Christiern

Two old TV interviews

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Chris - interested in your opinion on Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith?!?

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Chris - interested in your opinion on Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith?!?

Me too!!

Edited by marcello

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Chris - interested in your opinion on Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith?!?

If ever there was a movie that could make me feel less disgusted with "Lady Sings the Blues," this is it.

Have you ever cringed for two hours? I did, in an HBO screening room.

That said, Latifah does a good job with Bessie's songs and Music Dir. Evyen J. Klean was, as far as I could tell, the only person involved who truly cared when it came to authenticity. The writer/director (I use the terms loosely) is a clueless amateur who is hung up on her own lesbianism. What she has done to Bessie Smith is shameful.

By the way, I would express exactly the same opinion had I not written a book upon this travesty is allegedly based.

I hope I have answered your question, jhoots.

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Chris - interested in your opinion on Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith?!?

If ever there was a movie that could make me feel less disgusted with "Lady Sings the Blues," this is it.

Have you ever cringed for two hours? I did, in an HBO screening room.

That said, Latifah does a good job with Bessie's songs and Music Dir. Evyen J. Klean was, as far as I could tell, the only person involved who truly cared when it came to authenticity. The writer/director (I use the terms loosely) is a clueless amateur who is hung up on her own lesbianism. What she has done to Bessie Smith is shameful.

By the way, I would express exactly the same opinion had I not written a book upon this travesty is allegedly based.

I hope I have answered your question, jhoots.

That's why I asked.

Thanks!!

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Thanks, Chris. Your web site won't let me comment there, so I'll comment here: I was fascinated by the interview with Val Wilmer from 26 years ago. But now, in 2015 - how many black jazz critics do we have? How many women jazz critics? How many black and women scholars are there who specialize in jazz in music and black studies departments?

Five years ago Wilmer very kindly sent me a copy of "Mother Said...," which was out of print by then. It's a fascinating book, partly because it also tells of her travels in America's south during the civil rights movement years. (Lost it, I'm afraid, in the fire.) Certainly her intelligence, serious, and humility re the music and black culture communicate. Not mentioned - I believe she was the first person to interview some important musicians for print, Hank Mobley among them.

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Chris, I seem to recall that you said (years ago) that Dana Evans would be your #1 choice to play Bessie if your book ever got adapted for film/etc. Glad it happened for her, but it sounds like now its a case of right person, right role, wrong version of the story. More's the pity...I really like Ms. Latifah's vibe, I think her place in "pop culture" really does a disservice to the depth of her energies.

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Chris, I seem to recall that you said (years ago) that Dana Evans would be your #1 choice to play Bessie if your book ever got adapted for film/etc. Glad it happened for her, but it sounds like now its a case of right person, right role, wrong version of the story. More's the pity...I really like Ms. Latifah's vibe, I think her place in "pop culture" really does a disservice to the depth of her energies.

Yes, Jim, I did say that and I haven't changed my opinion since recommending her to Zanuck over 20 years ago. Unfortunately, however, they have wasted her talent on a sinfully bad script and direction is banal beyond belief.

I just read an article in tomorrow's (May 10) NY Times Arts & Leisure section that credits Latifah with bringing this "writer/director" (Dee Rees) into the project. That is a big disappointment to me. I recall attending a meeting at HBO where everybody seated around the conference table (including Rees) headed a copy of my book in front of them. I really have to wonder if any of them read it—or anything else on Bessie Smith, for that matter.

Edited by Christiern

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Well, that's a bummer, then. Sounds like some more using dead icons to project a current reality/sensibility/narrative onto..on the one hand, perhaps that what icons are for, but otoh, fiction only has meaning relative to fact, I think, "moral of the story" don't mean shit if the story ain't sound to begin with.

Either way, that's what people do these days, it seems to me, take all these complex, delightfully rich real heroes and turn them into LCD/dimensionless "heroes"...maybe it's always been that way and I'm just getting old enough to figure it out.

But no matter, all the good energy in the world don't excuse a failure to resist temptation, and it sounds like HBO got that temptation card always at the ready...don't think I don't notice how there's always naked and or fucking in HBO world, and not always for just cause, more like just becuase...yeah, i notice that, as do the women in my life. HBO, you are not going unnoticed for that.

Here's hoping that Bessie makes an unexpected Cameo From The Beyond and rains fiery hell on ALL their asses!

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Did you tell the Times that the story was crap? Because there is a quote in that article of you praising Latifah's musical performance.

Pretty lame of the Times, yet par for the course, if you gave them an earful but they only mention your approval of the music performance.

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Did you tell the Times that the story was crap? Because there is a quote in that article of you praising Latifah's musical performance.

Pretty lame of the Times, yet par for the course, if you gave them an earful but they only mention your approval of the music performance.

I told the Times reporter how I feel about the film. HBO told her that it was ok to mention that I approved of the music! What happened to free speech? I hope perceptive readers will understand that my mentioning the music indicates how I feel about the rest of this mistreatment. :)

It amazes me that Latifah and the cast didn't object to the shallow portrayal of black people and the writer/director's amateur work. I was always afraid that Bessie would get this kind of bland treatment if a film were made, but I must confess that I never expected it to be a third-rate lesbian film.

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There are no third-rate lesbian films.

Just sayin'.

(jk, that Joe E. Lewis record from earlier today has me both cheering and cringing at PC-ness in general, like Howard Stern, necessary but nevertheless so not necessary).

Anyway...third rate lesbians have the right to have movies too, just don't expect me to watch them. Is that gonna please everybody?

No? Well, fuck it then, I too am disappointed, because a great book about about a great artist deserves a great movie, lesbian or otherwise.

Seriously - there was potential here, and it sounds like that's a ball that was dropped and was then never even thought about being picked up.

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Thanks, Chris. Your web site won't let me comment there, so I'll comment here: I was fascinated by the interview with Val Wilmer from 26 years ago. But now, in 2015 - how many black jazz critics do we have? How many women jazz critics? How many black and women scholars are there who specialize in jazz in music and black studies departments?

Five years ago Wilmer very kindly sent me a copy of "Mother Said...," which was out of print by then. It's a fascinating book, partly because it also tells of her travels in America's south during the civil rights movement years. (Lost it, I'm afraid, in the fire.) Certainly her intelligence, serious, and humility re the music and black culture communicate. Not mentioned - I believe she was the first person to interview some important musicians for print, Hank Mobley among them.

I'm afraid that we have today, John, is too many people writing about the arts whose likes and dislikes are based upon unrelated factors. I have read a plethora of anticipatory pieces on the Latifah movie, written by people who "can't wait to see it," "know it's going to be great," etc. Their premature enthusiasm is sparked by ethnic and/or sexual considerations—nothing more. We have had reviewers like that for decades, but the internet has escalated such meaningless nonsense.

Apropos insincere praise, I recall a middle-aged lady who reviewed films for After Dark magazine. She was a familiar figure at press screenings and parties and she never saw a film she didn't love. In fact, she always included some line or paragraph that she knew was likely to be quoted in an ad... it often was.

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Thanks, Chris. Your web site won't let me comment there, so I'll comment here: I was fascinated by the interview with Val Wilmer from 26 years ago. But now, in 2015 - how many black jazz critics do we have? How many women jazz critics? How many black and women scholars are there who specialize in jazz in music and black studies departments?

Five years ago Wilmer very kindly sent me a copy of "Mother Said...," which was out of print by then. It's a fascinating book, partly because it also tells of her travels in America's south during the civil rights movement years. (Lost it, I'm afraid, in the fire.) Certainly her intelligence, serious, and humility re the music and black culture communicate. Not mentioned - I believe she was the first person to interview some important musicians for print, Hank Mobley among them.

I'm afraid that we have today, John, is too many people writing about the arts whose likes and dislikes are based upon unrelated factors. I have read a plethora of anticipatory pieces on the Latifah movie, written by people who "can't wait to see it," "know it's going to be great," etc. Their premature enthusiasm is sparked by ethnic and/or sexual considerations—nothing more. We have had reviewers like that for decades, but the internet has escalated such meaningless nonsense.

Apropos insincere praise, I recall a middle-aged lady who reviewed films for After Dark magazine. She was a familiar figure at press screenings and parties and she never saw a film she didn't love. In fact, she always included some line or paragraph that she knew was likely to be quoted in an ad... it often was.

Sounds like Paul Wunder of BAI fame.

Still waiting for you to jump into the Bill Evans/Gunther Schuller thread, Chris,,,

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Sounds like Paul Wunder of BAI fame.

Still waiting for you to jump into the Bill Evans/Gunther Schuller thread, Chris,,,

No, this was a woman... I think her name was Gooch, or something similar.

Haven't seen such a thread. Searched in vain on both names.... can someone give me a link?

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The lady blues singer on the Boardwalk series was anachronistic. Had a more modern style than the old blues/jazz singers of the 20s, lot of melisma.. Was Queen Latifah that way too? I haven't seen the show but I just can't picture her belting it out as straight and no nonsense as Bessie or Ma Rainey.

Edited by Neal Pomea

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Sounds like Paul Wunder of BAI fame.

Still waiting for you to jump into the Bill Evans/Gunther Schuller thread, Chris,,,

No, this was a woman... I think her name was Gooch, or something similar.

Haven't seen such a thread. Searched in vain on both names.... can someone give me a link?

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I started a thread elsewhere about this because I didn't see this conversation tucked into a different thread. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read Chris's book yet, so I saw it more or less unawares. Ok, ignorant! I thought Latifah's singing was pretty good. She captured some of the great blues singer's swagger and style. Mo'onique too. They're both talented.

As for the story [spoiler ALERT], I couldn't believe the ending. I mean, the two of them sitting on the back of some truck, dreamily contemplating the beautiful countryside in, where, the South?? Nothing on the controversies surrounding her death? A happy ending? I was struck dumb. I mean, the rest of it was a very average biopic, movie-wise, which I now realize reading this thread was probably all nonsense, but that ending really pissed me off.

gregmo

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