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Review: ‘Roots’ for a Black Lives Matter Era Tags: roots black lives matter era word life production new quality entertainment

The original mini-series “Roots” was about history, and it was history itself. Airing on ABC in January 1977, this generational saga of slavery was a kind of answer song to the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of the (white, often slave-owning) founding fathers. It reopened the books and wrote slaves and their descendants into the national narrative.

But as an event, it was also a chapter in that story. It shaped and was shaped by the racial consciousness of its era. It was a prime-time national reckoning for more than 100 million viewers. As a television drama, it was excellent. But as a television broadcast, it was epochal.

The four-night, eight-hour remake of “Roots,” beginning Memorial Day on History, A&E and Lifetime, is largely the same story, compressed in some places and expanded in others, with a lavish production and strong performances. It is every bit as worthy of attention and conversation. But it is also landing, inevitably, in a very different time.

Viewers who watched “Roots” four decades ago have since lived with racial narratives of moving forward and stepping back. They’ve seen America’s first black president elected and a presidential candidate hesitate to disavow the Ku Klux Klan.

So in timing and spirit, this is a Black Lives Matter “Roots,” optimistic in focusing on its characters’ strength, sober in recognizing that we may never stop needing reminders of whose lives matter.

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The first new episode, much of it shot in South Africa, looks stunning, another sign of the cultural times. Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby, in the role made famous by LeVar Burton) is now not a humble villager but the scion of an important clan, and his home — Juffure, in Gambia — a prosperous settlement. Kunta is captured by a rival family and sold into slavery to a Virginian (James Purefoy), by way of a harrowing Middle Passage.

Mr. Kirby’s Kunta is a more regal and immediately defiant character than Mr. Burton’s. But his tragedy is the same: He rebels but fails and is beaten into accepting his slave name, Toby. The name — the loss of identity — is as much a weapon as the whip. As the overseer who beats him puts it: “You can’t buy a slave. You have to make a slave.”

Kunta stops running, but he preserves his traditions, including the practice of presenting a newborn baby to the night sky with the words, “Behold, the only thing that is greater than you.”

That theme of belonging to something larger, of the ancestral family as a character in itself, is essential to “Roots.” Although Alex Haley fictionalized the events of his novel on which the mini-series is based, his story offered black Americans what slavery was machine-tooled to erase: places, dates, names, memories. And that focus keeps the ugliness — the racial slurs, the gruesome violence — from rendering this series without hope. A person may live and die in this system, but a people can survive it.

Still, the individual stories remain heartbreaking, even in small moments, as when the slave musician Fiddler (a soulful Forest Whitaker) recognizes a Mandinka tune he overhears Kunta singing. He’s moved — and, it seems, a little frightened by what the recognition stirs in him. As much as he’s worked to efface his heritage as a survival strategy, it lingers, a few notes haunting the outskirts of his memory.

Kunta’s daughter, Kizzy (E’myri Lee Crutchfield as a child, Anika Noni Rose as an adult), is teased with the possibility of a better life; she grows up friends with the master’s daughter and learns to read. But she’s sold to Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a struggling farmer who rapes and impregnates her. Rape — there are several assaults in this series — is another weapon against identity, another way you make a slave. Ms. Rose burns with Kizzy’s determination to hang on to her sense of self.

Kizzy and Tom Lea’s son, Chicken George (Regé-Jean Page, walking nimbly in Ben Vereen’s footsteps) makes his name raising fighting cocks for his master-father. The series has lighter moments, especially with the charismatic George, but those can quickly turn dark at an owner’s whim. Childhood friends grow up; promises get broken; there are no good masters.

At eight hours over four nights, each with a separate director, this “Roots” is about a third shorter than the original. It focuses less on white characters — gone is Ed Asner’s conscience-stricken slave-ship captain, a sop to white viewers — though there are insights about how class resentment feeds bigotry.

You feel the story’s compression most in the second half, especially the melodramatic, rushed final episode, which works in both the story of George’s son Tom (Sedale Threatt Jr.) — named, under duress, for his slave-master grandfather — and George’s service in the Civil War. This mini-series ends emotionally, but it emphasizes that there is no permanent happily-ever-after: “Every day,” the younger Tom says, “always going to be someone wants to take away your freedom.”

Overall, the remake, whose producers include Mr. Burton and Mark M. Wolper (whose father, David L. Wolper, produced the original “Roots”), ably polishes the story for a new audience that might find the old production dated and slow. What it can’t do, because nothing can now, is command that audience.

As homogeneous as the old-school, three-network TV system could be, as many faces as it left out, “Roots” was an example of what it could do at its best. I watched it when I was 8 years old because it was all anyone was talking about, including the kids in my mostly white small-town school. A generation of viewers — whatever we looked like, wherever we came from, wherever we ended up — carried the memory of Kunta having his name beaten out of him.

Viewers will have to seek out this “Roots,” like every program now. Today’s universe of channels and streaming outlets presents a much wider range of identity and experience. But we see it in smaller groups and take away different memories.

That’s not the fault of “Roots,” of course; it’s simply our media world. The legacy of representation now lives in a constellation of programs, among them dramas like “Underground,” which imagines its slave-escape story as an action thriller; comedies like “black-ish” and “The Carmichael Show,” with their complex ideas of black identity; and this “Roots,” still a necessary story, but now one story among many.

A version of this review appears in print on May 30, 2016, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: An Epochal Saga of Slavery, Remade for a Different Time. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

Source: New York Times

They Live - On Classic Movies and Television Tags: they live 1988 roddy piper word life production new quality entertainment feature blog

They Live is a 1988 American science fiction satirical film written and directed by John Carpenter. The film stars Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster. It follows a nameless drifter referred to as "Nada", who discovers the ruling class are in fact aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to spend money, breed and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media.

An unemployed drifter referred to as Nada (Roddy Piper) finds construction work in Los Angeles, and befriends fellow construction worker Frank Armitage (Keith David), who leads him to a local shantytown soup kitchen. There, Nada notices strange activity around the church; a blind preacher (Raymond St. Jacques) loudly chastising others to wake up, a police helicopter scouts them overhead, and a drifter (George Buck Flower) complains that his TV signal is continually interrupted by a man warning everyone about those in power. Nada discovers the nearby church is a front: the choir is actually an audio recording and the building is filled with scientific equipment and cardboard boxes. Nada finds a box hidden in the wall, but escapes when the preacher catches him. At night, the police bulldoze the shantytown. Nada returns in the morning to find the church empty, but with the hidden box still there. In an alley, he opens the box and finds dozens of sunglasses. Taking one, he hides the box of remaining sunglasses in a garbage can.

Nada discovers the sunglasses are special. After putting on a pair, he sees the world in black and white and discovers it is not what it seems. Media and advertising hide constant subliminal totalitarian commands to obey and conform. Many in authority and wealthy are actually humanoid aliens with skull-like faces. In a grocery store, Nada confronts an alien woman, who then speaks into her wristwatch notifying others about him. Two alien police officers try to apprehend Nada but he kills them, taking their guns. He goes on a shooting spree, killing several aliens that he encounters in a nearby bank. He sees one vanish using its wristwatch. Nada escapes, destroying a small, flying saucer-like alien surveillance drone and taking a Cable 54 assistant director Holly Thompson (Meg Foster), hostage. At her hill-top home, Nada tries to convince her of the truth. He also begins suffering migraine headaches from using the glasses. Holly does not believe him. Catching him unaware, Holly knocks him through a window and calls the police. Nada tumbles down a steep hillside and escapes, leaving his belongings behind.

Nada returns to the alley, where he finds the garbage can that he hid the other glasses in empty. He sees and enters a nearby garbage truck, where he discovers and saves the box. Frank meets him to give him his paycheck and tells Nada (now considered a wanted man) to stay away. Nada fights with Frank in a long battle, trying to force him to put on a pair of sunglasses. Finally, Nada holds Frank down and puts them on him and he sees the truth. The two rent a hotel room to discuss their predicament. Gilbert (Peter Jason), a member of the shantytown, discovers them and notifies them about a secret meeting with other activists.

There, Nada and Frank are given special contact lenses to replace their sunglasses. They learn from the bearded man's broadcast that the aliens control Earth as their third world, depleting its resources and causing global warming before moving on to other planets. The aliens use a subliminal signal broadcast into people's brains to camouflage themselves. Destroying its source will allow everyone on Earth to see their true form. Frank is given an alien wristwatch, a complex radio and teleportation device. Holly appears, apparently joining the cause before apologizing to Nada. However, the police suddenly attack the meeting, killing anyone in sight while Nada and Frank are cornered fighting their way out. Frank accidentally opens a temporary portal by throwing the watch, through which the two jump into a network of underground passages.

The two find the aliens in a grand hall celebrating with their elite human collaborators. The homeless drifter from earlier, now a well-dressed collaborator, believes the two to be collaborators as well. He takes them on a tour of the passages, revealed to link the alien society, including a space travel port. A further passage leads to the basement of Cable 54 station, the source of the aliens' signal. The two then launch an attack through the building to find the broadcaster on the roof, before meeting Holly and taking her along. As Nada climbs to the signal broadcaster disguised as a satellite dish, Holly kills Frank. Revealed to be a collaborator, she takes aim at Nada and persuades him to stop as an alien police helicopter hovers overhead. Nada complies by dropping his weapon, but then retrieves a hidden pistol from his sleeve and kills her. He then shoots and destroys the broadcaster before being fatally wounded by the aliens in their helicopter. Before he dies, Nada gives them the finger as his last gesture now that he scored the final victory over the aliens. With the signal destroyed, humans are shown discovering the aliens in their midst on television, in a bar, and comically one woman finds the man she is having sex with is actually an alien.

The idea for They Live came from a short story called "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1960s, involving an alien invasion in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which Nelson, along with artist Bill Wray, adapted into a story called "Nada" published in the Alien Encounters comic book anthology (cover date: April 1986)  John Carpenter describes Nelson's story as "a D.O.A. type of story, in which a man is put in a trance by a stage hypnotist. When he awakens, he realizes that the entire human race has been hypnotized, and that alien creatures are controlling humanity. He has only until eight o'clock in the morning to solve the problem." Carpenter acquired the film rights to both the comic book and short story and wrote the screenplay using Nelson's story as a basis for the film's structure.

The more political elements of the film are derived from Carpenter's growing distaste with the ever-increasing commercialization of 1980s popular culture and politics. He remarked, "I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something... It's all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money." To this end, Carpenter thought of sunglasses as being the tool to seeing the truth, which "is seen in black and white. It's as if the aliens have colorized us. That means, of course, that Ted Turner is really a monster from outer space." (Turner had received some bad press in the 1980s for colorizing classic black-and-white movies.) The director commented on the alien threat in an interview, "They want to own all our businesses. A Universal executive asked me, 'Where's the threat in that? We all sell out every day.' I ended up using that line in the film." The aliens were deliberately made to look like ghouls according to Carpenter, who said: "The creatures are corrupting us, so they, themselves, are corruptions of human beings."

Because the screenplay was the product of so many sources: a short story, a comic book, and input from cast and crew, Carpenter decided to use the pseudonym "Frank Armitage", an allusion to one of the filmmaker's favorite writers, H. P. Lovecraft (Henry Armitage is a character in Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror). Carpenter has always felt a close kinship with Lovecraft's worldview and according to the director, "Lovecraft wrote about the hidden world, the 'world underneath'. His stories were about gods who are repressed, who were once on Earth and are now coming back. The world underneath has a great deal to do with They Live."

After a budget of approximately three million dollars was raised, Carpenter began casting the film. For the crucial role of Nada, the filmmaker cast professional wrestler Roddy Piper, whom he met at WrestleMania III earlier in 1987. For Carpenter it was an easy choice: "Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him." Carpenter was impressed with Keith David's performance in The Thing and needed someone "who wouldn't be a traditional sidekick, but could hold his own." To this end, Carpenter wrote the role of Frank specifically for the actor.

They Live was shot in eight weeks during March and April 1988, principally on location in downtown L.A. with a budget only slightly greater than $3,000,000. One of the highlights of the film is a five-and-half minute alley fight between David and Piper over a pair of the special sunglasses. Carpenter recalls that the fight took three weeks to rehearse: "It was an incredibly brutal and funny fight, along the lines of the slugfest between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man.”

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 83%, with the critical consensus saying "A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter." Metacritic, an aggregator of film critics' ratings and reviews, gave the film a rating average of 52 out of 100.

In his review for the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "Carpenter's wit and storytelling craft make this fun and watchable, although the script takes a number of unfortunate shortcuts, and the possibilities inherent in the movie's central conceit are explored only cursorily." Jay Carr, writing for The Boston Globe, said "[O]nce Carpenter delivers his throwback-to-the-'50s visuals, complete with plump little B-movie flying saucers, and makes his point that the rich are fascist fiends, They Live starts running low on imagination and inventiveness", but felt that "as sci-fi horror comedy, They Live, with its wake-up call to the world, is in a class with Terminator and RoboCop, even though its hero doesn't sport bionic biceps". Allmovie contributor Paul Brenner gave the film three and a half out of five stars.

In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Since Mr. Carpenter seems to be trying to make a real point here, the flatness of They Live is doubly disappointing. So is its crazy inconsistency, since the film stops trying to abide even by its own game plan after a while." Richard Harrington wrote in The Washington Post, "it's just John Carpenter as usual, trying to dig deep with a toy shovel. The plot for They Live is full of black holes, the acting is wretched, the effects are second-rate. In fact, the whole thing is so preposterous it makes V look like Masterpiece Theatre". Rick Groen, in The Globe and Mail, wrote, "the movie never gets beyond the pop Orwell premise. The social commentary wipes clean with a dry towelette - it's not intrusive and not pedantic, just lighter-than-air."

The 2012 documentary film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology presented by Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek starts with an analysis of the film They Live: Žižek uses the main trope of the film, the wearing of the special sun-glasses reveals the truth of that which is perceived, to explain his definition of ideology. Žižek states:

"They Live is definitely one of the forgotten masterpieces of the Hollywood Left. ... The sunglasses function like a critique of ideology. They allow you to see the real message beneath all the propaganda, glitz, posters and so on. ... When you put the sunglasses on you see the dictatorship in democracy, the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom."

The film opened on November 4, 1988 and debuted at #1 at the North American box office grossing $4,827,000 during its opening weekend. However, the film's audience quickly dwindled and it spent only two weeks in the top ten. The film had a total domestic gross of $13,008,928.Carpenter is on record as attributing the film's initial commercial failure to the hypothesis that "[those] who go to the movies in vast numbers these days don't want to be enlightened". The film's original release date, advertised in promotional material as October 21, 1988, was pushed back two weeks to avoid direct competition with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which was a success at the box office.

The film was ranked #18 on Entertainment Weekly magazine's "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" list. Rotten Tomatoes ranked the fight scene between Roddy Piper's character, John Nada, and Keith David's character, Frank Armitage, seventh on their list of the "The 20 Greatest Fights Scenes Ever".

Jonathan Lethem called They Live one of his "favorite movies of the eighties, hands down," and wrote a book-length homage to it for the Soft Skull Press Deep Focus series.

Shepard Fairey also credits the movie as a major source of inspiration, sharing a similar logo to his "OBEY" campaign. "They Live was .the basis for my use of the word 'obey,'" Fairey said. "The movie has a very strong message about the power of commercialism and the way that people are manipulated by advertising.

On November 6, 2012 Shout! Factory released a Collector's Edition of the film on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Legacy

Obey Giant by Shepard Fairey

In 1995 street artist Shepard Fairey added the OBEY slogan to his iconic OBEY Giant street art as a direct homage to the "OBEY" signs found in the film.

In the 1996 video game Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem paraphrases John Nada (Roddy Piper) by saying "It's time to kickbutt and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum."

The fight between Jimmy and Timmy in the 2001 South Park episode Cripple Fight is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the fight between Nada and Frank.

Film director Darren Aronofsky cited They Live as one of the influences for the hardcore wrestling scenes of his 2008 film The Wrestler.

In the 2012 film Stand Up Guys, Al Pacino and Christopher Walken have the following verbal exchange, which is a paraphrase of a line of dialogue spoken by John Nada (Roddy Piper): "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum."

Val (Al Pacino): "So, what will it be? Chew gum or kick ass?"

Doc (Christopher Walken): "I'm all out of gum."

The fight between Nada and Frank was parodied in the 2013 video game Saints Row IV, with Keith David and Roddy Piper contributing voiceover work to portray themselves. Additionally, later in the same quest, David broadcasts a message similar to the bearded man's over the radio.

Defcon 22, the hacker conference, "do not obey" is displayed on their computerized badges.

Jodeci Live in Concert! Tags: word life videos jodeci live concert word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Jodeci (sometimes stylized as JoDeCi) is an American band, whose repertoire includes R&B, soul music, and new jack swing. The group consists of two pairs of brothers from Hampton, Virginia and Charlotte, North Carolina: Cedric & Joel Hailey and Donald & Dalvin DeGrate, all respectively known by their stage names: K-Ci & JoJo, DeVante Swing and Mr. Dalvin. The group's name is a combination of the names from all four members: Jo-Jo, DeGrate, and K-Ci.

The group had a successful string of hit singles and platinum albums until the group went on hiatus after 1998. The Hailey brothers continued to perform together under the pseudonym K-Ci & JoJo, and had success on the pop charts beyond that of the original band. In 2009, the group rebanded for H-Town's song, "Knockin' Your Heels."

The group was assigned to Uptown executive Sean "Puffy" Combs, who took on the task of developing the new act. He helped the group create its rough hip-hop-based image. Jodeci were exposed to the public by singing background vocals on a number of singles by Father MC. K-Ci also contributed background vocals (alongside Uptown labelmates Terri Robinson and Tabitha Brace) on some tracks for Ralph Tresvant, produced by Kyle West, and Jasmine Guy's solo debut album, produced by D.J Eddie F of Heavy D and The Boyz. Jodeci made their live performance debut on the June 11, 1991 episode of Soul Train, while their first television interview was on BET's Video Soul a few months earlier.

Most of the elements that were eventually combined to form what became known as the "Jodeci style" originated with the work of new jack swing pioneers Keith Sweat and Teddy Riley, with an important influence being the work of Riley's three-man group Guy. Other influences which, while less obvious, were instrumental to their style, included the works of Bobby Womack, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Bobby Brown, and New Edition.

Artists and producers heavily influenced by Jodeci were those were directly or indirectly associated with them, including Mary J. Blige and a number of the members of DeVante's Swing Mob collective who he discovered and nurtured: Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Nealante, Magoo, Ginuwine, Playa (who R&B singer & producer Static Major was a part of with Smoke E. Digglera, Suga (who R&B act Tweet was a part of), and Darryl Pearson info from (WIKI).

1.Tender Love-Force Mds 2. Can't stand the rain-New Edition 3.A piece if Love-Guy 4.Right here Waiting Richard Marx 5.Let's wait awhile-Janet Jackson

Jazz Legend - Joe "King" Oliver
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: jazz legend king oliver voices music word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

King Oliver is said to have begun music as a trombonist, and from about 1907 he played in brass bands, dance bands, and in various small groups in New Orleans bars and cabarets. In 1918 he moved to Chicago (at which time he may have acquired his nickname), and in 1920 he began to lead his own band. After taking it to California (chiefly San Francisco and Oakland) in 1921, he returned to Chicago and, with some of the same musicians, started an engagement at Lincoln Gardens as King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (June 1922). This group was joined a month later by the 22-year-old Louis Armstrong as second cornetist. With two cornets (Oliver and Armstrong), clarinet (Johnny Dodds), trombone (Honore Dutrey), piano (Lil Hardin), drums (Baby Dodds), and double bass and banjo (Bill Johnson), Oliver began recording in April 1923. Many young white jazz musicians had the opportunity to hear him then, either on

John Burnett travels to the Crescent City of New Orleans, in search of the jazz masterpiece West End Blues. Joe "King" Oliver wrote the tune, but it was Louis Armstrong's 1928 recording that put it in the jazz pantheon.

(Courtesy NPRJazz.org)

By late 1924, after a tour of the Midwest and Pennsylvania, the completely reorganized band included two or three saxophones, and played in Chicago as the Dixie Syncopators (February 1925 to March 1927); the most distinguished of the saxophonists who played with this band were Barney Bigard and Albert Nicholas. Soon after a brief but successful engagement at the Savoy Ballroom in New York (from May 1927) the members began to disperse and by autumn the group had disbanded, but Oliver stayed in New York, recording frequently with ad hoc orchestras. From 1930 to 1936 he toured widely, chiefly in the Midwest and upper South, with various ten to 12 piece bands; he himself seldom performed during this period, and he made no further recordings after April 1931. He spent the final months of his life in Savannah retired from music.

Oliver is generally considered one of the most important musicians in the New Orleans style. Like other early New Orleans cornetists, he played in a relatively four square rhythm and clipped melodic style (contrasting with the deliberate irregularity of the younger Armstrong and his imitators) and had a repertory of expressive deviations of rhythm and pitch, some verging on theatrical novelty effects and others derived from blues vocal style. He frequently used timbre modifiers of various sorts, and was especially renowned for his wa-wa effects, as in his famous three-chorus solo on Dipper Mouth Blues (1923), which was learned by rote by many trumpeters of the 1920s and 1930s and which, as Sugar Foot Stomp, became a jazz standard. As a soloist he may best be heard in a number of blues accompaniments, notably with Sippie Wallace.

In contrast to his near-contemporaries Freddie Keppard and Bunk Johnson, Oliver integrated his playing superbly with his ensemble, and was an excellent leader; the Creole Jazz Band may have been successful largely because of the discipline he imposed on his musicians. Indeed, of the earlier New Orleans cornetists, only Oliver was extensively recorded in the 1920s with an outstanding ensemble, and the revival of New Orleans style, which began shortly after his death, owed much to the rediscovery of his early three dozen Creole Band recordings, which were internationally known by the 1940s. After 1924 the quality of his recordings declined, partly because of recurrent tooth and gum ailments and partly because his style was at odds with that of his younger sidemen; but with a good orchestra he was capable of coherent and energetic playing even as late as 1930. Almost all of his recorded performances have been reissued.

Oliver's influence is difficult to assess: his playing during his New Orleans period (his best years, according to Souchon) was not recorded, and by 1925 his style had largely been superseded by Armstrong's. He had an obvious formative impact on Ellington's sideman Bubber Miley, and perhaps on such white musicians as Muggsy Spanier; his mute tricks were copied by Johnny Dunn; and trumpeters such as Natty Dominique and Tommy Ladnier, who remained apart from Armstrong's influence, may have derived their styles in part from Oliver. The extent of Oliver's influence on Armstrong himself, though clearly audible and significant, has yet to be examined properly. Oliver is credited with many melodies on record labels and in copyright registrations; it is not known how many of these he actually composed.

Source: PBS

Journey Live @ Las Vegas - Journey4AP Live Collections Tags: Journey live full concert journey collections word life production new quality entertainment feature blog

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