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Is Comcast Trying to Kill Chicago’s Public Access TV Stations?

Comcast

by Legendary Lew

Comcast is Chicago’s largest cable provider and wants to renew a 10-year contract with the city. Part of the licensing renewal agreement, if agreeable to the city of Chicago, would be to provide air space on their spectrum for public access.

This has always been a pesky little matter for cable giants, because providing public access stations gets in the way of important things like profits from vital, universe-changing programming like Duck Dynasty or disputing reports of their incredibly low-ranking customer service ratings.

Well, negotiations for a renewal, including budgeting for CAN-TV (Chicago’s public access TV stations) have now been going on for over a year with no agreement. Seriously. Comcast can’t seem to get it together enough to promise to do right for Chicago with a guaranteed budget to keep CAN-TV operating. The current contract with Comcast was extended for three months and expires on June 15, 2014.

That means that, conceivably, Chicago could be without public access channels after that date. This would be a travesty and would totally undermine the original goals of serving the public interest promised by the cable companies.

Comcast made $6.82 billion last year. Current operating costs for CAN-TV run about $2.7 million dollars total. The cable companies don’t even provide all that money, some of it comes from fundraising and donations, etc.

Even if cable companies were to provide all the $2.7 million. That means in terms of just Comcast’s income alone from last year, it would amount to .04% of those earnings.  This is a pittance to ensure a great service for the community.

Forty-three Aldermen signed a petition to Comcast asking the cable company to stop dragging its feet and provide for the services Chicago needs to keep CAN-TV operating at its best potential.

In a time when the cable giant is willing to put up the bucks to purchase Time Warner for $45 billion for a super cable conglomerate, it’s ludicrous to believe Comcast can’t cough up enough to provide basic, vital community programming for its local viewers.

As part of the production team of the Emmy-nominated Elephant and Worm TV show (my public disclosure), I’d like to call on others to join CAN-TV in contacting and thanking their Alderman for taking the right stance with Comcast. You can find the list of those who signed the petition here. (Find your Alderman here). If your Alderman did not sign, please ask him/her to do so.

Also, call CAN-TV and tell them you support their programming and ask how you can help. They need to hear from you, Chicago, if you value the true choices in programming that the cable lobby always promises the public.

Hey, Robbie Collin, I LOVE the Razzies. Here’s Why.

Johnny Depp (left) and Armie Hammer get sucked into the rot of Hollywood

Johnny Depp (left) and Armie Hammer get sucked into the rot of Hollywood in “The Lone Ranger.”

by Legendary Lew

Robbie Collin of the UK’s The Telegraph just weighed in on The Razzies, the 30+ year institution that comes along every year around Oscar time to chuck produce at the worst Hollywood had to offer during the previous 12 months. I now look forward with great anticipation to watching and reviewing all of the movies nominated for the golden fruit. This usually requires a concentrated effort of peering into hours of hell for a couple of months, but I feel it’s well worth it for a sense of grounding. After watching a whopping 19 Razzie nominees in just over 30 days, I’m ready for my annual ranting Razzies podcast with my co-horts.

I agree with Collin over much of what he states in his post. There are some particularly sloppy choices for this year’s Razzies. Lindsay Lohan, IMHO, was chosen for three movies, simply because she’s Lohan. Playing herself in Scary

Tyler Perry, master scammer in "A Madea Christmas."

Tyler Perry, master scammer in “A Madea Christmas.”

Movie 5 and InAPPropriate Comedy was the best thing to happen to both those films and she was terrific in The Canyons. What should stun Razzie followers is that her co-stars in the latter film (Nolan Funk and Amanda Brooks) were not nominated as they were both horrendous. I can also nitpick about choosing Halle Berry for The Call, a movie for which she had to fall victim to a ludicrous script suggesting to future serial killers they should use Tracfones and not use OnStar.

I could go on about the other acting choices, most of which are good ones, but there’s a bigger point to be made and one which I part with Collin. It’s fascinating he writes the following:

“the Razzies’ ongoing failure to train its sights on anything but the most obvious targets means it grows more tired and redundant by the year.”

I could have written the very same thing but replaced ‘Razzies’ with ‘Oscars.’ In fact, there’s a great deal of overlap between the Oscars and the Razzies, and that’s because both are  influenced greatly by the studios’ public relations machines.  Of course, Razzie voters are going to choose people like Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, Chris Brown and others who pop up all too often on our “news” homepages when we turn on our computers and smart phones. Given the over-saturation of some celebs who readily appear in easy-to-find movies at your local Redbox or on Netflix, who do you think they will vote for? Same as with the Oscars, do you think the nation’s top streaming service, top DVD rental distribution company, and top theater chains provide enough choices to the widest available audiences for most viewers to make the most informed choices? And if Mr. Collin believes the Oscar voters actually watch all the films they vote for, I’ve got the Willis Tower here in Chicago to sell him.

The biggest things the Razzies provide for me are reasons for a party (perhaps next year, not this time though) and, much more importantly, a chance to really discuss what Hollywood does very wrong and sometimes right in a yearly podcast I’ve been organizing with Dominick Mayer for the last three years. It’s vitally important to know WHY Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy and Grown Ups 2 are bad movies. Anyone can easily say it’s because of bad jokes, sexism, transphobia, racism or any number of details, but has anyone even close to Hollywood dare to openly say that the movies are essentially scams? I have during HeaveMedia’s Razzies podcasts and so have the Half in the Bag guys in what is, hands down, the best damn insightful review of Jack and Jill ever.  

No one is going to call for throwing The Oscars into the trash bin, myself included. I wish for the Academy Awards to be better, and I do for The Razzies.

They've got your $13 bucks when you watched "Grown Ups 2"

They’ve got your $13 bucks when you watched “Grown Ups 2″

Robbie Collin may complain that Razzie voters don’t need to watch the movies they vote for, but at least anyone can become a Razzie member by subscription, meaning that you and I could join and help influence who eventually gets those awards. To vote for Oscars, you have to be chosen which, you would think, should give Academy members pause to take their balloting much more seriously than they do.  Pity those who still believe most Academy voters take they duties with great reverence. Perhaps in the first live telecast of The Razzies, Seth MacFarlane can do a song and dance number called “We Saw Your Booby Prize.”

Legendary Lew, Dominick Mayer and Tyler Pistorius will be giving their takes on this year’s Razzies on Pod People, Heave Media’s podcast due out tomorrow.

 

 

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Invitation to a Lunatic Seance

Invitation

If You Want to Know What The Underground Multiplex is All About, Come to Our Series on Friday Nights in January

by Legendary Lew

Earlier Effort by Joe

Starting tomorrow night at Chicago Filmmakers, The Underground Multiplex will be presenting what will be, in fact, perhaps the most comprehensive overview of what we’ve been up to since our inception in November 2010.

Back then, director Joseph R. Lewis and I had this crazy notion that perhaps we should begin an internet media co-operative that focused on the greatness of independent underground entertainment. We further emphasized that Chicago had to be the main focus of our attention, as we believe (and still do) that the decentralization of entertainment, with the advent of the internet, can help bolster each different region’s importance in the arts. Spreading this idea could keep very talented Chicago artists home, instead of fleeing to NYC or LA for the temporary fix of finding work that immediately pays something.

Film genius Ernie Tarte will be there for Strike That Line! 1/24

Film genius Ernie Tarte will be there for Strike That Line! 1/24

Joe had already made a number of films for over a decade. One of those films, The Adventures of Miss Girl, gets its world premiere tomorrow night along with Sci Fi Sol, which makes its return to Chicago screens this year.

However, this Friday series–dubbed “Friday Night VOLUME“–will present a fuller menu of what TUGM has to offer. As we progressed over the years, we’ve learnedQUEEN B XOX to perfect (out of necessity) presenting a variety of experiences for little money. As will be the case with VOLUME, we’ll have films, vaudeville-type entertainment, a varied music soundtrack, live Q&A and live performances (including Dr. Dredd’s Wagon of Wonders and the first-ever live presentation of the radio comedy Strike That Line!

Please join us! Check this link for the entire line-up. Head over to Chicago Filmmakers to purchase pre-show tickets.

 

TUGM’s 2014 Kicks Off with VOLUME

QUEEN B XOX

WHAT:  “Friday Night VOLUME” ~ a screening series celebrating Chicago’s most innovative and exciting independent moviemakers.  Featuring four screenings of SCI FI SOL, the fantasy adventure musical!
WHEN: Fridays in January at 8PM
WHERE: Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N Clark St

Presented by Chicago Filmmakers and The Underground Multiplex

A different DOUBLE FEATURETTE each week!
and a ROTATING ASSORTMENT of tasty visual treats, shorts, and shows…

MISS GIRL – Trailer from The Underground Multiplex on Vimeo.

JAN 10th~8pm The Adventures of Miss Girl (57 min) ~ A rare screening of the pioneering 2007 web series featuring original art by Jeffrey Brown. “A touching and heartbreaking depiction of the free-floating angst that comes with a relationship’s demise.”
- Lena Dunham, HBOs “Girls”

Written & Directed by Joseph R. Lewis

THEN Dr. Dredd, himself, takes the audience on a sordid and scandalous tour of his Wagon of Wonders. If you are an enemy of the Black Arts, or a vulnerable soul susceptible to demonic possession, PLEASE STAY AWAY!9:30pm Sci Fi Sol (46 min) ~ The music video fantasy adventure too spectacular to be believed! Shot illegally on the shy streets of Chi City. Songs by Melody Nife.

Written & Produced by Dave Asher and Joseph R. Lewis
Directed by Joseph R. Lewis

JAN 17th~8pm The Lost Marionettes (50 min) ~ Sneak Preview screening of the new documentary chronicling the discovery of a national art treasure in a vacant Chicago building and the ensuing rescue mission that hit the front page of the Sun-Times and made a national news story out a fallen Geppetto.
Produced by The Underground Multiplex
Directed by Joseph R. Lewis

Marionette maker Ralph Kipniss IN PERSON along with members of The Lost Marionettes production team discuss the success and turmoil of the advocacy campaign to rescue the largest collection of privately-created marionettes in North America!9:30pm Sci Fi Sol (46 min) ~ The music video fantasy adventure too spectacular to be believed! Shot illegally on the shy streets of Chi City. Songs by Melody Nife.


JAN 24th~
8pm Sisters of No Mercy (53 min) ~ From the award-winning programmers of Facets Night School comes the greatest exploitation protest documentary EVER MADE! Nuns! Guns! Boobs! Politics!

Written & Directed by Legendary Lew Ojeda & Joseph R. Lewis

Legendary Lew and the Multiplex Players present a live radio performance of the comedy podcast Strike That Line featuring egomaniac and cinema au-turd Ernie Tarte!9:30pm Sci Fi Sol (46 min) ~ The music video fantasy adventure too spectacular to be believed! Shot illegally on the shy streets of Chi City. Songs by Melody Nife.


JAN 31th~
SCI FI SOL: THE REMIX
Chicago outsider singer-songwriter MELODY NIFE previews his new album of stoner dance music in a once-in-a-lifetime Chicago movie event! Melody Nife IN PERSON along with cast and crew from Chicago’s most spectacular underground movie ever – SCI FI SOL! More details TBD!

All screenings feature~

Specialty Brews and light eats

Xclusive give-aways and raffles

TUGM’s Wagon of Wonders showcasing relics and artifacts from far away worlds where magic still exists.

“Keep Believing, Keep Pretending.”

Rah-Rah Editorial by campaign Video Producer Tyler Pistorius:

“Right now, the campaign to rescue the lost marionettes is less than 70 hours away from the deadline. I suppose now’s as good a time as any to tell you why I took part in such an unusual endeavor in the first place.

I initially said yes to helping my friends, Joseph Lewis and Lew Ojeda because I saw this as an opportunity to take part in a documentary film production. Needless to say, the documentary is still in production, but there were many events that have transpired since the beginning that had me in a constant state of surprise.

Set up crew:

Set up crew

I didn’t expect that I would be moved to tears upon seeing a video of Ralph giving life to a little marionette on his porch. I didn’t expect how tragic Ralph’s circumstances were. Losing a friend and partner, having a puppet parlor go up in flames, not being able to see 60 years of a life’s work because it’s locked up in a vacant apartment in Chicago, and despite being an absolute pro at marionette performance, receiving little to no help. I didn’t expect that I would think about my grandparents every time I saw Ralph, who can’t see any of this because they’re not here anymore. The day I went into the building to film the lost marionettes, I didn’t expect that there would be so many (anywhere between 1,000-3,000).

561927_10201848321586761_1714759468_nI didn’t expect that my footage of the lost marionettes would be shown on CNBC. I didn’t expect that our story about Ralph Kipniss would receive coverage from the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, and various news outlets across the country. I most certainly didn’t expect that someone like Neil Gaiman would take time out of his life to watch some 4-minute long video I made, let alone pledge and endorse this campaign. (I still find that to be completely surreal.) But most of all, I didn’t expect what this could do if the campaign is successful.

I, along with Joe, Lew, Demetra and a band of like-minded individuals have put in a lot of work and made several videos. This campaign means more to me than any project I’ve ever done, and that’s saying a lot. At this point, I’ve done all that I can do.

1425546_10201909501636224_1712311823_nThis campaign still has a chance. Donations are at $10,000 and climbing! That said, it has a long way to go ($25,000), and it will take a miracle. If this campaign fails, whoever pledges get to keep their money. If it succeeds, here’s what could happen. This campaign is not just about some guy’s doll collection. This goes beyond Ralph Kipniss. There could be a story in Chicago news that isn’t about murder, rape, schools closing, privatizing education, or Ventra. It would be about a community of people coming together, in a time of economic peril, to do something good. It would keep an incredible amount of hand-crafted, hand-painted wooden works of art from going in the garbage. It would help preserve Chicago’s heritage. It would preserve Ralph’s legacy that can be passed down to others. It would preserve an art form for future generations. An art form that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, by different cultures for different means.

If this succeeds, this could be world headline news. One thing is for certain. Anybody who donates will be a hero. Is all of that not worth $1?”

Thanks, Tyler, for the inspirational words.  And to finish this post off, here’s a few more:

“Keep Believing, Keep Pretending.” – Jim Henson

XOX

Dear Chicago: Would You Like to Make World Headlines for Something Other Than Murders and School Closings? Here’s How

by Legendary Lew Ojeda

There are 4 people out there with $3900 who could help us right now to make world headlines for Chicago. I’m not kidding.

The Ralph Kipniss marionettes are believed to be the world’s largest collection of marionettes privately-made by a single artist. 

As you know by now, The Underground Multiplex has been running a

Ralph Kipniss with Wizard of Oz marionettes in the 1960s

Ralph Kipniss with Wizard of Oz marionettes in the 1960s

Kickstarter campaign to the save the life work of master marionette puppeteer Ralph Kipniss. As of this writing, we are just short of $16,000 of our goal, which is due at 9:49AM Central Standard Time November 13.

The story has been covered widely by Dave Hoekstra of The Chicago Sun-Times; by Gwynedd Stuart of The Chicago Reader; by Dominick Suzanne-Mayer of Heave Media; soon by Kwame Shorter of CHIRP Radio; and by LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago. Boing Boing has now posted about this campaign as well.   If you haven’t read about the incredible story of Ralph Kipniss and his marionettes, please do so. Here’s a video of Trotter’s NBC 5 news report:

The Associated Press has picked up the story and distributed it to the following news outlets

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Stamford Advocate
Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram
Danbury News Times
Wichita Eagle
Miami Herald
Quad Cities Times
Kansas City Star
Arlington Star-Telegram
San Francisco Gate
Modesto Bee
Austin 360
Charlotte Observer
Houston Chronicle
and many others!

Our campaign has also been “faved” or shared by Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Rabbit Room Productions, La Mama Theater and more!

This story has national attention. It also has the very strong possibility of going viral, so please share this on Twitter (we are @TheUGMultiplex), on Facebook and click the up arrow on this post at Reddit (it’s a quick register).

If our campaign is successful, Chicago will gain world attention for saving the largest collection of privately made marionettes known in the country and perhaps the world.

As of this writing, FOUR PERSONS WITH $3900 EACH COULD PUT US OVER THE TOP RIGHT NOW AND JOIN 278 OTHER HEROES IN MAKING ART HISTORY.

Chicago, you have your chance at history. Right now.

We have until Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 9:49AM. Click here to help.

Thank you!

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NEIL GAIMAN SAYS SO! XOX

neil-gaiman XOX

A Night School Swan Song

Transmission from the Brain Kitchen 10.22.XTRACT
by JRLXOX

This upcoming weekend will be our final Night School presentation at Facets Multimedia.  Night School was founded back in 2009 by Phil Morehart.  He was the first series programmer and was succeeded by Suzi Doll, then Legendary Lew Ojeda, then Chris Damen.  In addition to the programmers,  the series was staffed by dedicated volunteers who were motivated by little more than their love of movies and their desire to create a place where “midnight mindf#ck cinema” (Chicago Tribune) could still have a home.

I first became involved back in 2009.  I had just gotten back into town after shooting my movie Scumbabies, and I was beginning to seek out the kind of people and the kind of community that loved movies as I did, and hopefully would eventually embrace the kind of movies I liked to produce.

First Audience for Sci Fi Sol I went to Facets and saw Legendary Lew Ojeda present the Indonesian cult masterpiece Lady Terminator.  He gave a quick lecture before the feature, and even screened a short video piece that he had made specifically for the event.  I loved the vibe of Lew and the rest of the Night School crew, and I started hanging out with them and quickly realized that I had never truly understood what cinema appreciation was.  These cats had seen EVERYTHING!  I knew I’d found my crowd.  I needed a crowd, too.  I was pretty sad and beaten up at the time.

I formed a close friendship with Lew that eventually led to a production partnership.  We had the same ideas about media application in community activism and a love for the obscure and peculiar.  We started producing events thru Night School and producing original content to supplement the screenings.  We wanted an audience to have no idea what to expect when they came to the theatre.  Would there be a live zombie dance number?  A public seance?  A silly soliloquy? (try saying that 5x fast!)

I still remember vividly, back in 2010 – I was working with Lew trying to come up with our next adventure.  Scott Walker had just dissolved the Wisconsin unions and Lew turned to me and asked, “Do you think we could get some people together to dress like nuns and priests and drive up to Madison and exorcise the state capital?”

Yes, Lew.  Yes we can.

Nite School POSTER XOXThe Summer of 2012 was incredible.  Lew was programming Night School now, and I was helping produce.  We called the series – “Trash-O-Rama!”  The whole series felt like a wonderful celebration of life and absurdity.  My older brother, Noah, designed and produced a beautiful black ink drawing of a clown sitting on a toilet for our poster.  I had asked him for that favor back in May when we were both in Upstate NY preparing for my Mom’s emergency long-shot cancer surgery.  Honestly, I hadn’t expected her to make it.  She did.  They called it a “curative resection”.  She was going to live.  I returned to Chicago and Trash-O-Rama began.

The final screening of that summer series was going to be the Chicago theatrical premiere of Scumbabies.  The movie featured my Mom playing the role of a Fairy Godmother.  I invited she and my brother to Chicago to celebrate and party hardy with my friends and I.  By the time August came around we had hosted some of the craziest screenings I have ever been to.

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We summoned the spirit of Bettie Page, moderated a debate between Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, hypnotized an entire audience, and created a unique family of attendees that faithfully returned again and again to witness the zaniness.  The Scumbabies screening was still a couple weeks away when Mom starting not feeling well again.  When she got rediagnosed we all were stunned.  The cancer was back and this time it wasn’t going to go away.  Mom was dying.

IMG_0971She and Jon still came to Chicago to see Scumbabies.  It was her farewell trip.  She must’ve been in such pain, yet she managed to smile constantly.  She even stayed up til the very end of the movie.  I introduced her to the audience and they cheered.  Everyone agrees that she gives an incredible and touching performance.  Th movie ends with an image of her wearing a halo and angel wings.   Less than six weeks after that screening she passed.

I’ve been more removed from Night School these last 12 months since her passing.  It was hard to remember her, there, sitting in the theatre with me and my friends and the Night School crew.   After the incredible summer of Trash-O-Rama,  we had  managed to finally grab the attention of the local community.  The Chicago Reader awarded Night School an award for “Best Late-Night Programming” in early 2013.  I remember how special that summer of work felt…a group of friends showing movies to one another, late at night, and all the while I was thanking God that my mother had survived her surgery.  There was a joy we all felt and shared.  Then after my mother died,  that group of friends helped me mourn.

Night School came to mean a great deal to me over these last many years.  The people that it introduced me to, and the community that I became a part of will forever be dear to me.

Fright SchoolThis upcoming weekend I host my first Night School presentation since the Scumbabies premiere.  It also happens to be the last weekend of our 5-yr run of midnight movies at Facets.  The screenings this Friday and Saturday night will be EPIC!

On Friday we have FULL METAL FRANKENSTEIN- Bruce Neal hosts and performs another in his stellar series of original live scores with the assistance of his merry band of musical misfits.  Don’t miss it!

And on Saturday come to Facets at 11PM for a cider and donut reception followed by a screening of WE ARE THE STRANGE, a movie banned from public viewing by the FDA due to audience mental health concerns.  I’ll also be showing some highlights from our five-year Facets run before the feature.  Many thanks to all the faithful friends that helped us as volunteers and audience members.  Love you all.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN aka  ALL HALOS LEAVE XOX

Noble Stories – “What U Lose”


XXIV.VIII.XTRACT

PRINCESS NITRATE
she craves the stains most sweetest scums
and luvs the beat and luvs the drum
then crashed against the rocks of broken pillow thoughts
she luvs the pitt that feeds the scars
collecting bits of broken stars

desert snow.  tinsel sand. 
The drowning mud of Dreamland.
Coca-Cola.
Movie-ola.

when the nitrate burns
they all take turns
and she chokes it down
in her Cinderella gown
Mama said
there’ll B days like this
and warned, once, wasted
“Broken feathers
never ever
go back together.”
XOX

Noble Stories is an ongoing series of short vignettes depicting life in Noble Square, Chicago.  TUGM’s Brain Kitchen is located in this historic and mysterious neighborhood, where creatures from all corners of the galaxy co-exist and collaborate on their daily lives.  Home, sweet Home.