Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

It’s positively mind-blowing.

I almost didn’t watch it, the “New York Times” gave it a bad review. That’s because they looked at it through the wrong lens, it’s not a movie, it’s PERFORMANCE ART!;

I’m not the biggest Borat fan, I’m not even the biggest Sacha Baron Cohen fan, but I was intrigued by the distribution plan of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” It’s free with Amazon Prime, which seemingly everybody in America has, or has access to. In other words, to use the term of the techies, Cohen has reduced the “friction” between his work and his audience. Talk to any true artist, it’s never about the money, sure, they want to get paid, but they’d sacrifice every dollar to reach more people, to have an impact upon society.

And it’s funny how not a single musical artist has had an impact politically in the twenty first century. Boomers keep expecting “Eve of Destruction,” of “For What It’s Worth,” but they’re never gonna come. One can analyze the scene, the vapidity, the commerciality, but that is missing the main point…NO MUSICAL ARTIST CAN REACH EVERYBODY!

But somehow Borat can.

I love a good stupid movie. My favorite is “Stripes.” Which has a similar sensibility to “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” as in it questions authority while laughing at it and those watching are in on the joke. But “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”? It’s commenting on the America we live in today, in a way no one in the media seems to be able to do other than Cohen himself.

In this same twenty first century, the only people allowed to speak truth are cartoon characters. Look at “South Park,” never mind “The Simpsons” and so many others. They tackle taboos, they say what real human beings cannot.

And the “South Park” twins ended up going to Broadway with “The Book of Mormon.” And you’d think that Mormons would hate it, but they love it! Just like right wingers will love “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” And they’ll also get a dose of truth, many doses of truth, that cannot be denied.

As for Rudy Giuliani, this film should put the nail in his coffin. And it’s not about him tucking in his shirt, but what he says earlier, about Trump and China and the coronavirus. He repeats right wing tropes, like the virus was created in a lab and Trump is doing such a great job, and you’re stunned. You always thought Rudy was smart, but now his cover has been blown, he’s nearly as insane as Trump himself! Until he became president I too bought the party line, that Trump was intelligent, but we now all know that is untrue. Furthermore, Rudy is so sleazy, hitting on the female interviewer, smiling, baring his teeth as if getting ready to devour her like the Big Bad Wolf, that your stomach turns. This is who this guy really is? And you realize yup, it’s him, just like it’s everybody else in this road trip of a film.

It starts out stupidly in Kazakhstan. But then as the film unspools, when Borat gets to America and starts interacting with people, you gradually get stunned. At first you think it’s just one gullible person, and then you realize all these people are gullible!

The anti-Semitism. Getting the bakery employee to write hatred on the cake without blinking.

You start to squirm with every progressive set-up. You wonder how Cohen did this, and you wonder about the consequences. Like the debutante ball and that time of the moon. No one just laughs out loud or tells Borat to get out immediately other than when he enters a ballroom to give his daughter to Pence. But by piercing the bubble of this conservative nonsense it makes Pence and his followers look like nincompoops. It’s amazing what people will say if they believe they’re in a bubble, that the real world and the media are excluded. As for the anti-Covid rally, getting the assembled multitude to shout hatred…right there you see the perils of groupthink.

So, Sacha Baron Cohen just disrupted the movie business. They thought it would be the too long and not good enough Scorsese film “The Irishman.” And then maybe “Mulan” on the Disney Channel. But the truth is “The Irishman” was an endurance test and it turned out that “Mulan” was also far from stellar and it was on Disney+ and…

This is like “The Sopranos” on HBO.

First we had “Dream On.” Then even “Sex and the City.” But when HBO aired “The Sopranos,” not only did we realize the show was better than anything on the big screen, in theatres, but it made a joke of all the network fare. Yes, you can credit HBO for changing television, and our entire nation’s consciousness. You see then the other pay channels had to create original programming to compete with HBO. And then Netflix came along with an open checkbook and suddenly we were living in the heyday of television. Sure, there are too many shows to watch, over four or five hundred per year at the last count, but the truth is…MOST ARE NOT WORTH WATCHING! We no longer live in a three network world. Television resembles the music business. The label releases a bunch of product just hoping ONE album/artist/track hits. And if it does, it covers all the dreck financially. And the audience is drawn to hits. And hits often take time to grow, the perfect example being “Breaking Bad,” which was on TV for years but didn’t break through until it was on demand on Netflix.

So we’re all looking for something to watch.

And we’re all listening to our friends, the scuttlebutt. We may not watch all the way through, but we’ll give recommendations a chance.

And you want to watch “Borat” to be PART OF THE DISCUSSION! I only lament we’re in the Covid era, otherwise “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” would be the topic of discussion in the office for at least a week. Those left out would immediately watch it, just to render an opinion. That’s what we want to do. That’s one of the reasons I watched it today, I wanted to be up to date. Meanwhile, there’s not much I need to be up to date on these days, other than the news.

And Rachel Maddow and the rest of MSNBC have spent four years with a serious tone trying to take Trump down, and it hasn’t worked. But this stupid “Borat” movie will have more impact than any of the anchors’ bloviating, more impact than last night’s debate, because when you see the insanity in action you just cannot defend it, you’re forced to wake up.

That’s right, there’s a right wing bubble, trying to keep people from the truth, demonizing everyone who is not inside it. But Cohen pierces that bubble with the tiniest of pinpricks, over and over and over again. And ultimately it’s simple, you let people be who they are and you can’t help but laugh at them, they incriminate themselves, and you question your own beliefs.

The plastic surgeon who talks about Jewish noses. Who doesn’t take offense. Irrelevant of his beliefs, this is how we’ve gotten here, no one speaks up. And then when black people speak up those on the right refuse to address the issue, talking about law and order as opposed to systemic racism. Then again, Tucker Carlson says racism is history in America. Tell that to a black teenager in a hoodie walking through an upscale mall or the streets of Beverly Hills.

This film is jaw-dropping. Like I said, not at first. But the cumulative effect ends up being overwhelming. Cohen does not relent, he keeps on upping the ante, keeps exposing right wing tropes for what they are. How are you gonna defend the viewpoints in this movie? You can’t, you can just do your best to ignore it. But the younger generations will eat “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” up and watch it over and over again. And as they recite its elements their parents will watch it too.

Never underestimate the impact of art. I truly believe we can credit MTV with demystifying and destigmatizing homosexuality as well as interracial relationships. When you see it on the screen and all of the tropes are proven untrue, it has an impact.

Then again, we’ve still got a long way to go. James “The Amazing” Randi just died and even though he did his best, there are still clairvoyants and other fakers ripping off the public.

But Randi never reached everybody. Oh, he reached a lot of people on “Johnny Carson,” but “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is not here and gone, rather it will live on, on demand, on Prime Video. That’s the world we live in, one of on demand, if I can’t watch it when I want to, I wont. Make it inconvenient and I’m out. This is what the older generation does not get about the youth. This is how the youth have learned to live in a world with so much incoming, whereas so many elders have just punted, thrown their arms in the air and said it’s too overwhelming.

And, ultimately “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is overwhelming. It overwhelms your senses. At first it’s just intellectually funny, but then you can’t resist laughing out loud, sometimes hysterically. And almost all comedies are uneven, you can’t review them through the lens of a drama, just like you can’t send a rock fan to review a hip-hop show.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a bullseye. Watch it NOW!

The Debate

It would be funny if it weren’t so scary.

Tonight’s debate won’t affect the election whatsoever. The truth is there are very few undecideds and millions have already voted. BUT, Joe Biden finally looked presidential, even though it took him 18 months to get here. You could see his brain working, you didn’t judge him for his stutter. His heart was in the right place. However I must admit he faded about an hour in, when he went on a mental hejira about his daughter the social worker when the question was about race. Then again, Biden regained his stride thereafter. Bottom line, I’ve got no doubt he can run the country. Donald Trump?

We’ve got a crisis in information in the United States. The Republicans even said there were “alternative facts.” We’ve got no baseline, we’ve never been here before, and I’m fearful if Trump loses, his voters won’t accept it, isn’t that what he’s been preparing them for?

I point to Brandy Zadrozny’s NBC article:

“For Trump’s ‘rigged’ election claims, an online megaphone awaits – A sizable online network built around the president is poised to amplify claims about a rigged election, adding reach and enthusiasm to otherwise evidence-free allegations.”: nbcnews.to/2J13bb7

All Democrats should read this. I was optimistic on Sunday, for the first time in four years, it appeared the Democrats had this, that Joe would win, the tsunami was starting, and then…

Trump is not going to give up. And the only person who says he will is a Republican, Ross Douthat, in the “New York Times”:

“There Will Be No Trump Coup – A final pre-election case for understanding the president a a noisy weakling, not a budding autocrat.”: nyti.ms/3dNMH1h

Be afraid, be very afraid, especially when you become aware of Tucker Carlson’s takedown of Brandy Zadrozny last night.

Read the following for explanation:

“NBC News says Fox News’ Tucker Carlson ‘dangerously and dishonestly targeted’ its reporter: bit.ly/3ohR758

And in case you don’t trust “USA Today,” you should know this story was everywhere:

“NBC News, Colleagues Defend Reporter After Tucker Carlson Segment Attacking Her Work”: bit.ly/3jolfYU

Mediaite is seen as neutral, but it all doesn’t matter, because this story is not going to enter the right wing news bubble. That’s right, there’s a whole spectrum of Americans who are getting false news and are voting for Donald Trump.

Even worse is social media. Mark Zuckerberg is Donald Trump’s biggest supporter. Sheryl Sandberg is complicit. We lionized the techies at the turn of the century, but that era is over, we need to shine a light on these billionaires and hold them responsible for their failure to act, the utilization of their platforms, oftentimes by outside agitators, i.e. Russia and Iran and China, to distort our elections. In 2008 we didn’t put the perpetrators of the crisis, i.e. the bankers, in jail. As a result, the public lost faith in our government. Threaten Zuckerberg with jail and things will change. Kind of like the car companies, they bitched and moaned and lobbied against increased mileage rules, and then somehow they met them like magic. All that Zuckerberg says he can’t do, he can, but he doesn’t want to, because of the money involved.

Money. That was Trump’s answer to the side effects of living near polluting plants. The people working in those areas get paid handsomely.

Money doesn’t solve everything. And it can’t be our number one priority. Biden got this right and Trump did not.

Until we realign our nation around truth, we’re doomed. Come on, look at all the tech we depend upon, the net, our smartphones, our computers…do you think the engineers who create them have different views on the facts? Of course not, science and math delineate truth. Then again, we’ve got an administration that throws science overboard.

But the points don’t matter, tonight was a demonstration of the right’s agenda, working the refs.

Let me explain this. When you see a coach or a manager yell at an official, they don’t expect the call to change, they just want to inhibit the official from ruling against them in the future. Kristen Welker was so afraid of crossing Trump, of getting blowback from his constituency, that she refused to ask the hard questions and make him respond. It’s like she learned nothing from the initial debate. Savannah Guthrie pushed back and…we saw the real Trump, we got some truth. Same deal with Lesley Stahl. Of course they’ve been excoriated by the right, but if you’re worried about blowback, get out of the arena, the right is not making nice, why should the left?

And at first Trump learned from the last debate, he held himself in check. But it couldn’t’ last, he slowly lost control. But the unfortunate thing about this is he ended up controlling the discussion, with more time, and by yelling and hammering the same points… It was Welker’s job to stop this. She blew it.

And it was like a stump speech. About halfway through Trump didn’t bother to answer the questions, he just hammered his talking points, about fracking, Biden’s “finances,” and the imminent doom if Biden wins.

That’s what the right is professing, doom in the future. As if the future isn’t going to arrive, as if we haven’t learned over the last thirty years of tumult with tech that what is here today is oftentimes gone tomorrow. We can’t jet back to the past, and it wasn’t that good to begin with. And, AND, I was stunned that Joe threw the long ball, said yes, he was going to get rid of fossil fuels. Whew, in an election cycle where everybody is running away from anything that might be held against them, Joe’s honesty was refreshing.

And Joe found a way out of the court-packing controversy, by kicking it to a commission. He said he would weigh in before the election, and you know Joe would stand by what he says, unlike the Republicans who wouldn’t even consider Merrick Garland and McConnell refusing to even talk about helping out the American public with a relief bill before the election. The Republicans don’t care about the rules, they’re just a starting point, they stretch them and continue to do so unless they’re called out on it, and if they get the votes they’ve got no problem breaking the conventions.

So, we’ve got a system that’s unfair. That’s right, the Dakotas each get two senators but Puerto Rico and D.C. can’t become states.

As for the Supreme Court…

“Since 1969, Democratic presidents have appointed 4 Supreme Court justices, Republicans have appointed 15 (4 of them by presidents who lost the popular vote). bit.ly/3ktu7OA

Now the right is squirming. I’m not writing this for the right, their beliefs are set in stone. They hearken back to the Constitution except when it’s not to their advantage. Come on, the world has changed in my lifetime, never mind 200+ years. Who could imagine gays getting married? Oh, that’s right, the Pope says it’s cool but the Republicans do not? Is your head spinning yet?

And the right said we could not talk about Amy Coney Barrett’s religion when we weren’t. The Democrats chose not to. BUT WHY NOT? I mean it affects us all. And no one can have it all. You can’t have seven kids and be a Supreme Court Justice without something suffering.

As for those kids… That’s another talking point on Fox, how we should be able to drive Suburbans and other gas-guzzlers to transport large families, just because we’re Americans… WHAT ABOUT THE GREATER GOOD? WHAT ABOUT SACRIFICING FOR ALL?

You’re on your own in America today. Except if you’re in a red state where you get a disproportionate number of federal dollars.

But none of this gets traction, because it’s never even talked about in the right wing bubble, no way.

The Democrats believe in a social safety net. The Republicans believe in tropes like the bogey men, if the government spends even a single dollar someone undeserving will get it and waste it… Like the subsidized oil companies? As for dollars, why do the hedge funders get taxed at capital gains rates? Why do so many huge corporations pay no taxes?

But we’re constantly told that we have to be patient, that the wheels of change turn slowly. Meanwhile, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and the quality of life in these United States drops.

We’re heading for riots in the street no matter who wins.

But the right isn’t even analyzing the left’s positions, it’s just demonizing those on the other side.

So, Trump felt by bullying everybody tonight he could gain votes. But the truth is we’ve seen this movie before, and we still don’t have the tax returns and we still don’t have the health plan and so much of what he said he was gonna fix he did not.

But it’s even worse. He’s been looting the country for himself and his cronies. Not that anybody on the right cares about this, hey, ain’t that the Republican philosophy, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, money is everything?

And the hopefully losing Lindsey Graham is complicit, as well as so many of the other two-faced Republican politicians who hated Donald Trump until they loved him.

Meanwhile, in California the Republicans put up their own ballot boxes, and when told, under the law, to take them down, they would not!

Yes, talk to me about election integrity.

These are the same weasels who got rid of the Voting Rights Act and then made it harder for people of color and other minorities to register, never mind vote. Come on, try and convince people it’s worth seven hours in line to vote, that’s not easy.

And don’t bring up the flaws of the left, they exist, but enough with the false equivalencies. The left has got no Fox News, the left has got no Limbaugh or Breitbart, the left is not trying to kidnap and kill Gretchen Whitmer…

So, it becomes a contest of who can yell louder while falsehoods are spread willy-nilly.

Meanwhile, the quality of life for most Americans ain’t so good, so they’re susceptible to con men and pie in the sky fantasies.

So, even if the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, we’ve still got a long way to go, we haven’t had a semblance of economic equality since at least 1980, and that’s forty years ago!

So, I’ll make it very simple. Vote Biden. That’s your assignment. No excuses. Don’t tell people to vote, tell them to VOTE BIDEN! What, are you afraid of the blowback, you’re just as bad as the politicians and the media, do not let people inhibit you, you’ve got to stand up for what is right.

And what we’re standing up for here is Democracy, that’s right, with a big “D.”

It’s very simple.

And our only hope of getting the Orange Menace to cave is to be winning from start to finish, from November 3rd until the end of the count. And even then, he still might not accept it.

It’s no longer business as usual. If you’re not paying attention, you’re gonna lose out.

Time for the Democrats to get out front, to take this to the wire.

I can only hope and pray.

Ah, that’s right, that’s just b.s. It didn’t stop Covid and it won’t elect Biden. He’s the best we’ve got, we’ve got a binary system, no excuses, you need to VOTE BIDEN!

Miles Copeland-This Week’s Podcast

Manager of the Police and Sting, founder of I.R.S. Records, Miles Copeland rode a new sound to financial and cultural impact. Hear how a maverick did it his way and not only broke his acts, but created new ways of getting them recognized.

www.iheart.com/podcast/1119-the-bob-lefsetz-podcast-30806836/

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/miles-copeland/id1316200737?i=1000495643426

www.stitcher.com/s?eid=78777900

music.amazon.com/podcasts/9ff4fb19-54d4-41ae-ae7a-8a6f8d3dafa8/The-Bob-Lefsetz-Podcast

open.spotify.com/episode/2CEV9GvY4mtlPwr2K2RT2b?si=QlBfORKQTM-MEsqvit1BIQ

Re-David Byrne

I saw all three of the shows you mentioned (Springsteen, David Byrne, and Hamilton) on Broadway. That’s one of the great things about living in Baltimore; it’s a two and a half hour train ride to NYC. I also watched Bruce and Hamilton on the TV versions, and totally agree with you. You just aren’t there. None of the excitement is captured. You feel like you are watching other people have a good time. It’s even worse than seeing a concert from a corporate skybox, which totally sucks.

One of the early pandemic bright spots looked like it was going to be all of the artists who were performing from their living rooms. It was a great idea but geez did it get old quickly! There is just nothing like being there, even with a millenial on your left looking at their cell phone the whole time and someone invading your space on the right while singing loudly and out of tune. I so miss the hassles, smells, discomforts, and monetary ripoffs of live music, and can’t wait to be back out there and complaining again!!

Hope you are well,

Rich Madow

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David Byrne’s Utopia was el stinko. Thankfully I DVR’d, so I could FFW to the Talking Heads songs.

Fran Thornton
Phila, PA

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I have only seen one video of a show like this that caught the excitement of the live performance. it was the final Broadway performance of RENT produced by Radical Media.

Tag Gross

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Couldn’t agree more.

Sari Leon

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I had the same reaction. It was unwatchable. And I’m not only a Byrne/Talking Heads fan, I had the original Talking Heads demo and the stuff left off My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts. The same phrase kept running through my head: artsy fartsy. I don’t know, maybe you had to be there but it sure didn’t come over my big TV.

Phil Brown

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You are the only one.  Your sad negativity reflects a vacancy of spirit within you.  Maybe your just texting and blogging too much and have lost your heart somewhere in your selfish egotistical misplaced judgement of others. Your arrogance has me on the verge of cancelling all connections to your “opinions of emptiness.”

Mark Manning

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I could not disagree more.  I found the show to be delightful and David Byrne sounded great.  Everyone I spoke to about it thought the same.  I don’t know what you were watching.

Howard Turoff

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It seems I was the only critic who didn’t care much for Stop Making Sense when it first arrived.  Since the review was in a national mag I caught the ire of Gary Kurfirst. Looking back with a little regret  perhaps that film had the same problem as Spike Lee’s effort.  I had never experienced a Talking Heads show that I didn’t like going back to seeing them as a trio opening for The Ramones at Max’s Kansas City.   Something with Byrne is lost in the translation between the media. That’s pretty the same with all bands which is why Woodstock remains the only great concert film. The music was secondary to the event.

Now it’s a curriculum-worthy chunk of Americana.

Keep the copy coming Bob.

Jonathan Gross

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I occasionally agree with you, but re:  your analysis of Byrne’s show – bullshit.  Duh -it wasn’t live.  I enjoyed it. Being there, in person, audience vibe better? Again – duh.

Mike DeVirgilio

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You are so spot on with this. This show was one of most memorable theatrical experiences I have ever had.  The film totally missed  the amazing choreography and elegant staging (a simple but unique set). It should have been shot with 3-4 cameras with most of the footage from the audience POV. The endless closeups of feet and individuals in the band detracted from the energy of being there. We sat 1st row mezzanine and it was almost hallucinating. The staging of this show was remarkable…true artistry, and you get none of that from this paint by numbers effort. Sad, but I can’t wait for AU to be restaged cause I’m gonna be there!

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Bob, you hit it on the head. I love Bruce and I love David, but their television specials were, I am sorry to say boring.
Bob Meyrowitz

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Bob, I disagree heartily. I thought Spike Lee did a great job capturing the energy and flow of the live show. The choreography was amazing, the music rhythmic and uplifting and I did not hear any significant fall off in David Byrne’s voice. He is the sun around which everyone on stage revolves The only quibble I had was how it started (slowly). The fact that there are no musicians other than those dancing on stage (and no tapes) makes it that much more impressive.

Smoke a joint and then watch it again Bob.

Best,

Dick Wingate

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That was an excellent segue into a Save our Stages plea – bravo! That said, I agree on Utopia, it just didn’t provide the energy and vibrancy it was going for for me.

Jon Cappetta

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Amazing live. Couldn’t watch after 15 minutes.

Hal Kempson

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I surely won’t be the only person to tell you the soundtrack came out last year.

https://www.nonesuch.com/journal/david-byrne-american-utopia-broadway-original-cast-recording-cd-now-vinyl-january-2019-11

Gordon Elgart

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You had to be there. Where I saw it on Broadway I literally left the theater with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step, it was that good. It was exciting, fast paced beautifully choreographed and the music was, well, it’s the Talking Heads. I agree though, live performances like this lose quite a bit in the translation to the screen. Too bad because it was one of the greatest things Ive ever seen on Broadway.
Thanks Bob,
Michael Eigen

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I think David Byrne should play David Byrne should portray Mr. Rogers in a Funk opera that he writes.He will wear slippers and not be barefoot.

Michael Des Barres.

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Bob-  Do you REALLY think Hamilton on Disney “didn’t work”?  Or are you just being contrarian because most people loved it.  IMHO, that was a close as you can ever come to reproducing the feel of live theater on film — it was truly a master work within the genre of filmed theater performances.

And now, I’ll get off your lawn.

Andy Kantor

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I kind of hear where you’re coming from. The live version of American Utopia was exhilarating. My husband and I went for our anniversary a year ago this week and went back again bringing our college age kids at Christmas. For the record my then 22 year old loved it but my Gov Ball/Camp Flog Gnaw loving 19 year old didn’t get what we were so excited about. At all. Tendayi Kuumba and Chris Giarmo – the dancing vocalists – are mesmerizing live on stage. You can’t take your eyes off of them.

Barbara Barna Abel

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I am regular reader of yours, and on occasion will squint in disagreement — this time I have to push back hard on your take.

Both shows were joyous, exuberant, very well shot and recorded.

HBO / Spike Lee version of American Utopia did a nice job of revealing the shows themes. (I saw the live play 2X and literally have tickets for tonight Oct 21, 2020 rescheduled for 2021)

Same thing for the Disney Plus version of Hamilton (only saw live show once).

If your take is TV is not as immersive, involving or joyous as the live show — well of course, its TV, not Broadway. if you go to a lot of live concerts, plays, stand up, etc. each month, then the lock down has really been depressing with no live events. So these were a welcome filler but regardless they were both very well done.

You need to forget the hype/previews/reviews and let the artwork stand on its own.
When you do that, both shows succeed splendidly

Barry Ritholtz

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Amen, maybe all this time away from live performances will make us appreciate them more.
You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.

I saw Byrne’s show live on Broadway, couldn’t sit still, it was full of surprises and exceedingly well done.
I’m glad you were able to see the promise, and I hope you get to see it live at some point.
The film probably doesn’t include little gems like this:

“The authorities have informed me that you are welcome to dance at your seats, but not in the aisles,
because, should a fire break out, that would put you at an unfair advantage.”
-intro to Burnin’ Down the House

Best regards,

C Darryl Mattison

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Finally, some has the courage to criticize David Byrne. Thank you Bob!  I wish mr. Byrne put some shoes on!

Best regards,

Tony Savarino

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You totally nailed it.

John Brodey

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Thanks for the Byrne review. I was afraid I was the only one. It was boring and I couldn’t watch it all, despite some interesting angles from Spike Lee. Byrne’s voice wasn’t just lacking, it was off key way too often. The musicians were good, but Byrne weighed them down. When he sang the line “And God is a very old rooster,” my 4-year-old asked, “Do his words mean something in another language, because they don’t make sense in English?” I know better than to get my lyrical interpretations from a pre-K kid, but it was the most entertaining part of watching the televised show. My 17-year-old, who likes the old Talking Heads albums, said she would have been terminally bored seeing this show live and would have had to run from the theater, despite Byrne’s nod to Janell Monae.

Brad Kava

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I’m flabbergasted that you found American Utopia unwatchable, I found it the exact opposite. My partner and I were totally engulfed in the performance actually wishing we could see it on the now blacked out Broadway. When I say him and his cast performing on SNL before the pandemic closure I was again spellbound and extremely excited by the soon to be released movie of the Broadway production.
I also was amazed that you felt you needed a soundtrack release to know the songs performed. It was a Talking Heads concert with a wondrous interpretation of their songbook with a few solo Byrne works from his other projects. I felt it challenged Jonathan Demme’s  Stop Making Sense, seen as one of the greatest concert films ever produced.
Maybe you missed the new wave movement of the 80’s, the Broadway’s production audience certainly hadn’t.

Mike Hansen

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100% wrong about American Utopia and I could just cry from how depressing you sound knocking this amazing piece of art. Spike captured it perfectly.

Josh Valentine

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Did you at least get hardship-pay for watching it?

Art Fein

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I think if you saw the live show — as I did — you could also enjoy the tv version that reminded you of how much fun you had. Also what it was like just before COVID. For people who were experiencing it for the first time not so much.

David Hershkovits

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I saw David’s show 3 times in NYC.  An incredible experience.  I saw Springsteen’s show also…no comparison…I don’t know how to explain it.  A unique concert designed for the Broadway stage..I’d get on a plane from Colorado to NYC and see it again before I watch it on HBO.

Thanks,

Edmund J. Kelly

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I haven’t seen American Utopia yet, and eventually I will, but David Byrne depresses me. And even though I know that all of the dancing and costumes and fun of it all goes almost all the way back to the inception of Talking Heads, especially the masterpiece Stop Making Sense, the costumes and the dancing over the last decade or whatever has made me sick. Drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, voice. Talking Heads: 77 for me is the band’s pinnacle because it is furthest removed from the costumes and the dancing, which is to say that it is the closest to rock and roll, where you had great songs played by an excellent band. Dancing and costumes…watching Tina Weymouth play bass is endlessly more exciting, captivating, and beautiful than any amount of barefoot dancers traipsing around could ever be. I haven’t seen the film yet, and I will probably like, even love it, if even some of the hype is to be believed. But it can’t be as good “Tentative Decisions” and the fact that that type of music and a more direct musical presentation of that music is so far from where Byrne’s head is at makes my skin crawl. Too many people like this shit!

Daniel Grgas

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I think you’re dead-on Bob.
I haven’t watched it yet, and I probably wont. I have, however, been fortunate to be working on the same stage or a nearby stage at multiple festivals and the performance was electrifying.
I’m a 15 year touring professional and best case scenario, I MAY be able return to work next Summer. I’ve been on unemployment since May and the artist I work for was generous enough to give our entire crew a 1 time payment to help out with all of the lost work. Despite all of this, I’m slowly bleeding dry. As are most of my colleagues in the business that haven’t already decided to move on to greener pastures.
When concerts can once again happen, they’ll be really tough to pull off without any crew left. Can you imagine Madonna having to push a road case?
If any one in our government ever hopes to go to a show again, I do hope they’ll take some action to ensure that’s possible before it’s too late.
Thanks for the support!
Stu Tenold

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I’m guessing what you are missing is that David was one of the pioneers of Nerd Culture, at a time when being a nerd wasn’t cool.  I remember someone saying back then that he proved you could be a nerd, a geek, and a spaz, and still be cool.   And since the Talking Heads his music has become more serious and dense. Now that Nerds Rule The World it’s great to see him doing a Happy show and seeming to accept his Aspergers, as the world has accepted being a nerd.  Good for him.

Be a nerd Bob, it’s the new way now.

Ron Hill

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David is brilliant, the live show on Broadway was brilliant, the HBO rendition is brilliant.

I worked with Talking Heads from 1977-1984, their formative years.

I first met them at The Rathskeller in Kenmore Square/Boston in ’77, there were maybe 25 people in the place.

It was evident then how creative they all were, poised for longevity and greatness; not just David, but Chris, Tina and Jerry as well.

See it again, let yourself fall into the experience, turn the volume way up.

Watch out, you might get what you’re after!

ted cohen

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I desperately wanted to like this show, but sadly it was disappointing.

Mitchell Cohen

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I haven’t seen the movie — and won’t bother, based on your comments — but I did see the show, was very lucky to have seats close to the stage, and it was a gas, just magnificent, you could feel the connection with the audience, the fun, the enjoyment, he was playing just for us, as were his percussionists, dancers, and guitarist.  He looked me in the eye a few times, played just to me for a few nanoseconds.  Yes, his voice (never great) has lost some shine, and his limbo move doesn’t go as far back as it used to, but all that made no difference, it was still a totally enjoyable, memorable experience.  It’s gonna restart on Broadway some time next year.  I’ll be seeing it again.  I recommend it to you.

Bob Borque

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Yes, god, it was so boring I only watched about twenty minutes of it. He showed no interest in what he was doing, and the fact the he, like Roger Waters, is still living off of 40-year old material is quite sad. As you say, perhaps you had to be there, but the barefoot marching band schtick might have been avant garde in the 80s, but it just looks like a cliché now.

Kirk McElhearn

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This was very unfriendly, both shows were excellent and I am not alone. Why must you be divisive? The interviews, thought provoking and creative output have been a guiding light in these unprecedented times for so many. We have even watched the HBO special more than once with the whole family and I have heard from many great humans and great minds how brilliant and well done the show is. One if the silver linings of this pandemic is the fact that it has been bringing good people together around relevant topics.

Kirk M. Sommer | WME

(Note: WME is David Byrne’s agency.)

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Having seen the show live, this was not it. This is also why adaptations of musicals become movies rather than just a film of the show. I felt much the same about Hamilton, though perhaps letting so many see it was worthwhile. It was just not the same.

Robert Heiblim

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good points Bob. the HBO show was meh. And if they’d had the original band playing, tina and chris and jerry it would’ve been great. That band cooked! And live they rocked! Those song’s presented in this way wasn’t rock or art, it was just weak.
Owen

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Hate to critique/nitpick, but the the soundtrack was put out on Nonesuch well in advance.

Thanks for all you do!

Matt O’Donnell

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It did have a soundtrack, released last year

Adam Scharfberg

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No, you’re not the only one – I didn’t care for it either. It wasn’t exactly bad, but I’m not even moved to articulate what it lacked or why it didn’t get me off. What did they say 5 yrs ago? “Meh”?

Rob Wolfson

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I don’t know why I don’t unsubscribe. I disagree with virtually everything you say…. from politics to David Byrne. Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one…

Nicole Sandler

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Always appreciate your opinion, but couldn’t disagree more. Not sure we watched the same thing. His voice sounded incredible, the music was instantly gripping, the visuals were like nothing I’ve seen and I felt like I was there.

Far more meaningful and thrilling than Hamilton, or any bloody show I’ve seen in years, live or on screen.

Daryl Shawn

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I really tried to watch it and in the end I napped to it.

I like guys who are brilliant like this but it is artsy, Warhol, Lou Reed pretentiousness New York stuff to me.

But Byrne does fascinate me.  He follows his muse.  I just like the way Dylan and Neil Young follow theirs better.

Michael A. Becker

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I just watched this last night. I think he is a genius. True blue.

But Spike Lee’s direction was at times sloppy. I am not sure if this was filmed on multiple occasions / performamce nights, but the splicing was bad and Byrne’s hair length seemed to change back and forth.

However, it was nice to have a live show experience again sort of.

AND, it reminded me of how fresh DB can be – in small doses. And it inspired me to find Stop Making Sense on Youtube and re-watch that.

https://youtu.be/4xL7Ilh1DFI

Paul Koidis

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I hear you Bob

A ray of sunshine in the darkness is LIVE will explode when we get this behind us

The Phoenix will rise from the ashes and I for one expect it to be a revolution inspiring the next wave we been waiting for…

I certainly hope so…

**I used to own The Splash Club a groundbreaking venue in the 90’s breaking many bands and worked with Womad Real World etc before working for Placebo management and promoters Riverman in Asia and the Bangkok 100 pipers festival with Oasis Stone Roses Placebo Franz Ferdinand etc after that

Ben Steadman
London

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We saw the show on Broadway and it was AMAZING! Didn’t see the HBO effort because, quite frankly, we figured it could never match (or come close to) the live experience. You’re absolutely right about the demise of the arts. I keep wondering when the Big Business Suits are gonna start Rollerball as a way to appease the masses…

Michael

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Maybe I did enjoy the filmed performance because I did see it on Broadway last fall.  There’s only so much you can do with a bare floor and a shiny curtain, but I thought the unusual shot choices worked and it reminded me of how much I did enjoy the show. Since the holy grail of a Talking Heads reunion is unlikely, I was happy to take this over nostalgia.

Tim Redman

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I agree completely. And I really like David Byrne.

You’re also right about artists in this country, no one values them–especially if it’s gonna cost them money.

Rik Shafer

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I had the same reaction as you did, Bob. Filmed versions of live stage events do not work for me either.

Morley Walker
Winnipeg

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Yes Bob, you are quite literally the only one.

Ron Hill

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Dude – this is Art on Broadway, not a rock show in a stadium, or a club, or a joint – and not intended for Spotify! David Byrne has always been an artist, first and foremost – music just its principal expression. Despite a few elements that I regarded as a tad too overt as political statements, American Utopia is Art created from and for the heart, and to this heart here – succeeds wonderfully.

Malcolm Clark

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Needed a soundtrack album? The live cast recording has been out for a year.

As for the disservice to the live show, the original plan was for this film to be out after the return run had already hit Broadway. The show would’ve made its money and anybody who missed it could catch the film. Not sure what the HBO terms were after things were delayed, but they’ve since used it to launch sales for rescheduled dates… which could end up being postponed again. The core tenet of the show – the need for community – is especially resonant now, so I can understand the thought behind releasing it before the show resumed. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

David Conklin

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You obviously did not catch this tour live. It was brilliant. I’ve watched at least four times.

Lori Halloran

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My wife & I really enjoyed American Utopia and have recommended to others.

Clarke Kelly
Baltimore

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For what it’s worth, there WAS an original Broadway cast album, recorded live.

https://open.spotify.com/album/71tl4k4k63o0gHt6mDj0IR?si=x7QESXPFT0mMcvtq2B-cEQ

David Basskin

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“…and Hamilton on Disney did not work….” maybe not for you, but it sure did for me (I had seen it on broadway, 3rd cast) and for my family (never saw it, from Australia, virtually no understanding of the story and had never heard the soundtrack).

One of your lesser hot takes, Bob.

Phil Bonanno

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If that didn’t move you, you must be dead already.

Drop your rock ‘n roll pedigree, your good old days, the future is now. We may never have live performances ever again. Just wait till tRump regains his throne. Amy will ban IVF and health care is gone except for rump’s 100k cure. Then you will appreciate “Burnin’ Down The House.”

David Byrne’s voice was spectacular. It was honest and direct. All with no props. Playing and singing. No wires, no shoes, no distractions. Great songwriting and lyrics more relevant than ever. Presence.

Gillian Welch wrote “Everything is Free.”  Not all content has a monetary value. Check out Little Steven’s Teach Rock website. That’s what you do when you have real money Bob. Educate. Don’t denigrate.
Signed
BLUESMAMA
Teacher in Swampscott, MA

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Bob, you’re right and wrong.
Bruce on Broadway was magical.  The video of the show was one of 10 best live concert movies I’ve ever seen.   But not as good as the best ones like The Last Waltz or Woodstock which fit the concert into a wider social context, making the whole experience deeper.
Hamilton is the greatest musical created in my lifetime.  The video of it was outstanding.  My 14 year daughter, who has seen Hamilton twice and knows every song by heart, sat enraptured for every second.   Not nearly as good as the live show, but that’s an impossibly high bar.
Can’t wait for live shows to resume in 2021, but until then I relish what we have.
Rob Glaser

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Haven’t seen it on TV, yet…but fucking loved it live, here in Boston.  Although it took all of them to do what Chris Frantz and Steve Scales did on their own!

Hugo Burnham

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In the crowd that I hang out with the answer would be yes Bob you are the only one that thought it wasn’t good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the treatment of the songs. I thought it was very creatively minimally staged and brought the accent into the music and the dancing and he had some great talent on stage with him and all of it was live.
Unwatchable? Hardly
Peace, Jason
Jason Miles

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Exactly!  I saw it live twice.  Don’t know how you can capture it on film.  You need to see the whole show and the whole stage at once or it doesn’t work.  I will not watch this version.

Ed Maier
ElmThree Productions

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I was at the first show of this tour with Ashko, the accomplished guitarist.

The show was at the Count Basie theater in Red Bank NJ, on a Saturday Night deep into October 2018.

The show had been sold out since the tickets went on sale. Living in the area, I’ve had a membership to the theater for years, yet we were still unable at attain a seat.

To get in, we resorted to the old school method of scalping tickets! – this show was hot and it didn’t matter that it was small town america.

Once inside, there was announcement before the show started that requested we do not film for photograph the show, as it was the first night of the tour and there were kinks to work out that Byrne didn’t feel was right yet, but the show must go on.

Byrne opened with the upbeat dance track “Lazy” that I know from the DJs spinning over my years doing engineering and tech work on the Euroclub scene. The tunes put the crowd on their feet and kept them there all night. The visual presentation and sound were phenomenal in person; way better than the small screen.

While I broached that topic  – what gives, why is the big screen experience dead! Nothing captures like scale and tv has none of it. 5 watt tv speakers can’t reproduce the sound of a massive PA system.

But I digress…

Back to the show:

From there he dove into a medley Talking Heads favorites and solo work, including a rendition of “Flowers” that closely mimics his work with Caetano, the Brazilian musician.

This show was an excellent experience that was not properly presented for the small screen.

Oh well, it’s a different world and I have a large projection screen and a killer sound system to enjoy the future with…

Albert Bale
Bale Technologies, LLC

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I saw it live on Broadway last fall. Sixth row, center seat, small theater.

It was wonderful.

But I also saw Talking Heads in Austin in 1977 at the Armadillo World Headquarters, long before they had anything recognizable besides “Psycho Killer.”

They were phenomenal.

The 1980 Talking Heads tour with the extraordinary Dolette McDonald on vocals was incredible. You can find it on YouTube.

And of course we all know about Stop Making Sense.

But the bottom line – as much as I loved Byrne and company on Broadway, I just keep thinking –

Why won’t he put Talking Heads back together???

They’re all still alive, well, and musical.

During the Broadway show, you could feel the entire theater practically LEVITATE every time they performed a Talking Heads song.

Wouldn’t you love to see the four of THEM together again – live OR on film??

I would.

NELSON DUFFLE

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Oh dear, Bob…I could forward you any number of comments from friends around the country, who LOVE the Spike Lee treatment of the show.

i like the film…not quite the same way I loved  the two  times I saw the show on Broadway…which WAS thrilling indeed…I glowed for a good while afterwards…but pretty great.

I have one friend who thinks that Spike’s treatment enhanced the experience, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Yet, for anyone who has not, likely will never see the live show, the film is really quite good.  I mean, you want to make room to dance in  your living room, or wherever…and if you’re alone watching, there’s THAT…but I’m having a hard time imagining just what set you off like that…

David Byrne has always had a somewhat quirky voice, which is part of his charm.  But he sounded really good live, I can say that, and I didn’t have misgivings about his vocal instrument while viewing the film.

As to the soundtrack in advance…it’s out there…the live recording of the show is readily available, so….what was your point?

Given my many very real musician friends, from serious jazz players to a wide variety of genres…and their positive spin on the film, some of them having seen the live show and others not, I think YOU missed the boat on this one.

Seriously.
Alice Barstow

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I haven’t seen David Byrne’s American Utopia, but nobody said Stop Making Sense did not translate to the big screen (not even Pauline Kael).
Be well,
Chris Frantz