Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

January 30, 2009

Thriller in Manila (review for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 10:18 am

thrillerinmanilla_filmstill11Talk about iconoclastic. The hagiography of Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali, is so overpowering in the annals of American sports history (indeed, in American history full stop) that any whiff of dissent is treated as blasphemous and is grounds for immediate disdain and shunning. If you don’t believe me, just criticize Ali at a dinner party and watch the sparks fly. I speak from multiple experiences. So it’s all the more audacious that John Dower chose to film a feature-length documentary on the legendary Ali-Frazier fight in Manila from Joe Frazier’s point of view, a point of view that is awfully convincing and casts the legendary Ali in a decidedly less than flattering light. (more…)

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Ma Bar (review for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 10:15 am

mabar_filmstill11It’s hard enough to leave a film audience wanting more when you’ve got 90-120 minutes to get their attention in a feature film, much less in the more limited span of a short. But if, in just three minutes, you can show enough of a story that the viewer can’t stop thinking about the “befores,” “afters,” and “concurrentlys,” you’ve really accomplished something. Such is the case with Ma Bar, a documentary short by a pair of Scots — rising star Adrian McDowell (nominated, among other things, for XFM Music Video of the Year) and hot newcomer Finlay Pretsell (shortlisted for the Grierson Best Newcomer award). In profiling 73 year old Scottish weightlifter Bill McFadyen, they make the audacious choice to jump straight in medias res, with no directorial narration or subtitling and no backstory. And there’s no “whatever happened to” at the end of the film either. All we get is the voice of McFadyen himself, speaking about his philosophy of competition, including the stunningly matter-of-fact “Losing I don’t tolerate,” which appears on the film’s poster. Beautifully shot black-and-white footage of the powerlifter in his home and at competition complete the piece. A week later, I’m still thinking about it. An impressive feat, indeed.

A Film From My Parish: Six Farms (review for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 10:13 am

afilmfrommyparish_filmstill4A Film From My Parish: Six Farms is over nearly before you finish reading the title, but what a fun ride it is. The seven-minute documentary exclusively uses stop-motion photography and animation (no video at all) to capture, condense, and illustrate director Tony Donoghue’s interviews with elderly farmers on six farms near his home. The film crackles with an almost manic nervous energy that is completely unexpected for a celebration of rural Irish life. Donoghue (the most entertaining and winning of all the directors I’ve met thus far) explained to me that he’d seen so many scenes of wind rippling through crops in the Irish countryside with harp music playing that he wanted to get as far away from that feel as possible (well, that was the gist of what he said — there were a few choice words peppered throughout). And what do you know, it really works — Donoghue’s old avant-garde filmmaking days serve him well. By the way, Donoghue is alo blogging about the Sundance experience here.

November 19, 2008

Amanda Petrusich profile (for Paste)

Filed under: Culture,Magazine articles by MJD,Music,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 11:51 pm

cd-5-12-blind-willie-mctell

My interview/writeup with Amanda Petrusich, author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and The Search for The New American Music, should hit the Paste Atlanta site today or tomorrow. IN the meantime, here’s the unabridged version:

Decatur’s own Wordsmiths Books does a pretty darned good job of hosting events designed to build community, and case in point is this Saturday’s evening twinbill co-sponsored by Paste and Oskar Blues. You get both literary and musical credit for this one.

The musical entertainment will be provided by The Georgia Fireflies, a self-described “old time music band.” Noted for outstanding live shows, the group plays largely in traditional Appalachian modes, albeit with a decidedly alternative twist. If you’re a listener to Georgia Public Television’s “Growing Outdoors,” you know their work from the theme song.

As for the literary portion of the evening, Paste senior contributing editor and New York Times contributor Amanda Petrusich will be making the trip from Brooklyn to read from and discuss her new book It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for The Next American Music, a cross-genre hybrid that’s equal parts memoir, travelogue, music history, and music criticism.

It’s obvious that Petrusich sees Americana, like many see hip hop, as a larger cultural movement rather than simply a musical genre. “There is a sort of interesting common ideology,” she agrees. “It’s slippery to define, but there’s historically been a rural, indigenous, acoustic nature to it. It’s sort of organic, front-porch kind of music.”

And it’s that connection to the land, the terroir that produces the music, that was the impetus for her cross-Delta journey. “Everything seems less like a community now, like we’re less oriented to those around us. And part of what those musicians had in the past was – well, they didn’t log on, and they generally didn’t travel. Not that those are bad things, but I wanted to return to that sense of regionalism. It just felt dishonest to try to study that Delta blues music that I love so much without actually going there, like I would be missing the whole key to understanding it.” Plus, she admits, it seemed like a really fun road trip. Petrusich is one of those rare writers that speaks as well as she writes, so it should be a great event.

Did I mention that the evening is also co-sponsored by Oskar Blues, brewers of “the best canned beer in America?” Just because Details magazine said it doesn’t mean it’s not true. And come on, how many times to you get a chance to see a band that cites as influences both The Carter Family and Camper van Beethoven, AND meet an author that Rolling Stone called “a smart, genial Persephone?”

October 8, 2008

My Night as Simon Cowell (for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 1:45 am
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October 6, 2008

Eighties Atlanta Punk Lives Again (for Paste)

Filed under: Entertainment,Magazine articles by MJD,Paste articles by MJD,Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 2:52 am
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Unabridged version of an article I wrote for Paste…see the published version here.

Eighties Atlanta Punk Lives Again at the Masquerade Saturday Night
By Michael Dunaway

Full disclosure — I am not the city’s leading expert in the ways of punk. I had discovered punk as early as seventh grade (about the time the Eighties began), first through new wave bands like Blondie and Devo, then later through a local Macon band called Vex. From that point my friends and I, high schoolers now, moved on to shows by local Atlanta and Athens bands, and then to records by more established national bands — Black Flag, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys. But punk was then, and remains now, only a tile in my mosaic of musical experience — though I’ve since discovered the joys of the Sex Pistols, Husker Du, and The Stooges, I’ve discovered many other genres as well, and in my iTunes you’ll find Social Distortion nestled comfortably between Snow Patrol and Sonny Rollins.

Still, I have the greatest of memories of coming up to Atlanta to play with the big punk boys. The Metroplex and 688 were, for my friends and me, the ports of entry to a half-mythical land much edgier and cooler than anything we could find in Macon. In Macon, even the local punk shows had their share of jocks and preps in the audience; it was more of a cool “Look Ma, I’m rebelling” scene than the truly revolutionary world we saw in films like Suburbia and Decline of Western Civilization. But the Atlanta punk scene was the real deal – true punk music and true punk attitude, complete with all the piercings, Mohawks, dyed hair, slam-dancing, and stage stunts that really did seem exciting and dangerous back in the early eighties.

Saturday night’s Atlanta Eighties Punk Reunion at the Masquerade brought it all back. (more…)

September 27, 2008

My interview with Broadway star Rob Evan (for Paste)

Rob Evan's Valjean is a sight to behold

Rob Evan's Jean Valjean is not to be missed.

Unabridged version of an article I wrote for Paste Magazine’s website.

Rob Evan Comes Back Home Again

By Michael Dunaway

The production of Les Miserables currently playing at the Fabulous Fox through this weekend has a special resonance for Broadway star Rob Evan, who once again plays Jean Valjean. In a way, this is where everything began. “I grew up in Decatur,” he explains, “and I was a football player at UGA, and that’s the first time I saw Les Mis — twenty years ago here at the Fox. It just made me go, holy crap, I want to do this for a living. I was just a business major, I had wanted to go to law school, but this show lit the fire.”

Law school’s loss was musical theater’s gain, as Evan had been bitten by the bug. But everything didn’t come together quite like he naively expected. “I ended up auditioning at a Les Mis open call a la American Idol two years later. I waited ten hours to sing sixteen bars of Stars.” He walked out with the proverbial gold ticket. “I thought it was going to be instant stardom and cash, not knowing any better.”

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My Les Miserables review (for Paste)

Edward Watts' Enjolras, as strong in body as in voice

Edward Watts' Enjolras rallies the students once more

Unabridged version of a review posted I wrote for Paste…see the published version here.

At 23, Les Mis is the New Kid in Town Again

Michael Dunaway

When I heard that after 23 years uber-producer Cameron Mackintosh had retooled his great Les Miserables (and was premiering the changes in Atlanta), I was simultaneously excited and horrified. Of all the musicals of our generation, Les Mis is not only easily the greatest and most enduring, but also the most unlikely – a three hour plus show of all original music, based on a French novel over a hundred years old and over fourteen hundred pages long, entitled (loosely translated) “The Wretched,” and which when not concerning itself with the plight of the urban poor dwells largely on the fundamental theological conflict between justice and mercy. Not exactly “Oklahoma!” material, that.

So despite my faith in Mackintosh, I was worried for my favorite show — worried especially that the profundity and moral heft of the show (far exceeding that of any musical I’ve ever seen) would be compromised, “updated” into submission. And just from an aesthetic standpoint, I was awfully worried at the news that the famous turntable from the original production was gone as well – no more dramatic spins of the barricade to see what’s happening on the other side. For goodness’ sake, would I even recognize this Les Mis? (more…)

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