Don Argott’s Last Days Here Made Me Cry

Plus: Comcast pleases me, and a sneak peek at Charlotte Ford's BANG nudity.

Last Days Here
Director Don Argott first came onto my radar in 2005 when he released Rock School, his Roger Ebert-approved documentary about the Paul Green School of Rock and its foul-mouthed namesake. After moving into the fine art world with Art of the Steal and nuclear fear mongering with The Atomic States of America, which screened at Sundance in January, he’s come back around to the glorious world of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll with Last Days Here—only in this documentary, that world isn’t so glorious.

The film examines the life of Robert “Bobby” Liebling, the troubled lead singer of 1970s doom metal band Pentagram who has been withering away in his parents’ sub-basement for decades, addicted to crack, heroin and loserdom. The movie has been getting some great press, including this praise from the New York Times, but there were only a handful of people at the Saturday afternoon showing at the Ritz at the Bourse. I suspect that some potential moviegoers are put off by some of the promotional materials, which, er, scream heavy metal. But this is as much a heavy metal or rock-and-roll movie as When We Were Kings was a boxing movie.

I like to know as little as possible about a film when I go to see it, and I generally despise reviews that give away too much. But I will say some of the early scenes of Last Days Here are as disturbing and hard to watch as the fly-covered, emaciated African children in those Sally Struthers commercials. And though I was annoyed with Argott’s repeated use of recreated “archival footage,” by the end of the film, I have to admit I was choked up at the next-to-last scene and in full-fledged tears for the final frames.

If you’re a fan of documentaries or just a patron of local artists, you don’t want to miss Last Days Here.

Charlotte Ford’s BANG
Every year, with financial help from the Independence Foundation, the folks behind the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe select an artist (or artists) to take part in their LAB Residency, during which the chosen artist is given assistance in developing a new work. This year’s Lab Resident is Charlotte Ford, whom you may remember from previous Live Arts productions like Chicken, Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, and Pig Iron’s Welcome to Yuba City, and her new work is BANG, which is, purportedly, about “female identity, sexual freedom and desire.” You won’t be able to see the completed version of BANG until this year’s festival, but over the weekend, scores of Philly theater lovers were treated to the work-in-progress version at the Live Arts Studio. In addition to free beer, Fig Newtons, Doritos, and interminable lines for the bathrooms (I should mention that the show itself was also free, and if you didn’t know that, you definitely need to subscribe to my weekly A&E newsletter, The Weekender, which tells you important stuff like that), there was an orgasm-inducing armchair, some pretty embarrassing audience participation (so glad I didn’t raise my hand), and tons of full-on nudity. If this sounds like “bad fringe” to you, it totally could be. But in the hands of writer Ford (who also stars in the piece), director (and 2011 Best of Philly winner) Emmanuelle Delpech, and co-starring Philly theater wunderkind Lee Etzold and Sarah Sanford, it has the potential to be wicked comedic genius. In any event, it’s on my must-see list for the festival.

Xfinity Streampix
When I heard that Comcast was getting into the streaming video thing, I had pretty much the same reaction that I had when I heard that Comcast was getting into the home security thing, which is to say: NOT INTERESTED. But then last week, my $5-per-month HBO trial period ran out, and when I called to cancel it, the customer service gal guilted me into signing up for the $4.99-per-month Xfinity Streampix by telling me that her father had just passed away (not kidding). And well, with something like 200 Law & Order episodes finally available to me, at any time I want to see them, I may just have to worship at the Comcast throne. Finally, I’m getting something out of this Comcast/NBC relationship.