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?

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!

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.)

This Is Not Science Fiction

From May to November of this year, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst was on the International Space Station. While hanging out in the stratosphere, he took thousands of snaps of Planet Earth with ultra-high-def cameras….and when he got back, he did what most techies eventually do: he made a video. But Gerst’s video is not your everyday mash-up — he edited 12,500 images of what the cameras saw from space into a stunning (and we mean stunning!) timelapse video. And he gave it a dope soundtrack.

This is Earth as extraterrestrials might see it.

SIDE NOTE: from 3:11 to 3:31, there is footage of space that is MIND. BLOWING. To say that it puts everything happening down here in perspective is an understatement.

Women. Film. Now.

Women + Film = Power

Women + Film = Power

If you don’t do anything else the rest of the day, read this little ditty:
Here’s Why Female-Driven Films Are Important Right Now
by filmmaker Alexis O. Korycinski

Indeed….what she said (so well). For now, let’s just stick with business. I suspect that, as with much cultural progress facing futile resistance these days, the money will win out in the end. Women spend a lot of money going to the movies; neglecting that audience/market segment is simply idiotic. And I, for one, am not an idiot. That is all.

Alien Daddy: H.R. Giger (1940 – 2014)

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PHALLIC DURESS by H.R. Giger

Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger was a king of erotomechancis. This man’s mind….wow.

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NUBIAN QUEEN by H.R. Giger

He created the iconic alien of the ‘Alien’ film franchise, created murals for the Alien prequel ‘Prometheus,’ among other very cool work in films and music (including album artwork for many and even a custom microphone stand for Jonathon Davis of the band Korn). His vision of biomechanics made the relationship between (wo)man and machine incredibly sexy, dripping with the promise of inhuman pleasure. In a 1979 interview, Giger said: “My paintings seem to make the strongest impression on people who are, well, who are crazy. If they like my work they are creative … or they are crazy.” Count me in.

Enjoy the next leg of your adventure, Mr. Giger.