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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

February 22nd, 2018

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FRESH AIR: New York Times reporter Scott Shane discusses special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians who allegedly participated in a complex social media operation to undermine the 2016 election. MORE

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JANELLE MONAE: Make Me Feel

February 22nd, 2018

SLATE: The trailer for Janelle Monáe’s new album, Dirty Computer, didn’t prepare us for this. Monae dropped two new singles on Thursday, and, to paraphrase one of them, they make us feel so effing good. First up is “Make Me Feel,” in which Monáe proves why she’s the natural successor to fill the void left behind by Prince’s death in 2016. Not only does the accompanying music video show off Monae’s androgynous style and unbelievably smooth moves, it also quickly turns into a bisexual anthem as Monáe bounces back and forth between male and female love interests, the latter of whom is played by Tessa Thompson. The scenes of the two of them in the club are giving us strong “San Junipero” vibes, especially Thompson’s 80s-inspired hair and wardrobe. The other song Monáe dropped Thursday is “Django Jane,” which is full of cinematic allusions, including to her own box-office success. (Monáe has starred in Moonlight and Hidden Figures.) “Let the vagina have a monologue,” Monáe raps at one point…MORE

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DEJA VU: Jonathan Wilson’s Spirit In The Sky

February 21st, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the February 2013 issue of MAGNET MAGAZINE. We are re-posting it today in advance of Jonathan Wilson’s performance at Boot & Saddle on March 9th in support of his new solo album, Rare Birds.

BY JONATHAN VALANIA  It is another peaceful, easy-feeling evening in Laurel Canyon. The day has finally surrendered to the onset of night, which signals the beginning of shooting the waltz scenes in the video for “Dear Friend,” the lead-off single from acclaimed producer/singer-songwriter Jonathan Wilson’s new album, Fanfare. The location of the shoot is patch of driveway at the end of the dirt road that snakes perilously through a warren of hillside hippie hobbit holes and dead-ends in front of Wilson’s manager’s hillside house. The dancer’s are dressed in turn of the last century period regalia — top hats and tails, taffeta ball gowns and silk gloves — set the twilight reeling.

When I left my hotel it was the 21st Century outside, but after a half hour wending through Laurel Canyon’s winding, steeply-perched roads, past any number of leafy homesteads that Graham Nash may well have been singing about in “Our House,” it’s beginning to feel a lot like 1969, only to arrive at the video shoot and find everyone is dressed like it’s 1869. It’s sort of like that scene in Inception where they induce a dream and once inside they induce another dream. Wilson is no stranger to the woozy cognitive dissonance of doing the time warp again. There is retro hippie chic and then there’s Jonathan Wilson, who, by all sounds and appearances, seems to have emerged fully-formed — bearded, bangled and bellbottomed — from 1971 via a wormhole rendered incontinent by too many Quaaludes and Brandy Alexanders with Nilsson at the Whiskey A Go Go.

Gentle Spirit, Wilson’s critically-acclaimed 2011 solo debut, sounded like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young getting high on The Dark Side Of The Moon. The new Fanfare sets the Wayback Machine for a slightly more recent vintage — roughly 1975, by my reckoning. The Sopwith Camel cover and occasional jazz flute filigree not withstanding, Fanfare sounds like Crosby, Stills & Nash crashing the recording sessions for Wish You Were Here, only to find out that Steely Dan has already done all the blow. Ten soliders and Nixon have come and gone. Jimmy Carter’s in the White House and Cecil Taylor is on the lawn.

The CSN comparisons are only a slight exaggeration. Crosby and Nash lend their golden throats to Fanfare, on a track called “Cecil Taylor,” which is easily the most interesting thing either have harmonized on since Deja Vu. West Coast rock aristocrats he calls friends, people like Jackson Browne, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Petty’s Heartbreakers, also turn up on the album, along with Wilco’s Pat Sansone and songwriting assists from Brit folk legend Roy Harper.

The participation of all the aforementioned star power is a direct result of each and everyone being blown away by Gentle Spirit. However, the impressive pedigrees of Fanfare‘s guest players — not to mention the prevailing sense of trans-generational cultural deja vu their presence engenders —  were checked at the studio door. Outside the studio they are, to varying degrees, legends, inside the studio they are just friends come by to jam. “When I’m singing with Jackson or Crosby or Graham or something, that’s when it all really makes sense,” says Wilson, who looks like a hippie Christian Bale. “Like the differences in our age, the generational stuff, and whose done what and when and where, that all vanishes in the song. That’s the attraction, that’s the basis of the friendship. I was talking today – I just did a tour with Bobby from The Grateful Dead – and it’s the same exact thing. When we’re in the song, that’s what keeps it afloat, the friendship.”

Wilson is a southern man, grew up in Spindale, North Carolina — at the base of the Piedmont mountains, just down the road from Earl Scruggs’s house — which everyone knows is nowhere. His uncle used to play with Bill Monroe. His dad was a shit-hot bluegrass picker and, as the fruit does not fall far from the tree, a pre-teen Jonathan Wilson, something of a multi-instrumental prodigy, would sit in on drums when the drummer took ill. Back in the early 90s, he followed the lead of a friend who’s father happened to be the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Hills that is. Swimming pools, movie stars. Cue the Earl Scruggs.
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FROM THE VAULTS: It’s John DeBella’s Morning, Philadelphia Just Wakes Up In It Every Day

February 19th, 2018

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Wrote this 14 years ago (14? Good Lord!), reprinting this today in the wake of today’s news that DeBella is being sued for sexual harrassment by his long-time on-air sidekick. The title of the profile was JOHN DEBELLA IS NOT AN ASSHOLE. ANYMORE — in retrospect, that assessment was premature.

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA John DeBella has been a hippie and a punk. A winner and a loser. A hero and a villain. And now he just wants to be a nice guy. As if to prove it, he is going to start welling up in T-minus-three seconds. “I can’t remember a time when I have been this happy,” says the former WMMR icon of his return to morning radio on WMGK.Those great big googly eyes start glistening. A furrow forms on his infinite forehead. He looks away, biting on his lip to stanch the quivering.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got behind the microphone,” he says before changing the subject to avert an impending full-blown blubber. “I’m an emotional son of a bitch. I cry too easily.”

You can call him a lot of things, but one thing you can’t call John DeBella is chicken. He has devoted his life to radio, which is–to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson–a cruel and shallow money trench, a long and plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free, and good men die like dogs.

For a time DeBella turned wackiness into a cash cow and tapped a big vein in that money trench. But the worm turned, as it always does in radio, and he died like a dog. Twice.

It’s only a slight exaggeration to call what happened to him a high-tech lynching, and while there are many sides to this story–and this is only one of them–this much is certain: Many he called friends left him twisting in the wind.

And now he has come back for more. He has eaten more than his share of humble pie. He has grown fat on crow. And he has come here today, to the lobby of the Four Seasons, to say that he is grateful for the chance to dive back into the shark tank, knowing full well there is blood in the water. And he knows that nobody–save Pierre Robert, God bless his tie-dyed soul–will throw him a lifeline if he starts going down again.

Then he breaks into that laugh–a nervous, rapid-fire raccoon chuckle–that punctuates every other sentence. There is a pleading, a neediness in that laugh, beseeching all who hear it to please come join him in this moment of complete and utter hilarity.

His story is one part comedy–wacky and zany, or “zacky and wany,” as he likes to call it. And two parts tragedy–which are less so. Much less.
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BEING THERE: Bardo Pond @ Johnny Brenda’s

February 18th, 2018

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Photo by MARK LIKOSKY

For a Boston indie kid from the 90’s like myself, Friday’s Bardo Pond/Major Stars show at Johnny Brenda’s was like a stroll down the proverbial memory lane. I used to walk into Twisted Village record store to check out the most obscure music I could find. Sometime around 1996 upon hearing that the owners of this eclectic record store in Harvard Sq were in a band called the Major Stars, I just had to go check them out. In the 20 years that have passed since seeing that show I can’t recall a more powerful live set from this super heavy psych rock outfit.Flash forward to present day. I catch wind that my neighbor’s band Honey Radar is opening for Major Stars and Philly’s own legendary Bardo Pond, another psych rock band I’ve been following for over two decades. Having missed so many Bardo Pond shows in the past that I’d swear I was cursed, I vowed not to miss this one. Now having finally seen but more importantly experienced in person the sludgy psychotropic haze that Bardo Pond emits from the stage, I can finally consider myself a true Philadelphian.Prior to the show I knew little or nothing about Henry Owings of the Chunklet zine and now label. He’s been a music journalist, promoted over 1000 shows, released recorded, designed albums and posters by some of everyone’s favorite obscure indie rock bands. Henry now graces crowds with his One Second Band Impersonations which he does to introduce each band on this tour. Henry is the architect of this mini tour with Bardo Pond, Magic Hour and Fishtown rockers Honey Radar who have a lo-fi minimalist subtle-yet-slightly-dirty rock sound which made for a perfect opener to the other bands. To accompany these shows Chunklet in collaboration with Third Uncle records released a limited edition split 7” with Bardo Pond and Major Stars. Having not seen Bardo Pond enough to compare them to other performances I do have to say they blew me away to a degree well beyond expectations. Towards the end of their mesmerizing set Isobel Sollenberger, singer and flutist said it best that “this has been such a beautiful night” and indeed it was. — MARK LIKOSKY

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CINEMA: Cat Scratch Fever

February 16th, 2018

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BLACK PANTHER (Directed by Ryan Coogler, 134 minutes, USA, 2018)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Black Panther catches up Chadwick Boseman’s Prince T’Challa — hands down the best part of Captain America: Civil War (2016) — upon his return to the fictional African nation of Wakanda in the wake of his father’s death. A quick prologue fills in the nation’s backstory: centuries ago a giant vibranium meteor crashed into Wakanda, helping the nation to flourish and advance at an amazing rate. Fearing this technological renaissance will invite marauding armies, the five governing tribes to seal off their small nation from the rest of the world, disguising Wakanda as a third world nation. Another side effect of the vibranium deposits in the soil is a “heart-shaped herb” that grows in Wakanda and grants superhuman abilities to those that eat it; this is a sacrament reserved for the King who also carries the moniker of the Black Panther.

Even though T’Challa donned the vibranium armor on his father’s behalf in Civil War; he was not yet officially Wakanda’s leader. To claim the throne he must first fight anyone of royal descent who challenges him in ritual combat on the day of his coronation.  When T’Challa’s first mission as the Panther to capture vibranium smuggler Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) fails miserably, its Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) who uses Klaue as a bargaining chip to get into Wakanda. The young assassin then challenges the new king laying his own claim to the throne, thanks to a family secret. In keeping with the overarching theme of Marvel Phase 3, T’Challa is forced to deal with the sins of his father as he soon finds “its hard for a man with a good heart to be king.”

Marvel’s Black Panther actually predates the founding of the Black Panther Party, with his first comic appearance in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966). In order to put some space between the character and the movement that was quickly picking up steam, Marvel actually attempted to change the character’s name to Black Leopard for a bit, but you can probably see why that didn’t stick. T’Challa was the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics. He is essentially the black Batman, a super genius and master tactician with an endless reservoir of wealth at his command. The Panther in his comic book iteration beat up the Fantastic Four, joined The Avengers, protected Hell’s Kitchen in Daredevil absence and beat everyone from Doctor Doom to the Ku Klux Klan.

Black Panther is a seminal moment for the superhero genre, which is not really known for its diversity. The $200 million Marvel tent-pole features an almost all black cast in a film that was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler.  After cutting his teeth on the indie darling Fruitvale Station, Coogler went on to direct Creed, and in the process single-handedly salvaged the Rocky franchise. Creed definitely features themes heavily echoed in Black Panther, as a young man fights to get out of his father’s shadow and make a name for himself in the world. While T’Challa is much different from Adonis, they almost feel like they are two sides of the same coin and how Coogler crafts the narrative around those themes breaks new ground for comic book fare.

Led by Chadwick Boseman, the ensemble cast just oozes big screen charisma. Every character here is a badass, every man walks with unbelievable swagger and every woman is as deadly as she is beautiful. To be honest I wasn’t expecting Boseman’s empathetic take on the Prince, who is by his own accord not ready to take the throne. Its that kind of genuine vulnerability that imbues T’Challa with a quiet strength that give his actions an enormous weight on screen, when he is forced to act. Boseman is surrounded on all sides by equally engaging characters that inhabit this beautifully textured world. You genuinely feel like Ryan really went out of his way to give every actor their moment to get a laugh or a reaction from the audience, and this only makes the audience that much more invested in their world.

In a time when the news cycle is filled with thinly-disguised racism that runs all the way up to the White House, Black Panther is exactly the film we need right now. Hopefully the film will function also as a watershed moment for Marvel given the reception so far, to start to develop films with even more characters of different ethnicities, sexual orientations or genders. I mean how long have we been waiting for that Black Widow film? Black Panther may be long over due, but there was nothing about this film that didn’t feel less than exactly what it should have or could have been, from Michael B. Jordan heart wrenching take on “Killmonger” to Lupita Nyong’o powerful and acrobatic Nakia. Black Panther is a super-charged, highly-entertaining and surprisingly nuanced superhero film, that doesn’t shy away from making a poignant statement at the end. Here’s hoping its cause for soul-searching and reflection. Wakanda forever!

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BEING THERE: Porches @ Union Transfer

February 16th, 2018

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Photo by ALAINA CLUNE

Emotionally hungover from a Valentine’s Day spent trying to walk he fine line between embarrassingly enthusiastic and an even more embarrassing aversion for the holiday, me and my friends walk what feels like too many blocks from the subway to Union Transfer. We chug cheap beer without the ease and enthusiasm with which we normally do. The rafters and the general admission area of Union Transfer are blessedly uncrowded. There’s a calm, coolness that marks both the sound of the music and this rainy Thursday night.

Girl Ray, a refreshingly laid back North London girl group, are on their first American tour. They take the stage, bathed in blue light, and their vocalist, Poppy Hankin, notes this, her accent winsome and her voice stilled despite the microphone to her lips. Their self-proclaimed “estrogen pop” manifests itself in effortlessly catchy beats, inducing mellow head bobbing. Their tender but never saccharine lyrics are perfectly suited to a drizzly Valentine’ day after. In “Stupid Things,” Poppy croons “I’m thinking of you / Just to feel close to you / I’ve never done so many stupid things / Just to make me feel new.” She succinctly navigates the feeling of stupidity that all too often accompanies crushes and the struggle to establish intimacy.

My hair dries, and my residual grumpiness dissipates as the once empty spaces along the rafters fill. Porches takes the stage, opening with their more recent, synthier singles like “Find Me.” Aaron Maine, the frontman, as well as the rest of the band, ooze carefree coolness, their bleached blonde hair losing the battle with darker roots, their pulsating rhythm more akin to a heartbeat than intentionally amped EDM. I briefly lose my shit when Aaron Maine beckons his friend “Tony G” [(Sandy) Alex G] on stage to do backup vocals for “Leave the House.” They stupefy with minimal effort, echoing each other with emotionally conflicted lines like “I don’t want it to be clean / I just want you on my team.”  Then comes the obligatory two song encore, during which my shit is irrevocably lost. They play the simplistic and intimate “Country,” a slow melodic pulse of a song that evokes the wholesome yearning of first love, the desire to “keep it dumb, make it soft.” And then they close out with their first hit, “Headsgiving,” proof-positive that although their sound has evolved since the departure of bassist Frankie Cosmos, their penchant for melancholy yet cutting lyrics like “I’ll give you head, before you head to therapy” and effortlessly catchy melodies remains.  – KEELY MCAVENEY

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GEEK SQUAD: Black And Proud

February 16th, 2018

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the-geek-300x300BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Black Panther (2018) is the best superhero movie I have ever seen. Not just the best this year, not just the best since Captain America: Winter Soldier (2013) or Tim Bruton’s Batman (1989) not just the best with a person of color superhero. Just The Best. Period. The film was already hyped due to Disney’s Deaths Star size PR department but it is actually quality. Director Ryan Coolger (Creed, Fruitvale Station) brings the Marvel country of Wakanda to life. And he slams it right into the rest of the world. Wakanda is the most advanced country in the world with flying cars, laser canons and large supplies of the precious metal vibranium. Captain America’s laws-of-physics-defying shield is made of this miracle alloy. And it is the key to Wakanda’s wealth, prosperity and astonishing technological advancements. Keeping a low profile, the African nation masquerades as an obscure Third World nation to avoid anyone from invading the country and taking control of  the largest vibranium mines on Earth. The conflict between Wakanda engaging with the global community, and possibly bringing about world peace versus self-preservation via anonymity is what drives every aspect of the movie.

The plot goes like this: Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa is crowned king of Wakanda after his father’s death in Captain America: asdBMKANEJA13cvrCivil War. T’Challa is stripped of his powers to even the odds for the ritual combat of Wakandan kingship. Once done we see the Heart-Shape Herb that grants T’Challa, and all Black Panthers before him, peak human strength and conditioning. The powers are the same as Captain America’s but with a herbal supplement rather than super steroids. Like most crazy things in Wakanda the herb is laced with vibranium. But it also has mystical qualities. The herb produces a type of spirit dream in T’Challa who speaks with the spirit of his father and the panther goddess Bast. T’Challa is a young king, unsure of himself, but not satisfied with the Wakanda status quo. He wonders if Wakanda’s miracle-working tech and bottomless natural resources obligates it to help the world outside its borders.

Michael B. Jordan’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens agrees that Wakanda should be a part of the world at large. The former US special forces soldier is Marvel’s best on-screen villain ever. He is physically intimidating, highly talented, and has a plan that comes together. And the film even gives a more personal reason to his feud with T’Challa than the comic book version did. In 1992 T’Challa’s father discovered his own brother helped the arms dealer Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis), steal Vibranium from Wakanda. But the king left his nephew, Erik, behind to keep Wakanda’s ban on outsiders intact. Killmonger grew up in Oakland with only the fairytales of his father’s homeland to hope for. He grew up seeing oppression everywhere while fighting for “freedom” all over the world. And he knew Wakanda did nothing to stop this. Even as millions of people of color were caged, beaten and sold into slavery, Wakanda did nothing. And so Erik uses his royal blood to challenge T’Challa for the throne. And he wins. He tosses his cousin’s body off a waterfall to end the challenge. And then he consumes the Heart-Shaped Herb and Wakandan army to send weapons of mass destruction to their spies all over the world.
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WORTH REPEATING: Thoughts & Prayers

February 15th, 2018

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“Prayers without accordant action are silent lies told to oneself, heard by no God, amounting to nothing. Action is the language of truth, the prayers of the Saints.” MARK RUFFALO

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10 Things You Need To Know About Black Panther

February 14th, 2018

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

February 13th, 2018

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Illustration by PAUL PICARELLI

FRESH AIR: Though six months have passed since Steve Bannon left his position as White House chief strategist, he continues to follow the drama inside the Trump administration. Journalist Joshua Green says the right-wing provocateur is particularly attuned to the #MeToo movement, which he has dubbed “the matriarchy.” Green notes that Bannon sees the movement as “an existential threat” not just to Trump, but also to Republicans in Congress.”Bannon, despite his many flaws, is a very shrewd analyst of American politics,” Green says. “And what he seemed so upset about was the power of this rising women’s movement.” Green profiled Bannon and explained his role in Trump’s election in his 2017 book, Devil’s Bargain. The paperback release of the book, available Tuesday, describes what Bannon has been doing since leaving the White House. MORE

NEW YORKER: Last month, the journalist Joshua Green watched the Golden Globes ceremony on television with Steve Devil's BargainBannon, a Trump ideologist and self-described nationalist “revolutionary.” Green’s book on Bannon, “Devil’s Bargain,” was among the best on the 2016 campaign, and now Green was in search of material for a preface to his forthcoming paperback edition. He got it. As the two men watched the awards show—the women dressed in black to commemorate the #MeToo movement and the downfall of the likes of Harvey Weinstein; Oprah Winfrey winning such sustained applause for her speech (“Their time is up!”) that she was soon fielding questions about a Presidential run—Bannon could not fail to see it in terms of Trump’s political future.

“It’s a Cromwell moment!” Bannon said. “It’s even more powerful than populism. It’s deeper. It’s primal. It’s elemental. The long black dresses and all that—this is the Puritans. It’s anti-patriarchy.” Bannon, whose history is hardly one of feminism, was stunned by the fervor of what he was seeing, and, charmingly, he spoke of it not as justice but as a threat of wholesale emasculation. “If you rolled out a guillotine, they’d chop off every set of balls in the room,” he said. MORE

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BEING THERE: Girlpool @ First Unitarian Church

February 11th, 2018

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Photo by BEN PELTA-HELLER

My best friend sits on my couch and hunts fruitlessly through Facebook for a ticket. Girlpool’s Philadelphia show at First Unitarian sold out only hours before. This is evident the moment I arrive. The air is thick. There is barely room to comfortably take a sip of your somewhat stale, cheap beer. The folk punk band from Los Angeles opens with a fuller, harder sound than I expected for people adorned with glittery hair clips, and I sweat out the boxed wine I drank prior.

On Powerpoint, the latest from singer/guitarist Cleo Tucker and singer/bassist Harmony Tividad, the dynamic duo have surpassed the pared down guitar plucking and always concise, genuine and often funnily so lyrics of their first album, Before the World Was Big. This can be pinned on the addition of a drummer and inevitable maturation that comes with time and several successful tours. They play few songs from their old repertoire, opting instead to play new favorites like “123” and “It Gets More Blue.” Clever lyrics like “I faked global warming just to get close to you” hit home and linger in your thoughts long after with a relatability and specificity that is nearly impossible to achieve. Their brazen vocals, more like speaking than singing, emphasize the validity of such lines.

I brave the sea of sweaty bodies to come around to the front of the stage and bear witness to the personability that is Girlpool. It’s Harmony’s mom’s birthday, and she asks the audience, more like a crowd of her two hundred closest friends, to sing for her. It is this kind of intimacy that pervades their lyrics and sells out their shows, and I can only hope it remains with them as their fanbase flourishes. – KEELY MCAVENEY

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CINEMA: The Bare, Ruined Choirs Of John Mahoney

February 9th, 2018

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AV CLUB: There’s a similarly loose resemblance between Mahoney’s character, a floridly boozy Southern author named W.P. Mayhew, and William Faulkner. Ethan Coen has acknowledged that discovering Faulkner had once worked on a wrestling picture starring Wallace Beery (Whaddaya need, a road map?) gave the brothers their way in on Barton Fink—the concept of an eminently serious author debasing themselves in order to, as Mayhew puts it to Barton, “make their way out here to the Great Salt Lick.” Like Faulkner, Mayhew is also a heavy drinker—Barton first discovers him puking in the bathroom—and he speaks in a casually baroque prose filled with references to the Bible and antebellum spirituals. Yet Cohen has also taken pains to say such similarities are “superficial.” Faulkner, like Odets, had his own reservations about the movie business, and he also expressed that contempt a bit more directly—and he had relatively less success in squaring them. At the same time, Faulkner also wrote dozens of short stories, along with some of his best novels, during and after his Hollywood tenure.

Mayhew, by contrast, is an august failure—a genteel mess, a drunk with dignity. Mahoney imbues Mayhew with courtly grace through the smallest of gestures; during his prolific vomiting in the bathroom stall, Mayhew kneels on a silk pocket square, which he then tucks back into his suit with a practiced flourish. “Sorry about the odor,” he says to Barton, with a warm conviviality. As he takes in Barton’s subsequent gushing over his novels, Mahoney gives Mayhew a tight smile that conveys both his inurement to fanboys and the slightest hint of shame at his own lapsed greatness. Mayhew is charming and wittily composed in the way that every boozehound fancies themselves. He even makes his alcoholism sound noble: “I’m buildin’ a levee,” he tells Barton later. “Gulp by gulp, brick by brick. Raisin’ up a levee to keep that ragin’ river of manure from lappin’ at my door.”

Mayhew somehow maintains that nobility even when he’s completely shit-faced. The punchline to Barton and Mayhew’s bathroom encounter, during which Mayhew invites him to come by his office later, is a smash cut to Mayhew bellowing inside his bungalow, with Mahoney giving Mayhew’s drunk voice a wounded and desperate tenor. In their rescheduled conference over a picnic, where the two discuss their differing approaches to writing—Mayhew, a beatific smile on his face, asks, “Ain’t writing peace?” while Barton contends it comes from “a great inner pain”—Mahoney gives his line a wistfulness that implicitly telegraphs just how far from that peace he is. He then drunkenly stumbles off with a droll suggestion of suicide, lashing out at Audrey while barking another purplish epigram—“The truth, my honey, is a tart that does not bear scrutiny!”—that’s just so much poetic nonsense. It’s all funny and pitiable, loathsome yet sad, and it lends some credence to Audrey’s tearful insistence that she really just feels sorry for him. “Empathy requires understanding,” she tells Barton as Mayhew wanders off howling “Old Black Joe.” MORE

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