Jeff Simon - The Buffalo News

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Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon is the News' Arts and Books Editor. He has been writing for the paper since Spiro Agnew was the vice president.


Books

“100 Amazing Facts About the Negro” by Henry Louis Gates, Pantheon, 476 pages, $40. There is what Hollywood would call a “backstory” here. In 1957, a journalist with the Pittsburgh Courier named Joel A. Rogers published a book called “100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof.” Distinguished intellectual and historian Henry Louis Gates now says …

Music

Classical Sibelius, Piano Music Performed by Leif Ove Andsnes (Sony Classical). Andsnes is right. He is prominently quoted on the album cover saying this: "Everyone was astonished that there could be a major composer out there with such beautiful, accessible music that people don't know. These are intriguing works with the wonderful Sibelius qualities we know. I real…

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George Clooney's "Suburbicon" is a deeply unfortunate film that tries to do something very difficult by pretending--foolishly--that it's easy. There was a way to get it to work, which I'll get to eventually, but Clooney has become almost literally tone deaf in the movies he directs. What the movie tries to do is combine two stories: 1) a black comic tale of murder and i…

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The name of the place is "The Magic Castle." It's a "welfare hotel." Or, as some people more pitilessly call it "a slum hotel." Rooms rent there for 38 bucks a night. It's located a long run away from Disney World in Orlando. People live there until the very second they might be "establishing a residence" in the place and then they're required to stay elsewhere for a li…

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Jazz Kyle Eastwood, "In Transit" (Jazz Village). Here's a blindfold test for the ages: Play this for any jazz super-literate and they'll guess -- solely on the basis of recording quality -- that it might be 21st century music. But they also would possibly guess because of the playing and the tunes that it's either great post-Silver '60s mainstream bebop or early '80'…

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Classical/Pop George Martin, The Film Scores and Original Orchestral Music of George Martin, The Berlin Music Ensemble conducted by Craig Leon (Atlas Realizations). If anyone was "The Fifth Beatle," it was George Martin, the composer, producer, recording executive and prime enabler of the Beatles when they were at their most ambitious and creative. It's certainly an …

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The weekend's magic number was $32.5 million. That, according to the New York Times' team of young sexual harassment investigators, is how much money Bill O'Reilly paid to his lawyer and sometime on-air guest Lis Wiehl in a sexual harassment settlement. The major point of the Times story was that shortly after O'Reilly's out-of-court settlement -- in which Fox was not i…

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Sure, sure, sure. Robert Redford was coming to town. But, as some of us knew, it was so much bigger than that: "The Natural" was coming to town. That's why we, in the Buffalo News' Arts Department, gathered in the third floor's big conference room -- usually reserved for governors and such -- to talk it over. We were a bit of an unruly bunch in the summer of 1983. We…

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“You Can’t Spell America Without Me: A So-Called Parody by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Anderson, Penguin Press, 246 pages, $29; “The Trump Leaks” from The Onion, Harper Design, Unpaginated, $35; “The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics” by Maureen Dowd, Twelve, 483 pages, $18.99 paper. Among the countless things that distinguish humor …

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Liam Neeson - all 6 foot 5 inches of him with shoulders as wide as North Carolina - doesn't throw anyone across the room in "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought the White House Down." You can practically hear echoes of his sighs of relief from here. I had a weird reaction to the movie. After an hour of everyone conniving, spying, backstabbing and befouling civic life in Wash…

Books

“Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies” by Dick Gregory Amistad, 236 pages, $24.99 When Dick Gregory died Aug. 19 at the age of 84, he was still almost a month away from publication of this book. Had he lived and been vigorous enough to flog the book everywhere possible on the book hype tour, there is no question in my mind that this book wo…

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Blues John Lee Hooker, "King of the Boogie" (Craft/Concord-5 discs). It starts with "Boogie Chillen'" from 1948, just a man and his guitar, Mississippi Delta style. It ends, literally 50 years later, with the same blues on which Hooker collaborates with Eric Clapton. In between, on five discs, is a gloriously thorough and energizing exploration of the music of the bl…

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Jazz Fred Astaire and Oscar Peterson, "The Astaire Story" (Verve, two discs). This, from 1952, is one of the greatest packages in the history of recorded jazz. And all the music from it is here on this reissue, including two bonus tracks--an alternate of "I Won't Dance" and a second version of the astonishing Astaire-less prestissimo rocket blues by Oscar Peterson th…

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"I loved filming in Buffalo," said "Marshall" director Reginald Hudlin. "The entire crew loved filming in Buffalo." Luckily for Buffalo, you can see it in half of the film's scenes, at least. "First of all, it's a beautiful city. And you can get that beauty onscreen. You have that beauty in your life. It was really just being in a place with water and trees and beautifu…

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"Marshall" is a film of small pleasures about a giant figure. The giant figure is Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice and, far more consequentially, the crusading civil rights lawyer who shepherded "Brown vs. Board of Education" to a Supreme Court triumph in 1954. That's the case which officially ended official segregation. White America …