Entertainment Then and Now

The entertainment business and the people within it energize three wonderful recent movies.

Documentary Film: Muscle Shoals

The small Alabama city of Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River had a far outsized impact on the R&B, rock and pop music on the 1960s and ‘70s. And even if this wonderfully entertaining look at the phenomenon maybe never answers the question of why it did, no matter. It was a place where the musical integration of African-American and white musical artists and players in the still largely segregated South united at Fame Studios and also later Muscle Shoals Sound Studios to create some of the finest and most dynamic and lasting music of the day. It was where Aretha Franklin found the sound that made her a superstar and legend, where the Rolling Stones made a pilgrimage to record, to name but a few of the many who created classic recordings in Muscle Shoals. And this film does an excellent job of examining the people and giving a sense of the place that made it all happen.

Documentary Film: The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story

This is a perfect companion to the above movie, as many of the seminal records made in Muscle Shoals were for Atlantic Records, which is also where producer and arranger Arif Mardin worked and made his mark in contemporary music. Among those whose careers and creations benefitted from Mardin’s magic touch were the Bee Gees, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Phil Collins and Norah Jones, to name a few. Born in Istanbul and a jazz fanatic in his youth, Mardin was a pivotal figure and influence on some of the greatest popular music of the last half-century. This loving salute captures him as he produced a solo record that features some of the noted talents he had worked with in the months leading up to his death while also reviewing his considerable contributions as someone who could draw the best out of musical artists.

Documentary Film: Seduced and Abandoned

This delightful yet slightly unsettling doc follows Alec Baldwin and movie director James Toback as they travel to the Cannes Film Festival, which also serves as a movie marketplace, to see if they can drum up financing for a project from producers and investors within the international market, which drives many of the movies that get made today. In addition to shedding light on that phenomenon, it gives glimpses off the festivals glitz and speaks with noted actors and directors about the current film industry. For all its revelations, it retains a cheeky humor and never falls into polemics that makes it great fun to watch.

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2014


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