This Week for Adriennewrites: Rocky Horror Picture Show, South Side Parenting

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let's Do The Time Warp Again:  L-R:  Staz Nair, Victoria Justice, Laverne Cox, Ryan McCartan and Annaleigh Ashford in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let's Do The Time Warp Again, premiering Thursday, Oct. 20 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Wilkie/FOX
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again: L-R: Staz Nair, Victoria Justice, Laverne Cox, Ryan McCartan and Annaleigh Ashford in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again, premiering Thursday, Oct. 20 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Wilkie/FOX

By now you probably know that I am a contributor to Forbes, where I cover TV, film and music for the online portal of the business magazine. I’ve written seven stories so far, mostly about television, since TV is hot right now as the fall shows solidify their followings and their ratings. Tonight I live tweeted the Rocky Horror Picture Show reboot, which aired on Fox, and I enjoyed following along with other tweeters. Many were a bit pissed that the remake deviated from the original. But, I already knew what to expect.

Lou Adler, the executive producer of the original Rocky Horror and the EP of the reboot, told me  that “what all the critics say is true.” He also said that the original Rocky wasn’t the best movie ever and was certainly “rough around the edges.”  He expected it to be panned by many, but he also expected it to be well received.

To that end, the show was a trending topic Thursday night- even as the Al Smith Dinner trended and the NFL game aired on TV. In the end, Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was magnificent, and I predict that lots of gold and silver costumes will be on the streets this Halloween.

In other news, I’ve started a new website, southsideparenting.com, where I detail all the cool places to go and fun things to do with your kids on the South Side of Chicago. I created this site because I wish such a site had existed when my oldest was too young for school but old enough for field trips with his mommy. Rather than wait for someone else to figure out that the South Side is pretty damn cool, I decided to make my own site.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you free writing tips!

 

Behind the scenes of independent film “Hogtown”

hogtown2.jpg

It’s not everyday that I get to talk with a director who loves Chicago as much as I do. It’s also not everyday that said director, Daniel Nearing, chooses to highlight an extremely diverse cast in a murder mystery set during the not-oft-discussed Red Summer of 1919. The movie is “Hogtown” – so named for Chicago’s title as the butcher capital of the world.This was a time when white Chicagoans rioted and lynched hundreds of Black people after a little black boy floated to the wrong side of the invisible racial line in the waters of Lake Michigan.

You can click here to read the story on www.suntimes.com or you can keep going and see it below. Nearing’s other film, “Chicago Heights” was about a suburb just south of the city. It’s interesting that Nearing, a white Canadian, has decided to tell stories that encompass the wide variety of history and stories in the city. Read on.

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The following story first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sunday Sitdown: Daniel Nearing explains his indie flick ‘Hogtown’

By Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

An image of a frieze from the movie "Hogtown."

Director Daniel Nearing’s “Hogtown” is a Chicago love affair presented in black and white. A true art film, it conjures a time when stark contrast and glared down dialogue defined the cinema. It’s also sort of a combo murder mystery, racial tension exploration and art noir film. With A score performed by the orchestra at the College of William and Mary, it’s a micro-budgeted movie that delivers big. Nearing, 56, has a history of working cable documentaries, but his first film, “Chicago Heights,” earned the attention and praise of Roger Ebert. This second is a kind of variation on a theme. Here’s what else Nearing had to say about “Hogtown.”

In his film more than most, it seems that Chicago is actually a character.

It’s a character for me. Hogtown is Chicago, the hog butcher to the world. The whole back of the yards thing. The whole difficulty of life. Chicago was an acquired tasted for me. I came from a city that didn’t have lot of crime and doesn’t have the racial tensions in the communities you encounter in American cities. Over time I came to fall in love with it. I think of myself as a chronicler of the soul of chicago. that’s what Hogtown tries to do; it tries to get at the essence of what it is to be a Chicagoan in the period in which we live and the prior generations live – a ridiculously ambitious thing to try to do.

How did you achieve the look of the film with it’s high-contrast black and white imagery?

It’s the picture profile in the particular camera we’re using, a Sony. I worked closely with the cinematographer so it would look like the cinematography of Gregg Toland in particular who shot ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ Really super-black blacks and the contrast is very, very high. You’re focused more on the presence of light and shadow and the characters rather than what’s populating the negative space. We worked on that for a long time.

This is a period piece except it’s not. I spied electric street lights and modern-day El trains.

I wanted an anachronistic approach – to shoot in the contemporary context but have the feel of the period pieces. We call our films ‘period less.’ In 1919, [a character] has an iPhone. We play with that a bit. The suggestion is that the more things change the more they stay the same. Chicago particularly has this underbelly of racism and we may think it changed significantly from 1919, but [the times] are not that much different. A hundred years from now, a historian looking at this time may say [it] blended.

You managed to reference a plethora of important, but not-oft-discussed, events in Chicago’s racial and workers rights history. The Race Riot of 1919, for one.

Carl Sandberg wrote a book about the race riots and the epigraph of our film comes from Sandberg. It was something I didn’t know much about and then came across it. I was surprised how many people died. The deeper meaning that we’ve committed to is that we are talking about the present as much as we are about the past.

Where did you film in Chicago?

Lawrence and Broadway, near the Aragon Ballroom. We shot everywhere and we had such great support. We got locations you normally would have to pay a lot to shoot in.

Such as?

In Indiana there’s a jailhouse that was the actual jail that John Dillinger escaped from. That movie Public Enemies was shot there and they completely renovated it and we shot in there for free. We shot in St. Michael’s Church, the oldest surviving church of the great Chicago fire. The old Naperville Settlement gave us access.

When you say minuscule budget, what does that mean?

It means nobody got paid. No one. And they’re not likely ever to get paid. It’s an experimental film. It is an art film. It is a labor of love. Roger Ebert put our previous film “Chicago Heights,” on his list of his best art films of 2010s . We used that as leverage to tell people we were making something that was worthy for their involvement. We didn’t provide gas money but we did provide food. We had a little bit of budget for costumes. A couple thousand. Melanie Parks did the most incredible job.

The orchestra didn’t get paid either? How did you do that?

They donated talent and time in recording this really beautiful music. I don’t know what’s gonna happen for the third movie but for the first two we just had the incredible good fortune to meet Minister Raymond Dunlap. At the time he was on the south side on 107th and Vincennes and he brought us into his church with his gospel choir and man, I would write lyrics for him. Kill me now. Kill me now. Re (pause) mem (pause) ber this. He takes those simple words and makes this magnificently moving gospel song that I relied on for a lot of different purposes.I also met up with Paul Bassoon, who is now at the College of William and Mary. These old soundtracks, films like ‘Citizen Kane,’ were scored by Bernard Herrmann. I wanted that anachronistic, antique sound like a film from the 40s. I wanted something like a theme from ‘2001 Space Odyssey’ or the Theme from Godfather. Really rich themes that stay with you when you leave the theater.

I couldn’t help but to notice that the only fully naked people in the film are the black people, and one is a child who appears to be an older toddler. Was this race-specific nakedness intended?

I wrote a lot of the screen play in Paris. I spent six weeks there. I”d write in the mornings and in the afternoons go to the museum. A lot of the motifs and elements and aspects of paintings from the Renaissance forward, are in the film. The riot scenes are moving friezes of people borrowed from Greek sculpture. The protagonist is a man who has to be naked. And the women he’s with. The most frank depictions of intimacy come from his relationships. And, I saw all kinds of cherubs in these paintings, and I thought “I’m gonna put cherubs in my movie,” And we put wings on that little boy [and a girl] and had naked. They were not happy with those wings. They were not willing to cooperate. It’s so beautiful. [In the film] it’s him dealing with the reality fo life but it was really him going ‘no I’m not going to put those wings on.’ You see those infants in the paintings. He represents innocence. It’s really a beautiful moment.

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs covers arts and culture for The Chicago Sun-Times. Email her at agibbs@suntimes.com. Tweet her @adriennewrites

Hanging with Zoe Saldana…

I know. I know. Some of you aren’t happy with Zoe telling me that she won’t be complaining about a lack of roles for Black women in Hollywood. And yes it’s true that other actresses, in other cover stories, have told me that there IS a problem.

Before you casttoo much more judgment, why not read the entire piece? Find it in September’s Ebony.

And to answer some of those Twitter questions: yes, she’s fun; yes, she’s tall; and yes, we really did talk about birth control. #newlywedchat

 

Viola, Taraji and me (Ebony cover, May…)

Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson graced the cover of Ebony in May 2009. I wrote the story, so I got to hang out at the photo shoot to get a feel for the ladies and their personalities. I’ll never forget how I met Viola. I arrived to the location early (a mansion in an ultra swanky part of a suburb of L.A.) and my cell wouldn’t work inside the house because of its 24 carot gold-plated walls. (Seriously.) I went out to the gates, past the guard house to the street to call my husband. (I’m a newlywed, remember?) And I see this beautiful black woman trudging up the street with suede boots, a purple sweater and a book. It’s Viola!

I go down to meet her. We walk in together. I show her the house, introduce her to the owner, bring her to the back room where her makeup artist is waiting to do her hair and apply makeup.

I love this photo!

We took this picture after a swanky lunch in Beverly Hills.
We took this picture after a swanky lunch in Beverly Hills.

The house belonged to a famous jeweler. His daughter was house sitting make sure we didn’t take any jewels or anything. Of course, the body guard were there to prevent anything – not that I would take a thing! The house had diamond chandeliers, a fireplace large enough for me to walk in and a backyard with a river running through it.

The owners loved fantasy novels like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and their backyard showed their whimsical fancy.
talkingtree

THe same guys who cooked for Diddy also cooked for Taraji and Viola. The food was extremely good. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for a loooong looooong shoot. Omelettes to order, salmon, designer tea, oatmeal, fruit salad and designer coffee for the am. Braised chicken, asparagus salad, kobe beef, apple pie, chocolate cookies, seafood salad (with real crab and lobster), and more designer coffee , water and pop.

We retired inside for fancy pictures in the red room.

In the red room at the photo shoot in the mansion.
In the red room at the photo shoot in the mansion.

Newlywed ruminations on love and finding the one

I’m soon to be wed for one year and in that one year I’ve learned that life shifts tremendously upon saying “I do.” I’ve also realized that I spent an awful lot of time talking to his friends and my friends about finding that special someone and why you get married in the first place.

Here’s the deal, we are in a new period of relationship history wherein traditional gender roles are being rewritten and people in my generation are having a difficult time navigating the changes. After all, our parents can’t help us. Our parents pretty much stuck to the man/woman division of help in the household. They don’t know what to do about kids who chose to not get married until they are 37 and then complain that they can’t have babies because they’re too old to have them.

Nowadays, a woman can become an MD and open her own practice before she finds enough time to date. She also wants a guy who is her social and economic better. (Old gender roles die hard, huh?) And the guys out there? They think they need to have three BMWs and a house before they settle down with a lady. But you know what’s wrong with all that waiting until “perfection?” You get old in the process and set in your ways. And while you’re waiting for perfection, all the imperfect people got married and became that ultimate Cosby couple within 10 years of being wed.

Consider this: Barack Obama was a misfit when he was a kid. He wasn’t cute. He wasn’t hot. He got older and tried to date the lady lawyer who was his mentor. He drove a car with a hole in the floor. And Ms. Michelle wasn’t the cute cheerleader or the  hot shot wannabe model type. They found each other before they were finished. And they allowed themselves to love each other throughout the changes of becoming finished and polished. Now they are the ultimate power couple and pretty attractive to boot.

I meet so many women who want a man who is already a hot shot attorney or a doctor. I say: what’s wrong with marrying him before he peaks?

Same for the guys out there. Why are you waiting to ask her for her hand in marriage? Just do it! It’s ok if you don’t have the downtown townhouse or the 5 carot ring. Don’t you know that married couples have far greater buying power (and far lower taxes) than singles? Married men live longer than single men. Married people earn more money than single people and therefore are closer to affording their dream house. And last, you are not as cute at 40 as you were at 30…

What are you waiting for?

By the way, my husband and I aren’t finished and I love it. He’s in school again. I just got a huge promotion. We’re both excited about the new direction our lives are taking together. We are awesome as individuals. But together, we are definitely a greater force to reckon with.

Hello world!

Writers write because of their adventures.

Here are a few of mine…

I am responsible for entertainment coverage. That means that, five months prior to you even hearing about the movie, I have to know what it is and when it is coming out. Why? So that I can get it covered (or not) in the pages of my employer’s magazine. So.. I heard about G.I. Joe in April. I talked with the film studio. I wanted to get it into the magazine. I assigned a Q&A with Adewale (Mr.Eko from Lost) to be written by a staffer. Said staffer wrote the piece and it got into the magazine. I recently saw G.I. Joe at the local AMC theater. It’s kind of wild to be watching a movie and realizing that you have interviewed most of the stars on the screen. (I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.) Even more interesting though, was thinking about how I contribute to the big, grinding machine of entertainment capitalism.

I write or assign the coverage. You read the coverage. Said coverage is supplemented by action figures or cartoons or tv commercials during your favorite show. And then boom, you buy the product. That’s how it works folks.

We need the money to keep our economy churning, right? Perhaps. I often wonder how these movies would do if not for the great spin machine that pushed them out to the masses. If you didn’t see a commercial or read a review.. If they didn’t set up press previews a half a year in advance… Would you even know what to watch or what to buy? I know people claim to get most of their content and news via the internet. But the media here plays a very important role in keeping capitalism spinning ’round. If not for the CNNs and Times and Heralds and MTVS of the world, what would you really know?