WBAI-FM Upcoming Program
Arts Express

Thu, Mar 23, 2017   2:00 PM


Against Forgetting, Remembering As Resistance: Two films resurrecting all sorts of shameful buried US history - Maggie Greenwald's WWII dramatic feature Sophie And The Rising Sun, at the terrible crossroads of racist repression in the South and Japanese-American internment in Jim Crow California. And, Dena Hysell's Ascent To Hell - a horror movie reenacting the real life horrors of the Triangle Factory Fire, whose 3/25/1911 commemoration is this week. And in the Arts Express Poetry Corner, Julia Stein reads work from the anthology, Walking Through A River Of Fire: 100 Years Of Triangle Factory Fire Poems.

** "I've been extremely fortunate in getting roles that are women who are powerful."

Sophie And The Rising Sun: Margo Martindale in conversation, about her starring role in this both captivating and terrifying story playing out against the backdrop of looming WW II in the Jim Crow South. And connecting racism, no less than three outsider artists - black, white and Asian; how women bond together in small town culture in crisis - for better and sometimes much worse; and an actual severely wounded and disfigured Iraq vet, Bobby Henline, playing a severely wounded and disfigured WW I vet in this movie.

And, no less than three WW II internment camps the Emmy Award winning actress discovered existing in her native Texas. Also, dating Woody Harrelson in the anti-social satire, Wilson.


** "There's a different audience that is going to sit and watch a horror film than a documentary, and that's how you affect change in a very real way - opinions need to change in people who haven't thought about these things."

Director Dena Hysell is on the line to Arts Express, discussing her horror movie, Ascent To Hell. Revisiting the Triangle Factory Fire when 146 mostly female victims and exploited sweatshop workers perished in the conflagration over a century ago - while trapping current greedy real estate land grabbers and entrepreneurs within, and how those sweatshop horrors continue today. With Hysell as a new breed of young millennial directors redefining how we watch movies - dramatically incorporating history, injustice and mass resistance then and now.

** Where...'the doors are locked so the union can't sneak in'...as 'a bundle unfurls like a flag, it's a black skirt with a girl, and she hits the sidewalk with such force.'

Poetry Corner: LA poet Julia Stein from the Arts Express West Coast Desk, reads poems from the anthology she edited, Walking Through A River Of Fire: 100 years Of Triangle Factory Fire Poems. Commemorating the fire 3/25/1911, this week on the show.

Sophie And The Rising Sun Review

An eloquent, and both captivating and terrifying story playing out in small town South Carolina on the eve of the US entry into WW II, the dramatic feature connects the Jim Crow South, and racism against Japanese Americans. And no less than three outsider artists - white, black and Asian - coping in an ostacizing  and repressive US society. And how women bond together in crisis for better - and often much worse.

Margo Martindale is the star and luminous matriarch of the story, a woman who stands up to the racism of her small Southern hamlet, while defending the growing bond between her outcast artist niece (Julianne Nicholson) and Takashi Yamaguchi's Grover. A mysterious stranger who shows up in town battered and unconscious - but with noted 'workers hands' and quite possibly a farmer - a Japanese American everyone at first insists could only be Chinese and a foreigner - even if born here. That is, until Pearl Harbor reconfigures their racism in new and scary ways.

Yamaguchi, best known for Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima, is an artist as well in the story, as is Lorraine Toussaint, a dynamic presence on Orange Is The New Black - as Martindale's housekeeper. And a once aspiring jazz singer returned to town proud, desperate and broke. And whom nobody seems to really quite remember or see.

Sophie And The Rising Sun brings to extraordinary light intertwined with the narrative, all sorts of US history mostly unspoken in movies. And in particular, how this country was once a friend of Soviet Union Russians, without whom Nazi Germany could not have been decisively defeated.

And a uniquely captivating addition to the film, is the character of Sweet John. A severely wounded and disfigured WW I veteran, played by an actual severely wounded and disfigured veteran, Bobby Henline. Whose devastating injuries in Iraq from a roadside bomb, blew off his hand and has left him with forty percent of his body and head permanently burned and scarred. But Henline has turned his personal tragedy into humor and is now a standup comic. And indeed a star of his own film about his life, Coming Back.

Mean Dreams Review

Bill Paxton's last completed movie before his untimely death, Nathan Morlando's Mean Dreams may be said to signify inherently his own life journey in the title, in surviving Hollywood in his own magnificently combo brash and heartfelt way. And in this generation gap road movie to essentially nowhere - but which seems to be the point.
Playing out somewhere in the US heartland but filmed in Ontario's remote farmland, Mean Dreams conjures more than produce in bloom, as two teens from dysfunctional families are drawn together in a deepening bond of affection, protection, and ultimately escape from an alienating when not harmful adult world. Jonas (Josh Wiggins) and Casey (Sophie Nélisse) are the young lovers in question, exemplifying an emerging millennial generation today wracked by confusion, hopelessness and emotional abandonment within a society offering little direction.
And through a kind of pathless future with the teen fugitives shielded from relative harm solely by evoking gun violence culture, the inconclusive yet lyrically woven tale detours into a strangely bad cop, bad cop scenario, counting Paxton and Colm Feore - more attuned to urban not rural drama. That is, with a drug of choice malevolent plot point settling on weed - currently undergoing decriminalization nationally - when meth would seem to be the more prevalent lethal local option. And perhaps Paxton as sinister sidekick to Feore - both equal parts bark and bite, but with a shared surface malice that might have benefited from more individually applied subtlety and depth.

Prairie Miller

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