Review: ‘Moonage Daydream,’ starring David Bowie

September 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

David Bowie in “Moonage Daydream” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

“Moonage Daydream”

Directed by Brett Morgen

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the world (but particularly in London, New York City, Los Angeles and Berlin), the documentary film “Moonage Daydream” features a compilation of archival footage of entertainment superstar David Bowie (who died of cancer in 2016) and his various admirers and colleagues, who are mostly white, but include some black people, Latino and Asians.

Culture Clash: Bowie’s life as an artist is chronicled in this montage-styled film, including his unconventional stage personas and lifestyle; his insecurities about his work; and his personal struggles with finding true love. 

Culture Audience: “Moonage Daydream” will appeal primarily to Bowie fans and people interested in seeing a visually immersive documentary about an entertainment icon.

David Bowie in “Moonage Daydream” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Die-hard fans of David Bowie will not learn anything new from the all-archival documentary “Moonage Daydream.” The movie skips over some big parts of his life, but it’s a visually immersive experience that shows Bowie’s music and talent in an artsy way. “Moonage Daydream” is the first feature-length documentary authorized by the Bowie estate since he died of cancer in 2016. Bowie was 69 when he passed away.

Directed by Brett Morgen, “Moonage Daydream” includes voiceovers from some of Bowie’s media interviews that serve as intermittent narration. The documentary is a mix of media footage, live concert footage and music videos. Much of this footage is presented in Andy Warhol-influenced montages. “Moonage Daydream” had its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.

The “Moonage Daydream” documentary gets its title from the Bowie song of the same name that’s on Bowie’s 1972 album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Bowie (who was born David Robert Jones in London, on January 8, 1947) was famous for frequently changing his image and musical styles over the years. During his “Ziggy Stardust” period, he performed as an outer-space alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust, whose backup band was named the Spiders from Mars.

Becoming the Ziggy Stardust persona was a pivotal period of time in Bowie’s career. He went from merely being a hit artist to a superstar know for celebrating acceptance of all sexualities, at a time when it was still very taboo for entertainers to openly embrace or be any sexuality that wasn’t heterosexual. To legions of fans and other admirers, Bowie represented people who wanted to express themselves and their genders in whatever ways they wanted.

Bowie was a recording artist from the 1960s until his death in 2016, but what he created in the 1970s was considered his most influential and therefore gets the most screen time in the “Moonage Daydream” documentary. Out of all all the 1970s footage in “Moonage Daydream,” the documentary features the “Ziggy Stardust” area the most. The “Moonage Daydream” documentary has several clips from director D. A. Pennebaker’s 1979 documentary film “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” which chronicled a 1973 concert that Bowie and his band did in London.

Unfortunately, for people who are unfamiliar with Bowie, “Moonage Daydream” does not tell Bowie’s story in chronological order, nor does the movie identify years in which any of the footage was taken. For example, one section of the documentary goes into Bowie’s work in the early-to-mid-1980s, but then jumps back to talking about his work in the late 1970s when Bowie collaborated with Brian Eno in Berlin. This jumping around in the timeline is one of the documentary’s flaws. The only people who can truly appreciate the historical context of the footage shown in the documentary are people who know what years Bowie’s songs and albums were released, or people can discern what year the footage was taken, based on what Bowie is wearing and his hairstyle in the footage.

However, the documentary greatly benefits from having several Bowie songs, as any credible film about Bowie should. “Moonage Daydream” has many of Bowie’s biggest hits, including “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Diamond Dogs,” “Changes,” “Starman,” “The Jean Genie” “Life on Mars?,” “All the Young Dudes” (a Bowie-written song made famous by Mott the Hoople), “Heroes,” “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl” and “Modern Love.” Also included are some of Bowie’s lesser-known songs, such as “Moonage Daydream,” “Cracked Actor,” “Serious Moonlight,” “Outside” and “Earthling.” There’s also a brief snippet of Bowie performing the Beatles’ “Love Me Do” on stage in 1973 before launching into “The Jean Genie.”

“Moonage Daydream” dutifully includes mentions of Bowie’s acting career, including showing movie clips from 1976’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” 1983’s “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” and 1986’s “Labryinth.” There’s also some quick footage of Bowie’s Broadway acting debut, in his starring role as the title character in “The Elephant Man,” which he played from September 1980 to January 1981. David Bowie’s 1980s musical duets with Queen and Tina Turner fly by in quick snippets that don’t do these collaborations justice. Bowie’s work as the lead singer of experimental rock band Tin Machine (from 1988 to 1992) is not in the documentary at all, but the documentary includes some footage of Bowie as an illustrator artist.

What you won’t see in “Moonage Daydream” are any mentions of his first wife Angie Bowie (they were married from 1970 to 1980); his son Duncan Jones (formerly known as Zowie Bowie) from that marriage; and his daughter Alexandria “Lexi” Jones, from his marriage to second wife Iman. In fact, Iman (a supermodel/beauty entrepreneur who’s originally from Somalia) is the only woman mentioned in the documentary as someone Bowie fell in love with in his life. It’s obviously very selective information. Iman and Bowie were married from 1992 until his 2016 death.

Except for some brief audio and video interview clips, “Moonage Daydream” offers very little insight of Bowie talking about his personal life. He mentions his distant relationship with his mother; his schizophrenic older half-brother Terry Burns, who was the first person to influence Bowie’s interest in art and music; and his soul mate Iman, whom he says he fell in love with at first sight. There’s some archival footage of a divorced Bowie in the ’80s, where he talks about living a nomadic existence for years and confessing that falling in love is scary for him.

In the 1970s, Bowie was seriously addicted to cocaine, which was an addiction he candidly talked about years later in interviews. However, don’t expect “Moonage Daydream” to go into details about sex and drugs in Bowie’s life. Even without these explicit details, anyone can see in the early-to-mid-1970s archival footage there were plenty of signs that Bowie was a cocaine addict, including his sniffing and constantly touching his nose, his fidgety mannerisms in some of his interviews, and his unhealthy physical appearance.

In addition to footage of Bowie, “Moonage Daydream” also includes a lot of pop culture and news clips that somehow relate to whatever music is playing. For example, footage from the documentary “Apollo 11” is briefly shown in keeping with the “moon” theme. The closest to anything “new and orginal” that “Moonage Daydream” offers is some brief sci-fi footage bookended at the beginning and ending of the movie. This footage shows a woman with an animal’s tail while she’s on the moon and looking at a skeleton in an astronaut suit.

It seems that “Moonage Daydream” director Morgen went out of his way not to do a conventional documentary, since Bowie was not a conventional artist. But in doing so, the documentary loses some coherence. After a while, “Moonage Daydream” looks like a mishmash of montages resembling a very long music video. “Moonage Daydream” also has some editing that’s sometimes frustrating to watch. There are at least three different times it looks like this 140-minute movie has ended, and then it drags on some more.

People who are casual fans of Bowie will be intrigued by “Moonage Daydream” but might occasionally get bored. “Moonage Daydream” is worthwhile but not essential viewing for Bowie fans. For any Bowie fans who saw the outstanding “David Bowie Is” museum exhibition world tour that took place from 2013 to 2018, that museum exhibition remains the ultimate Bowie multimedia experience since Bowie’s unfortunate passing.

Neon will release “Moonage Daydream” in select U.S. cinemas on September 16, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on September 23, 2022. The movie is set for a sneak preview in select IMAX theaters on September 12, 2022.

2022 BET Hip-Hop Awards: Drake is the top nominee

September 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

Drake (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images via ABC)

The following is a press release from BET:

BET has announced the nominees for the 17th annual “BET HIP HOP AWARDS” 2022 honoring the past year in hip hop music across 17 categories, selected by a voting academy of esteemed music industry insiders. Hosted by Grammy®-nominated recording artist, actor, entrepreneur, and media personality Fat Joe the “BET HIP HOP AWARDS” 2022, will tape from the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, GA, on Friday, September 30 and will premiere Tuesday, October 4, 2022, at 9 PM ET/PT on BET.

Certified Lover Boy Drake leads this year’s nominations with an impressive 14 nods including Best Live Performer, Lyricist of the Year, Hip Hop Album of the Year, Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Hustler of the Year, twice for ‘Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse, three for Best Collaboration, twice for Best Hip Hop Video, and twice for Song of the Year. Kanye West follows with 10 nods including Best Live Performer, Hip Hop Album of the Year, Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Producer of the Year, Hustler of the Year, Best Hip Hop Video, Best Collaboration, Song of the Year, Impact Track, and Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse. Kendrick Lamar’s nine nods include Best Live Performer, Lyricist of the Year. Hip Hop Album of the Year, Hip Hop Artist of the Year, twice for Impact Track. Video Director of the Year, Best Hip Hop Video, and Best Collaboration. Future rounds out the top four with an impressive eight nods. Baby Keem, Cardi B, and J. Cole are tied, with each earning six nods.

Other notable nominations include Doja Cat, Latto, Lil Durk, Tems, and Young Thug, each of whom received three nominations. Benny The Butcher, City Girls, Fivio Foreign, Glorilla, Jay-Z, Megan Thee Stallion, Nas, and Usher received two nominations each.

See below for the complete list of “BET Hip Hop Awards” 2022 Official Nominees:

BEST HIP HOP VIDEO

  • D.M.B. – A$AP ROCKY
  • FAMILY TIES – BABY KEEM & KENDRICK LAMAR
  • GOOD LOVE – CITY GIRLS FEAT. USHER
  • HOT SHIT – CARDI B, KANYE WEST & LIL DURK
  • LONDON – BIA & J. COLE
  • WAIT FOR U – FUTURE FEAT. DRAKE & TEMS
  • WAY 2 SEXY – DRAKE FEAT. FUTURE & YOUNG THUG

BEST COLLABORATION

  • FAMILY TIES – BABY KEEM & KENDRICK LAMAR
  • GOOD LOVE – CITY GIRLS FEAT. USHER
  • HOT SHIT – CARDI B, KANYE WEST & LIL DURK
  • JIMMY COOKS – DRAKE FEAT. 21 SAVAGE
  • JOHNNY P’S CADDY – BENNY THE BUTCHER & J. COLE
  • WAIT FOR U – FUTURE FEAT. DRAKE & TEMS
  • WAY 2 SEXY – DRAKE FEAT. FUTURE & YOUNG THUG

BEST DUO OR GROUP

  • 42 DUGG & EST GEE
  • BIG SEAN & HIT-BOY
  • BIRDMAN & YOUNGBOY NEVER BROKE AGAIN
  • BLXST & BINO RIDEAUX
  • DABABY & YOUNGBOY NEVER BROKE AGAIN
  • EARTHGANG
  • STYLES P & HAVOC

BEST LIVE PERFORMER

  • CARDI B
  • DOJA CAT
  • DRAKE
  • J. COLE
  • KANYE WEST
  • KENDRICK LAMAR
  • TYLER, THE CREATOR

LYRICIST OF THE YEAR

  • BABY KEEM
  • BENNY THE BUTCHER
  • DRAKE
  • J. COLE
  • JACK HARLOW
  • JAY-Z
  • KENDRICK LAMAR

VIDEO DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

  • BENNY BOOM
  • BURNA BOY
  • COLE BENNETT
  • COLIN TILLEY
  • DIRECTOR X
  • KENDRICK LAMAR & DAVE FREE
  • TEYANA TAYLOR

SONG OF THE YEAR

  • BIG ENERGY LATTO
  • F.N.F. (LET’S GO) HITKIDD & GLORILLA
  • FIRST CLASS JACK HARLOW
  • HOT SHIT CARDI B, KANYE WEST & LIL DURK
  • SUPER GREMLIN KODAK BLACK
  • WAIT FOR U FUTURE FEAT. DRAKE & TEMS
  • WAY 2 SEXY DRAKE FEAT. FUTURE & YOUNG THUG

HIP HOP ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • 777 LATTO
  • CERTIFIED LOVER BOY DRAKE
  • DONDA KANYE WEST
  • I NEVER LIKED YOU FUTURE
  • IT’S ALMOST DRY PUSHA T
  • KING’S DISEASE II NAS
  • MR. MORALE & THE BIG STEPPERS KENDRICK LAMAR

HIP HOP ARTIST OF THE YEAR

  • CARDI B
  • DOJA CAT
  • DRAKE
  • FUTURE
  • KANYE WEST
  • KENDRICK LAMAR
  • MEGAN THEE STALLION

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR

  • ATL JACOB
  • BABY KEEM
  • HIT-BOY
  • HITMAKA
  • KANYE WEST
  • METRO BOOMIN
  • PHARRELL WILLIAMS

BEST BREAKTHROUGH HIP HOP ARTIST

  • BABY KEEM
  • BLXST
  • DOECHII
  • FIVIO FOREIGN
  • GLORILLA
  • NARDO WICK
  • SAUCY SANTANA

DJ OF THE YEAR

  • D-NICE
  • DJ CASSIDY
  • DJ DRAMA
  • DJ KAY SLAY
  • DJ PREMIER
  • KAYTRANADA
  • MUSTARD
  • NYLA SYMONE
  • LA LEAKERS: DJ SOURMILK AND JUSTIN INCREDIBLE

BEST HIP HOP PLATFORM

  • BIG BOY’S NEIGHBORHOOD
  • BREAKFAST CLUB
  • CARESHA PLEASE
  • COMPLEX
  • DRINK CHAMPS
  • HIPHOP DX
  • MILLION DOLLAZ WORTH OF GAME
  • NPR TINY DESK
  • VERZUZ

HUSTLER OF THE YEAR

  • 50 CENT
  • CARDI B
  • DJ KHALED
  • DRAKE
  • JAY-Z
  • KANYE WEST
  • MEGAN THEE STALLION
  • SWEET 16: BEST FEATURED VERSE
  • DRAKE – CHURCHILL DOWNS (JACK HARLOW FEAT. DRAKE)
  • J. COLE – POKE IT OUT (WALE FEAT. J. COLE)
  • J. COLE – LONDON (BIA & J. COLE)
  • LIL BABY – GIRLS WANT GIRLS (DRAKE FEAT. LIL BABY)
  • KANYE WEST – CITY OF GODS (FIVIO FOREIGN, KANYE WEST & ALICIA KEYS)
  • DRAKE – WAIT FOR U (FUTURE FEAT. DRAKE & TEMS)
  • JADAKISS – BLACK ILLUMANTI (FREDDIE GIBBS FEAT. JADAKISS)

IMPACT TRACK

  • ABOUT DAMN TIME – LIZZO
  • CITY OF GODS – FIVIO FOREIGN, KANYE WEST & ALICIA KEYS
  • FAMILY TIES – BABY KEEM & KENDRICK LAMAR
  • NOBODY – NAS FEAT. MS. LAURYN HILL
  • PXSSY – LATTO
  • THE HEART PART 5 – KENDRICK LAMAR
  • WOMAN – DOJA CAT
  • BEST INTERNATIONAL FLOW
  • BENJAMIN EPPS (FRANCE)
  • BLACK SHERIF (GHANA)
  • BLXCKIE (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • CENTRAL CEE (UK)
  • HAVIAH MIGHTY (CANADA)
  • KNUCKS (UK)
  • LE JUIICE (FRANCE)
  • NADIA NAKAI (ZIMBABWE)
  • TASHA & TRACIE (BRAZIL)

Voting for the “BET Hip Hop Awards” 2022 DJ of the Year and Best Hip Hop Platform is now open: https://www.bet.com/hip-hop-awards/info-page/bp11gc/vote-for-the-bet-hip-hop-awards-2022

Connie Orlando, EVP, Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy will oversee the annual show and Executive Produce for BET with Jamal Noisette, VP, Specials & Music Programming. Jesse Collins, CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment, to serve as Executive Producer of the “BET Hip Hop Awards” 2022 along with Jesse Collins Entertainment’s Jeannae Rouzan–Clay and Dionne Harmon.

For more information on Fat Joe, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Join the conversation on social media by logging on to multiple BET social media platforms:

On Twitter by using the hashtag #HipHopAwards; follow us @HipHopAwards and @BET

On Facebook by liking the fan page at facebook.com/HipHopAwards

Follow us @BET_PR

ABOUT BET

BET, a unit of Paramount (NASDAQ: PARAA; PARA; PARAP), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African American audience. The primary BET channel is in 125 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa and France. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions including BET+, the preeminent streaming service for the Black audience; BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African American Woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, a growing BET festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.

ABOUT “BET HIP HOP AWARDS”

“BET Hip Hop Awards” is an annual celebration that pays homage to a culture that changed the world while highlighting the best in hip hop music. Year after year, BET delivers the best in hip hop for an unforgettable night of performances, cyphers and tributes honoring hip-hop legends that have and continue to make hip hop culture a global force.

ABOUT JESSE COLLINS ENTERTAINMENT

Founded in 2012, Jesse Collins Entertainment (JCE) is a full-service television and film production company that has played an integral role in producing many of television’s most memorable moments in music entertainment. The Emmy® nominated company has a multi-year overall agreement with ViacomCBS Cable Networks. On the theatrical film side, the company also has a first look on JCE’s film development projects which could include Viacom’s film entities such as Paramount Players. JCE’s award-winning and critically acclaimed television includes programming from its three divisions. From the scripted division: scripted series—Real Husbands of Hollywood, American Soul and miniseries—The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story. From the unscripted division: unscripted series – Cardi Tries, My Killer Body with K. Michelle, DJ Cassidy’s Pass the Mic and Forward: The Future of Black Music, competition/game shows—Becoming A Popstar, Rhythm + Flow, Sunday Best, Hip Hop Squares and Nashville Squares, talk show – Face to Face with Becky G and children’s series—Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices (Emmy® Award winner). From the specials division: award shows—The American Music Awards, BET Awards, Soul Train Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards, Black Girls Rock!, BET Honors, UNCF’s An Evening of Stars and ABFF Honors, specials—upcoming Martin: The Reunion, John Lewis: Celebrating A Hero, Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration, Change Together: From The March On Washington To Today, A GRAMMY Salute to the Sounds of Change, Stand Up for Heroes, Dear Mama, Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin’, Def Comedy Jam 25, Leslie Jones: Time Machine, The All-Star Nickmas Spectacular and Rip the Runway. Jesse Collins, Founder and CEO of JCE, is the executive producer of all programming. He is also an executive producer for the Grammy Awards, The American Music Awards and The Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. He also produced the 2021 Oscars.

2022 MTV Video Music Awards: Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Jack Harlow are the top winners

August 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Jack Harlow were the top winners at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, which were presented on August 28, 2022, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj and Harlow hosted the show, which was televised live on Paramount Media Networks-owned channels such as MTV, MTV2, VH1, BET, BET Her, Logo, Pop, CMT, Comedy Central, The CW, Nickelodeon, Paramount and TV Land.

Swift’s “All Too Well: The Short Film” won the prizes for Video of the Year, Best Longform and Best Direction. Styles’ video for “As It Was” got the awards for Best Pop and Best Cinematography, while Styles’ “Harry’s House” was named Album of the Year. Harlow’s “First Class” won the award for Song of the Summer, while the Harlow/Lil Nas X duet “Industry Baby” video got the prizes for Best Collaboration, Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects.

Minaj received the Video Vanguard Award. Red Hot Chili Peppers received the Global Icon Award. Both of these prizes are in non-competitive categories where the recipients are announced weeks before the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony.

Performers included Anitta, Kane Brown, Bad Bunny (performing from Yankee Stadium in New York City), J Balvin, BLACKPINK, Eminem, Harlow (with a surprise appearance from Fergie), Latto, Lizzo, Måneskin, Marshmello with Khalid, Nicki Minaj, Panic! At the Disco, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snoop Dogg.

Presenters included LL Cool J, Minaj, Offset, DJ Khaled, Avril Lavigne, Latto, Lili Reinhart, Chlöe, Sofia Carson, Cheech & Chong, Bebe Rexha, Blackpink, Ashley Graham, Dixie D’Amelio, Becky G, Dove Cameron, Joel Madden and Billy Eichner. Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance (sort of), with his face digitally imposed on someone who was dressed as the MTV “moon man” and lifted from a wire high up from the stage. Depp joked that he was available to work at parties.

Cameron, Saucy Santana and Yung Gravy performed during the 2022 VMAs Pre-Show, hosted by Nessa and Kevan Kenney, with Tate McRae as a celebrity correspondent. Murda Beatz was the Kraft Singles House DJ for this pre-show.

The following is a complete list of nominees and winners for the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards:

*=winner

VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Doja Cat – “Woman” – Kemosabe Records / RCA Records
Drake ft. Future & Young Thug – “Way 2 Sexy” – OVO/Republic
Ed Sheeran – “Shivers” – Atlantic Records
Harry Styles – “As It Was“ – Columbia Records
Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Columbia Records
Olivia Rodrigo – “brutal” – Geffen Records
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) – Republic Records*

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Bad Bunny – Rimas Entertainment*
Drake – OVO/Republic
Ed Sheeran – Atlantic Records
Harry Styles – Columbia Records
Jack Harlow – Generation Now / Atlantic Records
Lil Nas X – Columbia Records
Lizzo – Atlantic Records

SONG OF THE YEAR
Adele – “Easy On Me” – Columbia Records
Billie Eilish – “Happier Than Ever” – Darkroom / Interscope Records*
Doja Cat – “Woman” – Kemosabe Records / RCA Records
Elton John & Dua Lipa – “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” – EMI / Interscope Records
Lizzo – “About Damn Time” – Atlantic Records
The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber – “STAY” – Columbia Records

BEST NEW ARTIST
Baby Keem – Columbia Records
Dove Cameron – Disruptor Records / Columbia Records*
GAYLE – Atlantic Records / Arthouse Records
Latto – Streamcut / RCA Records
Måneskin – Arista Records
SEVENTEEN – PLEDIS Entertainment/Geffen Records

GROUP OF THE YEAR
BLACKPINK
BTS*
City Girls
Foo Fighters
Imagine Dragons
Måneskin
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Silk Sonic

SONG OF THE SUMMER
Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone – “Me Porto Bonito”
Beyoncé – “BREAK MY SOUL”
Charlie Puth – “Left And Right (feat. Jung Kook of BTS)”
Doja Cat – “Vegas (From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ELVIS)”
Future featuring Drake, Tems – “WAIT FOR U”
Harry Styles – “Late Night Talking”
Jack Harlow – “First Class”*
Kane Brown – “Grand”
Latto x Mariah Carey – “Big Energy (Remix) featuring DJ Khaled”
Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
Marshmello x Khalid – “Numb”
Nicki Minaj – “Super Freaky Girl”
Nicky Youre, dazy – “Sunroof”
Post Malone with Doja Cat – “I Like You (A Happier Song)”
ROSALÍA – “BIZCOCHITO”
Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Adele – 30
Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Drake – Certified Lover Boy
Harry Styles – Harry’s House*

PUSH PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
September 2021: Griff – “One Night” – Warner Records
October 2021: Remi Wolf – “Sexy Villain” – Island Records
November 2021: Nessa Barrett – “i hope ur miserable until ur dead” – Warner Records
December 2021: SEVENTEEN – “Rock With You” – PLEDIS Entertainment / Geffen Records*
January 2021: Mae Muller – “Better Days” – Capitol Records UK
February 2022: GAYLE – “abcdefu” – Atlantic Records / Arthouse Records
March 2022: Sheneesa – “R U That” – Rich Immigrants / Interscope Records
April 2022: Omar Apollo – “Tamagotchi” – Warner Records
May 2022: Wet Leg – “Chaise Longue” – Domino Recording Company
June 2022: Muni Long – “Baby Boo” – Supergiant Records LLC / Def Jam Recording
July 2022: Doechii – “Persuasive” – Top Dog Entertainment / Capitol Records

BEST COLLABORATION
Drake feature Future & Young Thug – “Way 2 Sexy” – OVO/Republic
Elton John & Dua Lipa – “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” – EMI / Interscope Records
Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Columbia Records*
Megan Thee Stallion & Dua Lipa – “Sweetest Pie” – 300 Entertainment
Post Malone & The Weeknd – “One Right Now” – Mercury Records / Republic Records
ROSALÍA feature The Weeknd – “LA FAMA” – Columbia Records
The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber – “STAY” – Columbia Records

BEST POP
Billie Eilish – “Happier Than Ever” – Darkroom / Interscope Records
Doja Cat – “Woman” – Kemosabe Records / RCA Records
Ed Sheeran – “Shivers” – Atlantic Records
Harry Styles – “As It Was” – Columbia Records*
Lizzo – “About Damn Time” – Atlantic Records
Olivia Rodrigo – “traitor” – Geffen Records

BEST HIP-HOP
Eminem & Snoop Dogg – “From The D 2 The LBC” – Shady / Aftermath / Interscope Records
Future featuring Drake, Tems – “WAIT FOR U” – Freebandz / Epic Records
Kendrick Lamar – “N95” – pgLang / Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope Records
Latto – “Big Energy” – Streamcut / RCA Records
Nicki Minaj featuring Lil Baby – “Do We Have A Problem?” – Young Money / Cash Money / Republic Records*
Pusha T – “Diet Coke” – G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam

BEST ROCK
Foo Fighters – “Love Dies Young” – RCA Records
Jack White – “Taking Me Back” – Third Man Records
Muse – “Won’t Stand Down” – Warner Records
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Black Summer” – Warner Records*
Shinedown – “Planet Zero” – Elektra Music Group
Three Days Grace – “So Called Life” – RCA Records

BEST ALTERNATIVE
Avril Lavigne featuring blackbear – “Love It When You Hate Me” – Elektra Music Group / DTA Records
Imagine Dragons x JID – “Enemy” – KIDinaKORNER / Interscope Records
Machine Gun Kelly featuring WILLOW – “emo girl” – Bad Boy / Interscope Records
Måneskin – “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” – Arista Records*
Panic! At The Disco – “Viva Las Vengeance” – Fueled By Ramen / Elektra Music Group
Twenty One Pilots  – “Saturday” – Fueled By Ramen / Elektra Music Group
WILLOW, Avril Lavigne ft. Travis Barker – “G R O W” – MSFTSMusic / Roc Nation Records

BEST LATIN
Anitta – “Envolver” – Warner Records*
Bad Bunny – “Tití Me Preguntó” – Rimas Entertainment
Becky G X KAROL G – “MAMIII” – Kemosabe Records / Sony Music Latin / RCA Records
Daddy Yankee – “REMIX” – Republic Records
Farruko – “Pepas” – Sony Music US Latin
J Balvin & Skrillex – “In Da Getto” – Sueños Globales, LLC /Universal Music Latino / Asylum Records UK

BEST R&B
Alicia Keys – “City of Gods (Part II)” – AKW
Chlöe – “Have Mercy” – Parkwood Entertainment / Columbia Records
H.E.R. – “For Anyone” – RCA Records
Normani featuring Cardi B – “Wild Side” – Keep Cool/RCA Records
Summer Walker, SZA & Cardi B – “No Love (Extended Version)” – LVRN / Interscope Records
The Weeknd – “Out Of Time” – XO / Republic Records*

BEST K-POP
BTS – “Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment)” – BIGHIT Music / Geffen Records
ITZY – “LOCO” – JYP Entertainment
LISA – “LALISA” – YG Entertainment / Interscope Records*
SEVENTEEN – “HOT” – PLEDIS Entertainment/Geffen Records
Stray Kids – “MANIAC” – JYP Entertainment
TWICE – “The Feels” – JYP Entertainment

VIDEO FOR GOOD
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5” – pgLang / Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope Records
Latto – “P*ssy” – Streamcut / RCA Records
Lizzo – “About Damn Time” – Atlantic Records*
Rina Sawayama – “This Hell” – Dirty Hit
Stromae – ”Fils de joie” – Mosaert Label / The Darkroom / Interscope Records

BEST METAVERSE PERFORMANCE
BLACKPINK The Virtual | PUBG – YG Entertainment / Interscope Records*
BTS | Minecraft – BIGHIT Music / Geffen Records
Charli XCX | Roblox – Atlantic Records
Justin Bieber – An Interactive Virtual Experience | Wave – Def Jam
Rift Tour featuring Ariana Grande | Fortnite – Republic Records
Twenty One Pilots Concert Experience | Roblox – Fueled By Ramen / Elektra Music Group

BEST LONGFORM VIDEO
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles – Darkroom / Interscope Records
Foo Fighters – Studio 666 – RCA Records
Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed – Interscope Records / MCA Nashville
Madonna – Madame X – Interscope Records
Olivia Rodrigo – driving home 2 u – Geffen Records
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) – Republic Records*

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – “family ties” – Columbia Records
Camila Cabello featuring Ed Sheeran – “Bam Bam” – Epic Records
Harry Styles – “As It Was” – Columbia Records*
Kendrick Lamar – “N95” – pgLang / Top Dawg Entertainment / Aftermath / Interscope Records
Normani featuring Cardi B – “Wild Side” – Keep Cool / RCA Records
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) – Republic Records

BEST DIRECTION
Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – “family ties” – Columbia Records
Billie Eilish – “Happier Than Ever” – Darkroom / Interscope Records
Ed Sheeran – “Shivers” – Atlantic Records
Harry Styles – “As It Was” – Columbia Records
Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Columbia Records
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) – Republic Records*

BEST ART DIRECTION
Adele – “Oh My God” – Columbia Records
Doja Cat – “Get Into It (Yuh)” – Kemosabe Records / RCA Records
Drake featuring Future & Young Thug – “Way 2 Sexy” – OVO / Republic Records
Kacey Musgraves – “simple times” – Interscope Records / MCA Nashville
Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Columbia Records*
Megan Thee Stallion ft. Dua Lipa – “Sweetest Pie” – 300 Entertainment

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Billie Eilish – “Happier Than Ever” – Darkroom / Interscope Records
Coldplay X BTS – “My Universe” – Atlantic Records
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5” – pgLang/Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath/Interscope Records
Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Columbia Records*
Megan Thee Stallion & Dua Lipa – “Sweetest Pie” – 300 Entertainment
The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber – “STAY” – Columbia Records

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
BTS – “Permission to Dance” – BIGHIT Music/Geffen Records
Doja Cat – “Woman” – Kemosabe Records / RCA Records*
FKA twigs featuring The Weeknd – “Tears In The Club” – Atlantic Records
Harry Styles – “As It Was” – Columbia Records
Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Columbia Records
Normani featuring Cardi B – “Wild Side” – Keep Cool / RCA Records

BEST EDITING
Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – “family ties” – Columbia Records
Doja Cat – “Get Into It (Yuh)” – Kemosabe Records / RCA Records
Olivia Rodrigo – “brutal” – Geffen Records
ROSALÍA – “SAOKO” – Columbia Records*
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) – Republic Records
The Weeknd – “Take My Breath” – XO / Republic Records

2022 MTV Video Music Awards: Doja Cat, Harry Styles, Jack Harlow are the top nominees

August 22, 2022

The following is a press release from MTV:

2022 “VMAs” announce Pre-Show Performers and Social Categories

Doja Cat, Harry Styles and Jack Harlow now tied for most noms (8)

· Dove Cameron, MTV PUSH artist Saucy Santana and Yung Gravy are set to perform during the 2022 “VMAs” Pre-Show airing LIVE on Sunday, August 28, 2022 at 6:30PM ET/PT. Hosted by Nessa and Kevan Kenney, the 90-minute event will feature coverage from multi-platinum selling artist Tate McRae, who joins as a special celebrity correspondent. Murda Beatz will be the Kraft Singles House DJ.

· Fans can also watch the 2022 “VMAs” Pre-Show on Twitter @MTV starting at 6:15PM ET, featuring additional digital exclusive breaks – including retrospective red carpet fashion, jaw-dropping celebrity stage moments from “VMAs” past, and celebratory reviews of today’s biggest performers and nominees.

· Dove Cameron
· The rising superstar is nominated for her first Moon Person in the “Best New Artist” category, Presented by EXTRA(R) Gum. The singer and actress will make her “VMAs” Pre-Show debut with a sure to be showstopping performance.

· Saucy Santana
· The current MTV Global PUSH Artist for the month of August and hitmaking rapper will take over the “VMAs” Pre-Show stage for a performance of his smash single “Booty.”

· Yung Gravy
· The MC known for his RIAA certified platinum-hits “Mr. Clean” and “1 Thot 2 Thot Red Thot Blue Thot” as well as his new chart-topping single “Betty (Get Money)” joins the star-studded lineup of Pre-Show performers.

· Social Categories:

· GROUP OF THE YEAR: Beginning Monday, August 22, 2022 at 11AM ET, fans can vote for “Group Of The Year” in bracket-style voting on @MTV’s Instagram Story through Thursday, August 25, 2022. The (8) nominees are:

· BLACKPINK
· BTS
· City Girls
· Foo Fighters
· Imagine Dragons
· Måneskin
· Red Hot Chili Peppers
· Silk Sonic

· SONG OF THE SUMMER: Beginning Thursday, August 25, 2022, at 11AM ET, fans can vote for “Song Of The Summer” via tap to vote on @MTV’s Instagram Story through Saturday, August 27th. The (16) nominees are:

· Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone – “Me Porto Bonito”
· Beyoncé – “BREAK MY SOUL”
· Charlie Puth – “Left And Right (featuring Jung Kook of BTS)”
· Doja Cat – “Vegas (From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ELVIS)”
· Future featuring Drake, Tems – “WAIT FOR U”
· Harry Styles – “Late Night Talking”
· Jack Harlow – “First Class”
· Kane Brown – “Grand”
· Latto x Mariah Carey – “Big Energy (Remix) featuring DJ Khaled”
· Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
· Marshmello x Khalid – “Numb”
· Nicki Minaj – “Super Freaky Girl”
· Nicky Youre, dazy – “Sunroof”
· Post Malone with Doja Cat – “I Like You (A Happier Song)”
· ROSALÍA – “BIZCOCHITO”
· Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”

· ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Beginning Saturday, August 27, 2022 at 11AM ET, fans can vote for “Album Of The Year” via tap to vote @MTV’s Instagram Story through show. The (5) nominees are:

· Adele – 30
· Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti
· Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
· Drake – Certified Lover Boy
· Harry Styles – Harry’s House

Previously announced “VMAs” news includes:

· VMAs EMCEES: LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj and Jack Harlow are set to anchor the 2022 “VMAs,” introducing the night’s biggest moments and star-studded lineup of performers, presenters and winners. (more info)

· PERFORMERS: Anitta, BLACKPINK, J Balvin, Jack Harlow, Kane Brown, Lizzo, Måneskin, Marshmello x Khalid, Nicki Minaj, Panic! At The Disco and Red Hot Chili Peppers are among the can’t-miss performers set to take the iconic MTV stage. Additional names to be announced soon (more info).

· GLOBAL ICON AWARD: Red Hot Chili Peppers will receive the prestigious Global Icon Award and perform live at the 2022 “VMAs” (more info).

· VIDEO VANGUARD AWARD: Global superstar Nicki Minaj will receive MTV’s coveted honor and perform live on the show (more info).

· NOMINATIONS: Doja Cat, Jack Harlow and Harry Styles now lead with the most nominations (8), followed by Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Nas X (7), Billie Eilish (6); BTS, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Future, Lizzo, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd (5) closely follow. Full list here.

· VOTING: Fans can vote for their favorites across 22 gender-neutral categories by visiting vote.mtv.com through today, Friday, August 19, 2022 thanks to Burger King(R). Voting for “Best New Artist,” presented by EXTRA(R) Gum, remains active into show.

· THE VMAs EXPERIENCE ON ROBLOX: As a companion to the first-ever “Best Metaverse Performance” category, fans launch into a custom Moon Person immersive experience, complete with a virtual red carpet, music and dance themed activities, exclusive in-game experience rewards, and can vote through today for their favorite “Best Metaverse” performance (more info).

· SPONSORS: Official sponsors of the 2022 “VMAs” include Burger King(R), Clearblue(R), DESCOVY(R), Doritos(R), EXTRA(R) Gum, Instacart, Kraft Singles, Pepsi(R), Swiffer and Toyota Motor North America.

· CREDITS: Bruce Gillmer and Den of Thieves co-founder Jesse Ignjatovic are Executive Producers; Barb Bialkowski is Co-Executive Producer. Alicia Portugal and Jackie Barba serve as Executives in Charge of Production. Wendy Plaut is Executive in Charge of Celebrity Talent. Lisa Lauricella is Music Talent Executive.

September 25, 2022 UPDATE:

· Global rap icons Eminem and Snoop Dogg will transform the “VMAs” stage for a first of its kind performance of “From the D 2 The LBC” inspired by the world of the Otherside metaverse. We partnered with Yuga Labs to bring this creative to life. The 2022 “VMAs” air LIVE from Prudential Center on Sunday, August 28 at 8PM ET/PT!
· Eminem and Snoop Dogg are up for “Best Hip Hop” with “From The D 2 The LBC,” the first collaboration between the hip hop megastars in over 20 years.
· Eminem will perform for the first time in 12 years, last performing “Not Afraid” and “Love the Way You Lie” in 2010. The 60x nominated superstar is the second most nominated artist in “VMAs” history, trailing only Madonna with 69. He has won 13x, making him one of the top 5 artists with the most wins. He recently released his second greatest hits album, “Curtain Call 2”.
· Snoop Dogg will perform for the first time on the “VMAs” stage in 17 years, last performing with Diddy and the Notorious B.I.G. in 2005. The 13x nominee has won 3x including his first year nominated for “Best Rap Video” (1994) with “Doggy Dogg World.”

About Paramount Media Networks & MTV Entertainment Studios:

Paramount Media Networks & MTV Entertainment Studios is one of the preeminent media entities in the world that connects with global audiences through its nine iconic brands – MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, CMT, Pop, Logo, Smithsonian, Paramount Network and TV Land – as well as MTV Entertainment Studios which produces acclaimed series and movies and the award-winning, Oscar-nominated MTV Documentary Films.

About Prudential Center:

Prudential Center is the world-class sports and entertainment venue located in downtown Newark, New Jersey. Opened in October 2007, the state-of-the-art arena is the home of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) three-time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils, Seton Hall University’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball program, and more than 175 concerts, family shows and special events each year. Ranked in the Top 8 nationally by Pollstar, Billboard and Venues Today, Prudential Center is recognized as one of the premier venues in the United States, and hosts over 2 million guests annually. For more information about Prudential Center, visit PruCenter.com and follow the arena on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PruCenter. Prudential Center is a Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment property.

Review: ‘Music Pictures: New Orleans,’ starring Irma Thomas, Benny Jones Sr., Little Freddie King and Ellis Marsalis Jr.

June 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Little Freddie King in “Music Pictures: New Orleans”

“Music Pictures: New Orleans”

Directed by Ben Chace

Culture Representation: The documentary “Music Pictures: New Orleans” (which was filmed in 2020 and 2021) features a racially diverse (African Americans and white people) group of music artists and people in the New Orleans music scene talking about Irma Thomas, Benny Jones Sr., Little Freddie King and Ellis Marsalis Jr., who all participated in the documentary.

Culture Clash: Thomas, Jones, King and Marsalis were all in their 70s and 80s when this documentary was filmed, and they talk about the challenges they’ve faced in their personal and professional lives.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to fans of these artists, “Music Pictures: New Orleans” will appeal mostly to people who are fans of New Orleans music and documentaries that celebrate music artists who were influential to countless numbers of people.

“Music Pictures: New Orleans” is not a definitive or impactful documentary about the New Orleans music scene. However, it’s a pleasantly entertaining, early 2020s snapshot of four influential artists in blues and jazz. These four artists are Irma Thomas, Benny Jones Sr., Little Freddie King and Ellis Marsalis Jr., who all participated in the documentary, which was filmed from January 2020 to April 2021. Marsalis died from COVID-19-related pneumonia on April 1, 2020. He was 85.

Directed by Ben Chace, “Music Picture: New Orleans” (which clocks in at a brisk 72 minutes for its total running time) has a straightforward format of giving each artist profile a separate chapter. “Part 1: The Soul Queen” spotlights blues singer Thomas. “Part 2: The Heartbeat of the Band” focuses on jazz musician Jones, the leader and snare drummer of the Treme Brass Band. “Part 3: Last King of the Blues” centers on blues singer/guitarist King. “Part 4: Modern Men” showcases jazz icon Marsalis. All of these artists have been vital to the New Orleans music scene and influential in their own ways to many people around the world.

“Music Pictures: New Orleans” (which had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City) has some archival photos and archival footage of these artists, but the vast majority of the screen time consists of just documenting these four artists’ lives as music performers during the time that the documentary was filmed. Expect to see footage of them in recording studios or on stage, but don’t expect a lot of insight into their personal lives that hasn’t already been covered elsewhere. The movie is an easy watch, but it’s not particularly revealing.

Thomas (born in 1941) is shown recording songs for an album that has not yet been released, as of this writing. This album will be her first album of new recordings since 2008’s “Simply Grand.” Her “Full Time Woman – The Lost Cotillion Album” (released in 2014) was an album that she originally recorded in the early 1970s.

One of the songs she sings in the recording studio is “Don’t Go to Strangers,” which was the title track to Etta James’ 1960 album. Conga player Alfred “Uganda” Roberts and pianist Kyle Roussel are two of the musicians in the recording studio with her. Thomas is confident and relaxed in the studio, but she does say out loud that she’s very aware that this will be the first album she’s making in several years.

Thomas talks a little but about how she got started in the music business. When she was a teenage waitress, she got fired for singing on the job. Her boss was also a racist because he told her that he didn’t like her singing music from black people, and he used the “n” word racial slur. Thomas went from being fired from that waitress job to becoming a professional singer. Her first single, “Don’t Mess With My Man,” released in 1959, was a hit on the R&B charts.

She opens up about a few low points in her career, including being ripped off by a manager, whom she parted ways with in the 1970s. Her next manager was Emile Jackson, who also became her third husband. The couple got married in 1976. She jokes about her partnership with Jackson: “I found it cheaper to keep him. And I don’t want to train another one.”

Jackson is briefly interviewed in the documentary. He remembers the first time he met Thomas: “I didn’t know who she was.” At the time, Thomas had split from her unscrupulous manager and wasn’t actively looking for another manager. However, she says in the documentary that she told Jackson: “You can be my manager. And what you don’t know, we can learn together. And that’s the way it’s been ever since.”

The documentary’s segment on Jones (who was born in 1943) is perhaps the least interesting of the four, mainly because he doesn’t give much insight into himself and his career. Jones’ part of the documentary mainly shows him performing with his band. While playing music in a small nightclub, Jones says generic things, such as: “When I see people dancing, and I see a smile on their face, that makes my work much easier.”

King (born in 1940) has the liveliest personality out of the four artists. He’s quite the raconteur, as he tells stories about his life. He talks about how he was shot by his wife Amy (before they were married) with a .357 Magnum that he kept hidden in his garden. Despite this shooting incident, he married her anyway.

King’s segment also shows him performing at a nightclub and in the recording studio. Songs he performs include “Bad News,” “Mean Little Woman” and “Pocketful of Money.” Some of King’s associates are also interviewed, such as drummer/manager “Wacko” Wade Wright and harmonica player Bobby Lewis. Not surprisingly, they praise King for his talented musicianship and his resilience during tough times.

Although he is originally from Mississippi, King considers New Orleans to be his true home. As far as King is concerned, he thinks the most authentic blues artists are those who’ve experienced real struggles. King comments in the documentary: “The young don’t know what the blues is, because they didn’t live the blues, and they didn’t go through hard tribulations and hard times.”

This comment is a little dismissive of the fact that people of any age can go through hardships. Maybe he meant that young people in America didn’t have to grow up in an era when racial segregation was legal and enforced. It’s why this documentary probably needed an interviewer asking more probing questions. Some of of King’s commentary tends to ramble, so the documentary needed better editing for this segment.

Knowing that he has passed away, viewers will probably be the most moved by the documentary’s segment on Ellis Marsalis Jr., who is shown recording music with his son Jason Marsalis. (Ellis is on piano, while Jason is on xylophone.) Some of these recording sessions ended up on Ellis’ final studio album, “Discipline Meets the Family,” which was released in 2021. Jason’s daughter Marley (who was 15 at the time), who played piano on the album, is also in the documentary during these studio sessions. She is not interviewed and doesn’t say much.

The documentary also has footage of Ellis as a guest performer during a show that Jason headlined at the Snug Harbor nightclub in New Orleans. In a voiceover, Jason says of the footage in the documentary, “What I didn’t know at the time was that was going to be his last session and one of the last times we would play together.” Jason adds that he’s grateful these moments were recorded and that he collaborated with his father for Ellis’ last album.

The Marsalis family is the most famous jazz family from New Orleans. Ellis’ musician children (who are all sons) are Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason, Ellis III and Mboya Kenyatta. In the documentary, Ellis Jr. makes this admission, which might surprise some people: “I never wanted a family band.” It’s one of the reasons why Ellis Jr. would perform with most of his sons on special occasions, such as Jazz Fest, but not do albums and tours with the entire family.

If Ellis Jr. did collaborate with any of his sons in the recording studio, it was with one or a few of the sons at a time. Ellis Jr. comments on Wynton, the most famous Marsalis family member: “For me, to be in Wynton’s band is to date it, because what I learned is much earlier, and Wynton is still in a state of evolution.” Ellis Jr. offers this observation of Jason: “From [his] very, very young years, there were very few things that he heard that he didn’t have an appreciation for.”

Watching three generations of the Marsalis family in the recording studio is an undoubtable highlight of “Music Pictures: New Orleans.” And the movie certainly does touch on some of the struggles that these musicians faced in their lives. What’s missing from this very male-dominated documentary is any acknowledgement or exploration of how sexism affected who got the most and the best opportunities in the music industry when these artists were in their heyday. The fact that Thomas is the only woman interviewed in the documentary is a clear example of how women are often overlooked and sidelined as important parts of the music industry.

As for how the New Orleans music scene has changed over the years, the documentary includes some commentary about it, but none of it is particuarly new or revealing. The artists who comment on changes in New Orleans mainly mention Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area in 2005. Thomas says Hurricane Katrina “changed everybody.”

Jones also comments on the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans real estate market: “After Katrina, people with money were buying property” and charging rent that was “sky-high.” And so, many of the people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina who “want to come back can’t afford it, probably.”

According to Jones, the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans is still recovering from an exodus of artistic people who relocated because of Hurricane Katrina. He comments, “The music is back, but delivered in a different way, in a different neighborhood.”

“Music Pictures: New Orleans” keeps the focus solidly on these artists, but the documentary could have used some perspectives from other people besides a few of the artists’ family members or employee associates. “Music Pictures: New Orleans” will delight fans of these artists, but casual music fans might not think this movie is essential viewing. As far as documentaries about New Orleans music artists go, “Music Picture: New Orleans” is like a select buffet that’s satisfactory, but it’s not a full-course feast that people will be raving about for days.

2022 BET Awards: Silk Sonic, Jazmine Sullivan, Kirk Franklin, Tems are the top winners

January 26, 2022

D’Mile and Bruno Mars at 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on June 26, 2022. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)

The following is a press release from BET:

BET honored Black excellence in music, television, film, and sports across more than 20 categories at the “BET Awards” 2022. Hosted by Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe®-winning actor, writer, director, producer, and philanthropist Taraji P. Henson, the iconic show aired live at 8 pm ET/ PT on BET live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on June 26, 2022. Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak), Jazmine Sullivan, Kirk Franklin and Tems take top honors. An array of artists delivered unforgettable and sensational surprise performances, including Latto with Mariah Carey, Jack Harlow with Brandy, and  Lil Wayne. Many artists also spoke out about the repeal of Roe v Wade and gun control. The night also included a star-studded tribute to Sean “Diddy” Combs who was honored with the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, making  the show once again the #1 trending topic on Twitter. 

The “BET Awards” 2022 celebrated the very best in entertainment and culture with performances and appearances by an inspiring lineup of artists, entertainers and cultural icons. The “BET Awards,” which has become synonymous with powerful Black artistry and social commentary, continued to spotlight and celebrate the artists and creators of tomorrow, making the ceremony one of the most news-provoking and talked-about broadcasts year after year.

The “BET AWARDS” 2022 Show Highlights Include:

  • Lizzo opened the show with a stunning high-energy performance of “About Damn Time” from her forthcoming album Special. 
  • Best New Artist winner Latto delivered show-stopping performances of “It’s Givin” and “Big Energy Remix,” with a dazzling appearance by Mariah Carey singing “Sweet Fantasy.” 
  • Jack Harlow, DJ Drama and Lil Wayne hit the stage to perform their hit “Poison”– and later shocked the crowd with a surprise appearance by Brandy to perform her “First Class” freestyle.
  • Kirk Franklin and Maverick City Music took the stage for an uplifting gospel performance of “Kingdom” and “Melodies From Heaven.” Later in the evening, Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin won this year’s Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award. During his acceptance speech, Kirk Franklin graced the award and passed the baton to collaborator Maverick City Music as the “next generation of gospel music.”
  • Billy Porter brought ballroom dance culture to the main stage with a spirited dance performance featuring Dominique Jackson, Shaun Ross, Chacha Balenciaga, Shannon Balenciaga and more. 
  • Chance the Rapper shared the stage with Joey Bada$$ for their debut performance of “The Highs & The Lows.” 
  • Muni Long serenaded the crowd with soulful performances of “Time Machine” and “Hrs & Hrs.”
  • Doechii delivered a “wig-snatching” performance of her hits “Persuasive” and “Crazy.” 
  • Fireboy DML graced the “BET Awards” stage with the very first live Afrobeats performance of “Peru.” 
  • Ella Mai was joined by Babyface and Roddy Ricch for unforgettable performances of “DMFU,” “Keeps on Fallin,’” and “How.”
  • Luke Lawal Jr. was honored with the ‘Shine a Light Award’ sponsored by Walmart for his selfless efforts to give back to his community through his many ventures, including HBCU Buzz.
  • Diddy was honored with this year’s Lifetime Achievement BET Award, in recognition of his prolific career over the past three decades, in which he remained one of the most successful entrepreneurs and cultural icons of all time. Following a nostalgia-filled tribute from Jodeci, performing “Come & Talk to Me,” and Mary J. Blige, performing “I’m Going Down” he performed a medley of Bad Boy Records hits with an all-star line-up including Shyne, Lil Kim, Bryson Tiller, Faith Evans and Maverick City Music. After being introduced by Babyface and Kanye West, Diddy received a standing ovation as he accepted the well-deserved award. In his speech, Diddy announced he will be donating $1 million to Howard University, and an additional $1 million to Deion Sanders and Jackson State University.
  • Marsai Martin was awarded the Youngstar Award, given to those who have made an impact in the world of television, film, music, or sports. This was Martin’s third win in the category. 
  • Chlöe delivered a sultry performance of her hits, including “Surprise,” “Have Mercy” and Treat Me.” 
  • GIVĒON closed out the performances for the night with a crooning of “Heartbreak Anniversary,” “For Tonight” and “Lie Again.” 
  • During the award show’s ‘In Memoriam,’ host Taraji P. Henson and the “BET Awards” took a moment to honor the countless lives lost due to senseless gun violence. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade was an important topic of conversation throughout the night, with voices like Taraji, Latto and the cast of Tyler Perry’s Sistas encouraging the audience to fight for their freedoms and to get out and vote.

Connie Orlando, BET’s Executive Vice President, Specials, Music Programming, Music Strategy, and News oversaw the annual show, along with Jamal Noisette, VP, Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy, who will serve as Co-Executive Producer for BET. Jesse Collins Entertainment is the production company for the show with Jesse Collins, Dionne Harmon, and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay serving as Executive Producers.

The “BET Awards” 2022 was simulcast live on BET, BET Her, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV, MTV2, Pop, TV Land, and VH1. Internationally, the show simulcast on BET Africa, BET France and will be available to watch on My5 and Sky On-Demand in the UK, as well as BET Pluto in the UK and Brazil. 

Relive the “BET AWARDS” 2022 digital red carpet via the live stream powered by Bulldog DM, available now at https://twitter.com/betawards.

For more information on the “BET Awards” 2022, please visit BET.com/bet-awards.

The complete list of nominees and winners for the “BET AWARDS” 2022 are:

*=winner

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist     

  • ARI LENNOX
  • CHLÖE
  • DOJA CAT
  • H.E.R.
  • JAZMINE SULLIVAN*
  • MARY J. BLIGE
  • SUMMER WALKER

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist

  • BLXST
  • CHRIS BROWN
  • GIVĒON
  • LUCKY DAYE
  • THE WEEKND*
  • WIZKID
  • BLEU

Best Group

  • SILK SONIC*
  • CHLÖE X HALLE
  • CITY GIRLS
  • LIL BABY & LIL DURK
  • MIGOS
  • YOUNG DOLPH & KEY GLOCK

Best Collaboration

  • ESSENCE                                                        WIZKID FEAT. JUSTIN BIEBER & TEMS*
  • EVERY CHANCE I GET                            DJ KHALED FEAT. LIL BABY & LIL DURK
  • FAMILY TIES                                                 BABY KEEM & KENDRICK LAMAR
  • KISS ME MORE                                            DOJA CAT FEAT. SZA
  • WAY 2 SEXY                                                  DRAKE FEAT. FUTURE & YOUNG THUG
  • WHOLE LOTTA MONEY (REMIX)       BIA FEAT. NICKI MINAJ

Best Female Hip Hop Artist

  • CARDI B
  • DOJA CAT
  • LATTO
  • MEGAN THEE STALLION*
  • NICKI MINAJ
  • SAWEETIE

Best Male Hip Hop Artist

  • DRAKE
  • FUTURE
  • J. COLE
  • JACK HARLOW
  • KANYE WEST
  • KENDRICK LAMAR*
  • LIL BABY

Video of the Year

  • FAMILY TIES                                                                BABY KEEM & KENDRICK LAMAR*
  • HAVE MERCY                                                              CHLÖE
  • KISS ME MORE                                                           DOJA CAT FEAT. SZA
  • PRESSURE                                                                   ARI LENNOX
  • SMOKIN OUT THE WINDOW                              BRUNO MARS, ANDERSON .PAAK, SILK SONIC
  • WAY 2 SEXY                                                                 DRAKE FEAT. FUTURE & YOUNG THUG

Video Director of the Year

  • ANDERSON .PAAK A.K.A. DIRECTOR .PAAK*
  • BENNY BOOM
  • BEYONCÉ & DIKAYL RIMMASCH
  • DIRECTOR X
  • HYPE WILLIAMS
  • MISSY ELLIOTT

Best New Artist

  • BABY KEEM
  • BENNY THE BUTCHER
  • LATTO*
  • MUNI LONG
  • TEMS
  • BLEU

Album of the Year

  • AN EVENING WITH SILK SONIC                     SILK SONIC*
  • BACK OF MY MIND                                                  H.E.R.
  • CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST                                TYLER, THE CREATOR
  • CERTIFIED LOVER BOY                                         DRAKE
  • DONDA                                                                        KANYE WEST
  • HEAUX TALES, MO’ TALES: THE DELUXE   JAZMINE SULLIVAN
  • PLANET HER                                                               DOJA CAT

Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award

  • ALL IN YOUR HANDS                                          MARVIN SAPP
  • COME TO LIFE                                                         KANYE WEST
  • GRACE                                                                         KELLY PRICE
  • HALLELUJAH                                                           FRED HAMMOND
  • HOLD US TOGETHER (HOPE MIX)               H.E.R. & TAUREN WELLS
  • JIREH                                                                            ELEVATION WORSHIP & MAVERICK CITY MUSIC
  • WE WIN                                                                      LIL BABY X KIRK FRANKLIN*

BET Her

  • BEST OF ME (ORIGINALS)                                   ALICIA KEYS
  • GOOD MORNING GORGEOUS                           MARY J. BLIGE*
  • HAVE MERCY                                                              CHLÖE
  • PRESSURE                                                                   ARI LENNOX
  • ROSTER                                                                        JAZMINE SULLIVAN
  • UNLOYAL                                                                     SUMMER WALKER & ARI LENNOX
  • WOMAN                                                                      DOJA CAT

Best International Act

  • DAVE (UK)
  • DINOS (FRANCE)
  • FALLY IPUPA (DRC)
  • FIREBOY DML (NIGERIA)
  • LITTLE SIMZ (UK)
  • LUDMILLA (BRAZIL)
  • MAJOR LEAGUE DJZ (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • TAYC (FRANCE)
  • TEMS (NIGERIA)*

Best Movie

  • CANDYMAN
  • KING RICHARD*
  • RESPECT
  • SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY
  • SUMMER OF SOUL
  • THE HARDER THEY FALL

Best Actor

  • ADRIAN HOLMES                                                        BEL AIR
  • ANTHONY ANDERSON                                            BLACK-ISH
  • DAMSON IDRIS                                                           SNOWFALL
  • DENZEL WASHINGTON                                           THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
  • FOREST WHITAKER                                                   RESPECT | GODFATHER OF HARLEM
  • JABARI BANKS                                                             BEL AIR
  • STERLING K. BROWN                                               THIS IS US
  • WILL SMITH                                                                 KING RICHARD*

Best Actress

  • AUNJANUE ELLIS                                                       KING RICHARD
  • COCO JONES                                                               BEL AIR
  • ISSA RAE                                                                       INSECURE
  • JENNIFER HUDSON                                                   RESPECT
  • MARY J. BLIGE                                                             POWER BOOK II: GHOST
  • QUEEN LATIFAH                                                         THE EQUALIZER
  • QUINTA BRUNSON                                                    ABBOTT ELEMENTARY
  • REGINA KING                                                               THE HARDER THEY FALL
  • ZENDAYA                                                                     EUPHORIA | SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME*

YoungStars Award

  • AKIRA AKBAR
  • DEMI SINGLETON
  • MARSAI MARTIN*
  • MILES BROWN
  • SANIYYA SIDNEY

Sportswoman of the Year Award

  • BRITTNEY GRINER
  • CANDACE PARKER
  • NAOMI OSAKA*
  • SERENA WILLIAMS
  • SHA’CARRI RICHARDSON
  • SIMONE BILES

Sportsman of the Year Award

  • AARON DONALD
  • BUBBA WALLACE
  • GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
  • JA MORANT
  • LEBRON JAMES
  • STEPHEN CURRY*

ABOUT BET:

BET, a unit of Paramount (NASDAQ: PARAA; PARA; PARAP), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African American audience. The primary BET channel is in 125 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa and France. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions including BET+, the preeminent streaming service for the Black audience; BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American Woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, a growing BET festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.

ABOUT “BET AWARDS”

“BET Awards” is one of the most-watched award shows on cable television according to the Nielsen Company. The “BET Awards” franchise remains the #1 program in cable TV history among African-Americans, and it is the #1 telecast for BET every year. It recognizes the triumphs and successes of artists, entertainers, and athletes in a variety of categories.

ABOUT JESSE COLLINS ENTERTAINMENT

Jesse Collins Entertainment (JCE) is a full-service television and film production company and has played an integral role in producing many of television’s most memorable moments in music entertainment. JCE has a multi-year overall agreement with ViacomCBS Cable Networks.  On the theatrical film side, the company also has a first look on JCE’s film development projects which could include Viacom’s film entities such as Paramount Players.  The award-winning and critically acclaimed television that JCE has produced includes miniseries—The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story; scripted series—American Soul and Real Husbands of Hollywood; children’s series—Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices; award shows—BET Awards, Black Girls Rock!, BET Honors, UNCF’s An Evening of Stars, BET Hip Hop Awards, ABFF Honors and Soul Train Awards; specials—John Lewis: Celebrating A Hero, Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration, Change Together: From The March On Washington To Today, Stand Up for Heroes, Dear Mama, Amanda Seales I Be Knowin’, Def Comedy Jam 25 and Leslie Jones: Time Machine; as well as competition/game shows—Sunday Best, Hip Hop Squares, Nashville Squares and Rhythm & Flow.  Jesse Collins, founder and CEO of the company, is the executive producer of all programming.  He is also a co-executive producer for the iconic GRAMMY® Awards.  Most recently, he was executive producer of The 2021 Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show and produced The 2021 Academy Awards®.  Go to jessecollinsent.com for more information on the company.

Review: ‘Elvis’ (2022), starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks

June 22, 2022

by Carla Hay

Austin Butler in “Elvis” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Elvis” (2022)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1946 to 1977, in various parts of the United States and briefly in Germany, the dramatic film “Elvis” features a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy in this biopic of superstar entertainer Elvis Presley.

Culture Clash: Presley had many personal battles in his life, including those related to racial segregation, his drug addiction, his doomed marriage to Priscilla Presley and his troubled relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Elvis Presley fans, “Elvis” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and music biopics that go big on spectacle-like filmmaking.

Austin Butler, Helen Thomson, Tom Hanks and Richard Roxburgh in “Elvis” (Photo by Hugh Stewart/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The vibrant biopic “Elvis” continues filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s pattern of making a protagonist’s life story look like a manic-energy carnival. The musical numbers are fantastic, but viewers should expect a very glossy version of Elvis Presley’s life. Luhrmann directed and co-wrote “Elvis,” and he is one of the movie’s producers. People who are familiar with Luhrmann’s previous movies (including 2001’s “Moulin Rouge!” and 2013’s “The Great Gatsby”) will already know that he isn’t a filmmaker known for being miniminalist or showing restraint.

Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” just like Elvis Presley, is a mass of contradictions but can be counted on to deliver spectacular performances on stage. Even with a total running time of 159 minutes, “Elvis” leaves out or fast-forwards through many important aspects of Presley’s life. But other parts of the movie drag with repetition and linger too long in scenes where the story should have already moved on to something else. Luhrmann co-wrote the “Elvis” screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner. The movie was filmed in Luhrmann’s native Australia.

At times, this “Elvis” movie looks like a lengthy music video, with enough quick cuts to give some viewers the cinematic version of whiplash. Other times, “Elvis” attempts to get into the more serious and emotionally complex areas of Presley’s life before zipping off into one of several whirling-dervish montages that fill up this movie. It’s a change of pace and tone that might be off-putting to some viewers who are looking for a more conventional way of telling the story.

For example, the courtship and marriage of Elvis and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (played by Olivia DeJonge) are very rushed into the story and aren’t given a lot of depth. The movie leaves out the fact that in real life, when Elvis began dating Priscilla in 1959, she was 14 and he was 24. They met when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany, where Priscilla’s U.S. Air Force stepfather was also stationed at the time.

In real life, Elvis also convinced Priscilla’s parents to let her move in with him when she was still an underage teen. It’s probably not a coincidence that Priscilla is portrayed by an actress who never looks underage. That’s because bringing up possible stautory rape in connection to Elvis would ruin the movie’s intention to make him look like a superstar who was exploited by a greedy and corrupt manager.

Sometimes, the actors give performances that look like impersonations, while in other scenes, the actors seem to truly embody their characters. This dictonomy is especially true for Austin Butler (who portrays the adult Elvis Presley) and Tom Hanks (who plays manager Colonel Tom Parker), whose love/hate business partnership is the movie’s central conflict. Their best scenes are those where they look the most natural and don’t try to overdo the “larger than life” aspects of their respective characters’ personalities.

Butler’s performance is much better in the scenes depicting Elvis in the last 10 years of his life, when Elvis’ health was on a steady decline due to his drug addiction. (Elvis died of a heart attack in 1977, at the age of 42.) In the scenes of Elvis’ adult years before he became famous and during his fame from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, Butler just looks like he’s doing a competent Elvis impersonation. The movie starts to improve considerably when Butler shows more emotional depth as the sweaty, “hooked on drugs” version of Elvis, because it’s a portrayal of man who’s on a downward spiral but still desperately trying to stay on top.

Elvis’ controlling manager Parker, whose real name was Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk, was born in the Netherlands, but he pretended for years that he was born and raised in the United States. In real life, Parker (who died in 1997, at the age of 87) hid his true identity and undocumented immigrant status. This deception is in the movie, but as a plot twist reveal that will not surprise anyone who knows about Parker, or anyone who notices Hanks’ very over-the-top European accent in the movie. There are parts of the movie where Hanks’ prosthetic makeup and his Dutch-like accent are very distracting. Hanks’ accent also sometimes sounds German and sometimes sounds like a Western European trying to sound American.

In real life, when Parker was Elvis’ manager, Parker did not have a heavy European accent, as portrayed in this movie. Parker had a very believable American accent in real life. How else would he have been able to fool so many people into thinking that he was a born-and-raised American if he had a European accent? This quasi-European accent is one of the characteristics of Parker that this “Elvis” movie gets wrong.

Because so much of Elvis’ life has already been dissected and depicted in many other ways (including Elvis impersonators becoming both a cottage industry and the butt of a lot of jokes), Luhrmann’s “Elvis” at least takes a unique approach of telling this story with narration from Parker. The movie’s opening scene shows Parker collapsing from a heart attack and taken to a hospital. During this narration, Parker repeatedly says versions of this statement: “Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet, there are some who would make me the villain of this here story.”

Elvis’ childhood gets a comic-book panel treatment (literally) in this “Elvis” movie, as the movie uses comic book panels and comic-book-type illustrations to show chapter transitions in Elvis’ youth. Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Aaron Presley is portrayed as someone who was influenced from an early age by music, particularly R&B and gospel music. Elvis had a twin brother named Jessie Garon Presley, who was stillborn. The film briefly mentions the death of Elvis’ twin brother, but the movie does not explore (as other biographies have done) how Elvis was haunted by this death.

Elvis was famously a “mama’s boy” who worshipped his mother Gladys (played by Helen Thomson), who was a strong-willed and dominant force in his life. Elvis’ father Vernon (played by Richard Roxburgh) is portrayed as someone who was often overshadowed by Gladys in Elvis’ eyes. However, Vernon still had a huge influence on Elvis, especially after Parker decided that Vernon should be Elvis’ business manager.

It was a ultimately not a good decision, considering that Vernon had trouble keeping a steady job up until that point, Vernon had no experience as a successful businessperson, and Elvis experienced major financial problems in the years leading up to his death. It also didn’t help that Parker was a gambling addict. The movie portrays Parker’s gambling addiction as one of the reasons why he was so money-hungry and willing to do unscrupulous things to get access to Elvis’ fortune.

When Elvis was 13 years old, he and his family relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, the city that is most closely associated with Elvis’ childhood and young adulthood. (Chaydon Jay has the role of the adolescent Elvis in the movie.) Vernon got into trouble with the law in 1938, when he was imprisoned for eight months for check forgery. As a result of these legal problems, the family lost their home and had to move to a lower-income area that was populated by mostly African Americans.

The movie makes it look like Elvis was the only white kid in his area who was allowed or interested in going to the African American religious church revivals that were held in tents, where he would watch the passionate gospel performances in awe. Elvis was also a fan of R&B music at a time when it was concered “race music” that was only supposed to be performed and enjoyed by black people. Sometimes, Elvis would get teased or harassed for liking this music, but his decision to perform his version of this music ultimately set him on the road to stardom. Elvis was also a fan of country music, which he incorporated into many of his songs.

While an underage Elvis was sneaking into church revivals in tents, the movie shows Parker spending a lot of his time in another type of event that uses tents: carnivals. Parker is portrayed in flashback scenes as a carnival huckster skilled at selling and at coming up with con games. It’s a skill set that Parker brought with him when he decided to go into the music business. The movie takes a little too much time with scenes of Parker managing country artists such as Hank Snow (played by David Wenham) and his son Jimmie Rodgers Snow (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee), a musician who would eventually befriend Elvis.

Later, when Elvis and Parker meet in person, the movie stylishly stages this meeting in a carnival hall of mirrors. It’s an example of how this “Elvis” movie has fantastical elements. In real life, the first time Elvis met Parker was probably in a much more non-descript setting. Catherine Martin (Luhrmann’s wife and filmmaking partner) is a producer of “Elvis” and the leader of the movie’s top-notch costume design and production design.

Elvis’ imitation of African American R&B and early rock and roll (rock pioneers Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino were big influences on Elvis) could be considered cultural appropriation or an extreme form of flattery, depending on your perspective. But what most people can agree on is that Elvis’ performance of this music is what caught the attention of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who is widely considered the person who gave Elvis his first big music break.

Elvis’ early recordings on Sun Records were then brought to the attention of Parker, who is portrayed as someone who couldn’t believe that the singer on the recordings was white, not black. And when Parker sees Elvis perform for the first time, Parker says in a narration voiceover what his first impression of Elvis was: “Greasy hair, girlie makeup. I cannot overstate how strange he looked.”

But what really convinced Parker to want to represent Elvis as his personal manager was seeing the audience reaction (especially from females) that Elvis got when Elvis performed on stage and thrust, shook and swiveled his hips and legs in a sexually suggestive manner. The movie makes a point of showing how these stage moves had a primal effect on women and teenage girls in the audience, as Elvis often got them into a frenzy. Expect to see several scenes of Elvis being branded as “lewd and lascivious” for these stage moves in various scenarios, with the controversy fueling his popularity.

One of the odd things about this “Elvis” movie is that there’s a scene where Elvis is on stage early in his career and his band members are the ones to tell him to wiggle his hips more. If you believe this scenario, Elvis wasn’t the one to come up with these sex symbol moves. He had to be talked into it by his band members. Parker says in his ever-present voiceover narration when commenting on women’s lusty reactions to Elvis: “He was a taste of forbidden fruit.”

The movie correctly shows that it was Parker who convinced Elvis to ditch Sun Records for a more lucrative offer from RCA Records, which had the type of national distribution and radio clout that Sun Records did not. Sun Records released some singles from Elvis in 1954 (including his first single “That’s All Right”), but they weren’t hits. Elvis’ first RCA Records single was 1955’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was a smash hit and became his first No. 1 single.

In a flashback voiceover, Parker brags about how he was the first person to create a merchandising bonanza around a pop star. In a very over-the-top scene, Parker shows off a huge stockpile of Elvis-branded merchandise that is cluttered all over a room in a Presley family home. It looks like an Elvis product hoarder decorated the room.

As Elvis became more famous and was spending more time away from home, it started to bother Gladys. The movie has a scene that’s a little on the Oedipal creepy side, where Gladys tells Elvis that she’s worried about the way that his female fans look at him. Gladys acts more like a jealous girlfriend than a mother. And then, Elvis tells his mother, “You’re my girl.”

Elvis’ experiences with groupies are very toned-down in the movie, which has no explicit sex scenes or even explicit sex talk. Priscilla is sidelined for most of the movie. After Priscilla and Elvis get married in 1967, she’s just shown as someone who’s part of his entourage and becomes an increasingly unhappy bystander when he kisses and flirts with female fans at concerts.

For a while, Elvis and Priscilla lived in Los Angeles, but Elvis’ world-famous Graceland estate in Memphis was always considered to be his main home. After Elvis’ death, Elvis Presley Enterprises (which approved this movie) turned Graceland into a tourist attraction. The movie shows some of Elvis’ indulgences, including his lavish spending habits and his tendency to carry around a lot of guns. As expected, there’s a scene of a drug-addled Elvis destroying a TV set by shooting it up with a gun—something that he was known to do in real life from time to time.

Lisa Marie Presley (Elvis and Priscilla’s daughter, who was born in 1968) appears briefly in a few scenes. Priscilla’s breakup scene with Elvis is predictably melodramatic. She screams at him that she’s leaving him not because of his infidelities but because of his addiction to pills. Priscilla throws pills at Elvis before walking out the door. Priscilla and Elvis divorced in 1973, but their legal battles are never shown in the movie. Near the end of the film, there’s a tearjerking scene that’s the final word on their ill-fated romance.

Elvis’ movie star career is rushed through in a series of scenes that culminate with the media reporting that Elvis was in talks to be Barbra Streisand’s co-star in a 1976 remake of “A Star Is Born,” in which he would be playing a drug-addicted, has-been rock star. A radio announcer is heard commenting in a voiceover that Elvis wouldn’t have to do much acting for this role. Elvis, who had been trying with no success to become a serious dramatic actor, never did this remake of “A Star Is Born.” Kris Kristofferson ended up in the role.

With his movie career going nowhere, Elvis continues as a Las Vegas attraction at the International Hotel (which is now the Las Vegas Hilton) and as an artist doing several successful U.S. tours. Elvis wants to tour outside the U.S., but Parker keeps coming up with excuses for Elvis not to do these international tours. When the truth is exposed about why Parker is holding back on working outside the U.S., it leads to a turning point in the relationship between Elvis and Parker.

One of the more curious aspects of “Elvis” is that it doesn’t spend a lot of time showing Elvis in the recording studio. He was not a songwriter for almost all of his hits (an exception was his co-songwriting credit for “Heartbreak Hotel”), but this biopic doesn’t provide much insight into how he worked in a recording studio setting. And this “Elvis” movie doesn’t have any significant scenes of actors portraying the major songwriters (including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) who were responsible for writing Elvis’ biggest hits.

However, the movie has several scenes acknowledging the artists who inspired Elvis. Big Mama Thornton (played by Shonka Dukureh) is seen belting out “Hound Dog,” a song that was famously covered by Elvis. Little Richard (played by Alton Mason) appears briefly in a performance clip. During a media event, Elvis points to Fats Domino and says that Domino is the real King of Rock and Roll.

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (played by Gary Clark Jr.), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (played by Yola) and Mahalia Jackson (played by Cle Morgan) have small roles in the movie. B.B. King (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Elvis became mutual admirers of each other, and the movie briefly shows that friendship. If these influential African American artists are shown performing in the movie, it’s for a very limited amount of screen time.

The movie shows glimpses of Elvis being a concerned citizen who wanted to get involved in the civil rights movement, but he was ordered by Parker never to talk about politics in public. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy (both in 1968) and the civil unrest in the U.S. in the late 1960s are all portrayed as media news backdrops to Elvis’ personal problems, while Parker gripes about how America is going downhill because of the hippie counterculture movement. Just like many other Elvis biographies, the movie depicts Elvis as becoming more isolated the older he got and the deeper he got into drug addiction.

Elvis’ entourage, which was famously called the Memphis Mafia, is portrayed as not much more than being a bunch of “yes men” in the movie. The one who gets the most screen time is Jerry Schiller (played by Luke Bracey), who’s mostly seen acting like a personal assistant/security employee. A few of the other Memphis Mafia members portrayed in the movie are Steve Binder (played by Dacre Montgomery), Bones Howe (played by Gareth Davies) and Scotty Moore (played by Xavier Samuel), who don’t do or say anything noteworthy.

Because Elvis was a drug addict, the movie shows that he had his own Dr. Feelgood on the payroll to give injections and pills of whatever drugs were requested. In the movie, this enabling doctor is called Dr. Nick (played by Tony Nixon), and he’s based on the real-life Dr. George Nichopoulos, whose nickname was Dr. Nick. Just like in the movie, the real-life Dr. Nick had a reputation for being a drug supplier to many celebrities, including Elvis. The movie shows that Elvis was mostly addicted to amphetamines and opioids.

A harrowing scene in the movie shows Elvis collapsing in a hallway shortly before he’s scheduled to do a concert. Members of his entourage frantically try to revive him, but to no avail. The decision must be made to take Elvis to a hospital, or summon Dr. Nick to give Elvis an injection so that Elvis can do the show. You can easily guess what decision was made in a world where people live by the rule “The show must go on.” The movie makes a point of implying that this scenario happened too many times behind the scenes, and it led to Elvis’ downward spiral.

None of this is really shocking because there have already been so many exposés of Elvis’ private life, there’s really almost no new information to uncover. Elvis’ bizarre 1970 visit with then-U.S. president Richard Nixon is neither mentioned nor shown in this movie, probably because there was an entire movie made about it: director Liza Johnson’s 2016 comedy/drama “Elvis & Nixon,” starring Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon. Luhrmann’s “Elvis” movie isn’t concerned about being a celebrity “tell all” biopic as much as it is concerned about presenting Elvis’ life in ways that are served up like it’s on a conveyor belt and in other ways like it’s part of a splashy musical.

In other words, “Elvis” is a very mixed bag, but it shines the best and brightest in the area that matters the most: showing Elvis as a music artist. The movie has performances of Elvis hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “That’s All Right,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” Butler does very good renditions of some these classics, with standout show-stoppers depicting Elvis’ 1968 “comeback” TV special (“Elvis” on NBC) and some of his performances in Las Vegas.

The movie’s soundtrack also has some contemporary, hip-hop-infused remakes of classic songs, such as Doja Cat’s version of “Vegas” and Swae Lee and Diplo’s version of Crudup’s “Tupelo Shuffle,” a song that Elvis also recorded. Eminem’s original song “The King and I”(featuring CeeLo Green) is also part of the movie’s soundtrack. These songs don’t sound completely out of place in the movie, but the contemporary music does take viewers out of the 1950s to 1970s, the decades when Elvis made his music. However, “Elvis” is definitely a crowd pleaser in being a feast of Elvis music, as it should be.

“Suspicious Minds” is the most prominently used Elvis song in the movie. Even though the lyrics are about lovers who’ve lost trust in each other, “Suspicious Minds” could also be a theme song about the growing mistrust in the deteriorating relationship between Elvis and Parker. How much did Parker really play a role in causing Elvis’ downfall? The movie leaves it up to viewers to decide. Even with all of Elvis’ pitfalls and self-destructive excesses, “Elvis” has a clear message that any problems he had in his life were always surpassed by his love of performing and connecting with his fans.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Elvis” in U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022. The movie was released in other countries on June 22, 2022.

Review: ‘The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,’ starring May Pang

June 15, 2022

by Carla Hay

An archival photo of John Lennon and May Pang in “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” (Photo courtesy of May Pang Collection)

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story”

Directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels

Culture Representation: The documentary film “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” features a nearly all-white group people (with one Asian) discussing the 1973-1975 love affair that John Lennon had with May Pang, who was also his personal assistant at the time.

Culture Clash: Pang, who is the documentary’s narrator, says that Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono insisted that Pang start an affair with Lennon during the spouses’ separation, and that Ono was the cause of manipulative conflicts that eventually led to Lennon reuniting with Ono.

Culture Audience: “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” will appeal mainly to fans of Lennon and the Beatles who want to know more about the life that Lennon had when he was separated from Ono.

In the very personal documentary “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,” May Pang narrates and shares her memories of the love affair that she had with John Lennon from 1973 to 1975. Pang’s 1983 memoir “Loving John” went into many of the same details. However, this cinematic version of Pang’s story is a visual treat and an emotional journey that offers intriguing photos and audio recordings, including rare chronicles of Lennon’s reunions with his former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney. “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels (who are also the producers of the documentary), “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” refers to the notorious “Lost Weekend” in Lennon’s life. It actually wasn’t a weekend but it was in reality a period of about 18 months when Lennon was separated from his second wife, Yoko Ono, whom he married in 1969. It was also a time when, by Lennon’s own admission, he was drinking and drugging heavily, although Lennon says he eventually sobered up and stopped his hard-partying ways around the time he made his 1975 album “Rock and Roll.”

The documentary starts out with Pang describing her turbulent childhood where she often felt like a misfit. Born in New York City on October 24, 1950, Pang says that her Chinese immigrant parents had an unhappy marriage. She spent much of her childhood growing up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem area, which was populated by mostly African Americans and Puerto Ricans. “I was a minority among minorities,” Pang comments in the documentary.

Pang describes her father as “abusive” and someone who eventually abandoned her when he adopted a son, since her father was open about preferring to have a son. By contrast, Pang describes having a close relationship with her loving mother, who encouraged Pang to be strong and independent. Pang’s mother, who had “beauty and brains,” opened her own laundromat called OK Laundry. Pang’s older biological sister is not mentioned in the documentary.

Pang says, “Dad was an atheist, and Mom was a Buddhist, so naturally, they sent me to Catholic school … Dad fought with Mom. I fought with the nuns, so my only escape was music.” From an early age, Pang says, “I was hooked on rock and roll, especially these four guys from Liverpool.”

Those “four guys from Liverpool” in England were, of course, the Beatles. Pang didn’t like school very much, so she dropped out of college and quickly found a job working at the New York offices of ABKCO, the company that managed Apple Corps, the Beatles’ entertainment company. ABKCO, which was founded by Allen Klein, also managed Lennon’s solo career.

Pang says she walked in the office one day, asked if they were hiring, and she basically lied about having secretary skills in order to get the job. A week later, she started working for ABKCO’s Apple Corps side of the business. Pang describes herself as a go-getter who doesn’t get easily defeated.

But not long after she started working for Apple Corps, the Beatles announced their breakup in 1970. Pang then started to do more ABKCO work for the company’s management of Lennon’s solo career. By the early 1970s, Lennon and Ono had relocated to New York City as their primary home base, although they still maintained a home in England. And then, Pang was asked by Lennon and Ono to leave ABKCO to be the couple’s personal assistant. She eagerly accepted the offer.

Sometime in 1973, Lennon and Ono decided to separate. Ono had an unusual demand during this separation: According to Pang, Ono told Pang that Pang had to start an affair with Lennon. The reason? Ono knew that Lennon would be dating other women, and she felt that Pang was a “safe choice.” Pang and Lennon than moved to Los Angeles, where the so-called “Lost Weekend” really began. In the documentary’s archival interview footage (which is mostly from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s), Ono is seen in a TV interview where she doesn’t really deny Pang’s claims, but Ono is vague about how she interacted with Lennon and Pang during the marital separation.

Just as Pang did in her memoir and in many interviews that she’s given over the years, Pang says in the documentary that she was at first very confused and frightened by Ono’s demand for Pang to have an affair with Lennon. Up until that point, Pang’s relationship with Lennon was strictly professional. Pang says her first instinct was to say no, but she eventually agreed because she says she didn’t want to lose her job. She also liked Lennon immensely as a person. Pang describes him as witty, funny, intelligent and generous, but with a bit of cruel streak and some insecurities that didn’t make him always easy to deal with on a daily basis.

Pang says that after Ono gave Lennon “permission” to start dating Pang, Lennon ended up pursuing Pang, starting with flirting. Flirting led to kissing, and then after a short period of time, they became lovers. Pang says, “Before I knew it, John Lennon charmed the pants off of me.” Pang remembers her first sexual encounter with Lennon: “After we made love, I started to cry.” She says she asked him: “What does this mean?” Lennon replied, “I don’t know.”

Pang says in the documentary that she believes Ono mistakenly assumed that Lennon and Pang would have a casual fling. Instead, Pang says that her romance with Lennon was true love for the both of them, and she and Lennon eventually moved in together. Before Lennon and Ono reunited in 1975, Pang says that Lennon and Pang looked at houses on New York’s Long Island, because he was planning to buy a Long Island home where they could live together.

At the beginning of the relationship, Pang and Lennon spent most of their time in Los Angeles, where he did a lot of heavy partying with friends such Ringo Starr (his former Beatles bandmate), Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, Mickey Dolenz and former Apple Corps employee Tony King. Cooper said they called themselves the Hollywood Vampires. The documentary includes some amusing video footage of King, dressed in drag as Queen Elizabeth II, doing a commercial for Lennon’s 1973 “Mind Games” album, with Lennon and King goofing around with King’s ball gown lifted up to show his underwear.

The intoxicated partying wasn’t all fun and games. Pang retells the infamous stories about how much of a tyrant Phil Spector was as a music producer in the studio, especially when he was drunk, which was often during this period of time. Spector was a producer of the Beatles’ 1970 “Let It Be” album and several of Lennon’s solo albums. Pang was there to witness Spector taking out a gun and shooting during an argument in the studio. (It’s a well-known story.)

Luckily, no one was physically hurt during that incident. But considering that in 2009, Spector was convicted of the 2003 shooting murder of actress Lana Clarkson, it’s an example of how his dangerous and erratic behavior had been going on for years prior to the murder. (Spector was still a prisoner in California when he died of COVID-19 complications in 2021. He was 81.)

Eventually, Lennon befriended Elton John and David Bowie, which resulted in successful collaborations with these other music legends. Lennon provided background vocals for Bowie’s 1975 hit “Fame.” John provided harmony and played keyboards on Lennon’s 1974 hit “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.” Pang retells the story of how she and Lennon were in bed watching televangelist Reverend Ike on TV, and the preacher said, “Whatever gets you through the night” as part of the sermon. It inspired Lennon to write the song.

Lennon and John performed “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” live one time on stage at John’s Madison Square Garden concert on November 28, 1974, after Lennon lost a bet. When they were recording the song in the studio, John had predicted that the song would be a No. 1 hit in the United States. Lennon disagreed, so John made a bet with Lennon that if the song became a No. 1 hit, Lennon would have to perform the song in concert with John if that prediction turned out to be true.

This concert was Lennon’s first time performing at an arena show without the Plastic Ono Band (whose members included Ono), and it would turn out to be his last time performing in public. Pang describes Lennon as being extremely nervous before the performance. It was also at this fateful concert that Ono showed up backstage in what would be among the many signs that she was ready to get back together with Lennon.

Pang says in the documentary that some of her best memories of being with Lennon were the times she spent in the recording studio with him. She was credited as a production coordinator in several solo albums that Lennon made during the 1970s. Pang also did some backup vocals on a few of Lennon’s solo songs, most notably on “#9 Dream” from Lennon’s 1973 “Walls and Bridges” album. Pang can be heard whispering “John” on the song.

She got to witness a lot of music history, including a jam session with Lennon, McCartney and Stevie Wonder doing an impromptu version of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” Pang says that Linda McCartney (Paul’s first wife) was playing the organ during this session, while Pang and Mal Evans (former Beatles road manager/personal assistant) accompanied on tambourine. The documentary includes a brief audio clip of this recording session, which is believed to be the last recording of Lennon and Paul McCartney playing music together.

Pang was an avid photographer who took a lot of photos during this period of time that she was involved with Lennon. Her photo book “Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon” was published in 2008. “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” also includes many photos from Pang’s personal collection.

Once such photo that Pang took of Lennon and Paul McCartney was at a hillside house in Los Angeles where Lennon was staying in 1974. (The house was semi-famous for being where Marilyn Monroe would have sexual trysts with John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert F. Kennedy.) The candid photo shows Lennon and Paul McCartney sitting outside (on what looks like a balcony) and talking while shielding the sun with their hands near their eyes. Pang says it’s the last-known photo of Lennon and Paul McCartney together.

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” also includes several of Lennon’s sketches and doodles that he gave to Pang as gifts. One of these drawings shown in the documentary is of the UFO sighting that Pang says she and Lennon experienced one night when they were on the top of their New York City apartment building on August 23, 1974. Another illustration shows what Lennon (who went to art school when he was in his teens) thought his future would look like. The drawing depicts him in a heavenly-type garden as a naked, potbellied old man with a young-looking and nude Pang floating above on a cloud.

Pang also credits Lennon with being the inspiration for her political awakening in the early 1970s. He was an outspoken anti-war activist, which got him on the “enemy of the state” radar of then-U.S. president Richard Nixon, whose administration caused immigration problems for Lennon. It was revealed years ago that Lennon was under FBI surveillance during this time. All of these issues are mentioned in the documentary through archival news footage. Pang doesn’t give any further insight, except to say she saw firsthand that Lennon knew he was being spied on by the U.S. government, and he was paranoid about it.

One of the most poignant aspects of the documentary is Pang describing how she befriended John’s son Julian, who was born in 1963, from John Lennon’s first marriage. (John Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia Lennon, were married from 1962 to 1968. Their marriage ended in divorce.)

Julian came from England to visit John Lennon on a semi-regular basis, after father and son ended an estrangement that had been going on for a number of years. Pang remembers Julian being a mischievous child but an overall good kid who craved his father’s love and attention. Pang says she encouraged John Lennon and Julian to spend as much father/son time together, which Pang says was in direct contrast to what Ono wanted.

Pang says that when Julian called, Ono would sometimes order Pang not to put the call through to John Lennon, so that Julian wouldn’t be able to talk to his father. According to Pang, Ono also ordered Pang to lie to John Lennon about how many times Julian called. In the documentary, Pang expresses deep regret about participating in these lies. Pang says that her friendship with Julian also extended to Julian’s mother, Cynthia Lennon, who died of cancer in 2015, at the age of 75.

Even when John Lennon and Pang were thousands of miles away from Ono, Pang says that Ono was a constant presence in their lives, because Ono would call at all hours of the day and night. Ono is described by Pang as being a highly manipulative control freak, who eventually got jealous that John Lennon had fallen in love with Pang. Ono wasn’t exactly celibate during the marital separation, since it’s mentioned in the documentary that her guitarist David Spinozza was Ono’s lover.

In the documentary, Pang fully acknowledges that John Lennon loved Ono too, and that he once loved his first wife Cynthia. However, Pang wants to make it clear that the love that she and John Lennon shared was real and very meaningful to both of them. Some people interviewed in the documentary, including John Lennon’s son Julian, confirm that John Lennon and Pang were in love with each other. Things were more complicated for Pang in this love triangle because John Lennon and Ono remained her employers during her entire “Lost Weekend” affair with John Lennon.

Pang says that even though John Lennon and Ono reunited in 1975, he was never completely out of Pang’s life. In the documentary, she admits that she and John Lennon would occasionally see each other and had secret, intimate trysts in the years after he and Ono had gotten back together. Pang does not mention Sean Lennon (John Lennon and Ono’s son), who was born on October 9, 1975, which was John Lennon’s 35th birthday. Like many people around the world, Pang was devastated when John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980.

An epilogue in the documentary mentions that Pang was married to music producer Tony Visconti from 1989 to 2003. The former spouses have two children together: Sebastian and Lara, who both are seen briefly in a childhood photo. But since this documentary is about Pang’s time with John Lennon, don’t expect to hear any details about what happened in her life during and after her marriage to Visconti.

One of the curiosities and flaws of “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” is that it has voiceover comments from several people who knew John Lennon and Pang during the Lennon/Pang love affair, but it’s unclear how much of those comments are audio recordings that were made specifically for the documentary, or if they are archival recordings from other interviews. Paul McCartney, Cynthia Lennon, Julian Lennon, Cooper, King, drummer Jim Keltner, Spinozza, photographer Bob Gruen, former Apple Corps employee Chris O’Dell, attorney Harold Seider and former ABKCO employee Francesca De Angelis (who gave Pang the job at ABKCO) are among those whose voices are heard in the documentary. Pang and Julian Lennon are the only ones seen talking on camera for documentary interviews. (Pang doesn’t make her on-camera appearance until near the end of the movie.)

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” has the expected array of archival video footage from various media outlets, but there’s also some whimsical animation to illustrate some of Pang’s fascinating anecdotes. She has a tendency to name drop like a star-struck fan, but it might be because she was and perhaps still is a star-struck fan of many of the people she got to hang out with during her relationship with John Lennon. Pang also says that she did not drink alcohol or do drugs during this period of time. It made her an outsider to some of the partying, but this sobriety allowed her to continue to do her job professionally when she was required to do a lot of important planning and scheduling in John Lennon’s career and personal life.

Pang briefly mentions that sometimes John Lennon was physically abusive to her when he would be in a drunken blackout, but that he was extremely remorseful and apologetic for his abuse when he was sober. Pang will only admit that he shoved her against a wall, but you get the feeling that the abuse was much worse than that, because at one point she says she temporarily fled from California to go back to New York because she was scared of John Lennon. He later made public apologies and expressed regrets to people whom he hurt in his life. The documentary includes a media interview with one of these regretful apologies.

Despite his flaws, Pang says that John Lennon was someone who really did try to live by his “peace and love” values that he shared with the world. He was a brilliant artist, of course. But viewers of “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” will also come away with a deeper sense that he was not only Pang’s first love but also an unforgettable friend.

2022 Tony Awards: ‘Company,’ ‘The Lehman Trilogy,’ ‘A Strange Loop’ win big

June 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

The revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” the original play “The Lehman Trilogy” and the original musical “A Strange Loop” were among the top winners at the 75th annual Tony Awards, which were presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 12, 2022. Ariana DeBose hosted the show, which CBS telecast in the U.S., and Paramount+ livestreamed. The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing produce the annual Tony Awards, which honor Broadway shows and specially designated award recipients who work in the American performing arts theater industry.

“Company” garnered five Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Musical; Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Matt Doyle); Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Patti LuPone); Best Scenic Design of a Musical; and Best Direction of a Musical. “The Lehman Trilogy” also won five Tony Awards: Best Play; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for a Play (for Simon Russell Beale); Best Scenic Design of a Play; Best Lighting Design of a Play; and Best Direction of a Play. “A Strange Loop” had the most nominations (11) going into the ceremony and ended up winning two Tony Awards: Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Other multiple winners included the Michael Jackson jukebox musical “MJ,” which won four Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Role of a Musical, for Myles Frost who portrays Jackson in the show. “Six: The Musical,” “Take Me Out” and “Dana H.” won two Tony Awards each.

Eligible Broadway productions for the 2022 Tony Awards where those that opened between August 1, 2021 and May 4, 2022.

The 2022 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were presented to the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC); Broadway For All; music copyist Emily Grishman; Feinstein’s/54 Below; and United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, IATSE. Robert E. Wankel received the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award. Special Tony Awards were given to actress Angela Lansbury (for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre) and James C. Nicola, who has been the Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop since 1988.

As is the tradition at the Tony Awards, the show featured performances by cast members from the year’s Tony Award-nominated musicals: “A Strange Loop,” “Company,” “Girl from the North Country,” “MJ,” “Mr. Saturday Night,” “Music Man,” “Paradise Square” and “Six: The Musical.” Other performers at the show included Bernadette Peters (who did a tribute to Sondheim, who died in 2021), Billy Porter, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the original cast members of the 2007 Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.”

Presenters at the show included Utkarsh Ambudkar, Skylar Astin, Zach Braff, Danielle Brooks, Danny Burstein, Len Cariou, RuPaul Charles, Jessica Chastain, Lilli Cooper, Bryan Cranston, Wilson Cruz, Colman Domingo, Anthony Edwards, Cynthia Erivo, Raúl Esparza, Laurence Fishburne, Andrew Garfield, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Tony Goldwyn, David Alan Grier, Marcia Gay Harden, Vanessa Hudgens, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Lane, Telly Leung, Judith Light, Josh Lucas, Gaten Matarazzo, Ruthie Ann Miles, Patina Miller, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Sarah Paulson, Peters, Jeremy Pope, Porter, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chita Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Phillipa Soo, Sarah Silverman, George Takei, Aaron Tveit, Adrienne Warren, Patrick Wilson and Bowen Yang.

Darren Criss and Julianne Hough co-hosted the pre-show “The Tony Awards: Act One,” a one-hour special that was a Paramount+ exclusive livestream. Criss and Hough were also presenters at the main Tony Awards ceremony.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominees of the 2022 Tony Awards:

*=winner

Best Musical

Girl From The North Country

Producers: Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Steven Lappin, Sony Music Entertainment/Sony ATV, David Mirvish, Len Blavatnik, The Dodgers, Eric & Marsi Gardiner, Dianne Roberts, John Gore Organization, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Tommy Mottola, Independent Presenters Network, Rod Kaats, Diana DiMenna, Mary Beth O’Connor, Barbara H. Freitag, Patrick Catullo, Aaron Lustbader, The Old Vic, Matthew Warchus, Kate Varah, Georgia Gatti, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

MJ

Producers: Lia Vollack, John Branca, John McClain, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Music Entertaiment, Roy Furman, Cue to Cue Productions, James L. Nederlander, Kumiko Yoshii, Naoya Kinoshita, Latitude Link, Candy Spelling, Stephen C. Byrd, John Gore Organization, Sandy Robertson, Ed Walson, Peter W. May, CJ ENM, Martin Bandier, Michael Cassel Group, Albert Nocciolino, Playful Productions, Ken Schur, Willette & Manny Klausner, Doug Morris, Michael David, Estate of Michael Jackson

Mr. Saturday Night

Producers: James L. Nederlander, Face Productions, Inc., Hunter Arnold, Michael Cohl, TEG Dainty, Candy Spelling, Steve Traxler, Marc David Levine, Caiola Productions, Crossroads Live, Jamie deRoy, Roy Furman, Arny Granat, Grove Entertainment, John Gore Organization, Wolf Gutterman, Van Kaplan, Larry Magid, Peter May, Carl Moellenberg, Beth W. Newburger, Albert Nocciolino, Eva Price, Iris Smith, The Shubert Organization, Howard Tenenbaum, Barry and Fran Weissler

Paradise Square

Producers: Garth H. Drabinsky, Peter LeDonne, Jeffrey A. Sine, Matthew C. Blank, Joe Crowley, RSR Finance LLC, Hunter & Mariana Milborne, Len Blavatnik, Joseph Coffey, Sherry Wright & Craig Haffner, Bernard Abrams, James Scrivanich, Rick Chad, Arthur M. Kraus, Broadway & Beyond Theatricals, Brian Luborsky, Gilbert & Elisa Palter, The Shubert Organization, Terry Schnuck, Urban One, Inc., Robert Wolf, Richard Stursberg, Mark W. Everson, Sanjay Govil, Jeremiah J. Harris, Amabel James, Sheila C. Johnson, Dennis Mehiel, Louise H. & John G. Beard, Henry R. Muñoz, III & Kyle Ferari Muñoz, Walter Swett, Zachary Florence, Berkeley Repertory Theatre

SIX: The Musical

Producers: Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, George Stiles, Kevin McCollum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

A Strange Loop*

Producers: Barbara Whitman, Pasek, Paul & Stafford, Hunter Arnold, Marcia Goldberg, Alex Levy & James Achilles, Osh Ashruf, A Choir Full Productions, Don Cheadle & Bridgid Coulter Cheadle, Paul Oakley Stovall, Jimmy Wilson, Annapurna Theatre, Robyn Coles, Creative Partners Productions, Robyn Gottesdiener, Kayla Greenspan, Grove Entertainment, Kuhn, Lewis & Scott, Frank Marshall, Maximum Effort Productions Inc., Joey Monda, Richard Mumby, Phenomenal Media & Meena Harris, Marc Platt & Debra Martin Chase, Laurie Tisch, Yonge Street Theatricals, Dodge Hall Productions/JJ Malley, Cody Renard Richard, John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, The Shubert Organization, RuPaul Charles, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Jennifer Hudson, Mindy Kaling, Billy Porter, Page 73 Productions, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons

Best Play

Clyde’s

Author: Lynn Nottage
Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Hangmen

Author: Martin McDonagh
Producers: Robert Fox, Jean Doumanian, Elizabeth I. McCann, Craig Balsam, Atlantic Theater Company, Jon B. Platt, Len Blavatnik, Richard Fishman, John Gore Organization, Stephanie P. McClelland, David Mirvish, The Shubert Organization, Jamie deRoy/Sandy Robertson, Patrick Myles/Alexander ‘Sandy’ Marshall, M. Kilburg Reedy/Excelsior Entertainment, Playful Productions, The Royal Court Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy*

Author: Stefano Massini, Ben Power
Producers: National Theatre, Neal Street Productions, Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kash Bennett, Lisa Burger, Caro Newling, Ambassador Theatre Group, Stephanie P. McClelland, Annapurna Theatre, Delman Whitney, Craig Balsam/Heni Koenigsberg/John Yonover, Fiery Angel/Seth A. Goldstein, Starry Night Entertainment, Gavin Kalin Productions, Paul & Selina Burdell/Bill Damaschke, 42nd.club/Phil & Claire Kenny, CatWenJam Productions, Amanda Dubois, Glass Half Full Productions, Dede Harris/Linda B. Rubin, Kallish Weinstein Creative, Kors Le Pere Theatricals LLC, James L. Nederlander, No Guarantees, Mark Pigott KBE, KStJ, Playing Field, Catherine Schreiber/Adam Zell, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Richard Winkler/Alan Shorr/Dawn Smalberg, The Shubert Organization, Independent Presenters Network, John Gore Organization, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jillian Robbins

The Minutes

Author: Tracy Letts
Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Rebecca Gold, Carl Moellenberg, Spencer Ross, Louise Gund, Elizabeth Armstrong, Blakeman Entertainment, HornosBerger, Across the River Productions, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley/Leah Lane, Jayne Baron Sherman, Kathleen K. Johnson, Emily Dobbs, Robert Flicker, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization, Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Skeleton Crew

Author: Dominique Morisseau
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove

Best Revival of a Musical

Caroline, or Change

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow, Lot’s Wife, Hunter Arnold, Caiola Productions/Willette & Manny Klausner, Chambers -D’Angora/Joseph & Alyson Graci

Company*

Producers: Elliott & Harper Productions, The Shubert Organization, Catherine Schreiber, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Crossroads Live, Anapurna Theatre, Hunter Arnold, No Guarantees, Jon B. Platt, Michael Watt, John Gore Organization, Tim Levy, Grove – REG, Hornos – Mollenberg, Levine – Federman – Adler, Beard – Merrie – Robbins, LD Entertainment/Madison Wells Live, Benjamin Lowy/Roben Alive, Daryl Roth/Tom Tuft, Salmira Productions/Caiola Productions, Aged in Wood/Lee – Sachs, Berinstein – Lane/42nd.club, Boyett – Miller/Hodges – Kukieiski, Finn – DeVito/Independent Presenters Network, Armstrong – Ross/Gilad – Rogowsky, Boardman – Koenigsberg/Zell – Seriff, Concord Theatricals – Scott Sanders Productions/Abrams – May, deRoy – Brunish/Jenen – Rubin, Fakston Productions/Sabi – Lerner – Ketner, Maggio – Abrams/Hopkins – Tackel, Levy & Chauviere, Jujamcyn Theaters

The Music Man

Producers: Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kate Horton, Fictionhouse

Best Revival of a Play

American Buffalo

Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Steve Traxler, Stephanie P. McClelland, GFour Productions, Spencer Ross, Gemini Theatrical, Chris and Ashlee Clarke, Suna Said Maslin, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Cue to Cue Productions, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Brad Blume, Caiola Productions, Joanna Carson, Arthur Kern, Willette Klausner, Jeremiah J. Harris and Darren P. Deverna, Van Kaplan, Patrick Myles/David Luff, Alexander Marshall, Ambassador Theatre Group, Kathleen K. Johnson, Diego Kolankowsky, Steve and Jacob Levy, Morwin Schmookler, Brian Moreland, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Producers: Nelle Nugent, Ron Simons, Kenneth Teaton, Ellen Ferguson and Vivian Phillips, Willette and Manny Klausner, Hunter Arnold, Dale Franzen, Valencia Yearwood, One Community, Audible, Dennis Grimaldi, Terry Nardozzi and Tracey Knight Narang, Grace Nordhoff/Mickalene Thomas, Angelina Fiordellisi/Caiola Productions, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

How I Learned to Drive

Author: Paula Vogel
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Daryl Roth, Cody Lassen, Vineyard Theatre

Take Me Out*

Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Trouble in Mind

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow

Best Book of a Musical

Girl From The North Country

Conor McPherson

MJ

Lynn Nottage

Mr. Saturday Night

Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

Paradise Square

Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas & Larry Kirwan

A Strange Loop*

Michael R. Jackson

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Flying Over Sunset

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Michael Korie

Mr. Saturday Night

Music: Jason Robert Brown
Lyrics: Amanda Green

Paradise Square

Music: Jason Howland
Lyrics: Nathan Tysen & Masi Asare

SIX: The Musical*

Music and Lyrics: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss

A Strange Loop

Music & Lyrics: Michael R. Jackson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy*
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues
David Threlfall, Hangmen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Gabby Beans, The Skin of Our Teeth
LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Ruth Negga, Macbeth
Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H.*
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night
Myles Frost, MJ*
Hugh Jackman, The Music Man
Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire
Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Sharon D Clarke, Caroline, or Change
Carmen Cusack, Flying Over Sunset
Sutton Foster, The Music Man
Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square*
Mare Winningham, Girl From The North Country

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Alfie Allen, Hangmen
Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out*
Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s
Michael Oberholtzer, Take Me Out
Jesse Williams, Take Me Out

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Uzo Aduba, Clyde’s
Rachel Dratch, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew*
Julie White, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kara Young, Clyde’s

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Matt Doyle, Company*
Sidney DuPont, Paradise Square
Jared Grimes, Funny Girl
John-Andrew Morrison, A Strange Loop
A.J. Shively, Paradise Square

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Jeannette Bayardelle, Girl From The North Country
Shoshana Bean, Mr. Saturday Night
Jayne Houdyshell, The Music Man
L Morgan Lee, A Strange Loop
Patti LuPone, Company*
Jennifer Simard, Company

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Beowulf Boritt, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Michael Carnahan and Nicholas Hussong, Skeleton Crew
Es Devlin, The Lehman Trilogy*
Anna Fleischle, Hangmen
Scott Pask, American Buffalo
Adam Rigg, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt and 59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset
Bunny Christie, Company*
Arnulfo Maldonado, A Strange Loop
Derek McLane and Peter Nigrini, MJ
Allen Moyer, Paradise Square

Best Costume Design of a Play

Montana Levi Blanco, The Skin of Our Teeth*
Sarafina Bush, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Emilio Sosa, Trouble in Mind
Jane Greenwood, Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite
Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Fly Davis, Caroline, or Change
Toni-Leslie James, Paradise Square
William Ivey Long, Diana, The Musical
Santo Loquasto, The Music Man
Gabriella Slade, SIX: The Musical*
Paul Tazewell, MJ

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Joshua Carr, Hangmen
Jiyoun Chang, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Jon Clark, The Lehman Trilogy*
Jane Cox, Macbeth
Yi Zhao, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Neil Austin, Company
Tim Deiling, SIX: The Musical
Donald Holder, Paradise Square
Natasha Katz, MJ*
Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset
Jen Schriever, A Strange Loop

Best Sound Design of a Play

Justin Ellington, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H.*
Palmer Hefferan, The Skin of Our Teeth
Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey, The Lehman Trilogy
Mikaal Sulaiman, Macbeth

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Simon Baker, Girl From The North Country
Paul Gatehouse, SIX: The Musical
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company
Drew Levy, A Strange Loop
Gareth Owen, MJ*

Best Direction of a Play

Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Skin of Our Teeth
Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy*
Neil Pepe, American Buffalo
Les Waters, Dana H.

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Brackett, A Strange Loop
Marianne Elliott, Company*
Conor McPherson, Girl From The North Country
Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage, SIX: The Musical
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ

Best Choreography

Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Warren Carlyle, The Music Man
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, SIX: The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Paradise Square
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ*

Best Orchestrations

David Cullen, Company
Tom Curran, SIX: The Musical
Simon Hale, Girl From The North Country*
Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ
Charlie Rosen, A Strange Loop

Review: ‘Box of Rain,’ starring Lonnie Frazier, Betsy Abel-Talbott, Peter Conners, Joey Talley, Jim LeBrecht, Tim Zecha and Brian O’Donnell

June 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

A scene from “Box of Rain” (Photo courtesy of Mutiny Pictures)

“Box of Rain”

Directed by Lonnie Frazier

Culture Representation: The documentary film “Box of Rain” features an all-white group of middle-aged and elderly Grateful Dead fans discussing how this rock band’s music and culture made a positive impact on their lives.

Culture Clash: Grateful Dead concerts, which were about improvisation and peaceful freedom of expression, inspired the same attitudes in Grateful Dead fans (also known as Deadheads), who are sometimes misunderstood or stereotyped by other people. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Grateful Dead fans, “Box of Rain” will appeal to people interested in documentaries about unique music-based fandoms.

Jim LeBrecht in “Box of Rain” (Photo courtesy of Mutiny Pictures)

The documentary “Box of Rain” is an admittedly sentimental love letter to Grateful Dead fans (also known as Deadheads) that doesn’t reveal anything groundbreaking. The movie (directed by Lonnie Frazier, who counts herself as a longtime Deadhead) mostly consists of Deadheads sharing rosy memories of their experiences going to Grateful Dead concerts and how Deadhead culture changed their lives. There’s a lot of hippie nostalgia in the movie (which only interviews Deadheads), but it’s the type of nostalgia that isn’t preachy or too wistful of a bygone era. The movie tends to be repetitive, but it’s also uplifting and celebratory of people finding communities that are positive, which is the overall tone of this fan-oriented documentary.

“Box of Rain” is named after the “Box of Rain” song on the Grateful Dead’s 1970 “American Beauty” album. The documentary is a collection of thoughts and anecdotes from Grateful Dead fans who experienced the San Francisco-based rock band in the decades when the Grateful Dead toured with lead singer/co-founder Jerry Garcia, who died of a heart attack in 1995, at the age of 53. He was staying in a drug rehab facility at the time of his death.

One of the reasons why “Box of Rain” is so appealing is that “Box of Rain” director Frazier made it a personal film to share her own story about how becoming part of the Deadhead community helped her tremendously in healing from trauma. She provides occasional voiceover narration for the movie, and she appears in several of the documentary’s scenes. Frazier is an immensely likable presence in the movie and comes across as completely genuine in wanting to share how much of an impact the Grateful Dead made on her life and on the lives of so many other people.

As Frazier explains in the beginning of the movie, when she was 17 years old, she was violently raped by a group of male students who went to the same high school and whom she had known since they were all in elementary school. This horrific crime happened one night when she accepted a car ride from them after leaving a party. Instead of driving her to her car, these attackers drove her to a field and raped her.

Frazier says in a documentary voiceover: “After that, I felt like I was drowning in hopelessness. I reached out for help, but I was dismissed and sometimes even blamed. I was scared and suicidal. I didn’t feel safe anywhere. When home doesn’t feel like home, where do you go?”

She continues, “I was lucky. I found kindred spirits who showed me what a family can be, and what home can feel like. Being accepted into the Deadhead community had a profound influence on my life. Making this film is my way of thanking them for saving me.”

What was that turning point for her? Frazier says, “It all started with free tickets to see the Grateful Dead and a road trip.” Not long after she was raped and in a very dark place in her life, a friend named Betsy had free Grateful Dead tickets and invited Frazier and another friend to go on a road trip to travel from Maryland to see the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. The concert took place on September 6, 1985 (the documentary briefly shows a ticket stub from the show), and Frazier had just recently gotten a new car, which was used for the road trip.

Frazier says in the documentary that she was so eager to get out of her current living environment, she jumped at the chance to go on the trip, which she took with the two other teenage friends: Betsy Abel-Talbott and Kelly Gallagher. (A grey and white cat was also along for the ride.) Abel-Talbott, Gallagher and Frazier are shown together in a reunion interview that’s fun to watch, as they happily reminisce about this road trip. Abel-Talbott comments, “The trip was an incredible bonding experience for three girls. It was phenomenal.”

Later, in the documentary, Frazier is shown returning to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is located in the middle of a natural rock structure, to share more memories of that concert, which was the first time that she saw the Grateful Dead perform. She vividly describes the overwhelming feeling of belonging to a community and feeling immediately accepted by strangers at this concert, which are feelings that she’d never experienced before. Frazier mentions that it feels a little strange that Abel-Talbott and Gallagher weren’t able to go with her on this return to Red Rocks. It was probably because the footage was filmed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are seen wearing pandemic masks in this Red Rocks footage.

This feeling of belonging to a welcoming community and feeling instantly accepted are recurring themes when people describe Deadhead culture in this documentary. Although some people describe the Deadhead lifestyle as almost like being part of a religion, it has never been a religion or a cult. Cults are defined as having leaders who dictate what cult members do with their lives, with an “us against them” mentality when interacting with people who aren’t in the cult. Deadhead culture is just the opposite, since the overall attitude is to let people be themselves peacefully, and to respectfully let people make up their own minds about what makes them happy.

Still, like any famous band, the Grateful Dead had a lot of fanatical followers, many of whom dropped out of school or quit their jobs to follow the band on tour. Many of these Deadheads also raised families in this lifestyle and sustained themselves by selling art, food, jewelry, T-shirts and/or other memorabilia to get enough money for living expenses and to get to the next Grateful Dead concert. Grateful Dead concerts were also known for their communal scenes in each venue’s parking lot, where there was plenty of partying before and after the concerts. A few people in the documentary briefly mention financial hardships because of the costs of following the Grateful Dead on tour, but it’s all framed in a nostalgic tone of “youthful adventures,” without going into details about any of the harsh down sides to the lifestyle.

The people interviewed in the documentary all consider themselves to be Deadheads with a wide range of experiences. When asked to estimate the number of Grateful Dead concerts they saw in their lives, the lowest number named by one person is 20 to 30, while the highest number named by another person is 400. Grateful Dead concerts were beloved by fans not only because of the Deadhead community but also because the band never played the same set list at each concert. Songs often stretched into improvisational jams and were never played in the same way twice at Grateful Dead shows.

Rev. Joey Talley, who is described as an “old Wiccan minister” in the documentary, is the Deadhead in the movie who estimates that she’s seen about 400 Grateful Dead concerts, starting from the 1970s. She comments on Deadheads traveling around the United States: “We saw the good, the bad and the ugly. And sometimes, we saw bad things done to those places. And that gave us a sensitivity for taking care of the planet.”

It’s no coincidence that many Deadheads are also vegetarians/vegans and environmentalists. However, one of the things that comes up a lot in the documentary is that there are all types of Deadheads. And although it might be tempting to stereotype Deadheads as disheveled hippie types who take psychedelic drugs and are stuck in a “peace and love” Woodstock Festival mindset, the Deadheads in this documentary say that there are many Deadheads who definitely do not fit this stereotype.

For example, Frazier says that she’s never taken hallucinogenic drugs in her life. “Growing Up Dead” author Peter Conners, who became a Deadhead when he was a teenager, comments in the documentary that he’s met many non-Deadhead people who have assumed that his time following the Grateful Dead on tour meant that he had a lifestyle filled with non-stop drug parties and sex orgies. Conners said when he was a young Deadhead, he was definitely interested in dating, but his Deadhead lifestyle wasn’t nearly as decadent as many people assume it was.

Several of the Deadheads in the documentary say that, unlike many rock concerts, Grateful Dead concerts were environments where being physically aggressive and ready to start fights were severely unwelcomed and not allowed to become a problem. Violent and rude people were shunned or removed from Deadhead communities. Deadheads say that treating people with respect and showing kindness to others are core values to Deadhead culture.

The closest that anyone in the documentary comes to criticism of the Grateful Dead is when a few people mention that sometimes the band wasn’t playing at its best at a concert, but that the festive atmosphere from the crowd made up for any disappointing musicianship on stage. A few of the Deadheads in the documentary also gripe about how the Deadhead scene changed (and not for the better) in the late 1980s. They blame this change on the Grateful Dead reaching a new audience because of the band’s 1987 hit “Touch of Grey,” which was popular on the radio and MTV, and which brought a lot of “meatheads” and “macho frat boys” to Grateful Dead concerts.

Because so many of these Deadhead stories have a positive spin, the documentary leaves out a lot of uncomfortable truths about Grateful Dead concerts. For example, no one in the movie talks about overcrowding or drug freakouts at Grateful Dead shows, which were notorious for many attendees being under the influence of psychedelic drugs. No one talks about any legal problems or health problems they might have encountered as a direct result of being a Deadhead, since getting involved in illegal drugs was part of the lifestyle for many Deadheads.

Instead, the documentary has people saying they never saw any violence at Grateful Dead shows they attended. That doesn’t mean nothing unpleasant ever happened at these shows, but the Deadheads in the documentary say that any violence was more likely to come from someone who wasn’t a true Deadhead. Every community has its share of people who behave badly, so it’s not entirely believable that there were no Deadheads who committed violence.

Talley shares a story that happened years ago when she was a young woman at a Grateful Dead concert. She was introduced to a man who was newcomer to the Deadhead scene, and he greeted her with a hug but also by grinding his genitals against her without her consent. When a longtime Deadhead, who had brought this creep to the concert, found out about this sexual assault, Talley says that this protective Deadhead brought the assaulter to Talley and told him to make an apology to her, which the assaulter did. Talley says that was an example of how Deadheads looked out for each other.

Overall, most of the women interviewed in the documentary say that they felt safe at Grateful Dead concerts. Frazier has this to say about becoming part of the Deadhead community, where she could openly talk about her love of art, photography and movies: “It was the first time I felt viewed as a female human being who had things to offer besides what someone could take from me.” Later in the documentary, Frazier begins crying when she comments that after recovering from her rape, becoming part of the Deadhead community restored her faith that most people are essentially good.

However, Conners admits that when he was a young Deadhead, he didn’t really think about how concert experiences could be different for women and the “greater risks” that female Deadheads were “taking with their personal safety … that I took for granted because I had the privilege of being a 6-foot-tall white male moving through the world. I didn’t have to worry about safety issues so much.”

“Box of Rain” admirably brings up an issue that often gets ignored in documentaries about fans of rock concerts: how disabled people experience these concerts. One of the documentary’s interviewees is Oscar-nominated “Crip Camp” co-director Jim LeBrecht, a longtime Deadhead who uses a wheelchair. LeBrecht describes what it was like to go to a Grateful Dead concert before and after 1990’s Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) outlawed discrimination against people with disabilities, thereby requiring disability access for disabled people in buildings that are open to the public.

Before the ADA (and when most concerts were general admission), wheelchair-using people who went to concerts were usually put in a section in the back where they could see above the crowd but still were far away from the stage, in an era when most concerts didn’t have large video screens. Despite often being treated like second-class concertgoers, LeBrecht says marijuana-using Deadheads in wheelchairs had some “perks” when they went to a Grateful Dead concert: “If you’re ever at a party, and you’re looking for the person with the best pot, you’re looking for the person in the wheelchair, because these folks had great pot.”

The death of Grateful Dead leader Garcia was devastating to many fans, and there’s a section of the documentary that discusses this topic. Tim Zecha, who says he thought of Garcia as being “like a shaman,” gets tearful when he remembers meeting Garcia and being an admittedly “star-struck fan” during this encounter. LeBrecht comments on his own reaction to Garcia’s death: “I don’t think I recovered for a year, because it was the absolute closing of an era in my life.”

Other people interviewed in the documentary include Marty “Ziggy” Leipzig, Johnny Adams, James Talley, Mark Mullis, Jack Gerard, Bob Shugoll, Jen Rund, Kelley Condon, Julie Moore, Jim McWatters and “Deadheads” documentary filmmaker Brian O’Donnell. The “Box of Rain” documentary includes a section where many of the interviewees talk about “magic shows,” a Deadhead term for Grateful Dead concerts that were extraordinarily magical experiences for Deadheads.

The Grateful Dead was the first major rock band to allow fans to record the band’s concerts. It resulted in widespread tape trading among fans who collected recordings of these shows. A section of “Box of Rain” covers the Deadhead tape-trading community. Tape trading seems very quaint now in this digital era where anyone with a smartphone can record concerts and share these digital recordings.

It’s an example of how the Grateful Dead was ahead of its time, because the band let fans record Grateful Dead shows during an era when audience members who were caught recording other artists’ concerts could get expelled or arrested for copyright law violations. Nowaways, it’s become common to go to a concert and see numerous people openly recording it. Entire concerts or large portions of concerts are now uploaded or livestreamed by audience members for people around the world.

In one way or another, the Deadheads interviewed in the “Box of Rain” documentary say that the band’s music, especially at the live concerts, helped them be better people, resulted in great experiences, and got them through tough times. Leipzig, whose husband Michael died of prostate cancer, says that listening to the Grateful Dead’s music was a comfort to her and Michael, while helping them cope during his cancer battle: “I know when we listened to certain songs together, we were moved to another plane of understanding and compassion—so thank you, Grateful Dead.”

Many of the stories told in the documentary will be moving to anyone, especially people who can relate to finding a lot of joy and emotional healing through music. In other words, viewers don’t need to be fans of the Grateful Dead to enjoy the “Box of Rain” documentary. The movie isn’t perfect, but if the intention of “Box of Rain” is to make viewers smile and feel good about humanity, then this documentary definitely succeeds in that purpose.

Mutiny Pictures released “Box of Rain” on digital and VOD on May 3, 2022.

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