Hank’s Recommendations 12/16/14

hank_paperHANK’S PICKS 12/16/14

WINTER’S BONE

WINTER’S BONE was my favorite movie of 2011. An independent film that only grossed seven million dollars, it rocketed Jennifer Lawrence to fame (SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK, THE HUNGER GAMES franchise) and made a supporting star of John Hawkes. I saw it three times (a recommendation right there). Nothing can be as perfect (to my mind) as this film, but all of the films below partake, to some good extent, of its setting and virtues. (Yes, even — and perhaps especially — Jerry Lee Lewis.)

JOE

Nicholas Cage has had, as they say, a storied career. For the last ten years, due to personal financial trouble, he’s been an action hero in second-rate films that — since they don’t rely heavily on character and dialogue — play well in international markets. But do you remember LEAVING LAS VEGAS (he won the Best Actor Oscar for that), MOONSTRUCK, ADAPTATION, GUARDING TESS, RED ROCK WEST, WILD AT HEART, RAISING ARIZONA (The Coen Brother’s second movie), PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, BIRDY? All Nicholas Cage headliners that feature his great acting range.

Well, Nicholas Cage is back — in JOE, a small independent film about a hard-drinking ex-con with anger management issues who finds himself taking on a 15 year old boy trying to escape a violent father. In this emotionally powerful drama, Cage is a firm but empathetic foreman of a Mississippi crew that clandestinely poisons trees for a lumber company that wants to plant stronger pines. But he’s got a decent stake and a shot at redemption. Can he make a move toward a stronger self?

OUT OF THE FURNACE

A beautiful rural part of the country is disintegrating under war and the economy in OUT OF THE FURNACE, and so is Christian Bale, a decent man with a violent past trying to lead a life of integrity. He’s abiding by his own work ethic through a meaningless job at a steel mill while loyally trying to protect his impulsive, self-destructive brother (Casey Affleck) — just returned from Iraq — from his involvement in a crime gang. Unfortunately for Bale, decency, integrity and loyalty only seem to point him to an act of revenge he doesn’t want to take.

Made by Scott Cooper, the writer/director of CRAZY HEART, the film features an amazing cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, the ubiquitous Sam Shepard, and Woody Harrelson as a bad-to-the-bone crime gang leader whose very presence on the screen raises anxiety.

LAST MAN STANDING

Rick Bragg just came out with a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis (reviewed in this week’s NYTimes Book Review by Stephen King), but, in a sense, the real bio is this DVD, JERRY LEE LEWIS: LAST MAN STANDING. Boogieing through a wide selection of material, this generous live show features on-the-money performances of his hits along with duets with a dozen top tier music stars (including Willie Nelson, Ron Wood, Buddy Guy, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, John Fogerty and Kid Rock).

Some of these pairings, as with Tom Jones, and with Norah Jones, would seem to be unlikely, which only proves the point of his talent: “the Killer” is smooth as silk with whomever he plays with and whatever the material. His voice styling is unique and his piano playing pyrotechnic and, yes, gorgeous (he never even glances at the keys, only at his partners).

The man is an iconic confluence of boogie-woogie, country, rock ‘n’ roll and gospel, all drenched in the blues; he even invests fresh feeling in old chestnuts such as “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Over the Rainbow, and “That Lucky Old Sun.” He may not literally be “the last man standing” of his generation of greats (there’s Mick Jagger, for one), but his resilience is unpredictable and explosive.

And since it’s the holiday season, you can special order a copy from Best Video for your favorite cousin.

Music: Zoo Front, Kevin MF KING on Thurs., Dec. 18, at 8 PM

Zoo Front

Zoo Front

Zoo Front plays the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Dec. 18. Singer-songwriter Kevin MF King opens. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Zoo Front has been playing its quirky art punk shows since 1991 including such venues as Brass City Records (Waterbury), The Oasis and The Bank Street Cafe (New London), Best Video Performance Space (Hamden), Two Boots (Bridgeport), Neverending Books (New Haven), Javapalooza, Eli Cannon’s and Kliekolo (Middletown)as well as Oobahs, Wrench In The Works, The Annex, Willimantic Records, The Willimantic Coop and various street fests (Willimantic).

Zoo Front music has been heard on WESU, WCNI, WNHU, WECU, and, WHUS.

The band has released 4 full length albums (Warble & Trill, Betty Luna, Blunt Trauma, & Open Up Your Cage), as well as 2 EPs (Edna 14:1 and Kevin 13).  Their next full length release is scheduled for the first half of 2015. Among their influences are Television, XTC, Ramones, Psychedelic Furs, Kinks, and of course, The Beatles.

Current performing members are:  Ed Ekendu, Nancie Tief, and Julie Riccio.

Kevin MF King

Kevin MF King

Kevin MF King’s songs run amok with topics such as work drudgery, self-reflection, escapism, the debauchery displayed in modern politics and the process of human interaction, at times using fictional folk tales to tell a story, others just beautiful instrumentals. KMFK has more than 100 self-recorded songs regularly distributed on self-released hand-stamped cds.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Wed., Dec. 17. HOLIDAY/NEO-SOUL: THE HUMAN RACE

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Friday, Jan. 2. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES, HANK HOFFMAN & RICHARD BROWN

• Sunday, Jan. 4. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NOTORIOUS”

• Wednesday, Jan. 7. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: CRISTINA HARRIS, PATRICK DALTON

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Sunday, Jan. 11. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “STRANGERS ON A TRAIN”

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

• Thursday, Jan. 15. SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR: ROBERT MESSORE

• Friday, Jan. 16. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Sunday, Jan. 18. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “REAR WINDOW”

• Sunday, Jan. 25. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NORTH BY NORTHWEST”

• Friday, Jan. 30. JAZZ: URI SHAHAM

• Friday, Feb. 6. EXPERIMENTAL: RIVENER, LIGHT UPON BLIGHT

Music: Holiday neo-soul from The Human Race Wed., Dec. 17, at 8 PM

Dane Scozzari

Dane Scozzari

The Human Race performs a holiday-themed show at Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Dec. 17.The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

The Human Race is an American jazz/neo soul band led by Dane Scozzari. A graduate of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, Scozzari has performed and recorded with several world-renowned musicians including Steve Davis, Nat Reeves, Rick Germanson, Sue Terry, Kris Allen, Ted Levine, Walter Gwardiak, Saskia Laroo and Warren Byrd.

The Human Race began as a college project in 2010, under the direction of drummer/composer Dane Scozzari. Since then, The Human Race has performed in Connecticut and Massachusetts, at venues such as Integrity ‘n’ Music, Cafe Nine, The Red Door Theatre and the Hartford Public Library. In addition to live appearances, the group has performed on Better Connecticut on WFSB Channel 3 hosted by Kara Sundlun and Scot Haney and In The Groove: Jazz and Beyond on WHUS 91.3 FM hosted by Ken Laster.

The Human Race has released two albums, “Profile of Humanity” (2010) and “It’s Christmastime Again” (2012) are available for purchase at BandCamp.com in both physical and digital formats.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Wed., Dec. 17. HOLIDAY/NEO-SOUL: THE HUMAN RACE

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Sunday, Jan. 4. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NOTORIOUS”

• Wednesday, Jan. 7. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: CRISTINA HARRIS, PATRICK DALTON

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Sunday, Jan. 11. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “STRANGERS ON A TRAIN”

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

• Thursday, Jan. 15. SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR: ROBERT MESSORE

• Friday, Jan. 16. INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Sunday, Jan. 18. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “REAR WINDOW”

• Sunday, Jan. 25. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NORTH BY NORTHWEST”

• Friday, Jan. 30. JAZZ: URI SHAHAM

• Friday, Feb. 6. EXPERIMENTAL: RIVENER, LIGHT UPON BLIGHT

Film screening: “Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen” on Mon., Dec. 15, at 7 PM

Vision_WebBest Video Performance Space screens the 2009 Margarethe von Trotta-directed film “Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen” on Monday, Dec. 15. The screening begins at 7 PM and admission is $5. Elizabeth A. Dreyer, professor emerita of religious sudies at Fairfield University and an adjunct  professor at Hartford Seminary, will present the film and lead the optional post-film discussion.

“Vision” presents the story of Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th century Christian mystic, Benedictine nun, composer, writer and scientist. A Renaissance person before the Renaissance.

Roger Ebert wrote:

As embodied here by the powerful presence of Barbara Sukowa, she was a considerable woman, and succeeded in gaining almost everything she desired, despite a church hierarchy controlled by men. From the age of 4, she reported visions of God, and as these continued, they gave her authority and won her followers. Indeed, although in a cloister, she was permitted to go on speaking journeys and became quite widely known.

From Stephen Holden’s review in The New York Times:

“Vision” offers a hard-headed view of 12th-century religiosity in which church politics and money conflict with the characters’ asceticism. It portrays Hildegard as a passionate humanitarian and a lover of nature who is shocked and disgusted by the mortification of the flesh through rituals like self-flagellation and extreme fasting… The film meticulously ticks off Hildegard’s accomplishments. She composed Gregorian chants, fragments of which are heard in the film. She was a playwright whose lyrical drama, “Ordo Virtutum” is excerpted in a scene in which the nuns, as they were allowed to do on certain holidays, frolic in silk gowns and jewels. She was a scholar who amassed a library at a time when books were rare and difficult to obtain, and she was a practitioner of holistic medicine with advanced knowledge of herbal healing.

View the trailer:

Elizabeth A. Dreyer is the author or editor of nine books, including Making Semse of God: A Woman’s Perspective, and has written extensively on topics such as medieval theology and spirituality, women’s spirituality, and contemporary lay spirituality. Hildegard von Bingen is one of the subjects of Professor Dreyer’s most recent book, Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity.

Hank’s Recommendations 12/2/14

hank_paperOUR TV WATCH

Ever since that game-changer, THE SOPRANOS, TV has found itself in a second Golden Age of television: cable shows and HBO movies that don’t have to pander to commercial sponsors, that don’t have to broadcast inoffensive series and films targeted to a dumbed-down, common denominator demographic — shows that offer sophisticated adult fare, that have given freedom to the writer rather than the director in becoming the creative moving force.

It’s hard, of course, to follow on that masterpiece BREAKING BAD, but we’ve come close, at home, with HOMELAND, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, HOUSE OF CARDS and, as a Bronx-born Jersey boy raised in the 50s, my favorite series, MAD MEN.

We’ve recently come late to IN TREATMENT, a finely focused, character-oriented series about a psychotherapist and his patients. We’ve relished each shot (and he’s in most of them) of Gabriel Byrne’s sympathetic, emotively responsive face engaging his therapy patients, engagements that allow us to get involved in their slowly revealed life histories and, hopefully, progress. (Each disc makes up a week of therapy sessions with the five regular patients; four or five discs comprise a season.)

This HBO series was adapted from the original Israeli TV series that starred Assi Dayan (yes, Moshe’s son) as the psychotherapist. What is particularly clever in this series is the way it eventually opens up what would otherwise be a staid structure by, in part, coming to focus on the doctor himself — his restive home-life and questioning of his own abilities. While it took us (as is often the case with ultimately rewarding series) two or three episodes to get into, we found it richly and thoroughly absorbing throughout its four seasons.

Finally, on the cutting edge of TV viewing, we have been totally taken with the HBO series, FARGO, more exploration than exploitation of the multi-Oscar winning movie. While not directed by the Coen Brothers, they are executive producers of the show. It has their whimsical fingerprints all over it. With a superbly gifted cast, humorously surreal plot and engagingly bleak Minnesota atmosphere (it was actually filmed in Alberta), this offbeat character-oriented mystery thriller offers adult fare and one surprise after another that exemplifies how all these TV series invite addictive binge-viewing. Fair warning: these series are hazardous to your free time.

Music: Bluegrass with Five in the Chamber on Thurs., Dec. 12, at 8 PM

5_in_the_Chamber_BV_022014_WebFive in the Chamber play the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Dec. 12. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Five in the Chamber is a New Haven, CT-based rollicking bluegrass and old-time string band with a rocking edge. Brought together through a series of music festivals during the Summer of 2011, the band quickly galvanized and established itself as a staple in the area’s emerging Bluegrass scene. With tight arrangements, unique harmony vocals, and a shared passion for writing original music as well as studying and reinterpreting the bluegrass song book, Five in the Chamber brings a fresh and exciting twist to the bluegrass repertoire. The band released their debut album in the Fall of 2013 entitled Live in the Chamber to rave reviews.

Band members are Ken McEwen (Guitar, Vocals), Andrea Asprelli (Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals), Dave Casali (Bass, Vocals), Pete Kaufman (Banjo) and Sean Mack (Mandolin).

Among their influences are Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin, J.D. Crowe and The New South, Del McCoury, John Hartford, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Bob Dylan, The Band, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Steve Earle and Gillian Welch.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, Nov. 28. PSYCHO-FOLK: MILKSOP: UNSUNG

• Monday, Dec. 1. FILM SCREENING: “DOUBT”

• Thursday, Dec. 4. JAZZ: REBECCA ABBOTT

• Friday, Dec. 5. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Monday, Dec. 8. FILM SCREENING: “THE END OF THE AFFAIR”

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

Music: Just announced! The Furors to play Wed., Dec. 3, at 8 PM

The Furors

The Furors

New Haven rock ‘n’ roll legends The Furors will perform on Thursday, Dec. 3. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover charge is $5.

Comprised of guitarist Derek Holcomb and drummer Tom Dans—Holcomb sings lead and Dans harmonizes—The Furors have been playing together for over three decades. They have self-released numerous vinyl 45s, a vinyl LP and several compact discs. Their catalog is so beloved among local musicians that a tribute album, “Let’s Get Furious,” was released in 2003 featuring 38 Furors songs covered by 38 local musicians and groups.

The Furors’ music is joyful, quirky three-minute pop, like a cross between They Might Be Giants and early British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll.

UPCOMING EVENTS:• Friday, Nov. 28. PSYCHO-FOLK: MILKSOP: UNSUNG

• Monday, Dec. 1. FILM SCREENING: “DOUBT”

• Wednesday, Dec. 3. NEW HAVEN ROCK LEGENDS: THE FURORS

• Thursday, Dec. 4. JAZZ: REBECCA ABBOTT

• Friday, Dec. 5. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Monday, Dec. 8. FILM SCREENING: “THE END OF THE AFFAIR”

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Wed., Dec. 17. HOLIDAY/NEO-SOUL: THE HUMAN RACE

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

Music: James Velvet & the Lonesome Sparrows; Dick Neal return Fri., Dec. 5, at 8 PM

Lonesome_Sparrows_full_band_BV_041714_WebJames Velvet returns to the Best Video Performance Space with his acoustic group the Lonesome Sparrows on Friday, Dec. 5. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Original acoustic rootsy rock ‘n’ roll. Songwriter extraordinaire James Velvet fronts the Lonesome Sparrows. The band includes Johnny Memphis on guitar, fiddle and harmony vocals. Memphis and Velvet have been playing together since 1985. Memphis is also a long-standing member of Washboard Slim and The Blue Lights. Velvet and Memphis are joined on dobro, mandolin and banjo by DickNeal, well-known in Southern CT for his bluegrass band, Hoe. Johnny Java plays electric bass and percussion.

Johnny Java and James Velvet played original roots R&R in The MockingBirds for a dozen years (buttressed for many of those years by DickNeal’s guitar playing). The Sparrows are happiest at Coffee House/Gallery concerts (Never Ending Bookstore, John Slade Ely House, The Buttonwood Tree, Best Video Performance Space) or, in the warm weather, at  CT’s  many tasty Farm Markets. In April, 2010, the group released their 13-track CD Black Velvet Royalty.

Dick Neal will play an opening solo set of his own music. Dick Neal is a student of music, songwriting, record production, and live performance. A multi-instrumentalist (guitar, 5-string banjo, mandolin, dobro, slide), he has been privileged to make a living as a musician and to work in a wide variety of musical settings and styles. As a solo artist and songwriter, he has released 2 CD’s of original music, HOE and Beacon. Several of his compositions have been recorded by other singers.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Monday, Nov. 24. FILM SCREENING: “BABETTE’S FEAST”

• Friday, Nov. 28. PSYCHO-FOLK: MILKSOP: UNSUNG

• Monday, Dec. 1. FILM SCREENING: “DOUBT”

• Thursday, Dec. 4. JAZZ: REBECCA ABBOTT

• Friday, Dec. 5. BLUEGRASS: PHANTOMS OF THE OPRY

• Monday, Dec. 8. FILM SCREENING: “THE END OF THE AFFAIR”

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

Music: Jazz with Rebecca Abbott on Thurs., Dec. 4, at 8 PM

Rebecca_Abbott_Gary_Grippo_BV_071912Rebecca Abbott brings her jazz group to Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Dec. 4. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Rebecca Abbott has been playing tenor saxophone in the New Haven area since the 1990s.  She is also a faculty member in Quinnipiac University’s Film, Video & Interactive Media program, and an independent filmmaker whose works include “Unsung Heroes: The Music of Jazz in New Haven.”

Dr. Gary Grippo is a podiatrist by day (Center Podiatry) and a jazz musician at heart – and the rest of the time.  In addition to being a regular on the New Haven jazz scene for close to twenty years, Dr. G also hosts a jazz brunch at Kelly’s Restaurant, a jazz jam session at Café 9, and is the Tuesday morning DJ on WNHU Radio’s Jazz program, 6 – 8 am.

Dave Daddario is an acclaimed acoustic and electric bass player, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, music educator and public school band director. Dave has experience playing a wide variety of musical styles and has performed engagements with many local artists, famous musicians and entertainers.

For over 30 years, Barry Ries has been playing jazz trumpet and percussion with the very best names in jazz, including Lionel Hampton, Joe Lovano, John Pizzarelli, Gerry Mulligan, and many others. We’re very excited to have him join us on December 4th at Best Video.

The Rebecca Abbott Quartet plays classic modern jazz.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, Nov. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: BECKY KESSLER (Violent Mae), SAM PERDUTA (Elison Jackson)

• Monday, Nov. 24. FILM SCREENING: “BABETTE’S FEAST”

• Friday, Nov. 28. PSYCHO-FOLK: MILKSOP: UNSUNG

• Monday, Dec. 1. FILM SCREENING: “DOUBT”

• Thursday, Dec. 4. JAZZ: REBECCA ABBOTT

• Friday, Dec. 5. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Monday, Dec. 8. FILM SCREENING: “THE END OF THE AFFAIR”

• Thursday, Dec. 11. BLUEGRASS: FIVE IN THE CHAMBER

• Monday, Dec. 15. FILM SCREENING: “VISION”

• Thursday, Dec. 18. POST-PUNK: ZOO FRONT, KEVIN MF KING

• Friday, Dec. 19. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS