PopCornucopia is all about free associative pop culture tidbits as they strike my fancy, just like kernels of corn exploding into fullness at a random and unpredictable pace. And of course, the cornucopia is the horn of plenty.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black History Month: Netflix style

In honor of black history month, I thought I'd just pick few really nice films of recent years in keeping with spirit of the month that are available via Netflix Instant, as that is primary channel through which I've seen many of these. While disparate in subject matter, I've curated this compendium with an eye to the power of DIY that I think runs through all of these films in one way or another.

Black and White
A hometown gem,  Medicine for Melancholy realizes a vision of a very little told story, the black middle class experience in San Francisco. Starring Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show, the nuance and beauty as well as its love for my dear San Francisco make this a standout indie flick.

Medicine For Melancholy from Strike Anywhere on Vimeo.

And more recently, Tall Enough, a short film by the same director, Barry Jenkins available on DramaFever, is quite lovely reflection on interracial relationship stuff.

Paint a portrait of tomorrow with no colors from today
Worth it alone for an opening scene with Cornell West and Tavis Smiley--two legends of the black mainstream intelligentsia--praising him, Still Bill is a touching documentary covering one of the greatest and most modest troubadours ever to grace the face of the earth. This film made me cry and totally fall in love with Bill Withers. See for yourself why this film merited the waterworks

Red monster
And just today, I caught Being Elmo. It's a heartwarming, if limited profile of Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo. While Sesame Street definitely featured Black folks in front of the camera from the get-go (including Roscoe Orman, who I met when I was a child--yes I got Gordon's autograph!), Clash was probably the first black muppeteer. It airs on PBS in April. I love that Clash made his own puppets, and you see him as an artisan, creator, and performer. I had no idea he shot into the puppetry stratosphere as a 17 year old wunderkind elected in high school as most likely to be a millionaire.

Watch Meet the Man Behind Elmo on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Favorite moment? Proof of Clash's (and Elmo's) star power, he puts together a video of celebs wishing is daughter happy birthday for her sweet sixteen. And it is filmic gold when the tape is rolling and we see Clash's weeping juxtaposed with LL Cool J's onscreen appearance eliciting a huge WOOOOOO! from the crowd as he blows a kiss with those famously lush lips.

Green Thumb
I love topiary. It is the first extravagance I will indulge when I become a multi-millioniare with an enormous mansion. And if he's still at it, I will have Pearl Fryar create my topiaries. A Man Named Pearl is a great little film about the man responsible for some of the world's finest topiaries. He fuels the economy of a small South Carolina town and puts them on the map. A chance encounter with topiary led to becoming a largely self-taught master of botanical art. Highly enjoyable.

Aaaaannnnndddd CUT!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Your days are numbered

No argument here
This song, and Philly soul in general always gives me the chills. The extended jam on this, throwing in the kitchen sink of orchestration, is aggressively good.  
Seasons of love, Kdrama style
 As much as I love the Asian Americans reppin' hard on Glee (and the many absercise reps Harry Shum Jr. must do), as far as musical based television, I've momentarily defected from diaspora and come over to the dark side of the mother continent. If you want to see Asian faces singing and dancing, but with solid writing and REAL character development, look no further than What's Up. This is one of my favorite shows of the moment and its available with English subs. The finale was last week, and now I want the director's cut on DVD. This show suffered from its inability to get picked up by a major network which would've allowed the pre-filmed drama to get its proper 60-70 minutes per ep run time. The characters, all of which I cared about and who were so charmingly played should've had the stores more fully fleshed out.

It's got heart and darkness. Meditations on crime, fame, terminal illness, touches of may-december romance, forgiveness, communing with the dead, ghosts haunting the school's penumbral corridors, and an alternately gaunt and blisteringly bright cinematographic look, make the tone hopeful but with sinister forces lurking around every corner. And it never tips off the melo deep end either. All of that is woven together by a band of misfits at a university musical theater department.

And the songs are eclectically curated quite well, everything from the melancholic Chet Baker rendition of My Funny Valentine and Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose playing on a depressed character's headphones to a Korean retooling of Grease's "Those Magic Changes" performed with panache by one of the show's standouts Jo Jang Suk (it's not radio, it's lady-o)!, a dubstep laced score, along with Kpop covers and original music. Of course the devil is the details, and What's Up delivers. Not only with the music, but with great vignettes at the end of all the episodes chock full of juicy character footnotes. Time I could spend watching this show=Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes:  

Down for the count
Need any more help counting? Just say 1, 2 step. Or count 12345 with Prefab Sprout. However, B proves she's still queen in this department:
Oh, the sweet little reference to CooleyHighHarmony. Grab me a calculator and let's go to the old school. But the funkiest school time number number(no, that's not a typo) of all? The award goes to Sesame Street. Who knew the Pointer Sisters were behind this? And it was composed and produced in San Francisco! *beaming with hometown pride*

Damn, it's so good Cindy Mayweather used it.