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Irish Director Luke McManus Makes a Doc of Dublin and Life on Its North Circular Road



Luke McManus
Photo: Killian Broderick

Film: “North Circular”
Director: Luke McManus
Opens: Friday, July 28th, 2023
At: DCTV Firehouse
Where: 87 Lafayette St.

Having been to Dublin before, my image of the city is filtered through one idealized version or another. I’ve met buskers on Grafton Street and seen hipster haunts in Temple Bar. I’ve traipsed over to the scene north of the Liffey, and hit the bars there. But I’ve never found myself on the North Circular, meeting the characters and musicians who populate this much talked-about new hybrid doc. “North Circular” makes its New York debut this Friday at DCTV Firehouse with director Luke McManus in attendance.

This film maker has not only traveled the length of Dublin’s North Circular Road — exploring the area’s history, music and streetscapes — he is now bringing his documentary musical to the States, presenting it by making its NYC theatrical premiere.

Told in a black and white 4:3 Academy ratio, the film evokes many narratives from the history of the city and nation to its musical styles and mores. Topics range from colonialism to mental health to the struggle for women’s liberation, all while considering urgent issues of the day. The film addresses the battle to save the center of Dublin’s recent folk revival — the legendary Cobblestone Pub — and looks into its destruction at the hands of cynical property developers. The movie also includes musical performances from artists local to the North Circular, including John Francis Flynn, Séan Ó Túama, Eoghan O’Ceannabháin, Ian Lynch and Gemma Dunleavy.

Numerous themes, characters, and issues bubble up from underneath the surface of this windy thoroughfare when you walk it. It’s couched in darkness at some times while exuding a celebratory energy at others. This single road encompasses so much diversity of human experience. While McManus’s film only offers a glimpse of local life through a couple of moments, audiences also get a taste of the complex history of this multifaceted place. And It’s actually traveling the world now while being linked to some of the Emerald Isle’s most beloved and infamous places.

Music is used as a specific storytelling technique both aesthetically and editorially. The result combines the musical and the factual in a way that makes this neither a simple music documentary nor a road movie. What emerges is a musical-as-documentary. According to the information provided, “This narrative form reflects the tradition of musical storytelling and narrative in Dublin that began with Peader Kearney and Dominic Behan and continues with Lankum, John Francis Flynn, and Gemma Dunleavy today.

“The use of black & white imagery reiterates the connection between the values and culture of the past and those of today. There is a timeless quality to the challenges that face our characters with yesterday reflecting in their eyes as they live their present lives.”

The film had its world premiere at Dublin IFF (Special Mention for Best Doc), screened at Sheffield DocFest and won the American Cinematographer Magazine Award at Salem Film Fest as well as the Grand Prix in Music Documentary Competition at FIPADOC. In Irish cinemas, it has had a very successful theatrical run starting last December — and is still selling out screenings.

Based in Dublin, filmmaker McManus has produced and directed award-winning projects for NBC, Netflix, RTÉ, Virgin Media Television, TG4, NDR/ARD, Al Jazeera and Channel 4. He’s won four IFTAs, a Celtic Media Award, and the Radharc Award in the process. McManus’ debut feature as a producer was “The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid,” which premiered in the Main Competition at IDFA in 2018, won the George Morrison Award for Best Feature Documentary at the Irish Film & Television Awards and the Best Irish Film Award at the Dublin International Film Festival. All of this positive feedback led him to finally direct “North Circular” —his debut feature documentary.

There will be Q&As with McManus and musician Annie Hughes at select showtimes — and maybe a performance or two as well.

T2C: This is a pretty dark film. Did you make it with the idea that it was going to be dark? Or did it become that as you were in the process of making it?

Luke McManus: You kind of follow your instincts a bit. I did know that it was a place that had a bit of a troubled history and I thought that maybe that would be an interesting thing to investigate. I think Irish folk music is quite dark in its tone. Its subject matter typically is dark as well. I was following that path, but I like to think that the end of the film is uplifting enough to give you a sense of the light at the end of the tunnel. I think it’s ok to bring people into the darkness as long as you leave them in the light.

T2C: From your experience on the road, were there some dark moments that aren’t in the movie?

LM: Making any movie is a challenge and the creative process tends to lead you into a lot of self-doubt and difficulties. This was no different. In fact, it was difficult. But in my experience, the hard ones are the good ones. You know, the easy ones are mediocre. So even though this was a very hard thing to make, it certainly gave me immense satisfaction to see how it turned out. The success has been incredible.

I suppose I didn’t want to make a film that pulled its punches. And this area of Dublin has a notorious reputation for criminality, poverty, addiction and suffering of various kinds. It’s a humorous place and a cultured place. So I wanted to make sure all that came through in the film.

T2C: If you had just lived in a nice, sweet suburban area without any of these elements to it, could you have made this film?

LM: I probably could have, but it might have been somewhat bland and an uninteresting one. I think hard times make good art as a rule. Suffering is like the Irish way of dealing with trauma and suffering: to crack a joke, tell a story or sing a song. I think something that came out of the film as a kind of learning is that it’s not about whether you suffer, It’s about how you deal with and channel that. I was lucky to meet a lot of people that channel that suffering into their art.

T2C: You concentrate on a couple of people whose life experience was dark. I wasn’t sure that there was anything else redeeming about them. But in a funny way, like the one fellow who went on a bit, they were intriguing. He had the really cluttered apartment. That was the way he lived. I was trying to say that to myself since I have had issues with clutter myself. I was worried to see if I was being reflected in him and maybe that’s why I was reacting.

LM: They say that clutter and hoarding is sort of a response to loss and bereavement. I mean, we’ve all suffered a loss. I hope you haven’t suffered a too-traumatizing loss. But that sort of thing is a catalyst. I mean, you’re talking about the tin whistle player. He did have a very tough life, but in a way I find him a very inspiring character because he’s managed to find a way, despite being homeless at times, incarcerated in the mental hospital and witnessing some dreadful events. He still might start playing his whistle, cracking his jokes, giving his speeches, talking to people in the community. And he’s managed to go out into the world and make a life for himself which has a bit of meaning. So even though in many ways, in many ways, he’s a tragic person, he also sort of also inspires me.

T2C: I really was being a little bit tongue in cheek when I was asking this. But in any case, I don’t think Tourism Ireland will be promoting this film because I thought of it as the dark side to the tourist vision of Ireland. We’re getting a sense that living in Ireland is not quite what we see when we’re on the tourist bus.

LM: Well, that’s for sure. I think this community has had a very bad press and it’s been in some people’s eyes, too dangerous place to go to. But ultimately, I think it reflects the spirit of the city and of the country very well. We’re not a fancy country, we’re not a blandly bourgeois place. If you want that, France is there. But if you want somewhere where, as I say, hard times are met with the raise of a glass and the cracking of a joke, then Ireland’s the place. I think that as a reality, it reflects a rich, cultural, diverse, always interesting place.

T2C: You didn’t try to offer any social solutions. In other words, in some ways, I didn’t get the feeling that any of this could be corrected in one sense or another. Wrong or right? Do you have solutions that are you just going to do in the next film?

LM: You’re both wrong and right. I didn’t offer solutions. I don’t really feel that the role of a documentary maker is to offer us allegiance necessarily with a filmmaker. Well, what I like to think I did do is as we were going down the road in the film during the making of it, I realized that not only was it a journey through the city. It was also a journey through the history of the city. We start with the 19th century imperialism, soldiers, the British army and you move through revolution and land war and incarceration and institutionalization. But when you get to the end, you find that these young women are very 21st century characters, very independent, very high achieving, very positive. You have Jennifer Levy the singer who’s a wonderful kind of spokesperson for her area as well as a creative force. You have Kelly Harrington, the boxer who’s a gay woman who’s you know, celebrated her gold medal return with her wife and her family. And it isn’t even a thing that she’s a gay person. It’s not even a, a remarked upon thing. It’s not even that it’s accepted in Ireland. That’s not even remarkable. You have these people at the end who represent contemporary life very powerfully and, I think, are quite inspiring. Part of the thing in the film is that Ireland, even though it has problems around housing and accommodation, it’s also in a good place. I think as a country, maybe, a better place than it’s ever been in.

T2C: It’s the women of Ireland who have really been saving the country. in fact, when you show those scenes of the soccer lads, it’s almost like, “I’m really embarrassed to be a guy.” Thankfully, I’m not a sports fan so I’ve never been in that kind of a rally, like a neo-fascist environment — it really did come off like a Hitler rally.

LM: It’s an interesting point because there’s a reason those rallies were so popular. And the reason is that they tap into a very human need or just the need to belong and to escape your own ego by being subsumed into the crowd. That’s interesting for me and has always been a subject I’ve been fascinated with from my own time as an Ireland fan and experiencing the good-natured euphoria of being an Ireland fan. It was something I wanted to capture in the film. But what I find about that scene particularly is that it’s very strongly connected to the start of the film where we have some people talking about the reason young men join armies. You’re looking for excitement, for adventure, for brotherhood and camaraderie. You’re looking for an enemy to focus your aggression on — your masculine energy. It feels to me when I look at that bohemian crowd that I think there’s the same cause that made young Irish men join the army and go to die in the fields. In the first World War or even to join the IRA. There’s a sense of purpose and a mission that’s very seductive.

T2C: Do you think that the experience of joining… because women had a more equal position in the NRA, in the IRA, excuse me? Sorry f had a Freudian slip there. But in any case. And I think that in a way part of being involved with the IRA elevated women in many ways, like look at who the leader of Sinn Fein is now.

LM: It’s very true. I mean, the left in Ireland has had a lot of successful women politicians. We’ve had Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese as presidents, obviously. And we’ve got a woman Sinn Fein leader now and there’s a female Labor party leader now. Having said that, I don’t think the IRA by any means had a monopoly on feminist feminism or progression of women. And there has been a lot of very questionable stuff that’s come out about abuse — sexual abuse inside thr organization that was covered up by Gerry Adams and a few other people. So it’s a tricky one. But, generally speaking, I think the story of Ireland now is very much a positive one as regards the quality of gender equality.

T2C: One thing I thought about while I was watching the film was how you evolve the songs. You start out with the old kind of sessun type song, where it’s got that ambling sort of melodic quality. Then you start to get into pop music at the end and there’s still a strong lyrical sense there as well. But it’s now connected through a much more up-tempo pulsing experience.

LM: Well, that part of the journey through time was also reflected in the music. The very first song you hear is about Charles Stewart Parnell, the great nationalist leader of the 19th century — “The Sweet Blackbird of Avondale,” that was his nickname: The Blackbird of Sweet Avondale. And that last song with the Flat, which is kind of like a garage R&B type sound of Gemma O’Riordan, very modern sounding. But having said that, when you look at her band, she has a harpist, which is the most traditional Irish instrument of all. And not only is it on our money, it’s also on our pints. and she even has a fiddler as well. So even within that very 21st century slick kind of construct that she has, that heartbeat of folk music is still there. The penultimate songs, “Rock the Machine” is sung by Lisa O’neill and written by O’neill as well. So the performer wrote that song. It’s very much in the folk and traditional idiom, but it’s written in the 21st century. So again, that journey into the present and the past.

T2C: I think there’s an Italian film that I saw at a festival that had a similar feeling of the road about Rome. It’s kind of like the circular road around Rome.

LM: That’s Gianfranco Rosi’s “Sacro GRA,” which is a magnificent film and very much an influence in my film. There were also some writers in the UK, in the ’90s, called the Psycho Geographers. A lot of what they did was about journeys and places and wandering about. Iain Sinclair, Will Self and a few others even back in the ’70s. There was a wonderful French film about the road in Paris. So, it’s certainly been done before, this idea of traveling through a place and meeting people on the way. But I don’t think there’s been a film in Ireland like this, in this way. I think every film is built on the shoulders of giants that came before, and there’s very few original projects in this world now.

T2C: This is an unusual way to make an American debut. In any sense, it’s a pretty unconventional film, number one. And number two, it’s very Irish-centric. Are you worried about it having a reach a more general audience? Or do you feel it’s going to at least reach Irish audiences who would come out to see it because it’s a portrait of Ireland that they don’t often see.

LM: It’s an interesting question. When I was making the film, I didn’t think people outside of Ireland would be that interested. But what I’ve discovered is, in fact, [there’s an audience beyond Ireland.] I think we’ve done 40 festivals now around the world. I’ve had amazing feedback from Melbourne to Istanbul, to Buenos Aires to Vancouver. We got nominated for an award in Shanghai, and it’s surprising how much global purchase the narratives have, the stories have and the music has. I’ve been doing a lot of Q & As and had a lot of discussions about the film. My favorite question of all was from an Italian man who said, “I don’t have a question, but I’m from Napoli and I’d like to thank you for making a film about Napoli,” which really stopped me in my tracks. I then knew exactly what he meant. There’s a certain type of a place that’s chaotic, dirty, energetic, funny and frightening in nearly every city in the world. I think it is universal.

T2C: One thing that’s interesting about the film is that you feel like you walk into it in a way without it starting with a more traditional kickoff of a film. Did you back into that idea of doing it that way or was that always in your mind?

LM: You mean the song at the very start or at the park?

T2C: Well, there’s just elements to the film — it doesn’t start like a typical documentary which sets you up in a certain way and says this is a film about this experience or that idea. The idea kind of evolves as you watch it.

LM: Well, a huge thing for me was the fact that this was a cinema film. I’ve done a lot of TV. I’ve done jobs for streamers. And when you make those films, you’re always under huge pressure to get your cards on the table very early on, to try and hook people in. I knew that if you’re in the cinema, you paid your 16 bucks, and you’re sitting in the middle of aisle four… You’re not going to get up and leave after five minutes. You have the luxury of time with people. I thought, “Well, why not just make it experiential and bring people into a world?” The journey begins and you’ve established the grammar of that world, the atmosphere and the tone of that world. It was a rare privilege to do that. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to make a film exactly as I wanted to in a very old commercial way. But the irony of that is the most commercial film I tried to make has been the most successful as well.

T2C: You’re from Dublin. You grew up there or you are from a suburb?

LM: I grew up in a little town called Bray, which is somewhere in the county island of Dublin. It’s right on the edge of the city where there’s fun fairs. When I grew up there, there were the movie studios like Ardmore. There were film makers like Neil Jordan and John Boorman making movies there. Bono and Sinead O’Connor lived there and it was quite a creative place. But I moved to the North Circular in the ’90s. And during the making of this film, I discovered my grandmother grew up on North Circular, literally around the corner from where I live now. And her life experience actually informed a lot about this film.

T2C: When did you know you wanted to make movies? And when did you have the idea that you’re going to make documentaries? Some people make documentaries, but don’t necessarily move to narratives. But do you want to move to narratives after you’ve done a few or more — or not?

LM: I’ve done a few. I’ve done a web series. I did a TV movie for Channel 4 in the UK and in Ireland. I did a few shorts and I love narrative filmmaking. But I think documentary is sort of my [thing]. Narrative is hard, man. You get one thing wrong and it destroys the entire illusion. You mess up a costume choice or you cast one bad actor and your film is wholly below the water line straight away. The margin for error is miniscule. Whereas with documentaries, there’s always a different way to tell the story and you always have reality there. It’s sort of the wind beneath your wings, carrying you along a bit and just providing a foundation. And in a weird sort of a way. I think documentary now is just as creative, if not more creative than narrative filmmaking because of the freedom it gives.

T2C: You have a better opportunity to blame people if it goes awry with a narrative production rather than a documentary. With a doc, you can only blame your editor, maybe your DP, and yourself. Whereas on a fiction feature, you have a lot more people to blame.

LM: That’s very true. In fact, ultimately, I had no one to blame but myself on this project because, for the first time ever, the Arts Council of Ireland gave me a grant to have complete creative freedom. I hired everyone in this job. I didn’t have anyone to tell me what to do. It was a wonderful gift, but it was also terrifying because of exactly that thing. It was only going to be my fault and I bloody lived there. I’d be reminded of how shit it was, every morning when I opened the door. So I’d have to move my house if it hadn’t worked out well. I’m totally relieved and thrilled that it has.

T2C: I saw that somebody had ….  There was an “in memoriam” for someone there. I don’t know if anyone else died during the process, but yes, you’d better get it right because some of these people are still on the street. Right.

LM: I meet them all the time and they come to see the film, some of them numerous times. It’s been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling aspects of the whole process … seeing their pride, happiness and joy in what I’ve done. Even though sometimes it’s maybe not the most flattering portrait of people either, you know. But they accepted my values and approach and the deal I’d done with them. Yeah, it’s been wonderful.

T2C: Do some of them join you for Q&A’s?

LM: In New York, I’m being joined by Annie Hughes, who’s the extraordinary singer at the very start of the film, and who’s in the trailer singing “The Blackbird of Sweet Avondale.” She’s going to be in the Q&As and might even sing a few verses of a song or two if you’re very lucky. And we’re also being joined by Maeve Mulligan from the cobblestone who has that very emotional moment when she’s given the speech on the steps of the city hall to the protest. And she’s joining me in New York, too. So I’m really lucky that we’ve got such a high-caliber of talented and interesting people coming over to join us.

T2C: How did you pick this time to be the time when you’re putting this film out and bringing it to an American and particularly New York Irish audience.

LM: To be honest with you, it’s probably not the ideal time because it’s the middle of the bloody summer. I’d say half of the people are going to be on the beach. But I was offered the slot by the cinema and they programmed it. They said they wanted a program for a week which is going to qualify us for the Academy Awards, which is incredibly exciting for such a left field film to be on that list. I didn’t want to say no to that. And my wife is very pregnant. I couldn’t wait for the autumn. I won’t be leaving Ireland then, that’s for sure. I’m doing well to leave next weekend, to be honest with you. Its world premiere was in March of last year and it has traveled all around the place. We’re still on at the cinema in Dublin 33 weeks after we released the film, which is mind-blowing. But I think New York is going to be a high point on the end of the journey probably.

T2C: Has it changed your ideas of what you want to do next? Or have you an idea of what’s going to be the next project?

LM: It’s been incredibly fulfilling. I feel almost unburdened, as if at the age of 50 I’ve finally fulfilled my potential as a filmmaker. You know, it’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction and sort of calm I have now, and I just did a TV series about homeless people in Dublin. Since I made this film, I did a three-part TV series. I’m now in development on a few more projects. I have a range of things on the development slate, but I think my next project is going to be a baby girl coming in September and I might just give her some attention.

T2C: That becomes a project in and of itself and that project never ends. My daughter is in her late 30s and I still feel like I’ve got a baby on my hands.

LM: This is the thing. I’m sitting with a nine-year-old very patiently looking at his Nintendo on his laptop on Zoom. So, yeah, it’s here. It’s a joy and I think as a creative person as well, it’s very easy to become wrapped up in your own bullshit. So I think kids are brilliant at sort of making sure you have a bit of perspective and an outward focus.

T2C: This is your second child, right? Do you think that’s going to change your filmmaking perspective?

LM: Hopefully. It’s certainly changing my perspective on many things. It’s just been such a weird time, the last couple of years, with the lockdown and all that. I think this film was a product of the lockdown in Ireland. We were restricted to a very tight radius of our homes during lockdown. And if it’s got that “first film that I’ve been dreaming about for a very long time” quality, well I realized that if I don’t make this film now, it’s never going to happen. Because this is the perfect moment.


The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

YOUNG’S 12 — (via Ultimate Classic Rock) Since he began making records in the 60’s, Neil Young has seldom let a year or two pass between albums. Even as the last LP by Buffalo Springfield was being prepped for release, the Canadian singer-songwriter was making his self-titled solo debut, which came out just a few months later.

Young has never been reluctant to follow his creative muse, even if he’s in the middle of another project. More than one time during his career he’s shelved a project just to move on to something else. Sometimes – as in the case of Homegrown and Chrome Dreams – those records would be released at a later (sometimes much later) date; in other instances, we’re still waiting.

All this productivity and activity can lead to periods of inconsistency, as you’ll see in the below list of the 12 Worst Neil Young Albums. One era in particular stands out: the ’80s (spoiler: Six successive albums during the decade make the list). But LPs from the ’60s, ’70s, ’90s and the ’00s are here, too.When you’re as prolific as Young, they can’t all be After the Gold Rush and Harvest. Even when the records didn’t reach his usual standards, most of them still found new ways to continue on the restless path he started in the mid-’60s. From synth-pop and traditional country to ’50 rock ‘n’ roll and horn-spotted soul, Young’s instincts rarely took him to expected destinations.

Are You Passionate?’ (2002)

Young’s 24th album was supposed to be another Crazy Horse collaboration, Toast, which didn’t get released until 2022. Instead, he pivoted to a record with Booker T. & the MG’s that was billed as a soul album and included Young’s response to 9/11, “Let’s Roll.” One of the shelved Crazy Horse tracks is included, and it concludes with a nine-minute jam. Scant direction and thin songs sink Are You Passionate?

‘Peace Trail’ (2016)

Young’s 36th studio LP was sandwiched between a live album with Promise of the Real and a solo archival release recorded in 1976. Both are preferable to this quickly assembled record made with drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell. Its political points are similar to the ones he’d been supporting since the ’60s, but now with a technological lean (there’s even some Auto-Tune on a track). Instantly disposable.

‘Storytone’ (2014)

The second of two albums released by Young in 2014 (the first was the solo acoustic A Letter Home), Storytone featured big band and orchestral backings to songs inspired by a new romance with actress Daryl Hannah. Forgettable and uncertain – swing and classical don’t mix all that well – the album arrived during a period of prolific activity. An equally unmemorable stripped-down version of the album was released at the same time.

‘Old Ways’ (1985)

Young’s country album Old Ways was first proposed after 1983’s Trans, the synth-based LP he delivered to Geffen. The label balked and insisted on a rock album instead; they got the 1950s throwback Everybody’s Rockin’. Young returned to his country album in 1985, enlisting Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and fiddle and pedal steel musicians. Another unremarkable genre detour during Young’s most dour decade.

‘Everybody’s Rockin” (1983)

Young’s second Geffen LP was as baffling as the first. But where Trans moved forward, Everybody’s Rockin’ was a throwback to 1950s rockabilly, complete with a retro look (pompadour, face-dominating sideburns) and name (Neil and the Shocking Pinks). Four songs were covers; an original (“Wonderin'”) dated to 1970. It runs less than 25 minutes. Geffen soon sued Young for making deliberately uncommercial records.

‘Landing on Water’ (1986)

Three genre-specific albums left Young at odds with Geffen Records in the mid-’80s to the point where the label sued him for making records that didn’t sound like Neil Young records. Landing on Water was his return (albeit once again stitched together from years-old sessions) to fuss-free rock music. Good luck finding a memorable song, though. Even Young has referred to Landing on Water as a “piece of crap.”

‘Broken Arrow’ (1996)

After 1989’s career-reviving Freedom, Neil Young had an admirable run in the first half of the ’90s. Then Broken Arrow arrived. Shaken by the death of longtime producer David Briggs, Young and Crazy Horse falteringly recorded the LP over a month, often with no guidance or direction (the first three songs each run more than seven minutes and are little more than aimless jams). An unsteady new era was around the corner.

‘This Note’s for You’ (1988)

After a contentious five-album run with Geffen, Young returned to Reprise for his 16th LP. But he still wasn’t ready to discard the ’80s explorations that marked the decade. The flimsy This Note’s for You, co-credited to the Bluenotes (a horn-based group with other ties to Young’s past), dipped into jump blues music while adhering to a slim conceptual thread about commercialism. At least it contained a minor hit in the title track.

‘Life’ (1987)

Neil Young made five albums with Geffen in the ’80s, none of them particularly good. But at least most of them have some sort of identifiable tag: synth-pop, rockabilly, country. Life has nothing to single it out. Mostly recorded live with overdubs added later, the Crazy Horse collaboration ended Young’s controversial relationship with Geffen on a sour, but expected, note. Maybe the most easily dismissed LP in his entire catalog.

‘Trans’ (1982)

After more than two dozen years with Reprise Records, Neil Young jumped to the flourishing Geffen label for his 12th album. Nobody expected his first record under the new contract to be a futuristic new-wave LP made with synths and a vocoder altering Young’s voice – especially the label. Young has said he made Trans to communicate with his son, who had cerebral palsy. A year later Geffen filed a lawsuit.

‘American Stars ‘n Bars’ (1977)

Neil Young’s catalog is scattered with albums stitched together from various session sources. For his eighth LP, he collected nine songs recorded over a two-and-a-half-year period, starting in 1974. The results were mixed. The stripped-back country rock made with Crazy Horse on Side One has little connection to the plugged-in fury of “Like a Hurricane,” a mid-decade highlight, and the solo acoustic “Will to Love.” Aimless.

‘Neil Young’ (1968)

Young’s solo debut isn’t terrible, it’s just a letdown after the buzz he generated with Buffalo Springfield. Only a handful of songs (including “The Loner,” fleshed out onstage over the years) make an impression; the rest finds the still-growing singer-songwriter tentatively stepping away from his former band while occasionally tethered to their era-identified folk rock. Better things were to come.

SHORT TAKES — On Wednesday’s Today Show, Carson Daly revealed his first concert ever was Ziggy Marley. And as he and a friend took their seats, it seemed to Daly as if smoke rose from the stage. Daly’s friend said it was happy smoke

Leah McSweeney

I never heard of Leah McSweeney (another Bravo Housewife), but Tuesday she filed a lawsuit against Andy Cohen. More lurid details for sure. Is Andy this year’s Harvey? I’ll tell you, between Cohen, Puffy and the gals … it’s a huge, huge mess and heads will definitely roll at NBC/Comcast. Stay tuned … Yankee-Bernie Williams is at the Carlyle?

I haven’t heard his music, but this reminds me of Knick-Earl Monroe years back introducing his Pretty Pearl Records. I honestly don’t even remember the artists, but the project came and went pretty quick … Debbie Gibson on the 80’s Cruise with Wang Chung; Escape Club; English Beat; Soft Cell; Air Supply; Ray Parker; Animotion; and Tommy Tutone. Check it out here:

Richard Lewis photo by Stephen Sorokoff

So sad about Richard Lewis. He used to be a very, very frequent companion to me back in the day at Lorelei on West 58th street. He was always so funny and sweet. A true companion for the naughty 90’s. He’ll be much missed …

Kjersti Long

Zach Martin interviews 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long on his NEW HD radio today …  Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at the Patchogue Theater on April 26 and SONY Hall on May 17th … Happy BDay Zach Lloyd; Mitch Ryder; Roy Trakin; and Judy Libow!

Debbie Gibson

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jacqueline Boyd; Nancy Harrison; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Jim Kerr; Debbie Gibson; Heather Moore; Roger Friedman; Mark Bego; Melinda Newman; Joe Lynch; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Amanda Naylor; Tolouse Bean; Howard Jones; Mark Alpert; Donald Johnson Kyla Nicole; Angela Tarantino;n Barry Fisch; and SADIE!

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The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

THE NEW OUTLAWS — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Willie Nelson has announced the lineup and dates for his 2024 Outlaw Music Festival Tour.

In addition to headlining sets by the 90-year-old country legend and recent Rock & roll Hall of Fame inductee, this year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour will include performances by Bob Dylan each day throughout its 25-date run.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will also play on select dates, alternating appearances with John Mellencamp.

Nelson’s Outlaw Tour debuted in 2016 and has since featured Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and ZZ Top.

“This year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour promises to be the biggest and best yet with this lineup of legendary artists,” Nelson said in a press statement announcing the shows. “I am thrilled to get back on the road again with my family and friends playing the music we love for the fans we love.”

Brittney Spencer, Celisse and Southern Avenue will also perform at this year’s Outlaw Music Tour Festival. Billy Strings will join the tour for one concert at Washington’s The Gorge. You can see the tour’s complete run dates and lineups below.

General public ticket sales start on March 1 at 10 a.m. local time. Citi card members have access to presale tickets starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time until Thursday at 10 p.m. local time. More information can be found at the tour’s website.

SHORT TAKES — Boy, that Andy Cohen news sure disappeared quickly. I guess Brandi Glanville’s lawyers were right when they said NBC/COMCAST was making too much money from Cohen, to dismiss him. Sure, Andy apologized, but that was it …

Joe Manganiello is hosting the new Deal Or No Deal Island. With one of the worst haircuts, I’ve ever seen, he was on Monday’s Today Show -3rd hour- with Jenna and Hoda assisting him. There were so many rules in the intro, I was immediately thrown. All these game shows seem to be the thing these days – cheap to produce; easy to write; and B and C actors are certainly available …

Jenny Boyd

Jenny Boyd – sister to Patti and married twice to Mick Fleetwood – has a new autobiography out, Jennifer Juniper. Here’s a great piece from Spin on it:

Patti Boyd-Harrison

Not to be outdone, sister Patti Boyd-Harrison has an exhibit with Christie’s in London. Take a look: … Markos Papadatos has a great new interview with John Oates in Digital Journal, but strangely, nothing about his ongoing dispute with Daryl Hall. Methinks it was more of a PR-move to quickly extinguish any and all reference to it, as it just dragged their legacy (Hall & Oates) down … way down. Take a read: … One more trailer for Kevin Costner’s epic Horizon. Pundit Roger Friedman quipped the Indians don’t look too happy in this one. To be honest, I see much of Yellowstone in the trailer. And, Danny Huston who was in the series is in the movie too. Take a look: … As of this writing, subway crime in NYC up 22% from this time last year! Reminds me of the 70’s here these days … Big, big layoffs at both Atlantic and Warner’s. The later about 600 employees. To me, they got rid of all the people who knew exactly what to do and when to do it. Sad for sure … SIGHTINGS: PR-pasha David Salidor at Brooklyn’s Table 87

Mike Scott

And, one of the greatest forgotten about bands is Mike Scott and The Waterboys. Just tremendous and timeless music. Check this article out from The Guardian:… RIP McCanna “Mac” Anthony Sinise.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Gene Cornish; Steve Walter; Jane Blunkell; Markos Papadatos; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Anthony Noto; Anthony Pomes; Kent & Laura Denmark; James Edstrom; Alec Baldwin; Lee Jeske; Andrew Tobin; Jewel Smithee; David and Delia Jones; and ZIGGY!

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The Most Beautiful Woman in the World 



photo credit Conor Weiss

Who comes to mind when you see that phrase—Catherine Zeta-Jones, perhaps, or certainly Grace Kelly?  Most would concede the title belongs to one glorious, gracious and violet-eyed lady – Elizabeth Taylor.   

Elizabeth (ET from hereon in) was known for her films, jewelry and various husbands, but there was much more to that woman. The perfect person to let us in on the side we never saw is Ann Talman, who played her daughter in The Little Foxes on Broadway. Chosen for her uncanny resemblance to ET as a young girl, they remained close friends until ET’s death in 2011. Through song and story, Ann paints a portrait we never would have imagined—the prankster, surrogate mother, the fashion advisor funny-face maker and more. When consulting with her about what to wear to an awards gala, ET arranged for a private fashion show at Saks and then added “Do you want to borrow any of my jewelry?”.  Now that’s a friend to have! 

The evening began with Ann singing “The Shadow of your Smile” from The Sandpiper, a film that starred ET and Richard Burton against a backdrop of ET holding a sandpiper. In the film, the bird is a metaphor for broken-winged people, and Ann shyly admits that she had been a sandpiper. Ann was 22 when they met, and she explained how ET took on the surrogate mother role and gave her the support and counsel she needed. When Ann talks about pajama parties and drinking Soave Bollo, one imagines two sisters sharing secrets and giggling. (I can’t imagine ET in PJs, can you?)  Nevertheless … 

As if the offer of shared baubles was not indication enough of ET’s generous nature, Ann gave a brief history of ET’s involvement with AMFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) as well as her own foundation.  

This show was powerful, yet delicate, informative without being gossipy, funny while evoking a tear or two. It was lovingly put together with superb direction by Lina Koutrakos with Alex Rybeck as music director. The songs flowed so naturally that it might have been easy to not recognize the skill that went into their selection.   

Ann’s ability to mimic ET’s breathy voice as well as her sincerity, added to the charm and verisimilitude of the event. It was such a loving tribute, with little touches, like purple Mardi Gras beads, a printed program and cupcakes with lavender frosting for all in celebration ET’s birthday this week.   

The evening ended with a reprise of the first song. Thank you, Ann, for giving us a clearer picture of the shadow behind that most alluring smile. 

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Best 5 American Film Schools




In the pulsating world of cinema, aspiring filmmakers seek education and mentorship to carve their path in an industry that thrives on creativity and innovation. Choosing the right film school is pivotal in this journey, as it can provide the necessary skills, network, and knowledge to navigate the dynamic landscape of filmmaking. In this article, we will explore five distinguished American film schools renowned for their exceptional programs, state-of-the-art facilities, and contributions to the film industry. From the bustling streets of Los Angeles to the vibrant culture of New York, each institution on this list has played a significant role in shaping the next generation of cinematic storytellers. As students embark on this transformative educational journey, seeking additional support, such as the option to buy a coursework, can provide valuable assistance in managing academic responsibilities alongside their creative pursuits.

  1. University of Southern California (USC) – School of Cinematic Arts: Located in the Heart of Hollywood

The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts stands as an iconic institution synonymous with excellence in film education. With its prime location in the heart of Hollywood, USC offers aspiring filmmakers unparalleled access to industry professionals, studios, and the vibrant filmmaking community. The school boasts an impressive roster of alumni who have left an indelible mark on the industry, from George Lucas to Steven Spielberg. USC’s programs cover various aspects of filmmaking, including production, screenwriting, and animation. The hands-on approach, coupled with cutting-edge technology and world-class faculty, ensures students receive a comprehensive education that prepares them for the multifaceted challenges of the film industry.

  1. New York University (NYU) – Tisch School of the Arts: East Coast Hub of Creativity

Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts stands as a beacon for aspiring filmmakers on the East Coast. Renowned for its diverse programs in film and television, Tisch provides students with a dynamic and creative environment. The faculty comprises industry professionals and accomplished filmmakers who guide students through an immersive curriculum covering every aspect of film production. The school’s location offers students unique opportunities to engage with the vibrant arts and culture scene of New York City. NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is not only a training ground for technical skills but also a hub that fosters creativity and encourages students to find their unique voice in the world of cinema. For those seeking guidance in the academic aspects of their film studies, you can find valuable resources here.  This site can offer valuable insights into crafting well-researched and articulate essays, complementing the practical skills gained in a creative filmmaking environment.

  1. American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory: Crafting Masters of the Cinematic Craft

The American Film Institute Conservatory, located in Los Angeles, is renowned for its commitment to cultivating masters of the cinematic craft. AFI’s Conservatory program focuses on hands-on learning, providing students with the opportunity to work on real film sets and collaborate with industry professionals. The program’s intensity ensures that graduates emerge not only with technical proficiency but also a deep understanding of storytelling and the filmmaking process. AFI has consistently produced award-winning filmmakers, and its emphasis on crafting auteurs has earned it a distinguished place among the top film schools in the United States.

  1. UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television: Bridging Tradition and Innovation

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television stands as a testament to the marriage of tradition and innovation. Situated in the vibrant city of Los Angeles, the school offers comprehensive programs in film, television, and digital media. UCLA’s film school emphasizes both the art and business of filmmaking, ensuring that students are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. The faculty comprises seasoned professionals who bring a wealth of industry experience to the classroom. UCLA’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment further enhances the educational experience, preparing students for success in the global landscape of film and television.

  1. Columbia University School of the Arts – Film Program: Where Intellectual Rigor Meets Artistic Exploration

Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film Program distinguishes itself as a place where intellectual rigor meets artistic exploration. Situated in the cultural melting pot of New York City, the program encourages students to engage deeply with the theoretical and historical aspects of film in addition to honing their practical skills. Columbia’s approach is interdisciplinary, allowing students to draw inspiration from various artistic disciplines. The program’s emphasis on critical thinking and creative expression sets it apart, producing graduates who not only excel in their technical proficiency but also contribute thoughtfully to the intellectual discourse within the world of cinema.

Choosing the right film school is a crucial step in a filmmaker’s journey, shaping not only their technical abilities but also their creative voice and industry connections. The American film schools mentioned above stand as pillars of excellence, each offering a unique blend of resources, faculty, and opportunities. Whether on the West Coast or East Coast, these institutions provide a fertile ground for aspiring filmmakers to cultivate their skills and emerge ready to make a meaningful impact in the dynamic and competitive world of cinema.

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NYC Movie Travel Guide: Visiting Filming Locations of Famous Movies




New York City has long been a favorite destination for movie lovers, thanks to its iconic skyline, bustling streets, and vibrant energy. If you’re a film buff looking to find more content related to the magic of the silver screen, then this NYC Movie Travel Guide is just for you. 

Take a journey to the filming locations of famous movies, walk in the footsteps of your favorite actors, and experience the city like never before. From classic blockbusters to indie gems, New York City has served as the backdrop for countless cinematic masterpieces. Get ready to explore the city’s most famous filming locations and walk in the footsteps of your favorite movie characters.

Times Square

Lights, camera, action! Start your movie adventure in the heart of Manhattan at Times Square. This iconic location has been featured in countless films, including “Spider-Man,” “The Avengers,” and “Midnight in Paris.” Take a stroll down the bustling streets and soak in the electrifying atmosphere.

Central Park

Step into the green oasis of Central Park, where many memorable movie scenes have been shot. From “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” to “When Harry Met Sally,” this sprawling park has provided the backdrop for countless romantic and adventurous moments on the big screen. Don’t forget to visit the famous Bethesda Terrace and Bow Bridge.

Empire State Building

Feel like you’re on top of the world at the Empire State Building. This iconic landmark has been featured in numerous films, including the classic “King Kong” and the romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle.” Take the elevator to the observation deck and enjoy breathtaking views of the city that never sleeps.

Brooklyn Bridge

Take a walk across the majestic Brooklyn Bridge, which has been featured in films like “Annie Hall” and “I Am Legend.” Marvel at the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline as you follow in the footsteps of your favorite movie characters. Don’t forget to snap a selfie with the bridge as your backdrop.

Grand Central Terminal

Step into the bustling Grand Central Terminal, a hub of transportation and a favorite filming location for many movies. From “North by Northwest” to “The Avengers,” this iconic train station has played a starring role in numerous films. Marvel at the celestial ceiling in the main concourse and imagine yourself in a movie scene.

Statue of Liberty

No visit to New York City is complete without a trip to the Statue of Liberty. This iconic symbol of freedom has been featured in films like “Ghostbusters II” and “X-Men.” Take a ferry ride to Liberty Island and get up close to Lady Liberty herself. Don’t forget to capture the moment on camera.

Coney Island

Experience the nostalgia of Coney Island, a beloved amusement park that has been featured in films like “The Warriors” and “Uptown Girls.” Take a ride on the iconic Cyclone roller coaster, indulge in Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this iconic New York City destination.

The High Line

Take a stroll along the elevated park known as the High Line, which has become a popular filming location in recent years. From “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Devil Wears Prada,” this unique urban park offers stunning views of the city and a glimpse into New York City’s industrial past.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Channel your inner art enthusiast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a cultural landmark that has been featured in films like “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “When in Rome.” Explore the vast collection of art and immerse yourself in the beauty and history of this world-renowned museum.

Washington Square Park

End your movie-inspired journey at Washington Square Park, a vibrant gathering place that has been featured in films like “When Harry Met Sally” and “August Rush.” Sit on one of the park’s iconic benches, watch the street performers, and reflect on your cinematic adventure in the city that never fails to captivate.

New York City is a treasure trove of filming locations, offering movie lovers the opportunity to step into the world of their favorite films. From Times Square to Central Park, the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty, each location holds a piece of cinematic history. So grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to embark on a movie-inspired adventure through the streets of the Big Apple.

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