What have we been watching at Polari HQ this week?
This film, documenting the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival on Rhode Island, was released in 1960. I’m not particularly a jazz fan but there are some great stars here who I could listen to all day – Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong and Anita O’Day to name a few. The film has no narration so relies structurally on a collage of images intercut with performances to evoke time and place, and the festival atmosphere. My favourite thing is when the camera focuses on the jazz-loving crowd, all in their late 1950s apparel – this style of dress just seems so cool nowadays (thanks largely to Mad Men I suppose), and complements the music perfectly. The film ends with a blistering performance by the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, worth the price of the DVD alone.
Justin Bond – Keep The Lights On dir. Ira Sachs
Keep The Lights On, a brilliant new film by Ira Sachs, opens in North America this week. It’s a heartbreaking story about love, addiction and what it’s like to be a ‘gay’ artist within the haut-monde circles of fin-de-siecle NYC. A disclamer: The characters are not queer identified and it’s definitely about “WPPs” (white people’s problems) but it’s a beautifully shot and very moving film about a long-term and complex gay relationship. AND you get to see Glenn Close’s HOT son from Damages TOTES NUDE AND BOTTOMING! Worth it.
Christopher Bryant – Battlestar Galactica – The Complete Series
I recently bought this series on Blu-ray. I’d held off because a reviewer on Amazon said it didn’t look that much better than the DVD, and another said the extras on the US version were not on the UK discs. They were wrong on both counts! I went on, at length, about why I thought BSG was such a smashing series in a feature about 3 years ago. I still think it’s one of the more interesting and gritty US sci-fi shows to have been made. There are no prosthetics, no aliens who cannot seem to master basic verbal contractions, and no heavy-handed two-dimensional lessons in morality (for the most part …). The vibrancy of the picture and the sound on the Blu-ray edition has lifted it out of darkness, and the soundtrack shines (except for the awful faux-Irish super-sentimental theme that rears its ugly head from time to time). And the definition on Jamie Bamber’s arms look even better in high-def, too.
Bryon Fear – The Paralympics London 2012
I’ve never enjoyed sport. I was scarred as a teenager by sadistic PE classes and have always thought it was the staple of bullies and the intellectually challenged, and over the years I have had little reason to challenge those adolescent notions. So when London won the Olympics and Paralympics I was indifferent. And then as money was syphoned from the arts, and the tax payers were raped to pay for the escalating budget I even become angry. However, I applied for tickets. Why? Because it’s a once in a lifetime cultural event and I like to challenge myself. I won several tickets for Paralympic events and at my first, I saw 15 finals in the swimming. In the first race a world record fell, and four more were smashed later. The atmosphere was electric. I hadn’t considered what it might be like to witness a world record and, clichés aside, it was genuinely moving. Support, cheers and respect went out to all participants of all nationalities without exception. Never have I felt such a tangible sense of solidarity between strangers of differing race and cultures before … perhaps sport isn’t completely pointless after all.