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Sgt. Pepper Sgt. Pepper

Entertainment & Arts

50 Years of Sgt. Pepper: An Example and a Warning

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As I stood in Best Buy this past Friday to purchase the new 50th anniversary cut of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I asked myself, “How many times have I bought this album in the last 50 years? I question my sanity.” As a lifelong Beatles historian, expert, and self-described archivist it is really no surprise – and far from mad hat. As a long time personal guru once told me, “one’s life can serve to be either an example or a warning.” During my life as an entrepreneur, musician, husband, and father – the Beatles have always served me as both, and the album Sgt. Pepper more than any other.

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From its release five decades ago, Sgt. Pepper still has implications that resonate widely, influencing more creative minds than anyone can possibly comprehend. What is forgotten however is the initial impact the album had on the world when it was first released. Moreover, it is far too easy today to look back on 1967 and casually conclude that its mythical status in Western culture was a fait accompli. This could not be further from the truth, and doing so jeopardizes the timeless and invaluable lessons of its creation.

Sgt. Pepper was an album that The Beatles did not have to produce, but as artists in constant search for creative growth were metaphysically compelled to create. In doing so, I now remember June 1st, 1967 as well as any day that has since passed. A day that proved to be a lifelong cornerstone influence in my creative process – and it all began with a kind warning…

A Warning

In June 1967, I was two months shy of my 10th birthday. Like many others of my generation, I remember the insanity when The Beatles hit America in 1964. Images ranged from people kissing their TV screens to a sold-out and deafening Shea Stadium.  At that age, I was very excited to check out The Beatles newest album. I remember being outside Mr. AM Records in Norwalk, Connecticut, and the store had Sgt. Pepper displayed on a rack just outside the storefront.

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I was immediately drawn to the album cover, when my 16 year old cousin Mary pulled me aside and gently gave me a warning that The Beatles had changed. The group was not the Mop Tops we had all came to know and love. She said that they had been experimenting with drugs, and they were no longer the same group. She never told me not buy the album, but she thought I should know for my own good. A gesture that respected my maturity, and fair warning that was equally sweet and caring.

From there I could hear the store playing the record on a turntable inside, and it was very different. But I liked it, and payed the $4.25 to bring it home.

Sgt. Pepper: A New Sound For A Dawning Age – The Initial Reception

From the start there were strong feelings about this very different Beatles album, both one way and the other. I cannot remember anyone of my generation who was indifferent when they first heard Sgt. Pepper.

There was definite uncertainty among my peers, and it was maybe a little too weird for them at that point. The Beatles had went from being teenage idols to something entirely new and different in 10 months. It was so new that there was not yet the right words to accurately describe the album. This created an initial backlash from the groups teenage fans, because they didn’t really know how to handle it.

It was far from the “customer is always right” marketing mentality in leaving their established teenage icon image to create a radical psychedelic album. Yet by doing so it also attracted a whole host of new – usually older – fans. Sgt. Pepper in essence was the product of a completely new culture that was totally alien in its thinking and life style. It was the emergence of a dimension of music no one had ever experienced before, because for all intents and purposes it was singular in its existence. There was nothing else you could compare it to at that juncture.

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With the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” (1966) influencing Pepper, the concept of incorporating a symphony orchestra in such an unprecedented way transcended the standard four piece band alone. In addition to featuring the sit tar and tabla. The musical traditions from which these sounds originate had never been considered for use as an amalgamation. More accurately, most had readily assumed that a full symphony and rock and roll were fundamentally antithetical.

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In Sgt. Pepper, each of these elements did not simply accompany the other. They were brought together to create something entirely new – a masterpiece that in their joining surpassed the product of what either had been separately.

Its final product, in what perhaps is its most important achievement, was that the music itself had become a fully realized piece of conceptual art.

If Looks Could Kill – The Crew Cut Was The First Casualty

I would come to find in time that what I had bought was both a radical masterpiece of rock and roll, as well as a tangible piece of cultural revolution. Not only were The Beatles entirely reinventing the dimensions of their sound, but their previous iconic appearance was unceremoniously dismissed.

In contrast to a physical image that was so important and coveted by many, the group was aesthetically altered as they had never been before, or had anyone else. Their appearance could not have been more original.  Their beards, mustaches, and even longer hair was considered obscene by the mainstream of Western culture. Yet their defiance of this imperial standard of personal image was critical. It was the beginning of the end for what was expected for professional musicians to find work.

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It had the even greater effect of coloring the outlook of an entire generation that had up to that time no choice but to conform to a button down conservative dress code to even receive a job interview. It was in many respects the beginning of a new world in a new age.

To the groups credit, they very cleverly communicated this aspect of their image change in a most overt fashion. The album cover of Sgt. Pepper portrayed the burial of the group as they had been; a funeral for the old group icons, surrounded by wax figures and other idols of eras past.

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An Example

In sheer captivation by the album when I got home, I listened close to the speaker and began building a landscape in my mind generated by the music. Trying to conceptualize what I was hearing in my mind, it was like a form of intellectual time-travel as the tracks were almost physically floating in the air. It was a truly four dimensional experience that captured a mood made in sound that did not need a concert. It was the concert, and the venue was the privacy of my own imagination. As a boy just then entering adolescence, it was one of the most formative creative experiences in my life.

As a life long entrepreneur, musician and artist that leads a perennially creative existence, Sgt. Pepper helped inspire my future creative process in ways I could never have imagined at that age.

It was a wholesale realization that helped me begin embracing creative change as an end unto itself. A personal process to overcome the natural fear of change, better learning to adapt to it, and pursuing change before anyone else realizes its necessity. As a musician, I continually find a renewed sense of liberation in the albums breadth of artistic freedom, allowing it to supersede conventional marketing viability.

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Yet what is paramount in Sgt. Pepper, and the significance that it holds for so many, is the courage required to seize meaningful artistic growth. It is a lifelong process to learn how to let go of the past, in both failure and success. As an artist, one is only doing their best work when they don’t allow their previous achievements to stunt their efforts to grow beyond the known and secure.

The Beatles in 1966 and 1967 did not have any material/financial need to attempt the now famous paradigm shift they accomplished in this album. By that time, the group would have remained a tactful commercial act in perpetuity had they never recorded it. Instead they broke not only from the industry mold for rock and roll, but from every vestige of what constituted their own unprecedented super stardom. In doing so, they transcended the genre of rock and roll itself. For that I, like countless others, will be forever grateful.

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Truth student, Producer, Writer, Performer, Speaker, Composer, Beatles Archivist, Recording Artist, Stylist, Metaphysical Practitioner, Musician, Entrepreneur.

CadreCinematique

Mourning Filmstruck

The death of Filmstruck is the latest symptom of our rapidly devolving film culture: This is a look at what we’ve lost, and what lies ahead.

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Filmstruck logo
Image Credit: Filmstruck

The demise of Filmstruck is a major loss to the world of cinema. If you were to log on to film Twittertm – that specialist ghetto of cinephiles (“or what you’d call film buffs” as Matthew remarks early in the late Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers) you would realize that many of us are in mourning for a rapidly depleting film culture.

Across the country, most Americans do not have access to an art house theater, and it’s even less likely that they would have access to a repertory theater. Those in New York City can pick their poison between the Metrograph and Film Forum and Village Quad Cinema. Heck they’ve even got the NiteHawk in Williamsburg. Those in LA have the New Beverly. Most of us, however, are just plain out of luck.

Two years ago Filmstruck seemed like the solution. A collaboration between Warner Brothers and the Criterion Collection, Filmstruck was a hand-curated outfit that seemed like film school on a Roku. From Rohmer to Ozu, Sembene to Akerman – world cinema was at your fingertips. You want to spend 83 minutes with Alma from Persona? Sure can. You could check in with Guido Anselmi or Sam Spade or Mabel Longhetti or any of several versions of Orpheus by just pressing a button…and now it’s gone.

A Half Remembered Dream Factory

Claudia Cardinale in Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2Francinex/Cineriz

Claudia Cardinale in Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2

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Every day we seem to forget more of our history. Hollywood is no exception. Often they seem to be leading the way. Hollywood has always been America’s dream factory, and there are some real talented and nice people out there – people who care desperately about movies.

Yet, because of the vagaries of corporate America, and the rush to the all-mighty dollar that capitalism surely compels, Hollywood has become a system that is ruled by puffed-up Harvard MBA’s in slick two-button suits looking for ten percent profit on the next remake.

Now, I don’t really have anything against these people, it’s just that many of them don’t really know or give a lick about the classic days of the industry, the history of world cinema, or even current world cinema beyond their own distribution pacts. They only worry whether their new one hundred million dollar piece of content is going to be allowed to play in China, and whether it will allay some its substantial budget with international pre-sales.

In turn, we have the creation of these monster conglomerates through very big mergers such as Disney buying Fox, or in our case AT&T buying Time Warner, which has led directly to AT&T shutting down Filmstruck.

See, they want to invest only in core businesses that will generate substantial return. This makes complete sense from a business perspective. Except, in the olden days of Hollywood the guys that ran the place, like Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, saw the picture business as more than just a profit machine. They understood they were creating a product that was intangible – a motion picture, not a widget.

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Sure, they were interested in making money, they damn well weren’t commies, but at the same time they were making something near Art and they were passionate about it.

Cinema Homogenized

Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith's Broken BlossomsD. W. Griffith

Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms

There was a time when it felt like cinema could change the world. In his review of The Dreamers (to circle back), Roger Ebert reminisces that back in ’68, Chicagoans were lined up on the sidewalk in the rain to see Godard’s Weekend. Imagine that now? Wouldn’t happen.

AT&T closed Filmstruck because they believed it was niche. Great cinema like Casablanca and King Kong, The Seven Samurai and Weekend, which all those people lined up for all those years ago, is now just niche content.

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What’s the use of going to a movie theater if movies are just content no different from a YouTube video? Hollywood has forgotten its heroes. Cinema seems to have forgotten what cinema is all about – stories that move us or elucidate the world around us – or even sometimes elucidate feelings or emotions so deep-seated they would never stir without that silver-screen mirror.

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Agnes Varda's HappinessAgnès Varda

Agnes Varda’s Happiness

The last three movies I watched on Filmstruck were the creepy Japanese ghost story Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (1959), the vibrantly alive magical realist bossa nova-driven romance Black Orpheus (1959), and Mikio Naruse’s masterful Floating Clouds (1955). Maybe my feeling towards Filmstruck and cinema itself is like Naruse’s lovers’ warmer brighter past in French Indochina – a deeply romantic paradise to which we can never return.

I certainly hope that’s not the case. I hope the future of cinema and the future of repertory streaming services spreads out before us like a mighty bounty.

To ensure this, we all have do our part. Watch movies. Buy movies.  All movies.  Become cine-literate in everything. Especially the classics.

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Preservation in the Post-Filmstruck Era

Lourdes de Oliveira in Marcel Camus' Black OrpheusDispat Films/Gemma/Tupan Filmes

Lourdes de Oliveira in Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus

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What’s next? The terrific physical media company The Criterion Collection is starting their own streaming channel. Will it succeed? Only if enough of us are interested in preserving our globe’s sometimes shared, sometimes divergent cultural heritage.

Mikio Naruse's Autumn Has Already StartedMikio Naruse

Mikio Naruse’s Autumn Has Already Started

Films are doorways into past and future worlds. These stories have shaped us, and allowed a plethora of fascinating cultures to share their preoccupations, hopes, and fears with other, sometimes very different people, in every far-flung nook and cranny of this astonishing world.  These dreams, stories, and feelings are too important to be allowed to just fade away.

Please preserve them.

Write to David B. Sporn at dsporn@tgnreview.com

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The Man in the High Castle Universe: How the Axis Won WW2

Exactly what the hell went so wrong to create the High Castle dystopia? Second World War historian Paul K. DiCostanzo examines the possibilities.

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With the interminable wait for season three of Amazon Prime’s portrayal of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle concluding on October 5th, we pose the singular question underlying the series thus far: How could the Axis powers have defeated the United States and its Allies in The Man in the High Castle Universe? The following interpretation is one possible “universe” of Man in the High Castle. One in which we explore the biggest question for most viewers: How the Axis won WW2, or more specifically, “How did the US lose World War II?”

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As the show straddles the genres of Alternate History and Science Fiction, the world of High Castle is based on counter-factual history. That being said, the scenario below is projected from historical events that could explain the tragic collapse of the Allies and ultimate rise of the Axis powers.

The Man in the High Castle Universe: What went wrong?

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(A stark contrast in the two above maps that mark the conclusion of the historical and fictional WW2)

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For an American living in the 21st Century, the victory in the Second World War is even more fundamental to their worldview than even the American Revolution of 1776. It is, after all, the founding story of the modern United States and the rest of the world as we know it.


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The concept of the Allies losing to the satanic enemy of Nazi Germany and its Axis collaborators hits home in primordial fashion. It is a concept so deeply disturbing that the dystopia such a defeat would create is generally unthinkable. Yet in the High Castle universe, that is exactly what happened. So, what exactly went wrong in the High Castle timeline?

How the Axis won WW2: The Man in the High Castle Universe Historical Contradiction

In the High Castle universe, many well known events of the Second World War have outcomes clearly contrary to the viewer’s universe. In both the series and the classic novel, details are scarce as to exactly how the Axis managed victory over the Allies.


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Putting aside the little information divulged by the show so far – including Nazi Germany’s clear development of the first strategic nuclear weapon – what happened to the Allied nations that allowed this disaster to occur? While there are several distinct possibilities, one must start with the life of one Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

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10 Things Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Must Do to Avoid Epic Failure

Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery is the swing season for the series. These are several directives to ensure this newest season gets it just right.

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Over the past two months new information about the greater Star Trek franchise have hit fans at warp speed. Between the announcement of a new series featuring Patrick Stewart and the contractual standstill leading perhaps to the fourth film in the Kelvin timeline’s demise – there has been no lack of blockbluster headlines. However, the project which will shortly eclipse all the rest is the upcoming sophomore season of Star Trek: Discovery with viewers paying particular attention to where the showrunners wish to take the series. Not to be left out, the following are ten guidelines – directives as it were – to ensure Star Trek: Discovery season 2 will not fall on its face. We begin with the introduction of a new-familiar face: Mr. Spock.

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1. A Tale of Two Spock’s: The Delicate Introduction of Ethan Peck in Discovery Season 2

Star Trek: Discovery season 2 Ethan Peck and Zachary QuintoWikicommons

The two Spock’s: Ethan Peck & Zachary Quinto

I fully concede the pragmatic reality of the entertainment industry, and that Zachery Quinto was very unlikely to assume the role of the prime universe Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 – but I cannot help stopping and thinking, “What the crap?”

With the announcement that Ethan Peck will play Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, there are now two actors, in the prime of their career, portraying effectively the same character at the same time: Quinto on the big screen and Peck on my iPhone. Lets all be honest with ourselves, that’s really friggin’ weird.

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Though Alex Kurtzman and the current Star Trek braintrust were nothing less than effusive in praise for the talented Peck, there are greater factors at play by having more than one Spock.


“We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role. An actor who would, like them, effortlessly embody Spock’s greatest qualities, beyond obvious logic: empathy, intuition, compassion, confusion and yearning. Ethan Peck walked into the room inhabiting all of these qualities, aware of his daunting responsibility to Leonard, Zack and the fans, and ready to confront the challenge in the service of protecting and expanding on Spock’s legacy. In that spirit, we’re thrilled to welcome him to the family.” – Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery Executive Producer


The Reality of Dueling Spock’s

To be fair there has been a Spock duo before, however those were very different circumstances. It was clear for those who have eyes to see that it was a passing of the torch. The beloved Leonard Nimoy, in the best of Star Trek tradition, played the role of a venerated character sanctifying the newest Trek foray with his saintly presence. What Trek fans are dealing with now, whether they yet realize it or not, is a competition that is at best irksome.

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Depending on their performance, as well as their dictated place in the narratives they inherit, one of them will ultimately be accepted as THE Spock while the other will be relegated to “Other Spock,” a second class citizen in Trek canon. Not only will this be unfair to the actors who portray him, it is a profound disservice to the character himself to assume this baggage.

The best one can hope for under these circumstances is that Peck will knock this role in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 out of the park. In the end that is always what will matter most and that each “Spock” can be appreciated in there respective spheres.

Speaking of troublesome duplicates…

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Amazon Releases “The Man in the High Castle” Season 3 Date; New Trailer at SDCC

Fans of Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle” see light at the end of their tunnel, as the two year wait for season 3 is coming to a confirmed end.

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Screen shot from The Man in the High Castle newest trailer from SDCC

San Diego, CA – This weekend at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), after a seemingly interminable wait, fans of Amazon’s hit series The Man in the High Castle finally have the answer to their biggest question: when is the show coming back? To the audience’s delight, Amazon confirmed that season three will premiere on October 5th, 2018.

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To further whet their fans’ appetites, the series’ showrunners also released a new trailer for the upcoming season during their panel at SDCC. 

SDCC 2018 & The Longer than Expected Road to High Castle Season 3

Season two of the show debuted in December 2016, after which there had very few indicators of when season three would see the light of day.

In February of 2017 Amazon Prime renewed High Castle for its third season, and filming began in late June of last year.

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Additionally first reported by Deadline, Amazon publicly released their order to renew the series for its fourth season as well. No date for its release has yet been revealed.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Con, The Man in the High Castle announced not only the answer to the most burning question – thats is, when season 3 will debut –  but also shared its first substantive trailer regarding season three since October 2017.

Though only a minute in length, the powerful sneak peak will further stoke the flames for the show’s ravenous fans.

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New High Castle Trailer: Further Exploration into Science Fiction, and a Mobilizing Resistance

This newest trailer for High Castle season three covers an exceptional amount of ground and leaves the audience with little question as to what the newest installment will focus upon.

The clip depicts further collaboration between Juliana Crain and Hawthorne Abendsen – the so-called “Man in the High Castle.”

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Specifically, they are working to combat the Greater German Reich’s experimental weapon which allows them by means of technology to traverse the series’ multiverse; all courtesy of Nazi R&D. This marks the shows most forward foray into The Man in the High Castle‘s science-fiction origin up to this point.

Moreover, it depicts a revitalization of the American resistance against the respective occupying Axis powers Germany and Imperial Japan. 

The Man in the High Castle is one of Amazon Prime’s most watched series, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same title published in 1962.

The series is set in the United States, in a fictional 1962 in which the Axis won WWII – and occupying a defeated US.

To enjoy the sneak peek, click at the top to watch the newest trailer for High Castle season 3!

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The Man in the High Castle is exclusively available for streaming on Amazon Prime

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Solo: A Star Wars Story REVIEW

In this newest incarnation of Disney-era Star Wars films, Solo: A Star Wars Story adds to the questionable new legacy.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story
Image Credit: Disney/LucasFilm

Solo: A Star Wars Story is out, and since its release the film has proven to be as polarizing as other Disney-era LucasFilm installments for the franchise.

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For Star Wars fans of every generation, the back story of the series favorite smuggler and scoundrel has possessed a certain mystery. Within the scope of the live-action film adaptation of the iconic saga, the audience has only been given minor snippets of Han’s past.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Down Low

Solo: A Star Wars Story begins to shed light on his epic brotherhood with Chewbacca, the genesis of the Millennium Falcon, and his early exploits with one Lando Calrissian. With so much on the line presenting his personal history front and center, could it possibly live up to the hype?

Also by popular demand, some have inquired how I think about and analyze movies when I review them. For those interested, these are my insights into how my reviews are created.

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As with every adaptation of Star Wars, no one fan is ever lacking an opinion regarding every detail – major or minor alike. What did you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story? What did you love? What would you have changed? Would you have made the movie at all? Is Disney/Lucas Film saturating the market with four feature films in the last three years? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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