Christopher Nolan Becomes “Controversial” for…Speaking Truth?

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A year ago, director Christopher Nolan was still considered the most bankable auteur filmmaker around. But in the Bizarro world of 2020, he’s now been cast as the crazy uncle everybody avoids at holiday gatherings. 

Why? Well, first, he dared to maintain belief that there was a place for cinema in a post-COVID world, standing firm in debuting his latest film, Tenet, in theaters. Then, in just the last three weeks, he made a few logical observations about film markets and consumer tastes. The nerve!

On releasing Tenet during the pandemic, I’ll only say I saw it in (a socially distanced) theater myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed this quote from Forbes’ Scott Mendelson (whom I don’t always agree with): 

“I’m not going to lecture you about attending movie theaters, since we’re all adults.” 

As far as Nolan’s remarks, here ya go:

1. On Tenet’s box office performance, LA Times Interview

“I am worried that the studios are drawing the wrong conclusions from our release — that rather than looking at where the film has worked well and how that can provide them with much needed revenue, they’re looking at where it hasn’t lived up to pre-COVID expectations and will start using that as an excuse to make exhibition take all the losses from the pandemic instead of getting in the game and adapting — or rebuilding our business, in other words.” 

Nolan is exactly right. Despite making “only” $56.3 million in the U.S., Tenet has wracked up a global total of $353.7 million at the time of this writing. The U.S. may be locked down and shy about returning to theaters, but clearly, there are viable markets elsewhere around the globe.

2. On his much-maligned sound-mixing, The Nolan Variations (Book)

”I was a little shocked to realize how conservative people are when it comes to sound. Because you can make a film that looks like anything, you can shoot on your iPhone, no one’s going to complain. But if you mix the sound a certain way, or if you use certain sub-frequencies, people get up in arms.” 

Look, I have as much (if not more) trouble hearing dialogue in a Christopher Nolan film as the next guy. But I’m fairly sharp, and I also go in knowing that Nolan flicks are crafted to be taken in over multiple viewings. So, I buy the home video release and put on the subtitles. Then, after 600 screenings, everything finally makes sense. Mostly. 

But Nolan is making a larger point about the inexplicable, irrational double-standard in media consumption among audiences. I’ve lost count of how many times someone has stuck a cell phone up to my face to show me a poor-quality viral video, on a microscopic screen, with the low quality sound playing through worse quality speakers. And I’m the crazy one for not wanting to watch it. (I would watch it on my TV, but then it’s a vertical image on a horizontal screen, which may be equally annoying.)

Yet, attend a theater with a high-quality picture and the sound mixed a certain way and “everyone loses their minds!”

But let’s not stop at movies. The same baffling phenomenon happens in music.

When I was editor for Southern Senses, we received an album submission from a band that was making serious moves in the indie scene. I was excited they had contacted us…until I listened to the material. There’s a difference between being intentionally lo-fi and just recording badly, and to this day, I’m not sure which of the two I was hearing. 

But recording quality aside, the musicianship and singing were just not good. I sent the record to another of our reviewers, and he agreed. Yet, the band is still going strong five years later. Meanwhile, somewhere, another poor talented slob loses all his money on a polished studio record that nobody will listen to.

But let’s take it a step further with social media. If I had a dollar for every articulate, clever, succinct post I’ve seen that was generally passed over for illiterate, profanity-laden rants, we’d be having this conversation on my private island in the Caribbean. (Well, actually, no, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you at all.)

I can’t explain it, and neither can Nolan.

3.  On making The Dark Knight Trilogy, EW Interview

“The other advantage we had was back then you could take more time between sequels. When we did Batman Begins, we didn’t know we’d do one, and it took three years to do it and then four years before the next one. We had the luxury of time. It didn’t feel like a machine, an engine of commerce for the studio. As the genre becomes so successful, those pressures become greater and greater. It was the right time.”

For those remarks, Nolan is being lambasted for criticizing the modern comic book movie genre (which would mainly be Marvel, since DC has had a rough go of it since Nolan left.) Well, he’s not criticizing. He’s merely observing that he had more freedom with Batman because the superhero genre had yet to become a corporate process. And once again, he’s right.

The superhero genre a decade ago was not what it is today, and Nolan is simply happy that he was able to make his films in the less restraining environment. Why wouldn’t he be?

It is amazing to me how innocuous, apt, and accurate comments can become sources of controversy, but, alas! Such is 2020! Or perhaps, such is 21st-century humanity. 

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!

VIDEO: Cole Powell Talks JMAs on Good Things with Rebecca Turner 10/16/20 (with Transcript)

HUGE thanks to Rebecca Turner for having me on Good Things – SuperTalk Mississippi! One of the best interviewing experiences I’ve had.



REBECCA TURNER: And today we get to spend some time with a real life person in the studio with us here on Good Things. Joining us today is Cole Powell. He is from Jayess, Mississippi, and a celebrated singer songwriter. He recently won the EP of the year at the Josie Music Awards which will learn more about. So welcome, Cole. 

COLE POWELL: Hi, Rebecca! Thanks for having me today. 

REBECCA: It’s so good to have you in. 


REBECCA: If we haven’t heard of the Josie Music Awards, tell us a little bit about those.

COLE: Yeah, absolutely. It was founded, I think in 2015, I believe, by Josie and Tinamarie Passantino. They’re a mother daughter duo, and they had a lot of connections in the music industry, and they were looking for a way to celebrate independent music—musicians that were sometimes overlooked by the majors. You know, artists who are on major labels and getting recognized by the Grammys, and they put together the Josie Music Awards show to basically celebrate unique and good voices in independent music. And the first two years was actually held in Nashville, and then they moved out of Nashville and started holding the award show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And it’s just a really phenomenal event to celebrate independent musicians. You know, people who’ve been—have been on the road working hard, have been in studio working hard, and don’t necessarily get that recognition by the major players.

REBECCA: Cole, when you mentioned like—when we hear the words “indie—” 

COLE: Right.

REBECCA: —or you’re calling independent music.

COLE: Right. 

REBECCA: I mean, I get—I get what independent means is by yourself. 

COLE: (laughs) Right. 

REBECCA: But explain that a little more about maybe what the indie industry is—like what it means to be an independent musician.

COLE: Sure, absolutely. You’ve got major record labels, okay? This is—these are—these are the big boys. These are Universal. 


COLE: And most of the artists that you hear on the radio, most of the artists that you see getting Grammy awards—those are quote, unquote “major artists.” They’re not independent artists. Independent artists are artists who are signed to smaller labels that aren’t associated with a major—one of these bigger labels—or independent artists who aren’t associated with a label at all, who are just out there, you know, playing music, trying to make a career out of it, or just create art and share it with people. So—and they don’t really have the support, you know, the—the marketing machine of these major artists. They usually have to do it themselves or, if it’s a small record label, there may be a small marketing team there. And—and Mississippi has a really large independent music industry. And Jackson in particular actually has a very large independent music industry, and in Mississippi, most of the independent musicians, you know, they’re—they’re out there playing three or four shows a week, you know, trying to make a living at it, doing something that they love.


REBECCA: You got nominated for—for two, though. Which other sections or—or classes did you get nominated?

COLE: It was for a song—Best Collaboration—which was a song—the name of song was “Company.” It was a song that I co-wrote and performed with my wife, and I actually thought— First of all, I didn’t think I was going to win anything. Honestly, I had—whenever—a friend of mine had won a few years ago, and I thought, you know, “If I ever release another record, maybe I’ll submit it just, you know, just for fun.” 

And I submitted the collaboration track and then the EP. Didn’t really expect to get even nominated because, you know, I mean, there’s—there’s a lot of great independent artists out there that are—that are trying to get these awards. And the—whenever the nominations came out, and they were both nominated, I was like, “Wow! This is—this is incredible!” And the awards show was actually scheduled for mine and my wife’s 10th anniversary, and we had spent our honeymoon in Pinge—Pigeon Forge. So, it was like a complete (chuckles)—


COLE: —full circle turnaround!

REBECCA: So no matter what, it was just gonna be a cool trip for you guys anyway. 

COLE: Absolutely, absolutely! So we got up there, and I thought, “Okay, I really don’t think I’m going to win either of these. If—the only one I’ve got a shot of winning is the collaboration because my wife’s voice is phenomenal and most people like her a lot better than me. So I was like (chuckles), “Okay, if—if I win one, the—it’s going to be best collaboration.” So the first category that they announce when the award show started was the best collaboration category, and we didn’t win it. And I was like, “Okay, well, I’m just going to sit back enjoy the show!” 

And I watch several people win awards, and they had entertainment in between awards. And when it got to the EP category, I was still like, “Eh, I’m not going to win this.” And then there was a little thought. I was like, “Well—“ I was wearing a suit, and I had my jacket unbuttoned. And I was like, “Well, just on the—just on the off chance, I better get my jacket buttoned.” 

REBECCA: (laughs)

COLE: So (laughs), while I’m trying to get my jacket buttoned, they announce—she says, “And the Josie Award goes to…Redux II, Cole Powell!” And I’m just in—just in complete shock. 

REBECCA: Right. 

COLE: And my wife turns around, and she says, “Cole! Cole!”

REBECCA: “That’s you!” 

COLE: “It’s you!” Exactly! (chuckles) So, I said, “Wow.” And I get up, and I’m trying get down there, and they’re playing one of my songs over the P.A. system, and, I mean it’s just like what you see on television. It’s—it was incredible. It was so surreal. And I got up there, and I want to try to get through the acknowledgements quickly and try and not forget anybody. 

REBECCA: Like your wife. 

COLE: Right! Like my wife. And I got up there, and I was—I didn’t wanna take anybody’s time. I wanted to make sure there was plenty of time for everyone to get up and have a say. And I felt like I was talking at warp speed, and that I was sounding real high-pitched. Like I—in my head, I imagine me sounding like Mickey Mouse. (laughs) That’s what I thought was coming out of my mouth. 

And, anyway, I got up there, I gave the acknowledgments, I went back to my seat. And it was just—it was just a surreal moment. And the awards show itself was so spectacular. It was—it was just filled with nothing but camaraderie and celebration for each other and each other’s music. There were no agendas. There were a lot of spiritual acknowledgements and people’s acknowledgements of faith. And it was just a really incredible event.




Huge thanks to Brett Campbell of The Daily Leader for giving me the opportunity to talk about my music and faith and for penning this excellent write-up on Redux II‘s JMA win:

Jayess songwriter wins top indie EP album award



Many thanks to the Lawrence County Press for running an article on Redux II‘s JMA win:

Cole Powell wins EP of the Year at Josie Music Awards

“Company” and REDUX II Nominated for Josie Music Awards!

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I am happy to announce that “Company (feat. Brittany D)” has received a Josie Music Award nomination for Best Musical Collaboration, while Redux II has garnered a nod for Best EP!

Huge thanks to the Josie Awards nominating committee and congratulations to all the nominees!

The JMAs is one of the largest and fastest growing independent music award organizations in the world, and this year’s awards ceremony will be filmed live in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, September 5th, with delayed broadcasts airing later in Nashville on Comcast Channel 9 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99.

Ticket information and complete list of nominees can be found on the Josie Music Awards official website.

Review: Landmark Live Concert Series – Four Way Stop

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Four Way Stop. L-R: Ryan Purser, Wyatt Brady, Kyle Graves, Joe Cranfield. Photography by Lizzy Tate.

Last night in Jackson, MS, Landmark Live’s Streaming Concert Series featured up-and-coming rock group Four Way Stop, and I am pleased to report the band delivered.

The Mississippi-based quartet kicked off the night with a reverent cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” Although lead singer Ryan Purser seemed to hold back a bit on the opener, he spent the rest of the evening belting out the high notes to more complex Zeppelin covers, as well as the likes of Greta Van Fleet’s “Highway Tune” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” 
Lead guitarist/secondary vocalist Kyle Graves added a nice juxtaposition to Purser’s wailing with vocal stylings reminiscent of Chris Robinson, most noticeably on the band’s version of “Hard to Handle.”
Meanwhile, drummer Wyatt Brady didn’t miss a single beat on even the most percussively difficult tunes, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Cranfield effortlessly switched from bass to keys, creating a pleasantly unexpected differentiation to the set’s flow.
Based on the Zep covers and similar ilk, as well as the two originals the band performed (including a jaw-dropping extended instrumental), FWS is obviously shooting for a throw-back hard rock sound. But, in addition to the aforementioned “Hard to Handle,” the group slid in a few spectacular versions of country-blues rock tracks, including Allman’s “Midnight Rider,” Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” CCR’s “Keep on Chooglin’,” and a rocked out version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” (The last of which Graves stole from me, but whatever. Really, it’s fine. Seriously. Peachy! You’re welcome, Kyle! Also, you’re dead to me.)
The country-blues stuff coupled with the alternating lead vocalists creates a strong Eagles vibes, and what self-respecting, classic-inspired rock act wouldn’t want to be described as a Zeppelin-meets-Eagles hybrid? Well, there probably are some, but I don’t think these guys will take offense.
The main criticism of the affair would be the occasional pitchy-ness of both singers, although I’ve rarely heard an act, indie or major (myself included!), make it through a night pitch perfect. The vocals were also buried in the music early in the evening, but the mic volumes were raised as the show progressed, no doubt owed to expert noodling by MC/engineer Topher Brown, a Mississippi legend in his own right.
In short, the concert was a resounding success, providing an antidote for COVID-19 Quarantine Blues and showcasing an exceptional young band, well-worth keeping an eye on.

Four Way Stop – Instagram  | Facebook
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New J. F. Oakes Album ACORN Drops November 26

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In a little over two weeks, my friend and Southern rocker extraordinaire J. F. Oakes will be releasing a career retrospective album worldwide, and with a whopping 30 tracks, the record’s sure to be a must-buy. The project, titled Ten Years and an Acorn, features tracks spanning the entirety of Oakes’s recording career, including selections from both of his solo albums, a couple of non-album singles, newly recorded material, alternate cuts, a live cut, plus seven remastered tracks from his tenure with Baton Rouge-based Southern rock powerhouse, The 484 South Band. 
I’ve had the opportunity to hear the alt takes and new recordings, and they do not disappoint. The new original “Wolf in a Suit” is particularly excellent and guaranteed to knock the socks off “folksy humor” fans, while the alternate version of “One-Sided Story” is even better than the original—which was already a gem in Oakes’s catalog.
Most of the tracklist, however, reads like a “best of” roster. “Take,” “No Words,” “Southern Angel,” “Road Less Traveled,” “Blame (feat. Abbey Graham Butler),” “Sweet Memories,” “Weeping Willow,” and “Bless Your Heart” all make the cut, as does a remastered version of the ‘shiner vs. lawman ballad “A Devil’s Bullet,” featuring…well, me! But I’m not counting it among Oakes’s best because I appear on it. Rather, it’s an upper-echelon track because of the superb songwriting, and that’s all Oakes.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of notable absences, for me at least, and I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed. “Gypsy Queen” from 2017’s West of Capricorn, for instance, is nowhere in sight, nor is the rare holiday track “My Christmas Wish (A Live-ly Remembrance).” I particularly would’ve loved to have heard a remixed/remastered version of the latter. (Maybe on the next compilation, Fifteen Years and a Cornucopia!)
My minor quibbles notwithstanding, the release is an excellent compilation that is bound to please any current J. F. Oakes fan, while serving as a stellar introduction to newcomers.
Ten Years and an Acorn is out worldwide November 26, 2019.

Pre-order on iTunes

Complete Tracklist:
1. Lost Highway (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
2. Baton Rouge (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
3. The Road (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
4. No Words (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
5. Take (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
6. Southern Angel (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
7. Born and Raised (The 484 South Band) [Remastered]
8. Long-Haired Country Boy
9. Wolf in a Suit
10. Can’t Go Back
11. Road Less Traveled
12. Blame
13. These Chains
14. Sweet Memories
15. A Day Too Long
16. Blame (feat. Greg Smith) [Live]
17. A Devil’s Bullet (feat. Cole Powell) [Remastered]
18. Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Remastered)
19. Low Down
20. The Weight of Love
21. Six-Feet Under
22. Lucky
23. The Weeping Willow (A Civil War Lament)
24. Bless Your Heart
25. C’est La Vie (Money Train)
26. Love or Hate (No Fool) [Alternate]
27. The Weeping Willow (A Civil War Lament) [Alternate]
28 One-Sided Story (Alternate)
29. Low Down (Alternate Mix)
30. I Shall Be Released

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