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Monday, Sep 28, 2009

Death, where is thy drop off the radar screen? The industry, phenomenon and force of artistry known as Michael Jackson is very much alive, if not its namesake. Columbia Pictures is readying release of Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a film of Jackson in rehearsals for the tour that will never be. The film is set for theatrical release Oct. 28, but advance tickets are available as of Sept. 27 (a smart marketing approach on Columbia’s part, one that seeks to extend the frenzy of a live Jackson show into the multiplexes for what will be nothing less than a cinematic wake).


But the Michael behind Michael, the mystery of the man behind the machine, was the subject of an often-moving segment of “Dateline”, aired on NBC Friday night. “The Michael Jackson Tapes” explores Jackson’s inner hells and private joys, all chillingly documented in his own voice. Programmes consisting largely of crawl lines of words transcribed from audiotape have rarely been this emotionally compelling. Ironically, in its reach for the mysteries of this incandescent figure, the hour-long programme only deepens those mysteries; by the show’s end we’re more familiar with the how; the why of Michael Jackson remains as elusive as ever.


The tapes belong to Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, a longtime friend and advisor Jackson met in 1999, a man who saw the singer through some of his most turbulent times, including the troubling years after his lacerating child molestation trial. Boteach got Jackson to open up, to some degree, on any number of the behaviors that made Jackson a target of opportunity for comedians, bad tabloid newspapers and, let’s be honest, all of us.


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Friday, Aug 28, 2009

So much of The Wire is about watching the characters make things up. Beginning with season one, Lieutenant Daniels, the detail he supervises, their purpose and even their basement location, all come together during the process of the story. 


In Season two, the self-starter-ness of the characters moves every major part of the story; from the fact that Major Valchek wants Frank Sobotka to be convicted of something (he knows not what), to Nick Sobotka’s entrepreneurial venture into the business of heroin dealing. 


Season three takes the make-it-up-on-your-own notion to a whole new level with Major Colvin’s decriminalized drug zone, known as Hamsterdam. We are also introduced to a new and very compelling character Dennis “Cutty” Wise who starts his own boxing gym.  It is in this season where Sergeant Ellis Carver forges a new relationship with the corner dealers.


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Monday, Aug 24, 2009
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In times of happiness and despair, I find myself returning to my pink, velvet-bound Sex and the City box set. Before you start assaulting my virile masculinity, or judging me for clinging onto passé cultural nuances, I think it is important to assert that Sex and the City (1998-2004), now that’s the TV show, not the movie(s), is a timeless cultural by-product.


The term ‘by-product’ is key here because the programme’s success is ultimately put down to the fact that it was a masterwork of self-reflexive puns, clichés and popular assumptions. It embraced glamorized notions of the everyday, and illuminated them into a bustling fantasy-world that everyday boys and gals could quote, imitate or joke about, whilst refilling their empty bottles at the water cooler.


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Monday, Apr 27, 2009

Bea Arthur’s death this past Saturday marks the passing of one of television’s distinctive voices. Her portrayal of Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin on All In the Family led to a spin-off of her own with Maude and her Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls stands out even among the three other wonderful characters on the series.


Beginning her career on the stage, she starred in Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof and most famously in Mame, a role she reprised for the 1974 film version with Lucille Ball. Her place in television history was assured during her guest starring episodes on All in the Family. Maude was a liberal and a feminist and the perfect counterpart to blustery Archie Bunker. Her apearance on the series was so striking that upon first seeing her on All in the Family, the network realized that Arthur had created a character with a life of her own and one who warranted her own series.


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