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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.


It cost $40 million. In 1963, no less. Jerry Lewis never disputed that. He never disputed that it was a mega-budget catastrophe either. I would, all these years later. "The Jerry Lewis Show" was based on the undeniable fact that whenever Lewis took over as guest host of the "Tonight Show," he was hilarious and even sometimes brilliant. So ABC figured, why not give hi…

Jazz Various Artists, "The Passion of Charlie Parker" (Impulse). This is some piece of work. Anyone who knows the ins and outs of  jazz recording would have every right to dread the result of this, produced by the prodigious Larry Klein. On this tribute to the epochal bebopper who died 62 years ago Klein put words to Parker songs and worked on the lyrics with Dav…

Rhythm and Blues Jimmy Reed, "The Complete VeeJay Singles" (Craft, three discs.) Here, almost certainly is something you didn't know: Jimmy Reed's "What You Want Me To Do" (also known as "You Got Me Running") became one of the most famous straight blues classics ever covered by Elvis Presley when, on Elvis' great 1968 TV special -- his finest hour on TV -- he and his…

I was 12 the first time I saw "Gone With the Wind." I despised it then and I still do. My biggest problem with it, even as a pre-teen, was its contemptible and utterly nauseating portrayal of black people, particularly black womanhood. In the mid-'50s, when I saw it, I didn't care how many Oscars they gave Hattie McDaniel. (She accepted her award in what was otherwise a…

“Four Later Novels” (“Get Shorty,” “Rum Punch,” “Out of Sight” and “Tishomongo Blues”) By Elmore Leonard, Library of America, 961 pages, $40.) Now that Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty” is on its second go round in 22 years as a hot Hollywood property (it inspired a current series on the Epix cable network starring Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano), t…

Pop Music Now That's What I Call Tailgate Anthems (Universal/SONY). Wait just a minute here. This is a great idea for the beginning of football season, you have to admit---"18 Crowd Shakin' Sports Anthems." Unfortunately, it is so hung up on a pseudo-fair "one-to-a-customer" ground rule the disc doesn't begin to pay adequate tribute to one of the most hilarious ironi…

"Wind River" is the name of a snow-covered Native American reservation in the mountains of Wyoming. It is, to put it mildly, an inhospitable place to live in the winter. Even in the summer, snow caps its highest mountain. If you run outside in the snow for too long a distance during the winter, the gulped air freezes your lungs and, in minutes, you drown in your own blood …

Stephen Soderbergh is America's most amazing filmmaker. I'm amazed and dazzled by every choice he makes. He has, in that regard, far surpassed Martin Scorsese in versatility and unpredictability. "Logan Lucky" is Soderbergh's good-hearted, blue-collar version of the kind of comedy caper movie that Frank Sinatra and his tuxedoed rat pack invented with the original "Ocean…

The name of the film is "Logan Lucky." I don't know that a funny and hugely entertaining film could be more inappropriately named. Stephen Soderbergh's delightful new film opens in area theaters Thursday. (See the review in Thursday's Gusto.) It has been quite aptly described as a kind of redneck version of something in Soderbergh's "Oceans 11" franchise. In other words, i…

I've got a few things to say to some people. So here are open letters to them all: ... To Anthony Scaramucci, Monday's Guest on Stephen Colbert's "Late Night...": Dear Mooch: (Why have a nickname that good if people can't use it?) Undoubtedly, you've heard from Trumpsters (if not himself ), alt-righters and Breitbartians galore ever since Colbert erupted with t…

"Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies" by Hadley Freeman, Simon and Schuster, 339 pages, $16 paperback original. Let’s start with “Steel Magnolias.” What is widely known now as as the Bechdel Movie Test for well-represented women in movies, came from cartoonist Allison Bechdel whose formulation was: A movie “has to have at least tw…

Pop Music Randy Newman, "Dark Matter" (Nonesuch). I have come to love Randy Newman's new record dearly. I didn't originally. I was initially put off by his eight-minute opener "The Great Debate" in which we are introduced by America's most complicated yokel-basher to the way folks in Durham, NC, might debate such subjects as "Dark Matter," "The Theory of Evolution" and …

Whatever you do, don't be in a hurry to hightail it out of the theater after seeing Destin Daniel Cretton's film of Jeanette Walls' huge bestselling memoir "The Glass Castle." You might well be because the movie is, at times, very difficult to watch--such is the pain and audience discomfort at this tale of acute parental dysfunction and the unavoidable abuse suffered by th…

John Vanore, "Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson" (Acoustical Concepts). This is one of the best ideas for a jazz record in decades. Oliver Nelson was only 43 years old when he died suddenly in 1975--some said from Hollywood overwork. Writing scores for movies and TV shows paid the bills but at his death, he was still one of the greatest living jazz composer/arra…

Jazz Jessica Molaskey, "Portraits of Joni" (Ghostlight Records). The only thing wrong with this tribute to Joni Mitchell is that Joni Mitchell herself isn't the singer. These are first-rate settings and arrangements about some of her greatest songs, everything from "Help Me," "Blue," "Raised on Robbery" and "Both Sides Now" to "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines," "In F…