Tag Archives: Politics

DVD REVIEW: I Got The Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s

April 6, 1968 – just over twenty-four hours after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, James Brown took the stage at the Boston Gardens for a concert that was televised live – and simulcast on radio – and what riots had been on the brink of turning the city into a conflagration, simply went away.

I Got the Feelin'

Shout Factory’s three DVD set I Got the Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s features The Night James Brown Saved Boston, a look back at what might just be the single most important music concert in history. Combining documentary footage of the riots that followed King’s assassination with clips from news reports of his death and interviews with members of Brown’s band, his manager, the former Mayor of Boston [who almost cancelled the concert], the Reverend Al Sharpton and more, the documentary that takes up disc one, paints a picture of an extraordinary evening that left Boston relatively unscathed while every other major city in America burned.

The seventy-five minute documentary includes television footage from Brown’s concert and shows his mastery of his music and his uncanny ability to read an audience. In one sequence, fans climb up on stage after Brown has waved the police back. Instead of showing fear, Brown shames them into leaving the stage – and carries on. The set’s first DVD also includes well over an hour of extra interview footage that adds to our understanding of the magnitude of what Brown did that night.

James Brown Live at the Apollo ’68 features performances culled from Brown’s performances at the legendary Apollo Theater and his performance of Out of sight from the acclaimed concert film, The T.A.M.I. show. One again, we can see the power that Brown had to command an audience’s attention – and devotion.

The final disc of the set is James Brown Live at the Boston Garden – April 5, 1968. Yup, it’s the concert that Brown gave the night after the Martin Luther King assassination. The DVD is a combination of the televised show plus additional audio from the FM radio simulcast. Despite the fact that the public television station remote crew had never recorded anything like the Brown concert [they had been doing classical concerts, primarily], the WGBH crew manages to capture the raw energy and power of Brown’s performance.

Besides the monumental importance of the Boston concert in terms of helping keep the city’s black population from falling into rioting, this disc shows that – even with an inexperienced crew televising the event – Brown was a masterful entertainer. His band is as tight as a band can be and yet swings like mad. Brown’s vocals pivot from a hushed moan to a full on wail in the turn of a phrase. The music is all. Brown uses his music to project hope and life into an arena – and city – where it had been thought lost only the night before. It’s a masterful performance – perhaps the best single performance of Brown’s long and illustrious career.

The set also includes a twenty-four page booklet that details the life of James Brown.

Grade: I Got the Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s – A+

Grade: Features: B+

Final Grade: A

MOVIE REVIEW: Swing Vote is a Thought-Provoking Little Dramedy!

Touchstone’s Swing Vote is a political fable on the value of the individual vote; a tale of reversed roles in a dysfunctional family, and the best thing Kevin Costner has done in a decade. The plot revolves around one vote being ruined because of mechanical failure – and the courting of the supposed caster of that one vote by the incumbent Republican President [glossily played by Kelsey Grammer] and the principled Democratic challenger [a surprisingly delicate performance by Dennis Hopper].

The problem is that Ernest “Bud” Johnson [Kevin Costner] got drunk and passed out, thereby missing his appointment with his daughter, Molly [Madeline Carroll – Watch out, Dakota! Look out, Abigail! There’s a very talented new kid in town!] at the polling station. When Bud fails to show, Molly takes it upon herself to sneak into a voting booth [after sneaking a voting card and forging her dad’s signature]. Unfortunately, a cleaning lady accidentally unplugs the machine just as Molly tries to cast Bud’s vote.

Kevin Costner & Madeline Carroll

Once the word gets out that Bud will have to re-cast his vote, he becomes the center of a three-ring circus that includes the President and Democratic candidate. As Bud is interviewed, the two candidates are lead by their campaign managers [Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane] into adopting each other’s policies, until finally, Bud is called out by Bill Maher on national TV [“Bud Johnson is a dumbass!”].

Costner does a great job as the befuddled Bud, who has never recovered from his wife leaving him and Molly. As we see in the first two acts, he is a drunk who can’t hold on to a job packing eggs – and Molly is really parenting him. When he suddenly becomes the center of attention on all the news shows, he rides the wave without really thinking what he’s saying – or what it effect it will have on the country’s image around the world. The two candidates are so focused on winning that they ignore their principles as they try to persuade Bud to vote for each of them.

There’s a bit of speechifyin’, but it’s done with sincerity and a bit of unexpected wit, and really speaks to issues like hypocrisy in politics – while simultaneously giving us the story of a loser who finds something inside himself that he truly didn’t expect to be there. Perhaps the film works because Costner financed the film himself and thus felt a real connection to the material – or maybe, the film’s secret ingredient is Carroll, who is definitely one to watch. Whatever the case, even though it is a mite long, Swing Vote does work.

Director/Co-Writer [with Jason Richman] Joshua Michael Stern has, in Swing Vote, produced a thought-provoking little dramedy that deserves to be seen. Hopefully, it will corral all the moviegoers who choose not to brave the crowd of the weekend’s blockbuster fantasy/adventure movie [you know, the one with the mummies].

Final Grade: B