Roundup: Matthew Dear, All Hands Active & Tanner Porter

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO MUSIC

NEW KICKS: When a musician gets asked to compile a mix for the DJ-Kicks series, it’s like a baseball player making the All-Star Game. Since 1993, the German !K7 label has had some of the world’s biggest electronic music artists, including Carl Craig, Hot Chip, Actress, and 54 others create DJ-set albums -- ones that still sell really well even though virtually every music website offers approximately 273,000 mixes to download for free.

Now it’s Matthew Dear’s turn to boot-up a mix, and the Ann Arbor artist and co-founder of Ghostly International is celebrating his DJ-Kicks album with a party at the Blind Pig on Friday, January 20. (UPDATE: Fellow Ghostly star Shigeto has been added to the gig.)

Dear will be DJing and dropping cuts from the 57th DJ-Kicks comp, which includes his new song, “Wrong With Us,” plus 24 more jams from the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, Pearson Sound, and Audion (aka Dear’s more dance-oriented alter ego).

Not familiar with Ghostly International or its sister label, Spectral Sound? If you’re an Ann Arbor District Library card holder, you can download almost everything the labels have released, free of charge, including many Dear and Audion classics. (➤ !K7) (➤ Blind Pig) (➤ AADL’s Ghostly/Spectral collection)

From Rubik's Cube to Roller Coaster: Penny Stamps Speaker Series, Winter 2017

For the last 12 years, Chrisstina Hamilton has been working out a puzzle of sorts for thousands of people to enjoy. As director of visitors' programs for the University of Michigan's STAMPS School of Art & Design, Hamilton organizes the school's popular Penny Stamps Speaker Series.

"It's sort of like this 3-D Rubik's Cube kind of thing when you're trying to put it together, and it's incredibly difficult because you lose pieces here and there," Hamilton said. "People want to line up, and you think, 'We can't have this come after that.' But somehow, miraculously, it ends up all coming together."

The free guest speaker series takes place Thursdays at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theatre (with a few exceptions) and features artists that represent a spectrum of media, backgrounds, and viewpoints.

The winter 2017 season gets underway this week and follows on a successful fall 2016 run, which included a surprisingly chatty Mark Mothersbaugh (Hamilton had been told the artist, composer, and Devo frontman could be shy in front of crowds, but not so here: "He just told story after story," she said. "We could barely get him off the stage") and the series' first foray into hosting satellite events in neighboring Ypsilanti.

Hamilton said the big challenge every season is making it "incredibly diverse" in terms of mediums people work with and perspectives they offer, as well as gender, and race.

Roundup: Michigan Theater's Japanese Noir, Ypsi's Grove Studios & MTV Interviews AADL

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO MUSIC

FAR EAST SHADOWS: The Michigan Theater just announced a new film series: KURO: The Dark Edge of Japanese Filmmaking. Starting January 16 and running through March, every Monday night the movie house will screen a Japanese noir film. The lineup includes:
High and Low (1963) [Jan. 16, 7 p.m.
Tokyo Drifter (1967) [Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
Branded to Kill (1967) [Jan. 23, 9:30 p.m.
Zero Focus (1961) [Jan. 30, 7 p.m.
A Colt Is My Passport (1967) [Feb. 6, 7 p.m.
Pigs and Battleships (1967) [Feb. 13, 7 p.m.
Pale Flower (1964) [Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
A Fugitive From the Past (1965) [Feb. 27, 7 p.m.
Dragnet Girl (1933) [March 6, 7 p.m.
Ichi the Killer (2001) [March 13, 7 p.m.
The World of Kanako (2014) [date & time TBA
Plus, there might be a few more films added in the future. While it's always best to see movies on the big screen, don't fret if you can't make every flick; many of these movies are in the library's collection. (➤ Michigan Theater)

BLOOMING GROVE: A new 6,500 square foot rehearsal/artist/performance space is now open in Ypsilanti. Grove Studios (1145 W. Michigan Ave.) aims to be "clean, secure, safe, inspiring, climate-controlled, and convenient," founder Rick Coughlin told Concentrate Ann Arbor. While Coughlin is more focused on Grove being a rented rehearsal space, the venue has already hosted a couple of events since its soft launch in early December. The concert schedule is ramping up, too, thanks to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Music and Arts Guild, which has booked several concerts at Grove this month {link}, including performances by Gruesome Twosome (Jan. 13), Annie Palmer (Jan. 20), and Doogatron (Jan. 27). (➤ Concentrate Ann Arbor)

SONIC LENDING: MTV's The Stakes podcast interviewed Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor Public Library, about why AADL lends things like synthesizers, effects pedals, drum machines, guitars, amps, and mics (as well as telescopes, metal detectors, dinosaur skulls, and those thingies called "books"). Check out what we have in our Music Tools collection as you listen; the interview starts at the 11:30 mark. (➤ MTV's The Stakes)


Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.


Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks

We don't just lend media; we indulge in it, too!

The Gregorian calendar rules most of the world, but time is a continuum. That's why our 2016 Ann Arbor District Library staff picks for books, music, film, and more include items that go back as far as 1865. Our list is comprised of media (and a few other things) that made an impact on us in 2016, no matter when the material came out.

Libraries have always acted as curation stations, helping sort through the vast amount of media released every year. On our website, we have more than 50 staff-curated lists of recommendations, but we don't just advocate for things digitally. We share our "picks" in person every time you step into the library. Books with prominent positions in our spaces, whether facing forward or on shelf tops, are chosen by staff members because they want you to pick up those pages.

Consider the massive post below featuring 55 books, 25 films and TV shows, and 20 albums -- plus a few odds and ends -- as a continuation of those curated lists, those forward-facing books, and the Ann Arbor District Library’s ongoing mission to bring high-quality art, entertainment, and information into your lives.

So, ready your library cards: Most of the recommendations below are in our collection; just click on the {[AADL]} link at the end of each pick to be taken to the item's page on our website.

Say Qua?! New DVD Features the Best Shorts From 2016's Ann Arbor Film Festival

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO

Remember back in October when Saturday Night Live did a parody of the kinds of artfully shot and totally nonsensical movies you often see at film festivals?

SNL called its film qua -- which was being screened at the, ahem, "Ann Arbor Short Film Festival" -- and it had Emily Blunt running through a forest dotted with the number 3 and ended with her being forced to face her own self ... with her own self.

After the screening, the audience bolted to the stage -- since the crowd was made up entirely of the movie's huge cast and crew, save for one unlucky woman who was forced to ask qua's makers multiple questions about their terrible film.

Awkwardness ensued, comedy was had.

Sadly, qua did not make it onto the new DVD featuring 10 highlights from the actual Ann Arbor Film Festival's 2016 expansive short-film program. But this 9th collected edition of the festival’s best works includes films by:

Michigan Movie at the Michigan: "The Pickle Recipe"

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Fermented foods are a form of pickling, but pickles can just be ... pickles, straight up.

See, sauerkraut and yogurt are fermented foods that engage in a form of pickling, with the preservation caused by lactic acid fermentation.

But straight-up pickling is the process in which a vegetable -- in this case, a cucumber -- is preserved by vinegar, an acidic.

In the The Pickle Recipe, a new film set in Detroit, whatever secret ingredients have been added to Grandma Rose's pickling process -- whose dill-icious concoction has had patrons flocking to Irv’s Deli for years -- is the driving force behind Joey Miller’s desperate attempt to steal the recipe from her.

In other words, this ain't no straight-up pickle.

Miller is a DJ/MC for weddings, bat mitzvahs, and any other party that needs its roof blown off. But Miller (played by Jon Dore) is in debt and he loses his only source of income when all his sound and lighting gear gets destroyed by accident. He turns to his sneaky Uncle Morty (David Paymer) for a loan, who agrees to give Miller the dough -- on one condition: That he steal Grandma Rose’s (Lynn Cohen) pickle recipe, a secret creation she’s long sworn to take to her grave.

Hijinks ensue and viewers are treated to comedic caper flick with more than a touch of heart.

Director Michael Manasseri and writers/producers Sheldon Cohn and Gary Wolfson are Michigan natives, and nine of the cast/crew members attended the University of Michigan. The Pickle Recipe is playing at the Michigan Theater through December 22, and we caught up with Manasseri, Cohn, and Wolfson in an email interview, whose questions they answered as a group.

Preview: December Documentaries

PREVIEW FILM & VIDEO

Warren Miller’s Here, There & Everywhere

Warren Miller is Here, There & Everywhere. / Photo by Cam McLeod Photography.

Do you have a God complex? Then documentary filmmaking might not be for you.

“In feature films the director is God; in documentary films, God is the director,” said the deity Alfred Hitchcock.

But the seven documentaries being shown in Ann Arbor this December had directors who put aside any supernatural ambitions they may have to tell real stories.

Review: Gimme Danger

REVIEW FILM & VIDEO MUSIC

No Fun at Hill Auditorium

No Fun at Hill Auditorium

When Ann Arbor punk pioneers the Stooges played a tribute show for their deceased guitarist Ron Asheton at the Michigan Theater in 2011, arthouse director Jim Jarmusch was in the house. Having announced that he was beginning work on a documentary about the Stooges just the year before, one might have guessed that the Cuyahoga Falls-born director behind Night On Earth and Broken Flowers was planning to include the Ann Arbor show in his film.

But the amusing stories of Jarmusch's terse interactions with townies are the only real creative legacy the director left behind from his Ann Arbor visit. There's no footage from the Asheton tribute in Gimme Danger, Jarmusch's Stooges documentary, which will open in Detroit on Oct. 28. And in many ways, that's for the best.

Jarmusch was at the Asheton tribute, and presumably has been around for other moments in the lives of Iggy and Co. over the past decade-plus, as a friend and casual observer, not a documentarian. Jarmusch first worked with Iggy Pop, the Stooges' legendary and arrestingly bizarre frontman, on a standout scene from Jarmusch's 2003 narrative film Coffee and Cigarettes. In 2010 Pop personally requested that Jarmusch make a documentary about the band. The resulting film plays not like a staid rock biopic but like an intimate conversation between friends, a fun, loosey-goosey retelling of the tumultuous tale behind one of the most influential bands in rock.

Jarmusch begins the film in 1973 with one of the band's apparent endings. At the time, the Stooges had already released their three seminal albums The Stooges, Fun House, and Raw Power, but as a title card puts it, "They were dirt." Critically maligned and dragged down by Pop's drug abuse and increasingly unmanageable behavior, the band called it quits in 1974. From there, Jarmusch jumps back to the Stooges' childhoods, examining how they got to that low point and how they bounced back in 2003 to begin touring extensively in response to broad recognition from a host of younger artists. The stories, from the tale of Pop calling up Moe Howard to request his permission to use the name "The Stooges" to Pop's explanation of Soupy Sales' influence on his minimalistic lyrics, are outrageous and often hilarious.

Jarmusch's focus is relatively narrow. He interviews almost no one other than Iggy and the Stooges themselves (including Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who toured with the band throughout the 2000s). The interview settings are almost laughably casual; Pop gives one of his interviews in a laundry room, and he idly plays with his bare feet as he talks. Guitarist James Williamson appears to have given his interview in a public bathroom, guitar in his lap.

The director doesn't attempt to editorialize or add much of his own flair to the material. Compensating for the lack of archival photos or footage of the band, he frequently makes amusing use of period-appropriate stock footage and even a couple of animated sequences to illustrate the Stooges' tales of their misadventures. But overall he seems to revel in the entertainment value of letting the Stooges tell their own stories. When you've got the gaunt, bug-eyed, slightly anxious Pop alongside the gaunt, hood-eyed, utterly deadpan drummer Scott Asheton (now deceased), what better method than to just wind these two characters up and let them go?

The relatively straightforward documentary may seem to fit oddly into the oeuvre of the director who made such visually striking and idiosyncratic films as Mystery Train and Only Lovers Left Alive, but in a way it also occupies its own very singular territory. The tale told here is unlikely to throw Stooges aficionados any new curveballs; Jarmusch himself has noted the difficulty he had finding any new footage of the band to include in the film. And the film's relative modesty (especially given its frequently outrageous subjects) seems unlikely to cause enough of a stir to attract many Stooges newbies to the theater. Like any of Jarmusch's other films, Gimme Danger is perfectly happy being exactly what it wants to be – a thoroughly fun, no-frills, firsthand account of the story behind one of rock's greatest bands – and nothing more.


Patrick Dunn is the interim managing editor of Concentrate and an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer whose work appears regularly in Pulp, the Detroit News, the Ann Arbor Observer, and other local publications. He ain't got time to make no apologies.


Gimme Danger premiered last night, October 25th, with a special screening at the Detroit Film Theater (DFT) featuring Iggy Pop and Jim Jarmusch. It opens officially Oct. 28 at the Detroit Film Theater, and will expand to a wider release on Nov. 4.

Preview: Kevin Smokler's "Brat Pack America" book release party with Michigan Theater double feature, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The Breakfast Club"

PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD FILM & VIDEO

Brat Pack America, by Kevin Smokler

Brat Pack America. // Author Kevin Smokler.

Writer/journalist Kevin Smokler grew up watching ‘80s teen movies in Ann Arbor, and he’ll be doing that again in the coming weeks, since the release of his new book, Brat Pack America: Visiting Cult Movies of the ‘80s, inspired the Michigan Theater’s fall film series, "Kids in America: '80s Teen Classics" which kicks off on Monday, October 10 with a double feature: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at 7 pm and The Breakfast Club at 9:30. Smokler will be in attendance, as will director John Hughes’ son, James Hughes, and both will offer their insights about the films.

“I knew I wanted to write about the movies I grew up with, but I knew I had to find something else to say about them,” said Smokler, a Greenhills School grad who now lives in San Francisco.

As Smokler started revisiting beloved movies from his youth, he noticed that they were consistently set in places that weren’t Los Angeles or New York City, but rather fictional towns like Shermer, Illinois, or the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, or the Midwestern city of Chicago. Locations played a key role in these films, so in addition to talking to actors, writers, and directors, Smokler went on ‘80s teen movie pilgrimages to Goonies Day in Astoria, Oregon, a Lost Boys Tour in Santa Cruz, California and more.

Fittingly, Smokler views the book as a “giant Trapper Keeper of trivia” about these movies, and one of the interviews he most anticipated was with director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless). “She’s responsible for two of the most important teen movies of all time,” said Smokler. “I was pretty worried about what I could ask her without collapsing into a Spicoli/Cher Horowitz quote-a-thon, which I’m sure she’s heard a thousand times and didn’t need me wasting her time with.”

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A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. // Unidentified Peter Gabriel fan.

Of course, watching movies you loved as a kid when you’re an adult can sometimes be a sobering experience, and not everything held up well. “I’d liked Adventures in Babysitting, and that might have been because I had a crush on Elizabeth Shue, or because we would sometimes drive to Chicago for a Blackhawks game, but God, is that an appallingly racist movie,” said Smokler. “ … And The Outsiders is still a good movie. It’s just beneath the skill level of a director like (Francis Ford) Coppola. S.E. Hinton, at 17, somehow wrote a book that’s more cogent and stronger thann Coppola could make it as a movie at 40. I just think the movie coasts on the collective talent of the people who made it.”

Some movies, though, hold up or even improve when viewed from adulthood. For Smokler, this category included Fame and the Matthew Broderick teen tech drama, WarGames. “WarGames is surprisingly sophisticated for what is a political thriller, more in the tradition of The Parallax View,” said Smokler. “It also has a great cast. There’s something special about that, too.”

But you can’t write about ‘80s teen movies without discussing director John Hughes (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club). “He did not stretch himself much,” said Smokler. “He was a miniaturist of sorts. He was a vertical filmmaker, in that he drilled down on what he did very deeply. … A journalist friend of mine had gone to a gifted and talented school for black teens in Bethesda, and he loved The Breakfast Club, but he was also aware that this was a white person’s fantasy. The same with Star Wars. … The thing that’s so complex about Hughes’ legacy is that he painted with a small palette of colors but his stories registered as universal. It’s both an achievement and troubling at the same time.”

alt text

Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago.

While working on the book, Smokler watched more than 50 films (about 40 get discussed in Brat Pack America), at the pace of usually 4-5 a week. Once Smokler defined what made something a “teen” movie, he also determined where the film era started (Breaking Away).

Heathers is the movie that literally blows up the genre,” said Smokler. “It’s designed as a satire of the genre, and that how you know that a genre’s time has passed. … Heathers predicts grunge and Quinten Tarantino and feel more ‘90s than it does ‘80s.”

But Smokler believes that the cinematic family line from ‘80s teen movies continues in the form of movie adaptations of John Green’s work (The Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns), The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Superbad, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl and more.

Even so, Smokler’s book invites readers to take another, closer look at the originals, which will be all the easier due to the Michigan Theater’s series, which includes Pretty in Pink, Adventures in Babysitting, The Lost Boys, Say Anything, Back to the Future, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and WarGames.

“I didn’t have as big of an idea as they did,” said Smokler, referring to the Michigan Theater’s staff. “ … I’d dropped Russ (Collins, Michigan Theater executive director and CEO) a note saying, ‘I’ve got a book coming out, and I’m from Ann Arbor.’ And he said, ‘We don’t have an idea yet for a fall film series.’ … At age 7, I sat in that theater’s balcony and watched things like, The Wizard of Oz. It’s the fulfillment of a dream to appear at the Michigan now as a working artist.”


Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.


Michigan Theater’s fall film series, "Kids in America: '80s Teen Classics" runs through December 8.

Review: Liberty's Secret: The 100% All-American Musical

REVIEW FILM & VIDEO

Liberty's Secret

Cara AnnMarie and Jaclene Wilk do the "Spin Control Tango." // Andy Kirshner at the premiere screening Thursday night. / Photo by Jenn McKee.

"This is like the bar mitzvah I never had," U-M art and music professor Andy Kirshner joked while standing on the Michigan Theater's stage on Thursday evening, hosting the premiere screening of his locally made, original feature film musical, Liberty's Secret.

Indeed, the quip aptly described the event's affectionate, enthusiastic, communal atmosphere. (Kirshner's last words at the mic were, "Could my wife please raise her hand, so I can find my seat?") Approximately a thousand people turned out to see Kirshner's film about an unlikely romance that blooms between a jaded, Jewish Presidential campaign communications manager (Nikki, played by Chelsea native and U-M grad Cara AnnMarie) and a sheltered, small-town pastor's daughter (Liberty, played by Oakland University grad Jaclene Wilk) whose angelic singing voice makes her not just America's viral sweetheart, but the picture of "family values" wholesomeness that Nikki's moderate Republican candidate, Kenny Weston (Williamston Theatre co-founder John Lepard), needs to win.

Clearly, Thursday night's crowd enjoyed playing "spot the local artist": There's U-M professor and theater artist Malcolm Tulip, leading a "gender re-orientation camp" number in the Michigan Union ballroom! There's former Performance Network artistic director and actor David Wolber, playing a security guard that puts the stop on Purple Rose Theatre artist Tom Whalen! There's local actor Rusty Mewha, playing Weston's cynical campaign manager! And in what might have been the most well-received featured appearance, Kirshner himself, wearing a bushy wig, played Rolf Schnitzel (?!), host of the cable news program, The Briefing Room.

Local filming locations included Ann Arbor's Millenium Club, the Vineyard Church, a former restaurant in Ypsilanti, a wedding chapel in Milan and more.

Getting the tone right for satire is often tricky, and Kirshner stumbles occasionally, making Liberty's well-intentioned father and his congregation too cartoonish at times, and painting Weston in broad, George W. Bush-style strokes. He wisely checks this impulse now and then, most notably when Liberty calls out Nikki for looking down her nose at everyone who believes in God. And there are some pretty fun touches, too, like when Weston's debate prep takes place in front of a white board that has mixed-up messages like "It's the stupid economy," and when Liberty's definition of love as self-sacrifice prompts Nikki to reply, "No, that's co-dependency."

Kirshner's original score, while varied and sophisticated, only sometimes sounds like it belongs in the world of musical theater. The most successful number by far is a tap duet between Liberty and Nikki called "Stay on Message," which not only spotlights Debbie Williams' fun choreography, but dissects the doublespeak of political rhetoric, as Nikki instructs Liberty on how to translate terms for the media ("Don't say 'intervention,' say 'keeping peace,'" etc.). In addition, the song goes some distance toward partially filling a larger gap in the narrative, which is: what makes these two very different women fall in love with each other? We're told that they do, but there's little meat on the bones of this particular (and crucial) development.

But these artistic quibbles don't detract from the fabulously fun party that hundreds of locals, students and community members both, attended to collectively celebrate a project that brought them together. The film's two female leads do fine work, and Lepard seems to have the time of his life playing a bumbling politician. Mewha's reaction shots alone earn big laughs, and Alfrelynn J. Roberts, Nikki's colleague and friend, gracefully grounds the story by way of sharing her own past with Liberty's father.

So Liberty's Secret may be destined to be more of a local hit than a national one, but in many ways, it's Kirshner's funny, sweet valentine to the community he calls home; and because of how recently the Supreme Count ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, watching a wedding with two brides - who serenade each other, no less - can be quite moving.

(Liberty's Secret is available for pre-order at http://libertysecret.com, with delivery expected in early November. Shortly thereafter, it will be available on iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other formats.)


Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.