Barbra – An Appreciation

Chaplin AwardLast night’s presentation of the annual Chaplin Award to Barbra Streisand for her film work was a fascinating reminder of what a polarizing and beloved figure she was and remains. As the years fly by, her fans have lost none of their adoration, while many people I spoke to at the event were either too young to remember that Barbra had anything to with film, or too arty to have any appreciation for her body of work. For those in latter two categories, it is worth pointing out some of the reasons that Barbra remains such a huge cultural icon in spite of not having produced much work at all in the last few decades.

First of all, there is the VOICE. At the tribute, Streisand went out of her way to say that her primary goal as a kid was to be an actress. Her singing was just a means to an end. It was her way in. This piece of information should not be surprising to anyone who followed her early career, and became even clearer when watching the clips from her early films. More than that amazing voice, her talent was in the emotion she brought to a song, making her arguably one of the greatest interpretive singers of all time.

But there was something more. Continue reading “Barbra – An Appreciation”

40 Years ago… Part 2

Part one of this story can be found here.

It was August, and after dropping a number of hints that I was unhappy being the children’s waiter, I was finally promoted to the main dining room, but as a busboy. In retrospect, I assume that my locally powerful uncle had something to do with getting me the promotion. In any case, I was glad to be rid of the spoiled brats.

It turned out that bussing the tables in the main dining room was no picnic either. The Granit, like many hotels in the Catskills at that time, was strictly Kosher. Breakfast was always a dairy meal. Lunch would alternate between meat and dairy, and dinner was always meat. One of the most popular items on the lunch menu was borscht. To this day I’ve never tasted it, but at the end of a long day, my shirt sleeves were stained red from carrying the busboxes that were half filled with sloshing leftover borsht. Continue reading “40 Years ago… Part 2”

It was 40 years ago today…

Granit Hotel & Country Club, Kerhonkson NY

In the next few week’s it’s going to be hard to avoid the fact that it has been 40 years since the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival tracked its muddy footprints into history. I’ve been speculating that the 40th anniversary needed to be a big deal because it was likely that by the 50th, there would be no one left who was there.  Personally, I didn’t make it to Woodstock. But the summer of 1969 was one of the most important in my life…so much so, that I’ve been considering trying to put it in a screenplay. But given that I have many other obligations, I may have to settle for this blog. (Hey Schamus, when do you find time to write?)

In the winter of 1968-69, I was in my sophomore year of high school and my parents announced to me that we were moving from Chicago, where I had spent my formative years, Continue reading “It was 40 years ago today…”

Memories of Sam Cohn

When I think of Sam Cohn, what comes to mind is not his reputation for not returning phone calls, or his famous habit of eating paper, but rather I think of a man of impecable taste, who truly loved the arts–all the arts.  My fondest memory of Sam is when both he and I were in Chicago for the premiere of a film he packaged that I was involved with financing and releasing that was called “Miles From Home.” The morning after the premiere, Sam and I went to the Art Institute to see a major Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, and we ended up spending the day together. Sam was exhuberant about the exhibit, and loved being my guide, filling in details that he knew, but had not been included in the museum’s signage. He was a genuine enthusiast. Continue reading “Memories of Sam Cohn”

Guadalajara rocks!

Just got back from the Guadalajara Film Festival, after gorging on undistributed Latin American films and tequila.  There was a palpable sense here that filmmakers are opening up to alternate paths of distribution, and ready to do whatever it takes to get their films out to audiences. I walked away feeling that this new realism might actually lead to something interesting.

On my final night in Guadalajara, I went to see Emir Kusturica’s new doc about the Argentinan soccer star Maradona. As an American with very little interest  in soccer, I found the film incoherent.  But after the screening, Kusturica came on stage with his band–Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra–and it became the highlight of the festival. Emir plays a mean lead guitar, and the band puts on quite a show. I heard someone describe their music as Yugoslavian Punk, but to my ears it sounded more like Weimar Republic-era cabaret, as performed by Devo. An audience of around 4000 Mexicans went wild.  It was a stunning example of cross-cultural communication—which after all is one of the missions of an international event such as this. Check out this crude video (taken on my Treo Pro) for a taste…

Honeydripper All-Star Band

I’ve always loved the summer in New York City. When others are running away to traffic-clogged resort towns, I like hanging around the city and taking in whatever surprises may be around the next corner. Among my favorite activities are margaritas at the 79th Street Boat Basin, bicycling on the path in Hudson River Park and kayaking in the Hudson itself. On days where I do all three of those things, I call it my triathalon.

My very favorite thing to do in the summer is to go to outdoor concerts, and last Tuesday night, I saw a great one. The Honeydripper All-Star band was performing at the River-to-River Festival in lower Manhattan. This is the house band from John Sayles’ new film “Honeydripper,” which Emerging will be releasing late this year. This particular night was only the second time the band had played together, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching them. They were hot! We’ve posted a clip from the concert at, so you can get a taste. This first clip features Gary Clark Jr., who in addition to being a major new music talent, is also the star of the film. We’ll post some more clips as the weeks go on, so you can see the other amazing musicians in the band. And watch for more information about the band’s upcoming performances. They may turn up in some unexpected places.

Now back to the triathalon…