any particularly Jewish content and, in fact, “The Fountain of Life” is only available in Latin translation and for centuries it was thought to be the work of a Muslim author. It seems that Ibn Gabirol belonged to the “interconfessional” class of intellectuals known in Arabic as “’Faylasufs’— people who had a common reverence for the Greek philosophers of antiquity, whom they studied in Arabic translation and discussed in circles of like-minded thinkers, sometimes to the consternation of peers and the condemnation of clergy.

We must not forget that the ideas of Jewish intellectuals and religious leaders was one of the developments in Jewish culture that was the result of the spread of Islam throughout the Mediterranean world. By the mid-tenth century, most Jews lived in Islamic domains and spoke Arabic as their native language. Through Arabic, Jews had access to the high culture of the age , including, Arabic poetry going back to pre-Islamic times and still thriving wherever Arabic was spoken.

The Judaeo-Arabic culture that came about had its own characteristic form of expression when tenth-century Jewish grandees in Spain began using Hebrew for poetry within Jewish society as poetry functioned in Arabic society. It was to be a way to express social relations, public discourse, and sophisticated entertainment. Therefore we get the emergence of a new Hebrew poetry alongside of the old tradition of Hebrew liturgical poetry. It was then that liturgical poetry continued to evolve and developed new genres and styles that were adapted partly from Arabic literary traditions.

Ibn Gabirol came onto the scene some eighty years after the introduction of the new Hebrew poetry and when it had already passed its experimental stage but still had a significant body of tradition behind it. The aforementioned Samuel the Nagid (993–1056), about thirty years older than Ibn Gabirol, became one of the most memorable figures of medieval Jewish Spain with his very personal body of poetry and it was this personal voice that was taken up by Ibn Gabirol and developed into a more somber and even sometimes even bitter way.

Ibn Gabirol wrote in well-defined in genres taken from Arabic poetry; it was addressed to and celebrated the glamour of patrons and men of stature; lamented the dead; poetry of complaint, in which a poet lays out his grievances against life or his fellow man; invective, in which a poet excoriates someone in order to damage his reputation. Then there are descriptive poems on nature, love poetry, poems about wine drinking, riddles, and epigrams. The emotions found in Ibn Gabirol’s poetry is in the rhetoric with the constant pairing and balancing of sounds and images, reminiscent of biblical poetry, though derived by the poets not from the Bible but from Arabic models and though considerably more formalized than biblical poetry.

He was the first Hebrew poet (as far as we know) to write poetry in which an individual speaker addresses God on intimate terms, thus creating the first true devotional poetry in Hebrew. Many of his poems are addressed to God and are organized in such a way that each verse brings together the “I” of the speaker with the “You” of God. The contrast in style between his worldly and devotional poetry comes from his seeing his natural home as the realm of the spirit rather than the realm of men. He complains about being frustrated in fulfilling his ambitions and we become very aware that he strove for worldly distinction and fame. He also had great ambition for wisdom, and he expresses frustration about the attempt to achieve it. To his fellow men, we see his arrogance and superiority but to wisdom he comes as a beggar.

As I read I began to think of the famed Tel Aviv street named after Ibn Gabirol (which in Hebrew becomes Gvirol) and wondered how Israelis knew who this man was. I did because I studied him and I always found it ironic that I lived once on the corner of Imber and Ibn Gvirol, two poets who were very different in their likenesses.

Ibn Gabirol shows the scope of medieval religious language “in their explorations of nature, drink, love, sex, boasting, friendship and loneliness. They are by turns, witty, satirical, elegiac–and always allusive.” -Jane Liddell-King, Jewish Chronicle.

 

“DANNY SAYS”— Meet Danny Fields

“Danny Says”

Meet Danny Fields

Amos Lassen

Danny Fields, who was influential in the avant-garde music scene was a Brooklyn-born Harvard Law School drop-out who seemed to know everyone in New York pop culture in the 1960s and 1970s chronicles his start as a rock journalist in NYC, his meetings with Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Linda Eastman (a.k.a. Linda McCartney), Iggy Pop, Andy Warhol, Jim Morrison and many other celebs or rockers. He was a publicist at Elektra Records and later managed such artists as the Stooges, the MC5 and the Ramones. Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen and Judy Collins all have something to say about Danny.

Through archive photos and footage, we go back in time to the Big Apple in-spots such as Warhol’s Factory and Max’s Kansas City where Danny the Velvet Underground and other flashy rockers. Danny shares his gay affairs, his regular drug intake and stories on the rock stars he encountered. (One of his stories is about Jim Morrison getting stoned on large amounts of acid while under his charge on orders from the studio; another about publicizing John Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” quote in a teen magazine).

Since 1966, Danny has played a pivotal role in music and “culture” of the late 20th century: he worked for the Doors, Cream, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins and managing groundbreaking artists like the Stooges, the MC5 and the Ramones. “Danny Says” follows Fields, who came out of the closet early in life, from Phi Beta Kappa whiz-kid, to Harvard Law dropout, to the Warhol Silver Factory, to Director of Publicity at Elektra Records, to “punk pioneer” and beyond. Danny’s taste and opinion were once considered defiant and radical, now seem to be prescient.

Danny was gay at a time when that was a considerably rare thing to be and here spends almost as much time talking about the freewheeling sex of the 1970s as he does about the music he was helping to define a generation.

The movie narrows down 250 hours of present-day interviews with legendary artists and musicians – as well as content from Fields’ own archive of thousands of photographs, audiocassettes and ephemera.

Danny is a naturally gifted storyteller who was present during one of pop music’s most exhilarating times. Brendan Toller’s directed this documentary in which Fields extensively discusses his shifting role from the mid-1960s to the late ’70s as a journalist, press agent, and manager to such bands as the Doors, the Stooges, MC5, and the Ramones. Fields intimately speaks brashly and causally about an important time in rock music history. He tells of outlandish exploits in a way that makes these music icons of music come across as ordinary people.

Fields found himself in an extended drug binge with Jim Morrison after introducing him to Nico, and, once he was firmly in the New York City underground, he tells of how he prevented an Andy Warhol sycophant, Ivy Nicholson, from jumping out of a window while an indifferent Warhol and others stood idly by. As Fields gives something of an untold history lesson littered with personal opinions, Toller creates an invigorating visual approximation of the man’s memories, with fluid and shifting animation that shows that timelines are blurred.

The film skims through many years in his professional life, including his time managing the Ramones, which is odd considering that Fields is considered to be one of the “godfathers of punk.” These latter sequences offer little information beyond Fields reciting how he met a certain band and signed them to a record deal, which is also when the film becomes its most hagiographic. Toller lets Fields speak for the majority of “Danny Says” thus letting viewers come to their own conclusions about the man.

Fields began working as a writer and editor, finding an entrance into the rock world through his pre-established channels and by paying attention to the next big thing. There is a lot of name-dropping and focus on Fields’ personal life, his homosexuality, and his intense drug use.

I was captivated from the beginning and it held my interest the whole way through, as I enjoyed hearing all the stories Danny and friends shared. but the film is sloppy in some of the technical areas and it is ironic that in that a documentary about a man and rock stars the sound is so poor.

BEFORE THE FALL”— Re-imagining “Pride and Prejudice”

“Before the Fall”

Re-imagining “Pride and Prejudice”

Amos Lassen

Set in modern day, rural Virginia with Elizabeth Bennet as Ben Bennet (Ethan Sharrett), an affluent but seemingly arrogant attorney who unknowingly insults Lee Darcy (Chase Connor), a detached factory worker wrongly charged with domestic abuse. Both men form an immediate dislike for each other which becomes a significant problem when Ben falls in love with Lee.

Written and directed by Byrum Geisler, “Before the Fall” is a modern adaptation of Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice”. It is faithfully based on the original with Ben as an affluent lawyer who observes the narrow and conformist society in which he lives through an ironic eye. His arrogance cost him being disliked by Lee Darcy, a posted worker wrongly accused of domestic violence. Even with the mutual loathing that began with their first confrontation, Ben slowly gets to know Darcy and falls in love with him. This turns Ben’s well-ordered life upside down. 

Darcy is a welder with a secret that he tries to forget by drinking. When he roughs up his girlfriend and is charged with domestic abuse, he overhears a derogatory comment made about him in court by Ben. Shortly afterwards, the men inadvertently come face to face and, surprisingly, find common ground when hiking with a group of friends in the beautiful woods nearby. A quiet friendship slowly ensues and this is complicated when Ben discovers that he has a secret of his own – he has fallen in love with Lee. Byrum Geisler’s cinematically gorgeous directorial debut is a heartfelt, deeply satisfying gay romance.

Writer-director Byrum Geisler bends the characters to his will. He also picks up on all the scenic rambling that the British do so well in the various film versions of the book but moves it to Abingdon in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, and shot his movie in the fall.

Everybody in Abingdon is into hiking and it is where Ben Bennett practices law and looks for love. His pals complain that “the queens got left out”, but they have each other. They prowl and howl at every eligible unattached man to wander into town.

New attorney George Wickham (Jonathan Horvath) gets Ben’s attention and suggests that he spend the night after the two went on a date. Bingley (Jason Mac) is also new in town, and once we’ve determined he’s straight, he sets off sparks with Ben’s gal-pal Jane (Brandi Price). It’s too bad that he works for a non-profit, with no prospects. Lee Darcy is a miserable factory worker living with Kathy (Carol Marie Rinn) and drinking to hide his secret not only from others but also from himself.

Even with the gay stereotypes , this is something of a fun movie. However, the performances leave a bit to be desired. Nonetheless, this is a great idea and there is a good deal of promise here. It is too bad that it was not fully utilized.