film

"Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop"

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I was lucky enough to have actor and writer Danny Hoch on my live show in San Francisco. It won't be podcast until tommorow, but it's in the top ten of all-time TSOYA interviews, at least for me. His newest show, "Takin' Over," deals with gentrification in Brooklyn, and is currently running at Berkeley Rep in the long-since gentrified Berkeley, California.

There's precious little of the new show available online, but his last major one man show, "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop" was made into a film. The movie was financed by Rawkus Records, who were planning to use the film as promotion for an accompanying soundtrack album. Unfortunately, the label folded before the album could be released, and the film was thrown into limbo.

Eventually Danny and his associates managed to get the movie into DVD release, and thank goodness they did. Like Luis Valdez' "Zoot Suit," the film lives in the liminalities between staged performance and real life. Each character monologue is seen performed live in a theater, in public, in a prison and in the fictional world of the piece. The technique balances the needs of the show with the needs of the piece's inherent theatricality beautifully. It's one of my favorite films of all time. I cry several times every time I watch it. And laugh a lot, too.

Above, I've pasted a scene from the film, in which Hoch portrays a street vendor and hip-hop afficionado in Cuba. Unlike pretty much any other hip-hop art concerning Cuba I've ever seen, it's insightful, balanced and humane, not just Castroist agitprop. Of course, those qualities are typical of Hoch's work. Indeed, perhaps the most sympathetic character in "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop" is a prison guard, the frontline soldier of the prison industrial complex.

Anyway, enjoy the above, check out the interview tommorow, make plans to see Danny's show if you're in the Yay Area, and cop that disc if you're elsewhere.

RIP to Tony Silver

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Tony Silver, director of the best hip-hop film ever made, Style Wars, passed last night. Not only was Tony a gifted artist, he was also a close family friend, and he'll be missed both my my family and his. I'm thinking of his wonderful wife Lisa. Tony had been suffering from a degenerative brain condition for quite some time, so in some ways, it is a release.

When Tony made Style Wars, the seminal documentary about hip-hop and particularly graffiti in New York, he wasn't a part of hip-hop or graffiti culture. He and his partner Henry Chalfant made a film that is immensely intelligent and respectful of its subjects, a bunch of New York kids who were discovering something that would really and truly change the world. By allowing these kids to speak for themselves to a world that at the time was at best borderline contemptuous of them was really a watershed decision.

If you want to remember Tony, I can't imagine a better way than by buying or renting Style Wars. For many years, the film was only available in expensive educational VHS editions, sold to university libraries for hundreds of dollars. Graf heads made dubbed copies and passed them to friends. A few years ago, Tony spent quite a long time putting together a definitive DVD edition, which features not only the full film and outtakes, but also interviews with the subjects, some 25 years later.

I'm thinking of Tony today, a kind, intelligent man and a brilliant artist.

Wet Hot American Summer the Musical? IT COULD HAPPEN.

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In response to published reports that there "has been talk of" David Wain & Co creating a musical version of the brilliant film Wet Hot America Summer, we put our reporter hats on and went straight to the source: David Wain himself.

Here's what he told us: "the quote is both accurate and complete, I'm afraid. "There's been talk" and that's about it, so far."

He also told us: "tell your listeners to check out The Ten on DVD!"

Check out The Ten on DVD. It's great.

Above: a stirring performance of "Day Bidet" from the musical Godspell, as performed by the campers of Wet Hot American Summer.
Previously: David Wain on TSOYA Live in NYC

Podcast: Director Jeffrey Blitz

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Show: 
Bullseye

Jeffrey Blitz is the director of the film “Rocket Science,” which follows the story of a New Jersey teenager with a stuttering problem who joins his high school's debate team. His last film, 2002’s “Spellbound,” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. He has also directed several episodes of NBC’s “The Office.”

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Matt Belknap on Juno

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If we've learned anything here, it's that when people don't like something, they will object to and complain about every choice made within that thing. On a perverse level, I kind of enjoy how the "Juno" soundtrack punishes the hipster viewer/listener for knowing so much obscure music. Whereas the rest of the world is oblivious to the songs' sources and can just take them at face value, the hipster will go crazy with every needle drop and become filled with the indignant rage of a villager whose homeland has been invaded and his family raped. I have no doubt that, to the learned music fan, the "Juno" soundtrack is a cloying, ham-handed appropriation of indie music that tries too hard and exposes the filmmakers as hopeless poseurs... but then again, there were probably die-hard folkies who felt the same way about "The Graduate."

Matt Belknap of Never Not Funny and aspecialthing.com sums up the discourse on Juno quite ably.

Podcast: Eric Lax on Woody Allen

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Show: 
Bullseye

Jesse interviews Eric Lax. Lax is the author of "Woody Allen: A Biography," "On Being Funny" and most recently "Conversations with Woody Allen." Since being assigned to profile Allen for the New York Times magazine almost forty years ago, Lax has followed the comedian and filmmaker's career, interviewing him regularly. We talk about Allen's life and enormous ouvre, from the great to, well... The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

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The Pope and Michaelangelo from Monty Python

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Something is wrong with The Last Supper.

"Is it the disciples? Did I make them look too Jewish? I tried to make Judas look the most Jewish..."

via Kung Fu Grippe

Podcast: The Best Music & Movies of 2007 with the editors of The Onion's AV Club

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Bullseye


This one's a podcast exclusive -- the best music and movies of the year for 2007. Managing editor Josh Modell runs down the music side, and Film Editor Scott Tobias runs down the world of film. You can find the full film list here, and the full music list here.

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Satirist George Saunders
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Podcast: Burn to Shine with Brendan Canty

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Show: 
Bullseye


This week, we talk with Brendan Canty. He's best known as the drummer for the punk rock band Fugazi, but he's also made his name as a record and film producer. We talk about his high concept music DVD series "Burn to Shine." Each DVD features a group of bands representing a regional rock scene, each of which play a song in a house that's slated to be burned down by the fire department. Brendan says he hopes each DVD captures a moment in the music scene of a certain place.

We also talk about how Brendan feels about making a new career after 17 years with Fugazi, and about being a rock & roll dad.

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Podcast: Chris Elliott

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Show: 
Bullseye


Chris Elliott is an alternative comedy legend. He began his career as a runner on Late Night with David Letterman, before becoming an iconic writer/performer on that show. He turned his fame into a bizarre sitcom called Get A Life and a perhaps even stranger film called Cabin Boy. More recently, he's appeared in films like There's Something About Mary, Groundhog Day and Scary Movie and in many TV shows, including The King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond. He's now an author, with a new novel called "Into Hot Air: Mounting Mount Everest."

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