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    Carol Sloane, Jazz Singer Who Found Success Early and Late, Dies at 85

    After seemingly being on the verge of stardom, she languished for decades, battered by changing tastes and bad luck, before enjoying a midlife comeback.The crowd had thinned by the time Carol Sloane, then 24, took the festival stage in Newport, R.I., in July 1961. The Saturday afternoon slot was a showcase for new talent, hence the sparse attendance. Ms. Sloane had chosen to sing “Little Girl Blue.” The pianist knew the tune but not the rarely performed introduction, so she sang it a cappella, hitting every ravishing note.“When I was very young/The world was younger than I/As merry as a carousel. …”The audience was transfixed. Though the crowd was small, it included a group of influential music critics and some suits from Columbia Records, who mobbed her after her performance. Within a few weeks she was offered a Columbia contract.Ms. Sloane, the honey-voiced jazz singer who was once considered an heir to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae but who struggled for decades, battered by changing tastes and sheer bad luck, before enjoying a midlife comeback, died on Jan. 23 at a care center in Stoneham, Mass. She was 85. Her stepdaughter, Sharon de Novellis, said the cause was complications of a stroke.Ms. Sloane was not quite an ingénue when she enraptured her Newport audience. She had already been on the road with the Larry Elgart band and spent a year in Germany during a brief marriage to a disc jockey who had been drafted and posted there. Growing up in Rhode Island, she had found her voice in the church choir and her métier on the radio.When she was 14, she began singing professionally with a local band (her uncle was the saxophonist). Jazz had hooked her a few years earlier, when she heard vocalists like Fitzgerald on late-night radio shows, so different from the sock-hop fare that played during the day.When a scout for Mr. Elgart heard her at a club in New Bedford, Mass., she was invited to tour with his band. Born Carol Morvan, she had been performing as Carol Vann. Mr. Elgart didn’t like the name, so she changed it to Sloane, after a furniture store she’d seen in New York City. Sloane (no first name), as she was known to her friends, then came up fast.Ms. Sloane on “The Steve Allen Show” in 1961. She was also a regular guest of Johnny Carson.ABC Photo Archives/Disney, via Getty ImagesShe became a favorite of the piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson, who had her open for him at the Village Vanguard in New York. When he introduced her to Fitzgerald, she recalled, Fitzgerald said, “You’re the one they say sings just like me!”Jon Hendricks, of the jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, hired Ms. Sloane to fill in on occasion when Annie Ross was unavailable. She was a regular on the television shows of Johnny Carson and Steve Allen. She played venues on both coasts, sharing the bill with comedians like Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen.And then her rise ended.The work, never lucrative to begin with, faded away as tastes in popular music shifted. The two albums she made for Columbia in 1962 were well received but didn’t sell, and she was dropped from the roster; she wouldn’t record again for more than a decade. A new era in pop music began in the mid-1960s, and Ms. Sloane was not to be a part of it.By then she was barely getting by, playing the odd gig and writing reviews for DownBeat. Then, in 1968, a nightclub called the Frog and Nightgown opened in Raleigh, N.C. She was invited to perform for a week — and ended up staying in Raleigh for nearly a decade.For the next seven years, until it closed, she performed regularly at the Frog and Nightgown while working as a secretary in the law offices of Terry Sanford, the former governor. Jazz clubs were closing all over the country in the late 1960s, and opening one in 1968 was perhaps overly optimistic, particularly in a town wrestling with segregation — the Frog and Nightgown was often targeted by the Ku Klux Klan — but it thrived for a time, and so did Ms. Sloane.Then she was introduced to Jimmy Rowles, a gifted jazz pianist who had played with the greats but who had a drinking problem. They fell in love, and she followed him back to New York. Before long, she found herself starting the morning with a drink. She attempted suicide and finally left him, moving in with friends.There were more setbacks in store: An old friend lured Ms. Sloane back to North Carolina when he opened a club in Chapel Hill, but it quickly failed. By the mid-1980s, she was broke again. She lost her car, and her apartment.In a last-ditch effort to find work, she called a few club managers, including Buck Spurr, a kindhearted man who was running a jazz room in a Howard Johnson’s in Boston called the Starlight Roof. They married in 1986 and settled in Stoneham.By 1987, Ms. Sloane was working steadily again. She found a new audience in Japan, and continued to enthrall critics at home.In 2001, when Ms. Sloane was performing at the Algonquin in Manhattan, Stephen Holden, in a review for The New York Times, wrote, “There are no shortcuts to the serene autumnal grove from which the jazz singer Carol Sloane spins out songs of experience in a warm, slightly husky voice that swings steadily while projecting a reassuring calm.” He added, “As much as any singer of her generation” — she was then in her 60s — “Ms. Sloane understands the value of restraint.”She conveyed “with a quiet authority,” Mr. Holden said, “the assimilated wisdom of a woman who has been there, done that and moved on.”That same year Ms. Sloane released an album, one of nearly 30 she recorded over her lifetime. Its title: “I Never Went Away.”Ms. Sloane, with Peter Bernstein on guitar and Ray Drummond on bass, at a concert of Duke Ellington’s music in New York in 2006.Hiroyuki ItoCarol Anne Morvan was born on March 5, 1937, in Providence, R.I., and grew up nearby in Smithfield, one of two daughters of Frank and Claudia (Rainville) Morvan. Her parents worked in a textile mill.In addition to Ms. De Novellis, her stepdaughter, Ms. Sloane is survived by a stepson, David Spurr, and five grandchildren. Her brief marriage to the Providence disc jockey Charlie Jefferds ended in the late 1950s. Mr. Spurr died in 2014.In 2019, Ms. Sloane made what would be her last album, “Carol Sloane: Live at Birdland,” which was released last year. She was anxious about doing it, and also a bit anxious about the film crew that had been following her on and off for a year to make a documentary about her.Directed by Michael Lippert, “Sloane: A Jazz Singer” is set to premiere at the Santa Fe Film Festival this month. One of its executive producers is Stephen Barefoot, once a bartender at the Frog and Nightgown (and the owner of the ill-fated club in Chapel Hill), who talked her into the project.“There is no such thing as an easy song to sing,” Ms. Sloane said in the film. “There isn’t! You chose it because it says something to you, about love and loss. Jazz singing is so personal. It’s a very intimate conversation in a way. It’s really, ‘I’m going to tell you this story, and I’m going to tell it to you very quietly, but it’s going to have so much impact.’“And,” she continued, “it’s to be able to convey to the audience that I have been through this. I can still remember the heartbreak, and I can tell you that it’s right here, where it was when it was fresh. And somehow I’ve survived.” More

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    Review: At 95, a Conductor Is Still Showing New Facets

    Herbert Blomstedt introduced the New York Philharmonic to a piece he premiered in Stockholm 59 years ago.At 95, the conductor Herbert Blomstedt is still showing new sides of himself to the New York Philharmonic.New sides that are also old ones. On Thursday at David Geffen Hall, he introduced the orchestra to Ingvar Lidholm’s “Poesis,” a work whose premiere he led 59 years ago as a rising maestro in Stockholm.Lidholm (1921-2017) was part of the European avant-garde that sought a fresh start for music in the rubble-strewn wake of World War II, advancing Schoenberg’s 12-tone theories as a way to decisively sweep aside Romanticism and the rest of a fraught cultural past. But, ever curious, Lidholm didn’t stay a doctrinaire serialist for long, and the 18-minute “Poesis” is an exploration of elemental sound and stark drama without reliance on stylistic rules.From an indelible, primordial start — pieces of rough sandpaper rubbed together in an unpredictable rhythm over a quivering haze in the strings — the work unfolds tensely, with groups of instruments that are not exactly in angry conflict but are all strong-willed and sharp-elbowed. Uneasy groans and light bruises of tone suddenly condense into buzzing clouds that explode in a storm of slapped bows on strings, glinting violins and roaring brasses before receding back to a mood of clenched hovering.A pianist (here the strong, unflappable Eric Huebner) provides pounding clusters — answered by shocks of percussion and woozy trombones — and shimmering plucks and strums of the strings inside his instrument. He sometimes softly strikes those strings with a mallet for the barest halo of sound, and at one point loudly blows a whistle directly at the audience; Lidholm doesn’t shy from arresting theatricality.In another passage, the players briefly whisper sibilants; a series of sliding glissandos in a double bass near the end, almost vocal, feels like a tiny, impeded aria. Alongside strict notation, Lidholm provides room for improvisation within bounds, giving the music a core sense of something seething and fertile.It’s a grandly stern piece, but, like the best of its space-age era, it pulses deep down with a kind of optimism that comes off as sweetly poignant today, the underlying conviction that a fresh postwar start was possible. There’s poised elegance to its savage volatility.So close did Blomstedt remain to “Poesis” and its composer over the decades that when Lidholm revised the piece in 2011 — making a wild central piano solo quieter and more reflective — the new version was dedicated to this conductor, whose career has continued past expectations to this age-defying, jaw-dropping point.Having missed some concerts last year after a fall, Blomstedt walked on and offstage on Thursday with assistance from the Philharmonic’s concertmaster, Frank Huang. But once seated on a piano stool placed on the podium, he hardly seemed frail; his gestures were, as usual, restrained and focused. He addressed the audience before “Poesis” with a down-to-earth wit that made Lidholm’s sometimes forbidding world more welcoming.And after intermission he was a gracious guide through Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” This was a leisurely, mellow, thoroughly pastoral rendition of a piece that under other batons — like that, as my colleague David Allen recently observed, of Charles Munch — can be hair-raising. At Geffen Hall, terror didn’t infringe on even the final sections, the “March to the Scaffold” and “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.”But the playing was polished, lucid and natural, the work of a conductor with no need to prove himself with inflated intensity. Referring to Huebner, the pianist in “Poesis,” Blomstedt had earlier reassured the audience about that piece’s more outré techniques. “It’s music,” he said, “because he’s a musician.” In Blomstedt’s hands, too, everything is simply, sincerely musical.New York PhilharmonicThis program is repeated through Saturday at David Geffen Hall, Manhattan; nyphil.org. More

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    Raye Made ‘My 21st Century Blues’ After a Long Journey

    The British musician spent years writing for other artists, eventually sharing her frustrations online. After speaking her truths about the industry, she shares personal revelations on her debut.When the British artist Raye performed “Ice Cream Man.” during a January concert at the cavernous Utilita Arena in Birmingham, England, many of the young women in the audience began to cry.“Everything you did, it left me in a ruin/And no I didn’t say a word/I guess that proves it/I’m a woman,” she sang, her voice assertive, but with a quiver of vulnerability. The intimate, spare track recounts her experience of sexual assault, and was one of several unflinchingly personal songs in her set as the opening act on Lewis Capaldi’s tour.As she belted out “Escapism.,” a collaboration with 070 Shake that earned Raye her first U.K. No. 1 last month, the crowd screamed the lyrics back to her. Even that track, which exploded on TikTok and recounts a nihilistic night out with glib humor, is “actually quite a sad song,” Raye said, sitting in the bedroom she’d created on her tour bus after the show, a burning Le Labo candle nearby. But she chose to put the melody over “this fat beat with this fat bass,” adding sirens, synths and strings, which “makes me feel powerful in my pain,” she said.Transforming her pain into power is a recurring theme on Raye’s debut album, “My 21st Century Blues,” which arrives on Friday, nine years after the 25-year-old musician signed her first record deal.“When you think, ‘I want to be an artist,’ there are a few things you think of, the first thing being: album,” she said. But waiting became as much a part of her journey as creating.Raye joined the roster of Polydor Records in 2014, and in the subsequent years wrote on tracks for artists including Beyoncé, John Legend and Charli XCX. While she worked on her own music, she said that the label encouraged her to make chart-friendly dance tracks with D.J.s like Joel Corry and David Guetta, which she now believes pigeonholed her as “the girl who sings on dance songs” that she didn’t even like. She wanted to create a body of work, but, “From a business perspective, they decided for me that I was this, and this was all I would ever be,” she said.Sitting in her tour bus in stage makeup and sweatpants, Raye recalled the moment in June 2021 when, as she was about to record a performance for N.Y.C. Pride, a member of her team told she wasn’t going to be able to release an album with Polydor after all. “I freakin’ lost it,” she said. After bursting into tears, she wiped her eyes, recorded the broadcast and later posted a string of tweets about her frustration with the industry that drew loud support from other artists. Three weeks later, she announced that she had parted ways with the label.“It’s important to be honest about those things I kept in the darkness for so many years,” Raye said.Alexander Turner for The New York TimesA Polydor spokesman declined to comment on Raye’s description of her time with the company, and said, “We’ve loved seeing Raye having all of this well-deserved success and wish her the very best.”Raye was determined to carry on. Last year, she signed a deal with the distribution service Human Re Sources. Its founder and chief executive, J. Erving, who is also an executive vice president at Sony, said in a video interview that Raye could have gotten more money upfront — “the bag, so to speak” — if she had signed with a traditional label. But instead she “bet on herself,” choosing to release her album as an independent artist who owns her masters.For Raye, creative control was the key to continuing in an industry that had nearly broken her down. “I’m not interested in being a ‘singles’ girl, it’s the last thing I ever wanted to be,” she said. For her, the album format is not about “selling records” but telling stories.Raye (born Rachel Keen) has known what kind of artist she wanted to be from a young age. At 10, she was determined to attend the BRIT School, the performing arts institution known for famous alumni, including Amy Winehouse and Adele. Four years later, she won a place at the school, which is near the home in south London she shared with her parents and three younger sisters.Raye said she was so devoted to her budding career, she gave up her social life to write music after school and on weekends with professionals she met through her guitar teacher: “I’d get the train up to whatever address in my calendar and I would go into a room full of middle-aged men and be like ‘Hey, I’m going to write a song.’”Growing up, her Ghanaian-Swiss mother and English father “worked stupidly, exceptionally hard,” she said, as a nurse and in insurance. Church, where her father played piano and her mother sang in the choir, was a big part of family life.But Raye’s private time with the records she loved inspired her to dream big. Every day after school, she would lie on the living room floor and play “The Diary of Alicia Keys‌,” the singer’s 2003 album, “like a religion,” ‌she said. With its hip-hop overture, spoken-word interludes and vivid storytelling, Raye said “Diary” made her excited to one day write her own liner notes, order her own track listing‌ and tell people who she was through her music‌.Raye’s vision for her debut album began with its title. “I wanted to tell my blues,” she said, which she defined as both a “12-bar phrase” but also “the stories on top.” Heartbreak, so often a focus in pop music, was just one small part of the human experience, she added, and the album also explores disordered eating and addiction.“As a woman, it’s so taboo, and so unattractive, and so like, ‘God, she’s such a mess’ to even discuss having a problem,” Raye said. She described “Body Dysmorphia.” as the album’s most revealing track. “I’m so hungry I can’t sleep/But I know if I eat/Then I’ll be in the bathroom on my knees” she sings, her voice staccato over a trip-hop beat.Making music out of hard truths has become as central to her mission as speaking them when she felt the industry was holding her back. And rather than using metaphors to keep such experiences hidden, Raye said it now feels “important to be honest about those things I kept in the darkness for so many years.”It may be therapy for her listeners, but it helps her, too: “I want to create stuff that will make me feel better.” More

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    Gary Glitter Is Released From Prison After Serving Half of His Sentence

    The disgraced former glam rock singer was found guilty in 2015 of sexually abusing three young girls in the 1970s. He had been given a 16-year sentence.LONDON — The former glam rock singer Gary Glitter has been released from prison after serving half of a 16-year sentence for sexually abusing three young girls decades ago, Britain’s Ministry of Justice said on Friday.The singer, whose real name is Paul Gadd, will serve the remainder of his sentence under probation, a common arrangement in Britain.Mr. Gadd will be fitted with a GPS tag and will face other restrictions, the ministry said in a statement. “If the offender breaches these conditions at any point, they can go back behind bars,” it noted.The 78-year-old former star rose to fame in the 1970s after a string of hits, including “Rock and Roll Part 2,” which has been widely featured in films and at sporting events in the United States.Mr. Gadd was arrested in 2012 as part of an inquiry set up to investigate accusations of sexual abuse against Jimmy Savile, a longtime BBC host.That arrest led to Mr. Gadd’s conviction on one count of attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one count of sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 12. During his 2015 trial, prosecutors described how he had abused his access to young fans as he became an international star in the 1970s.In his sentencing remarks, Judge Alistair McCreath said that he had found no evidence that Mr. Gadd had done anything to atone for his crimes and that, after reading statements from the three victims from the 1970s, it was “clear that in their different ways, they were all profoundly affected by your abuse of them. You did all of them real and lasting damage.”Before his 2015 conviction, Mr. Gadd had been convicted in separate cases of sexually abusing minors and possession of child pornography.In the late 1990s, he served two months in jail after admitting to possessing 4,000 images of child pornography. In 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison in Vietnam for molesting two underage girls at a seaside villa he was renting.In 2019, the music label that owns “Rock and Roll Part 2” said that Mr. Gadd would not receive any royalties from the use of his song in “Joker,” one of the year’s top-grossing films.The British government enacted a law last year that required criminals serving sentences for violent or sexual offenses to spend longer in prison, with the automatic release point occurring two-thirds through their sentences, not halfway. More

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    Karol G and Romeo Santos’s Sensual Goodbye, and More New Songs

    Hear tracks by Morgan Wallen, Yves Tumor, Lankum and others.Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at theplaylist@nytimes.com and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.Karol G and Romeo Santos, ‘X Si Volvemos’Two Latin pop songwriters who thrive on breakup drama — Karol G, from Colombia, and Romeo Santos, a stadium-scale headliner from the Bronx with Dominican and Puerto Rican roots — arrange a last tryst in “X Si Volvemos.” Karol G points out “No funcionamos” — “We don’t work” — and “We’re a disaster in love,” but she admits, “In bed we understand each other.” He tells her their relationship is toxic, but wonders if he’s addicted to their intimacy. The musical turf, a reggaeton beat, is hers, but the temptation is mutual. JON PARELESMorgan Wallen, ‘Last Night’The distance between acoustic-guitar sincerity and electronic artifice is nearing zero. Morgan Wallen, the canny country superstar, has what sounds like a loop of acoustic guitar — three chords — backing him as he sings about a whiskey-fueled reconciliation: “Baby, baby something’s telling this ain’t over yet,” he sings, sounding very smug. PARELESSunny War, ‘No Reason’Sunny War, a songwriter from Nashville born Sydney Lyndella Ward, sings about a flawed but striving character — maybe herself — in “No Reason,” from her new album, “Anarchist Gospel.” She observes, “You’re an angel, you’re a demon/Ain’t got no rhyme, ain’t go no reason,” as folk-rock fingerpicking, a jaunty backbeat and hoedown handclaps carry her through the contradictions. PARELESYves Tumor, ‘Echolalia’There’s a dreamlike quality about “Echolalia,” the breathy, percussive new single from Yves Tumor’s wildly titled upcoming record “Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds).” Basically a three-minute swoon, “Echolalia” finds the 21st-century glam rocker dazed with infatuation and, however briefly, cosplaying conventionality: “Just put me in a house with a dog and a shiny car,” Tumor sings breathlessly. “We can play the part.” LINDSAY ZOLADZJames Brandon Lewis, ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’When Donny Hathaway sang his “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” it was determinedly encouraging. On his new album, “Eye of I,” the tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis makes it both militant and questioning. Chris Hoffman’s electric cello snarls distorted drones and Max Jaffe’s drumming moves between marching-band crispness and rumbling eruptions, while Lewis and Kirk Knuffke, on cornet, share the melody, go very separate ways simultaneously and then reunite, contentious but comradely. PARELESUnknown Mortal Orchestra, ‘Layla’The New Zealander Ruban Nielson, leader of the tuneful lo-fi psych-rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is known for being a prolific songwriter, so it makes sense that the band’s forthcoming “V,” its first release in five years, will be a double album. “Layla” is full of warmth, with a soulful vocal melody, Nielson’s nimble guitar playing and the band’s signature fuzzy tones all contributing to an enveloping atmosphere. “Layla, let’s get out of this broken place,” Nielson sings, conjuring an alluring elsewhere. ZOLADZTemps featuring Joana Gomila, Nnamdï, Shamir and Quelle Chris, ‘Bleedthemtoxins’“Do not fear mistakes,” floating voices advise for the first minute of “Bleedthemtoxins,” a bemused miscellany overseen by James Acaster, an English comedian, actor and podcaster turned musical auteur. His debut album as Temps, “Party Gator Purgatory,” is due in May. The studio-built track is loosely held together by a loping beat, but it rambles at will through Beach Boys-like harmonies, free-form raps and small-group jazz, all thoroughly and cleverly whimsical. PARELESDebby Friday featuring Uñas, ‘I Got It’“I Got It,” from the Toronto musician Debby Friday, is an explosive, pounding, relentlessly calisthenic dance-floor banger with attitude to spare. A pulsating beat flickers like a strobe light as Friday and Chris Vargas of the duo Pelada, appearing here as Uñas, trade braggadocious bilingual verses. “Let mama give you what you need,” Friday shrieks before calmly assuring, “I got it.” ZOLADZCaroline Polachek, ‘Blood and Butter’Sheer, euphoric infatuation courses through “Blood and Butter,” the latest single previewing the album Caroline Polachek is releasing on Valentine’s Day: “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You.” Polachek and her co-producer, Danny L Harle, constructed a song that starts out in wonderment — “Where did you come from, you?” — on its way to declarations like “What I want is to walk beside you, needing nothing.” Springy hand percussion, a bagpipe solo and multilayered la-las sustain the bliss. PARELESRaye, ‘Environmental Anxiety.’Most of the songs on “My 21st Century Blues,” the impressive new album by the English songwriter Raye, are about personal struggles: with romance, with the music business, with drugs, with exploitation. But “Environmental Activity” views the generational big picture: a poisoned planet, a toxic online culture, a rigged economy. The song is elegant in its bitterness, opening with a sweetly sung indictment — “How did you ever think it wasn’t bound to happen?” — leading to a snappy dance beat, a matter-of-fact, half-rapped list of dire situations and a poised chorale sung over church bells and sirens: “We’re all gonna die/What do we do before it happens?” PARELESYuniverse, ‘L8 Nite Txts’Yuniverse, an Indonesian-Australian songwriter, collaborated with the producer Corin Roddick, of Purity Ring, to make a familiar situation shimmery and surreal: “You’re smiling through your lies again/You’re telling me she’s just a friend,” she sings. Her voice is high and breathy, with hyperpop computer tweaks; it floats amid harplike plinks and fragments of deep, twitchy, drill-like beats. Even in the synthetic soundscape, heartache comes through. PARELESJana Horn, ‘After All This Time’The Texas folk singer Jana Horn makes music of arresting delicacy; her songs take shape like intricately woven spider webs. “After All This Time,” from a new album due in April, is a hushed, gently off-kilter meditation full of Horn’s peculiar koans: “Looking out the window,” she sings in a wispy voice, “is not the same as opening the door.” ZOLADZLankum, ‘Go Dig My Grave’The Irish band Lankum amplifies the bleakest tidings of Celtic traditional songs, leaning into minor modes and unswerving drones, harnessing traditional instruments and studio technology. “Go Dig My Grave,” an old song that traveled from the British Isles to Appalachia, is death-haunted and implacable. It begins with Radie Peat singing a cappella, insisting “tell this world that I died for love.” The band joins her with somber vocal harmonies, tolling drone tones, clanking percussion and baleful fiddle slides, a crescendo of dread. PARELES More

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    Directors of ‘Skinamarink’ and ‘The Outwaters’ on Horror Experiments

    Kyle Edward Ball, the filmmaker behind “Skinamarink,” and Robbie Banfitch, who made “The Outwaters,” talk about their creepy, buzzy movies.Universal’s evil robot movie “M3gan” is one of the first big hits of 2023. But two new indie horror films are generating buzz too, even though they were made for next to nothing and are driven by distorted audio, disorienting cuts and other defiantly experimentalist techniques.Kyle Edward Ball’s “Skinamarink” is about two children who encounter a sinister entity in their darkened home. (It’s currently in theaters and streaming on Shudder.) The film channels CreepyPasta videos and experimentalists like Takashi Ito, whose 1984 short film “Ghost” looks like “Skinamarink” on uppers. Ball’s film, which had a $15,000 budget, has made more than $1.8 million at the North American box office.Robbie Banfitch’s “The Outwaters” is about a group of friends who encounter a bloodthirsty force during a trip to the desert. (It opens in theaters on Feb. 9 and will later stream on Screambox.) Also made for about $15,000, it starts as a found footage film but pivots into a sustained, confrontational barrage of blood-soaked fast cuts and panicked sound design. For horror fans this is a love language.Critics have been mostly positive. Writing in The Times, Jeannette Catsoulis said “Skinamarink” is “as difficult to penetrate as it is to forget.” Early reviews for “The Outwaters” are glowing but sound like police reports, with words like “an assault” and “suffocating.” Again, for horror fans these are come-ons.Who are these two directors, and why are their experimental movies getting noticed? Instead of interviewing them myself, I asked them to interview each other. I listened as they spoke over video: Ball, 31, was at home in his native Edmonton, Alberta, and Banfitch, 37 and originally from New Brunswick, N.J., was in Los Angeles. Their conversation has been condensed and edited.The Projectionist Chronicles the Awards SeasonThe Oscars aren’t until March, but the campaigns have begun. Kyle Buchanan is covering the films, personalities and events along the way.Meet the Newer, Bolder Michelle Williams: Why she made the surprising choice to skip the supporting actress category and run for best actress.Best-Actress Battle Royal: A banner crop of leading ladies like Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett rule the Oscars’ deepest and most dynamic race.‘Glass Onion’ and Rian Johnson: The director explains why he sold the “Knives Out” franchise to Netflix, and how he feels about its theatrical test.A Supporting-Actress Underdog: In “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” don’t discount the pivotal presence of Stephanie Hsu.ROBBIE BANFITCH Kyle, if you were a collage, what would you be made of?KYLE EDWARD BALL It would be like a 90s high school girl style collage. But also my favorite movies: “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Black Christmas,” “The Shining,” “The Birds,” “Woman in the Dunes.” I’d put in movies I watch as comfort: the 1931 “Dracula,” “Black Sabbath” by Mario Bava.OK, so Robbie, what made you want to go into filmmaking?A scene from “Skinamarink.”IFC Films/ShudderBANFITCH I knew I wanted to make movies around 7 or 8. What made me want to get into it was “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg’s films. They exhilarated me.BALL Why did you want to go into experimental horror territory?BANFITCH I never thought of “The Outwaters” as experimental as I was making it. The logic of the story — what would be filmed or not in the situation — makes it experimental in parts. But that was never the plan.All right. Tell me about your influences during high school.BALL I went to a fairly L.G.B.T.-friendly public school in Edmonton called the Victoria School of the Arts. I also discovered a video store called the Alternative Video Spot that has since closed. I gravitated toward edgier stuff: Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, John Waters. But David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are the two guys I want to emulate. They pushed boundaries without being pretentious and still reached an audience. You can do that as long as you give them something worthwhile.Growing up, did you look up to gay filmmakers?BANFITCH I don’t know that I did. But I did look up to the character David in “Six Feet Under.” In the beginning, he’s still in the closet, living with his mom. I was watching “Six Feet Under” while closeted, living with my mom and watching the show with her. He came out to his mom and then right after, my mom asked me if I was gay but I said no. But I believe she’d already found my “Queer as Folk” box set under my bunk bed. She knew, but she was letting me take my time.What’s at the heart of “Skinamarink”?BALL I have a canned answer that evolved out of doing interviews: I had a YouTube channel where people would comment on things that scared them. But as I kept giving that answer, I realized there are a lot of things that inspired this movie that I’m not even comfortable to say. At the heart of it is pain and sadness and a little bit of anger.Do you think your movie would have been better or scarier if you had a multimillion-dollar budget?BANFITCH I don’t think it would have. The whole point was to feel raw and unfinished.A scene from “The Outwaters.”CinedigmBALL I feel the same. It works because it’s small and contained. Horror is one of those examples where the glossier something is the less scary it is.Do you like delving into what people say about your film online?BANFITCH I’m interested to know what people think but I’m happy with the movie as it is. The only thing that annoys me is when people make an assumption that’s not true but state it as fact. For example: This is obviously a rich kid who used his parents’ money. It’s like no, I worked at Greenpeace and the movie was made on a budget after I paid my rent and ate from my nonprofit paycheck.BALL Both of our movies are polarizing. How do you process hate your movie gets?BANFITCH I read it and think about it. But it doesn’t bother me.BALL You’re pretty thick-skinned. I take everything personally.BANFITCH I’m thin-skinned about plenty of things but not this movie.BALL The only thing I don’t super take personal are the professional reviews because they plead their case fairly well. Except the one from The New Yorker because it felt like, oh, a poor made a movie. I may have been taking that the wrong way.Truth be told, the other day I said to my boyfriend, oh, The New Yorker didn’t like it and then I thought, even that’s incredibly privileged. Five months ago I would have been aghast that I was saying, oh, The New York Times liked it but The New Yorker didn’t, like I’m Scorsese or something. More

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    Reflections on Star Quality From a Golden Age of ‘Junk TV’

    In a new memoir, a longtime casting director revels in memories of a bygone Hollywood, matching actors with the roles that made them stars.Stop to consider the movie and TV characters that are most permanently seared into the American psyche, and their impact is rarely a function of screen time. Usually, the effect on audiences is immediate: Think Tim Curry’s first appearance in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” or Stockard Channing breezing into Rydell High alongside her fellow Pink Ladies.Whether they were memorable because of their abrasiveness (Danny DeVito in “Taxi”), their rebellious streak (Ms. Channing in “Grease”) or their ability to solve a crisis with a slice of cheesecake (the titular golden girls of “The Golden Girls”), every actor who eventually went on to make Hollywood history first had to clear the hurdle of a casting department. And for many of the biggest movies and TV shows of the last half century, Joel Thurm was a central part of those teams, handpicking the actors whose performances would resonate for decades to come.In his newly released memoir, “Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director,” Mr. Thurm, 80, details what he saw in stars like John Travolta, whom he cast in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.”“I knew he wasn’t Vinnie Barbarino,” Mr. Thurm said of managing to look past the actor’s biggest role to date, on the ABC sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.”Being able to spot the je ne sais quoi that many refer to as star quality is a skill, one that Mr. Thurm has capitalized on throughout his 35-year career.“The best example I have is when someone walks into a room and has something special that you haven’t seen in other people,” Mr. Thurm said in an interview this week. “Are they astoundingly beautiful? Are they so incredibly good-looking? They could be bad-looking! It’s individual; you can’t really explain it.”Mr. Thurm had a hand in casting some of the biggest hits of film and TV, including “The Love Boat,” “The Golden Girls,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Airplane!”Charles Sykes/Getty ImagesThat “it” factor is the common denominator among all the stars who go on to become household names, according to Mr. Thurm, who said he had seen it immediately in Farrah Fawcett when she auditioned for the role of a stewardess on “The Bob Newhart Show.” She didn’t get the part, but Mr. Thurm said he had known “there was something special about her.” He also instantly saw it in a 17-year-old John Travolta when he met him in New York.“He had a presence, and you can feel it,” Mr. Thurm said. “They had that little extra something.”At the time, Mr. Travolta was most popular for his role on “Welcome Back, Kotter,” and producers would not move ahead with “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” a TV movie, unless a big star signed on to the project, Mr. Thurm said. He spent a lot of time with Mr. Travolta’s manager sitting on his “back deck getting melanoma and reading scripts,” Mr. Thurm said. When the script came up, they both lobbied Mr. Travolta, who agreed to sign on. Mr. Thurm later cast Mr. Travolta in “Grease,” and the rest is Hollywood history.Mr. Thurm, who retired from a full-time casting position with NBC in 1990, hasn’t kept especially close tabs on the stars of today, but he does know enough to recognize that they tend to skew young.“They’re all 12-year-olds,” he said. “I have only seen them once they are already stars. Ariana Grande, she’s already a star.”Whether or not star quality has changed since Mr. Thurm started his career, Hollywood itself certainly has. In addition to snippets of back-room scenes detailing how some of TV’s most beloved characters came to appear on some of America’s favorite sitcoms, “Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season” is also filled with personal anecdotes that would — at minimum — raise eyebrows in a world reshaped by the #MeToo movement.It’s difficult — painful, even — to imagine a world in which Tim Curry never put on the chunky pearl necklace of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. In that sense, the most essential duty of a casting director is to save us all from what might not have been.United Archives/Getty ImagesAs a gay man living in Hollywood in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Mr. Thurm often found himself in situations that almost certainly wouldn’t fly today — like massaging the actor Robert Reed’s back after he had to undergo several hair treatments for his role “The Boy in The Plastic Bubble.”“I started to rub his back, then I rubbed, you know, started rubbing a little lower,” Mr. Thurm said of Mr. Reed, best known for playing Mike Brady in “The Brady Bunch.” “He was just miserable on the set because he was not used to not being the center of attention.”In his memoir, Mr. Thurm also details an encounter with his teenage idol, Rock Hudson. At a party with other gay men in Hollywood, Mr. Hudson motioned to Mr. Thurm to follow him to a room upstairs.“I was so anxious and nervous that my body below the waist could not cooperate,” Mr. Thurm wrote.It was a moment he has never forgotten.“I saw every single movie that he ever did and so even to find myself at that party, I thought was amazing,” Mr. Thurm said. “This is my introduction to Hollywood.”Besides detailing his sexcapades, Mr. Thurm also takes full accountability for “the damage you may have suffered while watching David Hasselhoff,” he wrote. He initially cast Mr. Hasselhoff as Snapper Foster on “The Young and the Restless” in 1975. He later cast him in “Knight Rider” — a high-water mark in what he described as an era of “junk TV” — after a contentious standoff with producers, who originally wanted Laurence Olivier. (“Yes, David Hasselhoff and Laurence Olivier on the same list,” he wrote.)The memoir is not just about Mr. Thurm’s dealings in Hollywood but his upbringing: growing up on a kosher milk farm in East New York. Attending Hunter College in Manhattan when it was nearly an all-girls school. Hanging out in Greenwich Village in its bohemian heyday. Flunking out of college and traveling through Italy in his early 20s.“To me, it was just my experiences — you know, growth going through life and growing up,” Mr. Thurm said. “I have no regrets. Nobody died.” More

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    Claudia Cardinale Gets MoMA Tribute for Film Career

    Ahead of a MoMA retrospective, the actress reflected on her career, which includes over 100 films and many classics of Italian cinema.On a recent afternoon in Rome, Claudia Cardinale recalled the many heartthrobs she worked with during her more than six-decade movie career, and let out a full-throated laugh.“And they also wanted to make love with me,” she said, “but I always refused.”Over the years, the fresh-faced beauty — who David Niven, her co-star in an early “Pink Panther” movie, once described as Italy’s best invention besides spaghetti — had given the cold shoulder to more than one famous screen Casanova, Cardinale said in an interview. “They tried,” she added. “I turned down seducers.”Then she laughed her mischievous laugh again.Cardinale, 84, was in Rome last month for the Italian presentation of a newly restored version of Luigi Comencini’s 1963 film “La ragazza di Bube” (“Bebo’s Girl”), about a small-town girl who stands by her man, even after he is convicted of a crime and goes to jail.“Bebo’s Girl,” which earned Cardinale her first prestigious acting award, Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for best actress, will be shown on Friday at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first in a 23-film retrospective honoring the Tunisian-born Italian actress that runs through Feb. 21. It is one of a handful of times that the museum has presented a tribute to a living actor in its more than 90-year history.“Beautiful actresses come and go,” Joshua Siegel, a MoMA curator, said in video message shown at the Rome screening. “But they usually don’t endure over a period of some 60, 65 years.”Cardinale with Fabio Rinaudo at the opening night of “8 ½,” in Rome, in 1963. Archivio Luce CinecittàCardinale said she would not be in New York for the retrospective; she no longer travels like she used to. It tires her — she now uses a cane to get around — and she prefers to stay out of the limelight.Cardinale was in the public eye long enough, starring in more than 100 films since 1956. For many film buffs, she is best remembered for her roles in Italian cinema classics: as the young wife Ginetta in Luchino Visconti’s “Rocco and His Brothers”; as Angelica, a commoner whose vitality and beauty seduces Sicilian aristocracy in Visconti’s “The Leopard”; as the enigmatic Claudia in Federico Fellini’s “8 ½,”; or as the feisty Jill, the widow with a ranch to protect in Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.”She also has boasting rights from her star turn in Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo,” a legendarily difficult movie that was shot in the Peruvian jungle and described in The New York Times as a favorite of “connoisseurs of production disasters,” and the movie and its making as “fables of daft aspiration.”Cardinale has said that “Fitzcarraldo” was the adventure of her life, but during an interview last month, she said she had no particular favorites. “My God, I’ve done some many, I don’t know which one I prefer,” she said, and laughed again. “Maybe ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,’” she said, “and then so many others.”Cardinale in “Once Upon a Time in The West.”Paramount Pictures, via Everett CollectionThe MoMA tribute, organized with Cinecittà, Italy’s national film company, includes some of Cardinale’s better known performances. But for the occasion, Cinecittà also restored three works less likely to be known to American audiences: “Bebo’s Girl,” but also Marco Ferreri’s 1972 “The Audience,” about a man’s obsession with meeting with the pope, and Pasquale Squitieri’s 1990 “Atto di Dolore,” about a widow whose son is a drug addict.Though Cardinale’s name will forever be associated with classics of Italian cinema, she spoke little Italian when she first set foot there in 1957.Cardinale was born in Tunisia in 1938, into a family of Sicilian immigrants that had settled there decades before. “I still feel a little bit Tunisian,” Cardinale told the news agency ANSA in May at a ceremony to name a street in her honor in the port town La Goulette, near Tunis.In 1957, she won the Most Beautiful Italian in Tunisia contest, which came with what turned out to be her ticket to stardom: a trip to the Venice Film Festival.Cardinale on the set of the film “Austerlitz” by Abel Gance (1960).Archivio Luce CinecittàIn “Claudia Cardinale: The Indomitable,” a book published by Cinecittà and Electa to coincide with the MoMA tribute, the author and critic Masolino D’Amico recalls being at that festival and seeing Cardinale for the first time, “splendid in all her youthfulness,” wearing an emerald green bikini and posing for the paparazzi.“She seemed to think that small shower of camera clicks was like a game,” Masolino writes. “She was not — I understand this clearly now — trying to be sexy, and maybe not even attractive. She was simply happy to be there.”In Venice, she caught the eye of Franco Cristaldi, at the time one of Italy’s most important producers, who, in Pygmalion fashion, transformed the young ingénue into an in-demand movie star. He also became her life partner, adopting her son, Patrick Cristaldi. Now 64, he was initially passed off as her brother so as not to crack her “virginal feel and glow,” or to scandalize society, Cardinale’s daughter, Claudia Squitieri said.Stardom had a price. Cristaldi demanded hard work and discipline, and in 1962 drafted a contract that oversaw every aspect of the actress’s life, professional and private. She accepted, if reluctantly: Her family depended on her, and she had a child to raise.That life ended when she met the director Pasquale Squitieri in 1973 on the set of “I guappi,” (“Blood Brothers”) and the two fell madly in love. Their careers took a hit: Cristaldi was a powerful producer in Italy whom industry people feared crossing.“Claudia Cardinale: The Indomitable,” a book published by Cinecittà and Electa to coincide with the MoMA tribute. via Puntoe VirgolaCardinale would make nine films with Squitieri, even after she moved to Paris and he remained in Rome. Never married, they eventually split, but remained close.Claudia Squitieri and Patrick Cristaldi now live with their mother in a house near Fontainebleau, France, where Cardinale has created a foundation to support two causes close to her heart: women’s rights and the environment. Cardinale has been a UNESCO good will ambassador since 2000, for campaigning work to improve the status of women and girls, and she is the honorary president of Green Cross Italy, an environment advocacy group that sponsors an award for sustainable films at the Venice Film Festival. The foundation is “something to continue her shine,” said Squitieri, who runs the organization for her mother.Cardinale said she was very close to Squitieri. “I am lucky to have this daughter, who I adore,” she said. “She looks after me; she looks after everything.”Because Cardinale won’t be in New York this week, Squitieri will do the honors. On Friday, the “Bebo’s Girl” screening will be followed by “Un Cardinale donna” (“A Woman Cardinal”), a whimsical short featuring the actress, produced for the retrospective by Manuel Maria Perrone.Speaking at the film’s Rome premiere, Perrone said that “dealing with an idol, with such a strong icon, is something extremely difficult, even fragile.”“She’s been doing this her whole life,” he said. “Being an icon is her job.”Claudia CardinaleFeb. 3 through Feb. 21, at the Museum of Modern Art; moma.org. More