Race on Film
Once upon a time, race dominated the cultural conversation. Race music and race films spoke to and about the African American experience in a dialect that, at least initially, belonged to the race. So it is fitting that MIDNIGHT RAMBLE, which is more than just a story about the emergence of black American cinema, mirrors the history of black Americans, and in many ways society as a whole, from 1910-1950.
The documentary arrives in the area thanks to Cincinnati World Cinema at a time when Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married has claimed the top of the box office chart, a clear example of the updating of the black film world. Still, questions remain as to whether or not we have emerged from the shadows of an industry that has intentionally overcooked our notions about race.
As a critic who also teaches film courses at local colleges and universities, I often find myself answering questions about the various realities of the black experience depicted on film -- from the bleak urban landscapes to the glossy romantic comedies -- with mainly white students assuming that the urban underworld presented to us is "certainly" real while the black lovers are little more than naive fairy tales (as if What Women Want or the remake of The Heartbreak Kid is the absolute truth from the mainstream perspective).
Somehow Hollywood has us wholeheartedly picking and choosing the stereotypes we want to believe without challenging them or the source, whether we're talking about black or mainstream cinema. While capturing the history of black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux and the birth of urban cinema in America, Midnight Ramble proves to contemporary audiences that those antiquated notions still exist and that we need a new generation of filmmakers and producers willing to set the record straight.
As we wait for that new breed to evolve, Cincinnati World Cinema's presentation of this documentary challenges audiences to come out to the two screenings of the film at the Cincinnati Art Museum's Fath Auditorium and share stories and memories about theaters such as the State, Regal, Hippodrome, Lincoln or Pekin where black films played locally. Cincinnati has a unique place in the history and development of these filmed images that deserves recognition, and it is through the exchange of our combined cultural heritage that we all begin to move forward and embrace our common future. In addition, film historian and Midnight Ramble producer Pamela Thomas will be present to provide further insight and detail regarding this film and the black film industry. 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $9, $7 for CAM members and students. 513-781-8151. (Buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- TT STERN-ENZI
Heat up your Wednesday night! Take in a triple dose of diverse dance starting at 7 p.m. when EXHALE DANCE TRIBE and KAI KWEOL CARIBBEAN MUSIC AND DANCE perform along with RAQS GYPSY's Tribal Dance Fusion in Cincinnati Art Museum's Fath Auditorium as part of Enjoy the Arts' continuing 20 Days and 20 Nights Festival. Exhale exudes sensual style with contemporary jazzy flair; the young company's dancers display dazzling technical skills -- and most members are still in their teens. Originally hailing from the Caribbean isle of Dominica, Kai Kweol's Director/ Choreographer Flora Leptak-Moreau's authentic passions take center stage. Soak up the group's spicy blend of Reggae, Soca and other percussion combined with Caribbean, Indian and African dance techniques for a truly tropical experience. Audiences would be hard pressed to track down a more eclectic dance lineup, but that's what 20/20 is about: bringing more local arts groups into the foreground.
Though I have no concrete evidence, I am fairly certain that Chad Stokes of the Cambridge, Mass., band STATE RADIO will be the first person to perform in Oakley Square who has also sold out Madison Square Garden three nights in a row when the Alt/Groove/ Reggae/Pop group plays the 20th Century Theatre this Thursday. Before State Radio, Stokes was a member of Dispatch, a Reggae Rock-inflected trio that was a phenomenon with college kids up and down the East Coast. The band made major headlines when they unexpectedly sold out the legendary NYC venue in hours, making them the first independent band to do so. The show was a "reunion" gig, but, most importantly, a benefit for the troubled, impoverished African region of Zimbabwe. Stokes has continued to make hypnotic AltReggae with State Radio (if you like Peter Gabriel getting World-ly or old Police Reggae songs, you'll probably love this band, too) and he's also kept the fiery, passionate socio-political commentary alive within his newer music. The self-released (yes, Stokes is staying indie) sophomore album, Year of the Crow, contains songs about the torture tactics at Guantanamo, war profiteering and abuse of power, buoyed by a breezy Ragga bounce built around tight grooves and spikes of Rock & Roll intensity. To think about global politics or dance, that is the question. State Radio hopes you'll do both. 513-562-4949. (Buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- MIKE BREEN
MANIFEST GALLERY opens the third year of its ART AND DESIGN ON FILM SERIES with a screening of Matthew Barney: No Restraint on Friday. Alison Chernick's sometimes penetrating, often perplexing documentary follows Barney during the creation of his most recent film, Drawing Restraint 9, a typically ambiguous project involving a "narrative sculpture" set aboard a Japanese whaling vessel. Oh, and his wife, an elaborately attired Bjork, figures into the proceedings. The documentary attempts to investigate many of Barney's pet preoccupations, some of which are discussed by the man himself: his fascination with the process of creating art -- in this case a 45,000-pound whale made out of Vaseline -- his interest in cultural rituals and iconography and his obsession with gooey substances. Interspersed throughout are interviews with everyone from art critics who discuss Barney's rapid rise in the art world to a Japanese whaling commissioner who is completely perplexed as to what the hell Barney is trying to accomplish with his film. The free screening begins at 7:30; the limited seating is based on first come, first served basis. To make a reservation, call 513-861-3638. (See more information and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- JASON GARGANO
Another opening, another show. Up next at the Cincinnati Playhouse's big theater is a show with its tongue firmly (but pleasantly) planted in its cheek. It's ALTAR BOYZ, about a struggling Christian boy band from Greenville, Ohio. On the final night of their "Raise the Praise" U.S. tour, we meet Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan -- and Abraham, a nice Jewish boy who's not sure how he ended up in the group. The show debuted in 2004 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, then moved Off Broadway to New World Stages in spring 2005, where it's still running. It won the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for the year's best Off-Broadway musical and was nominated for seven Drama Desk awards. If you can't go to New York to see the show, the Playhouse offers an equally good choice: Altar Boyz is directed by Stafford Arima, who staged the original. (He directed last season's world premiere of Ace at the Playhouse and was recruited to re-stage his Off-Broadway hit.) Good news and sweet Pop tunes -- sounds like heaven in Eden Park. 513-421-3888. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- RICK PENDER
There's a tense balance maintained between the randomness of nature and the controlled theatric terror of a haunted attraction. The wild, open aspect of local dark rides -- haunted hayrides -- is what makes them so terrifically immersive. The SPRINGBORO HAUNTED HAYRIDE is the best of these, with a mile of terror and a sustained miasma of fright. The ghouls fly fast and cling to the sides of your rickety trailer ride through the corn. SANDYLAND ACRES is more kid-friendly, with chances to breathe between assaults by the restless spirits of Petersburg. There's a corn maze, too, for a disorienting sideshow. VERONA FIELD OF SCREAMS (pictured) features a fast-paced, high energy cast of fiends that thrill under the starry sky. The sense of wheeled escape juxtaposes neatly with the realization that you can't turn back, and the blanket of night is something that can't be duplicated in a haunted house. (All three rides run Fridays and Saturdays after dusk. See the ScaryBeat guide to area haunted houses here.) -- STEVE CARTER-NOVOTNI
KEVIN HART's star has risen fast in the constellation we call comedy. While working as a shoe salesman in Philadelphia, he decided to give stand-up comedy a try at a local club's amateur night. He quickly began performing full-time at clubs all over the country. An appearance at the prestigious Montreal Comedy Festival soon followed, which led to work in feature films. These days on stage, Hart talks about what he calls "true shit." That usually means humorous narratives about his struggles with happenings in his everyday life. He's not a wise-guy, but simply a brother trying to get by without being hassled by the people around him. There's his reluctance to become involved in other peoples' altercations, for example. "I'm not a fighter, I'm a witness," he explains. Domestically, though, he's often fighting with his lady, and always coming out on the losing end. "I'll tell you how I knew I lost the fight," he says to the audience. "When the cops came to my house (they) ask me if I want to press charges. I thought it was a tie. You need to be asking her. (The cop says) 'From the looks of things, no I don't.' " Hart performs Friday-Sunday at The Funny Bone on the Levee. JOE ROGAN performs one show Friday at 11:45 p.m. $17. 859-957-2000. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- P.F. WILSON
Unlike John Tesh or Kenny G, WAYNE BRADY actually has a fair amount of talent to accompany his extraordinary luck. Brady spun a middling stand-up/musical variety act into television gold when buddy Drew Carey cast him on his Americanized version of the British hit improv comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Brady's ability to spontaneously invent lyrics while doing spot-on impressions of everyone from Michael Jackson to Mick Jagger quickly made him an audience favorite. He parlayed that popularity into commercial appearances, a short-lived talk show and his recent stint as host of Fox TV's Don't Forget the Lyrics, and now he's bringing his lightning-fast reflexes to the Music Hall stage as he joins Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops for a weekend of musical comedy combustion Friday through Sunday. Brady will take a page from his Whose Line success when he gets the audience involved in suggesting songs and artists for him to parody on the spot. Expect at least one little Michael moonwalk and "hee-hee" during his inaugural orchestral shows, which will also feature tributes to Sammy Davis Jr. and Sam Cooke. For ticket information and show details, call 513-381-3300 or visit CincinnatiSymphony.org. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- BRIAN BAKER