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Capone's Art-House Round Up with Errol Morris' TABLOID; Scorsese's PUBLIC SPEAKING, and BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST!!!

Published at: July 15, 2011, 3:16 a.m. CST

Hey, folks. Capone in Chicago here, with a couple of films that are making their way into art houses or coming out in limited release around America this week (maybe even taking up one whole screen at a multiplex near you). Do your part to support these films, or at least the good ones…

TABLOID
Oscar-winning master documentarian Errol Morris has a singular way of making decades-old stories (such as THE FOG OF WAR, MR. DEATH, and THE THIN BLUE LINE) seem as relevant today as they were when they were fresh news. And while his latest, TABLOID, may seem to tackle a slightly lighter-weight than he usually does, the subtexts of a Mormon coverup, persecuting women who are sexually liberated, and turning possible criminal into a celebrity (hello Casey Anthony) ring as true today as they did 30-plus years ago when former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney may or may not have kidnapped her Mormon lover and had sex with him repeatedly in a hotel in Britain, where she became a celebrity for her escapades.

The way Joyce tells it today, the tryst was mutual, and she's a convincing storyteller. Although age has taken away her youth, she's still an attractive woman with a charming demeanor. She flirts relentlessly with the camera and Morris, and her story of the Mormon Church taking away her boyfriend and brainwashing him to lie about what she did to him seems like a classic smokescreen. But as Morris picks apart Joyce's life after the scandal (with the help of the tabloid journalists who covered the story all those years ago), there is a life that is a far cry from the innocence one she says she lived prior to her kidnapping charge.

Morris' approach goes beyond the titillation of the time and really digs into the mind of a woman who may be a chronic liar who believes her own fictionalized biography. I believe some people call that delusional. Joyce went into seclusion for many years, and then suddenly re-emerged recently when she engaged the help for a South Korean cloning facility for a groundbreaking procedure. You literally can't make this stuff up, although Joyce does a great job trying.

Despite its title, TABLOID is not a exposé or condemnation on newspapers that live to wreck the lives of celebrities and/or politicians with naughty photos, wiretaps, or other legally or barely legal surveillance devices. Instead, Morris paints a portrait of a woman who plays the victim of the tabloid press but courts them for fear of not being written about or photographed. I don't know if Joyce was the first of her ilk, but she certainly was one of the best at generating ink through appearances and paid-for interviews. Much like Morris' STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, TABLOID may be one of his most timely works, and it's certainly among his strongest pieces of investigative journalism. You'll dig it.


BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
As eye-opening as some of the archival material and memories are in this documentary about the influential hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest, it's the hear-and-now footage (from the group's 2008 reunion tour to more or less present day) that is the most gripping and startling as band mates Q-Tip and Phife Dawg (with members Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White sit patiently on the sidelines) battle over things that only two men who grew up together could fight about. You almost can't identify what the beefs are about, but the tension is undeniable, and actor-turned-director Michael Rapaport is there to capture every nasty word of it. In BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE, Rapaport wisely reminds us that what made ATCQ worth caring about in the first place was only partly about the ying and yang personalities of its two frontmen.

The music, trippy lyrics, and unique samples made these guys pioneers of the genre. The filmmakers have lined up an army of famous musicians, actors and others to sing the praises of the group, and that's all great but it's also expected. The film shines brightest when it sticks to telling the sometimes stranger-than-fiction stories of its members, particularly Phife Dawg, whose medical condition nearly cost him his life when the group was at its peak and then again more recently.

But for as much as we learn about Phife Dawg's life, we learn very little about the world that Q-Tip inhabits outside of the studio and the stage. He and everyone around him knows he's a perfectionist and workaholic. Some of their albums had to be forcibly removed from his hands (he was also the group's producer) by the record company or management. But there is no getting around the fact that most ATCQ's five records were highly influential and all were successful.

Music experts and group members dig deep into the creative process, making the film not only a fun trip down memory lane, but also a guide to opening up an artist's mind and seeing what makes him tick. It's the film's final act that is the most emotional, as the rift between Q-Tip and Pfife Dawg grows and Pfife's health deteriorates.

There's a final sequence that takes place in a New York rehearsal space shortly before a too-much-money-to-turn-down tour of Japan that is perhaps the greatest moment of BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE, because it gives us hope that these inventive, creative masters may rise again. Here's hoping.

PUBLIC SPEAKING
As bizarre as it might sound, the voice of author and self-declared know-it-all Fran Lebowitz is one that has made me laugh and given comfort since I was a teen watching one of her dozens of appearances on David Letterman's old NBC show. I've still never read a word from one of her books--although this documentary from director Martin Scorsese (which ran on HBO earlier this year) may finally make do so, so it's purely through her thoughts and voice that I discovered her take on popular entertainment, technology, New York, the arts, gay culture, and so many other topics.

PUBLIC SPEAKING isn't so much a biographical exercise through Lebowitz's life; we get bits and pieces about her childhood, experience moving to New York, and rising through the ranks of literature to be one of the more celebrated humorist writers of our time. We see extended segments of her in conversation with Scorsese in a Greenwich Vilage, and the way her brain works fascinates me. She enjoys conversation, but not as much as she enjoys lecturing because she doesn't have to listen to anybody else but her. Her belief that her ideal job would be a Supreme Court justice because they answer to no one makes sense under those parameters.

Other segments show her in a Q&A session with friend Toni Morrison, and it's strange to see Lebowitz challenge Morrison on topics of race, literature and gender identity. The scattered archival footage is also kind of great, especially when Lebowitz talks about her time in the '80s writing for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, or taking part in a vapid interview inside Studio 54, with every answer being a dig at the glossy reporter interviewing Lebowitz. And Lebowitz's analysis of Warhol's theory of stardom is fascinating and probably 100 percent true. Scorsese also includes older clips of other noted thinkers and speakers, such as James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal, and Truman Capote makes complete sense in the context of the Lebowitz framework.

One of the more tense moments in the film comes in front of what I believe is a college crowd, when she talks about how gays fighting to get in the military and get married might be one of the most pointless endeavors she's ever seen. "Why are we fighting to get into the two most restrictive institutions on the planet?"

I lived in New York for a couple of years in the early '90s, and I ran into Lebowitz a double feature at the now defunct St. Marks Place Theater. I foolishly approached her, said I loved her appearances on Letterman, and walked away before she had a chance to say more than "That's so sweet, thank you." This film reinforces my belief that walking away was the wrong thing to do, but I didn't feel my mind was sharp enough at the time to enter into a conversation, but the story would be better if I had. To Lebowitz, the story, the anecdote, the observation is always the greater good. And PUBLIC SPEAKING is the greatest good.

-- Capone capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • July 15, 2011, 3:27 a.m. CST

    hmmmm

    by Glasswalker64

  • July 15, 2011, 4:02 a.m. CST

    A Tribe Called Quest

    by kingralphuk

    represent, represent! Great band that need to reform for love not just money. That film should get a UK release and soon!

  • July 15, 2011, 7 a.m. CST

    ATCQ

    by truenotes1

    One of the greatest hip hop groups EVER!!!

  • July 15, 2011, 7:09 a.m. CST

    yes indeed

    by WINONA_RYDERS_PUSSY_JUICE

  • July 15, 2011, 9:37 a.m. CST

    ATCQ

    by El Cimarron

    I'm a hip hop head that was shocked (along with everyone else) when ATCQ announced they were splitting shortly after Love Movement. I've been waiting for this documentary for a long time, to see the swan song for one of my fav. groups.

  • July 15, 2011, 9:39 a.m. CST

    errol morris documentary called tabloid

    by emeraldboy

    could not have a better timing for release. I will bring our american tbs up to speed. bit of mini bio first rupert mordoch's old man owned one of the most success ful newspapers in australia. rupert was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. he went to cambridge to study law. aged 21. He got a phone call that was to change his life. His father suffered a major stroke and sales were going through the floor. rupert was a bright young man and was a fast learner and he knew nothing about the paper industry despite having been brought up in it. and he was ruthless. ambitious. and crushed anyone who got in his way. when he took over the running of his fathers old paper, sales sky rocketed. but this was a man who wanted to stamp his mark on the world and he began to look overseas. in 1969 he undercut his rival robert maxwell to buy the news of the world. after wrapping his tentacles around the australian news and media. he looked stateside. he felt that news broadcasting was very one sided. biased against the democrats. In 1984 murdoch went to pitch his idea for what would become channel 4. he was turfed out on his ear. 5 years later he launched sky sat one. and then later launched sky news. when nurdoch emerged in america. fox was dying and barely able to breath and fox tv was was struggling as it was in its infancy . he then met a man called roger ailes who in the 1970s wanted to set up a channel which would take on biased/ left leaning news media. ailes then became the first head of fox news. Murdoch was by that point very powerful. he fought power with power. his mantra was that if it was in the public interest it was news. celebs and the royals were fair game and they were fodder. What has been happening recently. 1997 the royals read a story about prince william's knee and wondered how that got into the press. especially the news of the world. an internal investigation was launched and the spotlight fell on clive goodman, he was arrested and under oath said that he and glenn mulcare had hacked the phones of the royal. He and mulcare were charged,convicted and punished. the police investigation that followed went away quickly. the then editor of the news of the world was a man called andy coulson. and in 2000 he ended up working for david cameron now pm. how coulson got that job could end up costing cameron his job. there was an interview but cameron was warned to stay away from coulson. but cameron ignored that and hired him anyway. rebekkah brookes, then wade was not only on very good terms with the murdochs but lived two doors down from the camerons and been keen to get to know david cameron and his wife very well and politically also. in 2002 british people were revolted when the remains of a 14 year old school girl were discovered 6 months after she disappeared. her name was milly dowler and she was murdered by the vile levi bellfield. and was a one of number of his victims he smashed the back of his victims heads with a metal hammer and only one of his victims survived leaving them to die. it was only this year that was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. what does this have to do with news international. someone from that company hacked into to milly's mobile phone and deleted all her messages. somebody from that company hacked into the mobile phones of 7/7 victims familes. and did the same thing to both gordon brown and the families of the soldiers in both the iraq and afghans. and then there is the corruption of the police in the uk. two celebs have emerged as heroes in this debacle steve coogan and hugh grant. brookes quit her post and coulson was released on bail. the murdochs have been in and out of london recently. there bid for complete control of bskyb bit the dust. next week all eyes will be at westminister when the murdochs and rebekkah brookes tell there story. next week murdoch will wear his lawyers hat when evasively avoiding all the questions. and murdoch says his company will recover soon.. you just could not make it up. god help him if the fbi find in the allegations that the vitcims famiies of 9/11 were hacked.

  • July 15, 2011, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Electronic Relaxation by The Tribe..

    by BookhouseBoy

    ..Is one of the most beautiful things my ears have had the pleasure to hear!

  • July 15, 2011, 12:48 p.m. CST

    Without A Tribe Called Quest, there wouldn't be a guy called West

    by versatol

    They opened the door for all fun loving hip hop lyricists. Award Tour never gets old.

  • July 15, 2011, 4:26 p.m. CST

    A Tribe Called Quest

    by Annie The Pod Racer

    Really feel that hip hop died & took on a facade when these guys called it quits. Really-

  • July 15, 2011, 5:15 p.m. CST

    I love Tribe, but couldn't get into the post MM albums.

    by Monolith_Jones

  • July 16, 2011, 10:49 a.m. CST

    low end movement

    by jesus 2099

    best hip hop album. ever.

  • July 16, 2011, 12:18 p.m. CST

    jesus 2099

    by DonLogan

    Low End Theory