PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER

CP: Shaun Brady dives into the world of indie-professional wrestling, which has found a home, and a following, in South Philly. Many of the groups, splintered off from the now-defunct ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), combine the macho bravado of WWE (formerly WWF… this whole thing is kind of an alphabet soup) with an underdog sentiment and an almost-punk-rock-ish dedication to authenticity. Scoff if you like — they’re completely up front about the scripted nature — but organizers and fans alike are hardcore devoted to it.

The WWE has become an entertainment conglomerate, almost embarrassed that at its center dwells cp_2009_11_12.jpgmen in tights. And the only real national competition at the moment, TNA (Total Nonstop Action), has seen its roster clogged by aging WWE cast-offs — the latest being yet another resurgence by Hulk Hogan. “Most guys who get big in this business are shitty wrestlers,” concedes Maven Bentley, a wrestler and vice president of Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), one of four South Philly-based indie promotions. “But they know how to sell to an audience. Hulk Hogan knows four moves and does three of them poorly. The only move he does well is ripping his shirt off. And Hulk Hogan will make more money in his sleep tonight than I’ll make all year.”

There is no shortage of talent on the big guys’ rosters — but smaller, more agile wrestlers are constantly eclipsed by lumbering behemoths with impressive physiques. “There’s a huge number of disenfranchised fans, people who used to be fans,” says Cary Silkin, owner of Ring of Honor (ROH), another South Philly indie league. “They can see some very good wrestling from the other companies, but what you have to watch to get to that is sometimes very difficult to sit through. So we try to be the opposite, a pro wrestling company focusing on the action in the ring.” Or, as Jay Briscoe, one-half of the heavily tattooed five-time ROH tag team champion Briscoe Brothers, says, “If you want to watch a soap opera, you can watch Guiding Light. But if you want to watch real pro wrestling, watch Ring of Honor.”

Brady presents some great stolen moments — the crowd’s stunned reactions to Dragon Gate, a new Japanese-styled wrestling league, and a CZW wrestling bootcamp with aspiring grapplers being whipped into shape — and captures the slavish, but still somehow down-to-earth devotion of the wrestlers and organizers. He frames some of the scene in reference to last year’s outstanding film “The Wrestler” and couches his skepticism in a few journalistic gems; the word alternative “comes up so frequently in the scene that at times The Arena feels like a late-’80s campus radio station.” When it comes down to it, though, it’s just another way to spend a Saturday night.

PW: Monica Peters offers a one-sided piece on filmmaker Lee Daniels and the new movie “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” (No jokes about the overlong title, I promise.) Sure, Daniels is a Philly native, and “Precious” is already garnering awards and generating Oscar buzz. That element of newsworthiness aside, the article largely gives Daniels an open forum to defend his choices and explain his methods. He’s free to be Lee, and some of his larger-than-life mannerisms seem out of place.

African-American directors have long been criticized for how they portray blacks in film, and Daniels is no exception. Some members of the black community—and liberal whites—have made it clear they feel pw_cover_11_11.jpgPrecious makes black people look bad. Indeed, the film delves into some hard-to-take truths: Precious contracts HIV from her father, a reality that’s hard to hide. ?“Black women are dying because everyone wants to pretend to have a certain image,” says Daniels, who visited a gay center in New York while researching the film. “Most of the AIDS patients in this country are black women,” says Daniels.

The director blames the disconnect between his critics and his work partly on the fact that some African-Americans don’t want to see the truth played out on the big screen. Nevertheless, he refuses to sugar-coat reality. ?“For me to portray and not tell my truth and bring it to the screen would be an injustice to me as a man—forget about a black man, but as a man. I would be lying and black women are dying.” To that end, the filmmaker says, “Yeah, I got your image right here ,” making a hand gesture toward his crotch.

A crotch grab, huh? I’m tempted to make a similar gesture myself when I think about how there’s no dissenting voices in the piece — indeed, no voices other than Daniels’. Where are the other African-American directors questioning Daniels’ approach? Where are the jurors from Sundance talking about why this film took home the awards it did? We’ve got Daniels quoting his mother — why not actually talk to the woman, especially if she’s still here in Philly? The ending, too, is soft, with Daniels riding the Oprah wave and a blah conclusion about attracting new audiences. I would have liked to see one of the movie critics take this one on. Better to be up front about the C-plus review than to evade criticism altogether.

INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: 2010 Phils: Outlook hazy, try again later. Fun in Fishtown: gutted. “A bar with a kitchen, not the other way around.”: Sounds okay to me. A primer on Net Neutrality.

PW: Philly mad, Philly smash! Withdrawal, like payback, is a bitch. Feeling affectionate for Fond. A music piece without music; can anyone tell me what the Jesus Lizard sounds like?

WINNER:
CP ends a stretch of PW dominance with a interesting and insightful cover story. I knew it wasn’t PW’s week when I saw the cover blurb “Straight Shooter.” Lee Daniels, as the article makes clear, is gay. Cover fail.

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