There is Nothing to Forgive: An Interview with John Ridley

By Rob Ribera

12 Years a Slave is a beautiful, horrifying, and challenging film. It is the story of the capture and enslavement of Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York, after he is duped into taking his violin performances dangerously close to the border and slave states on a promising concert tour. He quickly finds himself in chains, and then in Louisiana, no longer his own master.  For the next twelve years, he is passed from plantation to plantation, finding ways to survive amongst unspeakable suffering. Forced to keep his past unspoken, his ability to read and write hidden, and his passions in check, Northup is nevertheless determined to make the best of his situation, biding his time while he keeps the hope alive that he will one day return to his family. Continued.

Woody Guthrie the Commonist: An Interview with Bill Nowlin

By Rob Ribera

Woody Guthrie: American, Radical, Patriot, gathers together the complete Library of Congress recordings in one place for the very first time, including the interviews done by Alan Lomax, the VD demos, and the BPA songs written to help celebrate the power of the Bonneville Power Administration as it powered up the Pacific Northwest. In the 1940s, Guthrie sang songs about Hitler for the war effort and donned a soldier’s uniform. He was a man of the people, singing for them and their causes. He was a “commonist”, celebrating the power of the individual, and, in these recordings, the government as well.  All of this makes for a complex character, and a wonderful new set of music, courtesy of Rounder Records. Continued.

City Lights at the Dawn of the Talkies: An Interview with Jeffrey Vance

By Rob Ribera

City Lights contains one of the most powerful sequences in all of American cinema, or any cinema for that matter. A woman, once blind, finally meets the man she believes was her wealthy benefactor. Their eyes meet through the glass of her flower shop, the full flowering symbol of her renewed life. She approaches him out of pity, believing him to be a homeless man being taunted by kids out on the street. Seeing that he is downtrodden and in need, she goes out to press a coin into his palm.  Touching his hand, she realizes that this Little Tramp, not some wealthy businessman, was her benefactor all along. Fresh from being released from prison for the very act that helped save her vision, the Tramp can only smile and cry. These final moments could only be pulled off by Charlie Chaplin. And now, in the latest of a series of releases by the Criterion Collection from the Chaplin archives, we can enjoy this “Comedy Romance in Pantomime” in its newly restored form.  Continued.

Another Self Portrait: In Conversation with Michael Simmons

By Rob Ribera

In August, Bob Dylan and Columbia Records released, Another Self Portrait, the tenth in a series of official bootleg recordings.  Collecting nearly forty tracks of unused takes, alternate versions, half-starts, and demos, the album provides a much clearer picture of one of the most divisive years in Dylan’s career.  After a motorcycle crash in 1966, the details of which are still relatively unknown, Dylan remained in Woodstock to recharge and continue creating music on his own terms.  The results were startling, which is saying a lot for an artist who at that time had successfully changed his musical persona so many times that it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. Continued.

The Ice Storm: An Interview with Rick Moody

By Rob Ribera

In the 1990s, there seemed to be something in the air about the suburbs and small towns of America.  Many novelists, filmmakers, and photographers focused their attention on the darker side of the cookie-cutter landscapes, examining the homogeneity and boredom of it all.  This took shape in everything from Tim Burton’s outcast in Edward Scissorhands, Gregory Crewdson’s mysterious photographs of western Massachusetts, Tom Perotta’s darkly funny Election and Little Children, and many other visions of sprawl and ennui.  Of course, this was not new, but something gelled in those years. Continued.

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