The new film Hancock (reviewed here) takes two steps forward and at least one step back in advancing the cause of black superheroes, who are solely underrepresented in pop culture. On the plus side, Hancock is a lavish summer movie scheduled for the prime July 4 weekend spot, starring arguably the world's most popular African-American screen actor. In the debit column, the title character is a surly, accident-prone boozer who sets such a bad example, he makes Charles "I'm not a role model" Barkley look like, I dunno, President David Palmer from "24."
Black superheroes have a spotty history in comics, cartoons and movies. Before the mid-1960s, you'd be hard-pressed to find any African-American comic book superheroes, and the ones who subsequently emerged were frequently treated as tokens with either utterly bland or highly stereotypical characterization. With so many real-world heroes breaking the color bar in arts, sports, politics and civil rights over the past generations, it's not a surprise that the likes of, say, Black Vulcan from "Super Friends" never made much of an impact. For simplicity's sake I'll focus here (mostly) on the black superheroes who have crossed over to other media, with varying degrees of success.
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By default, the character to make the most successful leap from comic books to other media is Blade, played by Wesley Snipes. The super-powered vampire hunter first appeared in Tomb of Dracula in 1973, remained on the margins of Marvel Comics but in 1998-2004 received the big-screen treatment in three films (not to mention a short-lived TV series with Kirk "Sticky" Jones). The success of the Blade films blazed the trail for higher-profile Marvel Comics adaptations like X-Men and Spider-man. Despite his pointy silver weapons and vampire-type powers, Blade is arguably more of an R-rated horror/action hero than an iconic superhero in his own right. Still, director Guillermo Del Toro made Blade II into one of the most surprisingly entertaining guilty-pleasure hero films. The clip above features Ron 'Hellboy' Perlman as a racist vampire and includes some of Snipes' liveliest macho posturing.
Local poet and member of the Atlanta Art Amok! Slam Team, Shannon Leigh, died yesterday, having been in critical condition for more than two weeks following a cave-diving accident June 14. She was 20 years old.
She had gotten trapped in an underwater cavern at Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Fla., when her breathing apparatus came out. It's unknown how long she was underwater before Mike Woods, a diving instructor, found her.
From the Gainesville Sun:
"I saw a dive buoy but I couldn't see any scuba diver's bubbles coming up so I swam over there to the entrance to Devil's Eye," an underwater cavern, Woods said. He said his plan was to descend to the cavern's entrance, but when he got about 10 feet below the surface, he saw a woman's face looking up at him.
"I realized that she was in dire emergency status she was pressed up against two submerged logs and I understood my limit," Woods said.
Unable to rescue her alone, Woods enlisted the help of two other divers and called 911.
At 19, Shannon got third place at the National Poetry Slam indies competition. She was the only woman to place in the top 10. Kodac Harrison, local poet and emcee of the Java Monkey Speaks weekly open mic, said, in an email, "She was so young, so beautiful and so very talented We are so fortunate to have witnessed such a great talent in our area."
Here's Shannon performing her poem "Sudanese Children" on HBO's "Def Poetry" in 2007.
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Her death is a tremendous blow, not only to the Atlanta poetry community, but to everyone who ever heard her read. I did not know her personally, but as a poet, an Atlantan and a young woman, I feel her loss very strongly. She will be greatly missed.
Shannon's Wishes is a LiveJournal community for friends and fans of Shannon Leigh. People are encouraged to write poems in her memory. For more of Shannon Leigh's credentials and poetry, visit her MySpace Music page. To donate to her hospital bill fund, go to getwellshannon.com.
Atlanta folk music duo Rising Appalachia has cheerfully woven topics of cultural evolution and fusion into its music, bringing the message around the world with its aural globe trotting. Siblings Leah and Chloe Smith take a more direct approach to encouraging themes of social evolution and responsibility when they host the third annual CONCRETE PANDEMONIUM Sun., JUNE 29. Billed as an "urban throwdown," the topsy-turvy evening features a genre-bucking combination of local art and activism in an earnest attempt to bring the two together in a happy, and hopefully not short-lived, marriage. Scheduled appearances include spoken-word artists Theresa Davis and Stefen Miko of Art Amuk, the Atlanta Circus Art Community, Feminist Outlawz, Alternate Roots, a recycled-fabric fashion show and more. 9 p.m. $5-$25. Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 8. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.
(Photo by Chad Hess)
Sunday offers us the first-ever Georgia Author Book Bash, presented by Atlanta magazine and the Literary Center of the Margaret Mitchell House. The event will take place from 4-7 p.m. at the Margaret Mitchell House. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 members. Guests can schmooze with the LL (local literati) on the front lawn and wrestle them to the grass for an autograph. There'll be hors d'oeuvres, live jazz (as opposed to dead jazz) and a cash bar.
One question: How the hell is anyone going to be able to meet and greet 50 authors, much less get their John Hancock on their books? Good luck trying.
The Big 50 in attendance is about as impressive a list of local authors as you'll find this side of the AJC Decatur Book Festival, and even then. The names are so obvious and familiar, I'm almost embarrassed to mention them although it does give me an excuse to provide cool hyperlinks to coverage of several of them. For example, there's former CL Fiction Contest judges Joshilyn Jackson and David Fulmer, as well as Mike Luckovich, Bill Osinski, Ferrol Sams, Goldie Taylor and Tina McElroy Ansa. And of course there's CL's own Hollis Gillespie, whose new book, Trailer Trashed: My Dubious Efforts Toward Upward Mobility, is due out Aug. 1.
It's also a chance to check out our sleeper pick, Gay and Lesbian Atlanta, by Wesley Chenault and Stacy Braukman of the Atlanta History Center for Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series. It's quite the trip down memory lane, broken down into four chapters/epochs: "Unconventional Lives and Ambiguous Identities: 1900-1940," "Quiet Accommodation: 1940-1970," "Parties, Politics, and Pride: 1970-1990" and "Collective Power and Culture Wars: 1990-2000." Nice way to get in some infotainment before next week's Atlanta Pride.
(Image courtesy Arcadia Publishing)
Want the power to nominate a candidate for higher office? Have a strong opinion about whats truly the best of the best in Atlanta? Become an officially endorsed CL Super Delegate and give us your opinions.
For this years Best of Atlanta Raging Election edition, we are looking for independent voters to act as special CL critics. If your nominations are picked, YOU will be considered a CL critic and given the power to bestow a Critics Pick Best of Atlanta award for 2008. We are looking for picks in all categories, so send us a blurb about what you consider to be the Best of Atlanta and why. Send them to email@example.com.
We look forward to your nominations!
Famously filthy-mouthed stand-up comedian George Carlin has died of heart failure at the age of 71. An icon of counterculture comedy and free speech rights, Carlin was most notorious for his "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television," a routine from his album Occupation Foole that eventually led to the Supreme Court:
A listener hearing New York's WBAI-FM play Carlin's "Filthy Words" routine on Oct. 30, 1973, in its unaltered entirety lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC, in turn, threatened to pull WBAI's license. WBAI appealed the FCC's bark all the way to the Supreme Court, where in 1978, the justices ruled in favor of the FCC, agreeing that the seven words "you can't say on television," shouldn't be said on the radio, eithernot during hours that children might hear them.
Carlin's comedy encompassed more than just taboo-breaking profanity, however. He frequently examined life's amusing minutia ("Urinals are 50 percent universal") in a way that anticipated the observational humor of Jerry Seinfeld. He also delighted in wordplay and simple absurdity, like the headlines in his faux-news report: "A man attempting to walk around the world ... drowned today."
If you've been online at all on Monday morning, you've probably either seen the clip of "Seven Words" or a link to it. Here's something a little different: an expanded, exhaustive version of the list from Carlin's 1982 concert at Carnegie Hall. It features the familiar seven, as well as some terms that you may have never heard before ("donaker," "sugarbowl pie," "boy in the boat," "71") :
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Updated: In case the Carnegie Hall footage gets pulled, here's a similar routine, with Carlin's audio synchronized to some extremely odd video.
Jellyfish is a quirky little excursion into magic realism by Israeli author-turned director Etgar Keret and his partner, Shira Geffen:
Winner of the 2007 Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Jellyfish often stays afloat on a visual charm that floods its aquatic metaphors. In the opening shot, we see Batya (a subtly expressive Sarah Adler) standing with her departing boyfriend in front of what looks like an aquarium's façade. But as he and his truck pull away, so does the background, revealing a Tel Aviv street scene. Reality bites, and much of Jellyfish is spent watching its women struggling to navigate life's choppier waters.
Then there's The Singing Revolution, a documentary by James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty about the impact of Estonia's deeply entrenched musical culture on its struggle for independence from the Soviet Union:
That passion is laid out in a methodical but poetic fashion, as [actress Linda] Hunt's narration explains the nation's love of music as best heard at its annual Song Festival. The sights and sounds of witnessing 30,000 voices unified in one song and in particular, the nation anthem born under occupation, "Land of My Fathers" come off as a moving metaphor. The camera pans and scans the people, young and old, as they defiantly sing for their common identity: "For her a hundred times I shall give my life. You are still alive in my heart."
Both open today (Friday) at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
Here's the trailer for The Singing Revolution
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I was unable to screen The Love Guru for this week's paper. Apparently I'm not alone; looking for an alternative newsweekly review of the horrifically reviewed comedy from the former clown prince of Hollywood is an exercise in futility. (Maybe that's because studios are making it more and more difficult for alt-weeklies to screen movies in time for their weekly deadlines, but then, they're making it difficult for everyone to screen indie films for review because they keep changing the release dates, but whatever. More on that later.) I'm struggling to think of a more poorly reviewed film this year by someone held in such high esteem.
But as chronicled in Entertainment Weekly's recent profile of Myers, there's no love lost for him in Hollywood. In a city filled with egomaniacs, Myers seems to be a particular target of scorn. Some think he's singled out unfairly; others wish he'd just go away. The man who once supposedly had the Midas touch with the Wayne's World, Austin Powers and Shrek franchises seems to have, ahem, lost his mojo on this one.
I know it's a predictable bit of pile on, but while I've always found Myers amusing, I've never really gotten the depths of praise heaped on him over the years. I've often thought of him as the right comic talent at the right time, a "Saturday Night Live" sketch genius who had been able to stretch sometimes brilliant gags, sound bites and wordplay into movie-length hits. But, really, how hard did you laugh at any of the Wayne's World or Austin Powers sequels? (I completely avoided the last AP installment, Goldmember, as well as the third Shrek cuz just I figured it would be more of the same.) Frankly, I think the most daring movie work Myers did was portraying Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell in 1998's 54. Besides delivering a spot-on mimic job, Myers captured the tragedy of Rubell.
A lot of Myers' critics believe his style of comedy is already played out. I'm inclined to agree. The thing is, Myers' style is so facile, it doesn't warrant much examination. To borrow the current phrase du jour, it is what it is. And that's just not that much to get excited about. I have a bad feeling that, come Monday, the box-office receipts will bear that out.
(Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures)
Here's a fond PopSmart wish of good luck to the folks at PBA30's "This Is Atlanta," which is up for a Southeast Emmy this Saturday for Best Magazine Program under the umbrella category Outstanding Achievement: Television Programming Excellence for its segment, "The Atlanta Downhill Challenge," about the city's popular soapbox derby race. (Oddly enough, the program is up against two episodes of "TBS Storyline," which was canned when Turner changed TBS to last year Peachtree TV. Unfortunate, considering Peachtree TV's "hyper-local" mission statement.)
We mentioned the Telly Award-winning program in one of our first PopSmart blog posts back in November, so we're excited to see what happens on Saturday. Jack Walsh and Gordon Ray are the nominated producers of the show, and do an impressive job of providing witty polish to a type of community program that, when not in the right hands, can run on the dull side. This stuff is compelling work, though, reminding Atlantans just how diverse its city really is.
Want the power to nominate a candidate for higher office? Have a strong opinion about what's truly the best of the best in Atlanta? Become an officially endorsed CL Super Delegate and give us your opinions.
For this year's Best of Atlanta Raging Election edition, we are looking for independent voters to act as special CL critics. If your nominations are picked, YOU will be considered a CL critic and given the power to bestow a Critics Pick Best of Atlanta award for 2008. We are looking for picks in all categories, so send us a blurb about what you consider to be the Best of Atlanta and why. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to your nominations!
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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