PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: Episode 184

This week we go back to late April, 2013 for Radio Free Charleston 184, “Sherlock Shirt,” which was shot all over the city of Charleston and featured the RFC debuts of both The Carpenter Ants and Time and Distance. Plus we had a song from Joseph Hale (in a music video by Murfmeef) and a preview of the Alban Arts Center production of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance as well as animation from Frank Panucci.

The Carpenter Ants are seen performing “Blessing” at The East End Bazaar. We recorded Time And Distance doing their song, “There Is Nothing I Hate More Than The DMV,” at The Empty Glass, and the late Mr. Hale’s video for “Serene” was shot around Parkersburg.

For the original production notes, go HERE.

Help Finish “My Autopsy”

The PopCulteer
May 17, 2019

Today we’re going to tell you how you can help finish a terrific-looking local indendent film. This is a really special project, and I think it could really help show off the filmmaking talent in this area with a first-rate production.

My Autopsy is a film project that writer/director Holly Mollohan has been working to bring to life for ten years. It’s a fresh take on the issue of domestic abuse with an enlightened point of view.

I spoke with Serenity Allinder Velasco Valle, the producer of My Autopsy, as well as an actress in the film. She tells the story of the film, “Holly Mollohan began this journey ten years ago! The screenplay won several awards along the way. I signed on in June of last year as pre-production was starting and went head over heels into my first stint on that side of the camera. I’ve acted, but never been part of the crew until now.”

My Autopsy follows 24-year-old Rachel (Gareth Tidball) as she tries to move on with her life after a violent relationship. However, the more she tries to move on, it becomes more evident of how much deeper the emotional scars are than the physical ones from the relationship with Vince (Dave Stishan), the film’s main antagonist. Vince starts reminding her that she isn’t her own person: she is his property. In effect, she never fully became free. Eventually, the threat of Vince becomes real in a final showdown that pits Rachel and Vince against each other for ownership of her inner power, and her true self.

Set in the environment of the gritty local music scene, My Autopsy examines Rachel’s fall into the abyss and her ultimate realization of self in a hard hitting, “no holds barred” fashion. It’s sex, drugs, rock and roll, and stream of consciousness poetry with a dreamlike emotional twist. In this tale it is discovered that within even the most broken woman hides a strong person who will eventually break out of the emotional cell in which she is imprisoned. She will find that she has the inner strength to not only tackle life on her own, but to effectively exorcise the demons from her past.

My Autopsy was filmed entirely in West Virginia. Holly Mollohan directed from her own script, with Assistant Director Eric Lorenz for Screaming Butterlfy Entertainment. Now You can help finish this project and bring Holly’s vision to the big screen.

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to cover the costs of the finishing the film: shooting pick-ups, post-production expenses and festival submission fees.

There’s just under four weeks left in the campaign, and you can see the Kickstarter trailer right here…

Rewards range from social media shout-outs to Tarot readings, autographed movie posters, digital downloads of the finished film and a varity of cool merchandise branded with the film’s logo.

Best of all, you’ll be encouraging the film industry in West Virginia, and maybe help us retain more of our young creative people.

Holly has been a fixture on the local music scene for some time, directing videos for bands like Byzantine and Voices of Anatole. In fact, I first met Holly back in 2007 when she contributed a Voices of Anatole music video to an episode of Radio Free Charleston that is currently in the cue to be remastered.

The Screenplay for My Autopsy has won the Silver Ace Award at the 2011 Las Vegas International Film Festival, was an Official Finalist at the 2011 Beverly Hills International Film Festival, won the Award of Excellence at the 2012 Canada International Film Festival, and took Second Place at the 2011 Appalachian Film Festival. Now with the production inches away from the finish line, you can help give it that one final push.

We go back to Serenity for the last word on My Autopsy, “We have the absolute BEST cast and crew! We have fun while getting things done. I haven’t had this much fun since I got to walk around making small talk with Tim Burton on the set of Planet of the Apes!”

Go kick in some funds, and keep checking PopCult for more updates on My Autopsy. When it’s finished I’ll let you know where and when you can see the finished film.

That is the PopCulteer for today. Check back for our regular features and one last NYC photo essay.

The NYC Tour Diary Part Five: All My Sons

As I mentioned previously, the main reason for my recent trip to New York City was to see two Broadway shows that Mel really wanted to see. The first was King Lear, starring Glenda Jackson, and you can read about that production HERE.

Then we had a day off, before heading to see All My Sons, Arthur Miller’s first major play, in a production starring Tracy Letts and Annette Bening.

Thought not as well-known as Miller’s later works, All My Sons is a modern classic, and this production really brings his work to life. Set in 1947 (when it was originally staged), what starts out as a snapshot of small-town life quickly turns into the unravelling of a web of deceit, secrets, lies and horror. The play is truly gut-wrenching, and you will be emotionally worn out by the time it’s over.

I’m not going to get too heavily into the plot because it can be a bit ridiculous to write a synopsis of such a classic work, but also because it’s hard to reveal too much of it without spoiling the shocks and surprises along the way. Joe Keller is a successful businessman who was exonerated of selling defective engine parts to the military during the war, resulting in the deaths of twenty-one pilots. His business partner, and former next-door-neighbor, was convicted of that crime and remains in prison. Letts plays Joe, and Bening plays his wife, Kate, who believes that her MIA son, Larry, is still alive, waiting to rescued after disappearing at sea.

On the morning when the play begins, a tree planted in memory of Larry had blown over in a storm. Ann, the daughter of his business partner is arriving for a visit, and she and Joe’s son try to figure out how to explain that Ann, who was the girlfriend of Larry, is in love with Larry’s brother, Chris and they want to get married.

Almost every major character is keeping secrets that can destroy the family.

This production is downright stunning. Not being familiar with the story in advance, I was drawn in by the performances and the plot. The set design by Douglas Schmidt was simply brilliant, which is no mean feat since the entire play takes place in the Keller’s backyard. Director, Jack O’Brien, manages the action on the set perfectly, and the cast is up to the challenge of portraying Miller’s American tragedy.

Tracy Letts, as Joe Keller, perfectly conveys the complexities of a happy, friendly and gregarious man who has seriously compromised ethics. His portrayal of the businessman who survived a scandal is very real, and actually reminded me a bit of my late uncle, Gene Warden, who had a bit in common with Joe Keller in terms of how he treated his partners.

Letts is, of course, a Tony and Pulitzer Award-winning playwright himself, and it’s interesting to note that his most recent work, The Minutes, touches on similiar themes of deceit, secrets, cover-ups and how they relate to the American Dream.

Annette Bening gives a measured performance within a performance as Kate, who outwardly projects confidence and contentment, but whose deep depression over the fate of her son and the actions of her husband come to the forefront as she becomes increasingly numb. This is a quietly powerful performance.

Benjamin Walker’s acclaim for his performance as Joe’s idealistic, yet haunted son, Chris is well-deserved. In the hands of a lesser actor, his character could come across as flat and contradictory, rather than complex and conflicted.

All My Sons is, as I said, a classic of modern drama, and it’s hard to imagine a better production than this current Broadway run. That run has been extended to the end of June, and you may still be able to get tickets. It’s a production of The Roundabout Theatre Company, and is staged at The American Airlines Theater.

Trivia Note: Yes, the band, Twenty-one Pilots, took their name from this play. Also, the play was inspired by a real incident from World War II, but every detail has been fictionalized.

PopCult’s NYC Tour Diary will conclude in a day or two with one last photo essay. You can read the other parts, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Getting back to your PopCulteer’s recent trip to The Big Apple…

…if you’ve been following this, we arrived late Wednesday to find our hotel rooms to be imaginary. Thursday we saw Glenda Jackson as King Lear, and Friday we went to FAO Schwarz.

With some of our plans somewhat obliterated by the unethical actions of the worst hotel in the world, we rearranged our schedule, and found ourselves with a few hours to kill on Saturday morning, the day before we were to leave NYC for home. I had been wanting to try something, and even though it’s about the most tourist-y thing you can do Mrs. PopCulteer quickly agreed and together we found ourselves boarding one of the double-decker, open-deck, tour buses.

We went with TopView Sightseeing (there are several from which to choose), primarily because that was the first one who’s agent we ran into on Eighth Avenue. We could’ve bought our tickets online, but if you buy one from the guys in the red vests on the street they will cut you a better deal.

We decided to do this because, while we have made quite a few trips to New York recently, neither of us had seen The Empire State Building or The Flatiron Building or Ground Zero and the new tower, so this was a fun way to pass a few hours on what started as a dreary, rainy day, which then turned into a pleasant afternoon.

My ulterior motive for taking this tour was that I brought my camera, my trusty Canon, and wanted to stock up on photos to inspire my art. You’ll be seeing lots of New York-centric art every Monday for the next couple of months.

I took over five hundred photos on this bus tour. Today you’ll get to see just a tiny sampling, so that we don’t break the PopCult server. The plan now is for there to be two more entries in The NYC Tour Diary, a review of All My Sons, and one last photo essay.

Now, here’s the photos from the bus…

Right after we got on the bus, on Eighth Avenue, near 42nd Street. This is a hop-on, hop-off bus so that you can jump off and explore, then jump on the next bus that comes along in about twenty minutes. We didn’t hop off any, but we may do this again and use the bus to explore the city in more detail.

The obligatory bus selfie, this time with a real camera, and in focus.

Continue reading…

The AIR’s Greatest Hits, All Week Long!

If that headline looks to you like a euphemism for reruns, you are correct. The nice German folks who maintain the service we use to bring you The AIR have informed us that they are upgrading their servers this week, and as a result, there may be intermittant outages during that time. Since we don’t want to promote new shows, only to have our listeners tune in to hear dead air, I made the call to bring you encore presentations all week, so that you don’t get too disappointed if the station goes dead for a minute or fifty right in the middle of the cool new thing I promised.

You can still tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

As for our reruns, I can assure you that we will only use the finest, USDA Grade-A repeats of our musical programs this week.

Tuesday, you can hear episode 100 of Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM, and the morning run will be followed by our three most recent RFC episodes. The Swing Shift will replay its fiftieth show, followed by a couple of other classic episodes at 3 PM.

Wednesday Curtain Call will present an encore of recent shows devoted to The Tony Awards. The rest of the week will also see classic episodes of our music programs. This is a great chance to check out The AIR, because one thing I know is, with our luck, hundreds of people will tune in right when the servers shut down and we have nothing but dead air.

Cross your fingers and hope that they get this all worked out by next week. We have lots of cool stuff we want you to hear. In the meantime, check PopCult for the rest of our NYC Tour Diary, and some reviews of really cool stuff.

 

This week we kick off a longish series of paintings and images based on my recent trip to New York City. Today it’s a fairly normal street scene, with an astronaut walking down Eighth Avenue. It’s a digital painting based on a composite of several photos I took from the taxi on the way from our purgatorial hotel in Queens to our real hotel. I’ll probably have NY-centric art in this space for the next couple of months.

As always, click the image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, 7 AM sees a marathon of Radio Free Charleston International with your PopCulteer playing whatever stikes his fancy. Then at 3 PM you can settle in for eight hours of great New Wave music with Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. At 11 PM you can spend your late night with eight hours of the best Progressive Rock of the last half-century on Prognosis.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Sunday Evening Video: Mothra Day

In honor of Mothra Day, PopCult presents a fan edit of the 1992 film, Godzilla vs. Mothra. Happy Mothra Day, everybody!

 

Today we’re going to take a long look at the new FAO Schwarz flagship store in Rockefeller Center in New York. This store opened late last year, and tries to recreate the escitment of the original FAO Schwarz in New York, with loads of toys and displays scattered around its two full floors plus a mezzanine.

This was my first visit ever to FAO Schwarz, and it was a bit unusual. I went in not expecting to find anything that I collect at the moment. So I wasn’t disappointed when that proved to be the case.

I did find a vital, crowded toy store with a wide variety of merchandise, including a candy section provided by It’Sugar and people all over the store showing off flying toys and magic tricks.

Mrs. PopCulteer found some new Pusheen stuff, so we didn’t leave empty-handed.

With this photo essay I’m going to attempt to cram in as many photos as possible, and that means that I won’t be adding captions, because that makes the blog layout more than a little wonky. Instead I’ll add descriptive blocks of text between some of the photos, but many of them are self-explanatory and will just get a quick note. The text will describe the photo above it.

Much of FAO Schwarz is filled with exclusive plush items. There are also FAO-branded toys (many of which can be found at Kohl’s and other department stores now), and large sections devoted to Barbie and Transformers and Hatchimals. We were there the day that the Uglydolls movie opened, and there was a lot of that all over the store.

The layout of the place is open and filled with bright, shiny displays. Robots and rocket ships abound, and you’ll see giant plush all over the store. Let’s dive in…

The store is located right on one corner of Rockefeller Plaza, just half a block away from the entrance to NBC and the Rockefeller Center tours.

 

Above you see the 49th Street entrance. The building is laid out like an old-school department store, in terms of entrances and multiple floors.

 

There are demonstrations of toys and magic tricks going on all over the store, all the time.

Continue reading…

The RFC Flashback: Episode 183

This week we go back to April, 2013 for Radio Free Charleston, 183, “Defenders Of Bulletman Shirt,” with music from Albert Perrone, Saprogen and Radio Cult plus two trailers for local movies that were shown at the Keith-Albee Theater about a week after this show debuted. Host segments for this episode were shot at Tricon, a large comic book convention held in Huntington.

Our first trailer is for Ladybeard, an Apartment 2B Production, directed by David Smith, and featuring a cameo by yours truly.  The other trailer is for “Trace Around Your Heart” Seth Martin and Friends and Ian Nolte created a stirring motion picture, sort of “A Star Is Born” with country music…and puppets.

In the host segments, you’ll see all sorts of sights and sounds of Tricon, including your PopCulteer cavorting with local convention guests, Jason Pell and Daniel Boyd (as seen in the image with this post).

You can read the full production notes HERE.

The New York Tour Diary Part Two: King Lear

The PopCulteer
May 10, 2019

A little over a week ago I was privileged to witness an amazing performance.

One of the main reasons for our trip to New York was to see a limited run production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, starring Glenda Jackson in the title role.

We got to see Ms. Jackson last year in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, and she truly is an international treasure, and an acting icon. She is so much of an acting legend that she took on the role of Lear (for the second time–she did it a few years ago in London) without gender-flipping it. This was not “Queen Lear.” She played Lear in drag, and I couldn’t imagine anyone doing a better job of it.

Due to the fantasy aspects of the story (it was based on a mythical King of pre-Arthurian times), this work lends itself well to diverse casting. Two other roles aside from Lear are performed by actors in drag: The Fool and The Earl of Gloucester. The cast is ethnically diverse and even included a deaf actor, and none of that detracted from this revelatory production of King Lear.

Lear is a tragedy with plenty of comic relief and shows the spiral of madness spurred by narcissism, vanity and duplicity. The story in a nutshell is that an aging King divides his Kingdom in three pieces, with plans to give one to each of his daughters. He asks each daughter to declare their love for him in order to see who gets the biggest piece.

The first two do so in a most insincere manner, but the third, his youngest and favorite daughter, Cordelia, declines at first, then declares that she could only love him as a daughter does a father. Enraged by her lack of enthusiasm, he disowns her, and marries her off to a King in France, dividing her share between the other two daughters.

Later the King, who is losing his grasp on reality, is turned out by both daughters, and loses his knights, helped only by one loyal aide and the fool. His estranged youngest daughter comes to his rescue, but things go bad.

Spoiler Alert: To quote the wrestler Tracy Smothers (and who shouldn’t quote a wrestler when discussing Shakespeare?)…everybody dies.

While generally, the play IS the thing, in this case the performances raise it to a new level. The director, Sam Gold, has updated the setting to something not quite contemporary, but to a more relatable imaginary era. The set design is both austere and spectacular, if you can imagine that. A score is provided by musicians seen on stage for much of the time. It was composed by Philip Glass. The cast is world class, with not a weak link among them.

Aside from Glenda Jackson’s Lear, Jayne Houdyshell also pulls drag duty as The Earl of Gloucester, Lear’s compromised ally. Tony-nominee Ruth Wilson does a dual turn as both the youngest daughter, Cordelia, and in drag as a Chaplinesque Fool, who sticks with Lear almost to the end.

John Douglas Thompson is another standout as Lear’s loyal aide, The Earl of Kent. However, the entire cast is remarkable and really manages to keep this production at an astoundingly high level of quality.

I got the feeling, during this performance, that I was witnessing a production of Lear that will take on a legendary status. I have a feeling that people will be talking about this for years, and Glenda Jackson’s portrayal of King Lear will became the pinnacle to which other actors aspire. Her performance transcends gender, as do those of Wilson and Houdyshell.

King Lear is playing at The Cort Theater, 138 West 48th Street in New York City until July 7.

After the show, your PopCulteer and his wife did something that we don’t normally do. We stuck around the stage door so that Melanie could meet some of her acting heroes. The wait was not in vain (although the lighting was far from ideal). Thanks to Ms Jackson for insisting that I get a photo.

That is today’s PopCulteer. Look for more of the New York Tour Diary all weekend long.