Screen Reviews

Three Films

Third Ward Blues

directed by Heather Korb

Third Ward Blues, a 20-minute documentary, illustrates how uplifting music can be to so many people. Four outstanding blues artists originated from the same bleak 3-block area of Houston known as The Third Ward. This is the chronicle of not only their music, but their lives and friendships.

This documentary interviews all four bluesmen: Joe “Guitar” Hughes, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, the late Albert Collins, and Johnny Clude Copeland. They tell their stories of how they got started and stories about each other. It’s about as close as a chosen family can get, for old friends do somehow seem related as time goes on.

Clips of interviews are interspersed with the BLUES, man! Jon Spencer, have a seat. There is pure enjoyment in their art on their faces, in their gestures and speech, and admiration and reverence for each other’s craft. Guitar Hughes said, “We play for the people, not at them.” The crowd is appreciative. One 4-minute segment showed a woman completely lost in the moment, shaking all she got, writhing on the floor, unaware of the crowd. What else can do that to you but music? An effective little film.

Tell About the South

directed by Ross Spears

Tell About the South, a feature-length documentary, tells the story of the rise of Southern literature between the two world wars (this is the first of a three-part documentary). Among its half-dozen or so segments are chronicles of both groups like the Fugitive Poets of Nashville, and individual authors, such as Zora Neale Hurston and Thomas Wolfe. Interestingly, both moved to New York City at age 25, and it was only then that they started writing, with some distance between themselves and their culture. Other notable black writers, such as Jean Toomey, also came out of the “Harlem Renaissance,” giving a voice interwoven with beauty and pain to the free black people for the first time. A large segment of this film also tells the story of William Faulkner’s gradual rise to the top of the literary world by telling the stories of tragedy and loss, most based on his own experiences.

The tale of Southern literature is well-told, with many interviews with historians and living writers, and is a good introduction for anyone seeking background on this important artistic movement in American culture.

Tomorrow Night

directed by Louis C.K.

Yeah, this movie had me wishing it was tomorrow night. The description held promise – uptight camera-shop owner Charles decides to make everyone pick up the overdue photos cluttering his store and finds love along the way. And it could have been good if it didn’t try so desperately to be outlandish.

Written by Louis C.K. (writer for David Letterman, Chris Rock, and Conan O’Brien), one might expect something amusing, at the very least. Somehow, this film screwed up all the chances of humor that it was given by shoving the weirdness down your throat. Take Charles, the main character. As the fastidious shopkeeper, his anal-retentiveness makes him odd enough to be believable, like refusing to let someone stand in the shop during a downpour when it is obvious they are not interested in buying anything. Sound offbeat? Sure, but not offbeat enough – it gets ruined by showing him at home, putting a 78 on the Victrola, filling a large bowl with ice cream, sitting in it and rocking back and forth until the song (and he) climax, resulting in a shot of melted ice cream spilling onto the floor. Simply not necessary. Gratuitous obscenity and bad writing should never be confused with art.

This film had a lot going for it: basically odd characters, interesting cinematography (a bleached-out black and white look and some good camera angles) and some adequate acting. But it seemed like the director didn’t know the meaning of the word “moderation,” and ended up not having any likable characters. Heck, the characters didn’t even seem to like each other. Like a bad SNL skit, it didn’t know when to quit.

The best part of the movie was the nap I caught during the last 10 minutes. ◼

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