Unsolicited Endorsements: XV

Because sometimes you just want friends to tell you about cool things… the Brew House team offers up its weekly mix of author-supported goodness.

Grammy Performance: Taylor Swift

Am I endorsing Taylor Swift? Well, sort of. Is this a tepid recommendation of someone who already gets way too much pub? Probably. Did I still enjoy Taylor’s live rendition of her hit song “Mean” at the Grammys? Well, yes. I couldn’t help it. And my Twitter feed seemed to agree.

Watch the performance here. 

It was like that scene in Tommy Boy, when Chris Farley and David Spade stumbled across a guilty pleasure on the radio.

“I’m cool with it if you are?”

“Whatever.”

Anyway, count me among the minority of folk that enjoyed the Steinbeckian set. Banjos? A string section? Clothes from the 1930s? Yes. This is my endorsement. — Rustin Dodd

***

Documentary Short Film – “The Barber of Birmingham”

Last Friday I headed down to Greenwich Village for a screening of the 2012 Academy Awards nominees in the Best Documentary Short category. If you like feeling good about the world, yourself, etc., I don’t recommend this course of action. The first three films tackled these issues: The shooting of Iraqi children by U.S. soldiers, acid attacks on women in Iran, and the 2011 Japan tsunami. It was enough to turn a picture perfect New York City evening – the Empire State Building towering over Sixth Avenue, sidewalks packed with the well-dressed, the sound of basketball carrying over the street from the West Fourth Courts – into a big downer.

The fourth and final film of the night brightened the mood considerably. “The Barber of Birmingham” is a brief piece, maybe 25 minutes max. But it’s a beautiful portrait of James Armstrong, a barber who spent much of his life intertwined with the civil rights movement in Alabama. The film follows Armstrong – well into his 80s at the time, and still busy cutting hair – as he observes Barack Obama’s campaign, nomination and inauguration. Armstrong’s recollections and thoughts leading up to and after Obama’s victory are intertwined with old clips of police brutality and voter intimidation faced by blacks in the South to paint a stunning portrait of just how far America has come in a half-century.

Barber of Birmingham – Trailer from jacob steingroot on Vimeo.

The most interesting element of the film is the fact that it isn’t a static piece of history. In the overt racism displayed toward our President, our leaders’ disregard for women’s rights, and the second-class status of LGBT citizens, the battle for civil rights is still being fought. “The Barber of Birmingham” serves as a reminder that no matter how bad things are now, we might be around to see a better day. — Asher Fusco

***

Music: Beyonce/Rihanna

Three weeks ago i made the extremely smart decision of burning Rihanna’s Talk That Talk and Beyonce’s 4 onto the same disc, a perfect combination for some driving music.

Where to start with these two? Not long ago I viewed them as pop stars of the shallow variety. They had decent radio singles but never enough for a full album. This is not the case anymore.

Rihanna’s latest takes her away from her songs of old, songs almost entirely about sex. She’s switched more to love and feelings, and the change has produced wonderful music.

Other music critics and myself have also noticed a kind of breakthrough with Beyonce as well, especially apparent on “Countdown.” She is comfortable. She is enjoying love.

I realize I’m late to the game in praising these, but trust me, they are even better when listened to together. – Mark Dent

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