Five for Friday - July 30, 2021
McCartney 3, 2, 1: You'd think the people would have had enough of Paul McCartney. I look around me and I see it isn't so. Oh no. Some people wanna fill the world with Paul McCartney. And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know.
Look, this series isn't going to give the long-time fan any new insights. And it may be a bit too inside baseball for a younger generation that wasn't raised on his hits. But seeing him tell stories in the company of Rick Rubin does have its pleasures. Because for once, it's not McCartney the icon telling the stories of who, what, when, and how the music was made, but McCartney the Beatles (and McCartney) fan enjoying the music and marveling at the wonder of it all, baby. yeah, yeah, yeah.
Summer of Soul: To think that the footage at the heart of this documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival sat unseen for 50 years is distressing. Not even attempts to position it as the Black Woodstock worked in generating interest. But framing it that way is reductive. This is so much more. In the hands of Questlove, the director, this is a joyous musical and spiritual journey. It is a wealth of magnificent performances from artists expressing themselves without code switching or compromise. The 5th Dimension prove they were more than dinner club soul. Stevie Wonder demonstrates why he earned that last name by rocking a drum kit. And Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples come together for an astonishing, relevatory performance that would have closed any other documentary. Instead, Questlove has Nina Simone debuting Young, Gifted and Black. It's breathtaking. And it is all over too soon.
That makes Summer of Soul sound like an escape. It isn't. The archival footage of interviewees critiquing the concurrent moon landing and how that money could have been put to better use is a reminder that, more than 50 years on, our society still has our telescopes aimed the wrong way when it comes to progress. This documentary may not change that, but the performances, and the reactions of concertgoers to seeing them again 50 years on, will make your spirits soar. Unlike...
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage: This documentary is a dispiriting watch. Not just because it chronicles a festival that is associated with violence and sexual assault but because it doesn't know how to address that legacy or back up the claims it wants to make about how all of that chaos happened and its reverberations. It wants us to believe aggressive music and a backlash to MTV's embrace of teenybop played a key role in what went down that weekend. And that you can draw a straight line from the anger on display that weekend to the Fox News viewer who believes in conspiracies and votes for Trump. But it cherry picks its evidence, ignoring not only the presence of socially conscious artists who did play the event but also the distinctions that need to be made between the aggressive music of Limp Bizkit and that of Rage Against the Machine. They are worlds apart.
But all that pales when you consider that this documentary commits a grievous sin in parading footage of women in various stages of undress, and being groped, to decry the misogyny and sexual assaults that occurred over the course of the event. It is, at times, prurient, leering, and a further traumatization of the women who were assaulted. For all these reasons, the documentary feels like an empty, dishonest, even callous exercise. I guess that befits the rage at the heart of its subject matter, but it doesn't make for very good film making. Instead, it is sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Walkers Double Max KFC Zingers: Across the pond, they have KFC-flavored chips, or crisps to use their lingo. I found a bag of the Zingers-inspired chips in a specialty shop and decided to try them. I don't know how faithfully they recreate a 'Zinger' sammich. I don't eat moo, oink, or cluck. But they didn't remind me of KFC from previous trips there when I did partake of cluck. Not at all. It was more like a generic hot wing-inspired chip, and more oily than I anticipated. In short, I probably could have bought a plain bag of Ruffles, some Frank's RedHot and made my own much cheaper.
Mick Jagger turned 78 this week: If you bought him anything, I hope you painted it black.