FBF: BAGDAD CAFE

bagdad cafe_titleFlashback Friday has us asking: Why-oh-why don’t people make movies like this any more?! Say hello to 1987’s Bagdad Cafe (dir. Percy Adlon; writers Eleonore Adlon, Percy Adlon & Christopher Doherty).

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CCH Pounder as Brenda and Marianne Sägebrecht as Jasmin in “Bagdad Cafe” (1987)

Original, quirky, unexpected, legit-interesting and wickedly funny with a solid story backbone. The antithesis of hack. Brilliantly cast. And it has a KILLER theme song: Jevetta Steele’s “Calling You.”  Without falling into stereotype, Bagdad Cafe takes angry black woman Brenda (the incomparable CCH Pounder) on a life-changing journey thanks to the lonely German tourist Jasmin (Marianne Sägebrecht), who sets out to transform her own life when she falls into Brenda’s dusty little cafe.

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Monica Calhoun as Phyllis in “Bagdad Cafe” (1987)

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Darron Flagg as Salamo in “Bagdad Cafe” (1987)

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G. Smokey Campbell as Sal in “Bagdad Cafe” (1987)

Also on this ride are  Brenda’s introverted musical prodigy son Salamo (real-life tenor Darron Flagg, who played the music in the film); her free-spirited, biker-loving daughter Phyllis (a budding Monica Calhoun); the family’s spiritually expansive, ex-Hollywood set decorator friend (Jack Palance!);  and Brenda’s estranged husband, Sal (G. Smokey Campbell) — who narrates from afar.

And all this kookiness works beautifully because Bagdad Cafe is an honest story about the kind of growth we hope for as human beings.

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Jack Palance as Rudi Cox in “Bagdad Cafe” (1987)

Is it surprising that this is a foreign film?

Unseen Body Heat

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This headpiece by The Unseen has 4000 conductive Swarovski crystals that change hue according to brain activity. Guess that means if there’s not much going on up there, everyone will know?

British fashion house The Unseen has joined fashion and science for reals. The Unseen is three women, Lauren Bowker, Chista Leask and Jess Smith, who create exquisite wearable science using both cutting-edge technology and incredible tailoring. In fact, Bowker (The Unseen’s founder), studied both fashion and chemistry. Originally, she started down this path to help herself: she has a spinal condition and wanted to create materials that would signal a shift in her condition.

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Jacket by The Unseen

Nowadays, The Unseen cooks up heat-sensitive inks and hyper-conductive stones to come up with truly custom palettes that change color based on heat (including heat generated by brain activity), friction (!!!) and humidity. (So, yes,  even the crazy-territorial fashionistas among us can be SURE no one will have on the same outfit….even if it is the same outfit.) This is what we call future-forward —- and the Unseen’s stunning, otherworldly silhouettes only make us love it more. (Oh, and BTW, they make non-clothing items too.)

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that science and smart are not sexy.

TBT: Sexy. Kinetic. Thriller.

 "Strange Days" (1995)

Pre-Millennial Tension: “Strange Days” (1995)

Our TBT is dedicated to “Strange Days” (1995), the “sexy kinetic thriller” and feminist gem which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and co-written by two dudes, James Cameron and Jay Cocks (insert joke here). The film portrays a perilous time when violence and lawlessness were rampant and technology was used to satisfy society’s desperate quest for escapism and most base urges. Sound familiar?

As leading lady Mace, Angela Bassett is a thing of wonder and beauty. She’s gorgeous, strong, smart, sexy and self-possessed.
Angela Bassett in "Strange Days"Angela Bassett in "Strange Days"

Juliette Lewis in "Strange Days"

Juliette Lewis in “Strange Days”

A raw, pre-Licks Juliette Lewis is Faith, the dysfunctional flipside of Mace: a tragically beautiful hot mess. Both women are doing their best to navigate what many thought would be the ‘end of days’ — New Year’s Eve 1999.

And of course, Ralph Fiennes is….damned fine (even as an oily virtual reality dealer). There are also  plenty of hot character performances by thespians who later became well-known faces: Vincent D’Onofrio (where Brooklyn at?); Tom Sizemore, Glenn Plummer (in a brilliant and timely turn as militant rapper Jeriko One), William Fichtner, Josef Summer, Richard Edson and Canadian Michael Wincott.

There’s a lot going on here. Social turmoil, police brutality, technology, the economy, race, America’s general agitation on the eve of the new millennium. This dystopian thriller is smarter and more interesting story than a lot of what we see lately. First off, it’s set in an Los Angeles that actually looks like L.A.: multi-cultural and multi-racial….throughout the film, not just the scenes of poverty or violence. The fact that there is a militant rapper whose gripes with the system are presented as legit seems astounding in retrospect. (The film was released only 17 days after the verdict in O.J. Simpson’s trial.) Last but not least, this film represents the best of feminism — that which shows women as they really are: are equally capable of the best and worst of what it is to be human.

Director Kathryn Bigelow

Director Kathryn Bigelow

Roxë15 is ALIVE and WELL

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Roxë15, a science fiction short film by Celia C. Peters. (Artwork by Rowan Stocks-Moore)

Some of you may be wondering: What ever happened to that sci-fi short film? Well, I’m here to tell you that Roxë15 is, indeed, alive and well.

Ohio-based editor Chris Croft and I have been working hard for the past several weeks….and (thank God!) the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and closer. I have had the great pleasure of editing sound effects (call me geeky or whatever, but I happen to LOVE editing audio). Anyhoo, the final pieces are coming into place. It has taken a while but as they say, good things come to those who wait — so stay tuned.

Also, I’m extremely excited and honored to announce that the feature-length screenplay of Roxë15 was recently selected to be a part of cultivEight, a national film development program sponsored by NEA Art Works! cultivEight is produced by PushPush Film and Theater in Atlanta, in partnership with BrandCinema in NYC and producer Alexander A. Motlagh. It’s an innovative, hands-on, filmmaker-centered incubator that develops out-of-the-box film projects over 8 months.  The object is to thoroughly and thoughtfully develop projects, connect filmmakers with producers and get projects into (what?) PRODUCTION!

Feeling extremely thankful/grateful that both the long and short of Roxë15 are moving in the right direction…..ever forward!

A Heavenly Menage à Trois

Jupiter and Io captured by space probe Cassini

Jupiter and its moon Io

A couple of weeks ago, Jupiter had a lovely menage à trois: a spectacular triple eclipse. Three of its big moons — Europa, Callisto, and Io (shown above) — passed in front of the huge planet at the same time….and like dedicated voyeurs do, the Hubble Telescope got it all on camera. Gas giant Jupiter has 62 moons, so eclipses aren’t exactly a special occasion, but having three of its four superstar moons show up at the same time IS a special occasion. Only Ganymede (my personal fave) couldn’t stay for the fun. Imagine: if you had been standing on Jupiter, you would’ve peeped three solar eclipses at once. Side note: the moon Europa is kind of a big deal. Astronomers think that there’s life in the incredibly deep oceans under its icy surface….life as we know it, that is.

See it happen! At 00:07 look for the shadows of the 3 moons on Jupiter’s surface.

Size Matters

Artist: Ron Miller

Artist rendition of J1407b by Ron Miller

So you thought Saturn was big? Well, it is…but heavenly body J1407b is even bigger than our darling Saturn and it’s surrounded by 37 rings that are 200 times the size of Saturn’s rings. Sit with that for a second.

Galileo discovered Saturn in 1610; that’s old news. Now a joint team of American and Dutch astronomers has published definitive findings on J1407b, which was first peeped in 2012. J1407b is a brown dwarf (i.e., not quite in Magnum territory): it’s smaller than a star, but bigger than a planet. And if you’re in a traveling mood, it’s also only (!) 434 light years away, in the constellation Centaurus. (BTW, this is our first discovery of rings outside of our solar system.) Astronomers speculate that J1407b’s massive, 90-million-kilometer-wide bracelets were carved out by orbiting moons.

A little context: according to Dutch astronomer, Matthew Kenworthy of Team J1407b, “If we could replace Saturn’s rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon.”

J1407 in sky

Copyright: M. Kenworthy / Universiteit Leiden

Knock-knock. Who’s there? THE FUTURE. (Apple Is Making Minority Report a Reality)

Tom-Cruise-Minority-reportApple has just brought us one step closer to sci-fi reality. Business Insider reports that the tech innovator has been granted a patent for “three dimensional user interface session control” — translation: a technology that will enable users to operate their computers (and devices?) using hand gestures in the air. You know….like in the film “Minority Report.” According to BI, the technology already exists, but kind of sucks as is. So now Apple is in prime position to work their magic and make it so. Take a look.

(Shout out to director of photography Jendra Jarnagin for the 411.)