“ROSEMARY’S BABY”— A Perfect Film

rosemary's baby

Rosemary’s Baby (The Criterion Collection[Blu-ray])

A Perfect Film

Amos Lassen

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“Rosemary’s Baby” is a dark and unforgettable comedy that was also the American debut of director Roman Polanski. Adapted from the bestseller by Ira Levin, it stars Mia Farrow as a young mother-to-be who grows increasingly suspicious that her friendly elderly neighbors, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon) along with her self-involved husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) are hatching a satanic plot against her and her baby. Criterion has remastered the film and present it on a beautiful blu ray edition.

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Rosemary and her husband are expecting a child but she has begun to believe that she has been impregnated by evil itself and everyone she knows might be in on it. When the film was released it was condemned by the Catholic Church and the Legion Of Decency.

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John Cassavetes gives a wonderful performance as Rosemary’s husband and Mia Farrow is sheer brilliance as Rosemary. We sense her fears and her emotions and often just the look on her face communicates what she feels. This is a film that plays with the audience’s sensibilities.

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I see the film as one of the finest horror films ever made. Polanski adapted Levin’s terrifying novel of ancient evil in a modern setting with every thrill intact. He has managed to convey a sense of claustrophobia and quiet panic on busy streets and sidewalks of New York City. The suspense is for 2 hours and 16 minutes and I must say that watching the film again last night, I still felt the tension throughout.

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The special features are very special:

New high-definition digital restoration, approved by director Roman Polanski, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

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New interviews with Polanski, actor Mia Farrow, and producer Robert Evans

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Komeda, Komeda, a feature-length documentary on the life and work of jazz musician and composer Krzysztof Komeda, who wrote the score for Rosemary’s Baby

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1997 radio interview with author Ira Levin from Leonard Lopate’s WNYC program New York and Company on the 1967 novel, the sequel, and the film

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PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Ed Park and Levin’s afterword for the 2003 New American Library edition of his novel, in which he discusses its and the film’s origins.

“A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME”— “No one gets out of this house alive or DEAD!”

a house is not a home poster

“A House Is Not A Home”

“No one gets out of this house alive or DEAD!”

Amos Lassen

“A House is Not a Home” begins with a bloody hand talking to a 9-1-1 operator saying, “They’re all dead. It’s my fault.” He repeats this over and over to the person on the phone who is trying to coax the caller for more information. Then the camera reveals the house’s current owner, Rafkin (Richard Grieco), who is something of a mess. He drops the phone, and moves toward a large, closed door, screaming to be taken; the door opens, we see a flash of light and then nothing. The caller is an obviously unstable man. Sometime after the man vanished, the house is up for sale.  

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We then see Ben and Linda Williams (Gerald Webb and Diahnna Nicole Baxter) driving up to the house where they are greeted by a realtor, who calls himself “Paul” (Bill Cobbs) and shows them the house. Paul, he seems like a nice old man.  He’s friendly, he’s always smiling, and he comes across like he could probably sell anything.  However, it quickly becomes obvious that there’s something a little bit off about Paul.  By the time he finishes showing the house, we realize that his friendly smile seems to be more of a self-satisfied grin.

 

It did not take long for the Williams and their two teens, Ashley (Aurora Perrineau) and Alex (Melvin Gregg) to move in and begin unpacking and settling into their new home. Soon afterwards, Ashley is woken up in the middle of the night by mysterious laughter and, regardless of how many times she tries to move them, the same scary-looking dolls keep showing up on her dresser. Alex feels as if he’s being watched wherever he goes.  Linda, a recovering alcoholic, starts to drink again and her attempts to give piano lessons are made difficult by the fact that the piano occasionally attacks her students.  And Ben suddenly finds himself having nightmares and deliberately cutting himself so that the blood can drip down onto the kitchen table.

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This is the first film by DeInstitutionalized production company. We see a family terrorized by some evil entity. The Williams are the perfect nuclear family (with their own demons). Ben that has the largest grief and we are aware of it throughout the film. He is plagued by strange noises, visions, and even some very deep-rooted nightmares.

Despite their good intentions, the family cannot shake the feeling that they are being watched by something. Their fears are realized when things inside the house take a supernatural and sinister turn. Ben and his family flee for their lives, but it is too late. The house isn’t finished with them and it traps the family in its labyrinth. The Williams must come together as never before to fight for their family, their lives and to escape.

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To say anymore would ruin the viewing experience by those who have not yet seen the film but I can say that every assault is shown in ultra close ups, to heighten the fear. It is Webb’s performance that drags the family through his Hell, silently enduring the mental tortures of the house, while at the same time, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge what he has seen is true. As the attacks become more violent, physically assaulting his family, he finally contacts a voodoo priest (Eddie Steeples), who succeeds in cleansing the house… almost. We see that the house is also a character with its own agenda. Let it suffice to say that the climax is quite gruesome. We get a feeling of dread almost from the very beginning and this is what Grieco did do well.

“A House is Not a Home” has been called the “First Urban Horror Film since ‘Blackula,'” yet the setting is not really urban and takes place in a large, suburban single home, in the middle of nowhere. The film does have a primarily African-American cast with a good deal of star power.

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The film has not been given a rating but some of the language is coarse and there is blood and gore. One word more—do not leave before the credits roll— director Christopher Ray has one more little surprise.

“NASSER’S REPUBLIC: THE MAKING OF MODERN EGYPT”— A Transformative Leader Who Helped Modernize Egypt

nasser poster

“NASSER’S REPUBLIC: THE MAKING OF MODERN EGYPT”

A Transformative Leader Who Helped Modernize Egypt

Amos Lassen

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“Nasser’s Republic” is a new documentary from and filmmaker Michal Goldman and it is the first film for an American audience about one of the Arab world’s most “transformative leaders”. Gamal Abdel Nasser seemed to have come from nowhere and rose to be a symbol of Arab progress and dignity. From 1952 to 1970, he challenged Western predominance abroad, confronted Islamism at home, and had to face and deal with deep divisions among the Arabs. He was able to establish the region’s first military authoritarian regime. Nasser was charismatic and ambitious and it was unfortunate for him that the revolution that he began never was completed. Nonetheless his dreams, decisions and problems continue still today to have influence on the new and more modern generation.

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Filmmaker Michal Goldman began working on this project before the January 2011 during the uprisings in Egypt and she continued to film through General Sisi’s first year in power. This was a time when Egyptians argued about who they were and looked to their history to see if it might take them to the future, future that was better than the present that they were living in. Goldman uses their voices, the common man and woman’s and the intellectual’s, the Islamists and the secular citizens to drive this film forward.

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During this period of turmoil, Egyptians argued passionately about their history as a way to see what course to follow in the future. It is their voices – peasants and professors, secularists and Islamists –that drive this film forward. We see and hear archival material (some of which is very rare) and interviews from experts. The documentary is narrated by Hiam Abbas, one of my favorite actresses who I was lucky enough to have met when I lived in Israel. The beauty of this film is that it is a unique resource for so many people—academics, students, historians and for those of us who just want to know more in order to understand more.

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Nasser was a young colonel when he led the coup that became the Egyptian revolution in 1952. For eighteen years after that he ruled Egypt and faces challenges. He was one of the great champions of Arab progress as well as of African liberation but he was soon caught up in some of his own intrigues and died a young man at 52 and many of his dreams were left unrealized. We now see that his greatest legacy was the Arab spring and what followed it.

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I believe that what makes this documentary so unique is that unlike other films about Egypt, filmmaker Goldman gives us the historical context and shows that Nasser had indeed committed himself to promote both Egyptian and Arab progress and to end colonialism in his part of the world. However, he made a major mistake in no establishing democracy and instead became a military dictator and was followed by more of the same. This is a lot to be learned here and this is quite a fascinating way to do so.

“The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” by Amy Schumer— Getting Personal

the girl woith the lower back tattoo

Schumer, Amy. “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo”, Simon and Schuster, 2016.

Getting Personal with Schumer

Amos Lassen

Amy Schumer is an Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of “Inside Amy Schumer” who has won us over with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer she gets personal in her book that is a candid and funny collection of personal and observational essays. She takes us back to when she was a teen year and also writes about her family, her relationships, her thoughts on sex and the experiences that have shaped who she is. She really works for what she believes in and she really has the ability to make us laugh.

Reading Schumer’s book is like being in the same room with her. “Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably—but only because it’s over”.

“FLAMINGO PRIDE”— One Straight Flamingo in the Flock

flamingo pride

“Flamingo Pride”

One Straight Flamingo in the Flock

Amos Lassen

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Tomer Eshed is a man after my heart. I knew it was just a matter of time until someone made a movie about gay flamingos but this was slipped under my radar and was actually made in 2011. It is a rather bizarre short film (just 6 minutes) but it is also fun. Using animation we are taken into the world of a flock of flamingos where all are gay save one and party seven days a week and twenty-four hours a day.

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“Frustrated at being the only straight flamingo in a gay flock, our hero falls in love with a lady stork who flies by. Unable to convince her of his serious intentions, he isolates himself and endures an identity crisis. An intensive encounter inspires him to make a bold move.” It isn’t easy finding love and it is more difficult when you are the only heterosexual in a predominantly homosexual setting. 

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Produced by Germany-based animation studio Talking Animals and directed by Tomer Eshed, “Flamingo Pride” explores the themes of sexuality, prejudices and cultural stereotypes and manages to be funny at the same time.

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The main character (the only straight flamingo from its community) is at first mocked and then rejected by the “normal” birds. A little twist at the end shows comically manner that not everything is what it seems at first sight and that even the apparent “normality” is merely a façade.

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The contrast of the cartoonish designs of the birds characters with the two realistic tigers which appear in one of the scenes was a nice touch but we have to love the flamingos.

“Fertility Holidays: IVF Tourism and the Reproduction of Whiteness” by Amy Speier— A Critical Analysis

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Speier, Amy. “Fertility Holidays: IVF Tourism and the Reproduction of Whiteness”, NYU Press, 2016.

A Critical Analysis

Amos Lassen

Many Americans travel out of the country looking forlow cost medical treatments abroad and these include including fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). The lower middle classes of the United States have been priced out of an expensive privatized “baby business,” while the Czech Republic has become a central hub of fertility tourism offering blonde-haired, blue-eyed egg donors at a fraction of the price.

“Fertility Holidays” gives us a presents a critical analysis of white, working class North Americans with motivations and experiences traveling to Central Europe for donor egg IVF. Within this, patients become consumers, and they are urged on by the representation of a white Europe and an empathetic health care system, which we do not seem to have at home. Amy Speier traces these American fertility journeys halfway around the world uncovering contradictions that are part of global reproductive medicine. Speier shows the extent to which reproductive travel heightens the hope “ingrained in reproductive technologies, especially when the procedures are framed as ‘holidays’.” Combining a vacation with treatment gives couples a stress-free IVF cycle; but, in truth, they may become swept up in situations as they endure an emotionally filled cycle of IVF in a strange place.

Speier has written an intimate and first-hand account of North Americans’ journeys to the Czech Republic for IVF; she exposes reproductive travel as a form of consumption which is motivated by complex desires for white babies, a European vacation, better health care, and technological success.

“Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar” by Brad Tolinski and Alan di Pema— The Electric Guitar

play it loud

Tolinski, Brad and Alan di Pema. “Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar’, Doubleday, 2016.

The Electric Guitar

Amos Lassen

Brad Tolinski and Alan di Pema are veteran music writers who give us an unprecedented history of the electric guitar and its impact on both music and culture as well as of the people that made it live. The electric guitar has been an international symbol of freedom, danger, rebellion, and hedonism. “Play It Loud” is “a story of inventors and iconoclasts, of scam artists, prodigies, and mythologizers as varied and original as the instruments they spawned”.

The book focuses on twelve landmark guitars—each of them artistic milestones in their own right and through them it illustrates the conflict and passion that the instruments have inspired. We meet Leo Fender, a man who couldn’t play a note but who helped to transform the guitar into the explosive sound machine it is today through his innovations.. Some of the most significant social movements of the twentieth century are indebted to the guitar: the guitar became was an essential element in the fight for racial equality in the entertainment industry; it has reflected the rise of the teenager as social force. Today contemporary musicians such as Jack White of The White Stripes, Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys are bringing some of the earliest electric guitar forms back.

There are interviews with Les Paul, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana (who also wrote the foreword), Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, and many more players and creators. We see how a group of innovators changed the guitar from an idea into a revolution. Play It Loud is the story of how a band of innovators transformed an idea into a revolution. While this is a history of the electric guitar, it is also about those who are responsible for its tones and sounds. Their fingertips helped to bring a revolution in society and politics. As it transformed contemporary music and culture, it transformed us as well.

 

“ALL THINGS MUST PASS”— The Fall of Tower Records

all things must pass

“All Things Must Pass”

The Fall of Tower Records

Amos Lassen

Tower Records was established in 1960 and was once a retail powerhouse with 200 stores, in 30 countries, on five continents. From humble beginnings in a small-town drugstore, Tower Records eventually became the heart and soul of the music world, and a tremendously powerful force in the music industry. In 1999, Tower Records made an astounding $1 billion but in 2006, the company filed for bankruptcy. Everyone thinks that it was the Internet that killed Tower Records that’s not the story we learn here.

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Directed by Colin Hanks, we meet Tower Records founder Russ Solomon. For seven years, Hanks worked on the documentary that both lamented and celebrated the Sacramento-based record store that grew from an American retail powerhouse.

When news broke in 2006 that Tower Records filed for bankruptcy and liquidation with plans to close its doors entirely that year, many of us were sad to see Tower disappear. Many younger people had little reaction as it was not common for them to actually shop at a music store. However, regardless of everyone’s feelings about the closing, Tower Records had changed the music business, set trends, and became an iconic store for the 40 plus years the doors were open.

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“All Things Must Pass” documents the history of Tower Records from the original Tower Drugs store in Sacramento, California with a side business of selling new and used records at the drug store counter and expanded with the Tower Drugs’ owner’s son Russ Solomon who decided to open a store entirely for music, He opened the first Tower Records store on Watt Avenue in Sacramento opened in 1960. A few years later in 1968, Tower Records opened a new location in San Francisco, which at the time was the largest music store in the country. Later, stores opened up in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and more along the west coast. Japanese investors considered opening stores in Japan and Tower Records opened their first stores outside of the country in 1979. Following expansion around America in places such as New York, Boston, Nashville, New Orleans and Washington D.C., they also expanded international stores in Mexico, Canada, Thailand, Israel, Argentina, and more. Business was constantly growing and each financial risk they took seemed to only be a step in a positive direction.

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Tower was known for the best selection available and the storers were very large and carried thousands of albums, singles, merchandise, from every genre. They stocked the major releases while also promoting the independents and obscure acts. It also helped that Tower Records employees were knowledgeable about music. The young people who worked at the stores were huge music lovers and showed their appreciation by recommending and pushing personal favorites. Since there was no dress code, employees were able to wear whatever they wanted, giving a fashion sense into the retail world with individual personality. Tower Records published “Pulse”, a free magazine available at all locations featuring everything from interviews, upcoming release information, “desert island discs” sections, and much more. Tower Records advertised heavily, on billboards and on television and it worked. Their national TV ads made people interested and their forward looking and creative TV ads were way ahead of the competition. It was one of the first music stores to open an online store back in 1995 with tower.com.

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Tower Records saw the potential very early on in the Internet age and worked very closely with record companies. The stores sponsored in-store performances and autograph signings to increase awareness. They helped with the artwork and promotion of upcoming records and Tower even had its own art department to create visuals for in store use. Events held at Tower Records were some of the most important ways that even newer artists could get their names known. It was no secret that the employees had a good time at the workplace, sometimes with extracurricular substances helping out the celebrations. For music loving kids it was a place they dreamed of working but it was widely known that there were Tower Records clerks who had total disregard for customers who “lacked knowledge”. For some, it might have made shopping intimidating for some but it was a great place for others. Quite naturally, we want to know what happened?

There were many to put the blame on the easiest target which was Napster with the illegal file sharing network becoming a fast growing way for people to get music for free without even having to go outside. But Napster was not the only cause of Tower Records’ downfall. There were multiple issues to blame for the closure that started from the late 90’s. There was competition from other retailers and pricing wars were issues, with superstores such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart opening stores everywhere, and their lower prices for CDs and DVDs. Superstores might not have had the big selection, but they did have the overall lower prices for the major releases. Failures of international expansion was another case. Japan held on, but places like Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan, and others were struggling.

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The late 1990’s saw a time that recordable CDs became affordable for home use thus making copying in high quantities very fast and easy. Places like Thailand or Taiwan became heavily known for the places to buy bootlegged CDs for a fraction of the cost of the retail price, and for many in those countries, it made more sense to buy the unofficial CDs.. Record companies were also not helping things out. Their ideas were to sue Napster and its users and punish the downloaders rather that to find ways to work with the online distribution system. Because of lower sales figures, they decided to mark up the prices of the CDs, which would again prevent people from buying. Instead of taking chances on new bands or new styles of music, record companies cut back with letting go of employees and bands that were not worth the time and effort to market, while concentrating on bland pop music and bands that were guaranteed sellers. Essentially they were making it so it was more difficult for real music fans to actually buy music.

Hanks interviewed everyone that he could including Russ Solomon and his son Michael, as well as a large amount of former Tower Records employees that helped build it from the ground up. Hanks also includes interviews with famous musicians who talk about the Tower Records experience, Bruce Springsteen loved going to California to visit the stores, Elton John says he is probably the person who spent the most money at the business, and Dave Grohl who was an employee at a Tower Records in Virginia before concentrating on his music career. Throughout the documentary there is vintage film footage, vintage photographs and TV commercials to bridge the interview footage together. This is very well directed and well edited film that gets all its points across but there is something I would have liked to see— the viewpoint from the average shoppers.

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Hanks and writer Steven Leckart are very lucky to have fortunate to have the colorful commentary of Russ Solomon, the l octogenarian who started selling records in the back of his father’s Sacramento drugstore in 1960, and steadily built a global chain of Tower Records outlets. Each store was a mammoth music marketplace where virtually every recording imaginable was displayed for just browsing, shopping and/or impulse buying. Solomon shares screen time with several former employees and associates, all of whom are nostalgic about the wild-and-crazy early days of Tower Records expansion, when sales clerks hired off the street could work their way up to management positions, and lunch breaks often expanded to allow for excessive consumption of booze and drugs. The opening of the first store in Japan served to increase company-wide confidence that the fun and making money would never stop.

But it did stop. Even before Napster and other streaming services in the 1990s, Tower Records suffered dearly for its inability (or unwillingness) to adapt and evolve. The artificially high price of CDs, along with the end of the CD single, bothered customers who gradually rebelled against paying for tracks they didn’t care to hear. It didn’t help much when big-box retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart started slashing CD prices in a loss-leader campaign to increase customer traffic. Steadily mounting debt led to management shakeups and layoffs, desperate measures that proved to be too little, too late, to keep Tower Records afloat.

In 1999, the documentary tells us early on Tower Records recorded $1 billion in earnings. Five years later, the chain entered bankruptcy. What  happened to Tower is all too familiar. We have seen it with Borders and Radio Shack and Comp USA. Once thriving retail chains have found themselves on the wrong side of history. What could have been a boring story comes to life in the hands of Colin Hanks and it is a compelling tale.

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Hanks interweaves talking-heads interviews, archival material and a retailer history lesson that is soundly constructed, briskly paced and affective. The film opens on the empty shelves that once contained endless stacks of CDs and records and then we see Solomon leaving for the airport.

Unfortunately, as the title of the movie tells us, all (good) things must pass. The ultimate reason for the decline of Tower was, as Russ Solomon says, “We weren’t successful in any of the other countries we went into,” further claiming personal responsibility by adding, “I’m stupid for saying yes to partnerships [in other cities] even though I didn’t totally believe in them.”

Solomon always seemed to believe in the people he hired, starting with down-to-earth Sacramentans who were relieved that their town finally had a place where its youth could hang out, even if that did mean essentially spending a lot of time in a parking lot. Heidi Cotler, who started out as a clerk and rose to the rank of VP of Operations, adds, “You know, in Sacramento, there weren’t very many places for kids to hang out. There was, like downtown, there was places. But in the north area, there was hardly any north area, so it was, you know, Tower Books and Records were in like this parking lot surrounded by nothing. And for kids in high school, that’s what you did.”

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By the end ofAll Things Must Pass”, Tower’s world is shrunk from the global to the mere span of Japan, which kept the business open as a result of its independent management. And so, with the final store closing at the original location in Sacramento, it was written, “All things must pass. Thanks Sacramento.” And what Tower was really thanking its city of origin for was that it embraced Tower and that was so special and unprecedented.

There are lots of extras:

Deleted & Extended Scenes

– 8801 Sunset Boulevard (10:35)

There was a public hearing and decision on making the former Tower Records building into a historically preserved location for local cultural resource. This features interviews from city officials who are for it, city officials who are against it, and former patrons sharing their memories. The actual footage of the public hearing and testimonials are presented.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

– Art of Retail (6:14)

Tower was known for the extensive artwork by the art department, from the outdoor paintings and indoor decorations. Foamcore, paint, cutouts, cardboard, glue, tape, and everything they could find were used.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

– Bob on Sunset (3:34)

Bob Delanoy tells the unorthodox story of how he became manager of Sunset Boulevard store.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

– In-House Advertising (5:24)

Chris Hopson was a liaison between Tower and record labels. He talks about the TV ads created by Tower Records and the use of artistic commercials for national ads. There are a lot of TV commercial clips offered.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

– In Stores (7:52)

Former employees talk about some of their most memorable in store appearances by various bands.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

– Pink Elephants (3:20)

The infamous Capitol Records promo which included a spray painted Pink Elephant is talked about in more detail. They also settle whether it was the elephant peed on the floor inside, or that the elephant peed outside.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

– Record Supply (3:50)

Russell Solomon talks about trying to convince record companies initially and why they all said “no” to his crazy plans.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

Trailer (2:03)

The original trailer is offered here.

in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

“Christodora: A Novel” by Tim Murphy— The Christodora and Life

christodora

Murphy, Tim. “Christodora: A Novel”, Grove, 2016.

The Christodora and Life

Amos Lassen

The Christodora is an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village and is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist is now a lonely addict who becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can have thought of. At the same time, Milly and Jared’s adopted son Mateo has matured enough to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers. The city is transitioning from the junkies and protestors of the 1980s to the 2000s and they are changing to the glass skyscrapers of the 2020s with the wealthy residents. Tremendous change in the lives of Milly and Jared and those around them is the focus of this novel. We move from the Tompkins Square Riots and attempts by activists to galvanize a true response to the AIDS epidemic, to the New York City of the future, “Christodora” tells of the heartbreak caused by AIDS and the allure and destructive power of hard drugs.

“Christodora” is the saga of the Lower East Side saga as seen through the interlocking lives of Hector, Mateo, Issy, Milly, Jared, and Eva. This is a novel about characters and they drive the story forward. Our characters live at the Christodora and we follow their lives through the 80s to the 2000s. New York City is also a character here and it is through her that we read of AIDS, drugs, race, activism, gentrification, art, and ideas of progress. Mateo is the adopted Latino son of white upper middle artists Milly and Jared, who live a few floors above Hector. After Mateo’s mother Issy dies her son’s future is left to Eva, Milly’s mother, the woman who built a home for women living with HIV when she realized that the city’s bureaucracy could not be dealt with regarding AIDS. She worked for the City’s Health Department and was once Hector’s boss.

I was out of the country during most of the AIDS epidemic so I really only know what I have read about it and this book certainly filled some of the holes in my knowledge. Tim Murphy is such a wonderful writer that I found myself turning pages as quickly as possible and wanting to know more and more. He raises important questions about responsibility and the natures of friendship and love. His characters are brilliantly created and I realized that as I read I was living through them. He also introduces us to addiction in ways I have never read about before. He shows that recovery from addiction is possible but that it is not always the case.

The novel begins with a history of the Christodora and we learn how Jared (and so Milly and Mateo) ended up living there and this let us learn about the dynamics of class during the years that the novel is set.

One of the gaps filled in by the novel is about women and the AIDS epidemic. Murphy writes of the women within the crisis; those living with HIV and also caretakers, heroes, witnesses and lovers. Within the world he has created, women help other women, fall in love with each other, find their places of being available for others as well as get married to straight men, sleep with gay men and take the lead of activism and make the government include them, as they lament the unfairness toward their gender. They become active in the face of this as they also feel the pain of loss as they see their friends and loved ones die. We see that women are vital to and an important part of the history of AIDS.

It is through Hector that we feel the impact of the epidemic on the gay male psyche for men of a certain age. We see the change from anti-gay to anti-AIDS and we see Hector as a man filled with scorn and dying; a man who is not sure of who he is and what is happening to him. Murphy uses his stories to give us a literary look at AIDS and its victims and it is both beautiful and painful to read.

We are reminded of the crude pharmacology and horrible bureaucracy for those struggling with AIDS . We are also given a reminder that despite recent medical advances, the disease still finds ways to ravage people’s lives. “Christodora” recreated the lost world of Manhattan’s downtown and the politics of gentrification and the joys of liberation, a liberation that had to be put on hold as our community was devastated by a terrible disease. We see the cost of activism and we read of the results in this book that is going to be one of the literary highlights not just of this year but also of many years to come.

The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific” by David Bianculli— How Television Evolved

the platinum age of television

Bianculli, David. “The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific”, Doubleday, 2016.

How Television Evolved

Amos Lassen

“The Platinum Age of Television is one of the most anticipated books of the fall. We now all know that television has taken over as the premier and most important form of visual narrative art of our time. This new book by David Bianculli explains historically, in depth, and with interviews with the celebrated creators themselves how the art of must-see/binge-watch television evolved.

Bianculli’s theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way. As he traces the evolutionary history of our progress toward a Platinum Age of Television—our age, the era of “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” and “Homeland and” Girls, he focuses on the development of the classic TV genres, among them the sitcom, the crime show, the miniseries, the soap opera, the western, the animated series and the late night talk show. In each genre, he gives five key examples of the form, tracing its continuities and its dramatic departures and drawing on exclusive and in-depth interviews with many of the most famed auteurs in television history.

This is the first book to examine, in depth and in detail and with a keen critical and historical sense, how this inspiring development came about. All of us have our ideas and it is great fun comparing them with Bianculli’s. The book comes out this November, 2016.