the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:


September '17 Digital Week II

Blu-rays of the Week 
The Man with Two Brains
(Warner Archive)
Director Carl Reiner and star-writer Steve Martin collaborated for the third time on this lunatic 1983 comedy about a brain surgeon who falls in love with a brain in a jar (voiced by Sissy Spacek) and hopes to plant it into the head of his luscious but hateful wife.
Despite many stretches of silliness, it’s the most sustained and funny comedy the pair made together—followingThe Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid—thanks to Martin’s prodigious comic skills and the fearlessly funny performance by Kathleen Turner, who simultaneously sends up and revels in her own sexpot image. There’s a great Merv Griffin cameo as well. The hi-def transfer is good.
(Blue Underground)
Dick Maas’s cleverly titled slasher movie is set in Holland’s jewel of a city, whose famous canals provide excellent cover for a rampaging murderer. It’s too bad that, at 113 minutes, the movie is simply too long, sinking under its own weight of too much repetition and false starts.
Still, a decent cast does fine work, especially Monique van de Ven, known for her appearances in Paul Verhoeven’s early films. The hi-def transfer looks good and grainy; extras include a making-of featurette and interviews.
Endeavour—Complete 4th Season 
(PBS Masterpiece Mystery)
For this fourth go-round, Endeavour Morse teams with Fred Thursday for more murder investigations, as they prowl the Oxford area in the summer and fall of 1967 to find those responsible. Shaun Evans and Roger Allam again have fine chemistry as the detectives, and there’s an attractive supporting performance by Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday, Fred’s daughter and Endeavour’s unrequited love, returning for the final episode.
The four whodunits, set in lovely countryside locales, are well-paced, if not always convincingly argued. The hi-def transfers are excellent; extras are short featurettes and interviews.
Seemingly forgotten since its 1865 premiere, Franco Faccio’s operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play has been heavily if intelligently pared down by librettist Arrigo Boito (who also penned the libretti for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff), but Faccio’s routine music only comes to life in the pageantry scenes and, surprisingly, the tragic climax.
This 2016 Bergenz Festival production is well-staged by Olivier Tambosi, superbly sung by Pavel Chernoch (Hamlet) and Julia Maria Dan (a sympathetic Ophelia), and beautifully performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and Prague Philharmonic Choir under conductor Paolo Carignani. Hi-def video and audio are first-rate.
(Cohen Film Collection)
In 1987, Director James Ivory and producer Israel Merchant followed up the previous year’s Oscar-winning breakthrough A Room with a View with an adaptation of a less acclaimed E.M. Forster novel about repressed homosexuality in early 20th century England. (The script was by Ivory and screenwriter Kit-Hesketh-Harvey.)
Sumptuously mounted and smartly acted by a cast led by James Wilby as Maurice and an unknown Hugh Grant as his lover, Maurice is nonetheless too slow-moving and long to have much dramatic impact—even if it was cut down from three hours, as Ivory himself states. The film’s restoration looks exemplary on Blu; a second disc of extras includes several Ivory interviews, deleted scenes and commentary.
DVDs of the Week
Citizen Jane—Battle for the City
(Sundance Selects)
In the 1950s and 60s, urban activist Jane Jacobs fearlessly took on New York City planning czar Robert Moses for, among other things, his feckless attempt to put a highway through lower Manhattan to connect the Holland Tunnel with the Lower East Side bridges, thereby decimating neighborhoods.
That fight is entertainingly recounted in Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary, crammed with archival interviews and statements from the adversaries themselves. (Marisa Tomei provides the voice of Jacobs.)
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In—Complete First Season 
The groundbreaking comedy-variety series debuted in 1968, and—as the 14 first-season episodes show—was full of irreverent, topical, and silly humor from the get-go, with ringmasters Dan Rowan and Dick Martin introducing and interacting with a cast featuring Goldie Hawn, Joann Worley, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, and Henry Gibson.
Among the guest stars willing to send themselves up were Johnny Carson, Tiny Tim and Sammy Davis; extras include the series’ pilot episode, highlights from the 25th anniversary reunion, bloopers, and an interview with creator and executive producer George Schlatter.

Beyond the Longbox: Sex, Death, & European Comics with Katie Skelly

"My Pretty Vampire"

Known for her bold colors, bolder characters, and retro throwback style, Katie Skelly has carved a niche for herself in the world of comic books. With her premiere book, “Nurse Nurse” and her latest release, “My Pretty Vampire” from Katie Skelly blends 70’s cult movie sleaze, European comic styling of Guido Crepax and Jean-Claude Forest with a modern sensibility. The result are comics that are elegant in their simplicity compared to many other over-designed art styles, but with stories rife with gleeful sex and violence.

Beyond the Longbox interviewed Katie Skelly on what she looks for in a protagonist, what comics are the building blocks of her work, and what it was like writing erotic comics with a Catholic upbringing.





Robert Miller & Project Grand Slam Style the Music For a Global Audience

pgsDSC07132 copy 2For master bassist Robert Miller what matters most is the music. Oh he’s intrigued with how to make the business of music work and can speak lucidly about it. He has wrangled with how to find the best and widest audience for his group, Project Grand Slam, and its unique blend of Classic Rock and Latin reframed into the mold of jazz rock fusion. And it’s a severe understatement to say that he’s a multi-hyphenate or defier of genre classifications.

With that in mind he is faced with the professional and creative conundrum of being caught in the middle; is PGS rock or jazz?; should the music be genre specific or totally distinctive? And in turn, when the music becomes too difficult to label it may be harder to find the right audience. The bottom line, though, is that his music is special and not just like everything else out there. 

Thankfully, in a very wide world filled with online discoveries and digital communication there is definitely an audience for PGS. I think a big audience. They’re out there, in the U.S. but also in Brazil, Mexico, the Czech Republic, South Africa, etc. And that’s what makes seeing the band live such an enriching experience as it sometimes shifts and changes in its live form — that international experience is right there in the band. 

Miller has assembled what he jokingly calls his International Cartel – a group of young, extremely talented musicians mainly from overseas.  Places like Puerto Rico, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and Dominican Republic. Together, they take Miller’s compositions and his brilliant Classic Rock covers, and transform the music and transfix the listener.

Witness the recent permutation of the band when it performed material from PGS’s latest album, “The PGS Experience”, at its recent CD release party at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall. The ensemble that night was comprised of Ziarra Washington (vocals), Mario Castro (sax), Baden Goyo (keys), Tony Greco and Flavio Silva (guitars), Ruben Coca (drums) and Carlos Maldonado (percussion) in addition to Miller on bass, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park. Just listen to their version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” off the disc with Ziarra kicking out the lead vocals and you’ll immediately “get” PGS. When that’s replicated on stage it’s worthy of global embrace.

So such an aural experience warrants pulling back the curtain a bit and asking band leader Miller to explore how he does it.

Q: What’s the process behind your music?

RM: For me it all starts with the rhythm and the groove. I fiddle around until I come up with something I like. And it must have a memorable melody because people respond to and remember great melodies. Next I add the colors – the sounds that fill in the cracks and make the musical painting come alive. Then I decide what solos I want to have in each case based upon the instrument and the song. I rarely have more than two solos per tune. I choose an instrument because I want that specific sound, I want that timbre. For example, on our version of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” we have a sax solo followed by a guitar solo. I felt that I had to have a guitar solo in there. The Kinks were the forerunners of grunge. They were the hardest of hard rock back then. I mellowed out their song a bit in my arrangement but I also wanted to get back to what it was that made that song great, so that’s why I put the guitar solo in there. And it works – even Dave Davies of The Kinks said so!

On our version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” I gave the keyboard a solo. Why? Because given Hendrix everybody expects it to be a guitar solo, and I didn’t want to have the guitarist be compared to a god like Hendrix. I wanted a different sound, a different feel. Again, I think it worked.

Q: You write mainly instrumentals. Do you compose vocal songs too?

RM: I’ve written only one vocal song to date called “New York City Groove.” It was a big challenge for me because I’m much more comfortable writing instrumentals. But vocals are a big part of the PGS experience so I felt that I needed to write one.

The melody of “Groove” I actually wrote 20 years ago and had forgotten about. I found a cassette tape in my drawer from an old rehearsal with a version of the melody. What can you play a cassette on these days? Well, as it turns out that my wife saved a boom box from when our kids were young. I put the cassette tape in, listened, and said to myself, “Hey, that’s not bad.” 

So I finished the music in about 10 minutes. Then I decided that I wanted to make it a vocal. My difficulty is that I'm a music guy not a lyrics guy. The music may have taken me 10 minutes but the lyrics took me a week!  When you write lyrics you have to have a thought in mind as to what you want to say. 

Q: Everybody else who writes lyrics seems to…

RM: I know! I listen to the words in songs but I rarely think much about them. I focus more on the sounds. You know that great Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”? The one that goes “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine…” I loved the sound of that word poem. John Lennon also used to string together words as sounds. Just listen to “I Am The Walrus”. 

Q: You told me there were two songs that you didn’t rehearse before your recent performance at American Beauty in NYC. What were they?

RM: One was “Lucky Seven” from our last album, “The Queen’s Carnival”. The tune is in 7/4 time. It starts with a bass figure and then the sax comes in with the melody. My sax player Mario is an amazing musician but that night he totally spaced on the tune and it took him about a minute to get it right. Meanwhile he was playing all around the melody. But what came out was really interesting. It had kind of a Middle Eastern feel to it. It was like a new song. I loved it!

He was trying to work his way into the melody. And we’re playing live, so I can’t exactly stop him and say, “This is how it goes.” My point is I let him figure it out and work it out and it came out very cool. Of course, nobody in the audience would have ever known what I just told you. That’s one of the best things about doing original material!

Q: Do you encourage your vocalist Ziarra to improvise?

RM: Absolutely. I don't think we play any tune exactly the same way twice. She’s doing something different each time. The inflection, the rideout. We’re all doing something different. That’s what makes this music fun to play.

Q: You do a cover of a Cream song. How did that come about?

RM: I loved Cream. They were maybe my favorite band from the ‘60s. And I definitely picked up a lot on the bass from listening to Jack Bruce. We do a PGS-style cover of “I’m So Glad”.  I felt that I needed to do a Cream song and people have asked me why that one. Well I didn’t want to choose something obvious like “Sunshine of Your Love.” I always loved how Cream played “I’m So Glad” in concert. I thought that I could take the essence of the song and do something different and interesting with it. Our version of the song is now one of the most popular tunes we do in concert.

Q: Ginger Baker came out of a jazz background before Cream.

RM: Yes and so did Charlie Watts of the Stones… For the last 60 years or so all Charlie has said he wanted to do was play jazz. I guess he plays rock and roll because it makes a him a ton of money!

Q: What was the other unrehearsed song you played at American Beauty?

RM: The other one we didn’t rehearse in advance was called “Beyond Forever”, also from our “The Queen’s Carnival” CD. The interesting thing about that song that night from my point of view was that Ruben, our drummer, came up with a slightly different feel for the song than on the recording. It made the song different, but again I loved it!

Q: Did you tell Ruben to play it that way?

RM:  No I don’t tell anyone how or what to play. They’re all great musicians. I value and encourage their creativity. The main difference between what we do and pop music is that in pop the songs are played the same note-for-note each time they are performed, while with our music because it’s improvisational in all respects the songs are always different each time we play. And the different lineups of musicians that I use also changes the songs. Each musician brings his or her own feel and sensibility to the tunes so they take on a different character depending upon he lineup.

Q: Ever thought of doing a workshop to teach how one of your songs comes together?

RM: I’d love to do something like that! In fact, at the right venue I would bring in a brand new song and evolve it right then and there with the band in front of the audience like we do at a rehearsal.

Q: Ever thought of doing more out-there instrumentation?

RM: I’ve thought of doing plenty of things! I’d love to be experimental like that. I consider myself a rock musician that has brought jazz into what I play. I don’t have the same schooling or attitude that the pure jazz guys have.

Q: What does a pure jazz bassist do that you don’t? 

RM: It’s more the attitude, not what they do that’s different. You’ll also notice that my music doesn’t include bass-only solos, or drum-only solos for that matter. Not my bag, and it changes the drive of the song, So I solo within the context of the song. People have said this - and I agree - I play “lead bass”. If you listen carefully to PGS it’s the bass that defines and drives each song. I’m not just laying a foundation. I’m filling gaps and doing my improvisation within the context of our jams. The great bass players that I admire, guys like Jack Bruce, Jim Fielder, Tim Bogert – also drove the music. I also don’t do all the gimmicky stuff like slapping and popping. And I don’t use pedals and effects. I have a certain distinctive sound that I try to maintain. I want people to recognize my playing and my sound. The great Jaco Pastorius had a distinctive sound. 

Q: I can’t imagine writing a novel as an improvisation. Jazz or other music you can do improvisation and it works.

RM: This is what I do. Let’s use Cream again as an example. Cream had a framework for every song. A melody, a beat, chord structure, then they went off into improv land. Everything I do has a framework. I set the framework, the song has a feel, a vibe, a rhythm and a melody. I typically start with having the melody played twice in order to establish it. Then we do solos and we return to the melody a final time. It’s a classic way of structuring but I think people like to have a framework around music. My wife, who’s not a musician, yells at me whenever we play something that’s too long. 

Q: What does she consider too long?

RM: Ten minutes is beyond her comfort level. She says nobody wants to listen to anything that long!

Q: Are your kids musicians?

RM: They’re not musicians but they love music and they’re big fans of PGS. 

Q: Tell me about the writing experience.

RM: It’s mystical for me. Sometimes I write things and completely surprise myself.  On the new CD I wrote a song called “Fishin”. It’s a Caribbean Island/Jimmy Buffet vibe kind of song. Where did that come from? I haven’t the faintest idea. I started playing a riff, I fooled around with it a bit, and all of a sudden something came out that had an Island vibe. Boom! I ask myself, “Do I like it, do I not like it?” If it passes the smell test I bring it to rehearsal and I play it for the band and we work it out. And this one worked out great. Same thing with “The Queen’s Carnival,” which was the title tune for the last album. A Latin song, a fiesta. I didn’t start out to write that but it just happened.

Q: That was the one with the Latin feel?

RM: Yes that was the Latin thing. I grew up in Queens NY. My father and I listened to Spanish music on the radio all the time. But I didn’t set out to write a Latin song, it just happened. And my guys – being mainly Latin – they made it work. Again, from my perspective those are the great unexpected things I love. It just happens and I have no idea where it comes from.

Q: Do you ever imagine yourself not playing anymore?

RM: No. 

Q: They’ll bury you with your bass?

RM: Yup – just me and my Pedulla!!


Interview with Marcia Gloster—Author of “I Love You Today”

Marcia Gloster lived through the actual Mad Men days, working in Manhattan advertising and publishing houses in the 1960s, an era in which women had very few opportunities to move ahead in the industry. Such a bottomless well of information and inspiration gave her the impetus to write her first novel, I Love You Today

A compulsive page-turner that introduces Maddie Samuels, who after being hired at a Manhattan firm promptly falls for charismatic creative director Rob MacLeod, who not only steers Maddie toward bigger and better things professionally but also drags her into his own personal problems: excessive drinking, womanizing and the little matter of his being a married father of two. Her experiences with and without Rob allow Maddie the wherewithal to climb her own ladder of success, professionally and personally, at a time when women were usually seen but not heard—and definitely not listened to.
Author Marcia Gloster
Gloster recently sat down to discuss I Love You Today, her opinion of Mad Men, and how she started writing books: her 2014 memoir 31 Days—A Memoir of Seduction recounts an affair she had in the summer of 1963 with a married British professor in an Austrian art school.
Kevin Filipski: I Love You Today flavorfully describes a particular era: 1960s Manhattan, where male bosses pinched women’s behinds and no one thought anything was wrong. Along with your memories, how did you make the book so authentic?
MG: I am very careful with my research. I have to mention the right movies during the right years: what year was Bonnie and Clyde, for example. When I mention a restaurant, I have to make sure that it existed at that time. The basics were in my memory obviously, because I lived it: unlike Mad Men, whose writers were probably born after that era. I lived that life, and discrimination was not in my vocabulary back then: it was just the way it was. The way men spoke to you was the way it is. Luckily, I worked with men who were respectful, but women had no voice at all. 

In London, where I worked at the time, there was a restaurant in the late ‘60s—I forgot the name of a hot Italian restaurant that was there. So I went on Google, but couldn’t find it. So I thought to myself, “Just make it up.” But finally I saw an article that mentioned it, and once I had the name (La Terrazza), it all came flooding back.
KF: What is your own take on Mad Men? Was it accurate to your experience?
MG: I actually wrote an article about watching Mad Men. I saw the first two seasons and thought they were interesting. Then when they concentrated more on Jon Hamm’s character Don Draper, it didn’t interest me that much. But I did watch the final season, and it was accurate in many ways, but there were other things they missed. I thought the costuming was terrible: we were all wearing mini-skirts, bright colors, stuff like that. It was totally “nerdville” on the show: plaids and stripes, which no one wore. There was a scene at a table where two women were having a meeting with two men, who were literally leaping across the table to try and paw the women. I didn’t think that was true, it was too exaggerated: in meetings men were not that blatantly sexist.
KF: How close is Maddie to your own experience?
MG: Maddie is based on me and other people I knew at the time. A lot of my experiences are in the early parts where she’s interviewing at the agency, where she’s told that she can’t be hired because then the men can’t swear. That’s true. You couldn’t make that up. When I was going for my first job in the industry, discrimination wasn’t in my vocabulary, and I thought that’s the way it is: all these guys like swearing! I actually lived those years. Many of my friends and I interacted with people in publishing and advertising on many different levels, so there is a lot of truth there.
KF: Is Rob a composite of real men you worked with?
MG: Rob is the epitome of the bad boy, and there have always been guys like him. There’s never been a dearth of bad boys. He’s a very attractive character, embodying the desire to grow and be really good at what he does, but he’s hampered by his upbringing in the ‘50s and so is unable to deal with the freedom of the ‘60s. I made him a little extreme in some ways, but you do see him evolve, and Maddie gets caught up in it even if she doesn’t want to because he’s her boss and a married man with children. 

But women get emotionally caught up in these kinds of situations. It did happen, a guy leaving his wife for someone he worked with, but he would often go back. I decided to them together because I felt they had a path they needed to tread together. He was supportive of her, she was supportive of him, but he is going to take credit no matter what. I think it’s a very typical story.
KF: Although these events happened nearly half a century ago, there are certain headlines about certain companies today that makes it seem that the old boys’ networks have not changed much.
MG: I always question whether things have changed at all. When I was finishing the book, all of the stuff at Fox News with Roger Ailes was in the news. There was also an article in the New York Times about women discussing the same thing. I wrote a blog about it and wrote a letter in response to the story in the Times, who published my letter. That said to me that what I wrote was still so relevant and evocative that I was blown away. I hadn’t been in an office in 15 years, so I wasn’t really aware that things hadn’t changed that much. It’s a hook that wasn’t meant to be a hook.
KF: Your previous book, 31 Days, which explores your own affair while you were a college student with an older married British art professor, was only written a few years ago. Why did it take so long?
MG: While I was in college, one summer I went to Europe with a friend. I knew that (artist) Oskar Kokoschka had an art school in Salzburg, and I thought that a summer month in Austria sounded pretty good. Kokoschka started a school because he wanted people to see the world in a different way. He would teach them how to see the world through watercolors.  When I got there, there was this man, and I looked at him, and I practically dissolved. He was 17 years older, wasn’t gorgeous but interesting looking—and he exuded sexuality. My first thought was: “Stay away—don’t get involved, he’s a lot older and he’s English.” I promised myself I would avoid him, but I obviously didn’t keep my promise. 

It was an amazing story, and as it started to unfold, I started writing it down. It was so far from any reality I knew that I just took notes. Years later, I happened to be in a store and heard a song: it resonated, making me think back to meeting him. By the time I left the store, I had my title and the makings of that book.
Marcia Gloster’s novel I Love You Today is out now.

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.