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by Cynthia Fuchs

18 Oct 2011


“This is a story of hope and reclamation,” says the narrator at the start of Charismatic. Named for the colt who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 1999, the documentary—which premieres on ESPN on 18 October—is also a story of demons and drugs and dreams. The jockey who rode Charismatic to his audacious victories, Chris Antley, was gifted and troubled. As the film begins, he’s just getting out of rehab, and the chance to ride Charismatic is a last one. He was brought on by the horse’s trainer, the famous Wayne Lukas, and he made the best of it, at least at first (Lukas is not interviewed here, maybe because, as one colleague suggests, he still blames Antley’s bad ride in the Belmont that year for not winning the Triple Crown). Steve Michaels’ film offers a series of race footage clips, walks through barns, and talking heads. These include Antley’s friend and fellow jockey Gary Stevens and assistant trainers Mike Marlow and Randy Bradshaw: they describe basic events, noting that the horse was in a claiming race just three months before the Kentucky Derby, then won that race as a 31-1 shot with Antley on board.

This late “blossoming” was not unheard of, but it was thrilling: the horse and Antley became instantly famous as redemption stories, before they were not. The film goes at these stories in odd ways, framing TV interviews or races footage on actual TVs, located in stable aisles or in locker rooms. On one level, the device suggests the causal links between mass media and myths, the ways that stories are concocted for consumption and profits, and also how tragedies are similarly exploited. But the film doesn’t make this analysis, as much as it acts out a similar exploitation. Antley’s redemption is short-lived, and the film doesn’t look at how this happens or how the culture of jockeys and the industry of horse racing are contexts for it, so much as it laments the loss of an opportunity to make history.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

17 Oct 2011


The beloved indie couple Matt and Kim are legendary for their over-the-top energetic live shows as PopMatters reported on last summer. So it was a different scene at the KCRW studio October 11th when the band played a set before noon on “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” Instead of playing side by side on a stage, they offered up their upbeat music with Matt at his keyboards across the room from Kim, who was encased in an isolation booth with her drums feeling quite removed from everything. As Kim played with hair flying backwards from the kit in the confined space, Matt became sweetly concerned about her discomfort even while singing “lock me up” during their first hit, “Yea Yeah”. He then decided their next song “I Wanna” should be changed to “I Wanna Get Kim Out of That Closet”. The two are just off a tour opening up for Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance, which included a stop at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. During the interview with host Jason Bentley, they discussed the difference between this experience and playing in front of only their own fans. They also revealed plans to go back in the studio this January to begin recording album number four. Watch or listen to the session at the link here.

by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Oct 2011


“Mariachi is a man’s world,” says José Hernández. And so, he explains in Compañeras, Elizabeth Massie and Matthew Buzzell’s 2006 documentary, he founded the first all-female mariachi band in the US. The 12 members of Reyna come from all sorts of backgrounds and musical interests, including Pearl Jam and Aaron Copeland. For them, Reyna is something of a calling. Premiering this week on Global Voices, the film features interviews with the women, describing their passion for the music and their devotion to their instruments, their appreciation of the form’s supple, melodramatic storytelling. No surprise, the band has overcome numerous obstacles: at first, it was hard even to find members, in part because girls are less likely than boys to take up the trumpet or the guitarrón (both “very male instruments,” notes Karla). Carmen, who plays the vihuela, recalls, “I experienced sexism at a very early stage in mariachi, when my teacher told me that I couldn’t play guitarrón because it was too heavy and… It would bother my stomach and if I ever like, planned to have kids in the future…” The members of Reyna rehearse regularly, scheduling the rest of their lives to accommodate gigs. Even Hernández seems to miss what’s at stake for them, as he insists that men are more committed to the life of the mariachi. Men, he says, see the music as “‘My job, I’ve got to provide for my family.’ And women, you know, they’re emotional, ‘I wanna get married, I’ve gotta have kids.’ They put it on the backburner, the music and their careers.” The film suggests otherwise.
 
See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Oct 2011


“I took my husband’s life in a public parking lot,” remembers Brenda Crosley. She’s been in the California Institution for Women since 1988 for that murder, and still, she ponders how she got there. Like other women interviewed in Olivia Klaus’ 2009 documentary, Sin by Silence, Crosley was abused by her husband for years. At the time she was convicted, there was no legal mechanism for her attorneys to bring this background into her defense. The film, which premieres 17 October on Investigation Discovery, reveals that changes in the law were brought about in part through efforts by the group CWAA (Convicted Women Against Abuse). Formed by another inmate at the prison, Brenda Clubine (incarcerated since 1983), the group helps inmates to see the patterns that shaped their lives—for instance, it’s typical that abuses of children in the home produce abusers and also abuse victims—with the hope that their work inside will help others, in particular, women now living outside. The film is built of interviews with CWAA members, as well as some experts (a policeman who deals with domestic abuse cases, doctors and lawyers, and also a juror who now feels remorse for the lengthy sentence his trial imposed on a battered woman). All agree that abuse is multifold (emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual, and physical) and afflicts everyone in a household. Since 1992, when Battered Women Syndrome became legally defined, some women inmates have appealed their sentences. But, as epilogues to this film report that interviewees have been denied parole, it’s clear that the legal system remains slow to change.

by Jonathan Kosakow

17 Oct 2011


Paul Simon’s had quite a busy year. He’s been on tour most of the time since the release of his album So Beautiful or So What in April, having played 51 shows in nearly as many cities. Having just returned in July from an international leg that took him through most of Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and as far as Tel Aviv, you’d think his battery would need some recharging, especially after turning 70 at the beginning of the month.

But you’d be wrong. Today, he starts the fall leg of his US tour in Phoenix and will be traveling straight through to December. He’ll play 31 more shows in as many cities ranging from the southernmost tip of California, though the Rocky Mountains and Midwest over to New Jersey, and then back down to Hollywood, Florida, where he’ll close up shop for the year. And from what we’ve heard, he’s still sounding pretty good.

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