Sunday, September 18, 2016

Heavy on the Old Bay

GOD, tell me what I am doing wrong! Love, d 
~ note written in black Sharpie on back of Pick 4 lottery card found on 3rd Street

We'll call it a personal best: I saw four films today.

There was the morning walk to Movieland to see "Stir Crazy," party of their ongoing Gene Wilde tribute series. Walking down Leigh Street with Mac, we passed the crab guys I've passed a hundred times, only today I stopped to check crab prices.

When I explained that I'd walked by his crab stand all those times, Mr. Jimmy chuckled and said, "I know that's true. I've seen you in your hat walking by a whole lot of times. When are you coming back for crabs?"

Fair enough. But first we had a 1980 movie to see and while several lines of dialog were still lodged in my brain  - "Carry me back to ole Virginny" for one and "We bad!" for another - I had no memory that Sidney Poitier directed or that the film began with Gene Wilder singing "Crazy" to a jazz combo accompaniment.

And don't even get me started on Gene Wilder's pink Izod shirt and sweater tied over his shoulders or the pink bandana jauntily tied around his neck while he's doing hard labor on a rock pile.

But mostly it was a fabulous Gene Wilder vehicle, his character a trusting, optimistic cornball capable of turning us into laughing fools with his delivery.

Warden: I have good news for you.
Wilder: My wine magazines came?

Needless to say, we left with a renewed appreciation of Wilder's genius and a trip down Memory Lane as I commented on Kiki Dee singing over the closing credits.

Mac: Who's Kiki Dee?
Me: She did a duet with Elton John called "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"
Mac: Ohhhh, Kiki Dee.

After a shared lunch in service of my hired mouth, Mac abandoned me for men and dogs while I made my way to the Bijou for my next dose of Afrikana Film Fest, this time the documentary "Hip Hop Fellow" about, that's right, DJ/producer/professor 9th Wonder, aka the Hip Hop Fellow at Harvard.

As far as I was concerned, this was the most compelling film being shown because it had never occurred to met that Harvard would have such a thing. Turns out they've got an actual hip hop archive and I don't even know which to be more impressed by.

Walking up 3rd Street, I saw Afrikana's photographer appear from around the corner and immediately train her camera in my direction, snapping and laughing as she went. We're both in on the joke.

It was a full house for "Hip Hop Fellow" and why not when the film did such a fine job of explaining how his research shows hip hop bridging gaps between generations while developing a greater appreciation for sampling?

9th referred to what he does as "hip hop archaeology," an apt descriptor considering the way he'd dig deep into a classic hip hop album to identify every single sample used, whether it was 10 or 30 because he sees samples as a way of introducing younger audiences to older music  they either missed or dismissed.

Scholar and literary critic Kenneth Gates explains in the film, "Sampling is what Western literature is all about. Look at T.S. Elliott, Melville or James Joyce's "Ulysses" which is stolen from "The Odyssey. We call it the art of literary license."

Ahem, aka sampling.

9th Wonder talked and took questions afterward, deflecting one about how slow Richmond is to embrace its own musical talent. "That's every city," he said. "They didn't like Jesus in Jerusalem."

So how could I not return for the afterparty later, knowing he was going to DJ it? Film, talk, hit play...a practically perfect trifecta.

First, there were crabs scored from my Leigh Street boys and eaten on the wrought iron table in the backyard with Mac, then back to the Bijou for the equivalent of French New Wave 101, first with "The Red Balloon" and followed by Truffaut's "The 400 Blows."

I know it probably sounds like I was cheating on the Afrikana Film Fest, but I'd already seen "Miles Ahead," tonight's main feature, and, frankly, my film history could use some basic French classics like these two.

Bijou co-founder James explained that the Bijou planned to "show some dog films to show you how a director got to a certain point," asked for a show of hands of who hadn't seen tonight's (me and quite a few others) and let the films speak for themselves.

"Just remember," James said after the first film. "The Bijou is a place where you can come see balloons die." It's also where a friend complained about all the distraction of people rattling their popcorn bags during the film.

It's a lot of things, so remember that instead.

Filmmaking aside, both were intriguing looks back at the landscape of Paris and France in the late '50s and given my trip there a couple months ago, I was wide-eyed, looking for familiar buildings and street signs.

Aching glutes aside, it had been a pretty wonderful day.

But the night wouldn't have been complete without that afterparty and I managed to arrive shortly before 9th Wonder took over DJ duties and proceeded to absolutely kill it for the next three hours.

When he took the stage, he looked out and said, "Let's move these tables outta the way to get things going. We're gonna be dancing."

The man was not lying.

A favorite couple came in, danced a bit and headed home, waving as they threaded their way through the crowd. I stayed put near the back where it was slightly cooler plus I could dance in place and survey the room.

From the stage, the MC suggested we meet our neighbors and find out what their favorite film had been this weekend, but my neighbor hadn't made it to anything except the afterparty. But my next neighbor over had also seen the documentary, making for lively conversation about how it had impressed us and how thrilled we were for the rare DJ experience to follow.

Then there was the music, most of it unfamiliar to me while the rest of the room knew every word to the samples and full songs he played.

But the room went electric when the first few strains of Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much" came on, soon to be followed by MJ and Prince and eventually, even the Eurythmics, before returning to what I didn't know but could dance endlessly to.

Eventually, my fellow documentary dork came over and asked how I could go to the film, hear 9th speak and not be in the center of the dance floor where he was.

It was like he thought I was doing something wrong. Like d in his message to GOD.

The Afrikana Afterparty is where you come to dance wherever you want to.

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