The Big Sick to be Aired at BAMcinemaFest

On Wed. June 21, 2017, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will be featuring a Sundance Film Festival standout, The Big Sick, as a part of their BAMcinemaFest. The best American independent film festival highlights the best up and coming artists from the New York City area by showcasing their independent films across a week-long series.

The film, produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, features the romantic comedy story of a Pakistani-born comedian, Kumail and a graduate student, Emily, played by Zoe Kaza. Loosely based off of the real-life love story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, their romance is thwarted by Nanjiani’s traditional Pakistani parents who would prefer he marry a traditional Muslim woman.

In a surprising turn of events, the young couple’s relationship is tested when Emily faces a life-threatening illness. With the relationship in turmoil, young Kumail must do some growing up to show his support.

Pedro J Torres blog header

The Big Sick film poster recreated as a blog header by Pedro J Torres.

HBO’s Silicon Valley, Nanjiani takes his first lead role to new heights with this heartwarming comedy. Nanjiani has made guest appearances and supporting roles in many different venues throughout his career. He guest starred in HBO’s Veep as a supporting actor and has had a recurring role in Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time.

Nanjiani moved to the United States at the age of 18 and attended Grinnell College in Iowa. after graduating in 2001 with a double major in Computer Science and Philosophy, he wouldn’t land his first role on SNL until 2008.

Having been Married since 2007, Nanjiani’s wife, Emily V. Gordon is a former couple and family therapist turned author and comedy producer. After leaving the field of therapy, Gordon pursued a career of freelance writing, where she wrote articles for various publications such as; The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and GQ. Her first book came out in 2015 and outlines a self-improvement guide titles, SuperYou: Release Your Inner Superhero.

The film, The Big Sick, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20, 2017. Bought by Amazon Studios for $12 million, the film is set to be released on June 23, 2017, by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate.

BAM will host the film in the BAM Rose Cinemas room of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. The showing is currently sold out but open to standby ticketing, and all are welcome to stay for a question and answer session with Director Michael Showalter, and stars of the film, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Emily V. Gordon.

Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon At BAM

Sonic_Youth_1991_Kim_Gordon

Kim Gordon is a dynamo. A visual artist, a guitarist, a bassist and lead singer that brought her unique style to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February. She is a founding member of the trail-blazing Sonic Youth. Her most recent artistic foray was into writing. Her memoir, Girl In A Band, was well-received by critics and even better received by the audience at BAM.

Her current book tour is like a rock and roll Q and A with snippets of rock documentary videos and interesting tidbits about rock and roll in the 80’s and 90’s throughout.

Gordon went on to talk about her book and the unique challenge of doing something so “conventional” after such an unconventional rise to fame. This played well with the Brooklyn crowd.

Gordon definitely has a lot of interesting things to share from the interesting perspective of a female rocker in what many see as the last great generation of musicians.

On a tour with Neil Young, Gordon found that hippy Neil Young fans weren’t the friendly, accepting people she thought they were. In fact, audiences were regularly hostile to her and Sonic Youth’s unique brand of music, booing throughout their set. Oh, and Neil Young was a big fan of strippers.

Gordon has also worked with Iggy Pop, whom she idolizes as a rocker. But singing his songs alongside the man himself was nerve-racking.

A sort of rock superfan herself, Gordon spoke highly of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. She was impressed with Cobain’s ability to make each show unique and full of different moods. She also has a deep respect for what she sees as the punk rockers that came before her. Jeff Beck’s guitar smashing performance for The Yardbirds in the 60’s was particularly inspirational and poignant for her.

Gordon no longer enjoys touring but will continue to make music, perform and work on her visual art.

 

A Conversation With Matt Groening and Lynda Barry

Matt_Groening_Lynda_Barry_BAM

One can always count on The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to bring some of the most unique content to the stage. Last week we had the opportunity to see Matt Groening and Lynda Barry converse about their lives and rivalry.

Matt Groening is best known for creating The Simpsons which started in the 80’s on The Tracy Ullman Show making it the longest running cartoon in history. He also wrote a comic, Life In Hell, for 35 years that just ended its run in 2012. During that period he has maintained a friendly rivalry with fellow comic writer, Lynda Barry. Barry is best known for Ernie Peek’s Comeek, a weekly comic-strip.

And it seems that their friendly rivalry has pushed both to become great comic writers.

The aptly named, “Love, Hate & Comics—The Friendship That Would Not Die,” was a crowd pleaser at BAM. The two have known each other for over 30 years. They met at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and you can tell by the way they interact that they have kept in touch.

The night was largely a discussion of creativity, a subject Barry has researched for much of her life. Both being creatives, they spoke a lot about their inspirations and life stories that have led them to this point. And it seems as though they might not have made it to this point without the other.

An interesting story that certainly stood out from the evening was Barry’s marriage proposal to Catch-22 author, Joseph Heller by way of mail. Groening was the editor of the Cooper Point Journal, their school’s newspaper at the time and offered Barry the opportunity to write comics for the paper.

Though they have obviously remained friends their also exists a tension usually reserved for on-screen romantic will-they-or-won’t-they relationships but nothing ever happened.

The Iceman Cometh at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Eugen O'Neill historical plaque at 1500 Broadway (Times Square), New York City.

Eugene O’neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” is a New York classic set in a Greenwich Village saloon where a group of bar regulars are gathered together. They are all traditional bar regular archetypes – alcoholics with a love/hate relationship with the bartenders and each other. They go about their days in the bar using alcohol to drown out their sorrows, waiting for visits from salesman “Hickey”, or Theodore Hickman, that come just twice a year.

The show is mostly about the story of the positives and negatives of alcohol, as the audience finds out when Hickey finally shows up as a preachy sober man but still the enthusiastic and affable the salesman they remember. Only now Hickey is selling each member of this downtrodden tribe a different bill of goods.

Hickey is played by Nathan Lane, a Broadway and Hollywood regular. He does not let down in this rendition at The Brooklyn Academy of Music. Brian Dennehy plays Larry Slade, a once idealistic man turned cynic who sits off to the side. As Hickey works his way through each of the people at the bar he questions their pipe dreams one by one in an attempt to liberate them from living the rest of their lives as losers.

Hickey is a complicated role to play because he must first be liked and trusted by the audience and everyone else in the bar before preaching to them. Lane captures this nuance as O’neill meant it when he wrote the play 70 years ago. He spreads laughter and cheer to each and every person in that bar.

Harry Hope, played by Stephen Ouimette,  is the owner of the bar where the play takes place. We see him as another sorry fellow in the bar until Hickey reaches him and gets him to admit the real reason he hasn’t left the bar for 20 years.

 

Unreleased Andy Warhol at The Brooklyn Academy of Music

An Andy Warhol piece

An Andy Warhol piece

Andy Warhol found the hand held Bolex camera In 1963. It was a much simpler device than all the devices today. It had to be mounted on a tripod and loaded with 100 feet of film. This camera could only record two and a half minutes of images in black and white, completely devoid of sound.

Warhol would walk around New York using it for creating short films for about 5 years. Warhol simply found people he deemed interesting and filmed them for the time allowed by the camera. This was all done during the early periods of Andy Warhol’s infamous New York City studio – “The Factory. At The Factory, Warhol worked on prints, paintings, shoes, films, sculptures and commissioned various works with his brand. Warhol sold startlingly simple pieces for upwards of $20,000. He would use the funds to give to the Factory friends, many of whom were depicted in some short films that debuted last week at The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) .

Starting last Thursday, 15 short films by Warhol were screened at BAM. The films featured some recognizable names, such as Edie Sedgwick, Marisol Escobar, beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and visual artist Marcel Duchamp.

Since the “films”, don’t have sound, BAM has decided to add music that Andy Warhol might have put himself. The accompanying music will include numbers by Tom Verlaine, Martin Rev, Eleanor Friedburger, Bradford Cox, and Dean Wareham. All of these artists are heavily influenced by punk rock.

Many people see this show as an ode to New York in the 1960’s. A culture that doesn’t exist anymore.

Andy Warhol is in very few of his films, but in a few of these newly uncovered gems he does make an appearance. His entire catalogue of film, art and pop aesthetic is difficult to categorize and challenges the consumer of his works.