American Utopia

David Byrne, dancers and musicians on stage

David Byrne’s American Utopia show, essentially a greatest hits package plus plus, was getting towards the end of its run in 2019 when Spike Lee arrived to film it. Part of Byrne’s wider Reasons to Be Cheerful project aimed at spreading good vibes, it had become, like Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway shows in 2017, a must-see event by that point. Both Byrne and Lee are New Yorkers and there’s a definite Big Apple sensibility to this show – smart, dry, liberal, culturally catholic. Another way to see it is as Stop Making Sense Part II. That, if you remember, was Jonathan Demme’s great 1984 concert movie of Talking Heads in their pomp, and kicked … Read more


Josh Brolin in Oldboy

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 29 June iPhone launched, 2007 On this day in 2007, Apple launched the first version of the iPhone. Until then, mobile or cell phones had been phones first, with a range of other capabilities – camera, email, mp3 player, internet access – tagging along behind. Apple’s creative breakthrough was to design the iPhone as a very small computer which also had phone functionality. This might look like a “six and two threes” explanation but what the iPhone did, which no phone had done before, was deliver a more integrated service, so the phone became in effect a Swiss army knife of … Read more


Savion Glover and Tyheesha Collins in Bamboozled

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 6 February The first minstrel show, 1843 On this day in 1843, the Virginia Minstrels led by Dan Emmett became the first full-length black minstrel show in the USA. They’d tested and previewed the show at other venues but it was on 6 February that the show opened at the Bowery Amphitheater, New York. The show had a three-act structure – four guys sitting in a semi-circle, singing songs, telling jokes and just generally being entertaining; followed by a front-of-curtain variety segment; finishing off with a spoof/skit/satire piece. Minstrelsy goes back as far as you care to look – to the … Read more