Category Archives: Film and Television

Tim & Tom: it wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t so true

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As part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, this Saturday meet Tim & Tom… a “Salt & Pepper” comedy team born in the hotbed of sixties Chicago…

Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen met for the first time in tumultuous 1968 Chicago. As the heady promise of the sixties sagged under the weight of widespread violence, rioting, and racial unrest, two young men – one black and one white – took to stages across the nation to help Americans confront their racial divide: by laughing
at it.

“While the country was wracked by the civil rights movement, a sexual revolution, and a controversial war, these friends took the stage as the first—and so far, only—black and white comedy team. Together they spent five years touring the country, facing unabashed racism, occasionally violent hecklers, and cheering crowds. Reid went on to star in the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati and create the influential Frank’s Place, and Dreesen spent 30 years in stand-up, including 15 years as Frank Sinatra’s opening act. The duo returns to the stage to tell their stories and reflect on a lifetime of unique experiences. Ron Rapoport moderates.”

–from Chicagohumanities.org

Where & When:

DuSable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637
Saturday, October 17th 2pm-3:00pm

Tickets:

Adults: $5.00
Educators & Students: FREE
The book entitled Tim & Tom: An American Comedy
in Black & White
is published by University of Chicago Press.

Universal Mind Control: Common Double Vision

9Common_army & lou'simage, Common at Army & Lou’s  (75th & King Drive, Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood)

Here’s the recently released alternate version of the video for Chicago-bred Common’s “Universal Mind Control”. Directed by Lil X, it was shelved in favor of Hype Williams’ robo-love version. Jive on.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
 

 

 

 

 

more about “Universal Mind Control: Common Double…“, posted with vodpod

 

 

 

 

 

Now, the Hype Williams version (below).  Compare and contrast:


Ronald Fair: Griot of Chicago Tales

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Ronald Fair is perhaps best known as a teller of crisp, satirical, and unsentimental Chicago Tales: inner city stories of struggle, morality, and overcoming (not unlike his own Chicago story).  Born in Chicago on October 27, 1932, Fair attended public school. He was inspired as a young man by fellow Chicagoan Richard Wright to begin writing. Wright, as well as a black English teacher encouraged him to keep at his craft despite setbacks. 

Fair ultimately published various short writings in the Chicago Defender, Ebony, Chat Noir, and other publications. His first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable, was published in 1965.  The book covers the span of time from the Civil War to the 60s, and presents a fictional town called Jacobsville, Mississippi, whose residents were unaware that slavery had been abolished.   The work, through symbolism, called for Blacks to wake up and rise against the systemic oppression they were under.  

His second novel, Hog Butcher (1966), set in the 1960s, told the story of three inner city Chicago boys and one tragedy that changed a community forever. It was adapted into the film Cornbread, Earl, and Me (1975, see the theatrical trailer below).  The film starred a pre-pubescent Laurence Fishburne, and featured a grooving soundtrack composed by Donald Byrd and performed by the Blackbyrds.

Fair’s next work, World of Nothing, was published in 1970.  The work consists of two edgy, perse, short novellas: one of which dealt with sexual abuse in the Catholic church and, like Hog Butcher, featured a young central character.

Soon after the publication of Hog Butcher, Ronald Fair moved to Europe, were he remained, as he was “fed up with American racism”.  While in Europe, he published what he considered his supreme work,”We Can’t Breathe” (1972).  The book covered the lives of five Chicago friends (one of whom becomes an author), and was deeply autobiographical.  The book sold well at first, and then sales inexplicably tapered off.

Ronald Fair still writes today, but has dropped off the national literary radar, unpublished in the U.S. in more than twenty years, yet the messages within his work remain eerily pertinent for folks coming up in our hardscrabble city.

 

 

Read more: http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2345/Fair-Ronald-L.html#ixzz0QiUlGCM4


Tapes Lost to Time: Chicago Stories

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I am bothered by tapes that disappear, the same tapes that record our collective story.  The sort that get erroneously misplaced, taped over, or buried (true stories, all).  It’s happened often in Chicago to bits of media that palpably documented Chicago Cultural History.  It seems to have happened too many times for my taste.  Here’s a few times that hit especially close to home.

Our People

“Our People” (1968-1972) was Jim Tilmon’s groundbreaking public affairs television series that aired on WTTW.  For, by, and about Black Chicagoans, the show was deemed completely lost for the ages until someone at WTTW unearthed one lonely “lost episode”.

According to WTTW.com, the episode:

“features guests Harold Washington, then a young State Representative who would later become Mayor of Chicago, author James Baldwin at his outspoken best, State Senator Richard Newhouse, and music by the great jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman.”

Our People premiered the week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was a time frame remembered in Chicago as the days when the West Side went up in riotous flames (and one Darkjive informant told me of more than a few young men “enlisting” the aid of rifles from the Sears on Kostner for protection).  It should also be noted that The Loop shut down, paralyzed with fear of such riotous activity spreading downtown (it didn’t).

Each week, Our People dealt with issues the Black Community grappled with… and offered a few solutions, as well.  What a remarkable loss.

Below, a clipping from The Hyde Park Herald, Volume 87, 12 February 1969, Page  13.

Dick Gregory, 1451 E. 551h, talks with program producer John Tweedle and host Jim Tilmon on WTTW-Channel 11, Our People, a weekly program focusing on the interests and talents of the black community.

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The Infamous Paul Serrano PS Studio Tapes

paul serranoSo, Paul Serrano (left) was a hard bop trumpeter here in Chicago that ultimately became a world-renowned Engineer with his own Studio (PS Recording Studios).  He recorded some of the greatest Soul, Gospel, Blues, and Jazz music ever laid down on wax, right here in Chicago.  Built in 1966, the independent studio was on-par with Chess Records’ Ter-Mar Studios and even RCA’s massive Midwest Recording Studios.

Artists including Jerry Butler, the Emotions, Natalie Cole, Ramsey Lewis, Peabo Bryson, the Independents, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Mary Wells, Chicago Gangsters, Oscar Brown, Jr., Deniece Williams, Von Freeman, Ghanaian Highlife Bandleader Dan Boadi, and Captain Sky recorded there.

The Studio (at one time located on East 23rd Street) shut down in the early nineties, but according to the folk at Numero Group, a bounty of master tapes (some never released) were BURIED at the sight of McCormick Place.  The world may never know.

Below, a slice of funk recorded in the Near South Side at PS Studios.

“Soul Train Local”

So, most of us Chicagoans know that Soul Train got its start here in Chicago (at Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-TV), where sponsors included Joe Louis Milk and Sears.  The train moved on to L.A. (Grrrrrrrrrr) in 1971, but time has nearly erased that the local version was aired in Chicago until 1979.  Unfortunately, those episodes starring the homegrown talent of Tyrone Davis, The Dells, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, the Chi-Lites, and the Emotions were lost to time, many of them taped over by WCIU…repeatedly.  For more on this story, check out Jake Austen’s excellent Chicago Reader article here.

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B.B. King on Soul Train Local

I would much rather have any one of these in my personal collection than some of the inane box sets (“Webster”?? Really??) that are being offered up for posterity.  Sigh.


Esser says: She’s Never Satisfied

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I caught the video for “Satisfied” by Esser on cable access recently, and consequently can’t get the  tango-inflected song out of my head.  British artist Esser is a young chap with a notable ear and notable hair.  The level of camp in this clip is high.  Sort of makes me crave some Kid Creole & the Coconuts (above).  Thoughts?

Notably, the video seems to take some inspiration from a 1903 film called “Le Mélomane”.


Movies in The Park: Fireflies and Stars

to-sir-with-love (“To Sir with Love, 1967)

According to the Chicago Park District, 170 current and classic movies will be shown in neighborhood parks throughout the city, through September.  I know many of us have missed the first program offerings, but here’s a list of recommendations for the final month of movies.  Lots to choose from…  Bring popcorn, a blanket, and may I suggest a basket of goodies? NOTE: Click the names of the parks below for their locations.

Highlights and Recommendations…

07/29/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – To Sir, With Love (NR) * Hamilton Park free

A 1967 British film in which Sidney Poitier stars as an idealist engineer-turned-teacher tries to turn around a rough inner city school.

08/10/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – The World of Nat King Cole (NR) Tuley Park free
A truly great 2006 Documentary abouth the Chicago-bred icon.  Featuring (among others) his lovely wife.  If you missed this on PBS, catch it in the park.
 
 
08/11/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – The Sting (PG) * Lake Shore Park free
1973 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford in crime-ridden 1930s Chicago.
   
08/12/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Uptown Saturday Night (PG) South Shore Cultural Center free
Directed by Sidney Poitier, and starring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Harry Belafonte.  Steve and Wardell track across the city when they discover Steve’s won the lottery (but the ticket is in his stolen wallet).  The pair meet a truckload of hustlers, crooked politicians, and otherwise colorful folk in the hunt. 
   
08/15/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Calle 54 (G) Humboldt Park free
A 2000 film featuring an abundance of Latin Jazz legends performing on stage.  
 
08/18/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – The Blackboard Jungle (NR) * West Pullman Park free
In this 1955 film, an English teacher wages a war to get through to his students at a violent inner city school, even though many of his colleagues refuse to pick up arms. An early performance by Sidney Poitier is not to be missed.
   
08/29/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Sparkle (PG) * Washington Park free
Check out the Darkjive review of Sparkle here.
   
08/30/09 8:30 PM Movies in the Park Movies in the Park – Akeelah and the Bee (PG) * Unity Playlot Park (c/o Kosciuszko Park) free
A new classic featuring Keke Palmer, with Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.  A young girl tries to make it (against the odds) to the National Spelling Bee.
 
 

Fame: Cult Movie of the Week

fameFame (1980) is one of those movies that makes you wish you lived in a world so filled with youthful fervor that at anytime a group of kids might break into interpretive dance and jump on a cab. 
We don’t. 
But that didn’t keep us from cheering for the characters in the film (especially Coco and Leroy), and later the TV show (which featured Janet Jackson and Debbie Allen). 
The story of  students at a New York Performing Arts High School, the film follows the ebb and flow of their kinetic reach for stardom. The narrative is, despite pitfalls, like an infusion of fresh hope in admittedly hard times.  It expresses a romantic image pairing sweat with success, art with desire.
A new Fame  motion picture is scheduled for release this year, but somehow it seems superfluous.  Those kids in the original are gonna live forever.
 
Wanna live forever? Wanna learn how to fly (again?)  the Tofu Chitlin Circuit is having a screening  of Fame in Bronzeville this Monday….
 
“If you want fame, well fame costs and right here is where you start paying with sweat!” 
 
 
 

The Tofu Chitlin Circuit (a Bronzeville-based theater conservatory) is continuing their Family Reunion with the quintessential theater movie…”FAME!”  Enjoy a screening and discussion.

Prizes for the best FAME gear!

When: Monday, July 27, 2009
Where: The Digital Youth Network
1050 E 47th Street
Chicago, IL 60653
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Film starts promptly at 7:00 p.m.
Donation: $3

more about TCC:
“Our mission is to bring the audience into the creative process of theater.  Our conservatory is an educational platform that assists artists and audience members with intellectual dialogue, poignant interviews from theater practitioners, workshops, classes and of course performances!”

Cult Movie of the Week: Stray Dog (1949)

Nora_inu_poster

A work of Japanese Noir from iconic Japanese director Kurosawa, “Stray Dog” (1949) gets by on good looks, swagger, and heart. Featuring a slinking pace, the film’s cadence is ultimately trumped by its ability to be beautifully gritty and enveloping, just like summer.

Set in the depths of summer in Post-World War II Tokyo, the film follows detective Murakami as he seeks to recover his stolen gun (pickpocketed on a swelteringly hot bus).  What he finds is himself slipping deeper and deeper into the world of the desperate kid, the Stray Dog, who committed the crime.   The world of Stray Dog is a world of desperation and ruin, a world ravished by bombs and economic turmoil.  Post War Japan is also a world in the midst of social upheaval: a world of seersucker suits and silk kimonos, with the ways of the West ever encroaching on Japanese tradition.  This is the perfect movie for a quiet summer night in which thunder rings out ominously… the sort of night in which we pray for rain to release us from oppressive heat.  But, don’t forget the Tempura & Sweet Tea (trust me on that one).

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The Other Side of Paradise, in plain view

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2009-05-16-OtherSideofParadisePoet Stacyann Chin’s memoir, “The Other Side of Paradise” (Scribner, 2009), is a coming-of-age story.  It’s a tale of growing up never fitting in, not with family, not with social structure.  It’s also about living in Paradise (both literally and figuratively), but never feeling as though Paradise’s bounty is available for you.  Ultimately, however, the book is about discovering that no man (or woman) is an island in regards to pain and loss…and joy.

A one-time performer on Def Poetry jam, Stacyann Chin’s upbringing was enough to seal in insecurities, and yet, she kept trying to break out beyond her circumstances.   She was born on Christmas Day in Lottery, Jamaica, and systematically denied by both her mother and father, something she  struggled with throughout her childhood.   Stacyann grew up in the slums of Jamaica that tourists never visit, and she suffered abuse that no girl should ever have to suffer at the hands of family… always dreaming of the life of the fortunate ones, always dreaming of being safe and happy.

“The Other Side of Paradise” is a fresh, poetic read that balances images of hope in trying times and the darker side of Paradise.   

Below, Stacyann Chin performing “Untitled” on Def Poetry Jam.


Adjust Your Color….and Believe in Radio

Check this clip from the PBS Documentary called “Adjust Your Color” chronicling the life and times of Petey Greene, a seventies DC-area shock-jock/activist (who was played by Don Cheadle in the film “Talk to Me”).  Makes me believe in radio (again).  And for good measure, below darkjive proudly presents: Life imitating art, Mr. Greene in the flesh.  Wild stuff.

Is it too much to believe that media can save the world?