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BEING THERE: King Krule @ Union Transfer

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

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Photo by DYLAN LONG

Seeing Brit indie-weirdo sensation King Krule at Union Transfer last night, I was reminded of the wise words of the late great Bo Diddley: You can’t judge a book by lookin’ at the cover. Frail and shrimpy, the baby-faced 23 year-old Londoner looks like Ron Weasley in desperate need of a sandwich or seven. But when he opens his mouth, it’s another matter altogether. His scratchy deepwater baritone, thick Brit accent and fierce stage moves tends to stops traffic and silence skeptics — something he has been doing since the tender age of 16. His new album, The Ooz, sounds like early-stage Madness meets late period Beat Happening. (Look it up.)

At quarter past nine, Krule and his four bandmates walked onstage to a deafening roar from the crowd. Krule — real name Archy Marshall — doesn’t tour very often, and last night Union Transfer was filled to the brim with indie-rock rubberneckers. Krule’s scraggly figure loomed at the edge of the stage as he and his band dove into hit after hit off of The Ooz, and his first full length album, Six Feet Beneath The Moon. As if to answer the unasked question of whether not he can pull it off live, Krule and co. made “Dum Surfer,” the lead-off single from The Ooz, sounded thrice as good live as it does on record. Other highlights included the drum-machine-backed “Logos” and the guitar-only “New Drugs” and a dreamy, elegant version of “Baby Blue.” The night concluded with the fan-favorite “Easy Easy,” followed by an encore of “Out Getting Ribs,” a tune that dates back to the dawning of Marshall’s career when he performed under the alias Zoo Kid. Given that Marshall wrote it when he was just 16 years old, which happens to be the last time he played at Union Transfer, he could not have ended the night on a more fitting note.

Opening up the evening was New York hardcore band Show Me The Body. Their sound was a culmination of the best parts of various different groups. Hints of the hectic style of Death Grips were prevalent throughout, in addition to some Converge-esque math rock, and a semi-high pitched voice similar in style to Alex Edkins of Metz. Show Me The Body were undoubtedly a raucous selection for an opening slot, especially for the cool cat King Krule, however they kicked major ass and did their job by warming the crowd up while refraining from stealing the show. — DYLAN LONG

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SIDEWALKING: Pleased To Meet Me

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

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Municipal Services Building, 11:44 AM, by JIM MACMILLAN

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CINEMA: Lust For Life

Friday, October 20th, 2017

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LOVING VINCENT (Dir. by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, 94 min., USA, 2017)

CHRIS MALENEYBY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY FILM CRITIC Vincent van Gogh is one of the most important modern artists, and one of the most enigmatic. Almost everyone has seen The Starry Night, his most iconic work. In monetary terms, his Portrait of Dr. Gachet is worth more than $82 million. There are museums, books, articles, whole careers dedicated to the study, analysis and display of his works. His use of color and form revolutionized the way artists perceive and portray the world. What is most interesting to a layman, however, is the mystery of the man himself. Was he sane? Was he depressed? Why did he take his own life? Did he take his own life, or was he murdered?

Loving Vincent takes all of these as its central questions, as Armand Roulin, son of the postmaster who befriended Vincent, seeks to deliver a letter from Vincent discovered after the man’s passing a year earlier. He travels to Paris to find Vincent’s brother, who has died only six weeks earlier, and then to Auvers-sur-Oise to deliver the letter to Dr. Gachet, a confidant of the family. While waiting for the Doctor to return to the town, Armand speaks to those who knew him, gathering their narratives of Vincent’s final weeks to try and understand the man who his father loved so dearly, and the circumstances surrounding his apparent suicide.

It takes a while to realize that you are actually in a detective movie, specifically an animated noir. In the film’s present narrative, every frame is a painting done by a team of more than a hundred artists in homage to van Gogh’s style. While mostly effective, there is an occasional slip into uncanny valley for certain faces. The paintings also make Armand’s story feel more beautiful than a standard noir. Only when we slip back to memories, drawn in crisp, clear black-and-white that contrasts with the impressionist present tense does the noir tone really come across. Still, the tropes are there: the hard-drinking, chain-smoking detective; the sadistic housekeeper, the beautiful femme fatale, and the bizarre and opaque mysteries of the small town all make appearances. So too does the beguiling, unanswerable question: was it suicide or murder?  Each character, and each audience member, must pick their own meaning, their own version of Vincent’s life and death.

Vincent van Gogh was the ultimate outsider artist. He was never trained, but struggled every day to live authentically to his art. Perhaps that is what killed him. Perhaps it was the overwhelming forces of a world with no place for a visionary. Like so many artists, he became more famous after his death than in his life. What Loving Vincent does best is explore why, aesthetically and culturally, people love van Gogh’s work. Though its oil paints do not always best portray the characters search for understanding, it does help us inhabit for a brief 90 minutes the world of Vincent, a world of sublime beauty in small moments. It is an impressive technical feat, and works symbolically to delineate past and present, clear and hazy. While the narrative is perhaps too duty-bound to factual reality to give a satisfying conclusion — the truth of van Gogh’s death remains a mystery — it at least gives us a satisfying emotional journey that explores the beauty and genius of a then-unrecognized master.

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: President Moron

Friday, October 20th, 2017

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY “Hey, hey, Donnie J., what style, what character, what nature of ignominy did you secrete today?!” Yep, I do indeed recognize that it’s shear folly to continue to repudiate the behavior of a totally amoral moron and his minions, the majority of whom are likely no SMUSmore intelligent or principled than he is, but hopefully I’ll never tire of doing so.

Well, you knew that he was deceitful and duplicitous, but did you know that he could be truly deadly?! Having failed with numerous attempts to kill the Obama/Democrat ACA Medical Program which brought medical insurance protections to millions upon millions of America’s elderly and infirmed as well as vast numbers of other low-income and middle-class Americans previously unable to afford the cost of medical insurance (which, by the way, was a raging travesty the Republican party had adamantly REFUSED to do ANYTHING about throughout the entirety of its execrable existence), Trump has decided to commence a slow and deliberate “starve the beast” offensive designed to throw these Presidentially designated “less-worthy” Americans under the ambulances of Republican “self-reliance.”

“We can’t stay in Puerto Rico forever.” Turns out it wasn’t just his verbal bigotry on display, his deeds were even more contemptible. In one of the most obscene acts ever perpetrated by a President of the United States Trump is shown flippantly tossing rolls of paper towels to the desperate in a FEMA distribution storage shelter in Puerto Rico having deigned to visit the island 13 days following the most disastrous hurricane in the U.S. territory’s history. We already knew that Trump was a bigot and a racist; these actions only reinforced that knowledge. No lower form of life has ever inhabited the Oval Office. Never, ever.
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CINEMA: Livin’ Like A Refugee

Friday, October 20th, 2017

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HUMAN FLOW (Directed by Ai WeiWei, 140 minutes, Germany, 2017)

BY DANIEL PATRICK WARD Human Flow director Ai WeiWei often presents the observer with a simple, yet sharp image in his art that forces us to see beyond just the physical scope of the piece itself. As a globally-renowned Chinese dissident and outspoken critic of his country’s government, he certainly fears no boundary when creating art that purposefully draws attention to the many crises affecting humanity across the globe.

In Human Flow, Ai tasks himself with capturing our planet’s refugee crisis, which affects over 65 million people, in such a way that the individual weight of each refugee’s struggle can be felt by anyone who watches the film. The inter-connected nature of our society dictates that many who see this film will be familiar with many of the miseries associated with life as a refugee. There are sweeping shots of endless caravans of people carrying their belongings down a winding road, and an over-crowded camp full of children at play while their parents struggle to barely keep their families alive. Unfortunately, with refugees featuring so prominently in our news cycle over the past few years, this is nothing the average citizen hasn’t seen before on the nightly news. These drone-captured images have become a bit cliché, but Ai only uses them to point to the scale of these mass migrations. Beyond these all too common depictions of the collective lives of refugees, Ai made a point to capture the pain and hardship that these people face through harrowing testimony and intimate shots of the individual human beings involved in the crisis.

Throughout the course of the movie, Ai touches just about every corner of the globe, allowing the audience to realize the immensity of the situation at hand. He takes account of refugees in Europe, Africa, Asia, and beyond. We visit camps full of people from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but also those from countries less associated with the crisis such as Kenya and Burma. The scale of some of the encampments is so staggering that they have created their own city-like operation with fully functioning economies at work. These images alone are enough to shake the audience, but the real shock comes from the faces of those who live in these places. Their expressions are often blank, yet in this lack of emotion you can see their despair. No matter their race, gender, religion, or beliefs, their common humanity has been uprooted from the core. Their lives and homes were stripped away, and they now move from place to place hoping those more fortunate than them can find it in their heart to allow them a home.

Nothing that Ai articulated through this movie was groundbreaking or monumentally earth-shattering material. However, what he was able to accomplish was to make the emotions of the refugees he filmed accessible to those of us watching at home. Rather than have us understand them as just one group, 65 million strong, seeking a new home, he showed us what it feels like to live in an overcrowded camp with less than humane conditions or to be starving and unsure where the next meal will come from. Overall, Ai’s movie fits right in with his vast body of art. It is direct to its point, powerful, and more than a little bit critical of the powerful institutions that allow this crisis to take place.

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WORTH REPEATING: The Kingdom & The Power

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

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Illustration by Daniel Adel via ROLLING STONE; horse-pooping illustration by R.A. DI LESO

THE NEW YORKER: Pence has taken care to appear extraordinarily loyal to Trump, so much so that Joel K. Goldstein, a historian and an expert on Vice-Presidents who teaches law at St. Louis University, refers to him as the “Sycophant-in-Chief.” But Pence has the political experience, the connections, the discipline, and the ideological mooring that Trump lacks. He also has a close relationship with the conservative billionaire donors who have captured the Republican Party’s agenda in recent years.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump characterized the Republican Party’s big spenders as “highly sophisticated killers” whose donations allowed them to control politicians. When he declared his candidacy, he claimed that, because of his real-estate fortune, he did not need support from “rich donors,” and he denounced super Mike_Pence_by_James_Kingpacs, their depositories of unlimited campaign contributions, as “corrupt.” Pence’s political career, though, has been sponsored at almost every turn by the donors whom Trump has assailed. Pence is the inside man of the conservative money machine.

On Election Night, the dissonance between Trump’s populist supporters and Pence’s billionaire sponsors was quietly evident. When Trump gave his acceptance speech, in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, he vowed to serve “the forgotten men and women of our country,” and promised to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, and hospitals.” Upstairs, in a room reserved for Party élites, several of the richest and most conservative donors, all of whom support drastic reductions in government spending, were celebrating. Doug Deason, a Texas businessman and a political donor, recalled to me, “It was amazing. In the V.I.P. reception area, there was an even more V.I.P. room, and I counted at least eight or nine billionaires.”

Deason’s father, Darwin, founded a data-processing company, Affiliated Computer Services, and in 2010 he sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion. A.C.S. was notorious for outsourcing U.S. office work to cheaper foreign-labor markets. Trump campaigned against outsourcing, but the Deasons became Trump backers nonetheless, donating a million dollars to his campaign. Doug Deason was enlisted, in part, by Pence, whom he had known and supported for years. “Mike and I are pretty good friends,” Deason said, adding, “He’s really the contact to the big donors.” Since the election, Deason has attended two dinners for wealthy backers at the Vice-Presidential residence.

Among the billionaires who gathered in the room at the Hilton, Deason recalled, were the financier Wilbur Ross, whom Trump later appointed his Secretary of Commerce; the corporate investor Carl Icahn, who became a top adviser to Trump but resigned eight months later, when allegations of financial impropriety were published by The New Yorker; Harold Hamm, the founder and chairman of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma-based oil-and-gas company that has made billions of dollars through fracking; and David Koch, the richest resident of New York City.

Koch’s presence was especially unexpected. He and his brother Charles are libertarians who object to mostMike_Pence_by_James_King government spending, including investments in infrastructure. They co-own virtually all of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States, and have long tapped their combined fortune—currently ninety billion dollars—to finance candidates, think tanks, pressure groups, and political operatives who support an anti-tax and anti-regulatory agenda, which dovetails with their financial interests.

During the campaign, Trump said that Republican rivals who attended secretive donor summits sponsored by the Kochs were “puppets.” The Kochs, along with several hundred allied donors, had amassed nearly nine hundred million dollars to spend on the Presidential election, but declined to support Trump’s candidacy. At one point, Charles Koch described the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton as one between “cancer or heart attack.”

Marc Short, the head of legislative affairs in the Trump White House, credits Pence for the Kochs’ rapprochement with Trump. “The Kochs were very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” Short told me. “There are areas where they differ from the Administration, but now there are many areas they’re partnering with us on.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.” MORE

ROLLING STONE: During my travels across the self-proclaimed Crossroads of America, I learned that Mike Pence had once paid his mortgage with campaign funds, dragged his feet during an HIV epidemic and a lead-poisoning outbreak, signed an anti-gay-rights bill that nearly cost Indiana millions of dollars, lost his mind on national TV with George Stephanopoulos, and turned away Syrian refugees in an unconstitutional ploy laughed out of federal court. And he ended his gubernatorial term unpopular enough that his re-election bid in a Republican state seemed dicey at best.

Pence is the nation’s 48th vice president. Nine vice presidents have assumed the presidency as a result of death or resignation. That’s a 19 percent ascendancy rate. Between Trump’s trigger-happy Twitter persona, the ethical nightmare of his business empire, his KFC addiction and possible entanglements with Vladimir Putin, I’d say the chances for Mike Pence are more than 50-50.

So what do we know about Pence? The governor benefited greatly from the wall-to-wall “Trump is a crazy Mike_Pence_by_James_Kingmonkey throwing feces” media coverage during the fall campaign, in that his record was undercovered, but it’s out there and suggests that his impact as vice president will screw African-Americans, women, the poor and any other square peg in round America. His concerns for the parts of Indiana outside his comfort zone toggled between disinterest and disdain.

And here’s the frightening thing: Unlike his boss, Mike Pence has an actual ideology. Pence proclaimed at the 2016 GOP convention that “I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” However, his actual record – including turning down up to $80 million in federal pre-K funding – is the antithesis of Jesus’ “whatever you do for one of the least of my brothers, you do for me” theology.

Here’s a quick story.

While Mike Pence was governor, his relationship with the Democratic minority in the legislature was crap. Someone on his staff suggested having the Democratic leaders over to the governor’s mansion for dinner. The table was set for 20, but there were only around seven in attendance. One unlucky legislator stuck next to Pence tried to make conversation, but found even at dinner she couldn’t shift Pence off his talking points. Gov. Pence shouted to his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, at the other end of the table.

“Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?”

The legislators looked at one another, speaking with their eyes: He just called his wife “Mother.”

Maybe it was a joke, the legislator reasoned. But a few minutes later, Pence shouted again.

“Mother, Mother, whose china are we eating on?”

Mother Pence went on a long discourse about where the china was from. A little later, the legislators stumbled out, wondering what was weirder: Pence’s inability to make conversation, or calling his wife “Mother” in the second decade of the 21st century. MORE

VOCATIV: With the bar set considerably low, Indiana Governor Mike Pence may come across asMike_Pence_by_James_King the more civilized member of the GOP presidential ticket. But Pence has been playing the role of far-right-wing morality cop in the Hoosier State for the last four years—and the state has suffered as a result.

When Donald Trump tapped Pence—who on Tuesday will debate Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine—as his running mate, he lauded his record as the governor of Indiana. Like many of Trump’s assertions, that praise was quickly debunked to show that Pence’s job performance was just south of par for the course. What Pence has contributed to Indiana is the marginalization of the LGBT community, an HIV outbreak, and one the lowest rates of economic job growth in the entire country.
Discrimination disguised as “religious freedom”

As governor, Pence signed into law Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Like other “religious freedom” laws, it gave individuals and businesses the right to discriminate against people if their lifestyle doesn’t align with their religious beliefs. In other words, pious business owners can legally discriminate against those in the LGBT community and anyone else whom their religion shuns.

As has been the case in other states with similar laws on the books, Pence’s John Hancock on the RFRA sparked outrage from not only the LGBT community, but Indiana’s business community, as well.

“The Indy Chamber remains opposed to this divisive and unnecessary law,” Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Huber told the Indianapolis Star in 2015. “We warned of the impending negative economic impact this legislation would have on our ability to attract and retain jobs, talent, and investment, noting the bill will encourage current and potential residents, and visitors to take their business elsewhere.”

“Within moments of this legislation being signed,” he continued, “this warning became a stark reality.”Mike_Pence_by_James_King

Not long after Pence signed the RFRA bill into law, several businesses, states, and even NBA legend Charles Barkley announced that they would be boycotting the state of Indiana due to the discriminatory legislation—and several companies already doing business in the state headed for the hills. MORE

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THE MOUNTAIN GOATS: Rain In Soho

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

The lead-off track of the new-ish Goths, in support of which The Mountain Goats play Union Transfer on Saturday November 11th.

RELATED: “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton” Live
RELATED: John Darnielle On Fresh Air

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WORTH REPEATING: Khizr and Ghazala Khan Statement About Four Green Beret’s KIA In Niger

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

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Myeshia Johnson, widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, weeps over her husband’s casket

“We are deeply saddened at the news of the death of our four brave hero sons serving our nation on an important mission in Africa. We stand with the families in their grief and pray for their strength and peace. And tell them that this country will never forget the service and sacrifice their brave hero sons made on behalf of this great nation, and for our liberty and safety; their families’ service and sacrifice will always be remembered. We stand with the families in this moment of grief. We are also saddened to see behavior unbecoming of the President from Trump—his lack of empathy, selfish and divisive actions have undermined the dignity of the high office. One more time, he has shown us that he is undeserving of the leadership of our great nation. May God bless our great nation and its armed forces.” – KHIZR & GHAZALA KHAN

KHIZR KHAN WILL DISCUSS HIS NEW MEMOIR “AN AMERICAN FAMILY” @ THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER ON WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 25TH @ 6:30 PM

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CINEMA: Our Philadelphia Film Festival Guide

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

PFF 26 Cover

 

CHRIS MALENEYBY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY FILM CRITIC The Philadelphia Film Society’s 26th annual Philadelphia Film Festival, which runs from October 19th to the 29th, is an intriguing blend of movies old and new, independent and mainstream, domestic and imported. This year the festival will honor the memory of renowned director Jonathan Demme — always a friend of Philadelphia — with screenings of the three movies he made here: Philadelphia, Beloved and Neil Young Trunk Show. On Thursday night, Bruce Willis will be on hand to accept the second annual Lumiere Award, named in honor of the first filmmakers Auguste and Louise Lumière, at AKA Washington Square.

While it is almost impossible to preview the hundred-plus movies and shorts that will feature over the ten days, I can at least give you a taste. The_Last_DetailFestivities commence on Thursday October 19th when the Prince Theater hosts two showings of I, Tonya at the Prince Theater, a biographical dramedy that depicts the life of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), whose husband hired an assailant to break the leg of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Jane, Brett Morgen’s documentary on Jane Goodall’s revolutionary contributions to primatology and biology, will play at Ritz East on Saturday at noon, while The Last Detail, Hal Ashby’s brilliant 1973 comedy about two sailors escorting a prisoner on what becomes a philosophical pub crawl of the East Coast, will be screened at the Prince later that night.

Also on Saturday, don’t miss The Florida Project, a bildungsroman set in a Florida Motel about the loss of innocence of children on the poverty line featuring Willem Dafoe as the motel manager with a heart of gold, and Beloved, Jonathan Demme’s classic take on Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the horrors of slavery, starring Oprah Winfrey — both at the Prince Theater.

On Sunday afternoon, Jonathan Demme’s concert film Neil Young Trunk Show plays at The Prince. Filmed at the Tower Theater in 2009, Trunk Show is the second of three concert documentaries by Team Demme/Young, and emphasizes Young’s electric warrior side. Later that night The Prince will show Lady Bird, a centerpiece film starring Saoirse Ronan and directed by Greta Gerwig, about the transition from adolescence to adulthood before college. Also worth seeing on Sunday is Gilbert, a documentary on the home life and personal journey of renowned adenoidal insult comedian Gilbert Gottfried, which playing at Ritz East.

Monday features Todd Hayne’s Wonderstruck, two interwoven tales of a deaf boy in the 1970s and a mute girl in the 1920s that show New York todd Haynes WonderstruckCity’s evolution, at the Prince Theater. Meanwhile, The New Radical, Adam Lough’s terrifying and fascinating look at the new wave of technological innovation in the search for radical liberation, is playing at Ritz 5.

Tuesday offers At The Drive In, a comedy by Alexander Monelli about the stoner hijinks of a band of teenagers at Texas drive-in movie theater on a Saturday night, at the Ritz 5. Living On Soul, a documentary that documents the triumphs and tribulations of the retro-soul Daptone record label’s roster of artists, which includes the late great Sharon Jones, plays at Ritz East.

On Wednesday October 25th, Django, a biopic about Django Reinhardt, the gypsy-jazz savant of Paris during the second World War, plays at the Ritz East at 3:45 PM. Wednesday night, Philadelphia, Jonathan Demme’s courageous courtroom drama about the cruel realities of the AIDS crisis that won Tom Hanks an Oscar, plays at the Prince Theater.

On the 26th, don’t miss Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Just Gotta Be Me to Ritz East, which follows the ring-a-ding doings of the Rat Pack lifer. On Friday October 27th, don’t miss Before Hollywood: Philadelphia, a documentary on the City of Brotherly Love’s long history of filmmaking from the 18th century to the modern day, at Ritz East. Following that is the brutal and incredible Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri at the Prince Theater, which stars Francis McDormand as a tough-as-nails mother in a small midwest town in search of justice for her raped and murdered daughter.

On Sunday October 29th the Philadelphia Film Festival closes out with a collection of animated shorts ranging from the bizarre to the sweet, and threebillboardsoutsideebbingmissouri-teaserposterHave A Nice Day, an intricately woven animated crime caper from Chinese director Liu Jian — both at Ritz East. Many of the films show on multiple days, meaning you may be able to catch what you’ve missed, if your timing is right.

Between showings, the Festival Lounge at 33 South 3rd Street will open its doors to ticket and badge holders above the age of 21 for a bite and a drink, and possible sightings of visiting directors or speakers. Opening and closing night parties at CODA on Walnut Street and the Kimmel Center, respectively, can be attended as well, for the right price. For those of you hard up, certain documentaries and screenings in the American Independent categories are free to attend, though you should reserve your tickets beforehand. The complete festival schedule is available HERE, as are details on how to register. From comedy for the drama fans and science fiction for the horror enthusiasts, to documentaries for the animal lovers and classic hits for the film buffs, this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival has something that you never knew you always wanted to see.

THE 26TH ANNUAL PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL RUNS OCT. 19TH-29TH

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GEEK SQUAD: Everything You Need To Know About The Black Panther Trailer But Were Afraid To Ask

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

the-geek-300x300BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Captain America: Civil War (2016) excited movie fans with Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther and this trailer appears to pick up where Civil War left off, with T’Challa returns to his country of Wakanda to assume the throne in the wake of his father’s death. Beyond that, not much is known about the plot of Black Panther, which was written and directed by Ryan Coolger (Creed, Fruitvale Station). The film also stars Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 12 Years a Slave) as leader of Wakanda’s all female special forces/secret service unit the Dora Milaje along with Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit) and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead).

Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fruitvale Station) are the main villains. Serkis’s Ulysses Klaue is a black market arms dealer, first seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, who wants to plunder Wakanda for its weapons, while Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is an exile from Wakanda who wants the crown. He believes Wakanda’s advanced weapons technology and vast deposits of virbranium (the metal that Captain America’s shield and Black Panther’s suit is made out of, which is able to absorb any vibrations) should be used to conquer the world. In the trailer, Wakanda looks like somebody smashed a Star Trek set into Tarzan — which is exactly how it should be, given that both Black Panther and his ancestral home are a hybrid of futuristic science and ancient tribal mythology.

Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Black Panther was Marvel’s (and mainstream comics’) first major black superhero and predates the formation of the Black Panther party by three months. The Black Panther is a title passed down the line of Wakanda kings. Initiates are given a suit made of vibranium and sent into battle with the current Black Panther as wells as six of Wakanda’s mightiest warriors all at once. If they are victorious they anointed with the mythical Heart-Shaped Herb,  a mystical plant that connects them to the panther god and grants them enhanced strength, speed, and other functions on the level of Captain America. Black Panther is set for release on February 16th, 2018. Can’t wait.

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BEING THERE: The Liberty Medal Award Ceremony

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

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Photo by EVAN HUNDELT

Last night the National Constitution Center bestowed the Liberty Medal to Senator John McCain for his lifetime of service and sacrifice. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, delivered opening remarks, ardently praising McCain’s moral integrity and his dogged commitment to the advancement of the United States as a virtuous nation. University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Amy Gutmann, and Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz also paid homage to McCain’s patriotism and inspirational leadership, citing the unimaginable suffering he endured as a POW in a North Vietnamese prison where torture and beatings were a daily occurrence.

The Liberty Medal was presented by Vice President and colleague Joe Biden, whose friendship with the Arizona Senator remained steadfast despite their many policy disagreements, he pointedly remarked. Biden’s characteristic jocularity mixed with solemn moments of recollection of McCain’s unsettling past and fearless triumph held the teary-eyed audience in a state of limerence. Upon accepting the Liberty Medal, McCain commenced an impassioned speech, beginning with a history of acquaintanceship with “Joe,” as he referred to the former vice president. “We didn’t always agree on the issues,” he went on to say, “We often argued—sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believe in the institution we were privileged to serve in.”

But it wasn’t until McCain mentioned his disaffiliation with and criticism of President Donald Trump that the audience rose to their feet in a unified roar of applause: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.” — EVAN HUNDELT

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SNL: Kellywise

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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CINEMA: The Action-Minded Professor

Friday, October 13th, 2017

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PROF. MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN (Dir, by Angela Robinson, 108 min.)

CHRIS MALENEYBY CHRISTOPHER MALENEY FILM CRITIC Superhero origin stories are incredibly tangled, and the excessive repetition of endless reboots often only complicates that fact. Almost every re-telling of Batman or Spiderman, to name but two, has taken the liberty of tweaking their origin to fit a particular narrative. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women tells a different sort of superhero origin story. The film answers the question of how a badass, BDSM goddess like the Golden Age Wonder Woman come about? Was it from the sick mind of a sex fiend trying to turn his interests into cash, or a calculated move by three feminist psychologists to inject radical ideas into popular culture? According to Professor Marston, the answer is a little of both.

William Marston (Luke Evans) begins the film as a college lecturer, in the nascent field of psychology. He explains human relationships through DISC theory — Domination, Inducement, Submission and Compliance — that humans respond best when submitting willingly to a loving authority. His wife, Elizabeth (the powerful Rebecca Hall), is his research partner, and together they are trying to invent a lie detector. When William’s interest in a student, Olive Byrne (demure, virginal Bella Heathcoate), verges on more-than-professional feelings, it seems as though we are falling down a familiar rabbit hole of jealousy and hurt feelings. But then the characters do something almost unheard of, both for the time period and for films: they sit down and have an honest discussion about their feelings. These discussions, and there a number of them that form the bedrock of the film’s morality, eventually lead the three to form a polyamorous relationship that defies social norms, but allows them to live honestly with themselves. Though they lose their jobs as professors and must turn to more menial labor to support their large family, though the neighborhood is shocked to discover William Marston fathered children with two different women, the Byrne-Marston family’s attempt to embrace the idea of radical, ameliorative honesty shows how Marston brought thematic concerns from his own life into the comic he created.

At a time when alcohol, pornography, sodomy and fornication were both criminal and taboo, these three radical feminists were engaging in sexual exploration that would, by modern standards, be considered mildly kinky. They dress in costumes supplied by the ‘G-String King’ (J.J. Field), take on characters, and tie each other up, but this is not portrayed as just smut. Rather, their freedom is an act of rebellion. Their moment of ultimate realization has Nina Simone’s rendition of “Feeling Good,” with all its menacing horns, playing over it, reminding the audience that the characters are free in a way that only the ‘birds flying high’ and the ‘fish in the sea’ can understand, because certainly society cannot accept the truth that people can love each other regardless of their gender, or their number of other lovers, and not lose compassion and tenderness.

In order to inject these ideas into mainstream discourse — having lost his professorial perch due to pernicious rumors — Marston creates a comic book hero. The film takes many liberties with history, not only with its casting that makes three average looking people as beautiful as comic book characters, but also its narrative choices; in reality the idea to make Wonder Woman a woman at all came from Elizabeth, while this telling gives William all the credit for making a superheoine who is a composite of his two lovers. Wonder Woman has Elizabeth’s forthright, aggressive strength, but also Olive’s pure-hearted innocence. She is designed, Marston explains, to teach children that women can be as strong, or stronger, than men. Though mid 20th Century America was either unwilling or unable to listen, we have finally come to a point where Wonder Woman’s true message — the radical liberation of all oppressed people from cruel reality — is more viable, more accepted, and also more necessary than ever before. The film works as an interesting counterpoint to this year’s Wonder Woman, providing a new lens through which Gal Gardot’s box office smash might be interpreted, and a reminder of how far sexual liberation has come in the last 70 years.

 

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