Hank’s Recommendations 03/19/13

hank_paperUNDEFEATED – A customer recommended this movie to me.

It takes place in Tennessee rather than Texas, at an all-black rather than mixed race high school; there’s the volunteer and truly amazing real-life Coach Bill Courtney instead of Coach Taylor and it’s a documentary feature instead of a fictional TV series. But it bears some fine resemblance to the landmark series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS—all in 114 minutes rather than seven seasons.

Yes, it’s the usual against-the-odds-triumph story with heart (the Memphis Tigers never won a play-off game since the school was founded in 1899), but stands out from simple formula in the portrayals of the team’s brilliantly moving coach and two particular critical players. An undersized but tough-minded linebacker nicknamed Money does everything right, including academically and in his team-playing, while, Chavis, back from fifteen months in juvenile detention, directs well-honed anger-management issues both at the team and his former friend Money. How the two players come to switch roles through unexpected personal adversities is one of the many fine personal foci in this justifiably rousing film.

The true meaning of the title is what the film’s about. You’ll have to watch it.

seduction-of-joe-tynan-poster_WebTHE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN — This is an early film that turned me on—in every sense of the word—to Meryl Streep. I saw it in a theater 33 years ago and it’s just come out on DVD. It’s a way to see how Streep initially lit up the screen with her commanding talent and the seasoned performer she’s since become.

It’s not the only reason to see this film.

Compellingly candid and at times humorously written by its co-star Alan Alda (playing the liberal New York senator Joe Tynan), this film is surprisingly up-to-date about family and politics—and whether the hybrid energy required by both is able to keep them on the same road. The film is poignant and subtle.

In a boisterous Washington arm-twisting kitchen scene, one conservative southern senator (Rip Torn) passes around his homemade gumbo while his aging colleague (Melvin Douglas) tries to get Tynan to swallow a critical Republican Supreme Court nominee. But the scene winds up being not about politics but about the elder patriarch’s sudden manifestation of Alzheimer’s.

The honest and liberal Joe Tynan, however, is not immune to ambition, and what such fulfillment ultimately requires. Many, especially liberal people today, don’t like the idea of mixing a politician’s personal life with his or her political performance. Too often, it smacks of fear mongering and tabloid expediency. But this film offers a fresh take on the question of whether, indeed, you can have political integrity without personal integrity. Can there be such a hybrid as a married politician?

To its very last telling scene, indeed shot, this movie tells a story that still deserves our attention.

Music: Stark Raving Lulu to play Wed., Mar. 27, at 8 PM

Stark Raving Lulu play the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Mar. 27. The cover is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

Stark_Raving_Lulu_Web

What do you get when you combine The Shangri-Las (“Leader of the Pack,” “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”) with The Ramones? One answer might be Stark Raving Lulu. Based in Central Connecticut, the group’s “Welcome to the Fun-O-Sphere!” CD is available through iTunes and CD Baby and probably at the show, too.  On Facebook, the “grrrl rockers” list their influences as “punk, 60’s, garage rock, girl groups, rock and roll, PBR and Skinny Girl Margaritas” and their interests as “nonsense and shenanigans.” Band members are LaLa Lulu (vocals), Bella Lulu (guitar), LowEnd Lulu (bass) and BoomBoom Lulu (drums).

So you know it’s going to be fun.

How much fun? Check out this video of Stark Raving Lulu performing their song “All Hail to the Sucker Queen” at Two Boots Pizza in Bridgeport :

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL/BRAZILIAN: HAVEN STRING QUARTET with SAMBELEZA

• Wednesday, Apr. 10. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

• Monday, Apr. 22. FILM SCREENING FOR “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” SERIES: “WALK ON WATER”

• Thursday, Apr. 25. JAZZ: THE NICK Di MARIA QUARTET

• Sunday, May 5. FILM SCREENING & DISCUSSION: “ALL ME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WINFRED REMBERT”

• Wednesday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: POOLS ARE NICE, BUCK McGRANE

Authors JoeAnn Hart and Matt Debenham to read Sun., Mar. 24, at 2 PM

Hart_Debenham_image_WebAuthors JoeAnn Hart (Float) and Matt Debenham (The Book of Right and Wrong) will read from their work in the Best Video Performance Space on Sunday, Mar. 24, at 2 PM.

JoeAnn Hart lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America’s oldest seaport, where fishing regulations, the health of the ocean, and the natural beauty of the world are the daily topics of wonder and concern. She is the author of the novel Addled, a social satire that intertwines animal rights with the politics of food. Her essays, articles, and short fiction have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals and national publications, and she is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Magazine. She will read from her novel, Float, recently released by Ashland Creek, a press that specializes in environmental literature. Float swirls around bankruptcy, jellyfish, conceptual art, and plastics in the ocean.

Matt Debenham is the author of The Book of Right and Wrong, winner of the 2009 Ohio State University Press Prize for Fiction. His work has appeared in such publications as Roanoke Review, Battered Suitcase, The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, and many others. He has received a Fiction Fellowship from the state of Connecticut, was a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Scholar, and is the host of the books podcast What Are You Reading? He blogs about writing at mattdebenham.com.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Mar. 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL/BRAZILIAN: HAVEN STRING QUARTET with SAMBELEZA

• Wednesday, Apr. 10. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

• Monday, Apr. 22. FILM SCREENING FOR “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” SERIES: “WALK ON WATER”

• Thursday, Apr. 25. JAZZ: THE NICK Di MARIA QUARTET

• Sunday, May 5. FILM SCREENING & DISCUSSION: “ALL ME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WINFRED REMBERT”

• Wednesday, May 8. INDIE ROCK: POOLS ARE NICE

Music: David Chevan & Bassology play jazz Wed., Mar. 20, at 8 PM

Bassology_72dpiDavid Chevan and Bassology will play the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Mar. 20. The cover charge for this show is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

David Chevan is a rare individual in the music world. An active bassist and composer, he is involved in some of the most dynamic and musically exciting jazz projects in Southern Connecticut. In addition to his busy performance schedule, Chevan also holds a Ph.D. in jazz history and is a full-time professor of music at Southern Connecticut State University.

Chevan’s artistic career has continued to blossom. He leads two of his own ensembles, BASSOLOGY and THE AFRO-SEMITIC EXPERIENCE, performs in two critically acclaimed duos, and is a free-lance bassist in the New Haven area.

Chevan’s band, BASSOLOGY, performs his original compositions along with arrangements of classic jazz compositions and favorite pieces from a number of traditions. The band has been featured in a number of local New Haven venues and continues to perform at special events. The band has participated in a number of festivals including New Haven’s Art on theEdge Festival, the New Haven Streetfest and the New Haven Harborfest, Norwalk’s SoNo Arts Festival and a variety of children’s concerts, and has released two CDs.

BASSOLOGY will be playing a mix of blues and standards with an emphasis on tunes that drummer Ron Bragg sings. Bragg, according to Chevan, sounds like a cross between Johnny Hartman and Lou Rawls. The band for the evening will consist of Ron Braggs on drums and vocals, Will Cleary on saxophone, Sam Parker on keyboards and Chevan on bass.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Mar. 21. INDIE GARAGE ROCK: GHOST OF CHANCE

• Sunday, Mar. 24. READINGS: JOEANN HART & MATT DEBENHAM

• Wednesday, Mar. 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Wednesday, Apr. 10. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

• Monday, Apr. 22. FILM SCREENING FOR “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” SERIES: “WALK ON WATER”

• Thursday, Apr. 25. JAZZ: THE NICK DiMARIA QUARTET

Hank’s recommendations 03/12/13

hank_paperHITCHCOCK — Murder is so much fun in Hitchcock!

The only suspense in this thoroughly delightful, well-written and acted, film is how the aging Hitchcock, fresh off his success in NORTH BY NORTHWEST in 1959, seeks to prove he still has what it takes to be, well, Hitchcock. The vehicle he chooses to confirm his continued worth and, in fact, be fresh and current and different, is adapted from a then-current gruesome horror novel about the serial killer Ed Gein. The bestseller is called PSYCHO, displaying graphic subject matter that cause both his agent and longtime studio to avert their eyes from supporting it, forcing the Hitchcocks to mortgage their beloved Hollywood home in order to finance the film themselves. Talk about a scarily suspenseful adventure!

This movie has all the elements that make, not a perfect “Hitchcock film,” but a perfect film about Hitchcock and the making of Psycho: the advisory phantom of Ed Gein himself, backstabbing studio politics, Hitchcock’s eccentrically brilliant directorial craft, the famous shower scene, his trademark Hitchcock TV show, his infatuation with his blonde leading ladies, his less than earnest battle with corpulence, and, above all, his longstanding marriage to Alma Revel who was his confidante, advisor, editor and supporter in every film—right through Psycho—since their early days making British silent films together. The question of whether Hitchcock’s might finally acknowledge her irreplaceable role is another fine element of suspense.

The two actors—Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren—are expectantly excellent, especially Hopkins. One would think no one could convincingly portray the unique, inimitable Hitchcock, but you soon forget you’re watching anyone but the famous director himself.

All the dry wit and acerbic perceptions, the sense of fun and surprise you associate with Hitchcock are in this well-written movie.

The last three lines are the perfect capstone:

“You know, Alma, I will never be able to find a Hitchcock blonde as beautiful as you.”

“I’ve waited thirty years to hear you say that.”

“And that, my dear, is why they call me…the Master of Suspense.”

THE FLAT — A 98 year old grandmother dies in Tel Aviv. Her daughter, in her 70s, and her own older children and grandchildren go to clean out the apartment.

Among the old German furniture and bric-a-brac are discovered a huge and surprising cache of letters, photo albums and mementos harkening back to a pre-war Berlin where the grandmother and her traffic judge husband led a privileged life. Among the aging relics is a prominent Nazi newspaper from the late 30s whose banner headline announces the couple’s trip abroad to Palestine in the company of a high Nazi official.

The mother claims she never knew anything about that. Her parents never talked about their past life nor did she ever ask any questions. She herself lives only for the here and now. Her own apartment in Tel Aviv is neat as a pin: no clutter, everything in its place, not a thing that’s reminiscent of the past.

But the son evinces surprise and curiosity. The video he happens to be recording of the apartment cleaning becomes the movie we are watching as he decides to pursue that curiosity. What he discovers as he travels across Israel and to Germany to uncover his grandparents’ hitherto unrevealed life defies belief, leading to personal confrontations that will dispel complacency, reveal hard truths and alter lives on both continents.

This profound and haunting family mystery raises unfathomable questions and goes to places you couldn’t expect. It will have its intended effect if you don’t first read the spoilers on the back of the DVD cover.

Wine tasting with Robert Jordan of The Wine Thief, Thurs., Mar. 14, at 6:30 PM

Please join the Wine Thief and Best Video for “Great Wines You’ve Never Heard Of,” a night of cinematic and oenophilic pleasures. On the evening of March 14, starting at 6:30 PM, there will be wine, hors d’oeuvres, a silent subtitled screening of “Sideways”—set in the California wine country and starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church—and much knowledge to be gained.

Wine_Thief

The Wine Thief’s very own resident wine-savant-and-Paul-Giamatti-look-alike Robert Jordan will present and pour a selection of both eschewed and revered wines relevant to the movie. Admittance is $20 and all-inclusive. Reservation are strongly suggested and can be made by calling Best Video at (203) 287-9286.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Mar. 20. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Thursday, Mar. 21. INDIE GARAGE ROCK: GHOST OF CHANCE

• Sunday, Mar. 24. READINGS: JOEANN HART & MATT DEBENHAM

• Wednesday, Mar. 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Wednesday, Apr. 10. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

• Monday, Apr. 22. FILM SCREENING FOR “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” SERIES: “WALK ON WATER”

• Thursday, Apr. 25. JAZZ: THE NICK DiMARIA QUARTET

Music: Noah Kesselman to play acoustic rock and blues Wed., Mar. 13, at 8 PM

Noah_Kesselman_WebNoah Kesselman will play the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, March 13. The music starts at 8 PM and there is a $5 cover charge.

Noah Kesselman has been playing guitar since the age of 2. Currently a 14-year-old freshman at The Marvelwood School in Kent, Kesselman has been inspired and influenced by the legendary blues-oriented guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson.

Kesselman plays in a band called Funk You Up. Funk You Up, started in 2011, is a jam band with blues and jazz roots involved. It features Noah Kesselman on guitar, Joe Rosen on drums, Henry Sidle on bass, and Mike Berry on keys.

For his Best Video Performance Space show, Kesselman plans to perform solo, playing acoustic rock and blues.

Watch Noah Kesselman perform the blues chestnut “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” with Funk You Up:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Mar. 14. WINE TASTING with ROBERT JORDAN from THE WINE THIEF

• Wednesday, Mar. 20. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Thursday, Mar. 21. INDIE GARAGE ROCK: GHOST OF CHANCE

• Sunday, Mar. 24. READINGS: JOEANN HART & MATT DEBENHAM

• Wednesday, Mar. 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Wednesday, Apr. 10. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

• Monday, Apr. 22. FILM SCREENING FOR “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” SERIES: “WALK ON WATER”

• Thursday, Apr. 25. JAZZ: THE NICK DiMARIA QUARTET

Hank’s Recommendations 03/05/13

hank_paperMY WIFE SAID NO BUT STAYED WITH THE SHOW

THE INTOUCHABLES — In this based-on-a-true-story, a charming, self-taken ex-con from the projects is hired to take care of a charming  but strong-willed disabled French aristocrat. What seems to start out as a formulaic French movie about two people from different worlds coming together for some life-changing experiences soon broadens into a highly humorous story wherein all the characters’ captivating stories (UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS anyone?) come to the fore. Moving beyond a film about a household task the film turns into an unpredictable adventure in the streets and countryside of Paris involving the upturning of preconceptions about life as well as class distinctions. As Mrs. Video proclaimed at the end: The Intouchables is unforgettable!

THE BAY — This is an eco-horror film that Barry Levinson (DINER, THE NATURAL, TIN MEN, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, RAIN MAN, BUGSY, SLEEPER, WAG THE DOG) directed with the producing help of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise producers. What’s “paranormal” here, however, is not ghosts but the environment, specifically that of the Chesapeake Bay in his beloved home state of Maryland, where Levinson grew up (see his affecting drama LIBERTY HEIGHTS) and many of his films are set,

Apart from CLOVERFIELD, CATFISH and THE LAST EXORCISM, I never did much care for that BLAIR WITCH PROJECTParanormal Activity sub-genre (which is almost always horror) where the entire film is seen through shaky, hand-held video or found footage of digital devices such as cell phones, security cameras and webcams. The style is supposed to make the film seem more real; to me the reality is simply low budget and not much else. But it’s a new world we’re in and nothing should be dismissed out of hand, though I do believe it takes a certain director (and writing!) to do this sub-genre well. Barry Levinson, it turns out, is that man.

The film is a montage of found footage put together by a then highly unseasoned young reporter who had reported on the events for a local TV station of the weekend in question three years ago. Conscience ridden, stealthy and now seasoned, she has decided to expose a three-year governmental cover up of a major environmental disaster that happened back then.

The ironic occasion of that earlier footage, honoring the independence and happy times of our nation, is a July 4th celebration in the quaint bayside town of Claridge: flags, parades, families, and a crab eating contest whose participants will soon all be throwing up.

Before you can say “lobster bib” an epidemic of blisters and boils and worse strikes many of the citizens. A woman wanders hysterically across suburban lawns, bleeding from every orifice. One witness’s initial response is to “run in to get my camera.” Talk about first responder.

Both horrifying and parodic, Levinson makes his faux found footage work with canny and clever camerawork, mounting suspense, and inadvertent humor interspersed with shocking images as overwhelmed local hospitals and the Center for Disease Control race to discover the source of this sudden and unprecedented epidemic.

These elements, along with good writing rather than the mostly silent footage of the Paranormal series, proves that Levinson does this sub-genre better than his producers have done with their own Paranormal series.

He doesn’t quite know how to bring it to a conclusion. But then, it’s still going on.

It’s not 1962—is it safe to come out of the bomb shelter? “Fail-Safe” Mon., Mar. 11, at 7 PM

fail_safe_WebThe “What Would You Do: Ethical Dilemmas in Great Films” film series is a collaborative effort of Temple Beth Sholom and Best Video. Best Video owner Hank Paper and Temple Beth Sholom Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic will take turns introducing films and leading the post-film discussions.

The admission cost per film is $5 and reservations are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Several of the previous screenings have been sold out. Seats are still available for this upcoming show.

On Monday, Mar. 11, at 7 PM, we present the 1963 film “Fail-Safe.” The film will be introduced and the discussion led by Best Video owner Hank Paper.

This film presents the dark, serious side of “Dr. Strangelove.” When a computer error deploys a squadron of Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers to destroy Moscow, the American President (Fonda) tries to call them back. Nail-bitingly suspenseful, and one of the greatest anti-war movies ever made, “Fail-Safe” stars Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, Dan O’Herlihy. Larry Hagman, and Fritz Weaver. According to New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, reviewing “Fail-Safe” in 1964 (log-in required), “‘Fail Safe’ is definitely in the area of those films that are important and are going to be talked about. And it packs a melodramatic wallop that will rattle a lot of chattering teeth.”