Patti Smith Band At Lincoln Center

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Patti Smith and her band, including long-time Smith band members and collaborators Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan, opened the 2016 Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival on Wednesday eve, July 20, 2016. It was a rocking show – tight, soulful, Smith’s voice having lost nothing over the years.

The all-female, Latin Grammy–nominated group Mariachi Flor de Toloache  – a quartet bringing New York style to traditional Mexican music – opened the show with energy and style.

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Story Time.

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Lenny Kaye lays it down.

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Feedback Time.

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Catching up – Q & A’s

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I’ve been a member of the National Board of Review since 2008 and have had the honor of doing over 60 after-film Q&A’s with many of the most interesting and talented directors, actors and producers in the world. Because NBR is a private organization most of these events go undocumented – unlike many of the press promotions and publicity stops, NBR offers a relaxed “off the record” experience. Which makes for really good conversations. Whether I’m moderating a Q&A or watching my fellow board members doing them it is a rewarding experience and a reminder that most filmmakers, actors, producers, and cinematographers are passionate about their art and generous about sharing their experiences. I can’t say enough about the National Board of Review and how it supports the art of film, supports filmmakers and provides valuable knowledge and financial assistance to young filmmakers.

Occasionally an excerpt from a Q&A will make it to the NBR website. Here are links to a few that I have done in the recent past. You can also find a number of my film reviews elsewhere on this blog.  And, if you have the Blu-ray of Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited you can find a nearly complete Q&A that I moderated with him and his cast on the specials disc.

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Q&A with Michael Fassbender

 

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Q&A with Laura Linney and Ian McKellen

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Q&A with Brett Haley, Blythe Danner, and Sam Elliot

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Q&A with Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey, and Dorothy Atkinson

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Q&A with Ira Sachs, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, and Alfred Molina

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Q&A with John Turturro

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Q&A with Pat Healy

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Q&A with Director Kar Wai Wong, Tony Leung, and Ziyi Zhang

Looking back at Lyle Lovett and Summerstage 2015

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Summertime and outdoor music – a real treat.
Here’s a link to more pictures, as they are added:  More photos by Thomas W. Campbell

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Lyle Lovett performs with his Big Band at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015. Photograph by Thomas W. Campbell

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Lyle Lovett performs with his Big Band at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015. Photograph by Thomas W. Campbell
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A member of Lyle Lovett’s Big Band plays at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015. Photograph by Thomas. W. Campbell

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Lyle Lovett and his Big Band at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015 Photograph by Thomas W. Campbell

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Lyle Lovett and his Big Band at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015 Photograph by Thomas W. Campbell

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Lyle Lovett and his Big Band at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015 Photograph by Thomas W. Campbell

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Lyle Lovett and his Big Band at Lincoln Center Summerstage, 2015 Photograph by Thomas W. Campbell

 

Birth of the Sun – Grady Alexis and the East Village

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Grady Alexis drinks coffee in the kitchen of El Taller Latino Americano during the late 1980’s. Image by Demian Palombo.

Birth of the Sun is a short documentary video about Grady Alexis and the East Village of the 1980’s/90’s. Using interviews, art, and archival footage, the film explores the life and times of the Haitian artist who moved to New York City when he was a young teenager, lived on the street while he sold his art in Tompkins Square park, found community and shelter with other artists and outsiders, and finally died in a traffic scuffle with an off-duty policeman at the age of 26.

Grady lived on the edge, bonding with the artists and activists he met through the downtown community, developing a style based on his own experiences in New York City that also became firmly rooted in the tradition and culture of his native Haiti. Grady never had a legal address, living in squats, on the street, at El Taller as “Resident Artist”, and with friends and lovers. He was a collaborator, which brought him into touch with many people, movements, and cultures. Birth of the Sun examines these distinct sides of Grady’s life. It looks at the family that he found when he became “artist in residence” at El Taller Latino Americano, when he was involved with the artist known as “the Maroons” and his time with the artists who convened at the Mars Bar.

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Grady Alexis at an art opening at El Taller in late 1980’s. Freeze frame from video shot by Bernardo Palombo.

Grady’s life was also on the street during a time when violent crime was at a peak and police-community relations were strained and tenuous. That is where his life ultimately ended. On the evening of May 6, 1991, Grady Alexis and two others were confronted by two men, one an off-duty policeman, at 8th street and Fifth Avenue. Grady died hours later from the eruption of violence that ensued. His untimely death on the evening of May 6, 1991, was swift and had a lasting impact on those who knew him. When he died El Taller seemed to collapse beneath the tragic weight of the event. The Maroons had already broken up, although Thom Corn and Grady had continued to collaborate. The film is about the many people who still remember their friendship with Grady.

The filmmakers use many narrative and stylistic techniques to examine the life and death of Grady Alexis and his lasting impact. Working from a photograph of his long-lost mural “the Birth of the Sun”, people who knew Grady, and artists from El Taller have gathered to recreate the mural. The completion of the mural, which is documented in the film, culminates in the celebration of Grady’s life – a gathering of people from past and present at the first retrospective of Grady’s painting and sculpture. The filmmakers sorted through hundreds of hours of archival material that spans the entire duration of El Taller’s rich history to find the small bit of video documentation that exists of his life. Birth of the Sun is in many ways an investigation. The filmmakers are interviewing numerous people who knew Grady and were active in the arts and political culture of the time, attempting to put his life – and death – into a broader social context. The film uses subtle and artistic re-enactments to explore the relationships that defined Grady’s life and death. The filmmakers also documenting much of Grady’s surviving artwork – paintings, sculptures, masks, murals, and installations. The film has a rich and completely original soundtrack that reflects the many musicians who knew Grady.

Birth of the Sun uses an artist's rendition to represent the events of May 6, 1991. Richard Pliego was the artist.

Birth of the Sun uses an artist’s rendition to represent the events of May 6, 1991. Richard Pliego was the artist.

Although Grady’s life ended almost 25 years ago, his death was part of a turning point in the city’s cultural and social landscape. Birth of the Sun, which was produced in 2008, is about that time and will shed light on the life of Grady Alexis and this unique moment in the life of New York City.

Screening in Houston, Texas

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It would be great to have films in so many festivals that one would have to pick and choose which ones to attend. Not the case so far, but it was wonderful to have my short Rooftop Serenade selected for the Extremely Shorts Film Festival in Houston, Texas. Aurora Pictures is a great and dedicated group of film makers/producers/exhibitors/ enthusiasts who are doing important work to keep the spirit of film art alive. The breadth of quality filmmaking that made up the screenings, all selected by guest curator Jolene Pinder of the New Orleans Film Festival, was remarkable. Stop-motion and 2D animation, poetry, slices of real life, quirky, sad and funny narratives, funny twists, good music, social critique – 80 minutes of unconventional and totally satisfying film viewing.

And it was a smart and appreciative audience – after each evening’s screening Mary Magsamen, the creative director of Aurora, invited the filmmakers in attendance up to ask questions, joined by Ms. Pinder. It was fun to be part of this young, select group and to answer questions during the Q and A and afterwards (there was a lot of interest in the fact that my film was shot and cut on 16mm film).

And Houston was fun to explore – everyone drives but the mass transit is civilized, runs on time, and affordable. Excellent museums (the Menil Museum and the Rothko Chapel are next to each other and not to be missed), good food, and a bridge in the middle of the city where thousands of bats sleep and emerge from every dawn.

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After Screening gathering at Aurora Picture Show. Beer, Pizza, good film talk.

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This is a Houston house made from beer bottles, cans, and lids. It has Quasi-landmarked status.

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Judge Jolene Pinder and Creative Director Mary Magsamen introduce the festival.

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Just down the road from the Aurora Picture show is Good Co. BBQ!

Film Stills for Rooftop Serenade

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I was looking through a box of old photographs and came across some production stills from the 2002 Rooftop Serenade shoot that were taken on film. It was a really hot and bright day that was full of visual contrast. The photographs were taken by Holly Leavy.

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